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Today we continue with our annual broker review series with a brokerage that has been in the news recently as a result of being acquired by Charles Schwab: optionsXpress.
If I had to pick two-words to describe OptionsXpress, they would be well and rounded. Although they offer a variety of investment opportunities, the platform is primarily known for its options trading tools and customer service. Given at least 4/5 stars overall by Barron’s for 11 years in a row, it’s clear optionsXpress maintains consistently high standards for its investment offerings, trading tools, and customer service. Its fee structure prevents it from being a knockout winner amongst online discount brokerages, but as you’ll see from the following review, optionsXpress is definitely worth a look if you’re looking for a solid all-around broker.
Best For: Active traders who would utilize many of the optionsXpress trading tools, beginner-novice traders who will take advantage of the extensive educational resources provided free-of-charge to customers.
Mobile Platforms: Browser, Apple, Android, Windows Phone, Palm Web OS, Blackberry.
Investment Offerings: stocks, mutual funds, equities, FOREX, ETFs, futures, international exchanges (9 futures exchanges).
Newsworthy Mentions: “2010 Broker of the Year” by Options Insider 2010, rated 4 stars by Barron’s 11 years in a row, rated 5 stars for costs by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance (Feb. 2011).
Minimum Deposit to Open an Account: $0.
optionsXpress isn’t known for being the cheapest online discount brokerage, but rather their availability of top-notch trading tools:
Virtual Trade – One of the most useful services offered by optionsXpress is its Virtual Trade platform. Not only does this help beginning investors to learn the ins and outs of trading with their $25,000 virtual trading account (before they start investing real money), but it also offers all investors the chance to become well-versed in optionsXpress’ trading tools prior to investing any actual money. You can sign up for a free virtual trading account here.
Trading Patterns – Once you’ve learned how to operate the trading tools on optionsXpress’ website, your next step is to find some option trades. Trading Patterns is a great tool for anyone who wants to view current market trends and quickly find a symbol’s top option trades. It’s similar to market trend tools offered by other online brokerages, but Trading Patterns is easy for novice traders to navigate and gives you clear, concise information on option trades (updated every 30 minutes).
Education Center – One of the most useful aspects of optionsXpress is its Education Center. Many brokerages offer investment information to their customers, but few can compare to optionsXpress, which offers free tutorials, articles, workshops, webinars, and more. Their XpressMethod is particularly helpful for traders who are just starting out and want visual, step-by-step guidance in the various trading processes.
Other Services – For the full list of services provided to optionsXpress customers, visit their website.
Despite being a discount brokerage firm, optionsXpress has faced criticism over the years for having higher fees than its competitors, such as TradeKing and OptionsHouse. For example, 10 options contracts will cost you $14.95 at optionsXpress, but only $11.45 with TradeKing. Although optionsXpress has no hidden fees, broker assistance fees, you’ll be paying comparatively more fees at optionsXpress over the long term.
However, when deciding between brokerages, be sure to take added benefits and services into consideration, as well as price. optionsXpress does not have account minimums and they have a menu of options for investors that other brokerages may not have or offer for free.
For an extensive overview of optionsXpress’ pricing structure (including price differences on contracts for the “Standard Rate” and “Active Trader Rate”), visit their pricing and commissions page.
Opening an Account
optionsXpress has several different account options:
Individual/Joint Accounts: For customers who want a basic account that allows them to trade stocks, options, ETFs, mutual funds, futures, and bonds. There is no minimum deposit to open an account and trades are $9.95 each (with the exception of options contracts, which are $14.95 each).
Retirement Accounts: Whether you’re an employee or small business owner, optionsXpress has a plethora of retirement account options for its customers, such as Traditional/Roth/SEP IRA’s and IRA’s for your children/grandchildren.
Business and Corporate Trust Accounts: optionsXpress has business and trust accounts, as well. For corporate trusts, Keogh, Regular, MPP, and PSP accounts are on the menu of services provided by optionsXpress.
For new account members, optionsXpress is currently offering a $150 Amazon gift card to those who open an account, deposit $1,000, and make 10 trades within the first 90 days of membership with optionsXpress.
Services Offered: 24/7 support, email, phone, live chat.
In addition to the detailed FAQ section on their website, optionsXpress surpasses the competition in terms of customer service, solely due to their free broker-assisted trading. Very few brokerages offer this kind of experienced help for free, and for new investors, this may outweigh the higher fees you’ll be paying per trade.
OptionsXpress is an excellent brokerage for options traders, both novices and seasoned pros alike. The website and trading tools are easy to navigate, there is a variety of account options, and the Education Center is particularly helpful for new traders. If you’re more concerned with the cost of fees and commissions than services such as broker-assisted trading or beginner tutorials, then optionsXpress may not suit your needs. Otherwise, optionsXpress is a solid discount brokerage company (highly rated by the likes of Barron’s and Kiplinger’s) with several great resources on offer for its customers.