Best Broker for Beginners

The following online brokers are those that we believe to be the best choices for beginner options traders and traders using small amounts of capital. We have based these recommendations on a combination of research and experience and we strongly suggest you consider using one of these brokers listed below.

Choosing a suitable online broker when you are relatively new to options trading is somewhat of a different process to choosing a broker when you have plenty of relevant experience. Equally, choosing a broker to use when you are planning on only making small trades is different to choosing a broker if you are planning on making larger trades.

While we recognize that not all beginners will be small traders, and not all small traders will be beginners, we believe that there are certain brokers that are particularly suitable for traders that fall into either of these categories. This is because many of the factors that need to be considered are the same.

As well as our recommendations for suitable brokers listed above, we have also provided some information on which factors you should be taking into account when deciding which broker to use.

How We Rank Brokers

First, we should probably make it clear that there isn't really any such thing as the “right” broker in a general sense. Options traders all have slightly different sets of circumstances and slightly different requirements and ultimately a lot is down to personal choice. A broker that is a good choice for one trader may not necessarily be a good choice for another trader.

As such, we would never recommend just one single broker to a broad audience, but would rather provide our readers with a range of suggestions and offer advice on how to select the most suitable. This is why we have classified our recommendations into a number of different categories.

Factors To Consider

When choosing a broker you need to think carefully about which aspects of a broker you need to be taking into consideration. For beginners and those looking to make relatively small trades, we believe that the following factors are particularly important and it's these that we suggest you look carefully at when deciding which online options broker to select.

  • Full Service or Discount?
  • Commissions & Fees
  • Minimum Deposit & Minimum Trade Value
  • Customer Support

Full Service or Discount?

Traditionally, brokers could easily be placed in one of two categories; they were either full service or discount. The advent of online brokers has made it somewhat more difficult to distinguish between the two as there tends to be a lot more flexibility in the services offered. Strictly speaking, a full service broker is one that will provide you with professional advice and guidance in addition to transacting your orders for you while a discount broker will simply carry out your orders as instructed.

For more details on this particular aspect of brokers, please visit Full Service Brokers vs. Discount Brokers.

These days a number of brokers can effectively be placed in either, or both, of the categories as they offer a choice of service to their customers. What you must decide is whether you want the additional services that are on offer, such as receiving expert advice on potential trades and investments, or whether you prefer to have a broker that simply acts upon your instructions. It won't surprise you to know that using the additional services is the more expensive option, and you will pay much less in commissions and fees when using discount services.

There's an idea floating around that suggests beginners are better off using a full service broker while they are still learning and benefitting from having a professional guide them as necessary. There are certainly benefits in that course of action, however we suggest that even beginner options traders should use a discount service.

If a different form of investment was involved, such as investing in stocks and shares using a buy and hold strategy, then the arguments for using a full service broker would be stronger because there are real benefits in having an expert help you to plan your investments, find suitable investment opportunities, and monitor your portfolio.

However, options trading is a unique form of trading and there is so much more involved than simply selecting stocks that are going to go up in value in the long term. In our opinion, it's much better to be hands on from the very beginning, learning how to identify your own trading opportunities, and decide which options trading strategies to use.

As such, we would advise beginner traders to stick to discount services primarily for the reasons listed above, but also because of the additional costs involved in using a full service broker. The higher commission charges can really eat into any returns that you make, particularly if you are making fairly small trades, which can make it very difficult to be profitable in the long run. This is also why discount services are better for small traders, whether beginners or not, as the extra costs effectively have a bigger impact when trade values are low.

Commissions & Fees

The commissions and fees charged by an online broker are, somewhat obviously, something that any type of options trader needs to take into consideration. It's particularly important for small traders to use a broker with competitive commission because as we have touched on above; high commissions can be a real problem when making low value trades. Bearing in mind that most beginners will typically start out with fairly low value trades too.  Beginners options traders also should be looking to keep commission charges as low as possible.

You should also be looking for commission and fee structures that are nice and straightforward. Some places have structures that are really convoluted, and this is an added complication that you simply don't need. You need to be aware that a number of options brokers will offer really low headline commission rates, but then have small print stipulating that certain criteria has to be met to get the low rates. Alternatively, they might offer low commissions but then have a load of other fees that get charged to your account.

Minimum Deposit & Minimum Trade Value

This is something else that beginner traders and small traders really need to look at before signing up with an online service. Most places will have fixed minimums for how much you need to deposit and how much each trade must be worth. The minimum amounts can vary quite significantly from one broker to another, and you obviously need to make sure that the figures are suitable for you.

Clearly, if you are making small trades you won't want to deposit huge amounts at any one time so you should look for a broker with a relatively low minimum deposit. Equally, you will need a broker that has fairly low minimum trade values to ensure that you can make your trades at a level you are comfortable with.

Summary

The single most important thing to remember when choosing an online broker is that you should be using a broker that is suitable to you and your requirements. It really is worth spending some time doing your own research and checking out exactly what is on offer because the last thing you want to be doing is constantly changing your broker because things are not working out.

We strongly suggest that you take on board the advice we have offered above and also stick to those online options brokers that we have recommended.