On November 25, 2019, Charles Schwab announced a buyout of TD Ameritrade’s online brokerage. The transaction itself is expected to close in the second half of 2020, and in the meantime, the two firms will operate autonomously. Schwab expects the merger of its platforms and services to take place within three years of the close of the deal.
TD Ameritrade, one of the largest online brokers, has several platforms to choose from, ranging from their basic website to thinkorswim (it’s not capitalized on purpose), which is designed for very active traders. The firm spent the last year streamlining its website and transforming its education offering while bringing over the 3.5 million customers who joined following the acquisition of Scottrade. TD Ameritrade wants new investors to become more confident, and to trade additional asset classes as their skills grow. Given the number of platforms customers can use for research and trading, the sheer number of tools available can be overwhelming. There is an ongoing initiative to streamline the content and platforms, so going forward, it should be easier to find and use the features that you need.
TD Ameritrade currently ranks in the following categories:
With the elimination of base commissions for stock, ETF, and options trades effective October 3, 2019, TD Ameritrade offers great value. Commission revenue accounted for more than 1/3 of the brokerage's revenue, however, so we expect that they will recoup that revenue with changes to their services over the next year.
Extensive research capabilities and numerous news feeds keep you up to date
The education offerings are designed to make novice investors more comfortable with a wider variety of asset classes
Additional support channels have been developed using Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Twitter and others
Commissions on stock and ETF trades were cut to $0 in October, 2019
As with other brokers with multiple platforms, clients may have to use more than one trading system to find all the tools they want to use
The website is so packed with content and tools that finding a particular item is difficult
Aside from this TD Ameritrade broker review, we've also reviewed the TD Ameritrade Essential Portfolios robo-advisor service.
The downloadable thinkorswim platform is extremely customizable, allowing the client to define color schemes, layouts, and trading defaults. Over the last year or so, the standard website has added numerous customization options, including the Dock tool, which is a customizable dashboard.
Clients can choose among 13 modules, such as account balances, streaming watchlists, video, Twitter feeds, and streaming news to add to the Dock, and then the modules can be rearranged and resized. Most options are stored server-side, so your experience is the same no matter which computer or mobile device you use. Trade tickets are ubiquitous on all platforms, so you can enter an order no matter where you are.
TD Ameritrade’s order routing algorithms seek out price improvement, which can offset the cost of placing a trade. You’ll find streaming real-time data on all platforms.
The software development team at TD Ameritrade is going through a process of breaking apart all of the tools and content built into all of the firm’s platforms and building a unified set of services. As a result, clients are starting to see a more standard look and feel across platforms. All of the new technology is responsive to the device the client is using, including smartphones and tablets. The thinkorswim platform is the most advanced, and customers new to that type of technology will have a learning curve to navigate.
Mobile and Emerging Tech
TD Ameritrade has two mobile apps. The TD Ameritrade Mobile App is simple and mirrors most of the capabilities of the website. TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader is the mobile companion to the thinkorswim platform, letting you sync your watchlists, charts, and market scans between your desktop and your smartphone. Mobile Trader also gives you the tools to analyze and place complex options orders. You can watch streaming video produced by the TD Ameritrade Network on your mobile device as well. There are ways to connect with TD Ameritrade on Facebook Messenger, Twitter and WeChat.
Range of Offerings
TD Ameritrade offers over 300 ETFs commission-free, as well as over 12,000 mutual funds. Options trading on thinkorswim lets you trade any spread you can dream up with up to 8 legs. You can also trade 75 currency pairs if you’re interested in forex. Some international exchanges are available via a live broker.
News and Research
The thinkorswim platform lets you scan for trading opportunities using real-time data for equities and options. The TD Ameritrade website has an excellent bond screener and bond ladder builder. The news feeds can be filtered according to your portfolios and watchlists or by sector. Charting on thinkorswim is extremely customizable, and is packed with technical analysis tools.
Portfolio Analysis and Reports
There are customizable portfolio performance reports accessible on the web platform and on thinkorswim. On the latter, you can slice and dice your portfolio by the underlying asset if you're an options trader, and see the effects of a potential trade on your portfolio and margin balance. A feature in TD Ameritrade's Personalized Portfolios lets you consolidate external accounts for an overall look at your assets.
Customer Service and Help
TD Ameritrade is pushing forward on establishing helplines on social media platforms, including Facebook Messenger, Twitter, WeChat, Amazon’s Alexa, and Apple Business Chat. The firm is bullish on integrating voice interaction into its services, with the philosophy that voice is the next user interface. There is a virtual client service agent, Ask Ted, that provides instant support by answering the client's questions and directing them to content within the site. You’ll also find chat support through TD Ameritrade Mobile trader where clients can chat live with a support associate without leaving the app. If you like to see your broker face-to-face, there are 360 physical locations around the U.S.
Education and Security
TD Ameritrade has made education a major focus, bringing it onto their trading platform and expanding the amount and depth of their content. They have produced hundreds of 2-minute videos that can be found all over the Internet.
Previously the most expensive of the major online brokers, TD Ameritrade eliminated base trading commissions on equities, ETFs, and options for U.S.-based customers. Though they have cut trading commissions, their margin interest rates remain on the high end of the scale.
What You Need to Know
TD Ameritrade's multiple platforms make research and trading accessible to a wide range of investors and traders. Newbies will be able to work their way up the chain, and expert traders will enjoy the capabilities of the thinkorswim platform. Now that the firm has cut its fees significantly, you get plenty of great research and a quality trade execution engine as well. It's a terrific deal.
Compare TD Ameritrade
With a well-built mobile app and a desktop platform that the more experienced trader would love, TD Ameritrade is an excellent fit for both novice and experienced traders alike. See how they compare against other online brokers we reviewed.
TD Ameritrade Broker Review 2019
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