These platforms are formidable opponents. Both have sweeping account selections, 24-hour customer support and commission-free trades. But one has a few features on deck that may sway advanced traders.
Which one is better?
Choose Charles Schwab if you want direct access to international stocks.
Choose TD Ameritrade if you want access to the forex market.
Put two powerful, well-established platforms into the ring together and what do you get? One heck of a close call.
Both platforms are more than capable of satisfying a variety of investors. Whether you’re new to the market or an experienced trader swapping derivatives, both Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade can deliver.
New traders will appreciate that both platforms offer round-the-clock customer support, no account minimums and no maintenance fees. Advanced traders can take advantage of similarly solid lineups of tradable securities and extensive research and analysis tools.
There honestly isn’t much that separates these platforms. But the differences that do exist can help investors decide which platform is right for them.
For investors who want to buy and sell international stocks, Charles Schwab’s Global Account offers direct access to 12 international markets in their corresponding currencies. But unless foreign securities are your bread and butter, TD Ameritrade might be the better choice.
TD Ameritrade offers five trading platforms to Schwab’s three. It also offers paper trading, access to the forex market and boasts some of the most sophisticated research and analysis software on the market, courtesy of its Thinkorswim platform.
Both of these brokerages are robust enough to satisfy many types of traders. But when push comes to shove, TD Ameritrade edges out its competitor with better charting tools and a greater selection of platforms.
Charles Schwab to acquire TD Ameritrade
In 2019, Charles Schwab announced its plans to acquire TD Ameritrade in a transaction valued at $26 billion. The acquisition is moving forward as planned, with shareholders and US Justice Department officials both voting in favor of the merger.
The process is expected to take 18 to 36 months to complete. Until then, both platforms will continue to operate independently.
Research and tools
We awarded a bonus star for access to paper trading.
Charles Schwab is a well-known broker offering commission-free online trades, extensive research and around-the-clock phone support to a range of investors. It caters to a wide range of investors including active traders and fundamental traders.
TD Ameritrade is an online brokerage service designed for beginner investors and active traders. It features user-friendly trading platforms and a variety of mutual funds. It may be best for new investors, frequent traders and advanced traders.
Stock trade fee
Option trade fee
$0 + $0.65/contract or $25 Broker-assisted
$0 + $0.65/contract or $25 Broker-assisted
Minimum deposit to open
Robust research tools. While not quite as extensive as its competitor’s, Charles Schwab’s research tools are sophisticated enough to meet the needs of new and advanced traders alike.
24/7 support. Not many platforms offer round-the-clock support, but Charles Schwab’s customer service reps are available by phone and live chat 24 hours a day.
Access to international markets. The Schwab Global Account offers direct access to 12 international markets in their local currencies.
Well-received mobile app. Android users give this platform’s mobile app a score of 4.1 out of 5, while Apple users rate it 4.8 out of 5.
24/7 support. Like its competitor, TD Ameritrade also offers 24-hour live chat assistance.
Paper trading. This feature allows investors to test trading strategies using hypothetical money on a virtual market.
Multiple trading platforms. TD Ameritrade offers no fewer than five distinct trading platforms for traders across web, desktop and mobile.
Available assets. Traders gain access to a diverse lineup of seven tradable securities, including the forex market.
No forex or crypto. It offers many of the standard securities you’d expect to see, but it’s missing forex and cryptocurrency access.
Fewer trading platforms. While its competitor has five trading platforms for traders to choose from, Schwab only offers three.
Steep learning curve. A number of complaints about TD Ameritrade mention that the platform can be tricky to navigate.
No direct access to foreign stocks. Investors can trade some international stocks over-the-counter, but unlike its competitor, TD Ameritrade doesn’t offer direct access to foreign markets.
Tools and research
Customizable stock screeners. Filter the market by your own personalized criteria to find securities that fit your portfolio.
Idea hub. Interact with fellow derivatives traders to identify new options trade ideas by sentiment or strategy.
Schwab Equity Ratings. Explore Schwab’s exclusive in-house equity ratings on over 3,000 US stocks.
Charting tools. Apply over 56 technical indicators to conduct a close reading of a specific security.
Gain and loss analyzer. Assess your past trading performance to identify opportunities and minimize losses.
Custom alerts. Create your own personalized alerts to execute optimally timed trades.
Economic data. Assess US and global economies with over 400,000 data points from six continents.
Custom alerts. Design personalized alerts from a prepopulated list of events.
Charting tools. Conduct your own analysis with over 400 technical studies across 20 drawings, including eight Fibonacci tools.
Options statistics. Review current option volumes to previous five-day averages to compare implied and historical volatility.
Strategy roller. Create covered call strategies that automatically roll forward monthly.
Market Marker Move (MMM). Monitor projected price movements by market volatility to navigate trends and shifts.
TradeWise. Access affiliate newsletters with recommendations from former Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) floor traders.
Market monitor. Use interactive heat-mapping to track the market and tweak your portfolio.
Reputation and customer reviews
Reviews are: Mixed
Customers praise: Excellent customer service experiences and commission-free trades
Customers complain about: Account restrictions and occasional order fill delays
Reviews are: Mixed
Customers praise: Educational resources and top-notch analysis software
Customers complain about: Excessive wait times to speak with support reps
Apple App Store reviews
Google Play Store reviews
Phone. Call 866-855-9102.
Live chat. Start a chat through the website.
Phone. For new clients call 800-454-9272. For existing clients call 800-669-3900.
Live chat. Available 24/7 for active members.
Social Media. Send a message via Facebook Messenger or Twitter.
When brokerages are this well matched, it can be tough to know which platform is right for your investments. For most traders, TD Ameritrade is the better-equipped of the two. But if you’re interested in international stocks, Charles Schwab is your best bet.
TD Ameritrade offers Monday through Friday 24-hour trading for a select handful of securities. For all other stocks, you’re limited to standard hours: weekdays from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
TD Ameritrade offers individual, joint, retirement and education accounts.
Yes, you need a minimum deposit amount of $2,000 to open a TD Ameritrade margin account.
Yes, investors can trade over-the-counter (OTC) bulletin boards, pink sheets and penny stocks with an online broker, IVR phone system or TD Ameritrade broker.
No, there are no monthly maintenance or inactivity fees for brokerage accounts.
You can fund your Charles Schwab account by online bill pay, electronic transfer, wire transfer, paper check or eDeposit.
Yes, Charles Schwab accounts are SIPC-insured up to $500,000.
How we rate trading platforms
★★★★★5/5 — Excellent
★★★★★4/5 — Good
★★★★★3/5 — Average
★★★★★2/5 — Subpar
★★★★★1/5 — Poor
We analyze top online trading platforms and rate them one to five stars based on factors that are most important to you. These factors include fees, securities available for trade, customer support, customer feedback, platform resources and overall reliability.
Shannon Terrell is a writer for Finder who studied communications and English literature at the University of Toronto. On any given day, you can find her researching everything from equine financing and business loans to student debt refinancing and how to start a trust. She loves hot coffee, the smell of fresh books and discovering new ways to save her pennies.
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