Based in New York, this online brokerage was created in 1994 specifically to cater to active traders. With cutting-edge platforms, features, and tools for advanced traders, Lightspeed regularly ranks among the most popular brokerages for day trading.
Lightspeed scores a 2.8 out of 5 from Investopedia. Its trading platforms specialize in certain types of investing, and its routing options, strategic resources, and up-to-the-second data streaming make it an ideal interface for highly active traders. However, Lightspeed doesn't offer access to mutual funds, and portfolio management is available only to institutional investors, so it's not built for passive traders or those looking for professional assistance. While its commissions are still some of the lowest around, regardless of trade volume, Lightspeed's account minimums of $10,000 or more mean this platform is not suitable for casual or low-budget investors.
Lightspeed's focus on active traders means its commissions and fees must be competitive. While basic WebTrader accounts are subject to a $25 monthly minimum commission, Lightspeed platforms are aimed at traders who will easily surpass that threshold. Basic commissions are some of the lowest in the industry, but very active traders can capitalize on even bigger discounts for stocks, options, ETFs, and futures contracts. To qualify for per-share commissions, users must qualify as Active Traders by placing at least 250 trades per month. However, per-share equities pricing is only available on paid platforms, not on the free web or mobile platforms. Lightspeed's margin rates are similarly competitive, with a minimum equity balance of just $2,000.
A member of both FINRA and SIPC, Lightspeed also carries additional insurance to protect user accounts. Since all investing is inherently risky, Lightspeed also makes sure investors are aware of the risk of uncovered derivatives trading, margin trading, and day trading.
Lightspeed takes online security seriously. The site uses strong encryption technology and offers two-factor authentication on user accounts. However, Lightspeed does share some of your personal information with service providers or companies with which it has mutual marketing agreements. It does not sell user information to third-party marketing companies with which it doesn't have agreements, but users should pay attention to the various opt-out options to ensure that their information is shared with as few entities as possible.
This is where Lightspeed really shines. Depending on which platform you use, Lightspeed provides suites of special features tailored to any trading strategy or technical research need. In-platform tools, studies, screeners, and testing capabilities make Lightspeed an active trader's dream. Coupled with a wide range of web-based resources, Lightspeed is an ideal broker for aspiring day traders and professional investors alike.
Traders looking for all the bells and whistles should look no further. Lightspeed has consistently improved and expanded its suite of advanced tools and features, highlighting its focus on professional-grade and institutional investors. Lightspeed's partnership with Trade Ideas offers users an even wider array of fully customizable and automated trading and strategy testing options, and it consistently receives accolades and awards from industry insiders. However, Lightspeed does not offer advisory services (human or robo), so it isn't ideal for anyone looking for professional assistance.
Lightspeed's basic web-based platform is easily customizable and offers plenty of tools and research resources for active traders who want a solid, free platform. The $100-a-month advanced Lightspeed Trader desktop platform, however, is built for the trader who needs one-screen access to multiple data sources. Each quote, profile, news stream, or trading screen is its own window, which can be arranged to suit the trader's needs. You can keep a few crucial quotes open at the top of your screen as you go about other business, or fill your monitor with data. While the flexibility of these platforms is fantastic for day traders and professionals, it may be unnecessarily robust for the buy-and-hold crowd.
Lightspeed offers fully customizable charts, even for the basic WebTrader platform. Your customized settings and layouts are stored on Lightspeed's server, so you can access saved settings from any device.. In addition to offering a wide range of technical studies, the WebTrader platform allows users to overlay drawn trend lines and free-form diagrams, as well as Fibonacci circles, error channels, and Raff regressions.
For non-professionals, Lightspeed streams real-time market data across all platforms. For professional investors using the free WebTrader platform, real-time data and research comes at a $105-per-month premium, but it is included with all advanced platforms.
The advanced Lightspeed Trader platform offers a huge array of tools and resources and is relatively easy to use after an initial learning curve. Tickers can be added to watchlists based on currently open quotes, and analyst ratings, news, and other research tools automatically update when you pull up a quote for a new ticker symbol. For options traders, advanced options data, chains, and analysis are available on the free Livevol X platform. For futures traders, there are multiple options, including the free CME Direct platform.
Unsurprisingly, the primary downsides of Lightspeed's desktop experience revolve around the difference between the free and paid platforms. For example, all paid platforms allow for conditional orders, but the free platform does not.
For new or casual investors, or those who are not interested in day trading, the primary drawback of the Lightspeed platforms is that they may be overwhelming. The advanced platform, especially, is very data-heavy, with real-time streaming updates in multiple windows and numerous ways to customize and adjust each screen. An investor looking to simply research and trade a handful of securities a year would be better served by a leaner platform.
Lightspeed offers both a mobile website and downloadable apps for iOS and Android. While these mobile options aren't quite as robust as the web-based or downloadable desktop platforms, they are still serviceable for checking stock prices, news, and watchlist alerts on the go.
Both the mobile site and the app allow users to create and update watchlists and alert settings, read relevant news, and place equity and options trades from anywhere. You can view activity charts within the quote screen and switch quickly from news and stock info to options chains with a single tap. While the apps have slightly limited capabilities, the mobile site is the same as the standard web-based platform, meaning you can access screeners and see your dynamically updated order info on the go.
The primary downside of Lightspeed's mobile offerings is their lack of analytical tools. Charting capabilities are minimal, and you can't overlay studies or draw trend lines. The absence of screening tools, analyst research, and other advanced resources makes the apps better suited for investment monitoring than execution.
Since Lightspeed is an online brokerage focused on active traders, it puts a heavy emphasis on speedy support. While phone lines are staffed only during market hours, traders who call in for help then will be in touch with a professional in 30 seconds or less. For day traders, that quick response time can make a world of difference. While phone support is fast and efficient, Lightspeed doesn't offer online chat or 24-hour assistance. Once again, Lightspeed's focus is on active traders who already know what they're doing, not on new investors or those who like to have someone walk them through new features.
The exception to this rule is for traders using one of the futures trading platforms. They do have access to 24-hour support.
For day traders, immediate phone assistance is available during market hours. Both email and an internal messaging system are available for less time-sensitive queries. Lightspeed also has both Facebook and Twitter accounts, which are regularly monitored. While it isn't the primary method of support, questions sent in on social media are attended to in a timely manner.
Like its special features, Lightspeed's selection of active trading-focused research tools, analyst ratings, and technical data make this broker ideal for analysis junkies. The site's Resources section provides product tutorials, general news, educational resources, and a blog, "Active Trading". However, neither the site, the free WebTrader platform, nor the advanced Lightspeed Trader platform offers any fundamental analysis resources.
Lightspeed is all about technical analysis. The charting capabilities of its platforms ensure that traders can find, view, overlay, and analyze any performance metric their hearts desire. The stock screeners and in-depth analyst reports help users pinpoint opportunities, while the customizable watchlists and alerts keep them abreast of crucial developments. The "Active Trading" blog is full of contributor content aimed at helping users learn and execute short-term trade strategies and make the most of everything the platforms have to offer.
The Livevol X options trading platform provides more advanced options data and analysis, and all users have access to the TipRanks suite of resources.
Unfortunately, Lightspeed's laser-like focus on active trading means it has no room in its feature suite for fundamental analysis. There is no way to check company financials, review ratios, track earnings, or otherwise take stock of how a given company is doing. This makes sense, of course, because Lightspeed is built for people who trade minute to minute, not year to year, so long-term corporate trends and future innovations are less important than being able to chart multiple studies or keep a handful of quotes on-screen at once. However, investors who want to incorporate fundamentals into their trading strategy will be best served elsewhere.
In addition, Lightspeed's website is light on any actual news, instead focusing on brokerage mentions in industry publications. The free web-based platform does offer real-time news as part of the streaming data package (free for non-professional users), and the paid downloadable platforms include streaming data and news in the monthly fee. Unfortunately, you cannot sort news by market or index, making it harder to locate market or sector-specific updates.
Though Lightspeed's focus is on traders who are already fairly advanced, the site still provides a surprisingly rich array of educational resources. The Education section has numerous videos, articles, and webinars aimed at teaching new traders the basics of different securities, explaining important tax considerations, and outlining trading strategies. The site also provides a number of online classes and FAQs to help new and still-learning investors find what they need to progress.
While Lightspeed may not be the ideal platform for new or casual traders, its website provides a decent selection of useful educational resources. Even if you aren't looking to become an active trader, the Education section is a good place to look for information, especially if you're interested in learning about more advanced options trading. Lightspeed provides truly in-depth overviews of more than 40 strategies, including maximum gains and losses, the role of time decay, and the impact of market volatility.
Lightspeed is not a brokerage looking to dominate the entirety of the investment industry; it is focused on providing cutting-edge investment platforms for very active traders. It doesn't deviate from its core offering by providing banking services.