10 Best Options Trading Platforms and Brokers of 2023
If you want to get into options trading, you need the best possible options broker. Trading options is a huge difference from trading stocks. Options trading strategies are more complex and require flexible trading platforms to place orders fast and easy. Here are my top five brokers for trading options.
The Best Options Trading Platforms
Options trading is more complex than simply trading stocks, FX, or other assets. As a result, options traders have to be more selective when choosing the right online broker. On the other hand, since online brokers make way higher profits from options trading than traditional stocks, they are fiercely competing for new clients. The one who wins? You!
Here are summarized results of the best options trading platforms:
- Best options trading platform overall: Interactive Brokers
- Best web-based options trading analysis tools: E-Trade
- Most popular options trading platform: Fidelity
- Best options trading platform for beginners: Charles Schwab
- Best stock options trading platform: Merrill Edge
- Best mobile options trading platform: Robinhood
- Best online trading platform for options: Webull
- Best for high-volume options traders: tastyworks
- Best low-cost options trading platform: eOption
- Best paper trading options platform: TradeStation
Here is a more detailed view of what differentiates each broker:
1. Interactive Brokers: Best Options Trading Platform
Interactive Brokers Trader Workstation is considered by many to be the best platform for trading options with advanced options trading tools and low commissions from $0.15 to $0.65 per option contract.
The IB trading platform is easy-to-use and includes option chains, market insights, an advanced rollover options tool, a write options tool, the options strategy builder, options analytics and the probability lab tool.
The integrated options strategy builder enables users to create multi-legged combo orders and has pre-defined order combinations such as strangles, straddles, condor and butterflies.
Option trade combinations can be generated by using the options strategy lab.
In contrast, the probability lab redefines the volatility and price outlook for underlying such as stocks or ETFs to identify potential profitable options trading strategies more efficiently and has the ability to “include stock leg checkmark” for stock and option trade combinations.
Options traders consider Interactive Brokers an excellent all-in-one solution with robust trading platforms, API functionality and many configuration options.
In addition, Interactive Brokers added options trading and new options tools to IBKR GlobalTrader. IBKR GlobalTrader is easy for investors to use and now includes the new Options Wizard and Options Chain tools to help users understand how options work and how to trade them.
The Options Wizard helps investors create their own combination strategies. Investors respond to a few simple questions and select options strategies based on their preferences and market expectations. The Options Chain provides more independent investors with a way to choose a single option or build a strategy leg-by-leg from a streamlined view.
The low commission rates across multiple assets like stocks, futures, options, currencies, bonds and funds make Interactive Brokers an excellent choice for all types of investors and traders.
2. E-Trade – Best Web-Based Options Trading Analysis Tools
E-Trade is the financial services subsidiary of Morgan Stanley and one of the leading brokerage service providers worldwide. And its options trading offering is a major reason for this.
E-Trade’s options trading costs are comparable to Fidelity’s at $0.65 per contract. However, if you place 30+ stock, ETF or options trades per quarter, the fee drops to $0.5. In addition, highly active options traders can negotiate special rates.
E-Trade provides excellent education tools and intuitive platforms, making it a perfect fit for beginners. The platforms work well on desktop and mobile, perfectly blending simplicity and functionality. To give it a try, test the demo options trading account.
Unlike many competitors, E-Trade allows prospective users to test various options strategies before committing their capital to the broker.
It is worth noting that Power E-Trade is one of the most powerful platforms on the market and a beloved choice for experienced options traders. It supports numerous functionalities, including risk/reward probabilities, spectral analysis, customizable options chains, preset scans, a strategy seek feature, an earnings move analyzer and more. In addition, E-Trade offers some of the best research and analysis features in the options trading niche.
The customer service is easily accessible and helpful. In addition, you can get in touch with E-Trade’s dedicated Trader Service Team, which includes many former floor traders, to discuss your strategies and seek advice.
- Very powerful options trading platforms with great research features
- Professional customer support
- Paper trading
- No account minimum for options trading
- Options trading can be costly for less-frequent traders
3. Fidelity – Most Popular Options Trading Platform
Founded in 1946, Fidelity is among the most trusted and established brokers in the United States. Today, it serves over 40 million institutional and retail clients, with $9.9 trillion in assets under management. Each day, the broker handles over 2.8 million trades. As far as reputation goes, you will struggle to find many better alternatives to Fidelity. This makes it an automatic choice to consider for your options trading service provider.
The broker is dedicated to providing excellent client experience and top-level support, making it a great choice for beginner options traders. Account holders can also access dedicated tools and resources designed to enhance their options research and trading experience. For example, tools like the Option Builder and Options Scanner provide great data and statistics to ease your screening process.
Besides, thanks to the weekly “In the Money” video series, options traders can gain free access to trading strategy ideas and market insights from a professional team of traders. Fidelity also gives you access to powerful tools for trading ideas generation, an options strategy guide and the proprietary OptionsPlay® feature.
Traders who need more hands-on professional assistance can even take advantage of coaching sessions with Fidelity’s Trading Strategy Desk members.
The educational content is abundant, including free options trading webinars and many articles, videos and courses.
Fidelity’s service is among the expensive ones. Options trading will cost you $0.65 per contract. High-volume traders can wave contract fees thanks to Fidelity Rewards.
- Great educational resources
- Professional options trading and research features
- Top-notch customer service
- Naked options trading requires a significant account minimum balance
- High options trading costs
- No paper trading
4. Charles Schwab – Best Options Trading Platform for Beginners
Charles Schwab acquired TD Ameritrade in 2019, and merging both brokerage houses will unfold impressive potential for investors, day traders and options traders. Both platforms, Charles Schwab Streetsmart Edge and TD-Ameritrade’s thinkorswim are excellent trading platforms.
Options traders enjoy competitive rates as low as $0.65 per options contract. Once trading activity rises, traders can call them and ask for lower rates. I have seen rates going down as low as $0.30 per contract.
thinkorswim and Streetsmart Edge are one of the best trading platforms for stocks. And they are also excellent for options trading, making Charles Schwab one of the best options brokers. The tools provided are functional and easy to handle. Another benefit of using Schwab or Ameritrade is that all finance products can be traded within one platform.
5. Merrill Edge – Best Stock Options Trading Platform
Merrill Edge is the trading service provider of Bank of America. It is a highly-reputable alternative for those looking for an options trading platform.
What makes Merrill Edge’s offering stand out is its platform. It is very intuitive but rich in functionalities, making it a universal answer to the needs of both beginners and advanced traders.
Merrill Edge MarketPro® gives you real-time market data, advanced charting features and access to reports and analytics. For example, you can dive into in-depth reports like the U.S. Option Overwriting Trade Ideas, highlighting single-stock covered call writing opportunities generated through quantitative screening.
There are also powerful screeners that you can easily customize to fit your trading style and generate option trade ideas by strategy and sentiment.
There are also lots of educational resources, including articles, guides, videos and courses tailored to the learning needs of traders with various profiles.
Merrill Edge’s offering also sits on the higher end in terms of trading costs. The service provider charges $0.65 per contract, similar to Fidelity and low-volume E-Trade accounts. Broker-assisted trades cost $29.95 + $0.65 per contract. Unlike other service providers, Merrill Edge doesn’t have trade or account balance minimum requirements.
- No account minimum for options trading
- 24/7 phone support and an online chat feature
- Great learning resources
- High costs
- No paper trading option
6. Robinhood – Best Mobile Options Trading Platform
Robinhood is the new kid on the block that has come to disrupt the brokerage market by providing commission-free trading services. And we can honestly admit that, in many aspects, including options trading, it succeeded.
What makes the service provider stand out is its fee policy. By choosing Robinhood, options traders can cut fees to the minimum. For example, there are no commission and per-contract fees on self-directed individual cash or margin brokerage accounts that trade US-listed and OTC options and other securities. This makes Robinhood the go-to choice for traders looking for the most affordable solution on the market.
The company shines with an easy-to-use platform, equally convenient for mobile and web trading. However, it should be made clear that Robinhood follows a mobile-first approach. As a result, its platform is very light on features, making it appropriate for those who just want a quick and convenient way to make the basic call and put trades.
Although the platform allows you to execute some more advanced options trading strategies like iron condors, straddles, strangles, and more, the chance is professional traders would find it lacking.
Also, Robinhood lacks the trading and research tools of its competitors. Besides, there is no paper trading option, and educational content is limited, so beginners should look elsewhere for a proper learning experience.
Nevertheless, Robinhood’s goal isn’t to be the undisputed best trading platform or a place to teach you how to trade. Its goal is to give you the most affordable and convenient trading service. And it does just that.
- Zero fees for trading stock options
- Convenient mobile trading features
- Limited educational content
- Limited platform functionalities and research features
7. Webull – Best Online Trading Platform for Options
Webull is another relatively new service provider, having launched in 2017. Think of it as a more enhanced version of Robinhood. It is an affordable options trading service provider with a more powerful trading platform and a more complete mobile-trading experience.
Webull covers six options markets. It doesn’t charge any per-contract or commission fees. There aren’t also any minimum account balance requirements.
Its feature-rich desktop and mobile trading platforms are intuitive and powerful. They support complementary real-time market data and direct access to the Cboe Global Indices Feed. While not as powerful as the platforms of established option trading brokerages like E-Trade, Webull’s offering can still serve experienced traders well.
The platform supports 11 option trading strategies and gives access to intelligent trading tools, including a customizable options chain, multi-leg option quotes and real-time charts. There are also multiple research tools available.
Unlike Robinhood, Webull offers sufficient educational resources and a helpful trading community. Moreover, it has a paper trading option that allows you to test the platforms without risking your capital.
In a nutshell, we can say that Webull combines the best of both worlds – zero commission fees and rich trading functionalities. It is an excellent choice for those who understand the market and just want an affordable platform to buy and sell.
- Zero fees for stock options trading
- Advanced mobile and web trading platforms
- Above-average research functionalities
- Sufficient educational content
- Paper trading available
- Professional traders might find the platforms lacking
8. tastyworks: Best for High-Volume Options Traders
tastyworks lately became the go-to place for option trading beginners, more active traders, and professionals. They don’t have the best trading platform for stocks, but they have one of the best platforms for options trading.
tastyworks is one of the best options trading brokers and offers rates per contract as low as $0.50 per contract, even if only one option contract is traded (you pay $1 for the contract to open and $0 commissions to close the transaction).
The real efficiency unfolds once a higher number of options are traded per leg. That’s because commissions are capped at 10 contracts. If you trade high number of lots per transaction, then tastyworks has ultra-competitive rates. Beginners like the easy-to-understand platform, which makes it easy to get into options trading.
9. eOption: Best Low-Cost Options Trading Platform
eOption has its specific strength in low-cost options trading, which makes it one of the best options trading providers right now. To get an advantage compared to Charles Schwab, traders need to trade more frequently.
That’s because the fee per options contract is only $0.10, but every trade has a base fee of $1.99 attached. Traders buying and selling options in lots of 5 contracts and higher benefit from this commission structure.
If you trade only one contract at once, then eOption is not an option for you since the costs would eat up your profits quickly. The account minimum is low, and the tools provided are comprehensive. The trading platform is robust, and the integrated paper trader is a safety net. eOption is can be considered for saving money by trading larger lot option sizes.
10. TradeStation: Best Paper Trading Options Platform
TradeStation offers one of the lowest rates to options traders. The account minimum is small, and options can be traded for as little as $0.60. Similar to TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab, also with TradeStation, commission-free stock trading is possible now.
The customer service is reliable, and it is one of the best options trading platforms available. Trades can be placed by using OptionStation Pro, which is free to use for clients. All trades can be practiced in a no-risk paper trading account for options trading.
Best Options Brokerage Conclusion
Options are among the most powerful and lucrative, yet one of the riskiest instruments retail traders can get their hands on. Mastering options trading requires trading skills and the right personality traits. However, it is equally important to have access to a good trading platform.
Many brokers support options trading, but very few have a complete offering comprised of competitive fees, advanced trading, risk management and research tools, educational resources, a fast execution process, and more.
Charles Schwab, Interactive Brokers, E-Trade and tastyworks are the best Options Brokerages out there. All of them have competitive rates and excellent options trading tools. The price per contract is always around 60 cents per contract, no matter what broker you choose. The account minimum and customer service are great with all those brokers, and the tools provided offer excellent functionalities for any experience level.
You are well-advised to test the platforms via demo accounts or live demos before making your final decision. The most important aspect is that you can handle the options trading platform fast and accurately.
Therefore it is crucial to understand all functionalities before placing the first trades. My personal favorite is Charles Schwab, primarily due to the acquisition of TD Ameritrade. I think that there is a lot of positive potential for clients of both brokerage houses, and Schab’s financial strength speaks for itself.
More Trading Platform and Online Broker Guides
Guide: How to Read an Options Chain
An option chain provides a list of various data — tallying prices, expiration dates and selling activity for call and put options of a given stock. The data is displayed in real-time, which gives you a window into how the market is behaving and what is required to complete a particular trade.
When breaking down an option chain, a visual aid always helps. For example, take a look at the image below. It’s the most recent option chain for Nike (NKE). So how do you read option symbols? Well, let’s start from the left and work our way right.
At the top of the picture, you can see the Date. This column represents the expiration dates for various call and put options. Calls are in the left column, and puts are in the right column. So, when you click on a particular month in the checkbox above, you find all the necessary data about contracts expiring within that time frame.
Last (Current Market Price)
The ‘last’ figure describes the last price an option sold for. For example, check out the second row with the 10.86 figure. This means the most recent January 28, 2022 call option contract sold for $10.86.
What is the net change in an option chain? Well, take a look at the right side of the image. Under Change, you’ll notice a -3.59 two rows from the top. This tells you the change in the option price from the most recent contract compared to the one before it.
For example, the last price for a Jan 28, 2022 call option is $10.86. That represents a $3.59 decline from the day prior.
Bid-Ask (Bid price and Ask Price)
Bid-ask quotes are like a supply and demand tug of war. Buyers – who set the bid – want to buy options at the lowest possible price. Sellers – who set the ask – want to receive the highest possible price, so they ‘ask’ buyers for more money. The main takeaway is the bid is always less than they ask. The logic is the same as bid-ask quotes you see for traditional stocks.
Volume is extremely important. Like a stock – it determines the level of liquidity in a financial instrument. With options, volume measures the number of contracts exchanged within that day for a given expiration date. For example, one contract sold per day contributes 1-unit of volume to the statistic.
Looking at the chain, you’ll notice that volume is 0 for all call options, with a strike price of $132.00 in the first row. The takeaway is: no option contracts have been exchanged on that given day.
If the volume is Batman, then open interest is Robin. Open interest tells you the number of option contracts that have yet to be exercised. American options – unlike European – can be exercised at any time.
However, because option prices have embedded time value, traders avoid exercising early. Doing so is like giving away free money. It’s better to sell the option contract to another trader to ensure you receive full value.
Now we’ll get into the important details. When you buy an option contract, you specify the particular strike price. For a call option, the strike price represents the price at which you can buy the underlying stock, should you decide to exercise the option.
A put option represents the price at which you can sell the underlying stock, should you decide to exercise the option. Again, keep in mind, we’re describing this from a buyer’s perspective.
The strike price is one of the most important factors because it determines the premium you pay for the option. When an option is in-the-money, you pay more. When it’s out-of-the-money, you pay less.
In-The-Money (ITM) and Out-Of-The-Money (OTM) Options
Analyze the new section of the Nike (NKE) options chain. The shaded areas on the left represent in-the-money call options, and the shaded areas on the right represent in-the-money put options.
ITM options have what traders call ‘exercise value.’ This represents a sum of money already priced into the option premium. Nike’s (NKE) stock is trading at roughly $145.91, so we’ll use the 145-strike call option to explain.
If you bought a 145-strike call right now and exercised it, you would make a profit of $145.91 (price per share)-$145.00 (strike price) = $0.91 cents per share. Because of this, option sellers add 91 cents to the cost of the option.
The rest of the option premium — $1.25 minus 91 cents – represents the cost of time value and implied volatility.
Implied Volatility (IV)
Implied volatility (IV) is the single most important factor determining option prices. IV is financial jargon for the statistical term standard deviation (SD). When traders use price options, they assess how likely a stock is to jump above the strike price for a call option or fall below the strike price for a put option.
Using a normal distribution bell curve, a 1-SD move infers a 68% probability, a 2-SD move infers a 95% probability, and a 3-SD move infers a 99% probability – assuming a historical sample repeats itself.
Now, from a seller’s perspective, dealers and traders use these probabilities to decide how much they’re going to charge you for the option. It is also important to recognize when an IV crush can happen.
What aspects of an options trading platform are important?
Monthly cost, commission structure and funds protection are the most important aspects to consider when choosing an options trading platform.
Is it possible to practice options trading?
Yes. It is possible to practice options trading without risk by using a paper trading account. Interactive Brokers and TradeStation have excellent solutions for investors who want to learn how to handle the platform.