Warrior Trading Blog

TD Ameritrade Broker Review 2018

td ameritrade

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 $6.95 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.

TD Ameritrade Commission Comparison

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.

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.

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.

Check out how TDAmeritrade compares to other brokers by clicking on the image below!



  • Bryan W

    December 25, 2017 at 6:55 pm

    I found the platform is resource hog. Almost uses 1 GB of RAM vs TC2000 using 100MB. Load time is more than 3x as TC2000. About 35 seconds, vs TC2000’s 10seconds on my computer. And a little laggy despite running 2.5 GB dual core i5 with 8GB of RAM.

  • Bradley F.

    March 21, 2018 at 4:35 pm

    TD Ameritrade definitely has a great platform called the “Advanced Dashboard”, the issues come when you trade consecutively, one after the other. I’ve missed trades where I bought in at the precise perfect moment only to realize that my trade was “Under Review”. Very disappointing to put the work in on your watch list in the morning, track the few you have interest in and go in at the right time for it to tell me my account trade is under review. Does it buy in after the review is completed or at that price? I assume the former. I don’t have time for someone to review my trades when 10 minutes is the amount of time i need buy in and get out. Obviously as a bank, they apparently value security highly enough to miss out on the opportunity to make money off of high frequency day-traders. Sucks for both of us as I did start gelling with their platform and the fact that you have the opportunity to trade out of your TFSA (Tax Free Savings Accounts) means your really making back your commissions big time. Anyways! On to TradeZero for me! Maybe if I contribute my profit from there I can still at least take advantage of the tax-free portion.

  • Walther van Stipriaan

    April 15, 2018 at 8:54 am

    I don’t fully understand the high commission piece.
    Lightspeed might be cheaper on first sight, but you pay considerable for trading high volume shares, well in excess of what you are paying with TDAmeritrade.
    I went with Lightspeed for a week or so and although fast and good I want to be able to do trades not just solely from my laptop and not pay as much in commissions. So if you are an active trader and sometimes hold on to stock a bit longer and not always able to access your laptop plus want to pay considerable lower commission TD Ameritrade is a very good option.

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