Brokers That Charge $0 Fees for Option Contracts

If you’ve been paying commissions and per-contract fees for your option trades, you need to update to the 21st century. Many brokerage firms no longer charge a base commission on option trades, and some have even eliminated per-contract fees. Keep reading for more details.

Old School versus New School

The traditional way of charging for option trades is to assess a base charge on every option order, regardless of how many contracts are in the trade. It could be $20 or $5 or anything under the sun. Typically, it is the broker’s commission on stock trades, but it doesn’t have to be.

On top of this base charge, the broker will also assess a fee on every contract in the trade. This is the per-contract charge. Again, it can be anything, but typically it’s a dollar or less.

The new way of charging is to have no base charge (stock trades no longer have a base charge at most broker-dealers) and simply charge a per-contract fee. But some brokerage houses have even eliminated per-contract fees, which means derivative trades have no commissions at all. Two such firms are Webull and Firstrade. Let’s check them out.

Firstrade (The Lowest Cost Options Broker)

Firstrade rating

Options Cost: $0 base, $0 per contract, $0 exercises and assignments
Minimum to open: $0 for a cash account, $0 for an IRA.

Firstrade is the cheapest brokerage company for options traders. They priced all options trades at $0. Yes, it's really zero and there is no catch. In 2022 TopRatedFirms.com awarded Firstrade "The Lowest Cost Broker for Options Traders" title.

Firstrade also manages to deliver many derivative tools on top of zero-commission trading. Its website generates trade ideas based on bullish or bearish sentiment and credit or debit entry. Clicking on a trade button automatically fills an options order ticket.

If you’d rather develop your own trade, the broker’s order ticket has condors, butterflies, straddles, and spreads in addition to single-leg trades.


Cheapest Options Commissions


Last, but not least, is OptionsPlay. Available free of charge, this derivative platform operates within the Firstrade website. It has so much more than what we’ve already seen. Highlights include profit-loss diagrams, trade suggestions, gain/loss potentials, a risk calculator, a standard deviation graph, and much more.

Although the Firstrade mobile app does offer trading in options, the software seems to underperform its website, especially OptionsPlay.

Overall, the experience is very good; and remember, all of this is with no base charge and no per-contract fees.

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Webull (The Cheapest Options Broker)

Webull Rating



Option commissions: $0 base, $0 per contract, $0 exercises and assignments
Minimum to open an account: $0 for a cash account; $2,000 for margin account

In 2022, Webull has been named by TopRatedFirms.com "The Lowest Priced Broker for Options Traders". The firm charges nothing for options contracts, assignments, exercises, and tickets. With Webull, you are really trading options for free.

Although Webull has eliminated commissions and fees from option trades, this doesn’t mean the brokerage house has cut back on option tools. On the contrary, it has actually added to its tool palette in recent months.

For example, Webull now has profit-loss diagrams on its trading platforms that show maximum gain and loss numbers for a hypothetical trade, which could turn into an actual trade if the order is submitted. A contract is displayed as a tab along a horizontal axis, which is the price of the underlying stock. The contract can be dragged left or right to change the strike price.


Cheapest Options Trading


Webull’s mobile app has descriptions of every option trade available on the device. We counted 11 of these. Tapping on a tab produces a web page with a lengthier description.

To top it all off, Webull’s software also delivers Greek values for a more advanced experience.

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Don’t Forget Regulatory and Exchange Fees

Notice that we said, “no base charge and no per-contract fees.” We did not say no exchange or regulatory fees. Option trades in the United States do still come with these, and all brokerage firms we know of pass these charges onto their customers.

Currently, there is an Options Regulatory Fee (ORF) that is $0.02135 per contract. It is applied to both entries and exits.

And then there’s the clearing fee from the Options Clearing Corp (OCC). This one is $0.02 per contract with a $55 cap per trade.

But There Are No Exercise or Assignment Fees

Neither Webull nor Firstrade charges any fees for option exercises or assignments. This results in another great savings for derivative traders. Some brokers do still charge for both these services, which can be $30 or even more in some cases.

What Option Traders Should Look For in the Top Options Brokers

Buying and selling option contracts requires specific trading tools, which may not be available at all brokers. Traders who are interested in options would also benefit from educational resources, such as videos and webinars. These types of services for derivative investors can vary widely from one brokerage house to another. The following categories are particularly important for option traders.

Customer Service for Option Investors

Not all brokers provide the same level of customer support. Because option trading is a very esoteric financial strategy, having a brokerage firm that offers customer service specifically for derivative traders can be a big help.

Most brokers don’t have representatives who specialize in option trading. Ally Invest, for example, does not offer option specialists over the phone. Other brokers do provide access to agents who specialize in derivative trading. Interactive Brokers, for instance, has a stock and option trading desk, although its number isn’t toll-free.

Derivative traders may also need customer service available over the phone and via on-line chat. While all brokers have customer service over the phone, not all of them offer an on-line chat feature. Vanguard, for example, does not; although E*Trade does.


Cheapest options broker


Option Pricing

If you’re going to trade options, obviously the commission schedule for derivatives will be an important factor to consider. Like the other topics in this article, there is wide variation from broker to broker on option commission schedules. Some firms are on the low end of the pricing schedule, charging $0 for contracts and base charge. This is Webull’s and Firstrade's schedule.

Other firms, like Vanguard, are on the opposite end, charging as much as $1 per contract.

Many brokers also charge for option exercises and assignments. WellsTrade clients, for example, must pay $25 plus the broker’s regular equity commission, which is either $2.95 or $5.95. Schwab, on the other hand, charges just its regular stock commission, which is $0. Because wide variation exists in the industry on this issue, be sure to learn your broker’s pricing for assignments and exercises.


lowest options trading fees


Option Research & Education

Having adequate learning materials is of paramount importance to trade any security, and derivatives are no exception. Some brokers have a large amount of educational and research materials for option contracts, while other firms have nothing. Sofi Invest, for example, does not even offer trading in options, so naturally the broker has no resources for option traders.


Cheapest option brokerage


Fidelity has an extensive educational section on its website, and there are plenty of materials for option traders. The broker hosts articles, videos, and webinars that cover many derivative trading strategies. One article discusses seven common mistakes that option traders commonly make. A video demonstrates how to place a bull call spread, while a webinar covers income strategies with options. The broker has nearly 100 option materials. Beginning option traders would obviously be much better off at a broker like Fidelity rather than WellsTrade.

Option Trading Technology

Once you’re ready to start placing option trades, you’ll need a broker that has sufficient trading tools. Some brokers offer just a website with a simple order form that is produced after clicking on a price within an option chain. Vanguard is one example. Other brokerage firms will offer much more sophisticated trading tools.

TradeStation client, for example, have access to OptionStation Pro. This is a desktop platform designed to trade derivative contracts. It has advanced option analysis with 2-D and 3-D graphs. Option searches can be performed with results that are ranked by various characteristics, such as expiration date and strike price. A unique feature is SpreadMaster, which can open and manage multiple spreads simultaneously.

Some brokers will also provide a paper trading platform where you can practice buying and selling options before committing real money. TD Ameritrade, for example, offers both a desktop and a mobile platform where option contracts can be traded with a virtual currency. Called thinkorswim, the software is very sophisticated, so learning to trade any product first is a good idea before placing real trades.

Cheapest Options Brokers Summary

Having the right tools is an essential part of any investment strategy, and perhaps even more so with options. Make sure to do thorough research on any potential broker to determine if it has everything you need to be a successful trader.

Updated on 4/2/2022.


Webull


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