Recommended for investors and traders looking for solid research and a well-equipped desktop trading platform
This TD Ameritrade Review concludes that it is recommended for investors and experienced traders looking for solid research and a well-equipped desktop trading platform, the Thinkorswim platform.
It is one of the biggest US-based stockbrokers, founded in 1975. As an online broker, it is regulated by top-tier authorities like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
It is considered to be a safe broker as it has a long track record, is listed on a stock exchange, has a banking background, discloses its financials, and is overseen by top-tier regulators.
TD Ameritrade pros and cons
TD Ameritrade's trading fees are low, and its desktop trading platform the Thinkorswim platform is one of the best on the market. Its customer support team gives fast and relevant answers.
On the negative side, the broker's services are available only in the US and a few other countries, and you can trade only on US markets. TD doesn't accept credit/debit cards and electronic wallets for money transfers.
|• Low trading fees (free stock and ETF trading)||• You can trade only on US markets|
|• Superb desktop trading platform||• Accounts mostly limited to US residents|
|• Great customer support||• No credit/debit cards and electronic wallets for money transfer|
|🗺️ Country of regulation||USA|
|💰 Trading fees class||Low|
|💰 Inactivity fee charged||No|
|💰 Withdrawal fee amount||$0|
|💰 Minimum deposit||$0|
|🕖 Time to open an account||1-3 days|
|🎮 Demo account provided||Yes|
|🛍️ Products offered||Stock, ETF, Forex, Fund, Bond, Options, Futures, Crypto|
TD Ameritrade offers free stock and ETF trading, while forex, bond and options fees are also low. On the other hand, it charges high fees for futures.
|• Low trading fees||• High fund fees|
|• Low non-trading fees|
|• Free stocks and ETFs|
|Assets||Fee level||Fee terms|
|US stock||Low||Free stock and ETF trading|
|EURUSD||Low||The fees are built into the spread, 1.2 pips is the average spread cost during peak trading hours.|
|Mutual fund||High||$49.99 per transaction, although there are also ca. 4,000 free funds|
|Inactivity fee||Low||No inactivity fee|
How we ranked fees
First, let's go over some basic terms related to broker fees. What a trader needs to keep an eye on are trading fees and non-trading fees.
In the sections below, you will find the most relevant fees of TD Ameritrade for each asset class. For example, in the case of stock investing the most important fees are commissions.
We also compared the fees with those of two similar brokers we selected, E*TRADE and Charles Schwab so that you could find the best broker for your trading strategy. This selection is based on objective factors such as products offered, client profile, fee structure, etc. See a more detailed rundown of TD Ameritrade alternatives.
To have a clear overview of TD Ameritrade, let's start with the trading fees.
The trading fees are low. In 2019, many US brokers, including TD Ameritrade, scrapped commissions for stocks and ETFs.
Stock fees and ETF fees
TD Ameritrade provides free stocks and ETFs. This is in line with its competitors E*TRADE and Charles Schwab.
If you prefer stock trading on margin, you should check TD Ameritrade financing rates.
But what is the margin rate? A margin rate is charged when you trade on margin . This basically means that a trader borrows money or stocks from your broker to trade. For this borrowed money/stock you have to pay interest. It can be a significant proportion of your trading costs.
Margin rates are high: its USD margin rate is 9.5% while E*TRADE's is 9% and Charles Schwab's is 8.3%
Margin rates are volume-tiered . It applies a base rate plus a premium/discount depending on the borrowed amount. The base rate is set by TD Ameritrade and it can change from time to time. At the time of our review, the base rate was 8.25%.
The forex fees are low. Its main rivals offer forex trading, so we looked at Interactive Brokers to compare forex trading fees.
To have a clear picture on forex fees we calculated a forex benchmark fee for major currency pairs. This catch-all benchmark includes commissions, spreads and financing costs for all brokers.
Bond fees vary based on the bond type. We calculated the fees for US Treasury bonds , which are free to trade at the broker.
TD Ameritrade commission of a $10,000 government bond trade
US Treasury bond
While there is no commission for US Treasury bonds and a few other instruments, TD Ameritrade will charge $1 per bond on secondary transactions with corporate bonds (subject to a $10 minimum and a maximum of $500).
Options trading is available with fees that are similarly low to its competitors: stock index options commission of 10 contracts is $6.5 at this broker, as well as its main competitors E*TRADE and Charles Schwab. The options fees are based on the number of traded options contracts.
Next to options trading, futures available for experienced traders. Futures fees are high and are calculated on a volume basis, at $2.25 per contract.
|TD Ameritrade||E*TRADE||Charles Schwab|
|US micro e-mini stock index futures||$22.5||$15.0||$15.0|
Non-trading fees are low. For instance, there is no inactivity fee.
There is no withdrawal fee either if you use ACH transfer. Withdrawal via wire transfer, the only option available to non-US clients, costs $25. We tested ACH, so we were charged no withdrawal fee.
TD Ameritrade offers many different account types, and there is no minimum deposit for US citizens.
|• Fully digital||None|
|• No minimum deposit|
|• Many account types|
Can you open an account?
Can you open an account?
Mainly US clients are targeted. However, we have found that it is available in a few other countries as well: China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Brazil. Canadian clients can use TD Direct Investing solutions within the TD Group, but not TD Ameritrade.
There are many TD Ameritrade account types to choose from, from individual to savings accounts, like Roth IRA. All account types (including Roth IRA) can be seen after clicking the 'Open New Account' button.
Please note that services offered may vary from country to country based on the residence of the trader. For example, clients from Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore can't trade a mutual fund or forex; only stocks, ETFs, and options.
What is the minimum deposit?
The required minimum deposit at TD Ameritrade is $0 for US clients if you choose the basic cash account. It is worth noting, though, that the minimum deposit may be higher for other account types or trading preferences.
The minimum deposit for non-US clients may be higher. For example, the minimum deposit is $3,500 for Malaysian and Singaporean clients.
How to open your account
The account opening process is straightforward and easy . However, when you complete the online account opening form, you may be required to confirm your identity, by mailing or faxing the generated document and a copy of your ID card of choice. The good news is that the last time we opened an account, the process did not require paper documentation. In the course of separate attempts, it took us 1-3 business days to open the account.
If you are interested, TD also provides the chance to apply for a margin account. A margin account lets you trade with a bigger buying power if you meet the requirements. To enable a margin trading strategy, it has to be set within the account settings with at least $2,000 in deposits.
Online application took us roughly 20 minutes, and our account was verified within 3 business days.
Deposit and withdrawal
The account funding is user-friendly with no deposit fees, but USD is the only available base currency, and wire transfers incur a high fee.
|• Free withdrawal||• Credit/Debit card not available|
|• No deposit fee||• Only one account base currency|
|• User-friendly||• High withdrawal fee for wire transfers|
Account base currencies
You can hold your cash only in USD.
Deposit fees and options
Let's start with the good news. No deposit fees are charged. When it comes to deposit options, US clients can use checks, ACH and wire transfers, while clients from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, China, Taiwan and Singapore can use only wire transfer and checks.
Unfortunately, credit/debit cards and electronic wallets cannot be used.
|TD Ameritrade||E*TRADE||Charles Schwab|
We tested ACH transfer and it took 1 business day. The minimum transfer amount is $50. A wire transfer, on the other hand, can take several business days.
You can only deposit money from accounts that are in your name.
Withdrawal fees and options
No withdrawal fees are charged in most cases. The only exception we found was bank/wire transfer, which costs $25.
How long does it take to withdraw money? We tested the ACH withdrawal and it took 2 business days .
You can only withdraw money to accounts in your name.
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Web trading platform
TD Ameritrade offers a good web trading platform with a clean design. On the flip side, the platform is not customizable.
|• User-friendly||• Limited customizability (for charts, workspace)|
|• Two-step (safer) login|
|• Good variety of order types|
The web platform, available in English and Chinese is suitable for trading execution and research on investment products, like stocks and ETFs. If you are interested in trading complex products, the Thinkorswim platform, the in-house developed desktop platform of TD Ameritrade may be just right for you: it offers more products such as forex and futures and has a wide trading tool selection.
The web platform is user-friendly and well-designed and as a plus, two-step authentication is available. However, it is not customizable and is relatively basic compared with the desktop platform.
Other functions and features
The search functions are OK, automatic suggestion finds the asset well but it could be improved: a search for Apple stock lists it only in the third place.
You can choose from quite a few order types (i.e. Trailing stop %, Stop-Market) and a good selection of order time limits is available, too (i.e. Immediate or Cancel (IOC), Fill or Kill (FOK).
The portfolio and fee reports are clear, available for download but only in CSV format.
Mobile trading platform
The TD Ameritrade mobile app is great. It is user-friendly and well-designed.
|• Two-step (safer) login|
|• Good variety of order types|
There are two apps available, each suited to different levels of proficiency and investment goals. They are available for both iOS and Android in English (we tested the iOS version). As a unique feature among brokers both apps support. Apple Watch devices.
Similarly to the web platform, the mobile platform is user-friendly , offers two-step login , provides an OK search function , and you can easily set alerts .
Available order types and order time limits are almost the same as on the web platform (Day, GTC, Fill or Kill (FOK), All or Nothing (AON), All or Nothing (AON) are all available).
Desktop trading platform
The 'thinkorswim' desktop platform is one of the best on the market, we really liked it. The only feature we missed was a two-step authentication.
|• User-friendly||• No two-step (safer) login|
|• Good customizability (for charts, workspace)|
|• Good variety of order types|
|• Trading support functions|
|• Great learning materials|
The Thinkorswim platform is one of the best on the market, we really liked it.
Thinkorswim is available in English and Chinese and has a great design and it is easy to use. It is also highly customizable and offers great research functions.
The platform's search functions are OK. It has an automatic suggestion feature but relevancy leaves some room for improvement: i.e. Apple, tech giant Apple Inc. appears only in fourth place.
Beyond some standard ones, many order types are available including trailing stop %, stop-market, stop-limit and limit on close. This is coupled with a good selection of order time limits including fill or kill, and good ‘til canceled extended hours.
You can set alerts and notifications on the Thinkorswim desktop trading platform by using the MarketWatch function. From price to news alerts, you can find many alert types. Notifications are available via email or text message.
The desktop platform has clear portfolio and fee reports which is easy to customize.
Markets and products
You can trade many asset classes, from stocks to futures and forex, while nice extras include social trading and robo-advisory. On the other hand, only the US market is covered.
The service covers other areas, not just in trading or banking. They also have a managed portfolio (or robo) service. TD Managed Portfolios (was called TD Ameritrade Essential Portfolio before) provides goal-based automatic investment solution portfolios. The portfolios are based exchange traded funds (ETFs) mutual funds (aka not exchange traded funds). The name 'TD Ameritrade Essential Portfolio' is used only on TD's Canadian pages.
TD Ameritrade has great research tools, including trading ideas and detailed fundamental data.
|• Good interactive chart||None|
|• Trading ideas|
|• Data on asset fundamentals|
TD Ameritrade Customers can access a great customer service 24/7 and expect relevant answers.
|• Phone support||None|
|• Live chat|
|• Fast response time|
Their support is available on phone, email and chat in English, Chinese and Spanish with fast response times. Main pros of the customer support are the available phone support, live chat and the fast response times.
The live chat service is great. The answers are quick and relevant . There is also a Virtual agent called 'AskTed' that directs you to relevant FAQ pages. Although chatting with the live agent was more helpful, we appreciated the option to use this tool as well.
On phone customer support team was very kind, the agent was connected within minutes and gave relevant answers.
In email we've also received relevant answers within 1 day which is quick.
TD Ameritrade offers great educational materials such as webcasts and articles, and its excellent Thinkorswim desktop platform has a demo account.
|• Demo account||None|
|• Trading platform tutorial|
|• Educational videos|
The brokerage is overseen by top-tier US regulators like the SEC and FINRA. You are covered by a high investor protection amount, but negative balance protection is not provided.
|• Majority of clients belong to a top-tier financial authority||• No negative balance protection|
|• High level of investor protection|
|• Banking background|
The broker is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission, and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
Is it safe?
To be certain, we highly advise to check two facts:
- how you are protected if something goes wrong
- and what the background of the broker is.
Several legal entities are operated but all customers are covered by the US investor protection scheme, called SIPC. This is because it is the US legal entity, TD Ameritrade Clearing, Inc that provides clearing and custodial services and holds client assets on behalf of the other legal entities.
The SIPC protection scheme protects against the loss of cash and securities in case the broker goes bust. The limit of SIPC protection is $500,000, which includes a $250,000 limit for cash. This amount is substantially higher than the amount most national investor protection schemes provide. Plus, the company has an additional insurance policy for assets not covered by SIPC, which involves a total coverage of up to $152 million (including $2 million cash) per client; though it is capped at a total $500 million for all clients.
Not all investments are protected by SIPC, though. In general, SIPC covers notes, stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other investment company shares, and other registered securities. It does not cover instruments such as unregistered investment contracts, unregistered limited partnerships, fixed annuity contracts, currency, and interests in gold, silver, or other commodity futures contracts or commodity options.
It is one of the biggest US online brokers. It charges no commission on stock and ETFs.
Research and education are outstanding, the Thinkorswim desktop platform is one of the best on the market. Customer service is great.
The drawbacks are that it charges high financing (margin) rates, and it doesn't accept credit/debit cards and electronic wallets for money transfers. Furthermore, the product portfolio covers only the US markets.
We definitely recommend giving it a try, especially as their education tools include a demo as well.
Below you can find links to all aspects of TD Ameritrade in this comprehensive collection.
Lower fees, lower costs?
We detailed this in our TD Ameritrade fees article.
What about the minimum deposit?
Our ultimate guide to the TD Ameritrade minimum deposit is updated regularly.
How to start your TD Ameritrade account?
Look no further than our evaluation of the TD Ameritrade account opening.
How's their trading app?
Here's our expert view after checking the TD Ameritrade trading app.
Is the quality of customer service satisfactory?
All you need to know about the TD Ameritrade customer service.
Legit or scam?
Is TD Ameritrade legit features all the key aspects you need to look at to see if a broker is safe and legit.
Free or premium? Or both?
A glance at actual costs and whether TD Ameritrade is really free.
Is this broker good for beginners?
We checked it in Is TD Ameritrade good for beginners.
Should you buy your silver bullets on TD Ameritrade?
Research for silver bugs in the Silver buy on TD Ameritrade guide
I want to trade options, are they available at TD Ameritrade?
We explored the topic in Can you trade options on TD Ameritrade?