Interactive Brokers is a leader for active investors who are ready to jump into a platform and stick with it. Their proprietary and robust trading software has excellent back-end support; however, learning the ins-and-outs of the interface can be a challenge for novices to the platform. They often have the best prices in the game, although to get that price customer service is sub-par compared to the industry average.
TD Ameritrade has been a pioneer in the online brokerage industry since 1994 and is a very effective platform for traders of all types. Eleven million clients trust TD Ameritrade's wide selection of products, great customer support, and their free, pro-level platform. Compared to Interactive Brokers: they're more expensive but for that money comes a superior platform experience and access to research, insights, and education.
In our 2019 Best Online Brokers Awards, Interactive Brokers received awards for Best Overall Online Brokers, Best for Low Costs, Best for Options Trading, Best for Penny Stocks, Best for Day Trading, and Best for International Trading.
TD Ameritrade received awards for Best Overall Online Brokers, Best for Beginners, Best Stock Trading Apps, Best for ETFs, Best for Options Trading, Best for Roth IRAs, Best for IRAs, Best for Day Trading and, Best Web Trading Platforms.
- Account Minimum: $0
- Fees: $0.005 per share
- Account Minimum: $0
- Fees: $6.95 for stock and ETF trades, $6.95 per leg plus $0.75 for options
TD Ameritrade's desktop platform is split into two tiers, both of them are free and open to all account holders. Their web-based platform lacks streaming-quotes, and it doesn't support advanced orders like OCO and brackets. The firm's advanced thinkorswim software platform is well known for excellent charts, options analytical tools, and trading functions.
Graphs and charts are easier to view and manipulate on Interactive Brokers' clean mobile app.
- Easy to navigate for both mobile and desktop
- Lightening fast trade execution
- IB Key technology for more security
- Feature-rich thinkorswim platform
- Comprehensive options chains and in-depth charting functionality
- Timely data and technical analysis
Mobile and Emerging Tech
Interactive Broker's mobile app can't compare to the desktop's trading functions but is fine for casual users. One drawback is that when the mobile app is opened, the desktop app closes automatically. This concession in the name of security can be annoying, but not a deterrent for casual investors.
TD Ameritrade also offers two mobile apps: "TD Ameritrade Mobile" which is for casual investing; and "TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader" which is ideal for active traders. Both apps offer the basics of trading and banking, but the mobile trader app adds more than 300 technical studies, and live streams CNBC. Paper money, trade equities, multi-leg options, futures, Forex, and price quotes are all available through the mobile trader app.
- Trade anywhere across PCs, web pages, and mobile apps
- Can't have mobile and desktop open simultaneously
- Two mobile apps for both investors and active traders
- Mobile Trader has streaming news and advanced trading features
News and Education
Interactive Brokers' offers several useful special features which can help investors think about the risks of certain trades and help decipher options markets, including one called the "Probability Lab." However, these features are difficult to access through the platform because of the Java-based menu drilling needed to find them. Interactive Brokers does offer its Traders University and Traders Academy through the site which have video and interactive courses on subjects including options, forex, and technical analysis.
TD Ameritrade’s tools for options and technical analysis through the thinkorswim software platform are excellent. Traders can choose from different types of charting applications, hundreds of technical studies, and save their favorite layouts. The options analysis tools are complex and powerful as well and are complemented by a full range of education and support. TD Ameritrade also offers paper trading.
Interactive Brokers' education is weak compared to TD Ameritrade's top-of-the-line educational opportunities. There is content addressing specific market topics, but the gaps are obvious. For example, Interactive Brokers’ Traders' Academy seems intended to provide detailed course material but has just two programs, TWS for Beginners and an Introduction to Options. New traders will find TD Ameritrade’s educational courses and lessons very helpful. Videos, articles, quizzes, and exercises from both Investools and thinkorswim cover just about any investing topic in great depth. The archive of educational content at TD Ameritrade goes back more than 15 years.
- Educational resources available to members through Traders Academy
- Video and interactive courses include forex and options courses
- Trader's University available with free webinars and courses
- Broad range of educational information
- Wide array of technical analysis studies and charting applications
- Social Signals portal that scans Twitter
Both brokers offer all of today's popular investment products like stocks, ETF's, futures, Forex, options, mutual funds, and bonds (CDs and treasuries). Interactive Broker's low commissions are hard for any company to beat. For example, U.S. stock trades are only half a cent (or $0.005) per share at Interactive Brokers and $6.95 per trade at TD Ameritrade. Depending on what you are trading, the two brokers may be more comparable, but instruments like Forex and futures are even less expensive to trade at Interactive Brokers.
Interactive Brokers also offers tiered pricing for professional or high-volume traders, bringing the potential costs of trading even lower. However, TD Ameritrade offers more than a hundred commission-free ETFs and hundreds of no-transaction-fee mutual funds which are both unavailable at Interactive Brokers. If a trader is looking for an easy broker experience with an extremely robust trading platform, great research, and above average education, TD Ameritrade is for them; if a trader needs broad market access for the lowest price, Interactive Brokers is an excellent choice.
- Stock trade fees: $0.005 per share
- Account minimum: $0
- Stock trade fees: $6.95
- Account minimum: $0
Investopedia’s mission is to provide investors with unbiased, comprehensive reviews and ratings of online brokers. Our reviews are the result of six months of evaluating all aspects of an online broker’s platform, including the user experience, the quality of trade executions, the products available on their platforms, costs and fees, security, the mobile experience and customer service. We established a rating scale based on our criteria, collecting over 3,000 data points that we weighed into our star scoring system.
In addition, every broker we surveyed was required to fill out a 320-point survey about all aspects of their platform that we used in our testing. Many of the online brokers we evaluated provided us with in-person demonstrations of their platforms at our offices.
Our team of industry experts, led by Theresa W. Carey, conducted our reviews and developed this best-in-industry methodology for ranking online investing platforms for users at all levels. Click here to read our full methodology.