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.
- Free research.
- High-quality trading platforms.
- No account minimum.
- Good customer support.
- Large investment selection.
- No fractional shares.
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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:
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 no-transaction-fee mutual funds
More than 3,700.
• Stocks. • Bonds. • Mutual funds. • ETFs. • Options. • Futures. • Forex. • Foreign ADRs. • IPOs for qualified accounts.
No direct access to cryptocurrencies, but crypto coin trusts are available over-the-counter, and qualified clients can trade Bitcoin futures from CME.
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 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:
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.
Disclosure: The author held no positions in the aforementioned securities at the original time of publication.
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.