OptionsHouse has developed a reputation as one of the top rated investment brokerage platforms in the industry. This is particularly true of its options trading capacity, as the name of the platform indicates. OptionsHouse has been well recognized in the financial press as a top brokerage firm, and especially in the area of options.
If you are looking for a very low cost investment brokerage firm, that also has top-of-the-line trading technology and trading resources, OptionsHouse should be one of the platforms that you are considering.
It is a perfect trading platform for new and small investors, as well as active traders, not only because of its very low trading fees, but also because it has no required account minimum balances.
OptionsHouse began operations in 2005. It provides active traders with a brokerage platform that offers low prices, high speed execution and premium products.
The trading platform provides you with real-time market data, fast execution and comprehensive research tools. It provides robust, customized options chains so that you can execute trades quickly. This includes the ability to view 16 different options chains, and to select single options and strategies to place your orders quickly from the same page.
In 2016, Barron’s listed OptionsHouse as among the best online brokers for the year. That included recognition as a top broker and “Best for Options Trader”, being awarded a rating of 4.5, for 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011.
In 2016, Investor’s Business Daily ranked OptionsHouse as the top “Options Trading Platform”, and listed it as number four among all brokers for “Low commissions and fees”. This puts them in the same ratings as more well known brokerages like Scottrade and E*Trade.
Also in 2016, StockBrokers.com ranked OptionsHouse #1 for Commissions & Fees, #1 Web Based Platform, and #1 for Options Trading. They were also ranked as the #1 Web Based Platform in 2015, as well as Best in Class for Mobile Trading for the same year.
OptionsHouse Features and Benefits
OptionsHouse offers a wealth of features and benefits that will help you to become a better and more prosperous trader. Some of the more significant features and benefits include:
Minimum initial deposit/account minimum balance. OptionsHouse does not have either a minimum initial deposit requirement, nor an account minimum balance, though there may be funding requirements depending upon the type of trading you engage in. For example, they suggest funding your account with a minimum of $1,000 for a cash account, and they do require a minimum of $2,000 for a margin account. Should the account balance drop below the $2,000 required minimum, the account will be converted from a margin account to a cash account.
OptionsHouse also requires a minimum of $2,000 in order to provide check writing privileges. There’s also a minimum balance requirement $10,000 in order to establish debit card privileges for both cash and margin accounts.
Funding your account. You can fund your account by electronic transfer between financial institutions (ACH), wire transfer, account transfers from other brokers (ACAT), or by check. If you do fund your account by check, the funds will be available for trading within three business days.
Account types available. OptionsHouse allows you to open accounts for an individual, joint tenants with rights of survivorship, business accounts, including trusts, LLCs, corporate accounts, partnership accounts, investment clubs, sole proprietorship accounts, as well as accounts for estates and tax exempt organizations. You can also open UTMA and UGMA education accounts, including Coverdell accounts.
Retirement accounts available include the full range of IRAs including traditional, Roth, rollover, beneficiary, SEP and SIMPLE IRA accounts.
Investment products available. OptionsHouse enables you to trade equities, options, futures, mutual funds, exchange traded funds (ETFs), and bonds.
OptionsHouse paperTRADE account. When you open a real trading account with OptionsHouse you are automatically given access to a paperTRADE account that allows you to test drive strategies and learn the platform using virtual money. This enables you to try your hand at both learning and trading without risking real money.
Customer Service. OptionsHouse offers three ways to reach customer service:
- Phone: You can reach customer service using an 800 number Monday through Friday between 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM Central Time, except holidays
- Email: Available anytime
- Online Chat: Available Monday through Friday 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM, Eastern time, except exchange holidays
Extended hours trading. OptionsHouse provides extended hours trading from 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM Central time, Monday through Friday except on market holidays.
Dividend Reinvestment Plans (DRIPs). DRIPs can be established with any stocks that you hold in your portfolio, as long as they are eligible for DRIP participation. DRIPs are not available for master limited partnerships, limited partnerships and royalty trusts.
TRADE IT. OptionsHouse has partnered with TRADE IT to make it more convenient for clients to trade stocks quickly right from participating market research websites. The feature is available only for equity trades, but you can use market, limit, stop, and stop limit orders. At present, it is available for TheStreet.com, but is expected to include other sources in the future.
International accounts. OptionsHouse allows you to open an account if you are a citizen or permanent resident of certain countries, or a US expatriate residing in such countries. Those countries include China, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.
There are specific regulations and restrictions that you must comply with in order to open an international account. But this is a major advantage with OptionsHouse, since not all brokerage firms provide this privilege.
Account protection. Through it’s clearing firm, Apex Clearing Corporation, OptionsHouse provides both FDIC and SIPC insurance coverage on investor’s accounts. Cash balances that are swept into FDIC insured deposit accounts at various depository institutions, are insured for up to $2,500,000.
SIPC coverage insures your account for up to $500,000, including up to $250,000 in cash. Apex Clearing provides additional protection for securities and cash of up to $150 million, subject to maximum limits of $37.5 million for any one customer’s securities, and up to $900,000 for any one customer’s cash.
Both SIPC and the additional insurance coverage are to insure against broker failure, but not against declines in value resulting from investment market conditions.
Account security. OptionsHouse provides strong 256 bit SSL encryption, and other industry best practices to protect sensitive data. This includes the most advanced encryptions technology for all online transactions, including funding through your financial institution.
OptionsHouse Tools and Calculators
OptionsHouse has a wide range of tools and calculators, particularly those that benefit options traders. Some of those tools and calculators include:
tradeCYCLE. This tool enables you to develop a deeper understanding of the OptionsHouse trading platform. It uses six steps:
- Step 1 – Do Your Homework – This shows you how to master the research options that are available on the platform
- Step 2 – Find/Craft a Strategy – This enables you to quickly and easily learn how to test different market strategies
- Step 3 – Test the Strategy – Shows you how to configure the positions page and to customize settings for quicker views of your performance, as well as to develop faster trading
- Step 4 – Execute the Trade – Teaches how to execute trades, and to gain confidence using the advanced techniques offered through the platform
- Step 5 – Plan Your Exit – This is where you learn how to set alerts and to move in and out of the market
- Step 6 – Adjust as Needed – This will walk you through the many tools that are available on the platform to help you adjust to changes in the market
tradeLAB. This tool enables you to gain insight to profit from market moves by providing a profit/loss ratio snapshot. It provides you with the ability to look at the best ways to look at a trade from every angle.
Snapshot Analysis. This tool enables you to quickly view your option trade’s potential, including maximum profit, loss or breakeven at any point, as well as risk/reward ratios and profiles, and precise rollover chart views. You can even run “what if” scenarios through expiration, and much more.
Spectral Analysis. This tool enables you to explore your strategy’s potential, by enabling you to view a color-coded spectral to see probabilities until expiration. This enables you to see how your position changes according to various paths of the underlying security, as well as the play “what if” scenarios, by adjusting volatility. You can then edit your strategy, or place your trade from a pre-populated order right from the Spectral Analysis screen.
Trigger alerts. These enable you to be prepared to make your next trade using actionable alerts that enable you to quickly and easily place pre-populated orders. This will help you to potentially maximize profits or limit losses.
strategySEEK. This tool scans live market data for thousands of options strategies targeted to your forecast and risk priorities. It identifies potential strategies and enables you to explore new opportunities based on your current trading approach.
OptionsHouse offers one of the lowest trading fee structures in the industry, in addition to the fact that they do not charge annual accounts fees.
Here are the current fees on the more significant investment activities:
Stocks, ETFs and equities from all major exchanges. OptionsHouse charges a fee of $4.95 per trade for stocks and ETFs, which is equal to the lowest trading fees available among major brokerage firms, tied with what most consider the discount brokerage leader Trade King, and one of the lowest in the industry overall
Options trades. OptionsHouse charges a fee of $4.95, plus $0.50 per contract for single leg trades. For spreads, straddles, and combos – up to four legs except covered calls and puts – $4.95, plus $0.50 per contract.
They also charge a broker assist fee of $25 if broker assistance is necessary for a transaction.
Under OptionsHouse’s Dime Buyback feature, commission charges and contract fees are waived when you buy to close an option for $0.10 or less. The feature will automatically start working anytime you’d like to close an option for $0.10 or less.
Futures trading. OptionsHouse is currently offering new futures traders a rate of just $1.50 per contract through September 30. After September 30, futures trades will increase to $2.00 per contract.
Mutual funds. $20 per trade.
Margin account interest. Rates range from 3.25% on accounts with a minimum of $1 million, to a high of 7.75% on accounts of less than $25,000.
Debit card. OptionsHouse charges a $75 annual fee for debit cards.
Funds transfer. There are no fees for transferring funds by ACH. There is a $5 fee for first class mail of withdrawal by check, $25 for Saturday delivery, or $30 for overnight domestic mail. There is no fee for a deposit into your account by wire transfer, but there is a $25 fee for domestic wires when withdrawing funds.
Document fees. OptionsHouse charges a $2.00 handling fee for paper statements and tax documents mailed to your home.
Physical stock certificate fees. There is a minimum fee of $300 per certificate. If the certificate is returned for any reason there will also be a minimum fee of $100 per returned certificate.
OptionsHouse has some limitations, but only a couple at that:
Low rate of interest on cash balances. OptionsHouse pays just 0.01% on cash balances. This rate is of course ridiculously low, however it is not at all unusual in the industry, as it is a result of the current very low interest rate environment.
Forex trading. This service is not offered by OptionsHouse
Will OptionsHouse Work for You?
OptionsHouse is currently offering commission-free trading for 60 days when you open and fund a new account with at least $5,000. The offer covers up to 100 trades. They are also offering a rebate of up to $100 to cover ACAT fees charged by your current broker, in the event that you transfer at least $5,000 in funds into a new OptionsHouse account. They also provide a $25 rebate against wire fees involved in such a transfer.
OptionsHouse is an excellent investment platform choice for new investors, small investors, international investors, active traders, and particularly active options traders. The platform has all of the tools that you need, and a very low fee structure that will help to improve your rate of return on your investing.
If you are looking to open up a new brokerage account, or considering moving out of your current brokerage arrangement, OptionsHouse deserves to be on the short list of new brokers for your investment activities.