TD Ameritrade Broker Review – How It Matches Up
TD Ameritrade’s Thinkorswim trading platform is widely considered one of the best trading platforms available. It is a desktop application that offers access to real-time data streaming, charting, technical studies, stock scanners, research reports, and more. It has solid educational resources, including a learning center with instructional videos, online courses and trading demonstrations.
One of the highlights is the “On Demand” feature that allow traders to test strategies and practice using the platform using actual recordings of the market action without risk. These are often considered premium features by other online brokers. All of these tools as well as the entire Thinkorswim platform are available to all TD Ameritrade customers for free.
In 2015 Barron’s magazine rated Thinkorswim’s parent company – TD Ameritrade – #1 for Beginner Traders and #1 for Long Term Investing, and gave it top scores in the Mobile Trading, Range of Offerings, Research Amenities, Customer Service and Education categories. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine ranked it #1 for IRA accounts. SmartMoney magazine gave it a 5-star rating (the highest available) for Banking Services, Trading Tools and Research.
Where TD Ameritrade Thinkorswim Hits the Mark
Research and tools: Thinkorswim offers virtually everything an advanced trader would want in a platform, including customization of the workspace and the ability for traders to share their customizations with each other. Investors can also use scanners to filter stocks and options, view heat maps, use the company profile tool to analyze revenue and predict how it will affect returns, and access extensive third-party research.
The platform has an active trader community and forum that is used to share watch lists, charts and strategies, and streaming CNBC, Benzinga, and Dow Jones News are included. Thinkorswim also offers ThinkBack feature that permits traders to backtest strategies and access historical options prices.
Users may also perform a chance analysis for any existing or potential trade. One of the finest features of Thinkorswim is Analysis tab. It allows users to instantly view an active risk graph that will exactly show the most probable look of any trade setup. In addition to this, it will also instantly show the latest risk graph for any planned adjustments to the current trades a user might want to make.
Mobile trading: The Thinkorswim mobile app, available for Apple and Android, closely mimics the desktop platform. Investors can fund their accounts, initiate trades, watch streaming news and view charts, all from their mobile devices.
Investor education: The platform’s learning center has a wealth of instructional videos and how-to advice, there are daily “Swim Lessons” and platform demonstrations, and traders can practice trading with virtual margin accounts using the “On Demand” feature.
Executions: Historically Thinkorswim has had the reputation of slow executions and not a good platform for day traders, however the platform has Hotkeys and recently they have made considerable efforts to provide fast and seemless transactions.
Where TD Ameritrade Thinkorswim Misses the Mark
Commissions: TD Ameritrade’s commissions are higher than average at $9.99 per trade for stocks Many active traders are willing to pay the higher charge in exchange for Thinkorswim’s premium research and tools, which are free to clients regardless of account balance or trade volume.
Margin rates: Traders interested in margin accounts (which have a $2,000 minimum) will be disappointed in TD Ameritrade’s margin rates, which — like their commissions — are higher than average. The base rate is currently 7.75%, with a maximum margin rate of 9%.
Short List: TD Ameritrade’s short list is almost nonexistent. If you are a short biased trader you would not be happy.
Accessibility: Newer traders could be overwhelmed by the level of information and tools available and will feel more comfortable with a more streamlined platform or even the company’s standard web trading platform.
The Bottom Line
If it weren’t for TD Ameritrade’s high commissions and limited short list, thinkorswim would blow the competition out of the water. But even at the higher price point, the platform makes a very strong showing because of the wealth of free tools and research it offers. Those features make it a prime candidate for active traders.
Ameritrade Review – Final Thoughts
I’ve always been a big fan of Ameritrade, especially for the paper trading. It’s so brilliant the way they focus on paper trading because as soon as traders are ready to go live, of course they’ll want to stay with Ameritrade. A big part of learning is simply getting comfortable with how to use a platform.
The learning curve for their platform is definitely a bit steeper than competitors like ETRADE, Speedtrader, or Lightspeed. I would encourage traders to carefully review some of the close competitors for both price and features. For your average retail trader who may take 2-3 trades/week, this is a terrific platform, much like ETRADE, but with more advanced charts and options tools.
Although it’s not my primary trading platform, I have an account with Ameritrade which I use for options research. For an active day trader, the cost of commissions, the lack of customized hot keys and the lack of direct access routing, will be deal breakers.
Reviews by Warrior Trading