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

Ally Invest vs. TD Ameritrade Introduction

Which brokerage firm can deliver the better trading experience, TD Ameritrade or Ally Invest? While the former has futures contracts, the latter has robo accounts. For more details, read on.

Commissions, Fees, and Account Requirements

TD Ameritrade Rating
Rating Ally Invest rating 4.5-star brokerage firm rating
Stocks, ETFs $0 $0
Mutual Funds $9.95 $49.99
Initial Funding Requirement $0 $0
Inactivity Fee $0 $0
IRA Annual Fee $0 $0
IRA Termination Fee $25 $0
Outgoing Wire Fees (Domestic)$30$25
Full Account Transfer Out$50$0
Partial Account Transfer Out$50$0
Open an account Up to $3,000 cash bonus + $0 trades + transfer fee rebate. $0 stock/ETF trades + transfer fee refund.


Category #1: Investment Choices

Ally Invest:

Traders at Ally Invest have several investment choices. The brokerage house offers both managed and self-directed accounts. The former service includes both robo and traditional management. The automated system trades funds with low expense ratios and has no annual fee. The old-school service has a $100,000 minimum investment amount and costs approximately 0.80% per year.

Ally Invest’s self-directed accounts have access to the largest selection of tradable instruments. They are:

  • Stocks, including OTC and penny stocks
  • Bonds
  • Mutual funds
  • Closed end funds
  • Exchange traded funds
  • Forex

TD Ameritrade:

Managed accounts are not available at TD Ameritrade, although the brokerage firm does have self-directed accounts. These provide trading in the same list that Ally Invest offers plus futures contracts. TD Ameritrade also offers annuities.

Winner: Ally Invest


Category #2: Customer Service

Ally Invest:

The Ally Invest website doesn’t have robo or human chat, but its trading platform LIVE (discussed up ahead) does have a human chat widget. There is no internal messaging for outgoing messages, which is strike one. We did find a rudimentary self-help section with a few nice tools. Examples include:

- Form upload
- Beneficiary election
- Password change tool

Ally Invest does have associates on the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, which is its first real success here. There is also a service e-mail address (support@invest.ally.com).

TD Ameritrade:

Unlike its rival, TD Ameritrade does have a chat feature on its website. It begins in robo form, and human agents serve as backup. There is also internal messaging (both outgoing and incoming), and the site has a huge self-service hub. Available widgets include:

  • Promotions
  • Refer a friend
  • Data subscriptions
  • E-statement sign up
  • Investor profile
  • Tax center

Like its rival, TD Ameritrade offers phone support around the clock. What really sets TD Ameritrade apart from Ally Invest is the former’s large network of branch locations. There are hundreds throughout the United States, and they can provide service on many issues.

Winner: TD Ameritrade


Category #3: Margin

Ally Invest and TD Ameritrade both offer margin accounts, and both firms offer margin education on their websites. Cash accounts and margin accounts can be upgraded and downgraded on the brokers’ websites. Margin rates do differ quite a bit.

Ally Invest:

Traders at Ally Invest pay between 4.75% and 9.25% for margin loans.

To change the margin status of an account, hover over Client Services in the top menu and then go to Forms and then Online Margin.

TD Ameritrade:

TD Ameritrade clients have to pay between 11% and 9% for margin debits. These are some of the highest rates in the brokerage industry today. However, margin rates above $500,000 can be negotiated.

The margin status of an account can be edited by hovering over Client Services in the top menu and selecting My Profile. Under Elections & routing, there is a link to change the account’s margin status.

Winner: Ally Invest


Category #4: Websites

Ally Invest:

The Ally Invest website is the same basic software that the former TradeKing used. Surprisingly, there haven’t been many updates to the layout.


Ally Invest vs Ameritrade


At the bottom of the screen, there is a trade bar. It delivers bid and ask numbers along with other pieces of information in real time. It cannot submit orders, however. This is done on discrete web pages.

An asset’s profile has charting with several important features. These include upper indicators, lower indicators, company events, and comparisons. There are trendlines but no drawing tools.

The downside of Ally Invest’s charting is the lack of full-screen mode. This problem is solved with LIVE, the company’s browser platform. There are 8 plot styles and several technical studies. There are also tons of drawing tools. But the platform only has 5 trade types, which we consider a small number.

TD Ameritrade:

During our research, we really liked the TD Ameritrade website. There is no browser platform, but the site itself is very well-designed and has some robust tools.


TD Ameritrade vs Ally Invest


The trade ticket has some really advanced order types. These include:

- Bracket orders
- OCA (one cancels another)
- Contingent order
- OTT (one triggers two)

Charts on TD Ameritrade’s site can be detached and shown nearly full screen. There are company events, comparisons, indicators, and multiple chart styles.

One last widget on TD Ameritrade’s site is a trade bar. Unlike Ally Invest’s gadget, this one can submit orders.

Winner: TD Ameritrade


Category #5: Desktop Software

Both brokerage firms have desktop programs, but they are worlds apart.

Ally Invest:

Clients who place at least 30 trades per quarter can use Quotestream for securities trading. This is not a very user-friendly platform, although it does have some decent tools. Among them are:


Ally or TD Ameritrade


  • Equity screener with predefined searches
  • Full-screen charting with a lot of tools, including 50 technical indicators
  • Heatmaps
  • Waterfall ticker
  • Time & sales data
  • Watchlist
  • Earnings calendar

For forex trading, Ally Invest offers two platforms: MetaTrader 4 and Ally Invest Forex. These two programs offer a lot of great features like dealing boxes and advanced charting tools.

TD Ameritrade:

thinkorswim is TD Ameritrade’s professional-level trading platform. Unlike Quotestream, there are no minimums to use it. Although thinkorswim is not very user-friendly either, it does offer a lot more features. They include:


TD Ameritrade or Ally


  • Live streaming of multiple video channels
  • Simple computer games
  • Advanced charting with hundreds of technical studies
  • Direct-access routing
  • Level 2 quotes
  • Asset screeners
  • Integrated customer service channels
  • Order ticket with lots of advanced trade types

TD Ameritrade does not supply a second platform for forex or futures trading. Instead, these products can be traded through thinkorswim with customizable dealing boxes.

Winner: TD Ameritrade


Category #6: Mobile Apps

Ally Invest:

Forex traders at Ally Invest can use one of two currency apps: Ally Invest Forex or MetaTrader 4. Combined, they offer watchlists, position information, discrete and color-code trade buttons, charting, market news, and more.


Ally vs TD Ameritrade


Securities traders use the regular Ally Financial app, which integrates with Ally Bank accounts. This means brokerage and deposit accounts are linked (the same setup on the website, in fact). The investment side has a watchlist that syncs with the website. Multiple lists can be created.

Strangely, there is an ETF screener on the app, but stocks and mutual funds don’t have screeners.

Charts on the Ally Invest app can be displayed horizontally, and there are several nice tools, like technical studies.

TD Ameritrade:

TD Ameritrade has two apps: a basic app and a thinkorswim platform. The latter is the one designed for powerful trading. Besides forex trading, it has very advanced charting with all the technical indicators from its desktop cousin.


TD Ameritrade vs Ally


The order ticket is on a very high level. It includes:

- 12 trade types
- 6 duration choices
- Direct-access routing

A recent update to the thinkorswim app has added Level 2 quotes and mobile check deposit.

Winner: TD Ameritrade


Category #7: Other Services

Fractional Shares: Neither brokerage house in this contest offers trading in fractional shares for stocks or exchange-traded funds.

Individual Retirement Accounts: Both firms have IRAs. TD Ameritrade has more IRA types, and Ally Invest has an IRA closeout fee. It’s $25.

Extended Hours: After-hours and pre-market sessions are available at both brokerage firms. TD Ameritrade has longer sessions on both ends. Plus, it offers overnight trading in a small selection of ETFs.

DRIP Service: Cash dividends from securities can be converted into additional shares at either broker.

Cash Management Features: Checks and debit cards are available at both investment firms.

Periodic Mutual Fund Investing: Only TD Ameritrade customers can enroll in systematic purchases of mutual funds.

Initial Public Offerings: TD Ameritrade’s website has an IPO center where customers can sign up for imminent stock offerings. Ally Invest does not offer IPO trading.

Winner: TD Ameritrade


Our Recommendations

ETF & Stock Trading: With thinkorswim, TD Ameritrade gets our endorsement.

Small Accounts: For taxable self-directed accounts, neither firm has any account minimums or ongoing fees. We have to recommend TD Ameritrade for small IRAs due to Ally’s termination fee.

Mutual Fund Trading: Ally Invest does not have any no-load, no-transaction-fee funds. TD Ameritrade does, and it gets our seal of approval.

Beginners: Ally Invest’s automated account service would be a good idea, but TD Ameritrade has superior customer service plus a large network of brick-and-mortar locations. Plus, we like its learning materials better. thinkorswim also has a practice mode.

Long-Term Investors and Retirement Savers: This one is close. Ally Invest offers wealth management, which TD Ameritrade has discontinued. But the latter broker still has a long list of small business retirement plans. Take your pick.


Promotions

Ally Invest: Up to $3,000 cash bonus + $0 trades + transfer fee rebate.

TD Ameritrade: $0 stock/ETF trades and a transfer fee refund.



Ally Invest vs TD Ameritrade: Results

Each brokerage firm in this showdown has its own strengths and weaknesses. Overall, they are pretty competitive.


Open Ally Invest Account


Open Ally Invest Account

Open TD Ameritrade Account


Open TD Ameritrade Account

Updated on 5/10/2022.




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