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- Best Broker for Low-Cost Options Trading
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- Best Low-Cost Options Broker
Webull is one of the newer online brokers, forming in just 2017 and launching with just a mobile app in May 2018. This mobile first launch was reflective of Webull's most important target market: millennials. Webull is positioning itself to serve newer and more active traders, and others drawn to a platform offering a broad range of services for free, including no account minimums, commission free trading of stocks/ETFs and their options, and multiple cryptocurrencies. Webull does skew towards the self-directed investor, with a less comprehensive offering than full service competitors. That said, Webull customers get a lot of bang without the buck: a nice platform with a wide range of helpful tools and features, along with competitive margin rates. We'll take an in-depth look at Webull to help you decide if it is the right broker for your portfolio needs.
- Webull doesn't charge commissions on stock, ETF, or options trades and has no account minimums. Margin trading is available to accounts of $2000 and higher.
- Webull offers stocks, ETFs, options, and cryptocurrencies. This smaller selection of assets is meant to serve a client base that skews towards younger, self-directed customers comfortable with technology and wanting information on the go.
- Webull is easy to use, providing good trading functionality and a broad package of tools and functionality including news, fundamental and technical analysis, and stock screeners.
- Webull is not the broker for people looking for a broader range of products, such as fixed income, mutual funds, or managed accounts. Investors who prefer working with an investment advisor and want access to live trading assistance should look elsewhere.
- Fractional cryptocurrency trading in multiple cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, Dodgecoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin, ZEC, and XLM commission free.
Who Webull Is For
Webull is for investors who want to get into financial markets with no minimum account sizes and commission free trading. Webull is not a full-services broker, so its customers need a bit of a DIY approach on some aspects of portfolio management. Webull customers have skewed younger than at other brokerage companies. The broker's no cost model will also appeal to active traders. In particular, Webull's free options trading will catch the attention of active options traders because other brokers, even those that have gone to free stock and ETF trades like Schwab, continue to charge commission on each leg of options trades.
No commissions on stocks/ETFs, options, or cryptocurrencies
Easy account setup and options approval, and no fees or minimums
Free real-time streaming quotes
Easy to use platforms with excellent content and tools
Access to extended hours and pre-market trading
No income on excess cash
Potential give up on execution due to payment for order flow (PFOF)
Limited range of tools for portfolio management
No access to fixed income, mutual funds, foreign exchange, or futures markets
- Everyone wants something for free, and that is exactly what Webull delivers. No commission stock, ETF, option, and cryptocurrency trading is particularly appealing to traders that don't need their hands held. Lower implementation costs makes it easier for traders to profit off a trading strategy.
- The account opening process only takes a few minutes. You will receive account and options trading approval very quickly and it only takes a couple of additional minutes to add your bank account and set up a free ACH transfer. Once the transfer is set up, you can receive buying power on the account even though the fund transfer may not be complete for a few days.
- Webull offers free real-time streaming quotes, and a three month free subscription to Level 2 Advance quotes. The service is Nasdaq TotalView, and it provides a greater depth of bids and asks on a security as well as information showing market depth. There is also auction crossing information for all NASDAQ-NYSE and regional listed stocks on NASDAQ Market Center.
- Webull's desktop and mobile application platforms are relatively new, so it has a fresh, intuitive design and is easy to use. The applications are packed with helpful tools for trading, especially considering all the tools are free to the user. The customizable workstation platform provides news, fundamental information on companies, and has watchlists, a stock screener, charting, and aggregate ratings from multiple analysts. Despite the information density, all of this is set up to work effectively in a streamlined way.
- Many active traders like to trade the market in the pre and/or extended hour trading periods, and Webull customers have the ability to access these hours. Traders can choose whether they want their orders active during the non-regular trading day times.
- Webull customers receive no interest on cash balances in their account. As Webull doesn't support mutual fund trading, customers can't proactively invest their unused cash in a money market fund. This may not be too much of an issue in today's ultra-low short term interest rate environment, but the lost opportunity for generating interest on excess cash might be more noticeable if rates move higher.
- Webull is able to offer free trading and all its other services because it is receiving payment for order flow (PFOF). This fact may reduce Webull's price execution quality. The speed and precision that orders are generally filled at today somewhat lessens this as a significant issue for most traders, but day traders and those using other strategies highly dependent on execution quality may be at a disadvantage.
- While Webull provides a lot of helpful tools for traders on its platform, the portfolio management tools are lacking. Webull customers are expected to be self-sufficient in making their own investing/trading decisions. There are no daily or intra-day market letters, and no research or analyst reports on stocks outside of aggregated analyst statistics. Webull does not offer financial advisors, recommended portfolios for rebalancing, control of tax lots on sales, or offer a dividend reinvestment program (DRIP). Currently, Webull doesn't offer fractional equity shares, although the broker has expressed that they plan to add fractional stock shares soon.
- Stocks, ETFs, options and cryptocurrencies make up the entire menu at Webull. There are no fixed income investments, mutual funds, international equities, futures, or foreign exchange offerings at Webull. What you see is what you get.
Webull is easy to use, with clean and intuitive navigation. Webull has a website, a desktop workstation, and a mobile app that are all similarly well designed. The platforms share a modern look and feel because of having been built so recently.
The desktop workstation and website are nearly identical, with the same menu and window setup that focuses on a primary set of buttons down the left side of the screen. These buttons launch customizable quote boards, a stock page with a wealth of information on a single stock or ETF, a broad market overview page, a stock screener, a trading screen that is highly customizable on the desktop platform, an account tab showing balances, positions, buying power, performance, risk level related to margin leverage, access to bank transfers into and out of the account, and a dedicated paper trading area. There are some minor differences between the website and the workstation, and the website only supports single leg options.
The mobile app uses primary features in a way consistent with the website and workstation, but there are design differences to handle the smaller screens the app is used on. The menu buttons on the bottom of the app screen change to be relevant to the content shown at the time. For example, an options button appears as a choice at the bottom of the stock screen showing an individual stock/ETF.
Watchlists can be easily created across all platforms directly from stock screener results. Watchlists also remain consistent between the desktop, web, mobile app, so you don't need to set these up on multiple platforms. Order entry is straightforward, and traders can even customize trading ticket information such as order type and share amounts they most commonly use.
Webull's workstation is highly customizable, with templates available for trading stocks and ETFs, options trading, day trading, and for cryptocurrency trading. Traders can switch between these different template pages, and can build their own page layouts from scratch through widgets. The widgets contain different information, such as news, fundamentals, options, as well as order entry, time & sales, and so on. The widgets can be combined to save screen space, with the different widgets accessible through marked tabs at the top of the window. Widget windows can also be grouped together so a stock entered in one of the widgets will automatically update in the other widgets in the group.
The trading setup also allows for a highly customized user experience, including hot keys, home page loaded on startup, default stock and option orders, and frequently used share quantities. The most flexibility and customization is available on the workstation. The website did not have all of the trading page templates available on the workstation, and the learning center was not accessible from the website. The system will guide you to different pages when appropriate, such as taking you to the stocks window to see stock-specific information, news, options, charting, and an analyst ratings overview.
It is easy to enter an order through Webull. The order screen can be added to different screens, and the stock order entry screen includes contingency orders for stop loss and/or profit taking levels. You can also create order tickets directly from the account holdings, and clicking on the bid or offer of a market will automatically enter that information into the trade order widget. Trading was also available directly from the charting program, with active positions and orders clearly shown on the chart.
Mobile Trade Experience
As mentioned, although there are some minor differences between the website and the workstation, there is a basic consistency across all the platforms. The mobile app has the same basic features as the website and workstation, but there are design differences to handle the smaller screens. Menu buttons adapt along with the content screen you are on, serving up the main functions that you are likely to need. Mobile's charting also shows your open positions and allows trading directly from the chart. Webull's drawing tools were also easier to use than the mobile charting software of many other brokers. The mobile app doesn't allow access to Webull's stock screener, but you can convert search results done on the website or workstation into a watchlist that will sync to the mobile app.
Range of Offerings
Webull focuses on U.S. Stock and ETF trading, and U.S. listed options and offers only personal and IRA accounts in the United States. Webull's product offerings may not be a match for the breadth of offerings available at full service brokers, but they meet the needs of their younger customer base less interested in fixed income. Unlike many of the full service brokers, Webull offers trading in multiple cryptocurrencies for as little as $1. There is no fixed income, mutual fund, futures, or traditional foreign exchange trading available. Investors using Webull can trade the following:
- US listed Stocks/ETFs long and short (2,085 stocks are currently on Webull's easy to borrow list for short sales
- US Listed Options on stocks and ETFs
- Cryptocurrency trading in Bitcoin, Dodgecoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin, ZEC, XLM, Shiba Inu, Chiliz, Synthetix, Gala and more.
Webull offers the most commonly used order types, including market, limit, stop, stop limit, and trailing stops. There are also specialty orders such as one-cancel-the-other (OCO), one-triggers-an-OCO (OTOCO), and one-triggers-the-other (OTO), allowing traders to setup a conditional order where a filled limit order establishes an OCO attaching both a stop loss and a profit taking level order once the initial position is established. Webull does not offer market-if-touched, market-on-close, or similar orders.
Webull doesn't offer traders control over tax lots on sales to close a long stock position; they use the first in, first out (FIFO) methodology. Webull also lacks automated trading, backtesting of strategies, and the ability to stage orders.
Webull's trading technology is basic, although it does get the job done. Webull reports net price improvement of 0.0056 a share and $1 per options contract. There is no smart order routing, no trading automation, no backtesting capabilities, and no way to route your own orders. That said, this is in keeping with the broker's bare bones approach to keep costs down.
Webull is a no cost broker, not a low cost broker. They offer commission free trading in stocks, ETFs, and listed options, and they do not charge a fee for account minimums or for their robust platforms and tools. Webull's margin rates are also competitive. When we talk about commission free trading, that means Webull does not charge for trades, but they do pass through Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) transaction fees and various exchange and regulatory fees, which are typically pennies or fractional pennies per contract. Webull's costs are as follows:
- No commissions for online trades in equities, ETFs, or OTCBB trades
- No commissions on exchange traded options
- No commission on cryptocurrency trading
- Margin is available for both leverage and short sales, and margin rates are based on account size. By breakpoint: 6.99% under $25,000; 6.49% up to $100,000; 5.99% up to $250K; 5.49% up to $500K; 4.99% up to $1 million; 4.49% up to $3 million; and 3.99% thereafter.
- Money transfers: No charge for ACH Deposits and withdrawals; Wire Transfers are $8 for deposits in the US and $12.5 if international, and $25 for withdrawals in the US and $40 if international
- Charges for paper statements: confirmations are $2 for each confirm, account statements are $5 a statement; and the prospectus fee is $2.5 per mailing
How This Broker Makes Money From You and for You
With the race towards no commission trading, understanding how brokerage companies generate revenue has become more opaque. Webull is unabashed in telling investors how they make money that allows them to provide a sophisticated platform and zero fee trading.
- Payment From Order Flow: Webull is clearly all-in on the continuing race towards no commission trading – even options are free to trade on Webull now - and they are very transparent in stating at the top of its pricing page that PFOF is the primary reason they can offer no commission trading and no fees for access to their well-built platforms. Webull receives an average of $0.00024 per share for its order flow, and an average of $0.525 per options contract; Webull's price execution improvement averages are $0.0056 per share, and $1 per option contract.
- Interest on Cash: Another important revenue stream for Webull is its ability to generate income from cash in its traders' accounts, as the company does not pay interest on cash balances. When you have cash in your account, the interest generated by Webull is kept by Webull.
- Stock Lending Program: Webull does offer a stock lending program, sharing the revenue generated with the investor lending the securities. The interest paid through the lending program depends entirely on the market demand for your securities.
Account and Research Amenities
Webull offers a broad array of account information and research amenities, including fundamental data, news, and charting to help traders make informed investment decisions and identify stocks to trade. However, Webull does not provide the types of tools and information available at full-service brokers, such as daily market reports or individual analyst reports or in-depth portfolio analysis tools.
Webull has a stock screener, available on the workstation and website but not the mobile app. The screener is limited to stocks and is easy enough to use, but it does not offer all the functionality that rival broker screeners offer. You can select from the United States, China, and Canada only; Webull provides data and charting for US, Honk Kong, Canada, China, and India markets, but it appears U.S. account holders are limited to trading in U.S. markets. For the U.S., you can select the exchanges to include (NYSE, AMEX, NASDAQ), and can filter by more than 25 industry sectors, financial information such as EPS, P/E, Dividends, and by nine pre-set technical indicators including overbought/oversold and moving average crosses.
The technical indicators are easy to use, but somewhat limited. We were unable to screen for stocks above their 200 moving. Other filters available include a consensus analyst rating with five grades (strong buy, buy, hold, underperform, sell) and if the stock can be traded on margin. Stocks can't be screened for socially responsible investing (SRI). You can save a customized search and convert it to a watchlist. Choosing any of the stocks on the search results provides key statistics and financial information and an order window for that stock on the same page.
ETF and Mutual Fund Screener
Webull does not offer an ETF screener, and they do not offer mutual funds on their platform at all.
Webull does not have a screener to identify specific option trade opportunities, but they do have tools to help construct the most common one, two, and four leg option strategies (vertical spreads, straddles/strangles, butterflies/condors, etc.) using a drop-down menu on the option chain table to select the strategy. You can then bring up the payout graph at maturity for the strategy, and use tools to further customize the strategy through different order types or adjusting the width between strike prices in multi-leg strategies.
Fixed Income Screener
Webull does not offer fixed income on their platform.
Webull built its own charting functionality, and it is a solid offering. Mobile app charting is a bit different than on the web and workstation because of the smaller screen size, but it is very intuitive. Order tickets and alerts can be created directly from charts, and analysis like Bollinger Bands®, moving and exponential moving averages (MA/EMA), relative strength index (RSI), average trading range (ATR), multiple stochastics variations, and other commonly used analysis can be easily added to a chart. Again, it seems odd that neither the 50, 100, or 200 period MA was included in the set of six defaults in the program.
Charting on both platforms boast a magnet feature that makes it easy to put trend lines at the exact high or low for a chosen date. Charts show open orders and cost basis information if applicable, and the mobile app charting also has a helpful set of buttons to show the trader if the stock is marginable or shortable, with the corresponding leverage multipliers. Webull's charting tool should work well for the majority of traders who utilize charts to supplement investment/trading decisions and help determine their trade timing, as well as entry and exit points.
Those looking for customizable program trading, pattern recognition, more sophisticated market analysis and charting techniques would likely use different software, but these traders should know that Webull does not currently provide an API to let third-party charting programs access its price data. Also of note, stock data only goes back to June 2019 for many stocks, severely limiting technical analysis of longer term trends.
Tools and Calculators
Webull does not offer financial calculators or related tools, in contrast to the robust suite found at full-service brokers. There is no in-depth portfolio analysis, no automated rebalancing, and none of the general portfolio management tools standard at the larger online brokers.
Trading Idea Generators
Webull does not offer an automated idea generator, although there are several stock breakdown lists to see things like most active, biggest movers, an earnings calendar, heat maps, and sector/industry breakdowns to identify opportunities.
The news provided free to all clients is the Benzinga Newswire, which works as a basic scrolling window with headline news and business stories, and information on economic releases. Stories can be pulled up by clicking on the news line of interest. The news screen will be specific to the stock selected for analysis within the stocks tab.
Webull does not offer third-party research, but they do offer a breakdown of ratings from multiple analyst ratings in a very clean and easy to use graphics.
Dividend Reinvestment Plan (DRIP)
Webull does not currently have a dividend reinvestment plan.
There is no cash management associated with trader accounts at Webull. Foregoing interest on cash balances is a concession Webull takes in order to offer a free platform and no commission trading.
SRI/ESG Research Amenities
Webull does not offer the ability to screen or search stocks or ETFs for socially responsible investing (SRI) or environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors.
Webull does not offer a broad suite of portfolio analysis tools, but it does provide what most self-directed investors need. This includes account performance metrics on the account page as well as the ability to download tax forms, account statements, and confirmations through the web or desktop platforms. The reports and information available are all in real-time, and include realized/unrealized gains/losses, gains/losses net of deposits and withdrawals, income from dividends and interest, unrealized long-term and short-term capital gains, and the internal rate of return (IRR) as well as information on margin and buying power.
Webull’s Learning Center does not provide investor education about portfolio management and trading, so Webull traders are pretty much on their own when it comes to learning how to manage an account and trade. Instead, Webull provides a series of instructional material, primarily using text and screenshots, on how to use Webull’s platforms and features. There are sections that introduce workstation, cover frequently used features, show how to customize layouts, and highlight the trading tools available.
While traders can review their order history, Webull does not offer a dedicated trading journal. It is also no surprise that a free platform at a zero commission broker does not offer sophisticated back testing of strategies. While Webull offers a paper trading feature to help familiarize traders with how to place orders and trade, the features are very limited. Unlike trading on the actual platform, for example, you can’t enter a limit order with conditional stop loss and profit taking orders. Furthermore, there is no options trading available through Webull's paper trading. Because of this, you may not be able to simulate what you would actually be doing in the market. That said, the paper trading feature fulfills its purpose of getting a new trader comfortable with the platform and the basics of order entry.
Webull’s narrow focus on younger, tech-savvy, self-directed customers primarily interested in the no-cost opportunity for trading results in a sparse customer support offering. Webull does not have financial advisors, but its customers can speak with a live broker if they are willing to wait on the phone – Webull’s average hold time is more than two hours.
- Phone available during trading hours only.
- Online chat with a live agent during business hours.
Security and Reliability
- Two-factor authentication is available on all platforms.
- Mobile offers biometric logon as an option by fingerprint or facial recognition.
- There is a separate six digit numerical passcode for trading access, adding an additional layer of protection.
- Webull did not have any serious platform outages
- Webull has not had a data breach in the past four years.
- Webull goes beyond the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) protection of $500 thousand ($250 thousand of cash) by having purchased an additional insurance policy providing an aggregate amount of $150 million of protection, with maximum limits per individual of $37.5 million ($900 million in cash) for losses suffered unrelated to account losses related to value of securities.
Webull's pricing is very straight-forward and fully disclosed. The company is completely open in the second paragraph of its pricing page, accompanied with a link to their SEC rule 606 disclosure, that payment for order flow (PFOF) is the primary generator of revenue allowing users on its platform to trade commission free. Other fees are listed clearly on the website’s well marked pricing page. Webull explains how they pass through SEC, exchange, and regulatory fees that are typically fractions of a penny per volume traded.
Webull's tiered margin rates and associated buying power are clearly displayed on the pricing page, but it was not as easy to find disclosures related to the risks of margin trading on the website. Webull does, however, provide a helpful account risk measure that visually informs a trader if they are at greater risk for a margin call.
Webull has taken an interesting approach with its honesty about payment for order flow being key to its free business model. Unlike some other brokers that have buried it in the fine print, the company is essentially telling clients upfront that they can have a free platform or no payment for order flow, but not both.
Webull is a great deal for the trader or active investor that doesn’t need hand holding. It is also appealing to those who want to try trading because it costs nothing in terms of extra fees. There is no minimum account size, the margin rates are competitive, there are zero commissions on stocks, ETFs, options, and cryptocurrencies. Moreover, you get access to well-designed and intuitive trading platforms for the desktop and mobile devices providing helpful trading tools at no extra cost.
While full service brokerage firms like Charles Schwab also offer commission free trading in stocks and ETFs now, their $0.65 commission per option contract and higher margin rates makes Webull an appealing alternative for margin users and active option traders who may otherwise find Webull’s options trading tools somewhat lacking (but still functional). With technology providing acceptable fills on limit and other order types, most traders will be satisfied with Webull. That said, NASDAQ Level 2 quotes will not be enough to entice serious day traders who want the best price execution or full control over how their orders are routed.
Investors looking for a full service broker with financial planning services and tools will have to look elsewhere, as will traders with strategies that rely heavily on execution speed and quality. Webull is for the self-directed trader who wants to keep costs down as much as possible.
How to Pick a Broker That's Right for You
What type of account should I open at Webull?
Webull offers a cash and margin account for individuals, both taxable. The difference between these accounts is that the cash account is solely cash transactions, meaning you have to put money into the account and then purchase the assets. The margin account is available only once your account value is at or above $2000, and allows for you to borrow against your portfolio to buy more assets. Beyond the two individual taxable accounts, Webull also supports the main individual retirement account (IRA) types including the traditional IRA, Roth IRA, and rollover IRA.
If you are looking for a retirement account, then the traditional IRA or Roth IRA are the main options depending on whether you want the deduction on contributions now (traditional) or tax free distributions in the future (Roth). The rollover IRA is also there if you are looking to bring an account over to Webull. As for the taxable accounts, the cash account is likely the safer choice for new investors, and you can always sign up for a margin account as your holdings and confidence grow.
Should I worry about Webull's payment for order flow?
While we are not fans of payment for order flow, it is a common industry practice. Fidelity stands out as the biggest broker to refuse this easy revenue stream, but we also look at how a brokerage discloses their payment for order flow practices. Webull is very upfront about how it makes money and the role payment for order flow plays in its revenue and ability to operate as a zero commission brokerage. Webull also isn't gamifying its platform to encourage overtrading, which steers it clear of some controversy that another PFOF dependent broker has run into. As to whether the PFOF at a particular broker should worry you, it depends on your view on the matter and whether the platform provided is worth the subtle price.
Investopedia is dedicated to providing investors with unbiased, comprehensive reviews and ratings of online brokers. Our reviews are the result of months of evaluating all aspects of an online broker’s platform, including the user experience, the quality of trade executions, the products available on its platforms, costs and fees, security, the mobile experience and customer service. We established a rating scale based on our criteria, collecting thousands of data points that we weighed into our star-scoring system.