TD Ameritrade Review 2021: Pros, Cons and How It Compares

TD Ameritrade is tough to beat with its $0 minimum, free tools and research and multiple trading platforms aimed at both beginner and advanced traders.
Chris DavisOct 6, 2021

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Our Take

5.0

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line:

TD Ameritrade meets the needs of both active traders and beginner investors with quality trading platforms, $0 commissions on online stock, options and ETF trades and a large selection of mutual funds.

TD Ameritrade

on TD Ameritrade's website

on TD Ameritrade's website

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Commission-free stock, ETF and options trades.
  • Free research.
  • High-quality trading platforms.
  • No account minimum.
  • Good customer support.
  • Large investment selection.

Cons

  • No fractional shares.

Compare to Similar Brokers

TD Ameritrade
Merrill Edge
SoFi Active Investing
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Fees

$0

per trade

Fees

$0

per trade

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Account Minimum

$0

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Promotion

Up to $600

when you invest in a new Merrill Edge® Self-Directed account.

Promotion

$5 to $1,000

in free stock for users who sign up via mobile app

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Full Review

Where TD Ameritrade shines

Free research: TD Ameritrade offers a wide range of third-party research from highly reputable sources, including the Federal Reserve Economic Database, Center for Financial Research and Analysis and Morningstar, which is all free to users.

High-quality trading platforms: In addition to its TD Ameritrade web and mobile platforms, the highly rated thinkorswim platform offers professional-level trading on desktop and mobile.

Customer support: With 24/7 support via phone, text, fax, live chat, email or social media, plus in-person meetings at more than 250 branches, TDAmeritrade’s customer support is hard to beat.

Large investment selection: TD Ameritrade has something for everyone: from a large selection of low-cost mutual funds to advanced products like futures and forex trading.

Where TD Ameritrade falls short

Fractional shares: Fractional shares were once a niche offering, but now major players like Fidelity and Schwab are offering fractional trading. TD Ameritrade still isn’t, however, so investors with limited capital to invest may want to look elsewhere. Fractional shares allow you to invest by the dollar amount — not by the share — letting you build a portfolio of stocks that may be too expensive otherwise.

TD Ameritrade is best for:

  • Beginner investors.

  • Advanced traders.

  • Investor education/advice.

  • Fund investors.

TD Ameritrade at a glance

Account minimum

$0

Stock trading costs

$0

Options trades

No base commission; $0.65 per contract.

Account fees (annual, transfer, closing, inactivity)

No annual or inactivity fee. $75 full transfer; $0 partial transfer.

Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds

More than 3,700.

Tradable securities

• Stocks. • Bonds. • Mutual funds. • ETFs. • Options. • Futures. • Forex. • Foreign ADRs. • IPOs for qualified accounts.

Crypto offering

No direct access to cryptocurrencies, but crypto coin trusts are available over-the-counter, and qualified clients can trade Bitcoin futures from CME.

Trading platform

Two platforms: TD Ameritrade web and thinkorswim (desktop).

Mobile app

TD Ameritrade mobile app, TDA thinkorswim app.

Research and data

Research, analysis, commentary and news available from 15 providers, including Argus, CFRA, Reuters, Vickers and Morningstar.

Customer support options (includes how easy it is to find key details on the website).

Phone, email and live chat support 24/7; technical phone support Monday - Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern. In-person at 250+ local branches. Support also available via text, Facebook Messenger, Twitter direct message, Apple Business Chat and Amazon Alexa.

More details about TD Ameritrade's ratings

Account minimum: 5 out of 5 stars

TD Ameritrade does not have an account minimum.

Stock trading costs: 5 out of 5 stars

There is no commission on stock trading at TD Ameritrade. However, if you plan to trade over-the-counter securities (those not listed on major exchanges like the NYSE), you’ll pay a $6.95 fee.

Options trades: 4 out of 5 stars

Options trading costs at TD Ameritrade are similar to comparable brokers, with no base commission and a fee of $0.65 per contract.

Account fees: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The only fee at TD Ameritrade worth mentioning is its full account transfer fee; if you transfer all of your assets to another brokerage, you’ll have to pay a $75 fee, which is on the high end for this type of charge. However, the broker doesn't charge for partial transfers, nor are there annual or inactivity fees.

Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds: 4 out of 5 stars

Though the selection of 3,700 no-transaction-fee mutual funds isn't quite as large as at some other brokers, you’ll still have plenty of choice in this category.

TD Ameritrade also excels at offering low-cost and low-minimum funds, with over 500 mutual funds on its platform with expense ratios of 0.50% or less, and over 1,000 with investment minimums of $100 or less. It's an ideal broker for beginner mutual fund investors.

Tradable securities: 5 out of 5 stars

TD Ameritrade aces the investment selection category by offering the full range of investments, including futures, forex and bitcoin futures trading for approved clients.

Crypto offering: 2 out of 5 stars

TD Ameritrade doesn't offer direct access to cryptocurrencies; however, crypto-based products, such as Grayscale Bitcoin Trust, are available through TD Ameritrade on the over-the-counter market. Qualified TD Ameritrade clients can also trade Bitcoin futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME).

Trading platform: 5 out of 5 stars

TD Ameritrade offers two main trading platforms, each with a corresponding mobile version.

TDAmeritrade.com is the on-ramp platform that offers pretty much everything an average investor needs to identify, research, screen and trade stocks, funds, bonds and CDs and options. Baked into the free platform are:

  • Screeners.

  • A customizable landing page.

  • The broker's GainsKeeper tool, to track capital gains and losses for tax season.

Separately, the company has a desktop trading platform called thinkorswim that's aimed at serious stock, ETF, options, futures and forex traders. It has all the features active traders need, including advanced trading capabilities, a robust lineup of technical analysis tools and studies, customizable screeners and charting, backtesting capabilities, real-time news, quotes, market heat maps and more.

Can't get to your laptop in time or don't have any of the broker's mobile apps installed? You can also place any code-red, emergency trades through third-party platforms via Twitter Direct Messages, Facebook Messenger and Apple Business Chat. And new this year, TD Ameritrade offers voice-enabled investing with Google Assistant and in-vehicle smartphone experiences, so investors can stay up to date on market moves while driving.

The company also offers a virtual trading simulator. Surprisingly, few online brokers offer mock trading accounts on their platforms, so this is fairly unique. TD Ameritrade's paperMoney virtual simulator is a desktop-based platform geared toward advanced and frequent traders. It provides $100,000 in practice "money" along with access to a margin account. It's available for free through the broker's two platforms and its Mobile Trader app, although non-customers can register for a free 60-day trial — a good way to test a new platform before committing to setting up a real-money account.

Mobile app: 4 out of 5 stars

The choice of platforms extends to the broker's mobile products. TD Ameritrade Mobile (iOS and Android) is a companion to the desktop platform. The TD Ameritrade thinkorswim app is aimed at the advanced trading crowd and is a companion app to the desktop platform of the same name. The company also has TD Ameritrade Mobile Web, the browser-based platform optimized for mobile devices.

TD Ameritrade Mobile has much of the trading functionality of the web-based platform and also provides Level II quotes (not available on the web platform). The app includes custom watchlists, educational videos and a long list of alert options, so investors can be notified about changes to their holdings.

The thinkorswim app includes futures and forex trading, complex option ordering capabilities (three or four legs) and chat support from TD's trading desk.

Research and data: 5 out of 5 stars

TD Ameritrade’s research selection really stands out from other brokerages, with research, analysis, commentary and news available from 15 providers, including FRED, Argus, CFRA, Reuters, Vickers and Morningstar.

Customer support options: 4.5 out of 5 stars

TD Ameritrade’s customer support is second to none. Virtually every medium you can think of (from texting to social media) offers support 24/7, and if you’re the type that wants to talk to someone in person, there are more than 250 branches nationwide.

Is TD Ameritrade right for you?

TD Ameritrade is a rare broker that covers all of the bases and does it very well. For a broker with no commission on stock, ETF and options trades, clients get an impressive list of services including portfolio-building guidance, hands-on investing courses, high-quality research, trading tools and a wide selection of no-transaction-fee mutual funds.

How do we review brokers?

NerdWallet’s comprehensive review process evaluates and ranks the largest U.S. brokers by assets under management, along with emerging industry players, using a multifaceted and iterative approach. Our aim is to provide an independent assessment of providers to help arm you with information to make sound, informed judgements on which ones will best meet your needs.

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RATING FACTORS

Evaluations vary by provider type, but in each case are based upon the weighted averages of factors that include but are not limited to: advisory and account fees, account minimums and types, investment selection, investment expense ratios, trading costs, access to human financial advisors, educational resources and tools, rebalancing and tax minimization options, and customer support including branch access, user-facing technology and mobile platforms.

Each factor can involve evaluating various sub-factors. For instance, when gauging the investment selections offered by robo-advisors, 80% of the score is based on the potential for diversification (how well-diversified a resulting portfolio of investments could be) combined with the availability of specialty portfolios and level of customization for investors. Expense ratios form an additional 10% of the score, and low or no management fee the remaining 10%.

FACTOR WEIGHTINGS

The weighting of each factor is based on our team’s assessment of which features are the most important to consumers and which ones impact the consumer experience in the most meaningful way. The factors considered, and how those factors are weighted, change depending upon the category of providers reviewed.

INFORMATION UPDATES

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Disclosure: The author held no positions in the aforementioned securities at the original time of publication.

on TD Ameritrade's website

Frequently asked questions