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.
Pros & Cons
Commission-free stock, ETF and options trades.
High-quality trading platforms.
No account minimum.
Good customer support.
Large investment selection.
No fractional shares.
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TD Ameritrade requires a $0 minimum investment and delivers standout features, including extensive — and free — research and data, portfolio-building guidance, $0 commissions for stock, options and exchange-traded fund trades and nearly 300 branches for in-person customer support. Investors have a choice of four trading platforms.
In October 2020, Charles Schwab completed its acquisition of TD Ameritrade, but integration of the two companies is expected to occur over the next 18 to 36 months.
TD Ameritrade is best for:
TD Ameritrade at a glance
Stock trading costs
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 commission-free ETFs
All ETFs trade commission-free.
Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds
More than 4,200.
• Stocks. • Bonds. • Mutual funds. • ETFs. • Options. • Futures. • Forex. • Foreign ADRs. • IPOs for qualified accounts.
Two platforms: TD Ameritrade web and thinkorswim (desktop).
TD Ameritrade mobile app, TDA thinkorswim app.
Research and data
Research, analysis, commentary and news available from 14 providers, including Argus, CFRA, Reuters, Vickers and Morningstar.
Customer support options (includes website transparency)
Phone 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.
Where TD Ameritrade shines
Tradable securities: TD Ameritrade aces the investment selection category by offering the full range of investments, including futures and forex and bitcoin futures trading for approved clients.
TD Ameritrade also excels at offering low-cost and low-minimum funds, with over 700 mutual funds on its platform with expense ratios of 0.50% or less, and over 1,300 with investment minimums of $100 or less. It's an ideal broker for beginner fund investors.
Investor education/support: To say that the broker's digital educational offerings are abundant is putting it mildly. There's so much available in every format — videos, articles, slideshows and quizzes, as well as ongoing live online seminars and in-branch presentations — it's hard to know where to start. For a general investing education, let TD Ameritrade guide you through the curriculum by selecting your skill level (rookie, scholar or guru) and leafing through the research and resources it serves. For more specific guidance, there's the "Ask Ted" feature. "Ted" is a chatbot who's good at providing directions to all of the broker's investing tools, tutorials, key data and whatever else pops into mind.
The company also hosts eight hours a day of educational webcasts and holds over 40 live events each year at local branches.
Virtual trading simulator: Surprisingly few online brokers offer mock trading accounts on their platforms. TD Ameritrade is one of them. Its 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.
Choice of trading platforms: 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:
Research from Morningstar, Thomson Reuters, CRFA (formerly S&P Capital IQ) and TD Ameritrade's own financial pros.
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.
Mobile trading: The choice of platforms extends to the broker's mobile products. TD Ameritrade Mobile (iOS and Android) is a companion to the desktop platform and 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.
The company also has the TD Ameritrade Portfolios app, which is for managed portfolio clients to monitor their investments. For more on TD's robo-advisory service, see our review of TD Ameritrade Essential Portfolios.
Where TD Ameritrade falls short
Fractional shares: Fractional shares were once a niche offering, but now that major players like Fidelity and Schwab are offering their own versions of fractional trading, 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 otherwise be too expensive to include otherwise.
The bottom line
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. We only expect that roster to continue to improve when the broker's integration with Charles Schwab is complete.
» Want more options? See our best online brokers for stock trading
Disclosure: The author held no positions in the aforementioned securities at the original time of publication.
Dayana Yochim contributed to this review.
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Frequently asked questions
TD Ameritrade does not charge a commission to trade stocks, options or ETFs. There are also no inactivity or annual fees, nor is there a fee to make partial transfers out of your account. If you want to transfer out your full balance, you'll pay $75. And options trades do incur a per-contract fee of $0.65, which is only charged on options trades and is a typical fee among brokers.
Keep in mind that some investments, including mutual funds and ETFs, carry internal fees called expense ratios, which are charged by the funds themselves, not TD Ameritrade.
TD Ameritrade offers two trading platforms and a mobile app, all of which allow you to buy stock. The easiest option, most suitable for beginner investors, is placing a stock order on the company's website — once you've funded an account, you can simply search for the stock's ticker symbol and fill in an order ticket with your trade request. Advanced stock traders will prefer the thinkorswim desktop platform, which is high-powered and full of tools to analyze and plan your trades. (Learn more about how to buy stocks.)
To short stocks on TD Ameritrade or through any other broker, you'll need a margin account, which must be funded with at least $2,000 in cash or eligible securities. TD Ameritrade's margin accounts also require that you keep at least 30% of your account value as equity at all times. Once you have the account properly funded, you can start shorting stocks. (Learn more about how to short a stock.)
TD Ameritrade offers commission-free trading of stocks, options and ETFs, and charges no annual or inactivity fees, which means you can hold an account at the broker for free.
Like other brokers that don't charge commissions for stock or ETF trades, TD Ameritrade makes money from products that do carry a fee. The company charges a fee for futures and forex trades, its robo-advisor and financial advisory offerings and broker-assisted trades. The company also earns interest on uninvested cash balances, and may receive some payment for order flow, which occurs when trades are sent to a third-party market maker in exchange for a small fee pocketed by the broker.