The Schwab acquisition of TD Ameritrade progresses, with completion expected during the next 12 to 18 months. In the meantime, new investors can open an account at either firm. In aggregate, these investment brokers offer a vast list of investment assets, account types, 24/7 phone customer service, branch access, and excellent educational resources. Small investors looking for fractional shares will gravitate towards Schwab’s Stock Slices as TD Ameritrade doesn’t offer them. Similarly, those seeking an all-digital investment advisor will select Schwab’s Intelligent Portfolios, as TD Ameritrade’s Essential Portfolios is no longer accepting new clients. 

Serious and advanced traders may prefer TD Ameritrade’s award-winning thinkorswim trading platform. Everyone in between should be satisfied with either firm. The similarities are more numerous than the differences between these two as the assimilation continues. This review highlights the distinct features as well as overlaps at Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade to help you decide which is a better fit for your portfolio needs.

  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: $0 for stock/ETF trades, $0.65 per contract for options.
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  • Account Minimum: $0.00
  • Fees:
  • $0.00 for equities/ETFs.$0.65 per contract for options.Futures $2.25 per contract
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Charles Schwab vs. TD Ameritrade: Usability

Both Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade will meet the needs of most investors and traders. The user experience on each platform is excellent, with many features available with one click from the home page. 

TD Ameritrade is known for its highly regarded thinkorswim trading platform that's available for desktop, web, and mobile trading. In fact, it's the winner of our Best Broker for Beginners, Best for Mobile, and Best Broker for Mobile Options Traders. Schwab also offers an expansive website, a strong desktop trading platform called StreetSmart Edge, and the Schwab mobile app. 

Schwab enables a holistic experience and allows customers to link to external accounts for comprehensive portfolio analysis. TD Ameritrade has the lead in terms of trading with its expansive and customizable thinkorswim platform. Usability on both platforms is excellent.

Charles Schwab vs. TD Ameritrade: Trade Experience

Desktop Trade Experience

The desktop landing pages for Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade have nearly the same menu items. Your account information is front and center with the expected portfolio data for each position, including price, cost, market value, gains, and losses. Traders can easily transition to the trading platforms, and those seeking basic buy and sell choices can select these options from the home screen dashboard. 

Serious traders and investors will find what they need with the StreetSmart Edge and thinkorswim desktop platforms. Each is customizable with robust charting capabilities and features to customize trading strategies, including options strategies. Both Schwab and TD Ameritrade desktop platforms support conditional orders.

TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim trading platform is superior to StreetSmart Edge with better charting and superb options analytical tools to change strategies, trade variables, and projection analytics. Thinkorswim will transition to Schwab in 2023, according to a Schwab representative. The desktop experiences are comparable, but active traders and investors would probably prefer TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim platform with stronger charting and top-notch options trading analytics and tools.

Mobile Trade Experience

Both Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade have good mobile experiences and include many of the web-based features on the apps. Each offers investors two mobile apps, one for the general website and another for the respective trading platforms, Schwab’s StreetSmart Edge and TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim. Neither app includes fixed-income investing.

The TD Ameritrade mobile app offers broad market news, research capabilities, account information, trading, and access to education. The thinkorswim app provides traders with the opportunity to invest on the go. The thinkorswim mobile app enables stock, complex options, futures, and forex trading. You can even chat with a trading specialist in real time through the app. 

Schwab’s mobile app is well regarded and it's easy for less sophisticated investors to use. You’re able to place trades, view news and quotes, build customized watchlists, and keep an eye on your portfolio. The StreetSmart Edge mobile app features don’t compare with the breadth of trading features available through the desktop app, so Schwab’s active traders should probably stick to the computer-based trading platform.

Overall, Schwab’s general app is a notch ahead of the TD Ameritrade app in user experience, while the thinkorswim app beats Schwab’s StreetSmart Edge when it comes to trading.

Charles Schwab vs. TD Ameritrade: Range of Offerings

Schwab and TD Ameritrade each offer the typical asset classes found at large brokers, including stocks, fixed income, ETFs, mutual funds, options, forex, and futures. Schwab offers a wider range of international stocks than TD Ameritrade. Each platform has avenues to access cryptocurrency exposure as well, from OTC trusts like the Grayscale funds to the futures cryptocurrency products available at TD Ameritrade. These include Bitcoin futures, micro Bitcoin futures, Ether futures, and micro Ether futures.

Most investors will be happy with the available products at either broker. TD Ameritrade has some additional futures options, but these niche investments will soon be part of the combined Schwab brokerage. 

Charles Schwab vs TD Ameritrade Range of Offerings
Asset Charles Schwab TD Ameritrade
Short Sales  Y Y
No-Load, No-Fee Mutual Funds  20,000+ 3,600+
Bonds  Y Y
Futures/Commodities  Y Y
Futures Options  Y Y
Complex Options  Y Y
Robo Advisory Y Y
Cryptocurrency  Only CME futures Only CME futures
International Exchanges 12 non-US markets; investment service consultant can provide access to foreign share trading exchanges across 30 countries Canada; more international exchanges can be traded using broker assistance
Forex  Y, 8 pairs AUD; CAD; EUR; GBP; HKD; JPY; NOK Y, 73 pairs
Fractional Shares  Y N
OTCBB and Penny Stocks Y, but with a $6.95 flat fee Y, but with a $6.95 flat fee

Charles Schwab vs. TD Ameritrade: Order Types

Both Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade can handle standard limit, stop loss, stop limit orders, and trailing stops. Advanced and conditional orders such as one-triggers-other, one-cancels-other, and order-triggers-other are available on the StreetSmart Edge and thinkorswim trading platforms. Given the similarities between Schwab and TD Ameritrade when it comes to order types, this category is a draw.

Charles Schwab vs. TD Ameritrade: Trading Technology

Charles Schwab uses proprietary technology to route orders, and it rates highly for obtaining price improvement on 96.6% of orders (for orders of 500 to 1,999 shares) with an average of $0.0192 in savings per share. Execution speed is 0.04 seconds. Schwab receives payment for order flow (PFOF) coming out to roughly $0.00066 per share.  Schwab also provides qualifying customers with portfolio margin, typically up to 50% of the value of their account.

Only Schwab also offers account holders the ability to purchase fractional shares of as little as $5, allowing small investors to participate in ownership of high-priced stocks like Tesla and Amazon, which can trade for more than $1,000 per share. 

TD Ameritrade also benefits from PFOF, collecting $0.001 per share over the period we looked at. It is interesting that TD Ameritrade came in higher, but both Schwab and TD Ameritrade collect much less than firms like Robinhood and Webull. TD Ameritrade customers can route their own equity and options orders to select exchanges. Investors can also benefit from price improvement through TD Ameritrade’s proprietary routing software. Orders routed through TD Ameritrade’s order routing system see price improvement 98% of the time. Orders fill in 0.04 seconds and the average price improvement per share is $0.0132. 

Both TD Ameritrade and Schwab’s trading platforms allow traders to backtest their trading strategies. Neither TD Ameritrade nor Schwab assists customers to achieve higher cash yields or automatically transfers cash balances to high-yield money market accounts.

The trading technology category is also a tie, although smaller investors might benefit from Schwab with access to fractional shares. Similarly, advanced investors will gravitate towards TD Ameritrade’s award-winning thinkorswim trading platform. 

Charles Schwab vs. TD Ameritrade: Costs

As is the norm now, U.S. stocks and ETFs trade commission-free at both investment firms. Schwab offers thousands of no-transaction-fee mutual funds, with commissions up to $74.95 to buy funds that levy commissions. On November 4, 2022, margin rates for up to $24,999 clock in at 12.075% for Schwab customers. TD Ameritrade is more modest, with hundreds of no-transaction-fee mutual funds. Those that do charge commissions range from $49.95 to $74.95 to purchase. TD Ameritrade’s margin rates are more than 1% higher than Schwab’s, at 13.25% for borrowing between $10,000 to $24,999. Heavy margin users might consider seeking out a broker with lower margin rates.

Which broker you will prefer depends upon which products and services you use the most. For mutual fund and margin investors, Schwab is better.

Charles Schwab vs. TD Ameritrade: Account Research Amenities

Both TD Ameritrade and Schwab’s research features are comprehensive and accessible. The Schwab platform offers screeners, proprietary Schwab stock lists, and in-depth stock research tools including third party analyst reports. TD Ameritrade has a unique Bond Wizard as well as screeners for most assets and research reports. The trading platforms on each site offer a wealth of technical and fundamental research and charting tools. Most investors will be content with the research amenities on either site, especially since they will be merged within a year or so.

Charles Schwab vs. TD Ameritrade: Portfolio Analysis

Both TD Ameritrade and Schwab allow aggregation of outside accounts to provide a full financial picture for clients. They both provide excellent tools and calculators for portfolio analysis, including tools for margin, portfolio mix, retirement and income guidance, tax efficiency, life events, and options pricing and probabilities. Rebalancing, benchmarking, internal rate of return, tax impact analysis, and other tax accounting tools are also available. 

TD Ameritrade includes the ability to access the well regarded Morningstar portfolio X Ray analysis tool. Schwab provides the complimentary Schwab PlanTM, a digital financial planning tool to help users meet their retirement goals. We gave a slight edge to Schwab’s offering of tools, calculators, and portfolio analysis even though both companies have strong offerings in this area.

Charles Schwab vs. TD Ameritrade: Education

Schwab and TD Ameritrade both have excellent resources to educate investors and traders. This includes articles, videos, webcasts and in-branch educational events. Schwab won our Best ETF Screeners category while TD Ameritrade took our Best Broker for Investor Education category. The TD Ameritrade Network is a particularly noteworthy offering, with its live and recorded video content spanning markets, investing, and more. TD Ameritrade provides hands-on learning through paper trading in addition to investment education that uses technology to deliver innovative content in a personalized way. TD Ameritrade is the ultimate winner of the best educational offerings of all online brokers.

Charles Schwab vs. TD Ameritrade: Customer Service

Both TD Ameritrade and Schwab provide solid customer service. Unlike most online brokers, both brokers have a wide branch network with offices throughout the United States. TD Ameritrade and Schwab also have 24/7 phone and live chat help options, as well as easy access to financial advisors to assist customers with strategy and trading ideas. Our research found that Schwab’s average wait time on customer service calls is 102 seconds, compared with TD Ameritrade’s 43 seconds—neither of these are very long wait times. That said, TD Ameritrade won our Best Broker for Customer Service with shorter wait times than at Schwab.

Charles Schwab vs. TD Ameritrade: Security

Security on Schwab and TD Ameritrade is largely comparable. Both brokers offer dual-factor identification, biometric fingerprint and facial recognition, and additional loss protection beyond Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) through insurance policies in London. As a reminder, insurance is provided for broker malfeasance and bankruptcy, not to compensate for normal losses due to investment market volatility. Investors can feel confident in the top-notch security protocols at both TD Ameritrade and Schwab. 

Charles Schwab vs. TD Ameritrade: Account Types

Charles Schwab has a multitude of accounts and services to meet the needs of a new investor or an experienced investor. 

  • Individual and joint taxable
  • Corporate and business taxable
  • Global (access to 12 international markets in local currency)
  • Traditional, Roth, inherited, and rollover IRA
  • Individual and business IRA and 401(k) 
  • Trust
  • Custodial and 529 college savings plan
  • Charitable

TD Ameritrade offers suitable investment accounts for individuals, families, and business entities.

  • Individual and joint taxable
  • Corporate and business taxable
  • Guardianship or conservatorship
  • Traditional, Roth, inherited, and rollover IRA
  • Individual and business IRA and 401(k) plans
  • Trust
  • Specialty including partnerships and investment clubs
  • Custodial and 529 college savings plan
  • Charitable

The account types at Schwab and TD Ameritrade will suit nearly every type of investor from business to 529 college savings plans. The Account Type category is a draw between Schwab and TD Ameritrade. 

Final Verdict

This is a unique final verdict, as within the next year or so, most of the services at TD Ameritrade will be incorporated into the Schwab brand. That includes merging branch networks and transitioning thinkorswim to Schwab. So, for the next year, whether you choose to open an account at TD Ameritrade or Schwab will depend upon whether specific features at TD Ameritrade are not available at Schwab. 

For active and sophisticated traders who need the best-of-breed trading platform, you’ll likely select TD Ameritrade for access to the thinkorswim platform. Beyond that specific case, we believe that either platform will offer most investors a solid user experience, broad investment assets, sound customer service, and excellent research tools. In our conversations with Schwab and TD Ameritrade representatives, the companies have promised to keep the best features of their respective platforms. The end result of the merger should be a better platform than each investment brokerage currently has on its own.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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Investopedia is dedicated to providing investors with unbiased, comprehensive reviews and ratings of online brokers. Our reviews are the result of months of evaluating all aspects of an online broker’s platform, including the user experience, the quality of trade executions, the products available on its platforms, costs and fees, security, the mobile experience and customer service. We established a rating scale based on our criteria, collecting thousands of data points that we weighed into our star-scoring system.

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