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Updated on Wednesday, March 17, 2021
As an online brokerage, eOption has one clear goal: Fast and cheap execution of options trades. The firm has only existed since 2007, borne out of a technology boom that was making electronic trading quick and inexpensive. Although the firm also offers $0 stock and ETF trading, that just puts it on a level playing field with the bulk of big-name online brokerages. The firm’s dedication to fast and cheap options trading — and low margin rates — is where eOption thrives.
- What eOption offers and who it’s for
- eOption fees and costs
- eOption investing tools and research
- eOption user experience
- eOption investor education
- eOption security
- eOption alternatives to consider
What eOption offers and who it’s for
If you’re looking to trade options, eOption should be at or near the top of your list. The company offers low options commissions, low margin rates and extensive information about various options strategies.
However, if you’re a more diverse investor, you might want to consider other choices. Although eOption does offer unlimited free stock and ETF trades, it charges fees for bonds and mutual fund trades and doesn’t offer access to investment options like forex, futures or cryptocurrency.
- Low commissions and trading costs: eOption offers unlimited free stock and ETF trades, plus low options per-contract costs.
- Low margin rates: Margin rates at eOption are lower than at many of the name brand online brokers, such as Fidelity.
- Automatic trading: Options traders have the ability to grant eOption authority to trade based on advice given by specified third-party newsletters selected by the trader.
- Paper trading and suggested options strategies: Customers can test out their strategies before using real money, and they can leverage eOption tools to compare the likelihood of success with various options strategies.
- Account fees: eOption has relatively high fees for IRAs, account inactivity and partial transfers out of an account.
- Sparse investor education materials: Although eOption has extensive educational materials on options trading, the firm is lacking when it comes to basic investment information.
- Limited investment options: Investors can only buy or sell options, stocks, ETFs, bonds or mutual funds at eOption.
eOption fees and costs
|Option trading fees||$1.99 + $0.10 per contract|
$3.99 + $0.10 per contract for auto trades
|Broker-assisted trades||Additional $6|
|Option exercise and assignment||$9|
|Stock trading fees||$0|
$2 for auto trades
|Account fees||Inactivity fee: $50|
|IRA annual fee: $15|
|All mutual fund trades: $5|
|Full transfer out: $60|
|Partial transfer out: $50|
Although eOption charges a $1.99 options commission while most of its competitors charge $0 for options trades, it more than makes up for the difference when it comes to per-contract costs. Many brokers charge 65 cents per options contract, whereas eOption charges only 10 cents. This means that small-time options traders purchasing fewer than four contracts might actually be better off at other firms, at least in terms of cost. However, eOption is focused on more advanced options traders who buy and sell large numbers of contracts frequently. For example, if you’re planning on trading 100 options contracts, you’ll pay $65 at higher-fee firms but just $11.99 at eOption.
Most online firms these days charge $0 commission for stock and ETF trades, and eOption is no exception. However, the firm does charge $5 for mutual fund trades, while many competitor firms have thousands of no transaction-fee mutual fund options.
eOption also has some ancillary service fees that are higher than those of many other brokers. For example, eOption charges $15 annually to maintain an IRA, whereas firms like Fidelity charge $0. At eOption, there’s also a $50 inactivity fee, a $65 transfer-out fee and a $50 partial transfer-out fee — Fidelity, meanwhile, has $0 transfer-out fees.
eOption investing tools and research
eOption offers a number of specialized tools designed to maximize the trading experience for its customers. Four of the most notable are the following:
The eOption Auto Trading experience is one of the firm’s more unique aspects. Under this program, customers authorize eOption to make automatic trades in their accounts in response to recommendations from specified newsletters. This can be advantageous if a trader is not in a position to receive or act on such a recommendation at the time it is made.
If you’re not ready to risk your own money by trading options, eOption offers Paper Trader, wherein you can use up to $100,000 in virtual cash to trade equities and options and test out your strategies. Just as with a real trading account, Paper Trader allows you to create watchlists of your favorite securities, view option chains and use a probability calculator.
OptionsPlay is an online option strategy trading tool. In addition to providing unbiased historical data, OptionsPlay analyzes thousands of stocks and provides technical signals for buys and sells. The tool also allows traders to compare any position using three strategies, as well as outlining the breakeven price, probability of profit, and risk and reward for any trade. The Income Generator within the tool suggests the optimal puts and calls to buy or sell for any given situation.
Direct Access Trading
For high-frequency traders, eOption offers Direct Access Trading (DAT) as a way for customers to cut out the middleman and improve the speed and pricing of their trades. Under DAT, eOption customers trade directly with Nasdaq market makers, floor specialists or even other clients without going through a broker. According to eOption, this can be a benefit to day-traders looking for the fastest possible trade executions at the best possible price.
eOption user experience
Customers can access their eOption accounts through either the web or mobile app. The firm offers mobile apps for both iOS and Android users; while Android users give the app just 3.4 stars, iOS users rate the app 4.4 stars.
For the most part, the mobile apps provide all of the capability an options trader might expect, including the following:
- General account management
- Trading and order status
- Streaming quotes
- Market news
- Financial research
- Integrated market data
However, extended-hours trading is not available via the eOption mobile apps.
You can reach eOption customer service at 888-793-5333 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST on Monday through Friday. You can also email [email protected] at any time, although the same customer service hours apply.
eOption investor education
The eOption website offers free investor education that is generally focused on advanced options trading. Categories of education provided include:
- Options strategy
- Margin accounts
- Investing & money management
Education is provided in the form of articles, webinars, videos and a blog. Investing and money management topics are fairly broad, with titles such as “The Basics of Securities Trading,” “Tax Planning for the End of the Year” and “Why Use an Online Broker?”
For advanced options traders, there is much more extensive information. Under the “Options Strategy” tab, customers can learn everything from options basics to how LEAPS, a type of long-term option, work. Specific options strategies are also outlined in great detail, from spreads and straddles to the “Short Iron Butterfly” strategy.
The bottom line is that beginning investors won’t find much of interest in eOption’s educational section, but advanced options traders may discover strategies they can use.
- SIPC insurance
- Excess supplemental insurance
- SSL encryption
As a legitimate brokerage house, eOption has the same Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) coverage as the big names of the industry. This coverage protects investor assets up to $500,000, including a cash-only limit of $250,000. In addition, eOption’s clearing firm, Hilltop Securities, also contracts with Lloyd’s of London for Excess SIPC insurance in the aggregate amount of $150 million, with a maximum of $25 million applied to any one customer. This includes cash-only protection of up to $900,000 per customer.
On the technical side, eOption creates a secure trading environment through the use of Security Socket Layer (SSL) technology. The company also has internal policies in place that restrict information about customer accounts to employees and authorized agents on a need-to-know basis. Additional electronic, procedural and physical safeguards are employed by the firm to maintain customer confidentiality.
eOption alternatives to consider
eOption is dedicated to options trading. In addition to low trading costs and low margin rates, eOption allows customers to conduct paper trading to test out the system and their own options trading strategies. The firm also offers an Auto Trading service, which grants eOption the right to make automatic trades in a customer account in response to suggestions by specific investment newsletters.
Competitor firms may offer low-cost options trading, but they aren’t generally as dedicated to this specific type of investment as eOption. However, eOption comes up short compared with more diverse firms that offer a more well-rounded, “one-stop-shop” investment experience.
|Average Cost Per Trade||Minimum Deposit||Best for...|
|eOption||$0||$0||High-volume options traders|
|E*TRADE||$0||$0||Mutual fund buyers, on-the-go traders|
|Fidelity||$0||$0||Online experience and costs with in-branch support and broad product line|
eOption vs. E*TRADE
As the name would suggest, eOption takes the crown over E*TRADE when it comes to trading options, particularly in large volumes. Although E*TRADE doesn’t have any commissions on options trades, it does have a $0.65 per-contract fee ($0.50 on if more than 30 options trades are made per quarter), which can add up. eOption keeps its per-contract options fee to just $0.10, a large difference for active options traders.
E*TRADE is a better option for customers who like to trade more diverse securities, particularly mutual funds. For example, E*TRADE offers futures trading, which eOption does not. E*TRADE also offers access to more than 4,400 no-load, no transaction-fee mutual funds, while at eOption, all mutual funds trigger a $5 commission.
eOption vs. Fidelity
As with E*TRADE, eOption’s main advantage over Fidelity is in its options pricing. Fidelity has a flat $0.65 per-contract options fee that doesn’t decrease no matter how many trades you make. eOption’s $0.10 per-contract options fee, coupled with its $1.99 commission, makes it the clear choice for active options traders.
However, while Fidelity was one of the first online brokers, it also serves customers with over 190 investor centers scattered throughout the U.S. Fidelity customers can get more of a full-service experience, while still combined with $0 trading commissions — as opposed to the online-only experience at eOption. Fidelity also offers a much more extensive product lineup than eOption, from annuities and managed accounts to 529 college savings plans and life insurance, among many others.
All rates and fees mentioned are current as of the date of publishing.