This ultimate guide will help you understand trading options, where to find the best options trading platforms and how to recognize and compare them.
Maybe you want to earn more money to pay the bills. Or your next holiday. Or a house for your family. Or maybe you really just want some extra income.
Then you’ve probably heard that you should invest your money in financial products – be it stocks, real estate or even foreign currency. You also probably already have an idea what stocks are – it’s always on the news, and it’s the most popular thing to invest in. But what about options?
Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. We’ll discuss what the basics of options trading are, the best options trading platforms, and how to compare these platforms.
What In The World Is 'Options Trading'?
If you’re already looking for the best platforms, you probably already know what option trading is. But let’s refresh our minds and revisit important basics in the options trading game.
An option is another type of security a lot of people invest in, a contract that makes a buyer able to buy or sell an underlying asset before a specific date, and at a particular price. Also recall that this gives the buyer the right to buy or sell, but no obligation.
This short video quickly explains what is options trading:
Binary Options Explained
In contrast to regular options trading, you may have also heard of binary options. It is a specific type of options that lets you decide between two choices: yes or no, or in trading terms, “call” (when you predict the price will rise) or “put” (when you predict the price will decline). Since you can only have two choices, it will also yield just two possible results: all or nothing, meaning that an investor can never lose more than what he’s invested. The difference to regular options lies in the payout, which is pre-determined at the onset of the contract as well as the expiry time and execution. With sets of skills, knowledge, and experience, and using one of the best binary trading platforms, it can be highly valuable.
Ok, I Get It Now. But Where Do I Trade Options?
We’ll tell you all about the best trading platforms available, and we’ll compare their prices, advantages, disadvantages, and more.
But before we get to that part, we all need to establish some factors and features that you should consider before choosing a broker or a platform to trade options. Also, people usually only consider commissions and fees before choosing a platform, but that’s not the only important thing to look at. It’s important, yes, but there are many other facets that you should know before finally deciding on a brokerage company.
What Should I Look For In An Options Trading Platform?
Consider the following factors:
Price / Fees
Since we already mentioned it in the previous paragraph, might as well start with this one. Of course, commission and fees are still highly important for any trader in the game. First, make sure that there aren’t any large “hidden” fees (e.g. maintenance fee, trading fee) – as these “little” fees may affect your return on investment.
You should also consider if you’re trading in bulk or not. Some platforms offer better pricing for those who trade in large volumes, but others are more suitable for ‘beginners’ who trade less. Options platforms’ pricing tables should be straight forward, and easily understood for all users.
Always, always do your own research, too. Read as much reviews as you can about the trading platforms you’re considering. Or even read articles about them and their performance in finance-focused newspapers.
In addition, trusted brokers are usually affiliated with professional associations (e.g. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) – so make sure your broker has valid qualifications.
This is one of the most important factors to consider, but also probably the most neglected. The platforms’ customer support should be available online – or through other means of contact. And actually, most of the trusted online platforms provide customer service – 24/7.
Here’s one test you could do to make sure their customer service is excellent: contact them before you finally decide on their service. Ask them about basic facts about trading, their services, and other relevant questions that you may think of. This can give you a gauge on which online broker is the best when it comes to customer service.
Research Data And Software
Personally, I think this is an essential feature that everyone should consider – but mostly for skilled and experienced users. For beginners, this could be useful too: the platform you choose should have vast amount of data and resources (videos, articles, seminars, and the like) that teaches you how to be a good options trader.
Research data includes publications, news articles about the market and persistent trends, and professional commentary among others. When you learn how to make use of these resources, they could help you make better trading decisions – also with the help of the software available on the site. Your chosen platform should have trading tools that would help you determine the best options to buy, track volatility, and analyze market trends.
What Is The Best Online Options Trading Platform?
There really is no one best options trading platform; there’s only the best for you – and your preferences. The same could be said for looking for the best stock trading platform. Here is a list of the ten best trading platforms that you could choose from.
Desktop and web platforms, virtual trading, advanced tools
Web platforms, virtual trading fees, zero inactivity fees, low prices
Stocks, options, futures,
Desktop and web platforms, no inactivity fees, many features for beginners, good mobile support
Web platforms, virtual trading, zero inactivity fees, advanced tools, many features for beginners
Desktop and web platforms, wide selection of commission-free ETFs, good customer service
Desktop platform, low prices, good for advanced traders, good mobile support
Stocks, options, futures,
Web platforms, virtual trading, low prices, good mobile support
Stocks, options, futures,
Desktop and web platforms, good for advanced traders, good mobile support
Desktop and web platforms, many features for beginners, good mobile support, above average customer service
Desktop and web platforms, above average customer service
Founded in 1982, TradeStation has created a good reputation for its brand, especially for its technology, and state-of-the-art, advanced trading tools and data available.
Experienced users and experts alike love TradeStation’s user interface: it’s flexible enough, especially for those who prefer multiple monitors. Charting is also available in the platform, which can help users make in-depth analyses of various trends and data. But options traders in particular should use their amazing OptionsStation tool.
The OptionsStations tool was designed to make data analysis so much easier – you can even view profit and loss charts both in 2D and 3D form – whichever way you prefer. Also available in the platform is a tool that lets you rank potential trades. And if you want to improve your strategy, TradeStation provides a program that lets you test out strategies before implementing them.
TradeStation releases updates on a regular basis; it really is an innovative company when it comes to the technology aspect. However, all of these come with a steep price: $99.95 monthly, which can be waived if your account has $100,000, or once you meet a specific level of trading activity. Its base fee for options ranges from $4.99 to $7.99, with a price per contract of $0.20 to $0.70, depending on volume.
Unlike TradeStation, OptionsHouse provides one of the most competitive prices in the options trading market today. At a $4.95 base fee, you can make a trade, with a $0.50 per contract fee. OptionsHouse has one of the simplest pricing matrices among online trading platforms, which makes it a favorite among beginners and advanced traders alike.
If you’re looking for advanced analytical tools, OptionsHouse is also a great choice. In 2014, they merged with tradeMONSTER – which was highly known at the time for its innovative trading platform. Trading options became so much easier and faster after the full integration of tradeMONSTER, and its interface became even more customizable than ever before.
Their other useful tools – such as strategySEEK, tradeLAB, spreadMAKER, and adjustTRADE – can all help you form smarter decisions in options trading. In particular, strategySEEK lets you look for and scan real-time data based on specific criteria that you would establish. OptionsHouse also provides users with a virtual trading platform, which would be useful for options trading newbies.
There are still downsides to OptionsHouse, however. For one, they don’t have a lot of investment products available (e.g. they do not have foreign exchange trading). While their tools are undoubtedly advanced, they do not have a lot of research available for you to analyze – especially compared to their competitors’ research data.
E*TRADE, while it has notable, simple-to-use desktop and web platforms, is more highly regarded because of their leading mobile applications.
One feature we love about E*TRADE is its E*TRADE 360, its simple and customizable page for their online platform. You can easily navigate around the page, and even beginners would find it appealing – E*TRADE’s platform makes placing orders a breeze. They have one of the best customer support services in the options trading industry today – just go ahead and try to send them an e-mail!
Huge amounts of research data are also readily available at E*TRADE, coming from sources such as S&P, Thomson Reuters, SmartConsensus, and MarketEdge. Their tools are also just at par with their competitors: they provide probability calculators, options screeners, and option analyzers to its users, among others. You can analyze market trends, volatility data, and other relevant information you need for your investments.
And of course, their mobile application is second to none when it comes to this feature. Their app provides the ability to compare your own portfolio to the market average, aside from the common features that mobile trading apps provide (e.g. real-time tracking).
Their fees are about average to above average of the industry, having a base fee of $9.99, with $0.75 per contract.
Arguably one of the most popular trading platforms in the US, TD Ameritrade is highly regarded by many experts and professionals for their advanced research data, tools, and analytical capabilities.
TD Ameritrade truly has some of the best tools for both beginners and experienced traders alike. Trade Architect and Thinkorswim – their two platforms – are top-of-the-line, and are leading the industry with its many practical and useful features. You can use scanners to search filter options, see historical revenues of companies, and analyze ‘risk graphs’ for potential trades.
TD Ameritrade’s Thinkorswim
TD Ameritrade’s Thinkorswim platform is also really popular because of its virtual trading feature. You can try out your investment strategies with virtual money before implementing them in real life – with your real money. This is great for beginners who are still new to the whole options trading business. They also have an education center that would help newbies find their way in trading – with resources such as videos, lessons, and demonstrations, among others.
TD Ameritrade leads when it comes to their research, providing news from more than six different sources. TD Ameritrade still lags behind with mobile apps as their app looks like their online platform which many users love.
The company also provides one of the best customer services in the market, with around 100 branches nationwide, in addition to their 24-hour phone line. They also have an automated client (Ask Ted) that will guide you through their platform.
Though it has many advantages, of course, it still comes with a con: TD Ameritrade is on the higher end of the spectrum when it comes to fees. The base fee is $9.99, with a contract price of $0.75.
What About Platforms For Binary Options?
There are different brokers specifically for binary options? Yes. Not a lot of options platforms provide services for binary options. We’ll give you a few recommendations if you want to dive into trading binary options.
Aside from the factors we listed above that you should consider before choosing a platform, for a binary options platform, you must remember to take note and follow regulations. Some countries, like the US, are very strict with binary options trading – which is why we’ll only be recommending the platforms that are accepted by regulatory bodies in the US.
You should also be really careful when it comes to sites that claim they trade binary options or that they’re one of the best in binary trading, because many have been duped by these websites. Always be responsible and do your own research when it comes to these traders. Remember that it’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Here we list down some of our trusted and best binary options brokers: for those residing in the US, we recommend using FInpari, Porter Finance, or NADEX. For our readers in the UK, try out IQ option, 24 option, or Banc de Binary. For residents of Europe and Canada, our recommendations are 24 option or Banc de Binary.
Start Trading Options Now!
Before finally choosing a broker or platform to trade options, list down all your requirements and preferences first. Rank them if you want – do you want more research? Analytical tools? Or are you after the commissions and fees? Let those determine which site would really be the most suitable for you.
Since we gave you a list of our recommended trading platforms – go ahead and try them out! Sometimes, you’ll really never know what you prefer unless you go ahead and experience options trading for yourself. Just remember our essential tips, only use risk capital you can afford to lose, research and analyze well, and have fun trading!