TD Ameritrade has been around for more than 35 years, and has solidified a reputation as one of the best, if not the best option for self-directed investors and traders. They placed just a small fraction of a point behind the #1 rated broker (TradeStation) in Barron’s 2011 review. With the recent platform integration of last years #1 ranked brokerage (thinkorswim), we fully expect them to be sitting in the top spot next year.
What they offer: State-of-the-art tools for casual investors and professionals, $9.99 trades, the most advanced options trading platform on the market, independent research, exceptional customer service.
How they compare: There are cheaper brokers out there, but going with one of them will mean sacrificing a bit in one form or another. TD Ameritrade excels because of their excellent trade experience, wide range of products to trade, and customer service reputation. If you’re price shopping, check out OptionsHouse or TradeKing (both are relatively close substitutes – cheaper but don’t offer as wide range of products). If you’re a pro and want direct market access, MB Trading and Interactive Brokers are solid alternatives.
The Verdict: You won’t be disappointed. With the acquisition of thinkorswim, TD Ameritrade is arguably the force to be reckoned with in the discount broker space. They get high marks across the board, except for price.
Where to join: Join TD Ameritrade. Trade free for 60 days + Get up to $600
In-Depth TD Ameritrade Review
Setting Up An Account:
Opening a TD Ameritrade account is pretty straight forward. The initial application takes no more than 10-15 minutes. There’s no minimum to qualify for an account, unless you want to open a margin account, which requires a $2,000 deposit.
- Stocks: $9.99 per trade.
- Options $9.99 + $0.75 per contract
- Mutual funds: $49.99
- Bonds: $25
- Futures: $2.00 – $3.50
- Margin rates: Tiered. Base rate +1.25% to – 1.5%
- There is no minimum account balance to hold a cash account. Minimum if $2,000 to trade on margin
- Zero maintenance or inactivity fees, no trade minimums.
- The commissions at TD Ameritrade aren’t the cheapest, but they get full points for being straightforward. They don’t charge any frustrating “garbage fees” like many other brokers. There isn’t even a fee to transfer out, which is rare.
Stocks, options, futures, FOREX, mutual funds, bonds, CDs, ETFs, no fee IRAs, education savings plans.
Ease Of Use:
Rated # 1 for “Trade Experience” by Barrons. TD Ameritrade is hard to beat in terms of usability. The platform is intuitive, customizable to your liking, and dead easy to navigate. Top marks in this category.
- Watch lists (sync with mobile trading apps).
- Powerful screeners.
- Customizable TradeArchitect web-based platform.
- Advanced thinkorswim platform for professional traders.
- Trade up to 8 options legs at once.
- Free independent research from Morningstar Associates and S&P.
- Live streaming quotes and real-time data.
- One-click trading.
- Customizable in-screen access to fundamental and technical analysis tools.
- Visual tools, heat maps, P&L graphs.
- Probability and volatility technical analysis tools.
- Ability to enter trades through various popular 3rd party applications.
TD Ameritrade receives the highest marks from every major review in the customer service category. Their service is lightning quick should you need it. You can reach a rep 24/7 via email, phone, live chat, or pop into a brick and mortar branch near you during regular business hours.
- #1 Overall Online Broker, Kipplinger’s 2011
- #1 For Options Traders, Barron’s 2011
- #1 For Trade Experience, Barron’s 2011
- 5 Stars Customer Service, SmartMoney
- 4.5 stars Overall (Highest Rating), Barron’s 2011
The Final Word…
All around, TD Ameritrade is a very solid pick. If you want to go cheaper, you’ll have to sacrifice either on range of investment products or customer service and usability. Now that they’ve picked up thinkorswim, we think they are poised to take a big piece of the market for casual investors and professional traders alike. If they lowered their price a touch, they could pose a serious threat to other discount brokers.
Current Promo Codes:
See all current TD Ameritrade Offer Codes.
Also Read: TD Ameritrade reviews by SmartMoney, Kipplingers and Barron’s.
Disclosure: Some of the links included in our reviews are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive a commission.