Overall Ranking: 3.8 stars out of 5
Ease Of Use: 4.2 stars out of 5
Costs: 3.3 stars out of 5
Educational Resources & Customer Support: 3.5 stars out of 5
Research & Analysis Tools 4.0 stars out of 5
Range Of Product Offerings: 4.0 stars out of 5
Summary: A good platform that falls short of greatness. It is optimized for the most active day traders and has very high minimums to open a new account.
Recommended For: Seasoned traders who are very active. This one is a bad fit for novice investors
Are you a very active day trader? Do you want to be? If so, and you’re looking for an online broker to serve as the base of your growing financial empire, then LightSpeed may be a good fit for you.
LightSpeed is a US broker, based in New York City. Founded in the year 2000, they were acquired by Lime Brokerage in 2018 and since that time, they have been operated as an independent division of the larger company.
We’ll be quick to point out that unlike many of the brokers we’ve reviewed to this point, LightSpeed has been designed and engineered with a very specific type of investor in mind. If you are that type of investor, you’re going to love this platform. If you’re not, it won’t impress you.
In the sections that follow, we’ll take a closer look at everything LightSpeed has to offer, and tell you in full detail about its shortcomings and weaknesses so you’ll have all the information you need to decide if it’s a good fit for you.
Ease Of Use (4.2 stars out of 5)
The first thing to point out about LightSpeed is the fact that unlike a lot of other brokers we’ve reviewed, which allow you to open an account with no minimum initial deposit, you’ll need at least $10,000 to get started here, and that’s if you’re content to use the free, web-based LightSpeed platform.
If you want to use one of the company’s premium software-based platforms (there are three different ones to choose from), you’ll need at least $25,000, and each of the premium platforms carries a hefty monthly fee to use.
Right off the bat then, these numbers put LightSpeed out of reach of many novice or casual investors who just don’t have that kind of money to throw around.
Assuming that the account minimums aren’t a dealbreaker for you, you’ll find the LightSpeed platform to be well designed and easy to use.
Part of this stems from the fact that LightSpeed doesn’t offer the same breadth of services that other brokers offer. Fewer product classes means less clutter.
Again, this underscores the idea that this platform was designed for extremely active day traders, and some investment classes aren’t a good fit for that type of trading.
If you compare what you can trade on LightSpeed with a company like TD Ameritrade, you’ll find only a fraction of the product classes on offer. That’s not (necessarily) a bad thing, but it does mean that before you open an account here, you’ll need to have an honest conversation with yourself about exactly what kind of trader you are or want to be.
Moving beyond those kinds of details, you’ll find that the trading interface is clean and easy to use, made even easier by the fact that you can tweak and configure the trading page so that your favorite or most-often used tools are always on top where they can be easily accessed.
In addition to the LightSpeed web-based platform, there’s also a mobile app (available for both Android and iOS) that can be used in tandem with the web platform, but unlike most of the other apps offered by other brokers, this one is quite limited and is primarily intended for use when closing out trades. It’s very easy to use, but that’s because there’s not much functionality built into it.
As we mentioned, the company also offers a trio of premium downloadable tools. These include LS Trader, EZ EMS, and Sterling Trader Pro.
These are all well worth checking out, depending on the types of investments you’re making or planning to make and again, since they tend to be narrowly focused on specific product classes, they’re all relatively easy to use, configure and manage.
Unfortunately, depending on which platform you pick, they’ll cost you anywhere from $130 a month to $325 a month, in addition to the trading fees associated with the platform itself. Those are hefty premiums, and depending on your trade volume, you may find that the premium platforms are simply not worth the added cost.
Costs (3.3 stars out of 5)
As with just about everything else on the LightSpeed platform, costs are geared to provide a better deal for active traders. The more active you are, the lower your costs will be.
For example, if you have less than 250 trade per month, you’ll pay a hefty $4.50 per transaction. If you have a monthly volume in excess of 10,000 trades per month, you’ll only pay $2.50 per transaction.
The platform also offers a per-share plan and again, we find the same phenomenon: If you trade less than 250,000 shares a month, you’ll pay $0.0045 per share (minimum of $1 per trade), and if you trade more than 15,000,000 shares in a given month, your fees drop to $0.0010 per (again, with a $1 minimum per trade).
Note that this applies only to stock and ETF trades. If you’re trading futures or futures options, you’ll pay $1.29 per side and $1.79 per side on futures options.
Finally, there is a LightSpeed account that offers commission-free trades on stocks and ETFs but to gain access to this one, you must use the mobile app and you have to have to open the account with at least $15,000. This is perhaps the best option for the more casual trader, though again we note that the LightSpeed app is quite limited and just about every other broker in the business offers a better platform if that’s all you’re trading.
Educational Resources & Customer Support (3.5 stars out of 5)
LightSpeed has better than average customer service and it’s available from 8am to 5pm (ET), weekdays. The Trade Desk is open from 4am to 8pm, and Futures Support is available 23.5 hours a day, Monday through Friday.
If you need to get in touch with a live broker, you can do that too, during normal business hours (described above).
That’s very good. It’s not best in class, but it’s solid. Unfortunately, you’ll find little in the way of educational materials to help you get up to speed. What’s present is mostly help documents related to the inner workings of the company’s various apps.
Those are genuinely helpful, but most major brokers offer much more in the way of educational material. If you’re a novice investor who’s looking for lots of handholding, you won’t find it here.
Research & Analysis Tools 4.0 stars out of 5)
We had to grade LightSpeed on a bit of a curve for this section because, as with everything else, their research and portfolio analysis tools are geared toward active day traders. As such, there’s not a lot on offer where portfolio analysis is concerned because day traders really don’t need much where that’s concerned.
LightSpeed fares significantly better when it comes to research capabilities though. You’ll find an expertly designed market scanner to help you locate good trading opportunities in real time, and 20 years’ worth of historical data for just about everything you’d care to buy or sell.
Analyst’s recommendations are also available, along with a ranking of the success of each analyst so you can get a feel for how good (or bad) their recommendations have historically been.
Charting capability is quite good, allowing you to build multiple charts with different timeframes, and providing a full range of drawing tools, allowing you to analyze the data in a variety of ways. It’s not best in class, but it is very good, easy to use, and extremely helpful.
Range Of Product Offerings (4.0 stars out of 5)
As we mentioned early on, the range of products on offer at LightSpeed is significantly less than what you’ll find at other brokers, but this is more of a feature than a bug and once more, the product catalog is geared specifically to the needs of active day traders. As such, you’ll find:
- Stocks (including short and long)
- Futures and Futures options
- And T-Bills
For most active traders, that’s plenty, but if you’re looking for more, then some other platform will better meet your needs.
Pros And Cons
There’s a lot to like about LightSpeed, but as you’ve seen, this broker and the platforms they have built in support of their offering all cater to a very specific type of trader.
That’s a but if a two-edged sword. If you’re an active trader and you’ve already mastered the basics of investing, this platform will probably feel like heaven to you.
On the other hand, if you’re a more casual trader or a passive investor, or if you’re a novice still trying to get your arms and mind wrapped around the basics of investing, you’re going to find this platform to be unhelpful in the best case, and almost hostile in the worst, to say nothing of the fact that the low-volume trading fees are likely to significantly eat into your profits.
Having said all that, we don’t really have any major complaints about the platform as a whole. Every design decision we could take issue with is a direct outgrowth of the company’s relentless focus on active day traders.
In the final analysis, we like the LightSpeed platform, but we don’t love it. The company represents an excellent opportunity for experienced traders who are extremely active and for that group, this one is recommended.
It’s provisionally recommended for active traders of intermediate experience who have the money to meet the high minimum balance requirements to open an account here, and it is not recommended for beginners, or for less active investors.
You’ll definitely want to give careful consideration to the type of trader you consider yourself to be before setting up an account here.