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Updated on Monday, March 15, 2021
TD Ameritrade has one of the strongest online presences in the brokerage industry, but it also offers the convenience of a traditional brokerage house, with over 175 brick-and-mortar branches in 44 states and the District of Columbia. This means TD Ameritrade straddles the line between online and full-service brokers.
Plus, with Charles Schwab completing its acquisition of TD Ameritrade in October 2020, additional features and services are likely to be rolled out. Combined with a wide range of account types, the online and physical capabilities of Schwab and TD Ameritrade make for a powerful combination.
- What TD Ameritrade offers and who it’s for
- TD Ameritrade fees and costs
- TD Ameritrade investing tools and research
- TD Ameritrade user experience
- TD Ameritrade investor education
- TD Ameritrade security
- Alternatives to TD Ameritrade to consider
What TD Ameritrade offers and who it’s for
If you’re looking to trade nearly any type of security, TD Ameritrade could be a good option. With no commission on stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), $0 commissions on options (with a $0.65 per contract fee), thousands of no-load and no-transaction-fee mutual funds and access to more advanced securities like forex and futures, TD Ameritrade checks all the boxes in terms of investment types.
Although TD Ameritrade is a low-cost provider, there can still be some costs involved. In addition to the per-contract fee for standard options, TD Ameritrade also charges a per-contract fee for futures and options on futures. A charge also applies to buying and selling over-the-counter stocks not traded on a U.S. exchange. And in spite of the name, no-load mutual funds carry a cost, though there’s no fee for no-transaction-fee and load funds.
- No account minimum: The lack of any investment minimum for new accounts is a great way for new investors to dip their toe into that world.
- No commission on most standard trades: Thanks to the competitive online brokerage landscape, TD Ameritrade charges $0 commissions on most stock and ETF trades, which is a great benefit for both new and veteran investors.
- Powerful research tools and analysis: Unlike some firms that simply offer low costs, TD Ameritrade provides its customers with a range of solid trading platforms and helpful analytical tools.
- Solid mobile apps: TD Ameritrade’s mobile apps bring its trading and research capabilities to traders on the go.
- Short-term mutual fund redemption fee: If you sell a no-transaction fee or load-waived A-share mutual fund within 90 days of purchase, TD Ameritrade charges a $49.99 fee.
- Advanced trading platforms can be confusing: Although many investors could benefit from TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim trading platform, for beginners — many of whom may be drawn to TD Ameritrade thanks to its low minimums and $0 commissions — the platform can be a bit confusing to use. As an advanced platform, thinkorswim bombards users with stock information, charting and a multitude of other customizable features that could overwhelm those who are new to stock trading.
TD Ameritrade fees and costs
|Option trading fees||$0 + $0.65 per contract|
|Stock trading fees||$0|
TD Ameritrade has gone the way of many popular online brokerages, meaning you won’t pay any commissions for stock and ETF trades. Options trades also have $0 commission, although there is a $0.65 per contract fee. There aren’t any annual or inactivity fees at TD Ameritrade. And while full transfers out of the account trigger a $75 fee, customers can make partial transfers for free.
Most of TD Ameritrade’s brokerage and trading fees are low or nonexistent, so many investors won’t end up paying much by way of fees overall. The firm does charge various service-oriented fees, as listed above.
Some of the fees only apply to customers with TD Ameritrade checking accounts, so not all brokerage customers will be affected. Customers can opt to have a brokerage account, a checking account or both, so fees will only apply to the applicable accounts selected. Having a checking account in conjunction with a brokerage account makes it easier and faster to transfer funds back and forth than if an external checking account was involved.
TD Ameritrade investing tools and research
TD Ameritrade customers can screen for securities matching particular variables. The firm offers stock, option, mutual fund and ETF screeners. Sample parameters include EPS growth, P/E ratio, dividend yield, Bollinger bands and many others.
Third-party analyst research
TD Ameritrade offers a wide variety of third-party analyst research coverage from firms such as Argus, Market Edge, CFRA, Vickers and Thomson Reuters First Call. Reports cover a wide variety of topics, from market movers to earnings surprises and insider trades.
Live streaming quotes
Customers at TD Ameritrade have free access to real-time streaming quotes, in addition to Level II quotes on all platforms for nonprofessionals.
Tools and calculators
Some of the many online tools and calculators available at TD Ameritrade include a retirement savings calculator, 401(k) fee analyzer, IRA selection tool, RMD calculator and inherited IRA & beneficiary tool. In addition, TD Ameritrade customers also have free access to the Morningstar Instant X-Ray tool for a deeper dive into specific securities.
Trading idea generators
Trade Flash helps TD Ameritrade customers generate trading ideas and strategies based on real-world market data, such as high-quantity trades, substantial price movements, analyst upgrades and so on. The firm’s paperMoney virtual stock trading simulator uses real-time market data to enable customers to test out trading ideas and strategies without having to risk their own money.
In addition to providing extensive educational material on charting, TD Ameritrade offers comprehensive charting capability for customer accounts. Charts can extend up to 20 years on individual securities, and a variety of additional features are available, including moving averages to trendlines, upper and lower indicators and comparisons with other securities.
TD Ameritrade user experience
TD Ameritrade focuses on providing a varied and complete user experience, offering web, desktop and mobile trading platforms. Features available on these platforms include the following:
- Independent third-party research, educational resources and planning tools
- Latest financial news from Yahoo! Finance
- Elite-level tools to test strategies and perform analyses
- Idea generation with market scans and potential risk/reward monitors
- Platform tutorials and onboarding tools
- Downloadable and fully customizable software
- Intuitive interface with critical tools
- Preconfigured strategies that allow one-click trade setup
- Multiple device-optimized apps for mobile devices, including Apple Watch™
- Investment management and trading via mobile platforms
Each level of TD Ameritrade’s trading platform offers varying capabilities, and the web and mobile versions can have slight differences as well. One of the benefits of TD Ameritrade is that investors can pick and choose the platform that’s best suited to them, whether they prefer mobile, desktop or web-based functionality.
TD Ameritrade investor education
TD Ameritrade clearly emphasizes investor education on its website and mobile apps. Specific tools and tips provided by the firm include the following:
- Free online curriculum-based courses on topics including retirement, fundamental analysis, income investing, technical analysis and options trading
- Free instructional videos on a wide variety of investment topics, such as the power of compounding and tax-efficient investing
- Market news and videos via the TD Ameritrade Network
- Webcasts for different types of investors
Beyond these standout features, TD Ameritrade offers a wide variety of additional educational resources, from articles and in-person events to information on inherited accounts and taxes. The firm also runs the podcast Talking Green, focused on how investors interact with their money.
These types of extensive features are far beyond the basic articles and general investment information offered by some online competitors.
An additional feature that’s particularly helpful for traders is paperMoney, available on the thinkorswim platform. With paperMoney, traders can test out strategies using the same thinkorswim platform they would use when putting their own assets at risk. On the paperMoney platform, customers can trade up to $100,000 in virtual money risk-free.
TD Ameritrade security
- Asset protection guarantee
- FDIC and SIPC insurance
- Two-factor authentication
- Biometric technology
TD Ameritrade has many of the standard security features offered by online brokerage firms, including two-factor authentication and account shutdown in the event that fraudulent activity is detected. TD Ameritrade also offers an asset-protection guarantee in the event of loss due to unauthorized account activity.
TD Ameritrade is a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), which grants client accounts $500,000 in SIPC insurance, including a $250,000 limit for cash. CDs purchased through TD Ameritrade are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), as are cash deposits held in FDIC-insured deposit accounts.
Mobile apps offered by TD Ameritrade are protected by facial recognition and/or fingerprint ID, subject to the biometric limitations of an individual smartphone.
Alternatives to TD Ameritrade to consider
|Average Cost Per Trade||Minimum Deposit||Best for...|
|TD Ameritrade||$0||$0||Beginners and experts who want the backing of a branch network and a diversified account offering|
|E*TRADE||$0||$0||Active options traders, online traders|
|Robinhood||$0||$0||Online-only traders that need basic information and stock, ETF and crypto trading only|
TD Ameritrade vs. E*TRADE
E*TRADE and TD Ameritrade share two of the characteristics that are popular with customers: No account minimums and $0 commission on stock and ETF trades. E*TRADE charges just $19.99 for transaction-fee mutual funds, versus the $49.99 fee at TD Ameritrade. Its per-contract fee for options trades drops to $0.50 after 30 trades in a quarter, versus the level $0.65 per-contract charge at TD Ameritrade.
Although both firms offer educational resources for investors, the options available at TD Ameritrade are broader and deeper. In addition to general articles on investment knowledge, TD Ameritrade offers everything from webinars and videos to a podcast and an immersive curriculum; E*TRADE’s offerings are limited to articles, videos and an educational library.
Like TD Ameritrade, E*TRADE also has physical branches and advisory services, but fewer branches in comparison (30 located in 16 states, plus D.C.).
TD Ameritrade vs. Robinhood
Both TD Ameritrade and Robinhood have $0 commissions on most stock and ETF trades. However, Robinhood doesn’t charge a per-contract fee on options trades, whereas TD Ameritrade customers pay $0.65 per options contract.
Robinhood does come up short compared with TD Ameritrade when it comes to diversity of products and physical branch presence. While customers can buy many types of securities at TD Ameritrade, from stocks and bonds to CDs, futures, annuities and foreign currencies, Robinhood customers are limited to stocks, ETFs, ADRs and cryptocurrency. Robinhood also has no physical branches, making it a completely different experience than with TD Ameritrade, which offers branches in 44 states, as well as the District of Columbia.
All rates and fees mentioned in this article are accurate as of the date of publishing.