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TD Ameritrade Trade Architect Review

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TD AmeritradeLiving in the shadow of TD Ameritrade’s popular thinkorswim is Trade Architect, the company’s web-based trading platform. It’s not as comprehensive as thinkorswim, and for some investors, that’s a good thing: Trade Architect is a streamlined option that offers everything a beginner trader needs in a stripped-down, easy-to-use interface. The company considers it a bridge between TD Ameritrade’s website trading tools and the sophisticated thinkorswim, and it more than serves that purpose, providing an ideal platform for investors as they get more knowledgeable about the markets.

TD Ameritrade Trade Architect

Arielle O’Shea
August 26, 2015

NerdWallet’s Rating: 4.5 / 5

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TD Ameritrade’s Trade Architect is best for:

  • Beginner traders
  • Investors who prefer a web application
  • Options trading
  • ETF investors

Current promotion

Open a new account with $3,000 or more and trade commission-free for 60 days, plus get a cash bonus on larger deposit amounts: $600 on $250,000+; $300 on $100,000 to $249,999; and $100 on $25,000 to $99,999.

TD Ameritrade Trade Architect at a glance

Tradable Securities* Stocks
Options (including multi-leg options)
Account minimum $0
Account fees $75 outgoing transfer fee
Stock/ETF commissions $9.99
Commission-free ETFs Over 100
Options $9.99 + 75 cents per contract
Broker-assisted trades $34.99 for interactive voice response phone system; $44.99 for broker-assisted trades
Third-party research reports Free
Real-time data Free
Analysis software Free
Platform type Web
Mobile trading Yes, via TD Ameritrade Mobile or TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader
Customer service Phone service and support 24/7; email support and live chat; 126 local branches
*Note: TD Ameritrade offers mutual funds, bonds, Forex and futures, but the Trade Architect platform does not support these securities. They can be accessed via the broker’s web platform.

Where TD Ameritrade Trade Architect shines

User interface: Trade Architect is designed for simplicity, and that’s what the platform delivers: The navigation is a series of tabs at the top of the page, so users can easily toggle back and forth between the trading tools, an account overview, watchlists, charts and idea generators such as stock screeners and heat maps. Users can customize the experience by adding tabs from a long list of additional options, including news, video, reports and Level II quotes. (Level II is the order book for stocks on the Nasdaq; this information is useful for day traders to get insight into a stock’s current trading pattern and price movement.) A bar under the tabs gives a snapshot of current account information, including value, today’s net change and funds available for trading. And many of the modules on the dashboard can be popped out as new, separate windows.

Tools and support: TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim is known for its advanced tools, but Trade Architect isn’t too shabby here, either. The platform has support for users new to options, including the Trade Finder tool, which spent a year in development. It allows investors to make a few selections — direction, timing, probability of success and allocation — to walk them through the process of creating an order. Once you’ve plugged in your selections, the tool will scan and display all of the potential strategies that fall within the guidelines you outlined, taking a lot of the jargon out of the equation. An auto player walks you through what you’re seeing on the screen. Under the Ideas tab, users can view an options heat map with historical volatility changes, to help them dial down into each sector. There’s also an S&P options screener and a stock screener; the results of both can easily be added to a watchlist.

Streamlined information: You can tell TD Ameritrade has put a lot of thought into balancing Trade Architect as a platform that delivers enough to give relatively new investors everything they need, but not so much as to overwhelm. This is perhaps best displayed by the charting tools; the platform offers only the studies that investors are likely to want and need as they’re getting started. Once they grow beyond that, they’ll be able to move to thinkorswim.

Web-based application: This is a matter of preference, but for users who don’t want to download a program, Trade Architect delivers by running in browser.

Where Trade Architect falls short

Commissions: This tops the list of drawbacks for every TD Ameritrade review, but the company’s stock and ETF commissions are high at $9.99, and it’s something investors should be aware of. However, the breadth of trade platforms — both Trade Architect and thinkorswim, as well as mobile apps — and the tools offered by those platforms makes that fee worth it for many investors. All of the company’s tools and platforms are available to every TD Ameritrade customer, and the broker does offer over 100 commission-free ETFs.

No virtual trading: Thinkorswim offers paperMoney, a virtual trading platform that allows users to test strategies without taking risk. This isn’t available on Trade Architect, and it’s a shame, as new investors would benefit from the practice.

No Forex or futures: TD Ameritrade says the ability to trade these on Trade Architect is coming, but for now, investors must use thinkorswim.  

The bottom line

Trade Architect is designed for less-sophisticated traders, and that’s a good thing: The platform has all these investors need and none of what they don’t. It’s carefully curated for its target audience. Investors who want a more robust offering will likely prefer thinkorswim (or a combination of the two — all of TD Ameritrade’s trading platforms allow investors to switch back and forth relatively seamlessly).

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