Charles Schwab vs TD Ameritrade: Comparing Two Top Brokers

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    Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade are two brokers able to offer different perks to their users. 

    From fees to functionalities, we will analyse these two brokers in detail to give you all the information you need and to answer an important question – which is better?

    Overview of Charles Schwab Broker & TD Ameritrade Broker

    FeaturesCharles SchwabTD Ameritrade
    💰 Account Minimum$0$0
    💸 Commission Fees$0 commission for online trades of stocks, ETFs, and options. $0.65 per contract for options trades.$0 commission for online trades of stocks, ETFs, and options. $0.65 per contract for options trades. Fees vary for other types of trades, deposits and withdrawals, wire transfers, broker-assisted trades, and regulatory fees.
    💼 Investment OptionsStocks, ETFs, options, bonds, mutual funds, CDs, annuities, and more.Stocks, ETFs, options, bonds, mutual funds, futures, forex, annuities, and more.
    🤖 Robo-AdvisorYes, Charles Schwab offers a robo-advisor service called Schwab Intelligent Portfolios® that provides automated investing based on your goals and risk tolerance.TD Ameritrade offers a robo-advisor service called Essential Portfolios that provides automated investing based on your goals and risk tolerance.
    📊 Research and AnalysisCharles Schwab offers various research and analysis tools such as market insights, ratings, screeners, charts, alerts, reports, and more.TD Ameritrade offers various research and analysis tools such as market insights, ratings, screeners, charts, alerts, reports, and more.
    📱 Mobile AppCharles Schwab has a mobile app that allows you to access your account, trade investments, check market data, use analysis tools, deposit checks, pay bills, transfer funds, and more.TD Ameritrade has a mobile app that allows you to access your account, trade investments, check market data, use analysis tools, deposit checks, transfer funds, and more.
    🏦 Retirement AccountsCharles Schwab offers various retirement accounts such as traditional IRA, Roth IRA, rollover IRA, SEP-IRA, SIMPLE IRA, individual 401(k), and more.TD Ameritrade offers various retirement accounts such as traditional IRA, Roth IRA, rollover IRA, SEP-IRA, SIMPLE IRA, individual 401(k), and more.
    🎓 IRA AccountsCharles Schwab offers both traditional IRA and Roth IRA accounts that allow you to save for retirement with tax advantages.TD Ameritrade offers both traditional IRA and Roth IRA accounts that allow you to save for retirement with tax advantages. You can open an IRA account with as little as $0 and enjoy low costs and no account fees.
    📈 Trading PlatformCharles Schwab has a trading platform that allows you to buy and sell investments online with ease and convenience. You can also use advanced tools such as real-time quotes, watchlists, alerts, conditional orders, StreetSmart Edge®, and more.TD Ameritrade has a trading platform that allows you to buy and sell investments online with ease and convenience. You can also use advanced tools such as real-time quotes, watchlists, alerts, conditional orders, thinkorswim®.
    📞 Customer ServiceCharles Schwab has a customer service team that is available to assist you with your account and investment needs. You can contact them by phone (24/7), email (24/7), chat (24/7), or visit a local branch (Monday-Friday).TD Ameritrade has a customer service team that is available to assist you with your account and investment needs.
    📚 Educational ResourcesCharles Schwab offers various educational resources such as articles, videos, podcasts, webinars, workshops, guides, and more to help you learn about investing and improve your financial literacy.TD Ameritrade offers various educational resources such as articles, videos, podcasts, webinars, courses, events, and more to help you learn about investing and improve your financial literacy.
    🌕 Fractional SharesCharles Schwab offers fractional shares trading that allows you to buy portions of stocks with as little as $5 through Schwab Stock Slices™. You can choose from any S&P 500 company or create a custom basket of up to 10 stocks.TD Ameritrade does not offer fractional shares trading at this time.
    🌱 Socially ResponsibleCharles Schwab offers socially responsible investing options such as ESG (environmental, social, and governance) funds and ETFs that seek to align your investments with your values and beliefs. You can choose from a range of ESG funds and ETFs that cover different asset classes and regions.TD Ameritrade offers socially responsible investing options such as ESG (environmental, social, and governance) funds and ETFs that seek to align your investments with your values and beliefs.
    🌎 International InvestingCharles Schwab offers international investing options such as global and international funds and ETFs that allow you to diversify your portfolio across different countries and regions.TD Ameritrade offers international investing options such as global and international funds and ETFs that allow you to diversify your portfolio across different countries and regions. You can also trade directly on foreign exchanges through TD Ameritrade Global Account™ or access international markets through American depositary receipts (ADRs) or Canadian stocks.
    💳 Cash ManagementCharles Schwab offers cash management services such as a brokerage account with a linked bank account that acts as a holding place for money waiting to be invested or withdrawn from your account.TD Ameritrade offers cash management services such as a brokerage account with a linked bank account that acts as a holding place for money waiting to be invested or withdrawn from your account.
    🔍 Margin TradingCharles Schwab offers margin trading services that allow you to borrow money from your brokerage account to buy securities on credit.TD Ameritrade offers margin trading services that allow you to borrow money from your brokerage account to buy securities on credit. You need a minimum of $2,000 in marginable securities to open a margin account and you will be charged interest on any borrowed amount.
    ⚙️ Options TradingCharles Schwab offers options trading services that allow you to buy or sell contracts that give you the right to buy or sell an underlying asset at a specific price within a specific time period.TD Ameritrade offers options trading services that allow you to buy or sell contracts that give you the right to buy or sell an underlying asset at a specific price within a specific time period. You can also access tools such as options chains, screeners, calculators, and more.
    ₿ Cryptocurrency TradingCharles Schwab does not offer cryptocurrency trading at this time.TD Ameritrade does not offer cryptocurrency trading at this time.
    🛡️ Account SecurityYes, Charles Schwab offers account security features such as encryption technology, firewalls, secure login process, and biometric authentication.Yes, TD Ameritrade offers account security features such as encryption technology, firewalls, secure login process, and biometric authentication. You can also enable two-factor authentication (2FA) to add an extra layer of protection to your account.
    💹 LeverageCharles Schwab offers up to 4x day-trade buying power and 2x overnight buying power with a margin account.TD Ameritrade offers up to 4x day-trade buying power and 2x overnight buying power with a margin account. You need to have a minimum of $2,000 in marginable securities to open a margin account and you will be charged interest on any borrowed amount.
    ⚖ RegulationCharles Schwab is registered with and regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).TD Ameritrade is registered with and regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). It is also a member of the SIPC, which protects (up to $500,000, which includes a $250,000 limit for cash) against the loss of cash and securities held by a customer at a financially-troubled SIPC-member brokerage firm.

    Charles Schwab vs. TD Ameritrade

    In the world of online brokerage firms, Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade stand out as two of the most popular and reputable options for investors in the United States. Both firms offer a wide array of investment products and services, catering to the diverse needs of individual investors, whether they are beginners or experienced traders. In this comparison, we will take a closer look at the unique features, pros, and cons of each brokerage, helping you make an informed decision on which firm best aligns with your investment goals and preferences.

    Charles Schwab

    Charles Schwab Logo

    Charles Schwab is a leading brokerage firm in the United States, offering a wide range of financial services, including investing, trading, and retirement planning. In this module, we will discuss the pros and cons of opening an account with Charles Schwab, specifically in the context of comparing it with TD Ameritrade, another popular brokerage firm.

    Pros
    • Lower trading fees: Charles Schwab offers commission-free trading for stocks, ETFs, and options, giving investors the opportunity to save on trading costs.
    • Extensive research and educational resources: Charles Schwab provides clients with a wealth of research, analysis, and educational materials to help them make informed investment decisions.
    • No account minimums: Unlike some brokerages, Charles Schwab has no minimum account balance requirements, making it accessible to investors of all levels.
    Cons
    • Limited trading platform customization: Charles Schwab’s trading platform has fewer customization options compared to TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim platform.
    • Slower customer service response times: Some users report longer wait times for customer service assistance compared to TD Ameritrade.

    Regulation Info: Charles Schwab is regulated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the United States.

    Charles Schwab is a strong choice for investors seeking low-cost trading options, extensive research resources, and no account minimums. However, those looking for a highly customizable trading platform or faster customer service may want to consider TD Ameritrade.


    TD Ameritrade

    TD Ameritrade Logo

    TD Ameritrade is another top-rated brokerage firm in the United States, offering a wide range of investment and trading services. In this module, we will discuss the pros and cons of opening an account with TD Ameritrade, specifically in the context of comparing it with Charles Schwab, another well-known brokerage firm.

    Pros
    • Advanced trading platform: TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim platform is highly customizable and offers a wide range of advanced tools and features for traders.
    • Excellent customer service: TD Ameritrade is known for its responsive and helpful customer service, with shorter wait times compared to Charles Schwab.
    • Diverse investment options: TD Ameritrade offers a broad range of investment products, including stocks, ETFs, options, futures, forex, and more, providing investors with more choices.
    Cons
    • Higher trading fees for some products: Although TD Ameritrade offers commission-free trading for stocks, ETFs, and options, it has higher fees for some investment products like mutual funds compared to Charles Schwab.
    • No bank affiliation: Unlike Charles Schwab, which has its own affiliated bank, TD Ameritrade does not offer banking services, which may be a disadvantage for some investors.

    Regulation Info: TD Ameritrade is regulated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the United States.

    TD Ameritrade is an excellent choice for investors seeking an advanced trading platform, exceptional customer service, and diverse investment options. However, those looking for lower fees on specific investment products or integrated banking services may prefer Charles Schwab. Ultimately, the decision between the two brokerage firms will depend on individual investor preferences and priorities.


    Fees and Commissions

    Both TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab are inexpensive for what concerns fees, but to fully understand this topic, it is important to evaluate the different financial products offered by these platforms – since fees change accordingly. 

    In general, the two brokers set 0% fees and commissions for most products. Moreover, it’s free to open an account, and there are no inactivity fees or commissions to manage your account. 

    A big pro of these two brokers is transparency – there are no hidden costs and all the information related to fees and commissions are clearly stated. But let’s break it down. 

    Let’s start with TD Ameritrade. 

    For what concerns pricing, Ameritrade offers 0% commissions for: 

    • Stocks,
    • ETFs, 
    • Online options – which cost $0.65 per contract,
    • Forex.

    Commissions aren’t charged if you trade these products autonomously, but if you need the assistance of the broker, commissions range from $5 to $25. 

    For what concerns mutual funds, there are generally no commissions for selling, but transaction fees can reach $74.95 for buys. 

    When it comes to futures, TD Ameritrade charges $2.25 per contract, to which you need to add regulatory and exchange fees.

    Moreover, you need to consider that a commission of $6.95 is applied for OTC (over-the-counter) stocks – including stocks that are not listed in the US.

    The fees and commissions charged by Charles Schwab are in line with those of TD Ameritrade, but Charles Schwab also applies a $50 foreign transaction fee. 

    So, for what concerns fees, the two platforms don’t differ that much, and both can meet the needs of traders with different budgets. 

    Trading Platforms

    TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab offer you different platforms for your trading activity. 

    TD Ameritrade offers four platforms: 

    • Web platform: this is an easy-to-use platform available online. Along with trading tools, you can find news – from Yahoo! – and educational resources. 
    • Thinkorswim desktop: this platform is more sophisticated, more suitable for expert traders. This platform is available for download and it’s fully customizable. Also in this case, you’ll find educational material – as well as tutorials to use the platform. 
    • Thinkorswim web – also this version of thinkorswim is intuitive, and the difference with the previous platform is that thinkorswim web is available online. 
    • Mobile trading platform: TD Ameritrade is extremely popular and appreciated for its mobile platform, which allows you to trade anywhere by using different devices – including wearables like the Apple Watch. 

    Very similarly, Charles Swhab offers three platforms: 

    • A platform available online that works as the web trading tool of Charles Schwab, 
    • The trading software, fully customizable and available for download, 
    • The mobile trading app. 

    The main difference between the platforms offered by the two brokers lies in the level of complexity you can reach. Charles Schwab offers more sophisticated tools and indicators, and it is extremely appreciated for the quality of data you can gather and analyse thanks to the broker. It manages to collect news from different sources, and its platforms allow you to create complex and personalised tools. Moreover, its All-in-One Trade Ticket allows you to create different orders using different strategies – but always in the same window of the trading platform. 

    To compare the platforms offered by TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab, we can say that TD Ameritrade performs better for traders and investors who are at the beginning of their journey: despite the broker can help you to reach different levels of complexity, TD Ameritrade tends to value more intuitiveness and essentiality. 

    Charles Schwab can better accompany traders and investors on their journey – they can be beginners, professionals, or just willing to use the same tool as they enhance their skills.

    Investment Options

    Also when it comes to the products and services offered, the two platforms are very similar, but Charles Schwab gives you a wider amount of products and markets to access. 

    Both brokers offer stocks, ETFs, Mutual Funds, Options, Fixed Income, Futures and Forex. In both cases, it is not possible to directly buy and sell cryptocurrencies – you can get exposure to crypto markets via other products like stocks in crypto and blockchain companies or thanks to derivative products. 

    For what concerns Forex, TD Ameritrade offers a higher number of pairs to trade when compared to Charles Schwab – 70 vs. 8 pairs. 

    But when it comes to mutual funds, Charles Shwab far exceeds TD Ameritrade: while the first broker offers more than 20,000 funds, TD Ameritrade doesn’t reach 4,000 funds. 

    Moreover, Charles Schwab has a more international vocation: while TD Ameritrade offers access to the US and Canada markets, and you necessarily need the assistance of the broker to reach different markets, Charles Schwab normally offers access to 12 different international markets – 30 different countries can be reached thanks to the assistance of the broker. As we discussed in our fees and commissions section, the assistance of the broker has a cost – this is why it is more probable to save on commissions when using Charles Schwab. 

    So, if you’re mostly a forex trader, TD Ameritrade can be the most suitable option for you, but in general, Charles Schwab performs better when it comes to products and services offered. 

    Customer Service

    Both brokers take customer service into high consideration. They’re constantly available for any kind of issue experienced by customers or for any questions. 

    Customers can contact TD Ameritrade via: 

    • Phone call – TD Ameritrade uses different numbers, also to help international clients and hearing impaired, 
    • Facebook and Twitter chat,
    • Fax and mail, 
    • You can also visit one of the TD Ameritrade’s branches. 

    Charles Schwab’s customer can contact the broker: 

    • Via phone call, 
    • By visiting one of its branches,
    • Or via the live chat available on the official website of the broker. 

    In conclusion, both brokers offer high quality customer services able to meet all the needs of their users. 

    Security

    When it comes to security, both brokers use several methods to keep you and your funds safe. 

    To protect its customers, TD Ameritrade mainly uses two methods. After giving you all the information you need to know to navigate the web safely in general, and the platform in particular, TD Ameritrade offers: 

    • Additional security products – for free or at a low price, 
    • It cooperates with different third-parties to guarantee you special prices in case you want to use a security product not produced by the broker. 

    When it comes to your funds, the broker offers you the Asset Protection Guarantee: if you lose your funds because of an unauthorised activity, you will be reimbursed by TD Ameritrade. The broker also shares special contacts you can use if you detect any suspicious activity or any vulnerability. 

    Also Charles Schwab offers strong security measures, in line with the complexity of the products it provides: 

    • Data are encrypted, 
    • Accounts are constantly monitored to send users immediate alerts if any suspicious activity is detected, 
    • The employees involved in the management of data are trained to follow the best practices, 
    • Users are provided with extensive educational resources to understand both investments and all the functionalities of the platform, 
    • Support is offered on-line and in-person, but the identity of the users is always verified first,
    • As a stronger security measure, voice identification is available,
    • Funds lost for unauthorised activity are refunded. 

    Despite the security measures taken by the two brokers, both were hacked in the past – TD Ameritrade in 2007,  and Charles Schwab in 2022. 

    Generally speaking, both can be considered top brokers for what concerns security. 

    Conclusion

    Both Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade are well-established and reputable brokerage firms in the United States, offering a wide range of investment options and services to cater to different investor needs. While both firms have their own advantages, the choice between the two will ultimately come down to individual preferences and priorities.

    When comparing the two, it is essential to consider factors such as trading fees, platform features, customer service, and the availability of diverse investment options.

    Charles Schwab excels in providing lower trading fees for certain investment products, extensive research and educational resources, and no account minimums. These features make Charles Schwab an appealing choice for cost-conscious investors or those seeking comprehensive research tools.

    On the other hand, TD Ameritrade offers a highly customizable trading platform, faster customer service, and a broader range of investment options. These features make TD Ameritrade an attractive choice for investors who prioritize advanced trading tools and responsive customer support.

    FAQ

    Which is better between Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade?

    These brokers have similar features for what concerns investment options, security measures, customer service, fees and commissions and investment platforms. Charles Schwab performs better for what concerns Forex trading, while Charles Schwab gives better and less expensive alternatives when it comes to international markets.

    Did Charles Schwab acquire TD Ameritrade?

    Yes, the two brokers announced the acquisition in November 2019.

    Which broker offers better customer support?

    Both Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade have a strong customer service, available 24/7, both in-person and online.

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