TD Ameritrade Review

By on August 22, 2013

TD Ameritrade Logo
This week in our brokerage review series: TD Ameritrade.

NB: As I always mention to readers, there is no “one size fits all brokerage”, so when shopping around, it’s important to look at a variety of things. My advice is to figure out your realistic goals and expectations (ie. are you looking for the lowest commission, the shiniest tools, no-fee ETFs, or a little bit of one-on-one help with your portfolio), and find a broker that can help you get the job done without costing you too much.

That said, I think TD Ameritrade is worth looking into if you want a pretty well-rounded broker with nice tools, lots of customer support, lots of no-fee ETFs, and mid to high range pricing. Active and highly experienced traders can find better options.

If you read this review and decide to open an account, check here to see a list of current promotions they have running.

Now, let’s get into this review.

Since I can remember, TD Ameritrade’s has always upheld a solid reputation in the online brokerage community, and with the (relatively) recent acquisition of the top-notch trading platform thinkorswim (previously Barron’s #1 rated brokerage for several years running), they have significantly boosted their standing amongst their competitors even higher. They may not be the cheapest brokerage around, but in terms of investments offered, availability of high-tech research and trading tools, and quality of customer service, TD Ameritrade is definitely worth checking out for most beginner to novice investors.

A Brief Overview

Best For: A wide assortment of investors, from beginners (Barron’s rated TD Ameritrade as “#1 for Novices” in 2013) to long term investors or seasoned pros who don’t mind paying slightly higher fees to access a massive menu of investment offerings that many online brokerages may not offer.

Mobile Platforms: Browser, Apple*, Android, Blackberry.

*Note: the main website can be a little confusing at first glance, but it does, in fact, work on Macs & Linux.

Investment Offerings: stocks, mutual funds, bonds, options, equities, ETFs, FOREX (137 pairs), futures, international exchanges, and access to IPOs.

Newsworthy Mentions: “#1 For Long Term Investing” and “#1 for Novices” by Barron’s (2013), rated 5 stars for “Trading Tools” by SmartMoney Magazine (2012).

Minimum Deposit to Open an Account: $0.

Special Offer –  Join TD Ameritrade. Trade free for 60 days + Get up to $600

Trading Tools

There’s a reason TD Ameritrade’s options and mobile trading platform was rated #1 by Investor’s Business Daily in 2013: most brokers simply cannot keep up with the in-depth market research reports and excellent trading tools. If slick tools is one of your top priorities, then TD Ameritrade might be right for you. Here’s a taste of what you get:

Basic Features: live streaming quotes, market analysis and commentary, research reports, Level II quotes, active investor community to sponge ideas from.

Trade Architect: TD Ameritrade’s web platform, Trade Architect, is your one-stop shop for overseeing your trades and monitoring the market. Here, you can get comprehensive stock information in the form of condensed research, charts, news reports, and more. Strategic tools for managing your portfolio are also provided—with no platform fees.

Educational Resources

TD Ameritrade has a wealth of information available to their customers, categorized by three levels: Beginner, Advanced, Expert. Whether you’re looking for articles, webcasts, videos, courses, or calculators, TD Ameritrade likely has it. Also, if you open an account and fund it with a minimum of $2,000, you will be given free access to Investools Investing Foundation Program, which is worth $499 and offers in-depth courses and coaching for 90 days, as well as one-on-one coaching for 30 days. Nice.

Special Offer – Open an account with TD Ameritrade now and get $499 worth of education for FREE.

thinkorswim

Experienced traders who want more sophisticated software will do well to look into the thinkorswim pltform. As one of the top online trading platforms, thinkorswim has a plethora of in-depth tools, such as charting packages, order management systems, Market Monitor, beta weighting, Strategy Roller™, and more.

Mobile Trading

TD Ameritrade customers with Apple and Android devices have access to two different apps: TD Ameritrade Mobile and TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader. Both apps allow you to manage your accounts, monitor market activity, and trade on the go. For more information on the apps, visit TD Ameritrade’s mobile trading page.

Pricing Structure

The biggest disadvantage to opening an account with TD Ameritrade are the fees. If you prefer cost savings over a wide array of trading tools and customer assistance options, you might be better off investing with another online brokerage because TD Ameritrade isn’t exactly cheap. Here’s what they charge:

Stocks: $9.99
Options: $9.99 + $0.75 per contract
Mutual Funds: $49.99
Futures: $2.00 – $3.50 per contract
Broker-Assisted: $44.99
Margin Rates: Base + 1.25% to Base — 1.50%

As you can see, fees are comparatively higher with TD Ameritrade than they are at other online brokerages, such as Interactive Brokers, MB Trading or OptionsHouse. It’s also worth noting that international exchanges are completed with a live broker, so you’ll be paying $44.99 for each trade (much more expensive than other brokerages). There are, however, many no-fee ETFs through TD Ameritrade, which can save you money over the long term.

Special Offer – Open an IRA or roll over your old 401k and get up to $600 cash.

Opening an Account

TD Ameritrade currently has a special offer for new customers: open an account with a minimum deposit of $2,000 or more and receive commission-free trading for 60 days. Accounts with higher initial deposits may also qualify for free trades valued between $100-$600 (depending on the amount deposited). For more information, visit TD Ameritrade’s special offers page.

In addition to this new customer bonus, TD Ameritrade has a variety of account options available:

Individual/Joint account
Virtual Trading
IRAs (Traditional, Roth, SEP, SIMPLE, 401(k) rollover)*
Education accounts (IRA, 529 Plan)

*Worth mentioning: Kiplinger’s in 2012 deemed TD Ameritrade the best broker for IRAs.

For more information on how to open an account with TD Ameritrade, visit the FAQ section.

Customer Service

Services Offered: 24/7 customer support, email, phone, live chat.

TD Ameritrade is known for providing excellent service to its customers. Whether you have a question about using the trading tools or need help managing your account, TD Ameritrade representatives are willing to assist you.

Final Word

TD Ameritrade is a powerhouse in the field of online brokerages, thanks to both its reputation and its massive assortment of trading tools and investment options. The acquisition of thinkorswim seems to be attracting more experienced investors who want a solid platform with tools suited for more intensive trading.

This brokerage is also an excellent option for newer traders who want access to a plethora of educational resources (in the form of reports, videos, and courses) and want to learn the ropes with easy-to-use trading tools. The higher fees are pretty much the only thing holding TD Ameritrade back from being the clear-cut winner amongst brokerages, but for a majority of TD Ameritrade customers, having more investment options and top-notch trading platforms outweigh the cost factor.

Special Offer –  Join TD Ameritrade. Trade free for 60 days + Get up to $600

If you’ve used TD Ameritrade in the past, please help our community and add your own review of their product below.

In the spirit of full disclosure, this post may contain affiliate links, which means that when you click links and purchase items, Money Street Smart may get a referral commission. We only recommend products & companies that we firmly believe will help our readers, and when when you order through our links, it helps us to continue to offer you lots of free stuff. Thank you in advance for your support!
Russell Kith

About Russell Kith

Russell Kith grew up in small town Wisconsin, the youngest of 4 boys. Having devoted most of his adolescent years to troublemaking, he left home at 18 and roamed across the world taking a variety of jobs he declines to specify. These days, you can find him writing about personal finance on the web. You can follow Russell on Google+ or Twitter.

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