I opened my $150,000 portfolio at TD Ameritrade with money from an account I closed at Ameriprise Financial. I was paying something like $19.95 per trade with Ameriprise and I really disliked the website design. I wanted to find an online broker that charged less and had a site that I could navigate more easily.
I read a lot of reviews and TD Ameritrade was consistently rated very high in many categories. Knowing they are a leader in the online broker industry, I decided to go with them and open an account. It turns out that I’m quite happy I did.
Available Signup Bonuses
Not all brokers give you sign up bonuses but the ones that do offer much the same thing. Some sites only give you free trades for 60 days and others give you cash as an additional incentive for putting more money in. In the case of TD Ameritrade, they offer:
1) Free trades for 60 days for deposits of less than $25,000
2) $100 + free trades for 60 days for deposits of $25,000 to $99,999
3) $300 + free trades for 60 days for deposits of $100,000 to $249,000
(see the $300 bonus I got in the screenshot below)
4) $600 + free trades for 60 days for deposits of $250,000 and up.
I know most people won’t be able to open an account with enough money to get a cash bonus but they should still get commission free trading for 60 days. If you do get a cash bonus, there are rules (aren’t there always?) and one of them is that you have to keep the account open and funded for at least 9 months. This makes sense otherwise people would jump from broker to broker just to get the quick money bonus.
For every stock trade I make, TD Ameritrade charges $9.99. That means when I buy a stock it costs $9.99 in broker commission and when I sell the same stock it costs another $9.99.
There are online discount brokers that charge just under $5 a trade and there are some that charge in between the two. Then there are some that charge more as well. I am quite comfortable with the $9.99 price as I think that is a fair commission and I don’t make a lot of trades per year anyway. If I were a frequent trader I would probably have opened an account that is designed for heaving trading and offered a cheaper fee.
The $9.99 fee is very middle of the road in today’s pricing and with it you are getting a quality broker that you can trust as the rest of my review will explain.
Is My Money Safe?
When you buy a stock, the money goes out of your account and you own the stock instead of the money. So that money is safe and at the mercy of whether the stock price goes up or down. But what about all the cash that sits in your account while you wait to buy stocks?
As you can see in the screen print above, I have $150,300 in cash. That money was transferred a day later to a money market sweep account which is an interest bearing account in a bank. My money is FDIC insured (I called them on the phone to double check this) up to $250,000 and in fact because they use two different banks, I could have $500,000 in there and be safe.
A money market sweep account is just a fancy term meaning they sweep your cash into the money market every day and that allows you to earn a minimal amount of interest while your money sits and waits for you to put it to use. With interest rates so low the amount you make in interest is really very little but it is still better than nothing.
Is TD Ameritrade User Friendly?
No matter what price you are getting per trade, if you dislike the design of the website and it is difficult to find what you are looking for, you will most likely be unhappy. That was the case with my previous broker account as I would find myself clicking endlessly trying to find the information I was looking for.
I must say that I love the interface TD Ameritrade uses and they supply a lot of information that is very easy to find. Navigating the website is quick, easy, and makes sense. If I do have a question, there is a very good automated “ask Ted” feature at the top right of the screen that has correctly answered my questions and led me to the appropriate pages on the website.
Real Branch Locations
TD Ameritrade is big enough that they have real offices in many of the major US cities. I like that because I know that if I ever did want to talk to someone face to face, I could make that happen. Some discount brokers are only online and all you can do is speak to someone on the phone. In this day and age, I’m sure you know how frustrating that can get!
I like knowing that they have an office just 30 minutes away from me if I need to drop off a check or feel the need to speak to someone in person. I hope I never have any problems or complaints but it is comforting to know I have more options than just the phone or an online help window. Here is where TD Ameritrade’s offices are:
TD Ameritrade has a nice selection of materials that can help increase your knowledge whether you are a beginner investor or more advanced. They have about 18 very slick online courses that combine interactive slide shows and quizzes that cover the following topics: Investing, Options, Technical Analysis, Bonds, ETF’s, Brokerage Services, Mutual Funds, Retirement, Calls, Puts, and more.
Additionally they have online workshops you can sign up for as well as periodic webinars that are all free. Also available are about a dozen online magazines (in PDF format) that are written by the company that cover an assortment of investing topics.
It is clear that TD Ameritrade has tried to provide a complete resource to help its investors succeed. After all, they want you to be successful in making money and stick around for life. The learning and education section of the website is easy to understand and navigate if you ever have the desire to use it.
My Overal Impressions
I must say that I am extremely pleased with TD Ameritrade and would have taken my money out and put it in another broker if I were not. There will be no need to do that though, as I love the clean interface and the way the website is laid out, making it easy to figure out how to quickly find what I am looking for.
The amount of information that is displayed for each stock and the research available is as good or better than any online broker I have ever used (I have used Merrill Lynch, Ameriprise Financial, and eTrade). I feel it is a complete source of stock investing information and it is what every online brokerage should strive to be. I also noticed that the website pages load quickly with little waiting time which is nice.
Both beginners and veterans should be very happy with the tools and the learning materials available for free. I now completely understand why TD Ameritrade consistently gets great reviews around the Web. I see no reason why I won’t have this account with them for many years to come!