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Professional subscriber

What is the definition of a professional subscriber?

When an investor or trader creates an account at an online brokerage firm (such as TD Ameritrade or E*Trade), one of the forms they will fill out will ask whether or not they are a "professional". If the answer is "yes", then that user has to pay fees in order to receive real-time quotes from the exchanges - the NYSE, Nasdaq, and OPRA (Options Price Reporting Authority). The agreement will also detail the rules that the subscriber has to agree to regarding the data ("We are not liable for the data," "You can only user the data for personal use," etc.). But some traders get confused because they don't know whether or not they are a professional subscriber.

Am I a professional subscriber?

You qualify as a professional subscriber if you answer "yes" to any of the following questions:

  1. You are associated with a FINRA member or other Exchange member firm.
  2. Your account with the broker is a business account, such as: corporation, partnership, LLC, investment club, trust, pensions/profitsharing plan, investment club, unincorporated organization, or sole proprietorship. Some of these may have special rules. For example, with OptionsHouse, A trust where there is only one trustee and all beneficiaries are directly related to the trustee (parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, including step and adoptive relationships) are not considered professional subscribers.
  3. You are registered or qualified with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), any state securities agency, any securities exchange or association, or any commodities or futures contract market or association.
  4. You are engaged as an "investment advisor" as that term is defined in Section 202 (11) (a) of the Investment Adviser's Act of 1940 (whether or not registered or qualified under that Act), nor employed by a bank or other organization and/or state securities laws to perform functions that would require him or her to be so registered or qualified if he or she were to perform such functions for an organization not so exempt.
An at-home, self-employed trader who trades for a living but trades only with his own money is NOT considered a "professional subscriber." In loose terms, you are considered a professional if you work for a financial institution or have your trading set up as a business entity (corporation, LLC, partnership, etc.). A grey area is when you are a registered investment person but trade your own account at home.

It should also be noted that the classification of "professional trader" with regards to subscriber data is a completely different issue than a "professional trader" with regards to taxes and the IRS.

How much are professional subscriber fees?

They vary from broker to broker, but you can count on paying from $30 to $100 for real-time quotes for each of the NYSE, Nasdaq, and OPRA. Most of the time, this fee will be debited from your account. Some brokers may have it set up so that you only pay the fee for that month if you login sometime during the month. Some brokers may allow you to receive delayed quotes for free if you don't want to receive real-time quotes.


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