There are lots of options when it comes to choosing a broker. Certain broker appeal to certain types of traders based on the tools, features and pricing they offer. The following guide will help you decide if TD Ameritrade is a good broker for you. If you’re already a TD Ameritrade client, the guide may shed light on some additional features you weren’t aware of.
All images courtesy of TD Ameritrade.
TD Ameritrade is a full service broker offering both internet based trading through four trading platforms, as well as trading by phone call and broker assisted trading.
Online stock and ETF trades are a $9.99 flat fee. If you wish to phone in a trade, it’s $34.99 and a broker assisted trade is $44.99. Many ETFs are available for commission free trading.
Options are priced similarly, except in addition to the flat fee there is a charge of $0.75 per contract. Futures are priced at $2.25 per contract (plus exchange and regulatory fees).
Trade forex in units larger than 10,000 (mini lot), and there is no commission. 1,000 lot (micro) trades incur a $0.10 charge per micro lot, with the minimum commission being $1.
You can also buy mutual funds and fixed income products through TD Ameritrade.
When you start out, choose a TD Ameritrade trading platform … or a couple. The Web Platform allows you to access your TD Ameritrade account from any computer. Trade Architect offers more advanced tools and features in a web-based platform, and Thinkorswim is a high level platform which is downloaded to your desktop. Mobile Apps are also available for you Smartphone.
Tools and Features
After opening a TD Ameritrade account you’ll have access to the trading platforms. For information on Thinkorswim, see Using Thinkorswim: A Unofficial Guide.
The Web Platform is more basic, providing you access to key features so you can make trades and monitor your account from a hotel or other computer while on the road. Set price alerts, screen for stocks, monitor positions, create watch lists and be aware of upcoming news.
The mobile trading app has many of these same features.
Trade Architect is more advanced, offering in-depth tools for options, futures and stock traders.
Be sure to read Options 101: American vs. European vs. Exotic
See profit/loss graphs for options trades, access Level II stock quotes, market research reports and live streaming news. The platform also offers idea generation tools, stock screeners, heat maps, earnings analysis, customized charting, and of course, trading.
Charts, Charts, Charts
With Trade Architect, customize your charts exactly how you want them by adding hundreds of potential overlays or indicators. Just click on the chart tab to access charts. Type in a symbol and choose indicators from the Studies drop down menu.
See also our library of Trading Indicators
Change your settings to view high-low-open-close, or other types of charts, as well as adjust the time frame to zoom in our out on the price history.
The Web Platform and Mobile version also provide easy access charting for technical analysis.
Buying and Selling
In the Web Platform, SnapTicket is an order entry box that follows you around, allowing you to quickly make trades when needed.
In Trade Architect you can trade directly from your charts, just click on the chart, set up an order and drag it to the price you want.
Other ways to trade in Trade Architect include hitting the buy or sell buttons on quotes and watch lists, or hitting the Order Entry button located near the bottom left of the screen.
Also, trade from your Smartphone using the Mobile versions with an easy to use interface. Click the Trade button, pull up a quote, hit buy or sell, enter the order type and quantity, and then confirm. To trade options, click the Options button on a quote to bring up the options chains available for trade.
Trade Architect offers Probability Analysis, a tool designed to help you assess the chances a stock will reach a certain price, based on its standard deviation.
Profit loss graphs are also very helpful for seeing what needs to happen in order for an option or multi-leg option to be profitable.
Be sure to read 4 Ways to Exit a Losing Trade
Even the TD Ameritrade Mobile app has some advanced features. If you see a product in the store, and are wondering if a publicly traded company makes it … and how that company is doing, use Snapstock. Take a picture of the product’s barcode to pull up stock information on the publically traded company that makes it.
Depending on the number of trades made and the quantity of shares/options/contracts traded, commissions can rack up. There are cheaper brokers available for very active traders, and the flat fee pricing model isn’t ideal for everyone. Buying 5,000 shares for $9.99 is a better deal than paying $9.99 to buy 100 shares.
Active day traders on speed and instant execution—may find the platforms a bit cumbersome, with almost too many features, redundancies and required confirmations for their needs.
The Bottom Line
TD Ameritrade is a full service broker providing an array of tools and platforms which will service most trader’s needs, whether trading stocks, options, ETFs or futures. The Web Platform and Mobile App provide simplicity, while Thinkorswim, Trade Architect and Mobile App Trader offer advanced features for sophisticated traders. The pricing is simple, but not be ideal for everyone, since the flat fee pricing isn’t reduced for small orders. Very active traders may find the platforms a bit cumbersome, but for the average swing trader or longer-term trader, TD Ameritrade is a reliable broker.
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