OptionsHouse Review - The Good and The Bad of OptionsHouse

OptionsHouse Review - Lowest Prices for Options Traders

optionshouse review

OptionsHouse is a premium online trading platform allowing you to trade stocks, shares, commodities, futures contracts, and, perhaps obviously, options, all from one platform. In this OptionsHouse review, we’re going to be taking a closer look at this well-known platform and putting it under the microscope for further analysis.

Renowned for its low fees and competitive commissions, this is a trading platform that should be attractive to those who are conscious of costs and high volume traders.

But do lower fees come at a non-financial price? By the end of this review, you will have the answer to that question.


Brief Overview

OptionsHouse has always been known for its low pricing and reduced fees, which caused quite a lot of discomfort to rival brokerages when it first launched by PEAK6 more than 10 years ago.

This was music to trader’s ears, of course, who flocked to OptionsHouse for the low commissions, lack of maintenance fees, and the fact that no minimum balance was/is required to open new accounts.

While these low fees and lower barriers to entry naturally attracted lots of amateur traders with lower capital to play with, OptionsHouse has been primarily geared towards professional traders since its inception and still provides pro level functionality to this day.

In 2014, OptionsHouse merged with TradeMONSTER, bringing together the lowest fees in the industry with one of the absolute best trading platforms around.

The acquisition of OptionsHouse in 2016 by E*Trade only strengthens its position, although the two maintain independence and operate as separate brands.

One of the key points to note about OptionsHouse is that it offers commission-free trading for 60 days after you open a new account, which is an attractive proposition, to say the least.


Who should consider using OptionsHouse?

This platform is best for more active and experienced traders who wish to trade options. It’s not the best option for those who want to delve into mutual funds and ETFs.

OptionsHouse will overwhelm complete beginners, and so it should probably be given a miss if you count yourself in that category (if that's the case and you are outside of the US, check out eToro instead).

You will need to have at least a basic understanding of options trading and be reasonably active in your trading to get the best out of this platform.

It also isn’t for traders looking for commission free ETFs as these aren’t available. However, it is one of the best options on the web for traders looking for low fees and you will be hard pressed to find another platform that puts pressure on OptionsHouse in this regard.

Note that this is not a platform for international investors and is for US traders only.


Likes & Dislikes

As with all the platforms and financial products we review, there are things we like, and things we don’t. The following is a brief summary of them:

Likes

Dislikes

  • Competitive Commission Rates - OptionsHouse is renowned for low fees and some of the best commission rates available. This is definitely a big positive as, especially for active, high-volume traders, fees can eat into profits quickly.
  • Wide Mobile Functionality - The mobile platform offers pretty much the same features as the desktop one. This will allow you to enjoy the full range of tools on the go.
  • Easy to Use - The platform itself is extremely easy to use if you already know a little about options trading. There’s nothing overly confusing or messy about it, and its elegant design makes it easy to find what you’re looking for.
  • Free DRIPS/Dividend Reinvestment - If you’re one for reinvesting your gains for a bigger harvest later, then this option will be available to you free of charge.
  • Free Virtual Trading Account - If you just want to try OptionsHouse or you’re not comfortable enough with options trading yet to risk your own money, you can get a free virtual trading account with play money.
  • Free IRA Accounts - You can choose between Traditional, Roth, SEP, or Educational IRA accounts.
  • Limited Research Charts - What’s on offer in terms of research pales in comparison to what can be found on some other trading platforms.
  • Limited After Hours Trading - Trades can be placed until 5 PM Eastern, then it’s shut down until the next day.
  • Poor Mutual Funds Trading - As we stated earlier, OptionsHouse isn’t the best for those who want to trade mutual funds. All transactions have to be done over the phone, there is a limited number to choose from, and there is no transaction-fee-free mutual fund trading.
  • No Forex Investments - If you’re looking to trade currency pairs, this definitely isn’t the platform for you. 
  • US Citizens & Resident Aliens Only - OptionsHouse isn’t available for investors and traders outside the USA which limits possibilities quite much.
  • Weak Educational Support - OptionsHouse won’t be in the running for any awards for its educational section anytime soon. As we said earlier, it’s not the best for beginners.

Investment Offerings

You have multiple options when trading at OptionsHouse, including most of the main investment vehicles and trading instruments out there.

You can trade:

  • Stocks - Buy and sell stock in companies from all of the major indexes around the world including the DJIA, S&P500, FTSE, NIKKEI, DAX, and more.
  • Bonds - Corporate and government bonds are both available to trade.
  • Mutual Funds - Invest for the long term or ride the wave when big price move happens, it’s your call.
  • ETFs - If you don’t actually want to own a commodity or underlying asset, ETFs present a fantastic way to get in on the action.
  • Options - As the name suggests, options trading is a big feature of OptionsHouse. Don’t mess with these unless you know exactly what you are doing.
  • Futures - If you have reason to believe a significant price chance in a given commodity will happen, then put your money where your mouth is and take a futures contract. Fortunes can be made and lost overnight in futures, so proceed with caution and only make calculated trades.

You can’t trade Forex, which will disappoint the currency speculators among you.

Overall, this is a good offering and there should be enough here to keep intermediate to advanced level traders interested.

It’s strange that Forex trading isn’t available since this is by far the biggest market of them all, but there are plenty of other platforms to choose from if that’s your vibe, especially as OptionsHouse is leaning more towards options trading anyways. 


Fees

OptionsHouse is renowned and has largely built its reputation around its low fees, which are among the most competitive in the world. The way the fees structure is set up is designed to reward active traders, with fees reducing as you trade more.

OptionsHouse adopts a flat-rate commission structure, meaning you know exactly what you will pay when your profit comes in. For example, for trades below $25,000, you will pay 8%, whereas for trades north of $1,000,000 you will pay only 3.5%.

As far as data and platform fees go, OptionsHouse has done away with them altogether. There’s also no inactivity fee, which is rare.

When it comes to actually executing trades, the fees at OptionsHouse are significantly lower than what you will find elsewhere. Here’s a quick snapshot guide to what you will pay to make trades:

  • Stocks & ETFs - $4.95
  • Options - $0.50 per contract and $4.95 base
  • Futures - $2.00 per contract
  • Mutual Funds - $9.95 flat rate

These fees are highly competitive and should be music to the ears of traders of all stripes, especially active traders who will see fees eat into their profits at other online platforms. OptionsHouse is way out ahead of the competition in this department.

Naturally, the fees here are far better for options traders than they are for mutual funds traders. Remember that they are designed to reward active traders specifically.


Platform

The platform itself is extremely easy to use and navigate thanks to the acquisition of TradeMONSTER back in 2014.

It will hold particular appeal to options traders who can view 16 different options chains, including 15 strategy based chains, allowing you to find quotes, implied volatility and deltas quickly and easily.

Usability​

When you log into your OptionsHouse account you will see several tabs at the top of the main menu, which are trading, markets, and account. You will see all of your active trades under trading, all of the potential markets and their current activity under markets, and details about your account such as your balance and the option to fund it under the account tab.

Below this main menu, you will see a sub-menu with several other tabs including quote, chart, options, and strategy. These are pretty self-explanatory and allow you to find out all of the information you need before placing active trades.

The platform is easy enough to use and understand, but it runs the risk of overwhelming at the same time. There’s a lot going on the minute you log on, and even though it’s all simple enough to the initiated, it could understandably intimidate a beginner.

As far as actual functionality goes, however, this platform is top-notch. You can find information easily, can customize charts in a multitude of ways (we will cover this in more detail later), and can execute trades quickly and easily with one click. It’s very easy to use once you get the hang of it and settle in.

Design

Overall, the OptionsHouse platform is well-designed and the main menus and categories are easy to navigate.

It’s not overly cluttered, although upon first login one is presented with a fair amount of information right away. However, it’s all a little dark and even when you scroll over the main tab, it is highlighted in dark blue, green, and amber. It definitely could be brighter.

This platform is action packed from the get go and you will feel that you’re straight in at the deep end. As we have said a few times, it’s not for beginners, who will probably run scared the minute they log in. This is a professional trading platform and the design reflects that.

Ideally, we would like to see a brighter, more colourful and lighter platform as the deep dark interface might start messing with your eyes after a while. It could also make better use of contrast with the text/background to help users navigate around. 

Customization Options

There are various customization options within the OptionsHouse platform which could prove very useful and give you a sense of having more control. They include:

  • Customized Charting - You can customize your price charts according to time range, frequency, style, cursor, filters, and horizontal or vertical padding).
  • Position Monitoring/Alerts - There’s a positions page within the platform which allows you to keep an eye on all of the open positions you currently have. You can customize these for faster trading and quicker views of your performance. You can also get alerts on your positions via popup, mobile, or e-mail once certain predetermined thresholds have been reached.

The chart customization options are great and will definitely help you make more informed trading decisions. We also like the alerts available for the position thresholds being reached.


Mobile Trading

optionshouse mobile platform

It’s often the case that using mobile trading platforms means limited features. Not so with OptionsHouse, who have created a mobile trading platform that offers most of what’s available on the desktop platform.

You can see real-time streaming of prices, inclusive of price graphs that move in real time, and there’s a search feature at the top which allows you to look for any price you wish.

The mobile platform has a customizable home screen, meaning you can make it ‘yours’.

This all adds to the feeling of being in control and makes OptionsHouse more appealing to serious traders.

You can also get alerts on your phone about pre-saved trades and their current movements. This is an excellent feature as it allows you to keep an eye on things on the move.

On the whole, the mobile platform is good and it’s easy to use, allowing you to do most of what you need to do.


Unique Features

There are several unique features in the OptionsHouse platform that make it different. How useful these are will depend on you as a trader and what you plan to achieve, but it’s good to be aware of their existence:

One Click Trading

This is definitely a useful feature, allowing you to quickly pounce on opportunity when it arises. All it takes is one click and your trade will be live. Seconds count when trading anything, and especially so in the options game.

TradeCYCLE

This is a six-step process that involves researching, testing, executing, adjusting, and exiting trades. This has been designed to help you make better trades and hopeful more frequently profitable ones. It could be useful in instances where time was not a pressing matter and will definitely be useful for long term trades. It won’t be very useful when you need to act quickly.

TradeLAB

This is a very useful tool which allows you to instantly see a snapshot of your profit/loss/breakeven probabilities for a given trade. You can also make use of a spectral map which allows you to instantly analyze different strategies according to customized metrics. You can even see how much you stand to gain or lose based on hypothetical trading scenarios.

Paper Trading

You can trade with $100,000 in play money to practice with. If you’re new to trading, or options trading specifically, it’s a good idea to make use of this as it gives you a risk-free way to try out your strategies and ideas.

Paper Trading platform looks generally exactly the same as the main platform, however note the yellow sign "Paper Trading". This bright indicator helps to notice immediately whether you are using play money or going for the real deal.​

StrategySEEK

This feature scans live market data and presents thousands of options trading strategies. It is remarkable how much data it can crunch and what it comes up with, and we are particularly impressed by this feature. You can then use TradeLAB to analyze these strategies and modify them, or place orders right away.

These features are pretty advanced and there’s no doubt that more advanced traders will find them more useful than beginners, who may be unsure how to use them and may find all of this too much to take in right away. Remember that if you are new to options trading, you don’t have to use these features and are still free to trade other instruments.

For options traders with experience, these tools could provide invaluable insights and present options you hadn’t thought of.

We don’t think all of the strategies StrategySEEK came up with, for example, should be followed, and your own discretion would definitely still be needed to make an informed decision (don’t think that just because a program says so, you should do X), but it is nonetheless nice to have the option to use this tool if you want to generate new ideas based on current market conditions.

Definitely do use TradeLAB, however, as it is a way to gain instant insights into the probability of a trade coming to profit. It can even tell you how much you stand to gain or lose (max) based on potential trade amounts you could place.

This is an impressive range of tools and will suit the intermediate level trader best.


Making Trades

Executing trades on OptionsHouse is easy enough once you’re familiar with the platform. In this section we will give you a quick play-by-play of how to do so.

Process

When you log into the platform you will see a search bar in the top left of the screen. This allows you to search for any stock, bond, or asset by its symbol, and doing so will bring up a list of all the available options for trading.

For example, if we take a look at Tesla Motors (TSLA) we will see at least 12 options. All of the information about these options is available right on the screen, including the bid/ask prices, price changes, deltas, trading volumes, and expiration dates.

To trade, simply click the option you want to buy/sell. This will then bring up an order ticket on your screen.

Order Filling

Actually filling your order and placing a live trade is simple enough and can be done in seconds

You’ll see an order ticket which will ask you to confirm some information before the trade goes live. You can change various things about the order such as whether you want to buy or sell, how many options you want to buy, the timeframe before expiry, and whether or not you want to automate the trade.

At this point you can also analyze the trade in TradeLAB (outlined earlier), and can set up alerts for this trade. If time is on your side, doing so can’t hurt.

When you’re ready to place a trade, click ‘create order’ in the bottom right of the order form. This will bring up a second summary, which you will need to confirm before the trade goes live.

Charting

As we outlined a little earlier, one of the stronger points about OptionsHouse is its charts, which compared to some of the competition are versatile and informative and would be classified professional grade.

You can bring up a few of different charts to help you make informed trades. You can see historical price charts over various time frames from a few minutes to much longer timeframes in both candlestick and bar chart format, and you can see multiple pieces of data on them, for example the historical price over the past month alongside the moving average.

You can access charts on the first part of the order filling form, along the bottom on the window which pops up when you click buy or sell.

Research

As far as actual research goes, OptionsHouse is limited to fundamental report cards. It does not offer historical SEC filings or third party research reports.

These fundamental report cards will only give you very basic information on the company such as its size, market cap, industry sector and trading volume. It will also give it an overall grade, with the best companies getting an A while weaker firms might get a C.

Overall, making trades is relatively simple and the whole process could be executed in a matter of seconds if opportunity presented itself.

We like that you can keep tabs on all of the active trades through alerts and that the trades can be executed almost instantly, but we don’t like the limited research tools available and we also feel the process could be aided significantly with bigger, brighter buttons.

The charts are good, but much more could be offered in the way of actual data to allow for independent research.


Customer Support

Customer service is available between 8am-8pm Monday to Friday via e-mail, live chat, and telephone.

One big point of criticism for OptionsHouse is its poor customer support, which according to many customer reviews is awful. There are many complaints about long wait times and dropped connections.

For a brand this big and backed by so much money to offer sub-par customer support is really not good, and while we didn’t personally experience anything other than a wait which was a little longer than average, so many other people can’t be wrong, and this is definitely something OptionsHouse will need to work on.

Remember that this is not a trivial point. If there’s something wrong with the platform and you are waiting long periods of time to get help, this could actually cost you money and a lot of stress into the bargain. It’s definitely something you need to think about.


Educational Material

As we have sid repeatedly throughout this OptionsHouse review, this really isn’t a great platform for beginners, and the educational materials reflects the fact that the operators are assuming you know what you’re doing already.

There are webinars which you can register for, but not much else. There are no in-depth how to guides. These would be useful, especially for explaining how some of the unique features and elements of the OptionsHouse platform itself work.

Again, this is a poor showing and the educational side of the site could be a lot better. It’s OK if you’re a trading expert, but at the very least some intermediate level how-to-guides could be produced.


Our Verdict on OptionsHouse

There’s so much that’s great about OptionsHouse, and so much that’s not. It’s difficult to give a definitive answer as to whether or not you should sign up, and we leave the decision to your better judgment.

To sum it up, if you want a platform with an easy, well-designed interface, a good range of instruments to trade, and a few useful extra features, albeit with a heavy emphasis on options trading, and don’t mind looking elsewhere to learn and dealing with often poor customer support, OptionsHouse could be a winner.

The fact that there’s no Forex trading may or may not be a problem for you, and if it is, this definitely is not the platform for you.

We feel there are better platforms out there, but they do come with high fees to match.

OptionsHouse is a premium online trading platform allowing you to trade stocks, shares, commodities, futures contracts, and, perhaps obviously, options, all from one platform. In this OptionsHouse review, we’re going to be taking a closer look at this well-known platform and putting it under the microscope for further analysis.

Andrew
 

My name is Andrew and I run Slick Bucks to help folks learn to manage money cleverly, and how that clever management can make you wealthier.

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