TradeStation vs TD Ameritrade (thinkorswim)

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Contributor, Benzinga
April 16, 2020

A brokerage account can be the easiest way to help your money grow with investments. But with many brokers on the market, choosing the best for your needs can be more complex than it should be. Well-known brokerage services TradeStation and TD Ameritrade can help you get started. Both firms have low-security trading fees as well as powerful trading tools. 

Naturally, these brokers are fierce rivals, but some aspects of their investment services make them largely different. Here is how these 2 platforms compare in fees, commissions and research offerings.

Best For
  • Futures Trading
securely through TradeStation's website

Who is TradeStation for?

TradeStation serves a wide range of customers. You can earn a 0.40% interest rate when you fund your equities account with $1 million. You can use TradeStation if you fall in any of these categories:

  • Beginners: TradeStation is a great option for you since it offers an easy-to-customize platform that beginners can leverage. This platform is designed to be incredibly basic, making it easy to understand for new traders.
  • Active traders: As an active trader, you will enjoy a handful of benefits when using TradeStation. The company sets its prices based on volume, so you’ll enjoy lower costs if you trade frequently and in higher volumes. Besides, you can easily get your software charges waived.
  • Expert traders: With a TradeStation brokerage account, expert traders get the opportunity to back-test trading strategies. This means you’ll be testing out what others have tried before.
  • Institutional investors: As an institutional investor, you will enjoy various services that provide you with tailor-made and comprehensive trading solutions. TradeStation affirms having vast exposure to cover institutional clients in Latin America, Europe, the U.S. and other international markets. The company also provides its institutional investors with electronic execution services across asset classes, like equities, currencies and options.
TD Ameritrade
Best For
  • Retirement Savers
securely through TD Ameritrade's website

Who is TD Ameritrade for?

TD Ameritrade boasts advanced trading tools and an array of research reports, making it a great fit for the advanced trader. Similarly, it doesn’t leave out the novice traders, thanks to its knowledgeable support team, educational resources and efficient customer service. The following investors will find great utility using TD.

  • Beginners: Although this platform has a lot to impress the advanced trader, the novice trader will also enjoy the broker’s approachable tools. From unlimited access to various asset classes and educational tools and 0 minimum balances when opening an account to 0 inactivity fee, there are a handful of incentives for the rookie trader.
  • Expert traders: As an advanced trader, you have a lot to reap from TD Ameritrade. First, the company’s thinkorswim platform lets you access various asset classes, including options, currencies and equities as well as customizable options tools. TD Ameritrade also incorporates advanced tools, free data, sophisticated charts and smooth trade execution for options traders. Its mobile app allows you to access, pick and execute trades with a swipe.

TradeStation Fees and Commissions

For TS Select you will need a $2,000 funding minimum. TS Go, the mobile-only option, does not have a funding minimum. Like many other brokerages in late 2019, TradeStation transitioned to commission-free trades for stocks, options and futures. 

Investment ClassCommission
Stocks$0 per trade
ETFs$0 per trade
Options$0.50 to $0.60 per contract + $0 per trade
Futures$0.85 to $1.50 per contract per side + $0 per trade
Mutual Funds$14.95 per trade
Bonds$14.95 per trade 

TradeStation can charge you a monthly inactivity fee of $50 for investors who don’t maintain at least an average month-end account balance of $2,000 and/or do not execute a minimum of 5 trades within the 12 months of funding or 12 months following the anniversary of your first funding date. For a majority of traders, it should be relatively easy to maintain the minimum account activity. 

TD Ameritrade Fees and Commissions

TD Ameritrade offers 0 minimum accounts for all of its products, so you can open a brokerage account without adding funds. Like TradeStation, TD has embraced commission-free trading for stocks and options. 

Stocks$0 per trade
ETFs$0 per trade
Options$0.65 per contract + $0 per trade
Futures$2.25 per contract 
Mutual FundsNo-load $49.99, Load $0, No Transaction Fee $0
BondsNet yield basis

Unlike TradeStation, TD Ameritrade does not charge any inactivity or maintenance fee regardless of your account minimum. You can keep as much or as little money as you’d like in your account and not be charged. 

TradeStation Research Offerings

Although TradeStation isn’t built to perform comprehensive company research, it has impressive research offerings on its website. Besides stock reports from analysts like Market Edge and Credit Suisse, the platform also has screeners that provide investors with vast search criteria. The articles and videos also cover basic information that beginners can use to get around their first trades. In addition, the broker hosts in-person events throughout the U.S. on various trading topics and has a designated television network.

Its website also has a learning center known as University, where you can find videos on trading futures as well as the Nasdaq-100 index. The articles also highlight the basics of margin trading as well as placing a bitcoin order.

TD Ameritrade Research Offerings

TD Ameritrade boasts an extensive collection of research offerings, including third-party analysis reports, at 0 extra costs. Some research providers on this trading platform include Morningstar, Dow Jones, CFRA and Thomson Reuters.

TD’s Market Edge tool offers investors comprehensive technical analysis capabilities for better decision making. Investors can also use the Social Signals feature to assess the social media opinions on the stocks they are analyzing.

The brokerage also has a Stocks Overview suite that allows traders to monitor highs, lows, volume and price actions, among other key data points, to dig deeper into sectors and industries to reveal new trading strategies.

TradeStation vs TD Ameritrade Bottomline

Investors have a lot to enjoy as customers of TD or TradeStation. Both brokerages provide 0 transaction fee mutual funds, inexpensive trades and research to shed more light on your investments. TD Ameritrade is a great option for seasoned traders given its advanced tools and stock analysis features.

Frequently Asked Questions


What is the fee for a mutual fund on TD Ameritrade?


TD Ameritrade charges $49.99 to buy or sell mutual funds.


What are the fees for trading futures on TradeStation?


TradeStation charges $1.50 per futures contract to buy or sell.