OptionsHouse started in 2006. They merged with TradeMonster in 2014, taking on the TradeMonster platform, but keeping the OptionsHouse name. Most recently OptionsHouse was actually acquired by E*Trade. For 5 years, OptionsHouse has ranked as the best broker when it comes to trading options and they have won multiple awards for their platform.
|Stock Commission||$4.95 per trade|
|Options Commission||$4.95 + $0.50 per contract|
|Account Minimum||No minimum, $1,000 minimum deposit to receive|
|Signup Bonus||Yes. They offer 60 days in free trades for starter accounts and up to $1,0000 in free trades with minimum deposit of $5,000|
|Fees||Only fees that we found were a $.005 per share fee for stocks under $200|
|Top Features||Options, trade alerts, price, no fees|
|Mobile App||Yes. 4/5 stars on Google Play store and 2/5 stars on iTunes store|
|Customer Support||Available 24/7 via phone, chat, or email|
|Commission Free ETFs||None|
In this review we looked at every aspect of the Optionshouse platform including their trading platform, Trade Monster, their mobile platform and app, their education, their tax center, customer support and more. Each of the following sections will break down what we thought of different aspects of Optionshouse as we did the review.
OptionsHouse Platform (TradeMonster)
Because OptionsHouse platform comes from TradeMonster it is quite robust when it comes to options. It is also a web-based platform which is getting more and more common, but is still much preferred.
After playing with the platform for a few hours it seems that when it comes to options, there are endless numbers of options (pardon the pun). The platform gives the user a significant number of things to do and ways to sort data as well as ways to shave time off research and trading. The big problem with the platform was that it is very user friendly. If you are somewhat new to stocks or options then the OptionsHouse platform will likely be hard to work with at first. There isn’t a lot of intuition to it and there aren’t many trainings available on their website as well (I say not available on their website because there are thousands of trainings available on YouTube from options experts.
See the screenshot below for the home screen when you first launch the trading platform. As you can see there is a lot going on. Once you are familiar with the platform this is great and very useful, but as a new user it is daunting.
If you are looking to trade primarily in stocks then OptionsHouse may not be the best platform for you to use. I looked quite a bit into their stock trading platform and resources and found it dismal in comparison to some of their competitors. Obviously they are focused options, so I will not hold it against them, but they were missing some very basic stuff. I couldn’t find anything to do some good solid fundamental analysis including basic financials like a balance sheet or income statement. There also weren’t many options to do technical analysis and charting. My review of TradeKing was raving when it came to charting as their platform was extremely robust and did a lot of the legwork for you. When it comes down to it, if you plan on spending more time with stocks and are looking at OptionsHouse because of their price, TradeKing is a great option.
OptionsHouse doesn’t really have an education center per se. Many other brokers such as TradeKing or TD Ameritrade have an entire section that is dedicated to teaching beginners how to get started in the markets, and specifically with their platform. OptionsHouse has webinars that they put out as well as a blog where they talk about strategies and updates in the industry, but there is no definitive place to go and start learning how to trade options or stocks. This makes some sense because options traders tend to be further along in their market knowledge, but I think most people would prefer a more robust education center where they can find any information they are looking for on how to trade options and options-trading strategies.
Virtual Trading Platform
If their education center is their weakness, their virtual trading platform provides a great balance. It allows you to create an account exactly like one that you would create with real money, but fund it with fake money. I played around for a long time with it and loved being able to have the option to have such an account. If you are just starting with OptionsHouse I would highly recommend spending a few days at a minimum with their virtual trading account just to familiarize yourself with the platform and see how you do. It will also potentially help beginners to see just how much money can be lost when trading options and push them to stick with stocks for awhile or take some courses.
Another strong point for OptionsHouse is their StrategySEEK, AdjustTRADE, and Exit Plan. StrategySEEK provides a way to understand and tweak your risk. Basically you enter a forecast and it will generate a visual so that you can see probabilities. Then you set your risk preference to either return, safety, probability, or profit.
After StrategySEEK you can plug a trade into TradeLAB and it gives you a great snapshot and spectral map to get an in-depth analysis of the trade. See the picture below for an example.
They have support via chat, email, or phone. I reached out to their chat support line a few times throughout the day to see how quickly they responded and was impressed. I never had to wait more than two minutes to speak to a chat representative. I also called the phone support and it took less than a minute before I was speaking to a live rep.
Though some reviews do mention customer support having high wait times, most of them seem to occur during a moment when the platform was having issues, meaning that half of their customer base was likely calling in with issues. I have yet to see a discount broker that doesn’t deal with occasional platform issues, so I discounted this.
The app doesn’t have very good reviews on the app store, though it worked fine for me. The interface is a little outdated as well. You cannot do mobile deposit from the app, and a few other key features seem to be missing. It also had a few issues glitching and freezing when I was using it. Anyone that has had issues with a broker app knows it can be scary and frustrating when a trade absolutely needs to happen but you can’t seem to make the app work. Specifically a lot of users report issues logging in during peak times and getting the app to save their login info so they don’t have to re-login every time they visit another screen on their phone.
In summary, if you do a lot of trading from your phone and mobile reliability is important than it may be worth looking at some brokers with highly-rated apps. TradeKing is similarly priced, but with a more reliable app. TD Ameritrade is quite a bit more, but with a much better app.
In summary, if you are planning on primarily trading options from your computer, and looking for a low-cost way to do so, then there is no better choice then OptionsHouse. If you plan on doing a lot of mobile trading or stock trading then it would be worth looking into a few other brokers and seeing if they are a better fit for you. You can expect that with the purchase of OptionsHouse by E*Trade there will be changes, and most likely for the better. Expect the app to improve dramatically and the customer service to see some changes as well.