Best Options Trading Platforms & Brokers

Investing News

Of all the asset classes online brokers typically support, options are one of the easier ones to differentiate because, unlike stocks or ETFs, many options trading platforms still charge for options trades. The growing interest in options as a way to leverage investment dollars has led to an increase in the number of brokers focusing specifically in this space. This crowding has led to fierce competition and better selection for traders than ever before. Our best options trading platforms have a wealth of tools that help you measure and manage risk as you determine which trades to place. They also feature robust educational content designed to help you become a successful options trader.

Best Brokers for Options Trading:

  • Best Options Trading Platform: tastyworks
  • Best Broker for Beginning Options Traders: E*TRADE
  • Best Broker for Low-Cost Options Trading: Webull
  • Best Broker for Advanced Options Traders: tastyworks
  • Best Broker for Mobile Options Traders: tastyworks

tastyworks: Best Options Trading Platform

  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: $0.00 stock trades, $1.00 to open options trades $0.00 to close
Read full review

Why We Chose It

When we focus on options trading—a niche (albeit a rapidly growing one) within the traditional definition of trading—we see online brokers that are overshadowed by large players in other categories suddenly shine through. This includes players like eOption and Webull; however, tastyworks is the broker that shines the brightest. While we give a lot of weight to the pricing on contracts with our scenario of a 50-contract trade, the best overall options trading platform has to provide the tools along with that price. Tastyworks sits in the sweet spot where its options-specific tools can compete with a powerhouse like E*TRADE, while its pricing makes it more attractive. There are cheaper options brokers depending on how many contracts you trade at a time, but tastyworks has a better overall platform. The final factor pushing tastyworks over the top is the excellent educational content it produces for its customers, keeping them up-to-date and informed when they aren’t glued to their charts. 

Pros

  • All the options tools you need

  • Charting is tweaked to options, allowing you to analyze the risk profiles of the combined position

  • Fantastic library of original, options-focused content

Cons

  • There is no fixed income trading (outside of ETFs that contain bonds)

  • Additional portfolio analysis requires setting up an account with the Quiet Foundation, also part of the tastytrade empire

E*TRADE: Best for Beginning Options Traders

  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: No commission for stock/ETF trades. Options are $0.50-$0.65 per contract, depending on trading volume.
Read full review

Why We Chose It

Although we like to see low costs in all our options categories (particularly for beginners), E*TRADE takes the best broker for beginning options traders despite not being the cheapest: It offers options at $0.65 per contract, or $0.50 if you make more than 30 trades per quarter. The reason E*TRADE prevails in spite of its pricing disadvantage is that it has an innovative platform, extensive tools, and excellent educational resources to help new options traders develop their trading skills. The options order ticket now has options trading strategies built into it so you can easily pick one to match your risk tolerance and sentiment. Selecting one of these also gives you a preview of how the proposed trade will impact your buying power. Built-in support like this combines with a deep library of educational resources to make E*TRADE our pick for best broker for beginning options traders.

Pros

  • Comprehensive mobile app and robust options tools in the trading platform

  • Spectral Analysis on Power E*TRADE visualizes key elements of your potential trade

  • You can test strategies using the paper trading capabilities of E*TRADE Pro’s desktop platform

Webull: Best for Low-Cost Options Trading

  • Account Minimum: None
  • Fees: $0 commission to trade stocks, listed options, and ETFs
Read full review

Why We Chose It

As we said in our full review of Webull, it is essentially a no-cost broker, not a low-cost broker. Webull’s main pricing advantage is that it offers U.S.-listed options in addition to stocks and ETFs. The most surprising thing about Webull is the fact that its options tools and charting abilities are robust for a broker that costs next to nothing to trade on. The options tools help you set up and customize common strategies using different order types and spreads between strike prices in multi-leg strategies. If you want to trade options at the lowest possible price, Webull is the broker for you.

Pros

  • No commissions on stocks, ETFs, U.S.-listed options, and cryptocurrencies

  • Access to extended hours and pre-market trading

  • Intuitive trading platform with surprisingly powerful functionality given the low-cost

Cons

  • Platform isn’t as robust as some options-focused competitors

  • No access to fixed income, mutual funds, foreign exchange, or futures markets

  • Limited range of tools for portfolio management

tastyworks: Best for Advanced Options Trades

  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: $0.00 stock trades, $1.00 to open options trades $0.00 to close
Read full review

Why We Chose It

Tastyworks is designed from the bottom up with advanced options traders in mind. This has kept it as our pick for this category despite stiff competition. While no longer the cheapest in terms of trading costs, tastyworks’ rich options-focused toolset shines brighter than the competition. There are drag-and-drop option orders, position analysis is displayed directly under the options chain, and every tool and screener is optimized for options traders. If you already know options trading, tastyworks has a lot to offer to go along with its competitive pricing structure.

Pros

  • Fully customizable trading experience with real-time streaming quotes on multiple platforms

  • Advanced tools designed specifically for options traders

  • Relevant content from experts to help even advanced traders learn new things

Cons

  • Options focus limits the ability to trade more broadly

  • There is no fixed income trading

  • Lack of general features like market news, research, and non-option screeners

tastyworks: Best for Mobile Options Traders

  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: $0.00 stock trades, $1.00 to open options trades $0.00 to close
Read full review

Why We Chose It

The competition in this category was extremely tight between E*TRADE and tastyworks. That being said, tastyworks takes home our best broker for mobile options traders for the same reason it is our best broker for advanced options traders—a tight focus on what options traders need. The tastyworks app is fundamentally the same as the desktop platform. The order entry on the app is drag-and-drop, although we found the charting and graphing to be displayed smaller than ideal, depending on the device. Offsetting that complaint is the fact that the app pre-populates a trade ticket as you build a position from the charts. Once you are familiar with the operation of the tastyworks desktop platform, the workflow of the app becomes obvious. The fact that the app mirrors the desktop means you have the best lineup of advanced options tools at your fingertips, no matter which tastyworks platform you use.

Pros

  • Drag and drop approach for simple order entry

  • Trading from charts is intuitive and fast

  • Easily view video content from the tastytrade network on the go

Cons

  • Graphs and charts may display on the smaller side

  • The workflow is inherited from the desktop, so you need to learn that first

Final Verdict

There has never been a better time to be an options trader. The number of niche brokers in the options trading space has increased along with the number of brokers offering commission free trading. Depending on your specific tastes, you can find a number of robust options trading platforms with built-in tools and capabilities to accelerate your trading significantly. Tastyworks, in particular, stood out again for its single focus on delivering the best possible options trading experience. That said, WeBull will catch the attention of cost-conscious traders due to its decent tool set and no-cost approach. Finally, we have E*TRADE, which is a good place for traders to start on the path to options trading, with plenty of room for growing into the advanced capabilities contained within the Power E*TRADE platform. Options traders have waited a long time to have such a buffet of choices when it comes to choosing a trading platform.

What Are Options?

An options contract gives the holder the right—but not the obligation—to buy or sell the underlying asset at a set price on or before a certain date. There are two primary types of options: A call option gives you the right to buy a stock, while a put option gives you the right to sell a stock. The strike price (aka exercise price) is the price at which you buy or sell the stock should you opt to exercise the option. The expiration date is when the options contract expires and becomes worthless. Because options derive their value from underlying assets, they belong to the group of securities known as derivatives.

How Do You Start Trading Options?

Investors use options to hedge risk or to speculate. To get started, you will need a brokerage account that’s approved for options trading. If you already have a brokerage account with a broker that supports options, you can fill out an application to enable options. After you provide details about your investment objectives, trading experience, and financial situation (e.g., annual income, employment info, net worth, and total net worth), the broker will review your application and either approve or deny it. If you are approved, the broker will let you know which options level you’re approved to trade. If your current broker doesn’t support options (or you want to try a different broker), you can apply for options trading after your standard brokerage account is approved. Depending on your broker and options strategy, you may also need approval for margin privileges.

Once you are approved for options trading, the next step is to decide which options you want to trade. The type of options contract you trade depends on the direction you expect the underlying stock to move:

  • If you expect the stock price to rise: buy a call option, sell a put option
  • If you expect the stock price to fall: buy a put option, sell a call option
  • If you expect the stock price to remain stable: sell a call option or sell a put option

After that, you need to pick the option strike price. Options quotes (aka an “option chain” or “matrix”) list the available strike prices, which are based on the underlying stock’s price. The strike price you pick reflects where you think the stock’s price will move during the option’s lifetime. You also have to choose an option time frame: the expiration date after which the option will expire and become worthless. Expiration dates range from days to months to years. In general, the shorter the time frame, the riskier the option.

How Much Money Do You Need to Trade Options?

That depends on your broker and the type of options strategies you employ. In general, the minimum required deposit is less than $1,000 for level 1 (entry-level) options trading or as much as $10,000 for level 2 or level 3 options trading. Even if the required minimum is low, it’s always a good idea to have at least $5,000 to $10,000 to start trading options.

What Should You Consider When Choosing an Options Trading Platform?

While costs are one consideration when choosing an options broker and trading platform, there are other factors to weigh. If you are a new trader, it will be helpful to have a broker that offers substantial educational offerings—such as articles, videos, and webinars. Intermediate and advanced traders will want a robust trading platform and a full suite of options-specific trading tools and resources.

The commission structure for options trades tends to be more complicated than for stock trades. Until the commission cuts that swept the industry in the fall of 2019, most brokers charged a fee for each leg of an options spread plus a per-contract commission. The per-leg fees, which made 2- and 4-legged spreads expensive, have for the most part been eliminated industry-wide. We are also seeing some brokers place caps on commissions charged for certain trading scenarios. 

Investors with fairly large portfolios can also take advantage of portfolio margining at some brokers. This is a practice that assesses the total risk inherent in a portfolio that contains stocks and derivatives. Investors with large portfolios can use portfolio margining to reduce the size of the margin loan.

What Kind of Options Trader Are You?

The first and most important piece of information to consider before selecting an options trading account is what kind of trader you are. What is your trading style and risk appetite? Which tools would you like to have handy?

If you’re just getting started with options trading, the quality of education and help offered by your broker is important. Frequent traders and those who trade a large number of contracts will be more sensitive to commissions and fees, so check out your prospective broker’s charges and make sure you understand them.

Methodology

Investopedia is dedicated to providing investors with unbiased, comprehensive reviews and ratings of online brokers. Our reviews are the result of months of evaluating all aspects of an online broker’s platform, including the user experience, the quality of trade executions, the products available on its platforms, costs and fees, security, the mobile experience and customer service. We established a rating scale based on our criteria, collecting thousands of data points that we weighed into our star-scoring system.

Our best options brokers have a wealth of tools that help you measure and manage risk as you determine which trades to place. These brokers include valuable education that helps you grow in sophistication as an options trader. Investors with fairly large portfolios can take advantage of portfolio margining at certain brokers, a practice that assesses the total risk inherent in a portfolio that contains stocks and derivatives, and can reduce the size of your margin loan.

Read our full methodology.

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