TD Ameritrade versus Ally Invest brokerage firms comparison: IRA, fees, commissions, stocks/funds offerings, pros and cons. Which broker to choose?

Overview

TD Ameritrade and Ally Invest are two very different brokerage firms. Investors should be aware that they differ in commissions schedules and investment offerings. Let's make a detailed comparison of the online brokers and see which is better - TD Ameritrade or Ally Invest.

Commissions, Fees, and Account Requirements

Investors at Ally Invest pay a very low $4.95 for stock and ETF transactions ($3.95 if making 30 trades in 90 days or with $100K account balance). TD Ameritrade, on the other hand, charges $6.95. Option contracts at Ally Invest are an extra $0.65, while TD Ameritrade is higher at $0.75.

Both firms offer live agents to help traders buy and sell securities over the phone. At TD Ameritrade, this service costs $44.99, while Ally Invest charges a much lower $24.95.

TD Ameritrade does not charge any account fees. This policy includes annual, setup, and inactivity fees. Ally Invest also does not have account fees. Both brokers allow securities accounts to be opened with no initial deposit.

Both firms also provide margin accounts. A debit less than $5,000 at Ally Invest right now is 10.00%. TD Ameritrade customers pay 10.75% for the same amount borrowed.

Ally Invest takes this category.

Investing in Funds

There are more than 8,500 mutual funds available at Ally Invest. Customers pay no transaction fee for funds with loads. No-load funds do have a $9.95 transaction charge, which is applied to the sell and buy sides.

Unlike Ally Invest, TD Ameritrade offers mutual funds with neither a transaction fee nor a load—nearly 2,000 of them. In total, the broker's clients have access to more than 11,000 funds. Mutual funds with a transaction fee cost a very steep $49.99. This fee is applied to purchases and sales.

TD Ameritrade account holders can trade 296 ETF's without paying a commission. All of the expense ratios of these funds are below 1.00%. Ally Invest offers 115 ETF's commission free.

This category is a tie.





Customer Service

Ally Invest customers can reach a representative by phone or on-line chat during the week from 8 am to 6 pm, EST. The broker also provides fax, snail mail, and e-mail contacts, along with a forum and blog where customers can reach out to an Ally Invest agent.

Unlike Ally Invest, TD Ameritrade has 24/7 customer service. During busier times of the day, agents provide service in Cantonese, Mandarin, and Spanish. The broker also has a nationwide network of branch locations, which Ally Invest does not have. Currently, TD Ameritrade has more than 450 locations.

TD Ameritrade easily wins this category.

Trading Tools

Investors at Ally Invest have three choices: the website, Ally Invest LIVE, and Quotestream. All three provide many helpful tools. These include market indices, watch lists, option chains, and charting. The website has a handy trade bar at the bottom of the browser. Unfortunately, both Ally Invest LIVE and Quotestream have frequent trader requirements.


Ally vs Ameritrade


TD Ameritrade customers can trade on two platforms. The regular website is the first option. It has an advanced trading bar at the bottom of the browser, and it's more sophisticated than Ally Invest's. The second platform is thinkorswim, the firm's most advanced trading system. It has paper-trading capability so investors can practice trades before committing real money. None of the broker's platforms carry any active trader requirements.

Ally Invest loses here.

Mobile Platforms

Investors at TD Ameritrade can buy and sell on three different mobile apps. These apps can be used on Apple and Android. One platform is compatible with Windows 10. The broker also has an app for Apple Watch. Users can watch CNBC free of charge or deposit a check.

Ally Invest's app doesn't offer mobile check deposit or live streaming of any financial news. Nevertheless, the broker's app has a customer service contact along with alert capability. The platform is available on Apple, Android, and mobile web. The charting feature is good, but less advanced than what TD Ameritrade offers.

The victory here goes to TD Ameritrade.

Promotions

Ally Invest: Up to $3,500 cash bonus + commission free trades for new accounts.

TD Ameritrade: Trade free for 60 days + get up to $600.


Cash Management

Investors at TD Ameritrade can open a checking account. It is FDIC insured and comes with a debit card and checks at no cost. Even better, ATM charges are reimbursed throughout the U.S.

Ally Invest customers can add checks and a debit card to a regular brokerage account. The balance can be deposited in an FDIC-insured bank. However, the broker does require a $10,000 account balance. Even worse, the company charges $50 a year for check writing. Furthermore, Ally Invest clients are charged $2 for every ATM withdrawal. However, customers can open savings/checking accounts at parent company, Ally Bank, that has neither of mentioned disadvantages and offers some of the best rates in the industry.

This one is a tie.

Ally Invest vs TD Ameritrade: Results

Ally Invest (learn more) succeeded in one category, there were two ties, and TD Ameritrade (learn more) triumphed in other categories. TD Ameritrade wins but Ally Invest is much less expensive and therefore a better value for a majority of investors.


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