Fidelity and TD Ameritrade are among our top-ranking brokers for 2022. Both have websites packed with helpful features, news feeds, research, and educational tools. The two brokers also offer intuitive web-based, mobile, and desktop platforms to address the needs of both casual investors and frequent traders.
- Account Minimum: $0
- Fees: $0 for stock/ETF trades, $0 plus $0.65/contract for options trade
Get $100 when you open a new, eligible Fidelity account with $50 or more. Use code FIDELITY100. Limited time offer. Terms apply. Offer Disclosure.
- Account Minimum: $0
- Fees: Free stock, ETF, and per-leg options trading commissions. $0.65 per options contract.
Fidelity, founded in 1946, built its reputation on its mutual fund business. Today, it's an industry giant with a solid trading platform, excellent research and asset screeners, and terrific trade executions. TD Ameritrade is also a significant force in the industry. Founded in 1975, it offers outstanding educational content, live events, and robust trading platforms. In 2020, Charles Schwab announced it had acquired TD Ameritrade for $26 billion, a merger that’s expected to be complete in 2023.
In our Best Online Brokers reviews, Fidelity earned best for low costs and was also best overall. TD Ameritrade was best for beginners and best for mobile.
We found Fidelity to be quite user-friendly overall. It offers three platforms, including a web version, the downloadable Active Trader Pro, and Fidelity Mobile App. Opening an account is straightforward, and as with many brokers, you need to fill out additional paperwork to enable such features as margin and options trading. The company continues to invest in its systems and innovate within its online trading platforms, such as adding an enhanced investor dashboard that remembers where you were when you closed the program, so you start at that page on the next login. It also has added thematic baskets and customizable indexes that can be rebalanced for individuals.
TD Ameritrade supports five platforms: a web version for online access, thinkorswim (its advanced platform for active traders) which has both web and desktop versions, and two mobile apps—TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader and thinkorswim Mobile. It's easy to get started, and you can open and fund an account online or via the mobile app. Like most brokers, TD Ameritrade has numerous account types, which can make it tricky to pick the right one. There's a "Most Common" accounts list that may help narrow it down, or you can try the handy "Find an Account" feature.
Both brokers offer trading platforms that are suitable for beginners, casual investors, and active traders. It's worth noting, however, that Fidelity doesn't support futures, options on futures, or cryptocurrency trading—which could be a deal-breaker for some active traders. It should be noted that TD Amteritrade's cryptocurrency access is only via futures and not directly purchasing crypto. The two brokers have put effort into creating well-designed mobile apps with decent functionality. On Fidelity, you can trade the same asset classes on mobile as you can on its standard platforms, except for bonds. TD Ameritrade supports the same asset classes across all platforms.
Fidelity's web platform is reasonably easy to use. You can set a few defaults, such as whether you want to use a market or limit order, but you make most choices when you place a trade. Active Trader Pro is, not surprisingly, more powerful and customizable. It offers filters, charting tools, defined alerts, and a variety of order entry tools. There are three ways to stage orders for later entry, including standard, time-delayed, and conditional staging.
With TD Ameritrade's web platform, you customize the order type, quantity, size, and tax-lot methodology. Of course, its thinkorswim interface is more intuitive, easier to navigate, and you can create custom analysis tools using thinkScript (its proprietary programming language). It's easy to enter trade orders, stage orders, send multiple orders, and trade directly from a chart. Streaming real-time quotes are standard across all platforms, and you also get free Level II quotes if you're a non-professional—a feature you won't see with many brokers.
Fidelity's mobile app is easy-to-use. You can manage your orders, check pending transactions, and place trades. Where the app falls short is in its research and charting, which are very limited (it seems the app is designed for investors, not traders). Mobile watchlists are shared with desktop and web applications. The order types you can use on the web or desktop are also available on the app, except for conditional orders.
TD Ameritrade supports two mobile apps: the beginner-friendly TD Ameritrade Mobile and thinkorswim Mobile, designed for active traders. Both are robust and offer a great deal of functionality, including charting and watchlists. Streaming real-time data is included, and you can trade the same asset classes on mobile as on the other platforms.
Range of Offerings
TD Ameritrade offers all the usual suspects you'd expect from a large brokerage firm. While Fidelity supports trading across multiple assets, futures, options on futures, and futures on cryptocurrencies are missing from its product offerings. However, if you're a mutual fund trader, it might interest you that Fidelity has more no-load, no-fee funds in its lineup: over 3,300 versus around 1,600 for TD Ameritrade.
You can enter a wide variety of orders on Fidelity's web platform and Active Trader Pro, including conditional orders such as one-cancels-the-other (OCO) and one-triggers-the-other (OTO). Conditional orders are not currently available on the mobile app. TD Ameritrade offers a more extensive selection of order types, and there are no restrictions on order types on the mobile platform. Both brokers allow you to stage orders for later.
Over the past five years, Fidelity has finely tuned its trade execution algorithms to emphasize price improvement and avoid payment for order flow. On average, more than 98% of orders are executed at a price better than the national best bid or offer. Fidelity indicates that clients see average price improvement of about 0.018 per share.
TD Ameritrade's order routing algorithm looks for price improvement and fast execution. The company publishes price improvement statistics that show most marketable orders also get slightly more than 0.018 cents per share in price improvement, on average. TD Ameritrade receives some payment for order flow, but strives to maintain great execution quality while doing so. The company received around $0.0010 per share in payment for order flow according to our analysis. In terms of speed, TD Ameritrade reported faster execution at 0.04 seconds to Fidelity's 0.08 seconds.
Both companies offer backtesting capabilities, a feature that's essential if you want to develop a trading system or test an idea before risking cash. Fidelity's backtesting is done in the Active Trader Pro platform.
Although the two brokers are even in terms of price improvement and TD Ameritrade was faster, we give Fidelity the nod on trading technology for forgoing any payment on order flow.
Fidelity and TD Ameritrade offer free commissions for online equity, options, and ETF trades for U.S.-based customers. Both have per-contract options fees of $0.65, and both charge $49.95 for mutual funds outside the no-fee list. Fidelity will set you back more for broker-assisted trades ($32.95 versus TD Ameritrade's $25). Aside from TD Ameritrade's edge on the broker-assisted fee, Fidelity has eliminated a long list of account fees that TD Ameritrade continues to charge. Fidelity also charges less in margin interest (11.325% for $10,000 and 9.825% for $100,000) than TD Ameritrade (12.25% for $10,000 and 10.75% for $100,000). It is also important to note again that TD Ameritrade accepts payment for order flow on equities, while Fidelity does not.
Both offer multiple options to earn interest on your cash balances including sweeps. Both brokers have a stock loan program for sharing the revenue generated from lending the stocks held in your account, usually for short sales.
Overall, Fidelity has the edge when it comes to costs.
While each platform offers unique features, they're comparable in terms of research. Both have flexible stock, ETF, mutual fund, and options screeners to help you look for trade and investment opportunities. Options traders will appreciate TD Ameritrade's Option Hacker and Spread Hacker, tools on its thinkorswim platform that allow you to search for simple and complex options strategies. In addition to this already extensive list, TD Ameritrade recently launched more innovative features as well, such as the Social Sentiment tool which measures social media trends.
If you trade ETFs, Fidelity has a powerful screener that lets you search by themes and customize your screens using nearly 100 ETF criteria. The various thematic screens can be further customized by the user, including a recent enhancement that allows users to separate out what happened overnight before regular trading hours begin.
In addition to screeners, both brokers offer the tools, calculators, idea generators, news offerings, and professional research that you would expect from large brokerages.
Fidelity and TD Ameritrade offer similar portfolio analysis tools. With both, you have access to real-time buying power and margin information, internal rate of return, and unrealized and realized gains. Both offer tax reports and information. Fidelity allows you to aggregate your external accounts for a summary of your finances. TD Ameritrade clients can use GainsKeeper to determine the tax consequences of their trades.
Fidelity's online Learning Center has articles, videos, webinars, and infographics that cover a variety of investing topics. There are regular webinars and online coaching sessions for more advanced topics, and learning programs aimed at beginning investors on the app.
TD Ameritrade sets a high bar for trading and investing instruction. In addition to a robust library of educational content, TD Ameritrade a wide selection of webinars with great frequency in addition to their many in person workshops and branch seminars.
Both brokers offer excellent customer service. Fidelity has a 24/7 phone line, an online chat feature (limited hours), and a secure email portal. You can use the Virtual Assistant, a chatbot designed to help you find answers to your questions.
TD Ameritrade offers 24/7 phone support, as well as chatbots on Twitter, Meta Messenger, Apple Business Chat, and WeChat (in Asia). Live chat is supported on its app.
Fidelity and TD Ameritrade's security are up to industry standards. You can log into the apps using biometric (face or fingerprint) recognition, and both brokers protect against account losses due to unauthorized or fraudulent activity.
Fidelity carries excess of Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) insurance with a per-customer limit of $1.9 million on cash awaiting investment, the maximum excess SIPC protection currently available in the brokerage industry. There's no per-customer dollar limit on coverage of securities, but the total aggregate excess policy is $1 billion. TD Ameritrade's excess of SIPC insurance provides each client with $149.5 million worth of protection for securities and $2 million of protection for cash. This insurance covers investors beyond what the SIPC provides which is $500,000 of protection and a $250,000 for cash. This protection covers you if the brokerage should go bankrupt or fail.
TD Ameritrade and Fidelity both have all the standard account types. These include:
- Taxable brokerage account
- Rollover individual retirement accounts (IRA)
- Traditional IRAs
- Roth IRAs
- Inherited IRAs
- Simplified employee pension (SEP) IRA
- Self-employed 401(k)s,
- SIMPLE IRAs
- Custodial accounts
- 529 accounts
- Trust and estate accounts
- Health savings account (HSA)
- Fully managed accounts
- Charitable accounts
Both these brokers have such a wide selection that most investors will only need a fraction of what is on offer. The only notable difference we found was that Fidelity has added a youth account where the youth is allowed to make their own investment decisions rather than a custodial setup.
Fidelity and TD Ameritrade are well-respected industry powerhouses. Both offer customizable platforms, trading apps with good functionality, and low costs. Fidelity offers excellent value to investors of all experience levels, and it may be a good fit for some active traders (remember, it doesn't support futures trading).
Due to its comprehensive educational offerings, live events, and intuitive platforms, TD Ameritrade is our top choice for beginners. Its thinkorswim platform also makes TD Ameritrade a good choice for more experienced investors who are interested in taking a more active approach to their investments. If you don't need futures and are agnostic on everything else, Fidelity is our default top pick because is very focused on lowering costs and delivering value. If you are a trader, however, the edge goes to TD Ameritrade mainly on the strength of the thinkorswim platform and the ability to trade futures.
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