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Best Options Trading Platforms for 2019

Blain Reinkensmeyer

The StockBrokers.com best online brokers 2019 review (9th annual) took six months to complete and produced over 30,000 words of research. Here's how we tested.

Next to active traders, there is arguably no customer more valuable to an online broker than an options trader. Options trades offer brokers much higher profit margins than stock trades, and, as a result, competition is fierce in attracting these clients. This type of market atmosphere is great for investors because with healthy competition comes product innovation and competitive pricing.

Best Options Trading Platforms

Here are the best options trading platforms, based on over 100 variables.

  • E*TRADE - Best for options overall
  • Interactive Brokers - Lowest commissions
  • TD Ameritrade - Best options tools
  • TradeStation - Well-rounded offering
  • Charles Schwab - Unique order types
ETRADE

Best for options overall - Open Account
Promo Offer: Trade Free for 60 Days & Get Up to $600.

While E*TRADE may not offer the cheapest trades, the Power E*TRADE platform is great for options trading, and the broker offers two great mobile apps. Read full review

Interactive Brokers

Lowest commissions - Open Account
Exclusive Offer: New clients that open an account today receive a special margin rate.

While Interactive Brokers is not suitable for casual investors, it leads the industry in international trading and low-cost commissions desired by professional traders. Read full review

TD Ameritrade

Best options tools - Open Account
Exclusive Offer: Trade free for 90 days + get up to $600 cash.

The extra cost of trading with TD Ameritrade is worth every cent – the brokerage delivers fantastic platforms, research, mobile apps, education, and customer service. This outstanding all-round experience makes TD Ameritrade our No. 1 overall broker in 2019. Read full review

TradeStation

Well-rounded offering - Open Account
Promo Offer: $5 per Trade plus $0.50 per Contract for Options

As a trading technology leader, TradeStation shines, supporting casual traders through its web-based platform, and active traders through its award-winning desktop platform. Read full review

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Charles Schwab

Unique order types - Open Account
Current Offer: $4.95 online equity trades + $0.65 per options contract.

For those seeking access to low costs, excellent research, quality trade tools, and professional planning for the future, Charles Schwab will not disappoint. Read full review

Best Options Trading Tools

Platform wise, web-based Power E*TRADE offers all the tools an options trader could want, and displays them in magnificent form. Attention to detail, such as automatic spread groupings, effortless scanning through strategySEEK, and easy-to-understand risk/reward data through tradeLAB, make Power E*TRADE a truly unique experience.

Power E*TRADE options trading Snapshot Analysis tool
Power E*TRADE options trading Snapshot Analysis tool.

Keeping the spotlight on excellent platforms and tools for options traders, TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim and TradeStation cannot be left out. Strategy Roller from thinkorswim allows clients to create custom rules and roll their existing options positions automatically. The number of settings and depth of customization available is impressive, and something we have come to expect from thinkorswim.

td ameritrade thinkorswim options trade profit loss analysis
TD Ameritrade thinkorswim options trade profit loss analysis.

Not to be outdone, TradeStation's OptionsStation tool makes analyzing potential trades a breeze, and even goes as far as including 3D P&L charts. Investors note, however: Popcorn and 3D glasses are not required, and while visually appealing, we did not see any distinct advantage over the traditional 2D P&L chart.

TradeStation OptionStation Pro
TradeStation OptionStation Pro.

If unique features and functionality matter to you, Charles Schwab offers the “Walk Limit” order type, which will "walk" your order to try to get the most favorable price within the National Best Bid or Offer (NBBO). The broker also offers Idea Hub, which uses targeted scans to break down options trade ideas visually.

Looking at cost alone, Interactive Brokers takes the crown. At Interactive Brokers, there is no base charge, and the per-contract rate is just $.70. Additional savings are also realized through more frequent trading. That said, the broker is built primarily for professional traders and requires a $100,000 minimum deposit for margin accounts. Lastly, its trading platform, Trader Workstation, is the most challenging platform to learn out of all the brokers we tested for our 2019 review.

Interactive Brokers Trader Workstation TWS options trade analysis
Interactive Brokers Trader Workstation TWS options trade analysis.

There’s a healthy variety of reputable brokers to choose from in the world of options trading. In 2019, investors should expect their broker to include scanning, P&L analysis, risk analysis, and easy-order management. Position management functionality and tying the experience together is where platforms such as Power E*TRADE and thinkorswim by TD Ameritrade distinguish themselves.

Options Trading Features

Ultimately, choosing an options brokers comes down to personal preference and weighing priorities, such as cost versus ease of use and tool selection.

On a feature by feature basis, all of our top five finishers this year offer the following features to their options trading customers.

Feature Definition
Has Education - Options Provides a minimum of 10 educational pieces (articles, videos, archived webinars, or similar) with the primary subject being options. All content must be easily found within the website's Learning Center. Platform tutorials, FAQs, etc do NOT count.
Option Chains - Streaming Real-time Option chains with streaming real-time data.
Option Chains - Greeks Viewable When viewing an option chain, the total number of greeks that are available to be viewed as optional columns. Greeks = delta, gamma, theta, vega, rho.
Option Chains - Quick Analysis The ability to jump straight from the option chain to a P&L chart or probability chart for deeper analysis. Viewing a summary P&L within the chain itself also qualifies.
Option Analysis - P&L Charts When analyzing a theoretical option trade, a P&L chart is available.
Option Analysis - Probability Analysis A basic probability calculator.
Option Analysis - Probability Analysis Adv A tool to analyze a hypothetical option position. Displays a probability histogram / chart with optional customizations.
Option Positions - Greeks Viewable View at least two different greeks for a currently open option position.
Option Positions - Greeks Viewable Streaming View at least two different greeks for a currently open option position and have their values stream with real-time data.
Option Positions - Advanced Analysis Ability to analyze an active option position and change at least two of the three following conditions - date, stock price, volatility - and assess what happens to the value of the position.
Option Positions - Rolling Ability to pre-populate a trade ticket and seamlessly roll an option position to the next relative expiration.
Option Positions - Strategy Grouping Ability to group current option positions by the underlying strategy: covered call, vertical, etc. Can be done manually by user or automatically by the platform.
Level 2 Quotes - Options Level II options quotes available.
Screener - Options Offers a options screener. Commonly referred to as a spread creation tool or similar.


Best Brokers for Options Trading (Summary)

Online Broker Best For Minimum Deposit Base Fee Per Contract Fee Options Rating
E*TRADE Options overall $0 $6.95 $0.75 5 Stars
Interactive Brokers Options rates $0 $0 $0.70 5 Stars
TD Ameritrade Options tools $0 $6.95 $0.75 4.5 Stars
TradeStation OptionStation Pro $500 $5.00 $0.50 4.5 Stars
Charles Schwab Walk-Limit orders $1,000 $4.95 $0.65 4.5 Stars

Read Next

Methodology

For the StockBrokers.com ninth annual best online brokers review published in February 2019, a total of 4,544 data points were collected over six months and used to score brokers. This makes StockBrokers.com home to the largest independent database on the web covering the online broker industry.

Participation is required to be included. Each broker completed an in-depth data profile and provided executive time (live in person or over the web) for an annual update meeting. Our rigorous data validation process yields an error rate of less than .001% each year, providing site visitors quality data they can trust. Learn more about how we test.

Still aren't sure which broker to choose? Ask us a question! Whether you are a beginner investor learning the ropes or a professional trader, we are here to help. Email us your online broker specific question and we will respond within one business day. It is our satisfaction guarantee.

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Blain Reinkensmeyer

About the author: Blain Reinkensmeyer As Head of Research at StockBrokers.com, Blain Reinkensmeyer has 18 years of trading experience with over 1,000 trades placed during that time. Referenced as a leading expert on the US online brokerage industry, Blain has been quoted in The New York Times, Forbes, and the Chicago Tribune, among others.


All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 02/18/2019 and is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. For stock trade rates, advertised pricing is for a standard order size of 500 shares of stock priced at $30 per share. For options orders, an options regulatory fee per contract may apply.

TD Ameritrade, Inc. and StockBrokers.com are separate, unaffiliated companies and are not responsible for each other’s services and products. View terms.

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