What kind of orders do you typically place? Do you ever place advanced orders or route your orders to a particular exchange? Do you sometimes pull an order and send it to a different exchange if it doesn't fill quickly? If you can't do these things yet, do you plan to or want to some day?
If you're thinking about changing brokers, those should be the types of questions you ask yourself. All online brokers offer simple orders, but here are some of the complaints I hear from seasoned traders about various trading platforms.
Traders can't choose the exchange to which their orders will be sent. For example, I typically route my RUT options orders to ISE. However, on slow days when I'm trying to buy or sell a debit spread, I sometimes find I can get a quicker fill from CBOE. Many traders don't want to bother with routing their orders to a specific exchange, and they don't care about this feature. Others wouldn't choose a platform without this capability. Know your own preferences when you choose a brokerage.
On some underlyings, traders have to pay a cancellation fee if they pull orders and place them again at a different price or a different exchange. Interactive Brokers used to charge a cancellation fee for some cancelled orders, although I've recently heard through the grapevine that they may be revising this policy. If you're considering them or other brokers, ask, as all I have heard are anecdotal comments. I know traders who place huge orders, but first they plumb for correct pricing with a one- or two-lot orders. They may even place several one-lot orders at different prices to see which fills, cancel the others and place their big orders at the price that filled. While I don't trade big enough to consider that tactic, I do plumb for prices in a different way. For example, depending on market conditions, I might place an order a nickel or so away from the mark, in my favor, and see if I get lucky on ISE and get a fill. If not, I'll use the "cancel and replace" function on my main platform and move the limit order higher or lower, depending on whether I'm buying or selling. I don't want to pay cancellation fees for the privilege of trying to get the best possible price.
Traders can't place an iron condor order or condor-roll a spread higher or lower in a single order. Their platforms either don't allow four-legged orders or don't allow traders to close and open options in the same trade, as would be necessary with the condor roll of an existing spread. If you're trading iron condors, this probably wouldn't be the preferred platform for you. While it's possible to work around this limitation by placing two separate orders for the call and put credit spreads, that introduces too much opportunity for slippage in my opinion if done routinely. Separate credit spread orders doubles the usual risk, obviously. Some traders feel they have a good sense of market timing and will deliberately divide up the order, selling the two credit spreads separately and trying to capture a little more premium than would be available otherwise. For most of us that's not the optimum way to enter an iron condor. Moreover, even if you're a butterfly or spread trader, you may occasionally want to condor-roll one side of the butterflies or the spreads out of the way. That's not something most of us do all the time, but I certainly do it once or twice a month, either to roll credit spreads or to roll parts of my butterflies. The afternoon this article was roughed out, I had condor-rolled the 930/880 put credit spread which was the lower half of my butterfly to the 900/850's, an adjustment made necessary by what had been a three-day decline. With the markets moving as fast and erratically as they were, I would not have wanted to accomplish this in two separate orders. I placed and was filled on the following order, copied from my filled orders:
Condor Rolling The Lower Half of My Butterflies:
Traders can't place a contingent order based on the delta of an option. Some traders adjust based on the deltas of a sold strike. Without this capability, they would have to guess where the underlying/option price would be when the deltas of their options hits a certain level. That's what I once had to do at OptionsXpress when I had to be away from my desk and needed to prepare a contingent or conditional order. TOS's flexibility allows me to set orders based on deltas. Below is just one example of the "Orders Conditions" that can be setup.
Portion of Conditional/Contingent Order Form Using the Delta to Trigger the Order:
Note: This is definitely not a trader recommendation, not an order I employed, and not even an order you would typically set up this way. Rather, it's an illustration of how you can use an option's OPRA code to set up an order so that a 210/220 debit spread order triggered, based on the 210's delta.
Day traders can't set up orders so that they are bracketed with stop loss and profit limit orders as soon as their orders fills. Some brokerages allow traders to set up a trade so that a fill on the first triggers subsequent orders.
Traders who work and are using less flexible platforms have to guess the price of their options when certain conditions are filled, such as when the underlying gets to the edge of a butterfly. These traders are reduced to guessing or setting a market order, a dangerous practice in many market conditions. While setting a market order may be better than nothing if you cannot attend your trades and don't want to miss an adjustment, bids and asks sometimes widen much more than normal when markets are moving big enough to trigger an adjustment. Think-or-Swim allows traders to set a price at the mark or mid-price plus or minus a certain dollar amount or percentage amount. I'm not certain what other brokerages provide this, if any.
These are just a few of the questions traders should ask themselves about order placement when they're considering setting up a new account at a brokerage. Ask if you can talk to the trading desk to ask about these capabilities if the person to whom you're speaking can't answer your questions. In this time and age, you might search YouTube videos for tutorials but also for user reviews.