TD Ameritrade ReviewOpen an Account
Fantastic platforms thinkorswim and Trade Architect; rich research offering; largest selection of commission free etfs; 24/7 customer service; easy to use website.
Short-term trading fee charged if a commission-free ETF is sold within 30 days of purchase; no load mutual fund trades cost $49.99.
|Commissions & Fees|
|Platform & Tools|
|Ease of Use|
2013 Review Star Ratings
N/A - Not Applicable
|N/R||Commissions & Fees|
|1st||Platforms & Tools|
N/R - Not Ranked in Top 10
N/A - Not Applicable
TD Ameritrade Review
When searching for a perfectly rounded broker, finding the right mix is no easy task. Trade costs, ease-of-use, trade platforms, research, customer service, and the like 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.
If having access to 24/7 customer support with email and phone is important to you, then TD Ameritrade has you covered. Emails are often returned within a few hours (I've had several returned within an hour), and the phone system is quick to navigate and connects you to a rep almost instantaneously.
For a full-service broker, great customer service is expected. Scottrade and Charles Schwab also have wonderful support, and Fidelity isn't too far behind. However, none of TD Ameritrade's competitors have Ted. Ted is TD Ameritrade's virtual account rep who answers questions (think of an automated FAQs area) and provides links to more information. When testing Ted, he rarely misunderstood my questions.
Live chat support is also offered, but only through the thinkorswim platform. Using live chat through thinkorswim is done through private chat rooms, and the reps are lightning fast to reply. One time, I asked a question and had two reps join the conversation almost immediately (one kindly left). These little "above and beyond" occurrences add up and are noticeable.
The bottom line when it comes to support is that TD Ameritrade delivers a five-star experience 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 the exception being Scottrade who charges only $7 per trade. However, full-service brokers aside, there are several lower cost, flat-fee trade brokers. OptionsHouse charges only $3.95 per trade, TradeKing $4.95, and tradeMONSTER charges $7.50, just to name a few. Like all things though, the lower rate comes at a cost of a lower quality experience.
|TD Ameritrade||Etrade||Charles Schwab||Fidelity||Scottrade|
|Mutual Funds ($)||$49.99||$19.99||$76.00||$49.95||$17.00|
Out of all the online brokers, TD Ameritrade does stand out by offering the largest selection of commission-free ETFs (Etrade offers the second most with 93 total); more than 100 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.
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 personal 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. Top this off with the site-wide snap ticket - which streams real-time quotes, makes placing trades a breeze, and gives quick access to research - and ease-of-use is taken to a new level.
Platforms & Tools
While there are many stand out 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 many details.
Run as a desktop application, thinkorswim is so advanced that it is only rivaled by TradeStation. 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's thinkorswim is also home to a slew of advanced tools and functionality. Whether it be CNBC TV, alerts, heatmapping, earnings calendars, stock scanners, options screeners or back-testing, the rabbit hole goes as far as any trader's imagination will take them.
And if thinkorswim wasn't enough, TD Ameritrade also has a web based platform, Trade Architect, which, despite my best efforts, I could not find something I did not like. Everything ran smoothly in my Chrome browser, and I immediately fell in love with the platform wide real-time streaming data alongside the watchlist functionality.
From testing every broker, there is no streaming watch list that comes close to what Trade Architect offers. It isn't just the cleanness of the data, but also 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.
Just like thinkorswim, the list of details goes on and on for Trade Architect. Heat mapping, CNBC TV, and what is known as the "Grid" tab for advanced trading were some of my other favorite features of the platform.
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 #1 in my books.
Compare TD Ameritrade to Key Competitors
Trade Commissions Breakdown
|$9.99||Flat-Fee Trade Plan*|
|N/A||Per-Share Trade Plan|
|$9.99||Options Base Trade Fee*|
|$19.99||Options Exercise Fee|
|$19.99||Options Assignment Fee|
|$49.99||Mutual Fund Trade Fee|
|$44.99||Broker Assisted Trade Fee|
|8.75%||$25,000.00 to $49,999.99|
|8.50%||$50,000.00 to $99,999.99|
|7.25%||$100,000.00 to $249,999.99|
|7.00%||$250,000.00 to $499,999.99|
|7.00%||$500,000.00 to $999,999.99|
|$0.00||Bond Trade Fee|
|$25.00||Treasury Trade Fee|
|$0.00||Certificate of Deposit (CD) Trade Fee|
|$34.99||Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Phone 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 Transfer 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||Outgoing Domestic Wire Transfer Fee|
|$0.00||Outgoing International Wire Transfer Fee|
Commission NotesOur 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.
2013 Review Results - 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 Review Results - 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.
Misc. Account Information
|TD Ameritrade Clearing, Inc.||Clearing Firm|
|101||No. of Commission-Free ETFs|
|108||No. of Retail Locations|
|5793||No. of Mutual Funds (w/ Load)|
|4568||No. of Mutual Funds (No Load)|
|23||No. of 3rd Party Research Report Providers|
|4||Max. No. of Legs (Complex Options)|
|No Minimum Deposit|
|No Maintenance Fees|
|Online Trader Community|
|Live Chat Support|
|24/7 Customer Support|
|Long Term Trading|
|Credit Card Accounts|
|Debit Card Accounts|
Trading Platform Features
|Web Browser Platform|
|Windows Desktop Platform|
|Mac Desktop Platform|
Active Trading Features
|Direct routing offered to clients|
|Broker receives payments for order flow|
|Broker internalizes trades|
|Clients receive rebates for adding liquidity|