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ByJermaine Lecky Production Assistant

TD Ameritrade Review

TD Ameritrade offers impressive trading platforms and a wealth of educational resources to appeal to both expert traders and newcomers alike. TD Ameritrade is known for its elite-level trading software and a pair of optimized mobile apps that seamlessly shrink down stock trading to mobile devices, and, as of October 2019, has begun to offer commission-free trades on stocks, options, and ETFs.

The Claim

When it comes to trading, TD Ameritrade promises “investing built around you” and access to “intuitive, powerful tools designed for you.” As far as the company is concerned, it’s all about you and giving you access to a help team that “is always at your service."

Is it true?

Yes. TD Ameritrade has a plethora of powerful tools in its arsenal which are all designed to empower beginner- and pro-level traders. The web platform comes equipped with educational materials like courses and articles, as well as independent research from sources like Market Edge and CFRA in order to help you make wise investments — part of the reason we loved it in our evaluation of the best online stock trading sites.

TD Ameritrade also features the thinkorswim trading platform, which allows for 24/5 trading and enables you to put together custom alerts, view economic data, and even gauge social sentiment. On top of that, there are two apps — TD Ameritrade Mobile and TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader — which have been optimized to fit the enormity of the ever-changing market (and your interactions with it) onto your smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch.
TD Ameritrade however does keep certain trading like forex and bonds in different platforms, so it may not be the best option for heavy traders. However, its resources and 24/7 support may be worth the elevated cost. But you don't have to take the company's word for it; Kiplinger rated TD Ameritrade the No. 1 Overall Broker in 2018, so you can rest assured that you're in good hands.

TD Ameritrade Pros

✓Comprehensive trading tools
✓ Great for novice and experienced traders alike
✓ Reliable mobile trading
✓ Multiple branch locations

TD Ameritrade Cons

✗ Not for international stock trading
✗ Won’t help if you’re seeking an all-in-one trading platform

Features

Price $0 per trade
Standout features Access to in-depth market research
Top-of-the-line trading tools
Easy-to-use mobile apps
Ratings Barron's: 4.5/5
Kiplinger: 4.0/5
Services Stocks
Bonds
ETFs
Options
Mutual funds
International funds
Forex
Fees Broker-assisted trades: $44.99 per trade
Terms No account minimums

Top-of-the-line trading tools and technology

Advanced traders will be satisfied with TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim platform, which rivals some of the top advanced platforms found in the industry. Thinkorswim allows you to visualize economic data and social sentiment, and it comes with in-app chat for support and chat rooms to talk with other traders. What's more, thinkorswim is available to TD Ameritrade traders without additional costs or trading requirements.

Access to daily in-depth market commentary and research

Even at a basic level, TD Ameritrade delivers more than your standard quote. A quote for Google (GOOG), for example, provides you with a summary, charts, earnings, valuation, a plethora of analyst reports, and information about the company. In addition, TD Ameritrade delivers daily strategies and ideas from independent research companies like CFRA and Market Edge. And while these free research offerings are some of the best around, you also have the option to subscribe to upgraded research for a fee.

Dependable mobile trading for a variety of devices

Both of TD Ameritrade's iPhone apps make you feel like you’re holding the entire market in your hand. The TD Ameritrade Mobile app optimizes the trading experience by allowing you to monitor the market and trade from your smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch. The app can also be used to securely deposit checks of up to $10,000 by taking a snapshot.

The other app, TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader, is the more advanced of the two. It allows you to test your strategies using a virtual trading account and manage your positions using sleek navigation and customizable charts. You can watch quotes adjust in real time, view CNBC live streaming broadcasts directly from the app, and access chat rooms and data feeds to communicate live with other traders.

Quality trading education for all experience levels

TD Ameritrade has a solid selection of courses to choose from for all levels of trading and investing. Each course is tagged with Beginner, Advanced, or Expert, so you can find the courses that apply to you. In addition to courses, there are a variety of webcasts, workshops (online and in-person), and investing videos available to help you deepen your knowledge of the market.

Over 100 branch locations and 24-hour phone support

If it’s one-on-one help you’re looking for, TD Ameritrade has licensed representatives across the country, so you can stop in and speak to an expert in person — just search the branch locator to find a retail location near you. If you'd rather receive advice and support from the comfort of your own home, TD Ameritrade's phone support is available around the clock.

Possible drawbacks

No access to international markets

If you are interested in trading markets overseas, you will have to look elsewhere when selecting your broker. However, because TD Ameritrade offers access to every other investment product, it's still worth considering.

Two-pronged trading platform

TD Ameritrade offers an excellent set of platforms, but the experience for the user will be bifurcated between two platforms. The Trading Architect, TD's main platform, is a powerful tool for trading stock, options, and bonds, but lacks certain features like the ability to trade forex and complex futures. TD Ameritrade's other platform thinkorswim, does offer forex and complex future trading, but at the cost of stocks, and more common trading. This means if you’re a very active trader, TD Ameritrade requires the use of two platforms to fully manage your portfolio.

The Competition

TD Ameritrade
Fidelity
Ally Invest
E*TRADE
Our review
Our review
Stocks
✓*
✓*
Bonds
ETFs
✓*
✓*
✓*
Options
✓*
✓*
Mutual Funds
✓*
✓*
✓*
Futures
International
Forex

*Offers commission-free or transaction-free trading

TD Ameritrade vs. Fidelity

While TD Ameritrade provides a bevy of resources, it doesn’t hold a candle to Fidelity's offerings in that department. Fidelity features market research from more than 20 top firms, and the Learning Center covers everything from options trading to margin loans. Fidelity is also more expensive per trade — $4.95 compared to TD Ameritrade's commission-free trading. TD Ameritrade also ranks higher with Kiplinger, and its mobile apps are unparalleled, so it's still worth considering if you want to keep your trading at your fingertips.

TD Ameritrade vs. Ally Invest

Ally Invest is a better choice than TD Ameritrade if you’re a high-volume trader with a lot of existing knowledge, though it lacks the wealth of educational tools that TD Ameritrade provides. If you're just starting out and need access to in-depth market research, TD Ameritrade is still potentially a better option.

TD Ameritrade vs. E*TRADE

Between TD Ameritrade and E*TRADE, it's a tossup. We found E*TRADE's educational resources to be on par with TD Ameritrade in terms of the beginner-friendly materials. And as of October 2019, both offer commission-free trading on stocks, options, and ETFs, and neither require account minimums. Both are great options for beginners and experienced traders.

TD Ameritrade FAQ

How much money do you need to open a TD Ameritrade account?

There are no minimum cash deposits required in order to open up a TD Ameritrade account. However, access to option or margin trading requires at least $2,000 in the account.

Is thinkorswim good for beginners?

TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim tool provides all the resources an expert trader could want but organizes this information in a way so as not to be too overwhelming for beginners. That being said, thinkorswim is touted as an elite-level trading tool with access to macro economic data and data visuals on social media sentiment. Some of these might be a little too high-level for beginners, though thinksorswim does offer practice accounts, tutorials, and webcasts to help newcomers learn the ins and outs of the software.

What is paperMoney®?

When it comes to trading, it can be a little intimidating when real money is on the line. TD Ameritrade's paperMoney® helps take some of the stress out of the process. With this platform, you’re able to try out strategies with a virtual margin account and a virtual IRA (each funded with $100,000). Just bear in mind that paperMoney® is only for educational purposes and does not guarantee a favorable outcome in an actual trade.

The Bottom Line

TD Ameritrade is a technological powerhouse in terms of the tools and platforms provided to traders of all levels. From a platform that lets you test the waters with virtual funds to an elite-level trading hub, TD Ameritrade provides the tools of the literal trade. However, if you're a more advanced or active trader, those resources may not be worth TD Ameritrade's higher cost.

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