Both the TD Ameritrade and thinkorswim platforms are part of the same parent company (Charles Schwab), but each offers a very different trading experience. While TD Ameritrade is more of a basic investment broker experience, its sister platform, thinkorswim, offers advanced trading tools and analysis for more active traders.

Trading stocks does not have to be complicated, but if you want more options than just “buy the dip,” there are several platforms for you.

And while TD Ameritrade and thinkorswim are both part of Charles Schwab, they are very different platforms for different types of investors. So which one is a better option for you?

We’ve reviewed the features, fees, trading tools, available assets, customer service, and security to help you find out which trading platform suits your investing style.

thinkorswim vs. TD Ameritrade summary

thinkorswim and TD Ameritrade both offer commission-free trades on stocks and ETFs, and TD Ameritrade customers can use both the classic platform, or the thinkorswim platform.

Of the two, TD Ameritrade is ideal for beginner investors who want to learn about stock trading, with a massive educational library available. On the other hand, thinkorswim is an advanced trading platform, with options trading, forex trading, futures trading, and even the ability to “paper trade” with fake money.

 thinkorswimTD Ameritrade
Trading fees● None on stocks, bonds, ETFs
● $0.65 per options contract
● $2.25 per futures contract
● Up to $74.95 for mutual fund trades
● $25 broker-assisted trade fee
● None on stocks, bonds, ETFs
● $0.65 per options contract
● Up to $74.95 for mutual fund trades
Account fees$75 transfer out (full)$75 transfer out (full)
Tradable assets● Stocks
● Bonds
● Mutual Funds
● ETFs
● Options
● American Depositary Receipts (ADRs)
● IPOs (on certain accounts)
● Stocks
● ETFs
● Futures
● Options
● American Depositary Receipts (ADRs)
● Forex
● IPOs (on certain accounts)
Account minimums$0$0
Mobile app available?YesYes
EducationNews, commentary, and research from over a dozen external sources, including Morningstar and ReutersNews, commentary, and research from over a dozen external sources, including Morningstar and Reuters
Customer service● 24/7 phone, email, and chat
● In-person at local branches around the U.S.
● 24/7 phone, email, and chat
● In-person at local branches around the U.S.

About thinkorswim

thinkorswim (yes, there are no capitals in the platform name) is an advanced trading platform that was purchased by TD Ameritrade in 2009, and offers advanced charting, multiple order types, and a wide range of assets to trade. The thinkorswim platform is aimed at active and professional traders who want access to top-notch market research, hundreds of chart customizations, and advanced options trading. In addition to stock and ETF trading, users can also trade options, stock futures, as well as foreign currencies (forex).

As part of the TD Ameritrade family, the thinkorswim platform offers the same deep level of research and analysis, with insights from over a dozen third-party research firms, such as Morningstar and Reuters. You can also access live TV programming on the TD Ameritrade network on weekdays, which provides live commentary and analysis.

The thinkorswim mobile app offers most of the same functionality as the web version, with access to all of the advanced trading tools, as well as multi-leg options trades, futures trading, and forex trading.

Overall, thinkorswim is one of the best trading platforms for no-fee trading on stocks and ETFs, as well as advanced options strategies and access to foreign currencies and international assets via American Depository Receipts (ADRs).

Learn more about thinkorswim in our full TD Ameritrade Review.

About TD Ameritrade

How To Sell Your Inherited Valuables - TD Ameritrade

TD Ameritrade is a large online broker that offers a wide selection of stocks and ETFs, as well as access to a large library of educational content. Designed for new investors, the TD Ameritrade web and mobile platforms offer a simple user experience, as well as access to educational articles, videos, and tutorials to help you learn about a wide range of investing and personal finance topics.

TD Ameritrade allows you to invest in stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds, as well as trade futures and options contracts, plus access to certain IPOs. Similar to the thinkorswim platform, TD Ameritrade offers access to a massive library of research and analysis from providers such as Reuters and Morningstar. TD Ameritrade users also have access to the TD Ameritrade Network that broadcasts market news and analysis five day per week.

The TD Ameritrade platform is ideal for new users and makes it easy to invest, with a simple order form, as well as the ability to set up recurring investments. The website and mobile app both offer a customizable dashboard, stock quotes, price alerts, and the ability to create and track your favorite investments in a watch list.

Overall, TD Ameritrade is a full-service broker that is ideal for beginners who want to dive into trading, as well as long-term investors who want access to no-fee stocks, bonds, and ETFs, as well as a deep library of educational content.

Try out TD Ameritrade or read our full review.

thinkorswim vs. TD Ameritrade investment performance

Both thinkorswim and TD Ameritrade offer access to most of the same investments, such as stocks and ETFs, as well as options trading. Both offer zero commissions or fees on stock and ETF trades, helping lower costs and increase the overall returns of your portfolio.

While the thinkorswim platform is designed for active traders, it does not measure its performance, as all investors will have a different portfolio. TD Ameritrade is similar, in that a user’s portfolio mix will differ from customer to customer, so there is not a benchmark of performance for most accounts.

However, TD Ameritrade does offer a robo-advisory service, known as Essential Portfolios, that helps users build a diversified portfolio of low-cost ETFs, based on your goals and risk tolerance. These portfolios have a different mix of investments per user, but the overall performance for these portfolios are listed on the TD Ameritrade website.

Here’s a summary of the investment performance for the TD Ameritrade Essential Portfolios service as of May 2022:

 1-year3-year5-year
Conservative-2.10%4.26%3.98%
Moderate-0.53%6.14%5.50%
Moderate Growth0.72%7.62%6.67%
Growth2.62%10.35%8.81%
Aggressive4.23%12.06%10.21%

thinkorswim vs. TD Ameritrade pros & cons

thinkorswim pros

  • Advanced charting and trading tools.
  • Access to more markets, including forex and futures trading.
  • Well-designed mobile app.

TD Ameritrade pros

  • Large library of educational content.
  • Very intuitive mobile app.
  • No-fee stock and ETF trading.

thinkorswim cons

  • Large $75 outgoing transfer fee (full).
  • No access to bonds or mutual funds.
  • May be too complicated for beginners.

TD Ameritrade cons

  • No access to forex or futures trading.
  • High mutual funds fees (up to $74.95).
  • No fractional share investing.

Why choose thinkorswim

Advanced trading tools

thinkorswim is one of the best platforms for active and professional traders, with access to hundreds of charting tools and indicators, complex options trading (up to four legs), as well as futures and forex trading.

Social trading features

On the thinkorswim desktop platform, you can access community features including chat rooms, as well as the ability to share your thoughts on the myTrade blog feature. Social sentiment is also measured and charted, tracking Twitter mentions for stocks and other assets on the platform.

Stock analysis and research

thinkorswim and TD Ameritrade both offer access to a wide selection of research and analysis, but the thinkorswim desktop app builds in live streams of the TD Ameritrade network, as well as CNBC for up-to-date market news. In addition to research and analysis from Morningstar, Reuters, and S&P Capital IQ.

Why choose TD Ameritrade

Large educational library

The TD Ameritrade library of educational videos, tutorials, and training is one of the largest of any online broker, helping new users learn about a wide range of personal finance topics. This includes basic topics such as budgeting, as well as advanced trading strategies, such as options trading.

24/7 customer service

TD Ameritrade offers around-the-clock customer support via email, phone, and online chat. You can also connect with representatives over Twitter if you prefer. In addition to 24/7 support, there are over 175 physical locations where you can access live human support. Support is available to both customers and non-customers.

Simple to use

TD Ameritrade is extremely user-friendly, and designed for new traders and investors who want to learn as they invest. With educational content built into the mobile app, a simple interface for investing, and 24/7 customer support, TD Ameritrade is one of the best online brokers for new investors.

Summary

Both thinkorswim and TD Ameritrade are part of the same parent company, and offer access to many of the same features, such as no commissions or trading fees on stocks and ETFs, market research, and the TD Ameritrade Network live broadcast. And both platforms offer high-quality mobile apps that give you access to investing tools at your fingertips.

But while thinkorswim is ideal for more advanced traders who want access to a huge selection of trading tools and features, TD Ameritrade is ideal for beginners who want to learn about investing while dipping their toes in the market. While intuitive for professionals, thinkorswim is a complicated platform that would overwhelm new users who are not familiar with stock trading charts and tools.

Featured image: sdx15/Shutterstock.com

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About the author

Total Articles: 9
Jacob Wade has been a nationally-recognized personal finance expert for the past decade. He has written professionally for The Balance, Investopedia, Money Crashers, LendingTree, and other widely-followed sites. As a cryptocurrency enthusiast and investor, Jacob enjoys researching and writing about the latest in crypto and blockchain technology. He’s been a featured expert on CBS News, MSN Money, Forbes, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, Go Banking Rates, and AOL Finance.