2017 OptionsHouse Review
OptionsHouse has been around since 2005 as a full service discount brokerage. Eventually the firm merged with tradeMONSTER in 2014. Since then OptionsHouse has flourished and in 2016 it was announced they were being acquired by E*Trade. Although E*Trade will be the parent company, the OptionsHouse platform will remain and operate as a separate entity. In this review we will run down the key attributes of OptionsHouse and evaluate how well it works as an option trading platform in early 2017.
OptionsHouse has always been known for low commissions. Here is the rundown. For stocks, OptionsHouse charges $4.95 per trade as a flat fee with no extra variable charge. That's a great start because there is no additional fee per share, so there is no punishment for trading higher volumes.
Next is the options fee. Each trade has a $4.95 flat fee and a $0.50 fee per contract in a trade. Although there is an extra variable fee, it is smaller than almost every other options broker. It also does not increase with more complicated contracts.
Future contract trades will cost you $2.00 per contract.
Mutual fund trade fees are quite expensive at $20 per trade. Lastly for all broker-assisted trades you pay $25 per trade.
OptionsHouse has some unique and powerful tools at your disposal. Perhaps the most interesting one is called strategySEEK. This feature allows you to choose a prediction in terms of where you expect an asset's price to move, then add on a preference for how you'd like to capitalize on that movement (such as maximizing profits, making a safe return, and so on). The tool will then automatically create a range of strategies for you composed of one or more trades. These are designed to meet your goals and take advantage of the movement that you predict, and it's very user-friendly.
Other features include the tradeLAB, a nice part of the interface that lets you play out hypotheticals and predictions on current trades and get visual feedback. The interface will show you profit and loss charts of each trade you select across a range of different outcomes. It's an effective and powerful way to run through different scenarios quickly.
The overall user interface is decent. However, some of the features can be hard to find due to the menu organization. The charting is also not that great: there are not enough studies and overlays in comparison with other interfaces. The biggest problem with the user interface is the mobile version due to latency.
The app is a good step in the right direction, but it doesn't replicate the full experience of trading on the desktop version. That sort of compromise should not be necessary. Hopefully OptionsHouse can do more to unify the app and the desktop versions of the interface.
OptionsHouse made its name as the original low-cost options broker. Therefore, it is not surprising that they often have a promo of some kind running. These tend to be simple, such as unlocking a bonus after you make a certain number of trades from a new account. They also sometimes run deals where they remove commissions for new users for a certain period of time, like 60 days. Both of these promo types can help you if you are on the fence and unsure about whether to give them a try. However, they generally only apply to new customers.
One of the more convenient aspects of OptionsHouse is the lack of any account minimum. No matter how low your balance gets, you won't face any fees or other problems. This is a major upside and it is highly convenient. Other brokers can have hefty fees based on your minimum balance, which can make it hard to execute the certain trades.
The platform that OptionsHouse uses is based on what tradeMONSTER built before the merger, and it's seen a few updates since then as well. It is fast and visually oriented, with tons of visualization of useful data.
The options interface is modern, intuitive, and customizable. There are some gems in the options platform, such as Spectral Analysis. Spectral Analysis gives you a wide range of data for a trade, including the Option Greeks. If you are a less experienced trader and are not familiar with what the Greeks are and what they mean, Spectral Analysis can translate them into English terms that explain why they matter.
Another nice feature is the ability to set up alerts on your desktop. If any of your customized alerts are triggered the platform that will add push notifications to your phone. You can then hop on the app and execute a trade. It would be nicer if there was a way to set up the alerts from within the app itself, but it is nice cross platform functionality.
If there's an area for growth, it's the research. OptionsHouse does not provide the resources for in-depth analysis. If research is a must you’ll have to use other resources in order to get detailed company reports and financial statements.
OptionsHouse fulfills its role as a discounted options broker. Don't come here all the bells and whistles, as the platform provides the necessities in order to effectively navigate the markets. If you’re looking for a broker with cheap rates for a smaller account, this is a great place to start (especially for option trading due to the lower commissions). The interface and platform for both the desktop and mobile app are quite good, although they could use some improvements to layout. What is encouraging is that OptionsHouse releases continuous updates and changes, listening to user feedback and always looking for ways to improve the trading platform.