There are plenty of online brokerages that an investor can choose from. Essentially, they all offer the same features. Small differences, however, can make one company more suitable than another for your investment.
TD Ameritrade is a respected and well-known trading firm that’s been around for more than 35 years. Reviews are generally positive, with a few caveats to consider.
To open an account with TD Ameritrade, you simply go on their website and fill out the application. It’s straightforward and simple. You can complete the application in less than 15 minutes, then connect your bank account and begin trading immediately — something that’s not always possible with other companies. Many investment firms require validation of your bank account through micro-transfers, which slow down the process by at least a few days.
The following rates are current as of November 2013:
- Independent Stocks and ETFs: $9.99
- No-load mutual funds: $49.99 (load ones are free)
- Options: $9.99 + $0.75 per contract
- Futures: $2.25 per contract (plus exchange and regulatory fees)
- Treasury Bonds: $25
Commission-Free ETFs and No-Transaction-Fee (NTF) Mutual Funds
TD Ameritrade also offers no-commission trades on many ETFs and mutual funds. Many buy-and-hold investors can probably build a portfolio without ever paying trading commissions at TD Ameritrade.
Like just about every trading firm, TD Ameritrade offers its investors plenty of online tools to help them assess and select their stocks, funds and so forth. If you have a smartphone, mobile apps are also available so you can keep track of your investments from anywhere.
A few years ago, TD Ameritrade acquired the company thinkorswim, which was known for its innovative trading platform. They’ve now incorporated these tools into their arsenal. For those looking to educate themselves, investment tutorials and assistance are provided based upon three levels of experience: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.
The Word Online
Beyond the basics, reviews are very mixed online as to the service and accuracy of TD Ameritrade. Though it’s important to remember that people are much more likely to complain than compliment, the content of the reviews shouldn’t be ignored. Most of the criticism seems to be about delays in trades being executed. If you trade frequently to get in on a particular price, this could be a significant problem.
The Pros and Cons
On the positive side, TD Ameritrade’s tools are particularly helpful for new investors. The company is solid and is likely to remain so for a long time in the future. There are no set-up fees and no surcharges on large orders, after-hours trading, or penny stocks. It’s not difficult to find a local branch, and IRA accounts are free. Additionally, TD Ameritrade is well liked by many of the largest financial reviewers, such as Kiplinger’s and Barron’s. There’s also a rumor that very active traders may be able to negotiate lower fees for each trade.
On the negative side, frequent delays on the website, especially during busy trading days, can result in missed trades. And even though the company offers an extensive array of tools, there’s no online trading community in which a new trader could ask questions.
To Sum It Up
TD Ameritrade is a well-designed, easy-to-use online brokerage. While trade prices are a bit higher than average, they offer advantages such as useful tools and 24-hour customer service that could make up for it.
To sweeten the offer, they’re currently promoting 60-day free trades, plus a bonus of up to $600. To qualify for the free trades, you need to fund the account with $2,000. $25,000 or more will get you $100, $100,000 will get you $300, and $250,000 will get you $600. Just make sure you issue the funding within 60 days of opening the account to qualify.
What’s your experience with TD Ameritrade?
Editor's Note: I've begun tracking my assets through Personal Capital. I'm only using the free service so far and I no longer have to log into all the different accounts just to pull the numbers. And with a single screen showing all my assets, it's much easier to figure out when I need to rebalance or where I stand on the path to financial independence.
They developed this pretty nifty 401K Fee Analyzer that will show you whether you are paying too much in fees, as well as an Investment Checkup tool to help determine whether your asset allocation fits your risk profile. The platform literally takes a few minutes to sign up and it's free to use by following this link here. For those trying to build wealth, Personal Capital is worth a look.