TD Ameritrade® review 2021

James Royal is a reporter covering investing and wealth management. Before joining Bankrate, he worked as a writer for NerdWallet and a stock analyst for The Motley Fool. He holds a doctorate in literature from the University of Florida.

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TD Ameritrade Logo

Best For

  • Trading platform and mobile app
  • Full-service experience
  • Research and education

TD Ameritrade offers the full-service online broker experience, making it a good fit for investors beginning and advanced. Active traders will find a highly capable trading platform (also available in a mobile version), while newer investors have a ton of research and education options to get them up to speed. Wherever you sit on that spectrum, you’ll get a wide range of investment types and account types, making the broker a great pick if you want to grow your relationship with other accounts (IRA, joint, 529 and more). 

(Charles Schwab has purchased TD Ameritrade, and will eventually integrate the two companies.)

TD Ameritrade at a glance

Star Rating

5
  • Affordability: 5 of 5
  • Usability: 5 of 5
  • Tools & Research: 5 of 5
  • Mobile: 5 of 5
  • Scalability: 5 of 5
  • Minimum Balance:
    $0
  • Cost per stock trade:
    $0
  • Cost per options trade:
    $0.65 per contract
  • Promotion:
    Up to $2,500 in cash
  • Commission-free mutual funds or ETFs:
    All
  • No-transaction-fee mutual funds:
    4,100+ NTF mutual funds
  • Securities tradable:
    Stocks, ETFs, bonds, mutual funds, options, futures, forex, cryptocurrency
  • Customer service:
    Phone 24/7, email, More than 175 branches, Facebook/Twitter messaging
  • Account fees:
    $75 transfer fee
  • Mobile app:
    TDA offers the TD Ameritrade Mobile and thinkorswim Mobile apps on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

Top features you’ll love

A range of trading platforms

Like most brokers, TD Ameritrade offers a trade ticket so that you can quickly input orders and execute trades. It gets right to the point, and it’s easy for one-off orders, when you want to trade and go. But the broker also offers two high-featured platforms that can do much more.

Web platform: The broker’s classic platform does all the fundamentals – trading stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds and options. It also includes streaming news, third-party research and watchlists.

Thinkorswim platform: This platform ups the ante, with the addition of futures, forex, and futures options on top of the web platform’s tradable securities. You’ll be able to trade some of these securities 24 hours a day, five days a week. With access to more than 400 technical studies, charting tools and advanced analytics, the platform is a professional-grade suite with many of the toys experienced traders are looking for. It comes in web, desktop and mobile versions.

Trading simulator

TD Ameritrade’s simulator – called paperMoney – lets you practice your trading strategies, setting users up with $100,000 in virtual cash, as well as a margin account to increase your buying power. The simulator uses the broker’s robust thinkorswim trading platform, and is free for customers — though it’s also available for a 60-day trial run for non-customers.

You’ll get to customize the platform’s layout, backtest your strategies, and generally do anything else that you’d be able to do on the real-money platform.

Pros: Where TD Ameritrade stands out

Commission-free stock trades

Like most of the online brokerage industry, TD Ameritrade slashed commissions on stock and ETF trades to $0, putting it among the leaders in the industry. It also cut commissions on options trades, slicing its base commission to $0 and dropping its per-contract fee to $0.65, a figure that's in line with other major peers such as Charles Schwab and Merrill.

Fee-free funds

TD Ameritrade does right by investors here, offering more than 4,100 no-transaction-fee mutual funds. That’s a boon for investors who focus on funds. TD Ameritrade offers among the largest number of such funds and allows you to screen the funds for a variety of characteristics (though the screening function is not as useful as it could be). Each fund has a page dedicated to showing its key statistics, including holdings, performance across various time periods and more.

Investment selection

You can trade almost anything you want at TD Ameritrade – stocks, bonds, options, forex, futures and of course funds. And if cryptocurrency is your thing, you can trade that via futures contracts. Although the broker has promised direct trading in cryptocurrency, it’s uncertain whether that will be unveiled since it’s been in process for quite a while. 

Research and education

TD Ameritrade offers education for beginners on up — with live webcasts, news and analysis on almost any market-related topic. From basic “how to trade stocks” guides to arcane options trading sessions, you’ll find many of the investing education resources you’ll need to help make the most of TD Ameritrade. TD Ameritrade even takes advantage of its physical presence, offering in-house sessions for investors at its more than 175 branch locations.

Those investing in individual stocks will appreciate the broker’s research, including reports from Morningstar, Credit Suisse, CFRA, The Street and many others. Each stock page includes access to SEC filings, earnings transcripts, and any related news, so you’re fully up to date.

Mobile apps

TD Ameritrade offers not one, but two apps, corresponding to the broker’s two trading platforms. TD Ameritrade Mobile mimics much of the more straightforward desktop platform, offering practical functionality in an easy-to-use package.

Meanwhile, the thinkorswim Mobile app transforms the thinkorswim platform into your handheld device. It offers more advanced trading, such as futures and multi-legged options, so you can trade virtually anything as long as you’re web-enabled. You can also stream video from CNBC and the TD Ameritrade Network while getting access to Level II quotes.

Quick comparison of Brokerage options:
Brokerage Overall Rating Avg. Cost Per Trade Usability Rating
TD Ameritrade logo
$0 5 of 5

Cons: Where TD Ameritrade could improve

Account fees

While TD Ameritrade doesn’t charge an inactivity fee, it does impose a $75 transfer-out fee, though partial transfers are free. And although the broker doesn’t impose a fee for trading some mutual funds, it will dock you a short-term trading fee of $49.99 if you don’t hold the fund for at least 180 days. It does not charge a short-term redemption fee on ETFs, however. 

Mutual fund fees

TD Ameritrade offers more than 13,000 mutual funds, and more than 4,100 of them can be traded without incurring a transaction fee. However, if you don't trade one of these fee-free funds, you'll be stuck with a $49.99 commission for no-load funds. For load funds, the broker won't charge you a fee, but you'll likely be hit with an even bigger sales commission.

Fractional shares

The broker allows you to reinvest your dividends into partial shares of stock, but does not permit you to purchase stock as fractional shares. That’s too bad since fractional shares are a great way for newer investors to get all their money invested in those high-priced securities they want. 

Meanwhile, key rivals such as Schwab and Fidelity offer both fractional purchases and dividend reinvestment. For TD Ameritrade customers it may be something of a moot point, however, as Charles Schwab begins integrating the broker into its own operations. 

Bottom line

If you’re considering becoming a TD Ameritrade client at this point – and you have plenty of good reasons – you’ll also want to consider whether Charles Schwab is a good fit for you, since TD Ameritrade will be integrated into that broker’s platform in 2022 or 2023. That said, TD Ameritrade has many great things to offer investors today. 

  • TD Ameritrade provides a ton of complementary research as part of its offering, and the education component offers lessons on the fundamentals to the very advanced. 
  • The broker offers a full suite of services, account types and investments, so you can do almost anything you need and all for zero commission on most major products. 
  • The high-caliber tools, trading platform and mobile apps mean that active traders and even aspiring active traders have a lot to work with here. 

Investors looking for other brokers that provide meaningful research and education may want to look at Schwab, Fidelity Investments or Merrill Edge, the latter of which offers its in-house reports and research. If you’re looking for a wide selection of investment types, check out Interactive Brokers, where you’ll have access to dozens of markets.  

 

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