OptionsStars – overview of a trading platform with a large selection of assets

Best Binary Options Brokers 2020:
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    2nd place in the ranking!

11 Best Options Trading Brokers and Platforms of April 2020

At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

The best options brokers offer low options contract fees, quality trading tools, an abundance of high-quality research and the customer service necessary to support everyone from beginner investors to advanced traders.

While most of the brokers on our list of best brokers for stock trading would be a good pick for options as well, this list highlights brokers that excel in areas that matter most to options traders. Many of the below brokers also appear on our list of best online trading platforms for day trading.

Unsure what you’re looking for? See our post on how to choose an options broker and our options 101 guide for more on what can make or break an options trading experience.

on TD Ameritrade’s website

TD Ameritrade

cash credit with qualifying deposit

on TD Ameritrade’s website

cash credit with qualifying deposit

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  • BINARIUM
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    Best Binary Options Broker 2020!
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    Free Demo Account + Free Trading Education!
    Get a Sign-up Bonus:

  • BINOMO
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    2nd place in the ranking!

Commission-free stock, ETF and options trades.

High-quality trading platforms.

No account minimum.

Good customer support.

Large investment selection.

Costly broker-assisted trades.

on Interactive Brokers’s website

Interactive Brokers IBKR Lite

No promotion available at this time

on Interactive Brokers’s website

No promotion available at this time

Large investment selection.

Strong research and tools.

Over 4,300 no-transaction-fee mutual funds.

NerdWallet users who sign up for IBKR Pro get a 0.25 percentage point discount on margin rates.

Website is difficult to navigate.

Inactivity fees on IBKR Pro.

on Robinhood’s website

Robinhood

no promotion available at this time

on Robinhood’s website

no promotion available at this time

No account minimum.

No retirement accounts.

No mutual funds or bonds.

Limited customer support.

on TradeStation’s website

TradeStation

cash credit with a qualifying deposit

on TradeStation’s website

cash credit with a qualifying deposit

High-quality trading platforms.

Commission-free stock, ETF and options trades.

Active trader community.

Free trading on advanced platform requires TS Select.

No transaction-fee-free mutual funds.

Plans and pricing can be confusing.

Merrill Edge

cash credit with qualifying deposit

cash credit with qualifying deposit

Robust third-party research.

Integrated with Bank of America.

Advanced traders may find fewer securities on offer.

Want to compare more options? Here are our other top picks:

Summary of Best Options Trading Brokers and Platforms of April 2020

on E*TRADE’s website

cash credit with a qualifying deposit or transfer

on E*TRADE’s website

on TD Ameritrade’s website

cash credit with qualifying deposit

on TD Ameritrade’s website

Interactive Brokers IBKR Lite

on Interactive Brokers’s website

No promotion available at this time

on Interactive Brokers’s website

on Robinhood’s website

no promotion available at this time

on Robinhood’s website

on TradeStation’s website

cash credit with a qualifying deposit

on TradeStation’s website

no promotion available at this time

cash credit with qualifying deposit

in cash bonus with qualifying deposit.

in Transfer Fee Rebates

No promotion at this time

No promotion available at this time

Last updated on April 1, 2020

Methodology

To recap our selections.

NerdWallet’s Best Options Trading Brokers and Platforms of April 2020

About the author

NerdWallet Compare, Inc. NMLS ID# 1617539

California: California Finance Lender loans arranged pursuant to Department of Business Oversight Finance Lenders License #60DBO-74812.

Disclaimer: NerdWallet strives to keep its information accurate and up to date. This information may be different than what you see when you visit a financial institution, service provider or specific product’s site. All financial products, shopping products and services are presented without warranty. When evaluating offers, please review the financial institution’s Terms and Conditions. Pre-qualified offers are not binding. If you find discrepancies with your credit score or information from your credit report, please contact TransUnion® directly.

9 Best Online Trading Platforms for Day Trading

At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

If you’re an active trader looking to try your hand at beating the market, you probably have a good idea of what you want in a brokerage: low costs, premium research, innovative strategy tools and a comprehensive trading platform. Below, we’ve selected the best online brokers in a variety of categories so you can choose one based on your personal priorities.

One note before you begin: Pattern day traders — as defined by the SEC — must have at least $25,000 in equity in their accounts and be approved for margin trading, regardless of whether their broker’s account minimum is lower.

» New to this world? Learn the basics with our guide to how day trading works.

on Interactive Brokers’s website

Interactive Brokers IBKR Pro

0.25% reduction on margin loans. Tiers apply

on Interactive Brokers’s website

0.25% reduction on margin loans. Tiers apply

Large investment selection.

Extensive tools for active traders.

Powerful trading platform.

NerdWallet users who sign up get a 0.25 percentage point discount on margin rates.

Complex pricing on some investments.

Website is difficult to navigate.

on TD Ameritrade’s website

TD Ameritrade

cash credit with qualifying deposit

on TD Ameritrade’s website

cash credit with qualifying deposit

Commission-free stock, ETF and options trades.

High-quality trading platforms.

No account minimum.

Good customer support.

Large investment selection.

Costly broker-assisted trades.

on TradeStation’s website

TradeStation

cash credit with a qualifying deposit

on TradeStation’s website

cash credit with a qualifying deposit

High-quality trading platforms.

Commission-free stock, ETF and options trades.

Active trader community.

Free trading on advanced platform requires TS Select.

No transaction-fee-free mutual funds.

Plans and pricing can be confusing.

Want to compare more options? Here are our other top picks:

Summary of Best Online Trading Platforms for Day Trading

Broker Commissions Promotion Account Minimum Learn More

on E*TRADE’s website

cash credit with a qualifying deposit or transfer

on E*TRADE’s website

Interactive Brokers IBKR Pro

on Interactive Brokers’s website

0.25% reduction on margin loans. Tiers apply

on Interactive Brokers’s website

on TD Ameritrade’s website

cash credit with qualifying deposit

on TD Ameritrade’s website

on TradeStation’s website

cash credit with a qualifying deposit

on TradeStation’s website

in Transfer Fee Rebates

cash credit with qualifying deposit

in cash bonus with qualifying deposit.

No promotion available at this time

No promotion at this time

Last updated on April 1, 2020

Methodology

NerdWallet’s ratings for brokers and robo-advisors are weighted averages of several categories, including investment selection, customer support, account fees, account minimum, trading costs and more. Our survey of brokers and robo-advisors includes the largest U.S. providers by assets under management, plus notable and/or emerging players in the industry. Factors we consider, depending on the category, include advisory fees, branch access, user-facing technology, customer service and mobile features. The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.

To recap our selections.

NerdWallet’s Best Online Trading Platforms for Day Trading

Frequently asked questions

We’d recommend starting with our guide for how to day trade — it covers a lot of the day trading basics you need to know. But then, practice makes perfect — or as close to it as you can get, as you’ll quickly learn there is no perfect in day trading, and even the pros lose money sometimes.

The best way to practice: With a stock market simulator or paper-trading account. Many brokers offer these virtual trading platforms, and they essentially allow you to play the stock market with Monopoly money. Not only do you get to familiarize yourself with trading platforms and how they work, but you also get to test various trading strategies without losing real money. The link above has a list of brokers that offer these play platforms.

In short: You could lose money, potentially lots of it.

Day trading is exactly what it sounds like: Buying and selling — trading — a stock, or many stocks, inside of a day. It’s all about making predictions and timing the market, with the goal of making a small profit on each trade. In an ideal world, those small profits add up to a big return.

But research has shown that only 1% of day traders consistently earn money; many, many lose it. It’s essentially a full-time job, because you need to constantly be watching — and timing — the market, waiting for your next move. It isn’t for beginner, or casual, investors.

If you’re interested in day trading, our recommendation is to allocate a small portion of your overall portfolio to the strategy – no more than 5% or 10%, tops. That way, if you lose money — as you are likely to do, at least at first — those losses are at least capped. The rest of your portfolio should be invested in long-term, diversified investments like low-cost index funds .

Day trading is risky, but it isn’t illegal. However, the Securities and Exchange Commission imposes specific regulations on pattern day traders.

The SEC defines day trading as buying and selling or short-selling and buying the same security — often a stock — on the same day. A pattern day trader, according to the SEC, is a trader who:

  • Day-trades four or more times within five business days and
  • Those day trades represent more than 6% of their total trading activity during that five-day period

If you fall into that category, you’re required to maintain at least $25,000 in equity in your account. That equity can be in cash or securities.

Note that once a broker has identified you as a pattern day trader due to the above activity, your account will likely be considered a pattern day trading account going forward, even if you don’t continue to meet the definition. If you decide to stop day trading, you’ll want to contact your brokerage and ask that they remove the minimum equity requirement from your account.

This is a loaded question. The SEC requires that you maintain a minimum of $25,000 in equity to engage in pattern day trading, but that equity can be in cash and eligible securities. That’s the minimum amount you need to maintain in your account; on top of that, you also need the money you’ll use to day trade.

But just as important is setting a limit for how much money you dedicate to day trading. Our recommendation is that those dipping into this kind of active trading should risk only a small portion of their account balance — 5% to 10% of your investable assets, at most.

Margin is essentially a loan from your broker. When you open a brokerage account, you’ll be asked if you want a cash account or a margin account.

A margin account allows you to place trades on borrowed money. Often called leverage, trading on margin can magnify your gains — and, in the worst-case scenario, your losses. To read more about margin, how to use it and the risks involved, read our guide to margin trading .

A few things are non-negotiable in day-trading software:

  • Low or no commissions. You might’ve gathered by now that day traders place a lot of trades. Pay close attention to a broker or day trading platform’s fees and commissions. Many brokers will offer no commissions or volume pricing.
  • Research and strategy tools. Day traders use data to make decisions: You want not only the latest market data, but you also need a platform that lets you quickly create charts, identify price trends and analyze potential trade opportunities.
  • Speed. Time is literally money with day trading, so you want a broker and online trading system that is reliable and offers the fastest order execution. Many platforms will publish information about their execution speeds and how they route orders.

Another feature we’d recommend is a broker or trading platform that offers paper, or virtual, trading, so you can practice with simulated trades before the real thing.

If we knew, we’d be very rich. This is the bit of information that every day trader is after.

That said, we can give you some general guidance. There are a few things that make a stock at least a good candidate for a day trader to consider:

  • Highly liquid, with large trade volume.
  • Relatively volatile. You want frequent price changes, which allows you to make a profit quickly.
  • Known to you. An understanding of the stock’s price history, and how it reacts to various events — earnings reports, economic shifts — is key. Many day traders trade only a few specific stocks, developing expertise in those companies and narrowing their focus. (Here’s some detailed guidance on how to research stocks .)
  • Newsworthy. Coverage of a stock will trigger people to buy or sell it. As a day trader, you’ll want to follow the news to find trade ideas.

You can use your online broker or trading software’s stock screener to look for stocks that seem ripe for day trading.

Best Online Brokers

Find and compare the best online trading platforms for every kind of investor

With so many different types of online stock brokers available to investors, it can be tough to choose one that works best for you. That’s why we put these U.S.-based online brokers through a comprehensive review process that included hands-on research to determine the best in the industry.

When we started our 2020 online broker reviews six months ago, no one knew how the world would change. We recognize that we all are living through a particularly volatile time as we deal with this global crisis, and financial markets have also seen unprecedented change, impacting all investors. Our analysis of the online brokerage industry is, “Commission Cuts, Consolidation, and a Coronavirus Crash.”

Our mission has always been to help people make the most informed decisions about how, when and where to invest. Given recent market volatility, and the changes in the online brokerage industry, we are more committed than ever to providing our readers with unbiased and expert reviews of the top investing platforms for investors of all levels, for every kind of market.

Best Online Brokers and Trading Platforms for April 2020:

  • Fidelity Investments: Best Online Broker
  • TD Ameritrade: Best Broker for Beginners
  • tastyworks: Best Broker for Options
  • Interactive Brokers: Best Broker for Advanced Traders
  • TD Ameritrade: Best Broker for Mobile
  • Interactive Brokers: Best Broker for International Trading
  • tastyworks: Best Broker for Low Costs
  • Charles Schwab: Best Broker for ETFs

Best Overall: Fidelity Investments

  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: $0 for stock/ETF trades, $0 plus $0.65/contract for options trade

Fidelity earned our top spot for the second year running by offering clients a well-rounded package of investing tools and excellent order executions. It has continued to quietly enhance key pieces of its mobile-responsive website while committing itself to lowering the cost of investing for its clients. Fidelity joined in the rush to cut equity and base options commissions to zero in October 2020 but remains devoted to offering top-quality research and education offerings to its clients. The firm also makes it easy for clients to earn interest by sweeping uninvested cash into a money market fund. Fidelity also shares the revenue it generates from its stock loan program, and allows clients to choose which stocks in their portfolios can be loaned out.

Fidelity provides excellent trade executions for investors. On average, over 96% of orders for Fidelity customers are executed at a price better than the national best bid or offer.

Fidelity offers a wealth of research and extensive pre-set and customizable asset screeners.

Your uninvested cash is automatically swept into a money market fund to help contribute to overall portfolio returns.

Some traders and sophisticated investors may have to use Fidelity’s web platform in addition to Active Trader Pro to access all the tools and research they require.

Non-U.S. citizens or residents cannot open an account.

Traders and investors must manually refresh the data when using the website.

Fidelity has a wide offering of securities, but no commodities or options on futures.

Best for Beginners: TD Ameritrade

  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: Free stock, ETF, and per-leg options trading commissions in the U.S., as of October 3rd, 2020. $0.65 per options contract.

Financial markets can be intimidating the first time you try to put your money to work, so it helps to have an online broker that understands that and puts in an effort to help. To determine the best broker for beginners, we focused on the features that help new investors learn as they are starting their investing journey. Brokers were selected based on top-notch educational resources, easy navigation, clear commission and pricing structures, and the overall quality of their portfolio construction tools. We also looked for low minimum account balances, as these can be a barrier for new investors with limited capital. Finally, we put an emphasis on the availability of demo accounts so new investors can practice using the platform and placing trades.

TD Ameritrade, one of the largest online brokers, has made significant efforts to market itself to beginner investors through social media. Work is still being done to further streamline its web and mobile experiences and make them more accessible to new users, but the resources new investors can already access are exceptional. Education is a key component of TD Ameritrade’s offerings. You’ll find expanded learning pathways, ranging from beginner to advanced, to help clients understand everything from basic investing concepts to extremely advanced derivatives strategies. You can open an account and poke around without making a deposit, and take advantage of all the learning opportunities until you’re comfortable. TD Ameritrade wants new investors to become more confident, and to trade additional asset classes as their skills grow.

The education offerings are designed to make novice investors more comfortable.

TD Ameritrade offers in-person education at more than 280 offices as well as multiple training pathways available on its website and mobile apps.

The TD Ameritrade Network offers nine hours of live programming in addition to on-demand content, viewable on mobile devices.

The well-designed mobile apps are intended to give customers a simple one-page experience.

Some investors may have to use multiple platforms to utilize preferred tools.

TD Ameritrade offers one of the widest selections of account types, so new investors may be unsure of which account type to choose when opening an account. More support is needed to ensure customers are starting out with the correct account type.

Investors are paid a tiny rate of interest on uninvested cash (0.01-0.05%) unless they take action to move cash into money market funds.

Best for Options: tastyworks

  • AccountMinimum: $0
  • Fees: $0.00 stock trades, $1.00 to open options trades $0.00 to close

Options trading has become extremely popular with retail investors since the turn of the 21st century. Our best options brokers have a wealth of tools that help you measure and manage risk as you determine which trades to place. They also include valuable education that helps you grow in sophistication as an options trader.

The commission structure for options trades tends to be more complicated than its equivalent for stock trades. Until the commission cuts that swept the industry in the fall of 2020, most brokers charged a fee for each leg of an options spread, plus a commission per contract being traded. The per-leg fees, which made 2- and 4-legged spreads expensive, have been eliminated for the most part. We are seeing some brokers place caps on commissions charged for certain trading scenarios.

Investors with fairly large portfolios can take advantage of portfolio margining at certain brokers, a practice that assesses the total risk inherent in a portfolio that contains stocks and derivatives, and can reduce the size of your margin loan.

Tastyworks officers say that more than 90% of the trades placed by their customers are derivatives, so there are a lot of tools for options and futures traders. Everything is designed to help the trader evaluate volatility and the probability of profit. It’s all about making decisions and taking action. Executions are fast and the costs are low, capping commissions for opening orders for options on equities and futures at $10 per leg. As you build a position from a chart or from a volatility screener, a trade ticket is populated for you. There’s a video viewer embedded so you can keep an eye on the tastytrade network. Though a newcomer to options trading might be initially uncomfortable, those who understand the basic concepts will appreciate the content and features.

All of the tools you’ll need for analyzing and trading derivatives are built into the tastyworks platform.

The charting capabilities are uniquely tuned for the options trader. If you have multiple positions on a particular underlying, you can analyze the risk profiles of the combined position.

There are hours of original video from tastytrade every weekday, offering up-to-the-minute trading ideas, plus a huge library of pre-recorded videos and shows.

Newcomers to trading and investing may be overwhelmed by the platform at first. There’s a learning curve to climb.

There is no fixed income trading (outside of ETFs that contain bonds) for those who want to allocate some of their assets to a more conservative asset class.

Besides profit and loss, any additional portfolio analysis requires setting up a login on a separate site, The Quiet Foundation, which is also part of the tastytrade empire.

Best for Advanced Traders: Interactive Brokers

  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: Maximum $0.005 per share for Pro platform or 1% of trade value, $0 for IBKR Lite

Advanced traders need fast, high quality executions, reliable data, sophisticated order types, and access to the asset classes they want to trade. We also looked for portfolio margining and top-notch portfolio analysis.

Interactive Brokers (IBKR) earns this award due to its wealth of tools for sophisticated investors and its wide pool of assets and markets. The firm makes a point of connecting to as many electronic exchanges as possible. You can trade equities, options, and futures around the world and around the clock. Interactive Brokers’ order execution engine stays on top of changes in market conditions to re-route all or parts of your order to achieve optimal execution, attain price improvement, and maximize any possible rebate. The order routing algorithms seek out a speedy execution and can access hidden institutional order flows (dark pools) to execute large block orders. The wide array of order types include a variety of algorithms as well as conditional orders such as one-cancels-another and one-triggers-another. You can also set up conditional orders based on price, volume, daily P&L, margin cushion, number of shortable shares available, rebate available from the trading venue, and other factors.

IBKR’s order execution engine has what could be the smartest order router in the business.

Interactive Brokers connects clients to 125 markets in 31 countries and enables clients to trade stocks, options, futures, forex, bonds and funds from a single integrated account.

Algorithmic order types include VWAP (volume-weighted average price) and TWAP (time-weighted average price) as well as order types designed to minimize the trader’s impact on the price of a particular stock.

You can only have streaming data on one device at a time. This could be an issue for traders with a multi-device workflow.

The most advanced capabilities are restricted to IBKR Pro clients and trades on that plan are not commission free.

Best for Mobile: TD Ameritrade

  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: Free stock, ETF, and per-leg options trading commissions in the U.S., as of October 3rd, 2020. $0.65 per options contract.

Over the last few years, online brokers have increasingly adopted the mantra “mobile-first.” As more investors and traders use tablets or smartphones as their primary platform, online brokers have made efforts to improve their mobile apps.

Streaming data has made its way to mobile apps along with complex options analysis and trading, advanced charting, and educational offerings. With the availability of computers in our pockets, the way people interact with their trading and investment accounts have forced brokers to offer mobile apps along with their traditional desktop platforms.

TD Ameritrade focused its 2020 development efforts on its most active clients, who are mobile-first – and in many cases, mobile-only. TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim mobile platform has extensive features for active traders and investors alike. The workflow for options, stocks, and futures is intuitive and powerful. You’ll find lots of bells and whistles that make the mobile app a complete solution for most trading purposes, including streaming real-time data and the ability to trade from charts. The regular mobile platform is almost identical in features to the website, so it’s an easy transition. TD Ameritrade clients can trade all asset classes offered by the firm on the mobile apps.

TD Ameritrade optimized its traditional website for mobile browsers with a dashboard where clients can quickly access account details, balances, balance history, positions, news, and more.

The well-designed mobile apps are intended to give customers a simple one-page experience where they can quickly check in on the markets and their account.

The TD Ameritrade Network offers nine hours of live programming in addition to on-demand content, viewable on mobile devices.

Streaming real-time data on thinkorswim’s mobile app is unlimited.

Customers may have to use multiple platforms to utilize preferred tools. Options-specific tools abound on thinkorswim and its associated mobile app, but fundamental research for equities and fixed income tools are mostly available only on the website.

Over-the-counter (penny stock) trades are subject to a commission of $6.95 per trade.

Clients are paid a tiny rate of interest on uninvested cash (0.01-0.05%) unless they take action to move cash into money market funds.

Best for International Trading: Interactive Brokers

  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: Maximum $0.005 per share for Pro platform or 1% of trade value, $0 for IBKR Lite

For the international trading category, category weightings for the range of offerings were adjusted upwards to measure which broker offered the largest selection of assets across international markets. After that, overall platform functionality and variety of orders types were also measured as these are important to successful trading when undertaking position management in markets that span the globe. These adjustments revealed a clear winner for international trading in the 2020 review.

Interactive Brokers is the best broker for international trading by a significant margin. Interactive Brokers allows investors to access 125 exchanges in 31 countries across the globe. This reach is combined with a massive inventory of assets and 60 different order types to plan your entry and exit from a position. Investors can also fund their account in their domestic currency and IBKR will handle the conversion at market rates when you want to buy assets denominated in a non-domestic currency. And, if all that were not enough, the quality of trading tools available through Traders Workstation (TWS) make it easy to execute multi-layered trades across international borders. Interactive Brokers has won this category two years running, and there is no sign of that changing in the near future.

No broker can match Interactive Brokers in terms of asset inventory or international markets.

If an exchange enables a particular order type, IBKR offers it you. For example, very specific limit-on-close orders on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and pegged-to-primary orders on the London Stock Exchange.

You can trade non-U.S. dollar assets on margin without having to have the local currency in your account.

Most non-U.S. exchanges charge additional data fees that increase your trading costs.

All non-U.S. transactions incur trading commissions, some of which are not completely transparent.

Small or inactive accounts may be subject to maintenance fees or data charges, and interest is not paid on cash unless you have a substantial balance.

Best Binary Options Brokers 2020:
  • BINARIUM
    BINARIUM

    Best Binary Options Broker 2020!
    Ideal for beginners!
    Free Demo Account + Free Trading Education!
    Get a Sign-up Bonus:

  • BINOMO
    BINOMO

    2nd place in the ranking!

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Broker Commissions Promotion Account Minimum Learn More