Scottrade: Overall Review and Assessment

Scottrade was founded in 1980 as Scottsdale Securities, by Rodger Riney. Over time it has grown substantially and currently has over 500 local branches throughout the United States. It also offers an online brokerage for those wishing to invest and trade over the internet. It has a strong reputation and is a broker that we are happy to recommend to those trading options online.

Scottrade is a broker suitable for most options traders, although it's probably best suited for those that are semi-active and don’t generally trade in large volumes. There seems to be a focus on getting the basics as well covered as possible and overall this is a broker that is fairly straightforward to use. Most of the features and tools are user friendly and intuitive, without too many complexities to understand. With that being said, there are some more advanced options for those that want them.

We have reviewed Scottrade’s online brokerage from the perspective of an options trader, and provided our assessment of them below. We have covered the key aspects of the broker including the costs of trading, the trading platform, the research and analysis tools, the customer service, and the other products available.

Commissions, Fees & Minimum Deposit

The fee structure for trading options at Scottrade is straightforward enough and easy to understand. Orders placed over the internet are charged at $7, plus $1.25 per contract. The $7 fee is lower than most of its competitors, but $1.25 per contract is a little more expensive than most others.

This can make Scottrade slightly more expensive than some of the alternatives if you are trading a lot of options contracts at a time. On the other hand, it can work out cheaper if you are trading smaller volumes of contracts.

Orders placed over the phone and broker assisted orders are charged at $32 plus $1.25 per contract. Options exercises and assignments are charged at $17. It's worth noting that there are no account inactivity fees, or fees just for holding an account. This makes Scottrade a great choice if you tend to trade infrequently.

There are a number of service fees chargeable for certain things, such as mailed statements or stopped payments. These are kept to the minimum though and none of the charges are unreasonable.

There are various types of accounts available at Scotttrade, and the minimum deposit required depends on what type of account you open. In most cases, $500 is the minimum required.

Trading Platform, Tools & Features

There are actually several different trading platforms and tools available at Scottrade, each one suitable for various purposes. For options trading, the main platform you will want to use is the basic “Trading Website”. From here you can manage your trades with relative ease and navigation; it is both fast and intuitive.

You will also probably want to use “Scottrader Streaming Quotes”. This Java based application has customizable layouts and can be set up to suit your personal preferences. It's an easy way to keep track of current prices and recent changes. There are a few minor complaints about it, such as not being able to automatically see all your open windows in a grid for easy viewing, but for the most part it does what it needs to do.

Nothing about the above two platforms is particularly complex. It could be argued that there is a lack of advanced features, but the needs of most traders are adequately provided for. If you are looking for something more advanced, you will want to use the “OptionsFirst” platform.

With the “OptionsFirst” platform you can execute more complicated options strategies, including spreads, strangles, and uncovered options. There are multiple tools available that allow you to test your strategies, estimate market risk, and calculate potential profits and losses.

Research & Analysis

Scottrade offers plenty to help you carry out your research and analysis. In terms of research this broker is perhaps not as thorough as some of its competitors, but most of what you need is pretty well covered. You can access fundamental data such as earnings and other financials, and detailed reports from third party providers.

For technical analysis there are a number of charting tools to help you. They make it relatively easy to analyze real time price and volume data and use over 20 technical indicators and trend lines. You can create watch lists and add alerts to notify you if certain criteria is met.

Particularly impressive is the “Scottrade SmartText” functionality. This enables you to analyze specific indicators and provides you with a written, and easy to understand, explanation of what those indicators imply at any given time. This can be incredibly useful for all traders, but especially beginners who are still getting used to actually interpreting what the data they are seeing means.

Customer Service

The customer service at Scottrade is impressive, and not only because they utilize their branch offices. If you phone the support number you will be redirected automatically to your closest branch. You can expect to speak to someone knowledgeable and helpful, who should be able to deal with any questions that you may have.

Scottrade also offers live chat on its website, email support, and you can even visit one of their branches if you live close enough. The only real negative about the customer support here is that it isn't available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's probably unlikely that you will need assistance outside of normal working hours too often anyway, but some other brokers do offer round the clock support.

Summary

For beginners looking to use their first online options broker, Scottrade offers a couple of significant advantages. First, their “Knowledge Center” contains a wealth of information and lots of useful advice. In addition to lots of written content you also gain access to live interactive presentations and podcasts that cover a range of different topics.

Second, with a Scottrade account you are able to visit one of their branches and get some face to face time with an advisor. You can get advice on general investment, trading strategies, and help with how to get the most out of your online trading account.

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