I chose to go with MB Trading initially because of their low commissions. Their software looked promising and I couldn’t really find any review online that made me think they would be anything but satisfactory as a broker. I’ve now been using them for about 3 months and I am running away from them as fast as humanly possible. I’d gladly pay double the commission as long as it means I’ll never have to hear the name MB Trading ever again. Please listen to my experience before you consider going through them…
What they offer:
Part of what initially drove me to them was the fact that they allowed trading options, forex, and futures all from the same broker and platform. There are only a few brokers that offer this and MB Trading had considerably lower commissions and software/data fees. They offered extremely low commissions on options ($.95/contract) and tight spreads in forex. The software looked promising, and the offered 100 free trades for new accounts. Every other website had them rated well, and they even received a high rating from Barron’s.
What they delivered:
The single worst piece of software I have ever seen in my life. Not even freeware crap programs run as bad as MBT Desktop Pro. The program crashes constantly, and modules within the program make so many mistakes that you can never really trust anything it does. You constantly have to check every time you load an order to make sure it actually loaded what you told it to, or you could end up in some very strange trades. You have to check the math it does on prices, or you will put in wild and erratic orders. You also have to check the math on your own positions or you might have a heart attack when you look at your P&L and see that it is way out of whack. If you plan on using MBT Desktop Pro, you had better get used to seeing this screen when it crashes every 5 minutes…
When I first started using the software I noticed that it crashed all the time. The screen above is what is displayed after the crash. I called tech support and I immediately get the response “There’s nothing we can do,” and of course “You are the only one who has ever called in with that problem.” (More on tech support later…) But I thought “Ehh.. Who cares, I can deal with a crash-y program for sub-dollar commissions per option contract.” But as I became more acquainted with the software, I realized that constant crashes were only the beginning.
Charts randomly won’t load, and the program will constantly need to be restarted to get it to work. Sometimes when you click or type a symbol you get a blank chart like the one here, nothing loads, nothing happens, nothing displays any error message.
The positions monitor will misquote how many contracts you have, therefore also miscalculating your P&L. So if the program tells you you’re up or down for the day, there is no way to really know if its true or just full of shit. You have to go back and look at the clearing house numbers to actually know the truth.
There are two ways to trade options, each of them is equally horrible. There is the Options Strategist which was the only way to trade options when I first started using their software.
And then after a while I think they realized there were just too many problems with the Options Strategist, so they made the software use a web relay to connect directly to their web platform version of options trading.
The Options Strategist does not correctly load the price of some spreads. Usually, when loading a stock or forex order, it will always pull up a price at or between the bid/ask price, but when loading an option spread, it will quote something way off because it can’t calculate it correctly like every other broker software does. You have to manually look at the prices of 3-4 contracts and their respective spreads, and then come up with where you want to place your order within the combined prices. Sure, its not that hard to do, it’s basic arithmetic. But why am I sitting here wasting my time when there is a “professional platform” right in front of me on a machine that can run calculations billions of times faster than me?
If you look at the picture above, you will see that the natural price should be $.18 (.51+.07-(.20*2)) but the software automatically loads a price of $.39 so it can be very misleading if you are not paying very close attention, or if you get used to it working correctly in other instances of buying stock or single options.
The software will also not let you close part of a spread. When I try to route a closing order for part of the spread it rejects the order…
So if you have an Iron Condor and you want to close one side of it, you’re gonna have to call in and do it through the trade desk because the software will not let you. In fact, it will not let you set-up any “buy/sell to close” orders at all.
The only way you can load a closing order is by right clicking the whole position in the position window. When you do that, you only have the option to close it all or nothing.
The Options Trading (Beta) web relay is even worse than the Options strategist in my opinion. When it first came out, it forced me to update the software and then automatically switched to the web relay. I was trying to quickly get out of some positions because I had to go somewhere else and the web relay crashed the program as soon as I clicked it (over and over and over again.) I finally had to call in and they magically couldn’t replicate the problem and I was also the first person to ever have a problem with the “awesome” new update. After a few phone calls I was finally told where I could use the old buggy options strategist again (like exchanging a poop in the hand for a fart in the face.) I was told by the guy on the phone that “Next time…I should really learn how to use this new tool because the Options Strategist might be completely gone in future updates.” Yeah…….How am I supposed to learn to use it when it crashes the program the instant I touch it?
Weeks later, the options strategist started going haywire and not working at all so I tried the web relay again. This time it was at least functional, although it worked at a snails pace because it was relaying through the web. But of course there were more problems. When you try to load a closing order for a spread, the web relay will load the complete wrong month. So say you have a March Iron Condor that is coming up on expiring and you want to buy it back. When you load the order it will load some other month down the road and you have to manually change it back to March. Sure it is your responsibility to look at the order before it goes through, but the software also shouldn’t load the wrong thing. After all, you told it to “load a closing order” to your position. One slip up of trusting the software to actually do something right and you just bought yourself an Iron Condor and a really dumb trade that you’re now stuck with. I slipped up and accidentally got filled on an order to buy an Iron Condor 3 months out when I was trying to close one that was expiring the next day.
Judging by history, there are probably many more problems with the web relay, I just ran away as fast as I could and didn’t stick around long enough to find out what they are. If you go with MB Trading you should be prepared for software that crashes and constantly makes mistakes and miscalculations, and of course be ready to make many calls to the trade desk to make up for the lack of competent software programming.
The first time tech support picked up the phone, I was pretty shocked. The guy sounded completely apathetic and stoned. He sounded as if he had his feet up and I had just interrupted his precious afternoon siesta. He offered no viable solutions, and wasted about 30-45 minutes of my time connecting to my computer and poking around and never finding any kind of problem. He verified that everything should work on my machine and his computer was using the same OS version. Every time I called in to the trade desk to deal with the software not letting me break spreads into individual legs, they urgently referred me to tech support to fix my problems, and every single time I got the same procedure of time wasted and no solutions offered.
Another time when I called into tech support about the Options Strategist misquoting spread prices I got the snappy response of “Well……Why can’t you just calculate that yourself…?” Hmmmmmm…..Considering that your own employee who was hired to code this so called “professional platform” had one too many fat fingers to calculate it correctly, what makes you think I should? Are you saying I have to correct your professional software like a 3rd grade teacher corrects Math homework? What am I paying you commissions for?
The trade desk is the only thing that was sort of good about MB Trading. Whenever the software forced me to call into the trade desk, they were always pretty accommodating and understanding. I got the feeling that they spent most of their day dealing with people calling in about all the software bugs and crashes. They even gave me some more free trades and took a trade off of my account because of a software error.
In the end, MB Trading was one of the worst experiences I have had in dealing with any company in my life. I cannot believe that anyone would put their stamp of approval on such a terrible piece of software. I made the switch to ThinkOrSwim and I am 100% ok with paying higher commissions after dealing with MB Trading. Please think very hard about all of these problems before signing up with them, there are other brokers who offer similar commissions to them who are probably much better. Choose wisely.