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TD Ameritrade vs. Vanguard

Both platforms are strong contenders but only one is equipped for active trading.

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Both TD Ameritrade and Vanguard share commission-free stocks and access to a respectable lineup of accounts and securities. But one is better for advanced traders while the other is designed for buy and hold investors.

Which one is better?

  • Choose TD Ameritrade if you’re an active trader seeking advanced research tools.
  • Choose Vanguard if you’re a buy-and-hold investor seeking ETFs and mutual funds.

There’s plenty to celebrate between TD Ameritrade and Vanguard. They each offer commission-free trades, a generous selection of accounts, robo-advisor services and access to financial planners. But neither of these trading platforms is a one-size-fits-all choice. While it’s true that each brokerage has the potential to satisfy many types of investors, they each are best-suited to a particular type of investor with specific trading strategies.

For the active trader, TD Ameritrade is the obvious choice. It offers access to seven tradable securities across five distinct trading platforms. It boasts some of the most extensive analytics software on the market. It even offers paper trading for investors looking to test their trading strategies with hypothetical funds before going live. The steep learning curve associated with its Thinkorswim platform may deter new investors, but advanced traders will appreciate the robust charting software.

For buy-and-hold investors, Vanguard offers more competitive features. Featuring a sizable selection of in-house ETFs, commission-free mutual funds and free account transfers, Vanguard is designed for investors who plan to hold their securities. While its research and analytics can’t compete with TD Ameritrade’s, it simply wasn’t designed to serve the type of active investor in need of such software. But for investors who buy and hold stocks, ETFs and mutual funds, Vanguard offers a satisfying selection of securities and competitive pricing.

Overview

TD AmeritradeVanguard
Fees

★★★★★ 3.8/5

★★★★★ 2.5/5

Available securities

★★★★★ 5/5

★★★★★ 4/5

Customer support

★★★★★ 5/5

★★★★★ 5/5

Mobile app

★★★★★ 4.6/5

★★★★★ 4.6/5

Research and tools

★★★★★ 5.5/5

★★★★★ 3/5

Reliability

★★★★★ 3/5

★★★★★ 3/5

Bonus star

1

We awarded a bonus star for access to paper trading.

1

We awarded a bonus star for Vanguard’s client-owned structure.

To learn how our star ratings are calculated, read the methodology at the bottom of the page.

How do Fidelity and Vanguard compare?

TD AmeritradeVanguard
Fidelity logo
Vanguard
Open an account
Finder’s rating

★★★★★ 4.4/5

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.

★★★★★ 3.7/5

Vanguard is an investor-owned brokerage that specializes in low expense ratio ETFs. Its tiered investment services are best suited to long-term investors with high account balances, as it offers a personal advisor service for investors with at least $50,000 on hand. Investors that purchase its mutual funds and ETFs don’t pay commissions and become part-owners of the company.

Stock trade fee$0$7
Option trade fee$0 + $0.65/contract
or $25 Broker-assisted
$1
Annual fee0%0%
Minimum deposit to open$0$0
Benefits
  • Numerous trading platforms. TD Ameritrade offers an impressive lineup of five distinct trading platforms across web, desktop and mobile.
  • Robust research tools. This brokerage’s research and analytics tools are comprehensive enough to satisfy even the most advanced traders.
  • 24/7 support. TD Ameritrade investors have access to 24-hour live chat support.
  • Paper trading. Traders can test trading strategies on a virtual market without risking money.
  • Commission-free mutual funds. Mutual fund commissions typically fall between $10 to $50 but Vanguard offers this security commission free.
  • Investor owned. Investors have the opportunity to buy into the platform they use to invest by purchasing in-house mutual funds and ETFs.
  • Free account transfers. Among the few trading platforms that don’t charge the standard $75 account transfer fee.
  • ETF selection. Its selection of over 1,800 ETFs includes funds with expense ratios as low as 0.14%.
Drawbacks
  • Steep learning curve. Investors warn of the platform’s steep learning curve.
  • Commissions. TD Ameritrade charges a hefty $49.99 for no-loan mutual funds.
  • No direct access to foreign stocks. TD Ameritrade offers some international stocks over the counter, but doesn’t give its investors direct access to foreign markets.
  • Options trading fee. Investors pay $1 per options contract — a less competitive rate than the industry average of $0.65.
  • Limited support. Customer support is only available by phone on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Limited research. Educational content and investment calculators are inadequate for active traders in need of sophisticated charting software.
Tools and research
  • Economic data. Track the US and global economies with over 400,000 data points from six continents.
  • Custom alerts. Set personalized alerts using a prepopulated list of events.
  • Charting tools. Analyze individual stocks with over 400 technical studies across 20 drawings, including eight Fibonacci tools.
  • Options statistics. Compare option volumes to previous five-day averages and review implied and historical volatility.
  • Strategy roller. Design covered call strategies that automatically roll forward on a monthly basis.
  • Market Marker Move (MMM). Track projected price movements by market volatility to better anticipate shifts within the market.
  • TradeWise. Review affiliate newsletters with recommendations from former Chicago Board Options Exchange floor traders.
  • Market monitor. Explore interactive heatmaps to track the market and modify your holdings.
  • Knowledge base. Expand your knowledge with articles on retirement, savings strategies, market fluctuations and economic news.
  • Retirement calculators. Crunch the numbers using the platform’s retirement calculators to create a personalized investment plan.
  • Portfolio Watch. Analyze your holdings, identify risks and find opportunities for exposure with Portfolio Watch.
Reputation and customer reviews
  • Reviews are: Mixed
  • Customers praise: Trading platform variety and comprehensive charting software
  • Customers complain about: Long wait times to speak with support reps
  • Reviews are: Mixed
  • Customers praise: Personalized advice from company advisers
  • Customers complain about: Slow account transfers
Apple App Store reviews

★★★★★ 4.5/5

★★★★★ 4.7/5

Google Play Store reviews

★★★★★ 3.2/5

★★★★★ 2.1/5

Support
  • 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.
  • Phone. Call 800-349-5814.
  • Email. From the Contact Us Brokerage Services page, click Send a secure message to fill in Vanguard’s email form.
  • By US Mail. Vanguard, PO Box 2600, Valley Forge, PA 19482-2600
Learn more

Read our review

Read our review

Bottom line

Both TD Ameritrade and Vanguard are worthy of consideration but are best equipped to serve different trading strategies.

Not sure either platform is the right fit? Explore your account options across multiple trading platforms to find the account that best fits your investment goals.

Frequently asked questions

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.

For a complete breakdown of how we score each category, read the full methodology of how we rate trading platforms.

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