TD Ameritrade Review
TD Ameritrade delivers the ultimate trading package. Highlights include $0 stock and ETF trades, fantastic trading platforms, excellent market research, industry-leading education for beginners, and reliable customer service. This outstanding all-round experience makes TD Ameritrade our top overall broker in 2020.
Top Takeaways for 2020
After spending five months testing 15 of the best online brokers for our 10th Annual Review, here are our top findings on TD Ameritrade:
- Once again, TD Ameritrade bested its competitors in our rigorous testing and came out on top as our #1 Overall broker. Alongside placing first Overall, TD Ameritrade finished first in four other categories: Platforms and Tools, Customer Service, Education, and Beginners.
- TD Ameritrade's desktop trading platform, thinkorswim, is our top recommendation for traders in 2020. The mobile app companion to thinkorswim, Mobile Trader, also won our award for the No. 1 Trader App. Needless to say, TD Ameritrade delivers for all trader types, including day traders, options traders, and futures traders.
- Thanks to technology and artificial intelligence (AI), customers can access TD Ameritrade's quote and basic account functionality everywhere, from Alexa to Facebook, Twitter, Apple Messages, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay. TD Ameritrade also runs its own media network, where it broadcasts market commentary, interviews, and educational segments every trading day. Oh, and yes, stock and ETF trades are $0.
- Get up to $375 and trade commission-free with TD Ameritrade. Open Account
TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab
On November 25th, 2019, Charles Schwab announced it was acquiring TD Ameritrade in an all-stock transaction valued at approximately $26 billion. The deal closed on October 6th, 2020. At the time of closing, the combined company housed roughly $6 trillion in assets and 28 million brokerage accounts.
Charles Schwab estimates the integration will take between 18 and 36 months from closing. Thus, for the time being, it is business as usual for TD Ameritrade, and our review reflects our unbiased views on TD Ameritrade as a standalone brokerage.
|Commissions & Fees|
|Offering of Investments|
|Platforms & Tools|
|Ease of Use|
Commissions & Fees
Thanks to a pricing war in late 2019, on October 3rd, 2019, TD Ameritrade slashed its $6.95 stock trades (including ETFs) rate down to $0, with options trades now costing just $0.65 per contract.
However, despite $0 stock and ETF trades, there is still a $6.95 flat-rate fee for trading penny stocks.
TD Ameritrade pricing summary:
|Stock Trade Fee (per trade)||$0.00|
|ETF Trade Fee||$0.00|
|Options Base Fee||$0.00|
|Options Per Contract Fee||$0.65|
|Mutual Fund Trade Fee||$49.99|
|Broker Assisted Trades Fee||$44.99|
Platforms & Tools
Once again, for the ninth consecutive year, TD Ameritrade is number one for trading platforms and tools, thanks to desktop-based thinkorswim. Whether you are day trading, options trading, or futures trading, thinkorswim desktop is a winner. And, for casual investors, TD Ameritrade’s latest platform addition, thinkorswim web, is great.
thinkorswim desktop charting: As far as charting goes, thinkorswim is so advanced it is rivaled only by TradeStation. A few clicks of the mouse will have dozens of charts streaming real-time data. Even the pickiest trader will be satisfied with the 400+ technical studies available, which is the highest in the industry. Better yet, each study can be customized using thinkScript, thinkorswim's proprietary coding language.
thinkorswim desktop trading tools: TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim is home to an impressive array of tools. Highlights include virtual trading with fake money, performing advanced earnings analysis, plotting economic (FRED) data, charting social sentiment, backtesting with thinkOnDemand, and even replaying historical markets tick-by-tick. TD Ameritrade also enables traders to create and conduct real-time stock scans, share charts and workspace layouts, and perform advanced options analysis. The rabbit hole goes as far as any trader's imagination will take them. It's a dazzling offering of choices that will set your mind spinning – in a good way.
thinkorswim desktop Earnings Analysis: The thinkorswim Earnings Analysis tool is my favorite for planning ahead for earnings releases and assessing each company's results afterward. The tool plots price action and volatility before and after previous releases. It also pulls data from Wall Street analysts and crowd-sourced ratings from Estimize to plot EPS estimate ranges alongside actual results. The whole experience brings clarity with much less noise. It's awesome.
thinkorswim web: Compared to thinkorswim desktop, TD Ameritrade's newest platform, thinkorswim web, provides an easy way for traders to quickly manage their account while accessing essential trading features. For example, headlines stream from top-tier provides such as Dow Jones Newswire and charts come with 11 indicators, while thinkorswim desktop offers multiple news providers and over 400 indicators.
thinkorswim web tools: While thinkorswim web appears simple on the surface, there are a handful of advanced functions underneath the hood. For example, you can place multi-legged options orders and chose from five default strategies, all from within the same trading window within charts. Also, when you create an order, it is saved on the same page as the ticker symbol, so if you switch views to another symbol, then come back, the order is still there until you execute or delete it.
Thanks to the TD Ameritrade Network and a unique line-up of tools, TD Ameritrade provides investors a substantial research offering.
TV network and video: The TD Ameritrade Network, TD Ameritrade's live streaming financial network, broadcasts live every day from 8:00 ET to 5:00 ET and includes an excellent mix of market analysis as well as trader education. Schwab is the only other online broker to offer live broadcasting during market hours. Broadcasting aside, TD Ameritrade also provides streaming TV from CNBC for the US, Europe, and Asia trading sessions.
Market commentary: TD Ameritrade provides written daily market commentary and analysis through The Ticker Tape portal. Content is widespread, covering day-to-day markets as well as general finance, savings, retirement, and trader education. Together with The Ticker Tape, TD Ameritrade publishes thinkMoney, a quarterly print (and digital) magazine, which focuses entirely on education. The bottom line is that for stock and options trading, TD Ameritrade is great. For long-term investing and retirement-related content, I prefer Fidelity Viewpoints and Schwab Insights.
TD Ameritrade Autotrade: TD Ameritrade's website includes a handful of unique tools. For example, the Autotrade service (not available for IRA accounts) is a tool that lets you automate the trade recommendations (signals) from third-parties such as the TradeWise options newsletter, alongside ten other providers.
Social sentiment: There is also social sentiment data available within thinkorswim that tracks the number of times a symbol was mentioned on Twitter and includes rankings. For example, if you pull up a chart of Tesla (TSLA), you can see the social sentiment displayed on the chart, including the percentage of negative, neutral, and positive mentions.
Community features: Through thinkorswim, traders can chat in chat rooms and share trade ideas through myTrade and see the trades shared by others from within the Trade Fees section on thinkorswim.
To score Customer Service, StockBrokers.com partners with customer experience research group Confero to conduct phone tests from locations throughout the United States. For our 2020 Broker Review, 280 customer service tests were conducted over ten weeks.
- Average Connection Time: <1 minute
- Average Net Promoter Score: 9.5 / 10
- Average Professionalism Score: 9.1 / 10
- Overall Score: 9.43 / 10
- Ranking: 1 st (14 brokers)
With mobile, TD Ameritrade took a different approach by offering not one but two smartphone apps: TD Ameritrade Mobile and thinkorswim Mobile. TD Ameritrade Mobile is designed for casual investors. Meanwhile, thinkorswim Mobile is designed for the feature-hungry active trader. Both apps are fantastic.
TD Ameritrade Mobile: TD Ameritrade Mobile welcomes everyday investors with a customizable dashboard. Navigating the app is seamless and includes all the features any investor could want. Watch lists sync with your account, are streaming, and fully customizable. Meanwhile, stock quotes include price alerts, news, clean (and fully-featured) charting, and third-party ratings are accompanied by PDF research reports. Placing trades is a breeze; the list goes on and on.
thinkorswim Mobile: Looking at mobile apps specifically, thinkorswim Mobile is my top pick for traders in 2020. Upon login, you are taken straight into your watch lists, which sync with the thinkorswim desktop and web version. In fact, the app mirrors the thinkorswim desktop throughout. Charting includes all 400+ indicators from the desktop platform, and chart preferences sync in the cloud. Orders and alerts management is fluid, and I really love the easy access to Trader TV, which includes not only the TD Ameritrade Network but CNBC as well.
AI and tech innovation: TD Ameritrade was one of the first brokers to offer an Alexa Skill, and in August 2017, it became the first broker to integrate with Facebook Messenger, embracing the future of artificial intelligence (AI) with its own chatbot. Next, in 2018, Apple Business Chat, which I am using more and more frequently to grab quick stock quotes. Then, in 2019, TD Ameritrade for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto both rolled out. All in all, TD Ameritrade is the undisputed leader in mobile and can be found everywhere you are.
Offering of Investments
TD Ameritrade provides everything one might expect of a full-service brokerage, from stock trading to retirement guidance. All account types are supported. Also offered are both futures and forex trading. If there is one drawback, it is with international trading; TD Ameritrade customers can only trade US and Canadian-listed securities.
Hands down, there is no better broker in which to learn the basics of the stock market than TD Ameritrade. Excellent education makes TD Ameritrade an easy winner for beginners.
Education overview: Organized into courses with quizzes, over 200 videos are available, which all include progress tracking. Also provided each month are hundreds of webinars and educational sessions, and the website gamify learning by awarding points alongside badges to encourage further education. Education is also broadcasted through the TD Ameritrade Network.
Podcasts and other media: I found the six episodes in the Talking Green podcast excellent with insights into behavioral finance to help you improve your relationship with money. In addition, TD Ameritrade has several YouTube channels, including one dedicated to its Trader Talks series with over 1,000 archived webcasts.
Other resources: TD Ameritrade even publishes its own magazine, called thinkMoney, and blog, The Ticker Tape. Finally, the thinkorswim Learning Center provides advanced education on all things technical analysis related, including coding custom indicators.
TD Ameritrade provides essential banking services to customers through 260 retail service centers across the United States.
Banking overview: Like its closest competitors, TD Ameritrade offers mobile check deposit, online bill pay, and ATM fee reimbursement. TD Ameritrade also offers cash management accounts with FDIC-insurance protection. For investors who maintain high amounts of uninvested cash in their brokerage accounts, TD Ameritrade, like most other brokers, does not share the interest it earns.
TD Ameritrade is a technology-focused company that understands its customers and delivers a high-quality client experience. Despite now being owned by Charles Schwab, it is business as usual for TD Ameritrade. According to widely publicized comments from Charles Schwab, current TD Ameritrade customers will not see any shifts in their day to day account experience until at least 2022. Being a TD Ameritrade client myself for nearly two decades, I will be sure to keep this review up to date with the latest.
Any investor or trader, new or seasoned, will find TD Ameritrade a great fit for their needs. The main gripe with TD Ameritrade used to be trading costs, but with TD Ameritrade offering $0 stock and ETF trades, TD Ameritrade is undoubtedly on top in 2020.
About TD Ameritrade
Headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, TD Ameritrade was founded in 1975 as one of the first online brokerages in the United States (1). On November 25th, 2019, Charles Schwab announced it was acquiring TD Ameritrade in an all-stock transaction valued at approximately $26 billion (2). The deal closed on October 6th, 2020 (3). At the time of closing, the combined company housed roughly $6 trillion in assets and 28 million brokerage accounts
2020 Review Methodology
For the StockBrokers.com tenth annual best online brokers review published in January 2020, a total of 3,540 data points were collected over five months and used to score brokers. This makes StockBrokers.com home to the largest independent database on the web covering the online broker industry.
Participation is required to be included. Each broker completed an in-depth data profile and provided executive time (live in person or over the web) for an annual update meeting. Our rigorous data validation process yields an error rate of less than .001% each year, providing site visitors quality data they can trust. Learn more about how we test.
About the author: Blain Reinkensmeyer As Head of Research at StockBrokers.com, Blain Reinkensmeyer has 18 years of trading experience with over 1,000 trades placed during that time. Referenced as a leading expert on the US online brokerage industry, Blain has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Forbes, and the Chicago Tribune, among others.