2013 Best Online Brokers
Options trading can be simple, but can quickly get
complicated. Online brokers provide customers tools to handle the
tons of quotes, statistics and underlying-securities tracking
they might need to succeed in trading puts and calls.
IBD's 2013 Best Online Brokers Survey found the five
platforms that clients rated highest. They were
), Interactive Brokers,
"Options can be used by a wide variety of investors to target
a wide variety of objectives," said Jim Bittman, director of
program development and a senior instructor for the Options
Institute at the Chicago Board Options Exchange.
Calls And Puts
Brokerage firms have developed platforms to help options
traders of all levels, from novices who buy a call or put to
advanced folks who put on multilegged positions. While some
platforms are bare-bones, others have a barrage of features such
as streaming data, sophisticated analytics and pricing tools.
can choose a platform that's Web-based or downloaded as a
A Web-based trading platform is accessed from your broker's
website. These are generally less fancy and less
Downloaded platforms tend to use flashier charts and tools.
They also tend to give users the ability to customize screens and
OptionsXpress, owned by Schwab, has offerings for clients
ranging from beginners to more sophisticated traders. The
broker's Web-based platform is not flashy, but is laid out well.
It has easy-to-use order-entry interfaces under secondary
navigations for single-option orders as well as spreads and
The company also has an all-in-one trade ticket that makes
entering orders with multiple options faster and easier. Just
select the strategy you want to put on, and the different legs of
the trade will be set up for you. OptionsXpress also has tools to
help find trade ideas, as well as volatility charts and price
TD Ameritrade also offers a basic, Web-based platform that has
something for every level of investor. Order entries for single
options, covered calls, spreads and strangles can easily be
accessed under a secondary navigation.
For single options orders, you can choose an exchange to
handle the order or you can have it done automatically. Whether
you're putting on a spread, strangle or straddle, you easily get
quotes for those trades as a package rather than viewing them in
On The Screen
For traders who want more advanced features, TD Ameritrade
offers the Trade Architect and Thinkorswim platforms.
Trade Architect is a Web-based platform catering to active
investors, who can select a strategy and get profit-and-loss
graphs to see how the trade can play out.
Thinkorswim, which requires a download, is TD Ameritrade's
platform for advanced traders. Packed with sophisticated
features, investors can monitor the market and place trades in
one screen. Complex strategies can be easily placed, and
investors can switch layout views to see implied volatilities and
Interactive Brokers has two platforms for customers. One is
its Web Trader platform, which has just the basics for viewing
option chains and entering orders.
The company also offers a much more advanced tool for options
traders. Interactive Broker's OptionTrader, which is within its
Trader Workstation platform, lets users view options chains,
including key statistics such as implied volatilities and greeks
-- a term that refers to delta, gamma and other measures of
options' sensitivity to various factors. Orders for single
options or combination orders can easily be entered. Buttons are
conveniently placed to reverse a position or hedge it from price
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