TD Ameritrade is a full-service brokerage firm that’s a fixture in the investment sphere. It was first established back in 1975. As a matter of fact, as recently as 2018, Kiplinger named TD Ameritrade the No. 1 overall broker in the U.S. TD Ameritrade employs well-balanced online and mobile trading platforms that include versions for both new and experienced investors. On top of this versatility, TD Ameritrade offers online equity, exchange-traded fund (ETF) and option trading on a fee-free basis.
In late 2017, TD Ameritrade bought out Scottrade, another massive national brokerage that opened its doors in 1981. With the annexation of Scottrade’s accounts and funds, the firm now serves a combined 11 million clients with more than $1 trillion in assets. TD Ameritrade finished its complete integration of Scottrade in 2018.
|TD Ameritrade Overview|
|Pros||– Top-rated broker |
– No-fee equity, ETF & option trades
– Online/mobile trading platforms for newbies and veterans alike
|Cons||– Many disclosures on its record|
|Best For||– Online traders |
– Customers who value support
|Drawbacks||– Checkered legal history|
Fees Under TD Ameritrade
In October 2019, TD Ameritrade announced that it is officially altering its fee schedule to include free equity, ETF and option online trades. So as long as you feel comfortable independently trading through your online account, the firm can offer a cheap investing experience.
Otherwise, the rest of TD Ameritrade’s fee structure is fairly standard. There aren’t really any major costs to watch out for at TD, though you’ll save the most money by sticking to online investments. These require very little intervention by the firm, which is why the corresponding fees are so low.
|TD Ameritrade Fees|
|Stock Commissions||– Online: $0 |
– Over the phone: $5
– Broker-assisted: $25
|ETF Commissions||– Online: $0 |
– Over the phone: $5
– Broker-assisted: $25
|Mutual Fund Commissions||– NTF funds: $0 |
– Load: $0
– No-load: $49.99
|Options Commissions||– Online: $0 + $0.65 per contract |
– Exercises and assignments: $0
– Over the phone: $5 + $0.65 per contract
– Broker-assisted: $25 + $0.65 per contract
|Bond Commissions||– Per bond transaction fee: $1 |
– Treasuries at auction: Available commission free
– All other bonds: On a net yield basis
|CD Commissions||– On a net yield basis|
|Futures Commissions||– $2.25 per contract|
|Exceptions||– Alternative investment transaction fee: $100 |
– Foreign security: $15
– Commission-free ETF short-term trading: $13.90
– Return check/electronic funding: $25
|Regulatory||– Section 31 fee: $0.000013 per $1.00 of transaction proceeds |
– Options fee: $0.0140 per options contract
– Trading activity fees: $0.000119 per equity share; $0.002 per options contract; $0.00075 per bond
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) require their own regulatory fees. These are much less significant than typical commissions and other fees, so you likely don’t need to worry unless you’re trading large amounts of money.
TD Ameritrade Services & Features
|TD Ameritrade Services & Features|
|Investment Research Tools||– Market Edge®: current market and technical analysis |
– ETF Market Center: premier compilation of ETFs
– Stocks Charts: analysis of stocks similar to the ones in your portfolio
– Screeners: shows stocks, ETFs, options and mutual funds that adhere to your personal specifications
– Premier List: list of the top mutual funds
– Bond Wizard: projects clients’ returns on bonds and CDs
|TD Ameritrade Essential Portfolios||– Robo-advisor service |
– Fully automated with automatic rebalances
– $5,000 minimum investment
|TD Private Client Wealth||– Full advisor-client relationship |
– Investment management with financial planning
|Educational Resources||– Videos, articles and a learning curriculum for becoming a knowledgeable investor|
|Available Investment Products||– Stocks, options, ETFs, mutual funds, futures, forex, annuities, bonds & CDs|
TD Ameritrade has a full-bodied set of research tools that are aimed at making even the least experienced investors feel comfortable with investment analysis. For the most part, these are centered around specific investment types and and risk profiles to keep things as simple as possible.
Even with the plethora of knowledge you can gain through the tools above, becoming an investment expert can help as you make decisions about your portfolio. TD Ameritrade evidently wants to help its investors reach that point, as it provides a ton of online educational content. This includes lengthy articles, videos and even a full investment curriculum.
TD Ameritrade Essential Portfolios is the robo-advisor arm of TD Ameritrade. A robo-advisor is an automated investment service that builds your portfolio according to your pre-stated risk tolerance, tax situation and overall investment needs. Essential Portfolios will cost you a 0.30% annual fee and a minimum initial investment of $5,000. You can create a number of accounts through this, such as IRAs, individual and joint accounts and more.
If you are unsure of how to begin investing, a financial advisor can get you on the right track. TD Ameritrade’s internal financial advisor firm is TD Private Client Wealth, which has just under $2.7 billion in assets under management (AUM) and a fee-based fee schedule. The firm’s services include wealth planning, retirement planning, investment management, legacy planning, business succession planning, real estate financing and more.
TD Ameritrade Online Experience
A sizable portion of TD Ameritrade’s brokerage business is based on its online desktop trading platforms. This is divided between two distinct offerings: its standard web platform and its thinkorswim platform.
If you’re new to investing or you perhaps want some level of investment guidance, the standard platform is for you. Customers can access a multitude of educational resources to get themselves acquainted with the many nuances of building an investment portfolio. Once you feel comfortable enough to begin investing, you can use TD Ameritrade’s online Portfolio Planner tool that’s integrated with its Retirement Planner tool to ensure that every investment decision you make is on par with your ultimate life goals.
TD Ameritrade offers pre-built asset allocations that vary based on risk tolerance, along with current market analysis and alerts to help you follow shifts in investment prices. The standard online platform also comes with the GainsKeeper® feature, which tracks your losses and profits to keep you in the know regarding your capital gains taxes.
The thinkorswim platform is angled to support the needs of confident investors who prefer customization over a cookie-cutter approach. Users can take advantage of massive amounts of market data from the national and international markets, as well as other useful statistics and analyses. One of the best benefits of this service is TD Ameritrade’s paperMoney® feature. This affords customers the ability to simulate their investment choices in a dummy brokerage account and IRA. You’ll receive $100,000 in each account.
thinkorswim has a very strong investment community presence, as customers can visit TD Ameritrade’s online chat rooms to talk to other investors about the market. The platform has a number of other market-connected features and tools, such as the ability to livestream media coverage and trace prices and data through Stock Hacker and Market Monitor. For those that are interested in thinkorswim, stop by TD Ameritrade’s website to schedule an online platform demo.
TD Ameritrade Mobile Experience
TD Ameritrade has an equally robust mobile investing experience that Barron’s has recognized as a top trading app for 2018. StockBrokers.com also voted TD Ameritrade the best for mobile trading and for platform/tools. Similar to its desktop services, TD Ameritrade provides two mobile apps – the TD Ameritrade Mobile app and the TD Ameritrade Trader app – that offer features that fall in line with the standard and thinkorswim web platforms, respectively.
As a credit to TD Ameritrade, the firm has managed to squeeze many of its desktop perks into its mobile apps, and this is especially evident with the base TD Ameritrade Mobile app. You can not only monitor your current investments and overall portfolio, but you can complete trades as well. The app even lets you view investment charts, quotes, news and research.
While the services of the thinkorswim platform are laid out better in its desktop incarnation, TD Ameritrade has done an admirable job turning it into a mobile offering with the TD Ameritrade Trader app. The same in-depth investment analysis and data that’s on your computer is available in the palm of your hand. You can set up news, market and update alerts through the app to give yourself the ability to stay on top of your investments at all times.
For Apple users, these apps are also available for the Apple Watch™. Between the Android and Apple app stores, users have rated TD Ameritrade Mobile at 3.5 stars and TD Ameritrade Trader at 4.2 stars.
TD Ameritrade Customer Support
As one of the largest investment organizations in the U.S., TD Ameritrade has the resources on-hand to set up an extensive customer support network, and it doesn’t disappoint. First and foremost, customers can trade on their platforms 24 hours a day, five days a week. Should you have questions about any of the firm’s services, or investing in general, you can reach customer service over the phone at (866) 839-1100 or via the chat service on your online and mobile accounts.
Who Is TD Ameritrade for?
TD Ameritrade distinguishes itself in that it attempts to meet the needs of both inexperienced and experienced investors. Although this is definitely easier said than done, the firm has done an admirable job. The dual versions of its online and mobile trading platforms are suitably presented with either a focus of education/guidance or personalization for each group of prospective customers.
TD Ameritrade can practice in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The firm is based in Omaha, Nebraska at 200 South 108th Avenue, but offers 364 total branch locations, which are in every state aside from North Dakota and Wyoming.
How Does TD Ameritrade Compare?
Not many brokerages have features that align with both the novice and expert investors’ needs, but TD Ameritrade accomplishes that feat well. Though this may seem like a plausible benefit to expect from most firms, TD’s competition often chooses to focus on a specific type of investor. For example, Robinhood is a very simple and user-friendly platform that’s best for new investors. On the other hand, Merrill Edge has some of the more in-depth benefits that veteran investors expect.
In terms of investor costs, TD Ameritrade’s lack of online equity, ETF and option trading fees makes the firm especially attractive. While Robinhood offers these same perks in addition to free cryptocurrency trading, other competitors like Merrill Edge still adhere to a more expensive traditional fee schedule.
|Brokerage Firm||Fees||Minimum||Best For|
|TD Ameritrade||$0||$0||– Online traders |
– Customers who value support
|Robinhood||$0||$0||– Mobile/online traders |
– Self-sufficient investors
|Merrill Edge||$6.95||$0||– Desktop traders |
– Bank of America account holders
– Customer support junkies
TD Ameritrade: What’s the Catch?
There are two online/mobile trading platforms available through TD Ameritrade: its standard product and the thinkorswim product. Unfortunately, these two platforms have not been integrated into the same mobile apps or online dashboard. This could become a bit inconvenient, especially for those who want to participate in both sides.
TD Ameritrade does have some disclosures, which you can find more information about below.
According to FINRA, TD Ameritrade has 187 total disclosures on its regulatory record. Brokerage firms typically receive these legal infringements when they violate federal or state laws that dictate how securities must be marketed, offered, bought, sold and generally handled. The fines associated with TD Ameritrade’s offenses range from $500 all the way up to a staggering $2.65 million.
In September 2018, the SEC fined TD Ameritrade $500,000 after it found that the firm had not filed suspicious activity reports for 111 of its independent investment advisors that it terminated. According to the SEC, this situation “presented an unacceptable business, credit, operational, reputational or regulatory risk to [TD Ameritrade] or its customers.” Without denying or admitting the allegations, TD Ameritrade agreed to pay the $500,000 fine.
TD Ameritrade: Bottom Line
Because of the overarching appeal of its services, TD Ameritrade should be on every investor’s list of considerations, regardless of their experience level. The thinkorswim web and mobile platform has an impressive array of research benefits that will help you make informed decisions about where to invest. But if you prefer a more straightforward approach, TD Ameritrade’s standard online and mobile package will satisfy you.
How to Improve Your Investments
- Investing can be a nerve-racking venture, as many Americans work long and hard for the money they intend to invest. The SmartAsset financial advisor matching tool can pair you up with advisors in your area that can aid you in making sound investment choices. Simply answer the questionnaire, and your matches will appear based on your specific needs.
- Try to avoid becoming so obsessed with the return potential of your portfolio that you forget to take into account the ever present capital gains tax. SmartAsset’s capital gains tax calculator can help you figure out exactly what you can expect Uncle Sam to take.
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