Tips For Choosing A Broker And Getting Approval For Options Trading

If you’re thinking about trading options , there is some important information that you need to find out before getting started.

For starters, picking the right trading platform/online broker and getting the proper approval for options trading is critical. Let’s cover some of the basics you need to know to select the right broker, get approval for trading options, and trade effectively.

Choosing A Brokerage/Trading Platform

As you select your broker, be sure and get details on their commission structure, software, and whether the data you’ll be receiving is real-time. Ask them about their fee structure and discounts if you’re funding a new account – many brokers offer incentives for you to trade with them.

Most brokerages allow you to open an options account with relatively simple paperwork, most of which can usually be done online. Options trading is generally allowed in most IRA accounts, but verify this with your broker of choice, as policies can vary.

Once you’ve selected a broker, it’s a good idea to “paper trade” a few times using their platform. That way, you can become familiar with everything and where all the features are. This is a great time to contact their trading specialists if you have questions about the process or notice something that doesn’t seem right. There’s nothing worse than wanting to make a trade and not knowing precisely how to do it.

Brokerage Contact Information
Contact Number
E*Trade 800-387-2331
Interactive Brokers 877-442-2757
Ally 855-880-2559
Fidelity 800-353-4881
Charles Schwab 866-855-9102
TD Ameritrade 800-454-9272
*The content in this table is for informational purposes and should not be considered an endorsement.

Commissions are only one of the costs associated with a trade. But they are important and should be one of the determining factors in deciding which broker to use. In addition to commissions, other fees may add to trading costs. Do your research on this… They can be higher at some brokers, and additional fees can be added, such as confirmation and processing fees.

Finally, the spread between the bid and the ask price is another cost. For example, the bid on an option may be $0.90, and the ask could be $0.95. Market buy orders are completed at the ask price, and sells are completed at the ask.

Bid-ask spreads are a product of the stocks themselves. But some brokerages, such as Interactive Brokers and OptionsHouse, make markets in some stocks and may allow you to be filled in between the bid and ask prices. The more volume a stock or ETF has, the more liquid and tight the option spreads.

Getting Approval For Options Trading

There are five approval levels with brokerages, each associated with different options strategies. When approved for a level, you will have trading authority for strategies approved at that level and lower levels. Most brokers will start you off with a level 2 approval as long as you have a basic understanding options. Here’s a breakdown…

Brokerage Approval Levels
Level 1 Covered calls and protective puts
Level 2 Long calls and long puts
Level 3 Covered puts and debit spreads
Level 4 Credit spreads
Level 5 Naked options writing

Each broker sets their own criteria for approving the different account levels. In general, experience and net worth are the most important factors that determine your approval level. Approval will be based on the information you provide on your brokerage account application.

Most investors who dabble in options will only need to be approved to buy or go “long” options, which is a level 2 or 1 at some brokerages. Be sure and list all market experience you have when answering your broker’s questionnaire so they can get an accurate idea of your background and give you proper approval. Be honest and upfront when doing this task — it’s ultimately in your best interest.

Bottom Line

Trading options can be lucrative. But it’s important to know the ins and outs of your brokerage’s platform before you begin trading. Also, pay attention to costs – it’s a crucial part of successful trading. Using a lower-cost broker and limit/stop orders is an easy way to reduce costs.

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