The Bankrate promise
At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for .
If you’re looking for a top broker for options trading, you’ll want to consider some of the major players in the industry. While these brokers have slashed their commissions for stock and ETF trades to zero, many still charge a per-contract fee for options, so discount lovers may be on the lookout for a lower price while balancing cost against a broker’s other features.
We’ve analyzed the largest, most established brokers on the traits that matter to individual investors – trading commissions, comprehensive research and trading platforms. We’ve evaluated each broker on its pros and cons, and within this group of top options brokers, we’ve rated the leading performers overall.
While one broker may be great for trading stocks or offer a great trading platform, it might not be a top player for options. And that’s one reason you’ll want to have more than one brokerage account, since you’ll get the best parts of several different brokers.
Best brokers for options trading:
- Charles Schwab
- Fidelity Investments
- Interactive Brokers
- Ally Invest
Bankrate evaluates brokers based on a number of factors including:
- Cost (commissions, account fees, etc.)
- Account types
- Investment offerings
- Research and education
- Customer support
Best brokers for options trading in February 2024
Charles Schwab does so many things well, all while keeping a keen focus on what’s good for the investor, making it a great selection for options. In addition to fair pricing for options, Schwab also gives you fundamental research that should prove valuable in selecting the options you want to trade. Add on fantastic customer support and the highly regarded thinkorswim trading platform, and it’s hard to go wrong here.
- Options commission: $0.65 per contract
Fidelity is neck and neck with Schwab on so many features, and it’s another solid pick if you’re looking for an options broker. Besides options commissions that are right in line with Schwab’s, Fidelity offers a solid customer experience, and its Active Trader Pro platform is one of the tops among brokers. Investors also like the fact that Fidelity doesn’t ding you for every little thing, unlike many brokers, which helps improve the overall experience significantly.
- Options commission: $0.65 per contract
Interactive Brokers has long been regarded as a place for professionals, and with good reason. The broker to the pros offers five capable trading platforms with access to options, and it’s well known for its ability to access virtually any security. You’ll also get tools such as the Options Wizard to help you select and build the right option strategy. Commissions start at $0.65 per contract with no base commission, and the fee falls from there for truly high-volume traders (think 10,000 contracts or more.)
- Options commission: $0.65 per contract, with volume discounts available
TradeStation is another broker that caters to higher-volume traders, and its pricing reflects this focus. You don’t have to trade thousands of contracts to achieve a more attractive price than Interactive Brokers, and TradeStation offers options trading at $0.60 per contract, just a bit lower than the industry standard. That fee won’t get you fundamental research, but it does allow you to access the broker’s Options Station Pro, a tool that evaluates and places your trades.
- Options commission: $0.60 per contract
Ally Invest is a solid choice for those looking to reduce their trading costs. Like much of the industry, Ally has reduced its commissions, slashing its options pricing to a simple $0.50 per contract, and you won’t need to be a volume player to get this better-than-average price. Ally offers basic research and works well for those traders who are existing customers of Ally Bank and prefer a consolidated account.
- Options commission: $0.50 per contract
If low pricing is your biggest objective, then you’re likely to find Robinhood an attractive broker. The trading app is well-known for its $0 stock commissions, but it also offers the same for options. Traders will get an easy-to-use interface on a mobile app that allows you to place trades intuitively, though you can also use a desktop platform if that’s your style. What you won’t get, however, is the same level of research and tools that many other brokers offer, though you can upgrade your account to Robinhood Gold for additional reports.
- Options commission: $0
Webull is another mobile trading app that offers low-cost options trading. You’ll pay $0 commissions on options trades, though there are some minor regulatory fees. The app makes it easy to trade on the go and you’ll also have commission-free trading on stocks and ETFs. Webull isn’t as well known as Robinhood, but it offers a similar experience that’s superior in some ways.
- Options commission: $0
Firstrade’s low costs will appeal to options traders, with the broker charging no commissions or contract fees. You can also trade stocks and ETFs commission-free in one of the many accounts offered, including retirement accounts and education savings accounts. Traders who are new to options may benefit from Firstrade’s educational content, which includes articles and videos that explain topics such as how to place a trade and how to generate income using options.
- Options commission: $0
E-Trade brings research and solid trading platforms to the table, and has discounted pricing, too. The broker’s Power E-Trade platform offers technical studies and a snapshot analysis that lets you see the risk and reward on a trade. You’ll get almost the same functionality on the Power E-Trade mobile app, including the ability to trade multi-leg orders. The broker chops its per-contract commissions, too, if you make more than 30 trades in a quarter, not a particularly high hurdle.
- Options commission: $0.65 per contract, or $0.50 for more than 30 trades per quarter
Tastytrade is geared toward active traders, who will benefit from the broker’s low-cost options pricing. You’ll pay $1 per contract on the buy and $0 on the sell, for a round-trip price of $0.50. But tastytrade takes it a step further by capping commissions at $10 per leg, so if you’re trading lots of contracts you won’t have to worry about racking up commissions.
- Options commission: $1 per contract on the buy, $0 on the sell; capped at $10 per leg
How to choose an online trading platform
Choosing which online trading platform is best for you will ultimately come down to the features that matter most to you. Some people will prioritize cost and look for brokers with the lowest commissions for option trading, while others may be more interested in trading features or educational resources.
Experienced options traders may want a more professional trading experience where they can execute trades quickly or research different options strategies. If you’re just looking for basic options trading, you may want to go with a low-cost broker that doesn’t have as many features.
Do you need a broker to trade options?
You’ll need a broker to trade options, because that’s how you access the market. Fortunately, it’s never been cheaper or easier. Not only is options trading much less expensive than it’s been in the past, but some brokers even allow you to trade options for no out-of-pocket cost.
However, not all brokers offer options trading, so make sure to check for that as you compare them. You’ll also want to look into their per-contract pricing. Higher-volume traders can receive significant discounts, and some brokers offer discounts for even more modest trading volume, so prices can differ somewhat among the more popular brokers.
Options trading FAQs
You actually don’t need that much money to trade options, which is one of the reasons it’s so popular with smaller investors. The other major reason is that you can make a significant return, including hundreds of percent gain in a short period, as traders in heavily shorted stocks such as GameStop discovered.
You could start with literally a few hundred dollars for some options strategies, such as buying call or put options, though other moves such as selling put options will likely require more capital upfront. The payoffs in these strategies have different rewards and risks, and it’s crucial to understand what potential return you may get in return for the risk you’d be taking on.
Options trades are some of the riskiest ones you can make, and if a stock moves in the wrong direction, the value of the option could decline to zero very quickly. Worse, with some options, you may owe more money than you initially received from the trade. These risks are why many traders limit options to a small portion of their portfolio and never trade with money they need.
Options trading is risky because the contracts can expire worthless if the trade isn’t successful. If you own a stock that you think will rise 20 percent after an earnings announcement, but instead it jumps only 5 percent, you’ll still have a profit and can continue to hold the stock. Even if the stock fell, you could continue to hold to see if it would rise in the future. In contrast, if instead you had bought an option based on your prediction and the stock moved unfavorably, the option might expire worthless without giving you time to recoup your loss.
Calls and puts are the two most basic options contracts. Call options increase in value as a stock goes up, while put options increase in value as a stock falls. A call option gives you the right, but not the obligation, to purchase a stock at a set price by a set date. On the other hand, put options give you the right to sell a stock at a specific price by a specific date. Buyers of options contracts pay a premium to the contracts’ seller.
Most major brokers offer options trading in some form, but there are some brokers that do not. Certain brokers may have more features that options traders will appreciate, while others might offer a more bare bones experience.
You can buy and sell options as often as you’d like, but if you get classified as a pattern day trader, you’ll need to meet those requirements. Options markets are generally open from 9:30 AM ET to 4:00 PM ET Monday through Friday.
While it’s easy to make a decision about which brokerage works best all about one variable, such as cost, it’s better to consider a broker as a whole. Examine the variety of benefits that the brokerage offers and evaluate how it meets your trading needs. And there’s always the potential to open more than one brokerage account, if you need the capabilities each offers.
Editorial Disclaimer: All investors are advised to conduct their own independent research into investment strategies before making an investment decision. In addition, investors are advised that past investment product performance is no guarantee of future price appreciation.