If you take a look at our best online discount brokers page, you’ll notice that OptionsHouse leads the way as the cheapest broker to place a trade with online. While commission structure is a motivating factor in choosing an online discount broker, it shouldn’t be the only factor. Customer service, trading tools, fees and overall usability can be just as important to traders and OptionsHouse won’t disappoint in any of those areas.
OptionsHouse commission structure
While the name may lead you to believe that OptionsHouse doesn’t have much to do with standard stock trading, that’s not the case. Trades cost a flat $3.95 and options can run you $5.00 (for five options) or $8.50 plus $0.15 per contract. Broker-assisted trades can be provided at no additional cost, which is becoming more difficult to find. The price of $2.95 per trade is the cheapest you’ll find anywhere.
Not only is trading cheap, but for new OptionsHouse account holders, it can be free for the first 100 trades. In order to qualify for 100 free trades, you must abide by the following rules:
- Account must be funded with a minimum of $3,000
- You must input the promo code FREE100 on your online application when signing up
- Only trades executed within the first 60 days of opening your account will qualify
- Offer expires September 30, 2010
The best way to determine the strength of customer service is to test it yourself. That’s what I’ve done here. Currently, OptionsHouse offers three methods of customer service: live chat, email support and telephone support. Here are the details:
- Live chat. Available weekdays between the hours of 7:00 am CT and 6:00 pm CT. After clicking on their live chat link, I was connected with a customer service representative within 20 seconds who was able to answer all of my basic questions.
- Email support. Again available between 7:00 am CT and 6:00 pm CT, email support promises to answer your question within 24 hours if you contact them during normal business hours Monday through Thursday. If you choose to email on Friday, you may not receive a response until Monday. OptionsHouse only sends responses between the hours shown, but support emails can be sent at any time.
- Telephone support. You can reach a customer service representative during the same hours as live chat and email support. I called in and was connected to an automated support line. After making two selections, I was on hold for about 90 seconds before being connected to a live telephone operator, who was again able to answer all of my questions.
Trading tools and technology
Rated a four star broker by Barrons, OptionsHouse touts a variety of trading tools to help investors make faster and more informed decisions. Five of the coolest features OptionsHouse has to offer are:
- Risk Viewer. Risk Viewer is a flexible tool that can help you better understand and estimate the potential risk in your portfolio.
- Call Spread Investigator. OptionsHouse’s Call Spread Investigator scans the universe of equity options to find call spreads with high theoretical returns.
- Probability Calculator. The Probability Calculator enables you to enter price targets for a given symbol and find the probability of an underlying symbol reaching these targets on a future date
- Stock Screener. The Stock Screener can help identify interesting potential investments based on your own ideas and sentiment. It gives you the ability to screen for companies based on a range of criteria that you select.
- Volatility Charts. Volatility charts track changes in both implied and historic volatility. OptionsHouse provides these charts to you as a means of analyzing volatility trends.
Like any online discount broker, you will find a long list of fees that depending on your brokerage account, might not concern you. Below you’ll find a table with the most common of these fees.
When you look at everything OptionsHouse has to offer, it’s a great place to get your online trading career started, or advance it further. If you find yourself doing a lot of trading, you’ll want to take a hard look at their 100 commission free trades offer and consider OptionsHouse as your online discount broker.
Updated March 24, 2011 and originally published September 10, 2010. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @flexo on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.