The Best Online Stock Broker – And How to Get Started & Take Those First Steps
Approximate Reading Time: 5 Minutes
Time Required to Open an Account: 2 hours plus a 5-6 day waiting period
- I recommend OptionsHouse (now owned by E*Trade) – but I recommend 2 others below if you have a smaller account
- Minimizing your commissions are the most important factor when choosing a broker
- Besides that, practically every broker is the same (my results would be the same with any legitimate broker)
- If you’d like to practice, then Think or Swim offers a free paper trading account
- I place all my trades using the OptionsHouse Android App, and have never had an issue
Choosing an online stock broker can be very stressful – and everyone has an opinion.
The good news is that there aren’t substantial differences between the top online brokers.
Also, your results will not be materially impacted by your choice – so please don’t get anxious when deciding.
I highly recommend OptionsHouse (E*Trade) for the following reasons (you may not understand all of the reasons below, don’t worry about it, it’s not super important):
- It’s cheap – $4.95 base plus 50 cents per contract
- Their customer support is personable, knowledgeable and very responsive
- Their App is great (I never use the desktop software) & I can place trades from any location
- I can close trades without paying commission as long as the option price is 10 cents or less
- I frequently get filled at a better price than my limit price (price improvement)
I’ve read a few complaints about OptionsHouse’s lack of research, but if you’re reading research reports then you probably won’t make any money.
Most of the available stock analysis should be viewed as entertainment.
Yes, of course an occasional person will be correct with their analysis and predictions, but, overall, reading research reports (or listening to “stock experts” on CNBC) is not a good usage of time.
Prior to selecting OptionsHouse, I tried Interactive Brokers & Fidelity. They were okay. Interactive stock Brokers is difficult to use. Fidelity is more expensive, and it felt more antiquated and less flexible.
I’ve also used TastyWorks. TastyWorks is great because it’s only $1 / contract with no closing commissions. So if you have a small account, it’s definitely a good choice. Personally, I’m not a fan of the TastyWorks’ platform. I find it incredibly and tedious slow to place trades.
It literally takes me ~5x longer to place a trade on TastyWorks than it does on OptionsHouse.
Finally, if you have a small account ($3,000 and below), I recommend Robin Hood because you can trade vertical credit spreads for free! Keep in mind that Robin Hood doesn’t permit you to sell naked options.
<$3,000 ⇒ Robin Hood
$3,000 – $20,000 ⇒TastyWorks
$20,000+ ⇒ E*Trade
To open an OptionsHouse account, you’ll need a SSN (or ITIN) number. You’ll need to deposit at least $2,000 in order to have a margin account and be approved for options trading.
OptionsHouse is currently providing 100 commission-free trades when you open and fund an account with $5,000 or more within 60 days of opening your account.
The OptionsHouse signup link is an affiliate link. I earn 30 free trades if you click the link to signup and fund your account with a minimum of $1,000 within the first 60 days. While it may seem that I have a conflict of interest by recommending a company that I have an affiliate relationship, I wouldn’t use or recommend OptionsHouse unless they were the best.
Once your account is open, OptionsHouse will automatically create a PaperTrade account where you can place fictitious trades without risking any money. You can place practice trades in your PaperTrade account to learn the skill of trading options.
Unfortunately, E*Trade no longer offers a Paper Trading account. As a result, if you’d like to practice trading options WITHOUT funding the account with actual money, then I recommend Think or Swim.
Once you’re ready to start trading real money, then I recommend E*Trade.
Remember that when learning a new skill, it’s important to not become overwhelmed. Try to focus on taking small steps (open an account, place a few trades in the practice account, etc.) so that you make incremental progress towards your goal of earning 50% every year.
Stock Broker Conclusion
I recommend OptionsHouse (click the link to signup) – it combines great pricing, with excellent customer support and a good App.
If you have a small account (under $10,000), I recommend TastyWorks.
When learning a new skill, focus on making incremental progress every day or week. For example, open an account one week, place a few practice trades the next – that way you’ll soon start to feel comfortable.