The Best Options Trading Platforms

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It’s easy to understand the lure that makes options trading so popular. Leveraging the option to buy or sell a security lets you control much more stock with far less money up front than you ever could by purchasing it outright. Options trading is, of course, not without risk. But contrary to popular mythology, it’s not the same as gambling, it’s not particularly complicated, and the average investor can do it. 

Right now is a great time to be an options trader. Every major trading platform is racing to reduce costs to as close to $0 as humanly possible — and it’s getting close. Until recently, nearly every platform on this lost charged more fees, higher commissions, or both. Today, options trading is accessible to nearly everyone, and many of these platforms offer self-directed traders tools and support that were reserved for pro accounts not long ago. 

Here’s a glance at the best options trading platforms that could be right for you:

Best Options Trading Platforms
Broker Best For Commission/Pricing Account Minimum
Ally Invest One of the lowest per-contract fees among zero-commission brokers $0 per trade plus $0.50 per contract None
Charles Schwab Lots of research tools bundled with trading support $0 per trade plus $0.65 per contract None
eOption Minuscule per-contract costs $1.99 per trade plus $0.10 per contract None
Fidelity Provides strong research tools for traders of all levels $0 per trade plus $0.65 per contract None
Merrill Edge Excellent screeners, research tools, and insights $0 per trade plus $0.65 per contract None
TD Ameritrade Professional-level investment tools and resources $0 per trade plus $0.65 per contract None
TradeStation Strong overall trading platform $0 per trade plus $0.50 or $0.60 per contract $2,000 for TS Select, Any amount for TS Go
Information current as of May 25, 2021.

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Learn more about trading options and get started finding the best options broker for your portfolio.

What is Options Trading?

Options are contracts between two parties that allow the person holding the contract to buy or sell something (usually a stock or commodity) at a specific price (known as the “strike price”) at some point in the future. “Put” options allow you to sell something at the strike price, whereas “call” options give you the right to purchase it.

Find Out: 4 Investing Lessons the Pandemic Has Taught Us 

Which Options Trading Broker Is Right for You?

Losses from options trading can compound faster than losses in traditional investing, but there are strategies that even novice investors can use to magnify gains just as readily.

Even the most risk-averse investor can still find value in using a “protective put” — a put option used to hedge their position in a certain stock — or a “covered call” — selling a call option on shares they already own — to create an additional income stream for their 401k or individual retirement account. So, even if you’ve never traded options before, it might be worthwhile to shop around for the best options trading platform for beginners.

Here’s a deeper look at the best options trading platforms for beginners and experienced traders:

Ally Invest

  • Best for: Budget investors
  • Cost: $0 plus $0.50 per contract

When it comes to brokers that don’t charge a per-trade commission, it’s tough to beat Ally’s $0.50 contract fee. For context, Schwab, Merrill Edge, TD Ameritrade, and Fidelity all charge $0.65. Despite the bare-bones pricing, Ally offers a good menu of charts, graphs, calculators, and tools.

Charles Schwab

  • Best for: Beginners and intermediate-level traders
  • Cost: $0 plus $0.65 per contract

Charles Schwab runs with the pack — its per-contract fee of 65 cents is the industry standard for big-name brokers. But with big-name brokerages come big-name resources, and Schwab offers legitimately premium tools — like its SmartStreet Edge platform — that even self-directed investors can use with no-fee accounts.

eOption

  • Best for: Active traders, anyone interested in low-cost options trading
  • Cost: $1.99 plus $0.10 per contract

At eOption, 100 contracts will cost you less than $12. For context as to just how cheap that is, the industry standard with the big names like Fidelity, Schwab, and TD Ameritrade is $65 per hundred. The $1.99 per-trade commission can not be ignored, but you save 80% when you trade 100 contracts and you save a full 50% when you trade only 10 contracts or more.

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Fidelity

  • Best for: Beginners and intermediate-level traders
  • Cost: $0 plus $0.65 per contract

Like Schwab and the other big-name brokers, Fidelity has the resources to invest in premium trading tools that even self-directed investors can use. Also, Fidelity’s price improvement program can save you money on the price you get on each contract. Find the right Fidelity 401k for your investing strategy.

Merrill Edge

  • Best for: Experienced options traders
  • Cost: $0 plus $0.65 per contract

Tools like Merrill Edge MarketPro let you build your own platform for trading options within the Merrill Edge ecosystem. Options traders who know what they’re doing flock to Merrill Edge because the research and analytics tools are among the very best in the entire industry.

Investing for Beginners: What First-Time Investors Need To Know

TD Ameritrade

  • Best for: Experienced traders who need excellent tools
  • Cost: $0 plus $0.65 per contract

TD Ameritrade adheres to the industry standard $0.65 contract fee, but the tools and tech that TD gives its customers are anything but standard. Even a free brokerage account gives you access to the thinkorswim platform, a package of elite tools to help you develop and execute custom trading strategies.

TradeStation

  • Best for: Experienced options traders
  • Cost: $0 plus $0.50 or $0.60 per contract

TradeStation offers two options: TS Select and TS Go, the latter of which boasts a $0.50 per-contract fee, which puts TradeStation in the running for cheapest among all zero-commission brokers. Its OptionStation Pro platform is impressive, but it’s not just that. TradeStation’s entire suite of apps, desktop, and web-trading software are all highly rated. It has one particularly interesting platform made especially for futures options traders.

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Andrew Lisa contributed to the reporting for this article. 

Last updated: May 25, 2021

About the Author

Joel Anderson is a business and finance writer with over a decade of experience writing about the wide world of finance. Based in Los Angeles, he specializes in writing about the financial markets, stocks, macroeconomic concepts and focuses on helping make complex financial concepts digestible for the retail investor.

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