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One of the brokers I use for trading stocks and options is OptionsXpress. A publicly traded company that's headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, OptionsXpress is a well-known online broker for options, stock, ETFs, futures, bonds and mutual funds in the US and worldwide. This brokerage firm is truly a pioneer in bringing sophisticated online options and futures trading to individual investors since it was founded in 2000. OptionsXpress has been consistently rated (by Barron's, Kiplinger etc) as one of the best online brokers in the US, and it's not hard to see why.

In my opinion, OptionsXpress is like a full-service online broker, but with discount prices.

Here I'll do a detailed review of OptionsXpress, one of the best stocks & options brokers out there, give you a highlight of their main features, tell you what I like and dislike about it, and how I rate this broker.

Main Features

Takes Just Minutes To Open An OptionsXpress Account Online

You can open either an Individual or Joint Tenants Account: Select the kind of account you want, and whether you want just a cash account, a cash/margin account or a futures account. OptionsXpress lets you trade stocks, options, bonds, futures, mutual funds and exchange traded funds (ETFs) - all in one account. OptionsXpress customers pay a flat rate of only $8.95 for each trade. Options are priced at $1.50 per contract for qualified active option trader customers that maintain 35 option trades per quarter or more, with a $12.95 minimum. The standard options rate for non active traders is $14.95 flat from 1 to 10 contracts and $1.50 per contract for over 10 contracts.

Business and Trust Accounts: You can also open a business or a trust account for trading with OptionsXpress. Business accounts can be opened for: Corporate and LLC, Partnership or Investment Club. For trust accounts, you can choose between Regular, Keogh, PSP or MPP.

Individual Retirement Accounts: Whether you are an employee or a business owner, OptionsXpress also offers various types of retirement accounts including traditional, Roth, Rollover, SEP and SIMPLE IRAs.

No minimum deposit required to open a cash account. Unlike many other brokers, OptionsXpress does not require you to fund your account with a minimum amount. However do note that you need to deposit a minimum of $2,000 to activate and maintain a margin account.

No minimum balance required to keep your account open. No more worrying about whether you have enough balance in your account so as not to incur any fees. Many other brokers on the other hand require a minimum balance in your account.

No maintenance fees or account inactivity fees. Whether you are a new or experienced trader, there may come a time when you don't trade for a while for whatever reasons, so not being charged for account inactivity fees will be a money saver in those situations.

Competitive Pricing. OptionsXpress customers pay only $8.95 for each trade. Options trades are priced at $1.50 per contract, if below 35 options trades per quarter, with a $14.95 minimum. For qualified active traders (with over 35 option traders per quarter) it is only $1.25 per contract with a $12.95 minimum.

Things We Like About This Broker

Trade Wirelessly Through Your Smartphone. With the OX Mobile application, you can trade anywhere, even if you are not at your desk. Just download OX Mobile onto your iPhone, Android, BlackBerry or Windows Mobile device, and access your account from there. For me, this is a great asset as it enables me to make trades on the go and allows me to monitor any current positions or pending orders.

Powerful Online Trading Tools. OptionsXpress wins hands-down with its easy-to-use and sophisticated online trading tools which new or experienced traders will appreciate. Instead of manually modifying equity options orders, Walk Limit will automatically update your order to find the best price. Idea Hub filters real-time data from various analytical tools and packages the results into actionable options trading ideas. Identify today's most popular trades using Trading Patterns based on what others are trading. Other tools include the All-In-One Trade Ticket, Trade and Probability Calculator, OXsocial, Chains, Volatility View and many more.

Streaming Charts. Having free access to tick-by-tick streaming real-time quotes for stocks, options and futures is an invaluable asset. Use their real-time streaming charts to have a detailed view of what the market is doing and where it might be headed. You can customize your charts using any of the more than 100 different technical indicators, and then save your customized chart set-ups to use in the future.

Virtual Trading Platform. Virtual or demo trading lets you trade in real-time conditions, without using any real money, and is a fantastic benefit whether you are a new or experienced trader. It helps you practice trading strategies before you risk any real money and also gives you an opportunity to understand yourself better in a real online trading environment.

Free Broker-Assisted Trading. This is a rarity among brokerage firms. Many other brokers charge a fee if you want to speak to a broker. For example, Ameritrade charges as much as $44.99 for live assistance from a broker, and Etrade charges an extra $25 from their standard rate for broker-assisted trades. While these brokers do not provide any trading recommendations, they will help you with technical questions, or any general questions relating to trading and strategies.

OptionsXpress Implements Customers' Suggestions. Unlike many other corporations who have grown too big to listen to their customers, OptionsXpress is constantly improving its trading platform and tools for the benefit of its customers.

Very Comprehensive Education Section. Once you are logged in, you will have free access to trading education on stocks, options, futures, bonds, ETFs and funds, organized by experience level from basics to advanced stuff. OptionsXpress also has free webinars where you can learn from their videos how to use their tools or how to place orders. There is such a rich library of information in their Education Center that you will find the topic you are looking for regardless of your experience and skill level.

Your Account Money Is Insured, Up To $24.5 Million Per Customer. OptionsXpress is a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation, so should the firm collapse, the money in your account will be safe. Their enhanced SIPC account coverage insures up to $24.5 million per customer, $900,000 of which may be cash. This is similar to the FDIC insurance for US bank accounts. With this insurance, you won't have to worry about the financial stability of the broker and can concentrate on your trading.

Our Least Favorite Things About This Broker

Slightly higher transaction costs for stocks compared to some discount brokers. When you trade stocks/ETFs with OptionsXpress, you pay a flat fee of $8.95 per trade. Even though it is slightly more expensive than some discount brokers, it is totally worth it, considering the large selection of trading and screening tools provided by OptionsXpress and their easy-to-use trading platform. However, if your preference is to trade stocks rather than options, you might want to consider Scottrade, which is one of the top rated online stock brokers in the U.S. Scottrade customers pay only $7 for stocks priced $1 and above, read our Scottrade review to learn more.

How To Open An Account At OptionsXpress

It is very easy and fast to open an OptionsXpress account. You can open your account in just a few minutes:

  1. Select the type of account you would like to open, and what you want to trade.
  2. To create your profile, enter your name, address, date of birth, social security number, and employer's name and address.
  3. Print out, sign the application and mail or fax it over.
  4. Fund your account by account transfer, check, wire transfer or ACH.
  5. It's possible to have your account ready for trading the same day if you are a US resident.

A $150 Gift Card For New Members!

From now till December 31, 2014, OptionsXpress is offering new US customers a $150 Gift Card when you open an Individual or Joint account and fund it with at least $1,000 and place a minimum of 10 trades in the first 90 days of enrollment.

1. Open a new Individual or Joint account (IRAs, other tax-exempt, linked, or shared accounts are excluded from this offer).

2. Fund account with at least $1,000 cash or securities transferred from a brokerage firm other than OptionsXpress.

3. Make at least 10 trades within 90 days of account opening.

4. The $150 Gift Card will be received by email within 30 days of meeting the above minimum funding and trading requirements.

OptionsXpress is a solid and reliable online broker for stocks, options, futures, bonds, ETFs and mutual funds. Despite having slightly higher transaction costs compared to some discount brokers, we think OptionsXpress comes out on top because it has no hidden fees, has great service, is constantly coming out with innovative features, and the fact that it has more than 40 free research and trading tools which you can maximize the use of for your trading.

Whether you are new to trading or are already a seasoned trader, you will find their information and tools extremely useful. Their trading platform is very user friendly and simple to use. Unlike many other brokers, OptionsXpress doesn't require you to maintain any minimum balance in your account, doesn't charge an account inactivity fee, offers free broker assistance service, provides a dedicated 24/7 support, instant messaging, free paper statements, free streaming news, and many more. Plus, its enhanced SIPC insurance insures up to $24.5 million per customer should the company fail.

Even if you are outside the US, you can also open an account with OptionsXpress. But keep in mind that as a US-based broker, it offers only US exchange traded products and only accepts US currency in its customer accounts.

Because of all these benefits, I highly recommend OptionsXpress as your one-stop broker for stocks, options, futures, bonds, ETFs and mutual funds. To me, OptionsXpress is like a full-service online broker, but with discount prices.

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