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Broker Reviews

TD Ameritrade

Published by
On Thursday, July 10th, 2014 .

Overview

TD Ameritrade charges more than its competitors but delivers with a fantastic platform and mobile offering, strong customer service, and earns its No. 1 Overall ranking as the best online broker for 2014.

Dislikes

Short-term trading fee charged if a commission-free ETF is sold within 30 days of purchase; no customizable dashboard for mobile apps; mutual fund trades expensive at $49.99.

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TD Ameritrade Review

When searching for a well-rounded broker, finding the right mix is no easy task. Trade costs, ease-of-use, trade platforms, research and customer service all are important to investors.

After using a TD Ameritrade account, you can't help but love the overall experience. The broker charges $9.99 per trade a rate that can be up to two times more than some of the cheaper discount brokers but the value and quality delivered is so superior that is easily justifies the higher price tag. Our TD Ameritrade review shows they are the real deal.

Customer Service

If having access to 24/7 customer support with email and phone is important to you, then TD Ameritrade has you covered. During testing, more than half of our emails were returned within an hour, and the phone system is quick to navigate and connects you to a rep almost instantaneously.

Live chat support is also offered, but only for clients seeking platform support while using thinkorswim, or for potential clients that navigate around the site long enough to trigger a live chat popup. Knowing how the web is evolving, I would like to see TD Ameritrade offer live chat support for all clients and potential clients.

The bottom line when it comes to support is that for a full-service broker, great customer service is expected, and TD Ameritrade delivers, regardless of the communication avenue.

Commissions & Fees

Having access to 24/7 customer support, advanced trade platforms, ample research, and more, unfortunately, isn't inexpensive. TD Ameritrade charges a flat rate of $9.99 per trade with options costing $9.99, plus $.75 per contract (for full commissions details, see the Commissions & Fees tab above).

Compared to other full-service brokers, TD Ameritrade is on par with ETRADE, but is more expensive than the rest, including Charles Schwab, Fidelity, and Scottrade. In fact, with margin costs taken into consideration, TD Ameritrade is the most expensive broker out of 17 total included in our 2014 Review.

TD AmeritradeETRADECharles SchwabFidelity Scottrade
Stock Trade Fee (flat)$9.99$9.99$8.95$7.95$7.00
Options Base Fee$9.99$9.99$8.95$7.95$7.00
Options Per Contract Fee$0.75$0.75$0.75$0.75$1.25
Mutual Fund Trade Fee$49.99$19.99$76.00$49.95$17.00
Broker Assisted Trades Fee$44.99$25.00$25.00$32.95$32.00
Minimum Deposit$0.00$500.00$1,000.00$2,500.00$500.00
Commissions & Fees

Out of all the online brokers, TD Ameritrade does stand out by offering the second largest selection of commission-free ETFs (Charles Schwab offers the most with 121 total); 101 are available as I write this review. The only caveat is that, with TD Ameritrade, any commission-free ETF that is sold within 30 days of purchase is subject to a short-term trading fee of $19.99.

Research, Ease-of-Use

Like its biggest competitors ETRADE, Charles Schwab, and Fidelity, TD Ameritrade has a substantial research offering. When I pulled up a quote for Google (GOOG), there were eight different third-party research reports to choose from and read, which is impressive because any deep-discount broker rarely provides even one. The featured research report provider is ResearchTeam, which combines five research providers into one.

TD Ameritrade utilizes Thomson Reuters as its third-party data provider for fundamental analysis of individual equities and offers the full array of Morningstar research for all mutual funds. Morningstar is my favorite third-party research provider for mutual funds, and it is no surprise that TD Ameritrade, ETRADE, Charles Schwab, Fidelity, Scottrade, and other big names all agree.

I also enjoyed the basic on-site charting functionality. With 34 different technical indicators (volume, MACD, RSI, etc.) and easy-to-read, big charts, the experience is as clean as you'll find anywhere.

Making research effortless to conduct is a just one part of TD Ameritrades effort to make its website easy-to-use. The site-wide quote bar streams real-time quotes and includes SnapTicket, a quick trade extension that allows stock and option orders to be placed from any page on the site.

TD Ameritrade review snap ticket

One of TD Ameritrades newer features, the dock, was released in 2013, allowing clients to have their own customizable sidebar that stays on screen the whole time they are logged in. Optional columns allow a variety of modules to be used (10 were available as of this review). While ideal for wide screen monitors, I found myself ignoring my custom dock in favor of the primary site navigation and tools. Perhaps it was because I use a 24 monitor or that old habits are just hard to break.

TD Ameritrade My Dock

Platforms & Tools

While there are many standout areas for TD Ameritrade, the broker's two platforms really are its bread and butter. The flagship platform, thinkorswim, used to be a standalone broker until TD Ameritrade acquired it in 2009. Thinkorswim is designed for advanced traders who want complete flexibility and depth.

Run as a desktop application, thinkorswim is so advanced that it is only rivaled byTradeStation. Having dozens of charts streaming real-time data is as easy as a few clicks, and even the most picky trader will be satisfied with the 200 plus technical studies available for each chart, not to mention that each study can be customized thereafter. The possible combinations are endless.

TD Ameritrade review thinkorswim charting

TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim is also home to a slew of advanced tools and functionality. Whether it be CNBC TV, alerts, heat mapping, earnings calendars, stock scanners, options screeners or back-testing, the rabbit hole goes as far as any trader's imagination will take them. One of the newest innovations is thinkorswim Sharing, which gives clients the ability to share workspaces, charts, studies, trade templates, and more via email or social media.

And if thinkorswim wasn't enough, TD Ameritrade also has a web-based platform, Trade Architect, which is designed with more casual investors in mind. The tools and functionality are purposely kept simple, and the design is clean with visual flare. Everything ran smoothly in my Chrome browser, bug-free, and I quickly became a fan of the platform wide streaming real-time quotes. I could only find one flaw: no virtual trading support.

From testing every broker, the streaming watch list functionality Trade Architect offers is my favorite. It isn't just the cleanness of the data it also offers the flexibility, ease-of-use, and depth of data. The layout is completely customizable, and having access to visual data such as quote trends, trade trends, relative range, and the 52-week range was simply icing on the cake.

TD Ameritrade trade architect watchlist

Final Thoughts

TD Ameritrade is one of those companies that just gets it. They understand their clients, the value of a high quality user experience, and they know what it takes to stay ahead of the competition.

Any investor, new or seasoned, will find TD Ameritrade to be a great fit for their needs. The only gripe with the broker is cost, but what you pay for is what you get, and the quality delivered by TD Ameritrade is, without a doubt, worth the extra few dollars per trade. TD Ameritrade is No. 1 in my book.


Blain Reinkensmeyer

Reviewed by

Blain has been involved in the markets for over 12 years, heading StockBrokers.com equity broker research and reviews. His personal blog, StockTradingToGo.com, provides to-the-point daily market recaps to over 17,000 subscribers.

Commission Notes

Our TD Ameritrade review revealed an online broker with no hidden fees. Their commission structure is centered around flat-rate trading. All stock trades are $9.99 regardless of the order size, price, time of order (regular market hours, pre hours, after hours), and order type (market order, limit order, stop order, etc.). Options trades are $9.99 + $.75 per contract. Broker assisted trades cost $44.99. Mutual funds cost $49.99 per trade. There is no commission charge for loaded funds, just the fees charged by the fund itself.

While TD Ameritrade has no minimum funding required to open an account, special promotions may have specific requirements. In addition, electronic funding has a minimum of $50 and Options/Margin privileges on an account require a minimum of $2,000 funded.

Trade Commissions Breakdown

$9.99 Stock Trade Fee (flat)*
N/A Stock Trade Fee (per share)*
$9.99 Options Base Fee*
$0.75 Options Per Contract Fee*
$19.99 Options Exercise Fee
$19.99 Options Assignment Fee
$49.99 Mutual Fund Trade Fee
$44.99 Broker Assisted Trades Fee
$0.00 Minimum Deposit

Margin Rates

9.00% Under $24,999.99
8.75% $25,000.00 to 49,999.99
8.50% $50,000.00 to $99,999.99
7.50% $100,000.00 to $249,999.99
7.25% $250,000.00 to $499,999.99
7.25% $500,000.00 to $999,999.99
7.00% Above $1,000,000.00

Miscellaneous Fees

$0.00 Bond Trade Fee
$25.00 Treasury Trade Fee
$0.00 CD Trade Fee
$34.99 IVR Trade Fee
$0.00 IRA Annual Fee
$0.00 IRA Closure FEe
$25.00 Forced Margin Sellout Fee
$25.00 Returned ACH Fee
$25.00 Returned Wire Fee
$0.00 Stock Certificate Processing Fee
$0.00 Stock Certificate Delivery Fee
$0.00 Paper Statement Fee
$0.00 Paper Confirmation Fee
$0.00 Domestic Wire Fee
$0.00 International Wire Fee

Broker Ratings

Overall
Commissions & Fees
Ease of Use
Research
Platforms & Tools
Customer Service
Mobile Trading
Offering of Investments
Education

Broker Awards

2014

TD Ameritrade finished #1 Overall with 4.5 stars; Best in Class for Platforms & Tools, Research, Customer Service, Education, Mobile Trading, Active Trading, Options Trading, and New Investors; Was awarded #1 Desktop Platform for thinkorswim. Read the 2014 Online Broker Review.

2013

TD Ameritrade finished #1 Overall with 4.5 stars, was awarded Best Desktop Platform, ranked #1 for New Investors, received 5 stars for Platforms & Tools as well as Education, and received numerous 4.5 star ratings and Top 10 Category finishes. Read the 2013 Broker Review.

2012

TD Ameritrade was rated #1 Overall with 5-stars and Best in Class for Platforms & Tools, Ease-of-Use, Research, Customer Service, Investor Community, Investor Education, Active Trading, and Options Trading. In addition, they also received 2012 Best Web Based Platform with thinkorswim winning Best Overall Trading Platform. Read the 2012 Broker Review.

Offering of Investments

Yes Stock Trading
Yes Options Trading
Yes Mutual Funds
Yes Forex Trading
Yes Futures Trading
Yes OTCBB / Pink Sheets
Yes DRIPs
Yes After Hours Trading
101 Commission Free ETFs
151 Retail Locations
7115 Mutual Funds (Load)
3878 Mutual Funds (No Load)
2510 Mutual Funds (NTF)
13503 Mutual Funds (Total)
4 Complex Options Max Legs
TD Ameritrade Clearing, Inc. Clearing Firm
Yes No Maintenance Fees
Yes No Minimum Deposit
Yes No Fee IRAs
Yes Broker Assisted Trades

Research

Yes Mutual Funds Research
Yes Pink Sheets / OTCBB Research
Yes Fixed Income Research
Yes Global Market Overview
Yes Equity Research - SEC Filings
Yes ETF Research - Top 10 Holdings
Yes ETF Research - 3rd Party Reports
Yes Fund Research - Strategy Overview
Yes Fund Research - 3rd Party Reports
Yes Fund Research - Fees Breakdown
Yes Fund Research - 3rd Party Ratings
Yes Screener - Stocks
Yes Screener - ETFs
Yes Screener - Funds
Yes Screener - Options
Yes Screener - Bonds

Banking

Yes Checking Accounts
Savings Accounts
Credit Cards
Yes Debit Cards
Mortgage Loans
Yes Retail Locations
Yes No Fee Banking
Yes Mobile Check Deposit
Yes ATM Fee Reimbursement

Customer Service

Yes Phone Support
Yes Email Support
Yes Live Chat (prospect clients)
Yes Live Chat (current clients)
Yes 24/7 Support

Recommended For

Best in Class Commissions & Fees
Yes Best in Class Platforms & Tools
Yes Best in Class Research
Yes Best in Class Customer Service
Yes Best in Class Ease of Use
Yes Best in Class Investor Education
Yes Best in Class Mobile Trading
Yes Best in Class Active Trading
Yes Best in Class Options Trading
Yes Best in Class New Investors

Mobile Trading

Yes iPhone App
Yes iPad App
Yes Android App
Yes Mobile Site

Platforms & Tools

Yes Virtual Trading
Yes Web Platform
Yes Desktop Platform
Yes Mac Platform
Yes Platform Backtesting
Yes Trade Hot Keys
Yes Streaming Time & Sales
Yes Level 2 Quotes
Yes Streaming CNBC TV
Yes Sitewide Real-time Quotes
Yes Watchlist Streaming Real-time Quotes
Yes Options - Chains Basic View
Yes Options - Chains Spreads View
Yes Options - Greeks Analysis

Active Trading

Yes Internalizes Trades
Yes Receives Payment for Order Flow
Yes Direct Market Routing (Stocks)
Client Liquidity Rebates
1519 # of Easy to Borrow Stocks

Education

Yes Investor Dictionary
Yes Live Seminars
Yes Investor Community

Compare TD Ameritrade:



All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 04/07/2014 and is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. The StockBrokers.com staff is constantly working with its online broker representatives to obtain the latest pricing data. If you believe any data listed above is inaccurate, please contact us using the link at the top of this page. * For stock trade rates, advertised pricing is for a standard order size of 500 shares of stock priced at $30 per share. For options orders, an options regulatory fee per contract may apply. Options are not suitable for all investors as the special risks inherent to options trading may expose investors to potentially rapid and substantial losses. Options trading privileges subject to TD Ameritrade review and approval. Please read Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options (http://www.optionsclearing.com/about/publications/character-risks.jsp) before investing in options. Offer valid for one new Individual, Joint or IRA TD Ameritrade account opened by 12/31/2014 and funded within 30 days of account opening with $2,000 or more. To receive $100 bonus, account must be funded with $25,000 or more within 30 days of initial minimum funding. To receive $300 bonus, account must be funded with $100,000 or more within 30 days of initial minimum funding. To receive $600 bonus, account must be funded with $250,000 or more within 30 days of initial minimum funding. Please allow 3-5 business days for any cash deposits to post to account. Offer is not transferable and not valid with internal transfers, accounts using the Amerivest service, TD Ameritrade Institutional accounts, and current TD Ameritrade accounts or with other offers. Qualified commission-free Internet equity, ETF or options orders will be limited to a maximum of 250 and must execute within 90 days of account funding. Contract, exercise, and assignment fees still apply. Limit one offer per client. Account must remain open with minimum funding required for participating in the offer for 9 months, or TD Ameritrade may charge the account for the cost of the cash awarded to the account. TD Ameritrade reserves the right to restrict or revoke this offer at any time. This is not an offer or solicitation in any jurisdiction where we are not authorized to do business. Please allow 3-5 business days for any cash deposits to post to account. Taxes related to TD Ameritrade offers are your responsibility. Retail values totaling $600 or more during the calendar year will be included in your consolidated Form 1099. TD Ameritrade Inc., member FINRA/SIPC/NFA.. TD Ameritrade is a trademark jointly owned by TD Ameritrade IP Company, Inc. and The Toronto-Dominion Bank. © 2014 TD Ameritrade IP Company, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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