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TD Ameritrade Review

No fees for IRAs; Est. $10 per trade
Reviewed
July 2013
by ConsumerSearch
TD Ameritrade

Best broker for IRAs

Pros
  • Excellent research and trading tools
  • Nearly 2,000 commission-free funds
  • No minimum
Cons
  • Expensive trades

Bottom line

Named "best broker for your IRA" by Kiplinger.com and Barron's pick for long-term investing, TD Ameritrade offers over a hundred exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and hundreds of no-transaction-fee (NTF) choices for your IRA, along with 13,000 mutual fund options and no minimums or maintenance fees.

Ease of use

Simple setup via phone, online or in person. A standard account at TD Ameritrade is simple to open up online (or over the phone or in person) and there are plenty of prompts as you browse through the site. Retirement options include Traditional, Rollover, SEP, Simple and Roth IRAs. An account comes with free access to substantial research and multiple trading options: online, broker-assisted, mobile, etc. (Online trading, particularly at optimum times, can be slow, however.)

Professional reviewers also rave about TD Ameritrade's tools -- including its Investor Movement Index, the first tool of its kind to track the buying and selling of retail investors -- and its browser and desktop trading platforms Trade Architect and ThinkOrSwim, which provide trade tools and analytics for free. The layout and pricing options are fairly clear, but aren't as detailed as those of some competitors like E*Trade (Est. $10 per trade) or Scottrade (Est. $7).

Pricing and services

No IRA minimum, maintenance fees -- but trades are pricey. TD Ameritrade's fees aren't cheap (Est. $10 per online trade for stocks, options and other trades), but the company offers more commission-free exchange-traded funds (ETFs) -- over 100 -- than any other major online broker. It also offers hundreds of no-transaction-fee funds or NTFs (which can contain other fees) and more than 13,000 mutual fund options -- the leading choice for many retirement-minded investors.

TD Ameritrade doesn't charge minimums or maintenance fees on IRA accounts, but trades for its over 1,800 no-load mutual funds are on the high side (Est. $50). Stock and option broker-assisted trades are available (Est. $45). For cheaper trades, try the best-reviewed online broker Scottrade (Est. $7 per trade and $17 for no-load funds) or our best-reviewed discount broker TradeKing (Est. $5 per trade).

Customer service

24/7 support and in-person agents. Customer service is one of TD Ameritrade's strengths. From the get-go, you can open an account with 24/7 customer-service assistance -- that includes email, phone, chat and even through an agent. (Online is recommended as fastest.) Unlike many competitors, TD Ameritrade has more than 100 branches in the U.S. The research, tools, calculators and courses for retirement planning (and retirees) are formidable, and most are available for non-account holders via TD Ameritrade's website. One active trader who has used T.D. Ameritrade, TradeKing and E*Trade Plain endorses T.D. Ameritrade, maintaining that its customer service "was great 95 percent of the time" and that agents are well versed in investing strategies.

Where To Buy

Our Sources

1. SmartMoney.com

This thorough review names the best online brokers in six categories, which makes it ideal for those who want to evaluate their choices based on specific criteria. A rankings chart includes the category ratings for each broker. TD Ameritrade comes in third out of the 10 brokers in the survey, with high ratings for its trading tools, research tools and banking products.

Review: Best and Worst Brokers of 2012, J. Alex Tarquinio, May 16, 2012

2. Barron's

The annual Barron's ranking of online brokers is a much-relied-upon source of information for investors of all types. For the 2013 rankings, Barron's rates 24 online brokers; TD Ameritrade places fourth overall (its ranking is knocked down by high commission fees), and is first for long-term investing.

Review: Back Online!, Theresa W. Carey, March 9, 2013

3. Reviews.com

TD Ameritrade gets 5 out of 5 stars from this expert reviewer. Despite having higher fees, the brokerage has "the best collection of trading platforms in the industry" and "delivers some of the finest research and education resources in the industry."

Review: TD Ameritrade Review, Ed Carlson, June 7, 2013

4. MarketConsensus.com

Editors of MarketConsensus.com recommend five online stockbrokers, including TD Ameritrade, which comes in second to TradeKing. Fees and commissions on trades weigh heavily in the review. The write-ups are short, and it doesn't appear that the products were tested.

Review: Top 5 Best Online Trading Sites for Individual Investors, Editors of MarketConsensus.com, Feb. 2, 2013

5. Kiplinger.com

This long list by Kiplinger.com editors endorses TD Ameritrade for housing an IRA, citing its "wide range of investment choices and no annual fee or minimum to open an account." It names TradeStation a miss in this category because of fees, but the report is very thin (just a few lines) and only has credibility because of Kiplinger.com's sterling reputation as a personal finance publisher.

Review: Hits and Misses of 2012, Editors of Kiplinger.com, Dec. 2012

6. Kiplinger.com

In this article, Nellie S. Huang calls TD Ameritrade "the champ for ETFs" and notes that it has 1,881 no-load mutual funds and strong research. On the downside, TD Ameritrade is knocked for having high commissions and was ranked fourth out of 10 online brokers for 2012 after tying with Fidelity for the top spot in 2011.

Review: Best Online Brokers for 2012, Nellie S. Huang, Oct. 2012

7. NerdWallet.com

After studying more than 70 Roth IRA account providers, NerdWallet.com editors name TD Ameritrade best for the involved investor; OptionsXpress best for the sophisticated investor; E*Trade best for day traders; and ShareBuilder best for new investors. Details are given on each provider, including the number of no-transaction-fee (NTF) funds, expense ratio, minimums to start and cost per trade.

Review: Best Roth IRA Account Providers of 2013, Joanna Pratt, April 11, 2013

8. BrokerageReview.com

New York-based company Brokerage-Review.com reviews and provides detailed information on services and fees offered by individual trading companies; it also names best brokerage firms, brokerages for beginners and best IRA accounts. TD Ameritrade is named the best for IRAs, with praise for its many ETFs and no-fee IRA service.

Review: 2013 Best Brokerage Firms: Top Rated Discount Online Stock Broker Companies, Editors of Brokerage-Review.com, Not dated

9. Stockbrokers.com

StockBrokers.com editors review 17 online brokers and weigh each on several factors, including commissions and fees, ease of use, platforms and tools, research, customer service, offering of investments, education and mobile trading. TD Ameritrade is best overall.

Review: Online Broker Review 2013, Blain Reinkensmeyer, Feb. 19, 2013

10. MoneyUnder30.com

MoneyUnder30.com gives short but informative write-ups of five online brokers, giving a star rating for each along with a "best for" tag. For example: TD Ameritrade gets the highest rating, 4.5 out of 5 stars, and is named best for "new investors who are eager to learn and become more advanced." The website is transparent about taking commissions, and it's unclear what criteria are used or if the products are tested.

Review: Compare the Best Brokerage Firms for Investing Online, Editors of MoneyUnder30.com, Not Dated

11. CashMoneyLife.com

This ad-driven website recommends four leading online brokers for IRAs, but mostly summarizes their fees and features without making critical comments. It's also unclear whether any of the services have been tested. TD Ameritrade is named first among recommended Roth IRA brokers, though it's unclear what, if any, rating system is used.

Review: Where to Open a Roth IRA Account, Ryan Guina, Not Dated

Online Brokers Runners Up:

E*Trade Est. $10 per trade

7 picks including: Barron's, Kiplinger.com…

Fidelity Est. $8 per trade

6 picks including: Kiplinger.com, SmartMoney.com…

Interactive Brokers Est. $0.005 per trade

5 picks including: Barron's, Technical Analysis of Stocks & Commodities Magazine…

OptionsHouse Est. $4 per trade

5 picks including: Barron's, TopTenReviews.com…

Charles Schwab Est. $9 per trade

4 picks including: J.D. Power & Associates, Stockbrokers.com…

optionsXpress Est. $10 per trade

4 picks including: TopTenReviews.com, Reviews.com…

Vanguard Est. $7 per trade

3 picks including: J.D. Power & Associates, Yelp.com…

ShareBuilder *Est. $4 per trade (automatic investment)

2 picks including: Barron's, SmartMoney.com…

USAA Brokerage Services Est. $8.95 per trade for most traders

2 picks including: J.D. Power & Associates, ConsumerReports.org…

Lightspeed

2 picks by top review sites.

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