TD Ameritrade was founded in 1975 and is currently headquartered in Omaha, NE. They offer investing and trading services for over 6.6 million funded client accounts totaling more than $702 billion in client assets, plenty of investor education services, thousands and thousands of graduates and custodial services for upwards of 5,000 independent registered investment advisors (RIAs). TD Ameritrade specializes in helping self-directed investors, independent registered investment advisors, employers and third-party administrators, such as 401k providers and other employee benefits consultants, with all their investment needs.
- Trading platforms
- Investment products
- Support options
To date, TD Ameritrade has an extensive, impressive, positive history within the financial services industry with a multitude of features to fit just about any investor. So let's begin by going over everything they have to offer, then in the next section we'll talk about a few of the areas where we feel they could use a little improvement. Benefits include:
TD Ameritrade also offers a multitude of powerful trading platforms and tools, such as:
- Web Platform - this feature suits investors at any level and provides third-party research and planning tools, educational resources and you can also track social sentiment and volume with social signals that pull insights from Twitter. You will enjoy social signals, alerts, stocks overview, screeners, SnapTicket, calendars, watch lists and their GainsKeeper calculator.
- Trade Architect - this feature is an intuitive trading platform that offers live streaming news video from CNBC, generates ideas and identifies trends with stock and options screeners, as well as independent research. You can also manage trades from customizable, interactive charges that have a variety of technical studies. You will enjoy access to all their trading platform features, as well as access to Level II quotes, streaming news, and access to trading specialists.
- thinkorswim - this feature is a professional-level trading platform for serious traders who want an elite level of tools to use for analysis and testing strategies, idea generation with market scans and the ability to monitor their potential risk/reward. It also has on-boarding tools such as thinkManual and Swim Lessons to help you get started quickly and easily. You will enjoy a full charting package, live streaming media, free education and support, futures, calendar spreads, complex options trades, Forex global currency map, consistent and frequent innovations, trade and market scans and a stock hacker.
- Mobile Trading - TD Ameritrade is the leader in mobile trading and has powerful mobile offerings for investors and traders who want their choice of optimized mobile apps, such as iPad, iPhone, and Android for any mobile device and now includes the Apple Watch as well. You also have the ability to manage your investments and seize opportunities. Other popular features include idea generation, alerts, account monitoring, watch lists, events and a live market news option.
Additionally, TD Ameritrade offers a wide variety of investment products including Amerivest portfolios, annuities, bonds and fixed income, cash management, ETFs, Forex, futures, IPOs, mutual funds, options, and stocks. And their pricing is as follows: stocks $9.99 with broker assisted fees at $44.99 and interactive voice response (IVR) phone system fees at $34.99, ETFs with no commissions, internet at $9.99 and broker assisted fees at $44.99 and IVR at $34.99, options at $9.99 + 75¢ fee per contract, options exercises and assignments at $19.99 with broker assisted fees at $44.99 + 75¢ fee per contract and IVR at $34.99 + 75¢ fee per contract.
TD Ameritrade has some fantastic support options, which include 24-7 phone and email support, live chat, fax, mail and more than 100 local branches nationwide. That means no matter when you need them, they are there to help 24-7. And that's important, especially when you're talking about your money.
TD Ameritrade has a very impressive timeline, which includes: 1988 - they were the first to offer automated trades via touch-tone phones,1995 - they acquired K. Aufhauser & Co,1997- they went public listing under the symbol, AMTD, 1998 - they launched their first national advertising campaign boasting a flat-rate commission offering of $8.00 per trade,1999 - they were the first to offer trading via mobile devices, 2001- they acquired National Discount Brokers Corporation, 2002 - they merged with Datek Online Holdings making them the largest brokerage firm in average trades per day, 2004 - they launched Amerivest, the first of its kind online investment advisor and QuoteScope as well, 2006 - they acquired TD Waterhouse USA from TD Bank Financial Group and became TD Ameritrade, 2009 - they acquired thinkorswim Group Inc. and announced the 20-year, $20 million naming rights agreement for Omaha's new baseball stadium to be named TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, 2010 - they brought complex options, futures and foreign exchange trading to their clients, 2011 - they unveiled Trade Architect and signed on as official sponsors of the United States Olympic Committee and in 2012 the U.S. Olympic Team and this has since been renewed through 2016 and includes the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams, 2013 to present - they continue to grow and expand in leaps and bounds.
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- Client support
TD Ameritrade has approximately 5,800 full-time associates and 100+ branches in 34 states. Over the last five fiscal years, they have: gathered over $219 billion in net new client assets, had double-digit net new client asset growth, received multiple credit rating upgrades - moving from non-investment grade to single-A, increased their quarterly dividend by 20% in 2012, 50% in 2013, 33% in 2014 and 25% in 2015 and they have used $1.0 billion to buy back 56 million shares of their common stock. That being said, there are drawbacks prospective clients should be aware of:
The State of Texas Securities Board launched an investigation relating to wire transfers being made from customers' accounts on the Institutional Platform; however, it was stated that TD Ameritrade failed to send the relevant customer notifications of the said wire transfers. This conduct was entered into due to the manual process TD Ameritrade was using at the time and resulted in them violating a Texas State Securities Board rule requiring securities dealers to maintain and enforce procedures that were designed to achieve compliance with the securities laws.
The TD Ameritrade's website is great. It's easy to use, has plenty of extremely helpful information, and everything you need to know seemed to be covered. However, the one thing we found that we didn't like about their website was the fact that the main navigation bar doesn't show you what's on each page as you hover over any given menu tab. That means you have to actually click on the tab to see what's on a page. And that's extremely inconvenient for customers who don't want to waste time clicking around a website just to find the information they need.
For being such a big, long-standing company, you would think they should have impeccable customer service. And although they have plenty of contact methods, their customer service, at least for now, is a bit poor. Many customers complain and lament that their employees are overbearing when it comes to their advice on making certain investment or trading decisions and this type of extreme pressure keeps customers from contacting customer service for assistance. This could ultimately cause those same customers to seek other trading options as no one likes to be pressured when they need trustworthy, honest, compassionate help the most.
TD Ameritrade's stock commissions and broker assisted trade fees are much higher than their competitors; however, you do receive access to their premium research, data, analysis and multi-platform trading features for free. Therefore, depending on how often you use those features, TD Ameritrade may or may not be worth the extra costs.