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Fortunly's Guide

Finding the Best Options Trading Platform

By
I. Mitic

July 06,2021


Options trading can be traced back to 332 BCE when Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus bought the rights to an olive harvest. In the 21st century, trading is a bit more complicated. But fret not, we're here to help you choose the very best options trading platform so you can trade with confidence.

Our product coverage is complemented by a quick overview of options trading and an objective platform-evaluation methodology you can use to compare our picks with platforms that aren’t on our list.

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4 Best Options Trading Platforms

Per Trade Fee:
$0
Account minimum:
$0
Customer support:
24/7 phone and live-chat
Promotion:
None
Open Account
Offer details
Per Trade Fee:
$0
Account minimum:
$0
Customer support:
24/7 live chat, email, phone
Promotion:
None
Open Account
Offer details
Per Trade Fee:
$1 to open option trades
Account minimum:
$0
Customer support:
live chat
Promotion:
10 options or 100 shares for new accounts
Open Account
Offer details
Per Trade Fee:
$0
Account minimum:
$0
Customer support:
email
Promotion:
1 free stock
Open Account
Offer details
Evaluation Criteria

Our Methodology for Evaluating Options Trading Websites

We’re going to outline our methodology for finding the best options trading platform because we believe in complete transparency, in informing our readers about every step of our review process. We encourage you to use this objective process to conduct your own research.

This methodology is based on evaluating each website according to the same set of essential criteria so it is possible to make an objective apples-to-apples comparison.

Here are the four essential aspects of the ideal options trading platform.

Information Availability

This may not be your main concern when picking out a trading platform, but the company website is the very first thing you encounter. It showcases the firm’s attitude toward data organization and fair business practices. We think basic options software descriptions, contact information, and pricing details should be easy to find. No one should have to search through dozens of menus and web pages to find essential pieces of information.

Commissions & Fees

Without a doubt, we all want to spend as little money as possible on any service or product. But we recognize that the least expensive product or service is rarely the best. A few additional dollars are often justified by the value of extra features, support, or other benefits. Our team analyzed numerous leading options trading platforms and selected those with the most reasonable commissions and fees.

Features

To be a successful trader, you need a reliable platform with high-quality tools. Sometimes platform developers go a bit overboard in their attempt to give users as many features as they can think of. We often think that more is better, and sometimes it is. But more often than not, the kitchen-sink approach leads to an overly complicated and slow final product. However, we did manage to find several brokers that dealt with this issue gracefully and effectively.

Ease of use and speed weren’t our only concerns. In our experience, research and educational tools can be just as important, especially when choosing the best options trading platform for beginners. A good platform should be like a skilled assistant – supplying you with all the essential data the second you need it.

Customer Support

You might not remember to check the quality of a service provider’s customer support until the very moment you require assistance - but by then, it might be a bit too late. If the representatives are slow to respond and they aren’t able to answer your questions properly, you will most likely get frustrated and feel like you’re not getting your money’s worth.

Unfortunately, almost all of us have been in this situation at one time or another, which is exactly why our trading platform comparison awards higher scores to companies that offer multiple contact options and fast, knowledgeable support agents.

Quick Breakdown

Best Trading Platforms for Options:

Options Trading Platforms Reviewed

Charles Schwab Review

Overview
5 stars Our Rating
Per Trade Fee:
$0
Account minimum:
$0
Customer support:
24/7 phone and live-chat
Promotion:
None

Charles Schwab is one of the largest and best-known financial services companies in the world. It was founded in 1971 by its namesake, Charles Schwabe – a pioneer in the discount brokerage business.

Considering the countless awards that the company has won over the years, we weren’t surprised in the slightest when our tests confirmed its platforms as the best trading software in the industry.

Information Availability

Pretty much anything related to Charles Schwab and its services can be found on the options trading website, which we consider a good thing. We did get lost a few times, however, while trying to maneuver our way through all the drop-down menus. Luckily, there’s a convenient search bar in the top right corner of every page.

Commissions & Fees

In 2019, Charles Schwab was the first major online broker to reduce its commissions to $0, which led other firms to follow suit. Still, options traders have to pay a fee of $0.65 per contract, and if you’d like a professional options broker to assist you with a trade, you’ll be charged an additional $25.

There are no inactivity, account closure, or maintenance fees, and Schwab recently eliminated account minimums as well. However, if you’d like to take advantage of the Schwab Intelligent Portfolios robo-advisor service, you’ll have to deposit at least $5,000. That’s a bit steep, but you won’t be charged any advisory fees or commissions.

The Intelligent Portfolios Premium offering, which adds access to certified financial planners to the free service, requires a balance of $25,000 or more plus a one-time planning fee of $300 and a monthly advisory fee of $30.

Options traders who choose this company can rest easy knowing that they’re protected by the Schwab satisfaction guarantee, which covers a wide range of commissions and fees.

Features

Schwab offers three spectacular platforms. The web platform, schwab.com, is somewhat minimalistic but effective, perfect for trading novices. It includes detailed watchlists, streaming quotes, fundamental and technical analysis, and much more. You won’t find a single unnecessary feature here.

The downloadable StreetSmart Edge platform is a different story. It offers a lot more tools than the website, but it is still relatively simple to master. This options trading system is very customizable. It’s a breeze to place complex multiple-part orders with StreetSmart Edge thanks to its All-in-One Trading Ticket feature. Our only serious criticism of this application is that Mac users are limited to the cloud-based version.

The mobile app, available for both Android and iOS phones, is an excellent solution for traders who have to be away from their computers frequently. It’s easy to navigate and it implements every security measure you could think of to keep your data safe. If you’re looking for the best mobile options trading platform, you’ve found it.

Customer Support

You can call or text-chat with Schwab’s customer support team at any hour, seven days a week. In most cases, you won’t have to wait more than a minute to get connected to a friendly and helpful representative. 

Reasons to Use This Platform:

  • Highly reputable company
  • Fast placement of complex orders
  • 24/7 customer support
+ Show more
Read Full Review

E*TRADE Review

Overview
5 stars Our Rating
Per Trade Fee:
$0
Account minimum:
$0
Customer support:
24/7 live chat, email, phone
Promotion:
None

E*TRADE is a subsidiary of Morgan Stanley, a global financial services firm founded in the early 1980s. Although it offers top options trading services, its higher-than-average commissions have led customers to choose more affordable companies in recent years.

In 2019, E*TRADE responded to customer attrition by joining many other brokers in price-reduction wars, and its exemplary platforms are now affordable for almost any investor or trader.

Information Availability

The E*TRADE website is designed without too many bells and whistles. It is unlikely to give you the most eye-pleasing experience you’ve ever had, but it does allow you to quickly examine the functionality and pricing of E*TRADE’s online trading platforms.

Commissions & Fees

At first glance, E*TRADE’s options commissions seem to be the same as Charles Schwab’s - $0 + $0.65 per contract. But if you execute more than 30 trades per quarter, you’ll be entitled to a small discount that lowers the per-contract fee to $0.50.  

Even though you won’t have to worry about account maintenance or inactivity fees, you should keep in mind that the partial account transfer fee is $25, while a full account transfer fee is $75. Customers whose balance remains $5,000 or more after the transfer aren’t charged the $25. 

Unlike many other options brokers, E*TRADE offers a special promotion to new clients. Depending on the amount you deposit, you can get a cash bonus of up to $2,500 by using the WINTER21 code when opening an account.

Features

At E*TRADE, you can choose between two web-based platforms – E*TRADE and Power E*TRADE – and two apps that correspond to those platforms. All of ETRADE’s products are very user-friendly, so our recommendation is to pick the one that fits your trading style and needs. You can’t go wrong with either of them, especially if you’re a beginner.

The simpler service, E*TRADE, is primarily aimed at those still learning the ropes of online options trading, but that doesn’t mean that it lacks sophisticated screening and analysis tools. Quite the contrary.

You can even implement complex options strategies using the E*TRADE app and platform. Nevertheless, experienced options traders might find that the presentation is a bit limiting, and that’s exactly why they should turn their attention to Power E*TRADE.

With Power E*TRADE, you’ll be able to use more than 100 charting tools and nearly 40 drawing tools to track data and highlight trends. Even though this is a professional-level trading platform with extensive capabilities, beginners will still be able to use it.

This is because it includes plain-English explanations of complex trading terms as well as features like Snapshot Analysis, which will show you the potential risks and losses of an options trade.

Customer Service

Along with the heaps of educational resources that you’ll be able to take advantage of by visiting the E*TRADE website, you’ll also have the option to contact customer-support representatives via live chat, email, or phone on a 24/7 basis.

Not only does E*TRADE provide some of the best online trading platforms currently available, but it employs polite, highly professional customer-support agents as well. The E*TRADE team can help you get the most out of your options trading experience.

Reasons to Use This Platform:

  • 100+ charting tools
  • Profit-and-loss analysis
  • Discount for 30 or more trades
+ Show more
Read Full Review

tastyworks Review

Overview
4.5 stars Our Rating
Per Trade Fee:
$0
Account minimum:
$0
Customer support:
24/7 live chat, email, phone
Promotion:
None

tastyworks trading software may be new to the options world, but the people behind it are far from inexperienced. Six years after launching a thriving online financial network called tastytrade, they drew upon their knowledge and experience to create the state-of-the-art option-specific platform that is the subject of this review.

Information Availability

The company claims that it is “ridiculously transparent,” and after having thoroughly examined its website, we’re happy to confirm that the statement is quite true.

Not only is everything you’d want to know clearly displayed, but it is written in an easy-to-understand manner for the benefit of newcomers to the trading life. The site’s pages are neatly organized, allowing you to sift through all of the important information quickly.

Commissions & Fees

tastyworks has a unique pricing scheme for options trading, which makes it one of the best options trading platforms for budget-conscious investors. Closing a position is free, while opening a trade costs $1 per contract for options on stocks and ETFs, $2.50 per contract for options on futures, and $1.50 per contract for options on micro futures. As an extra perk, equity commissions are capped at $10 per leg.

You also won’t be charged for not using or closing your account.

However, tastyworks does impose a few banking and trade-related fees that you should look out for. For example, every options trade incurs a clearing fee of either $0.10 or $0.30 per contract, and the outgoing automated customer account transfer fee is $75.

Features

The tastyworks downloadable desktop software and web-based options trading platforms are almost identical, the only significant difference being that the desktop version is slightly faster when it comes to streaming data.

Experienced users shouldn’t have any issues navigating them, but the number of exposed features could confuse beginners. Despite this small inconvenience, the platforms are a dream come true for frequent users who prefer a fast trading style.

The software offers a fair amount of customizability, and the predefined options strategies allow you to open a position within seconds. You’ll also have superb analysis functions at your disposal, with numerous technical indicators and quite a few drawing tools.

But what sets tastyworks apart from other top trading platforms are its watchlists. They provide invaluable information such as the ask and bid prices, liquidity, implied volatility, and much more. You’ll be able to adapt the lists to your trading strategy by using the many filtering mechanisms tastyworks provides. If the tastyworks watchlists aren’t to your liking, you can easily create your own.

The mobile app includes most of the features present in the desktop and web platforms. Although all the columns, charts, and controls could be arranged slightly better considering the dimensions of mobile devices’ small screens, it’s still one of the best options trading mobile apps we’ve seen.

Even if you are a new trader, you shouldn’t be discouraged from trying tastyworks. It might take you a little while to figure out where everything is, but you’ll have copious amounts of top-quality educational content to help you out. You can access it directly from inside the platform.

Customer Support

If you’re unable to find the answer to your question in the extensive tastyworks help center, you can contact the customer support team via live chat and receive expert advice. We were surprised to learn that a company with such a great options trading platform doesn’t provide any other contact options and that customer-service agents are not available 24/7.

Reasons to Use This Platform:

  • High level of transparency
  • Numerous technical indicators
  • Superb watchlists
+ Show more
Read Full Review

Robinhood Review

Overview
4.5 stars Our Rating
Per Trade Fee:
$0
Account minimum:
$0
Customer support:
email
Promotion:
1 free stock

In 2013, two former classmates and roommates – Vladimir Tenev and Baiju Bhatt – launched a financial company that they hoped would empower everyone, even those with modest funds, to try their hand at investing. By the end of last year, the California-based company had accumulated approximately 13 million users.

Information Availability

The Robinhood website demonstrates the company’s commitment to transparency. You’ll even find explanations on how, despite offering a low-cost trading platform, Robinhood manages to make money. However, the features of the web platform and mobile app are barely mentioned, and locating the company’s contact information is a bit of a challenge.

Commissions & Fees

Unlike almost every other company that provides an options trading platform, Robinhood doesn’t charge a commission or per-contract fee. If you look at the company’s pricing schedule, you’ll be shocked at the number of $0 entries next to options trading and account-related fees.

The only slightly pricey charge that you should be aware of is for outgoing automated customer account transfers, which cost $75.

Features

If you’re looking for robust options trading tools, you might be slightly disappointed with what Robinhood has to offer. The platform’s strengths lie in its simplicity. It may be best to view the platform as an inexpensive set of great training wheels for trading novices.

Robinhood may not present its users with the most advanced features, but all of the essential features are available. For example, the platform supports market orders, limit orders, stop-limit orders, and stop orders. We also like the fact that the website lets you monitor recent news and stream Bloomberg TV.

The mobile app is extremely similar to its web counterpart, aside from a few added perks such as increased speed and ease-of-use. It’s the best options trading app for busy traders.

Robinhood has recently started adding more and more educational resources to the website, which is a smart strategy for a service targeting new investors. The content is extremely engaging, and if the company keeps going in this direction it’s sure to soon surpass some of its competitors.

Customer Support

The Robinhood support page includes long lists of links to various helpful articles, all grouped by categories. The collection is truly impressive, but when we wanted to ask customer-support agents a few questions about the company’s low-cost options trading platforms and fees, we found that email was our only option for getting in touch with them. We received an accurate response fairly quickly.

Reasons to Use This Platform:

  • Various options orders
  • Exceptionally fast mobile app
  • Engaging educational content
+ Show more
Read Full Review

Our Guide to Options Trading

The times are filled with uncertainty in every respect. This uncertainty is reflected in the instability of the financial and commodity markets, the volatility of the prices we see on them, and the large rises and falls of stock market indices.

Over the past few decades, the issue of finding the best options trading platform has become an increasingly popular topic, probably because options are a financial instrument that provides the possibility of reducing losses to the lowest possible level. However, you can’t dive into options trading without knowing the basics. Here’s a quick overview.

What Are Options?

An option is a derivative security, a type of contract that gives its holder the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell the asset that is the subject of the contract. These used to be negotiated in person, but nowadays we’ve switched to trading options online. Still, the fundamental concept has remained the same.

The seller of the option is the contracting party who must fulfill his obligation in case the buyer of the option wants the contract to be realized. It is the buyer of the option who has the right, but not the obligation, to exercise the option - which means that the buyer can give up the execution of the deal.

If an option gives its holder the right to buy a certain asset, such an option is called a call option, and if it gives the holder the right to sell a certain asset, it’s called a put option. Those who have used any piece of option trading software before are probably already familiar with these terms, but those who haven’t might want to know two more.

The subject of the contract contained in the option is called the underlying asset. It can be commodities, currencies, securities, interest, futures contracts, or stock indices. The price of that asset is determined at the moment of concluding the contract, and it’s called the exercise price or strike price.

How Are Options Priced?

The option price, sometimes called the option premium, depends on many factors, including the type of the underlying asset, its current price, the asset volatility rate in the previous period, the current interest rate, the time remaining until the option expires, and many more. The best platform for options trading should display all of those figures in an easily readable form.

Why Trade Options?

The option is a very attractive instrument because it can be used for making profitable speculative transactions and for risk protection - as a hedging instrument. For example, an option holder can use the option to reduce the risk of holding a particular asset.

Regardless of the purpose of holding the option, the buyer and the seller will always have conflicting predictions about how the asset’s price will move. This is how traders, dealers, and options brokers earn money.

The conflicting views allow the transfer of risk from participants who want to protect themselves (those who hedge) to those who are willing to accept it and profit from it (speculators). In options trading, the maximum possible gain for the option seller is at the same time the maximum possible loss for the option buyer.

To approach the world of options trading, you should be well prepared. Get acquainted with the fundamentals of options contracts, choose an asset whose price is easy to predict, and choose a licensed broker that offers the best trading platform for options with a top-notch customer service team.

FAQ
Who offers free options trading? +

Robinhood essentially offers free options trading. Both its commission and per-contract fees are $0, and most of its account-related charges are non-existent as well.

Can you get rich from options trading? +

The short answer is: Yes, you can potentially get rich from options trading. But before you jump the gun and invest all of your savings into options contracts, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. Learn about the topic and spend some time finding the trading platform that’s best for you.

Which trading platform is best for options? +

Currently, the best options trading platform is Charles Schwab's StreetSmart Edge. It offers a large collection of advanced and intuitive tools for options trading and analysis. To top it all off, the company charges no commissions and fees of just $0.65 per contract.