TD Ameritrade versus Interactive Brokers (IBKR Lite) - compare trading platforms, commissions, investing fees, account differences, pros and cons. Which brokerage firm is better?

Overview

After TD Ameritrade announced $0 commissions on U.S. equity trades, Interactive Brokers launched IBKR Lite, which does the same. This survey will compare and contrast the two and see if one is the overall better brokerage firm.

Comparison Table

TD Ameritrade Review Interactive Brokers Review
Rating 4.5-star brokerage firm rating Interactive Brokers rating
Stocks $0 $0
Options (per contract) $0.65 $0.65
Mutual Funds $49.99 $14.95
Initial Funding Requirement $0 $0
Inactivity Fee $0 $0
IRA Annual Fee $0 $0
Full Account Transfer $0 $0
Partial Account Transfer $0 $0
Account Closing Fee $0 $0
Trading Experience & Technology brokerage ratings brokerage ratings
Mobile brokerage ratings brokerage ratings
Research Amenities brokerage ratings brokerage ratings
Portfolio & Analysis Reports brokerage ratings brokerage ratings
Customer Service and Education brokerage ratings brokerage ratings
Open an account Open TD Ameritrade account and get $0 fee stock trades. Open account and get $200 for a friend you refer.


As you see from the table above, Interactive Brokers is better priced than TD Ameritrade for mutual funds. For stocks and ETF's both firms have the same $0 commission.


2nd Category: Available Investments

IBKR Lite offers its customers the same lineup of investments that IBKR Pro clients get: stocks, bonds, warrants, contracts for difference, forex, futures, options, options on futures, precious metals, global equities, ETFs, closed-end funds, penny stocks, OTC socks, and mutual funds.

TD Ameritrade customers get the same selection minus warrants, contracts for difference, precious metals, and global investments.

IBKR Lite wins the second category.


3rd Category: Mobile Trading

IB clients with an IBKR Lite account get to use the broker’s very impressive mobile app. It comes with some sophisticated charting tools. These include several technical indicators, 3 graph styles (bar, candlestick, and area), and up to 5 years of price data. Extended hours can be shown on the graph.


IB App


The platform’s order ticket comes with some high-level features, such as on-the-close orders, profit taker, and price management algorithm.

iBot, the broker’s artificial intelligence, makes an appearance in several locations on the IB app. It was able to answer some, but not all, of our questions. Other highlights include a watchlist and alerts.

TD Ameritrade customers have access to 3 apps. They offer live streaming of financial news and forex trading, neither of which are available on the IBKR Lite app. Other features that TDA offers mobile traders that IBKR Lite does not provide include Level II quotes and direct-access routing. One of TD Ameritrade’s apps also offers twenty years of price data and several hundred technical studies. One app has four chart styles.


Ameritrade or Interactive Brokers


TD Ameritrade is our choice in the third category.


4th Category: Website Trading

IBKR Lite clients get to use the Interactive Brokers portal, which is a basic browser-based trading and research center. Charting is on a very elementary level, with just a few technical studies, no drawing tools or company events, and only five years of price data.

The order ticket offers several order types, including (once again) on-the-close varieties, plus limit and stop orders. Either a share amount or dollar amount can be entered on the ticket. Interactive Brokers is one of the few brokers to offer fractional share investing (out to four decimal places). It was easy for us to sign up online for this great service.

The IB portal has a watchlist, and iBot is enabled. One part of the trading experience we didn’t care for was having to receive a special code via text message in order to log in every time. Furthermore, while there is a simulated trading mode at the login screen, we strangely didn’t find the ability to practice trading once inside.

TD Ameritrade does not require such codes to login to its site. On it, we found much better charting than on IB’s portal. For example, a chart can be expanded the width of the computer monitor and detached into its own window. Neither of these is possible on IB’s portal.

SnapTicket is a trade bar on TDA’s site that makes sending orders for stocks, ETFs, and options a breeze. A rapid mode can be used for equities, and we liked the ability to detach it into its own window. Advanced order types like conditions and trailing are available.

Overall, we like TD Ameritrade better here.


5th Category: Desktop Trading

IBKR Lite does not come with access to Interactive Brokers’ desktop platform Trader Workstation (IBKR Pro does). TD Ameritrade, on the other hand, offers $0 commissions with its flagship software thinkorswim. It offers many professional-level features not found on IB’s portal. Selling points include direct-access routing and very sophisticated charting.


IB vs Ameritrade


TD Ameritrade takes the victory in this category.


Ameritrade versus Interactive Brokers


6th Category: Education & Research

The IB portal offers some effective research tools for stocks. During our investigation, we found a “Fundamentals” tab on a stock’s profile that presents a treasure trove of information. Highlights include ESG ratings, EPS forecasts, trade recommendations from Reuters and TipRanks, plus financial data points in easy-to-read pictorial format.

An all-in-one screener tool is able to look for stocks, ETFs, foreign stocks, and OTC stocks. Trades for the foreign stocks can be placed in the local currency. Posts from an IB forum are displayed on the portal along with news articles on major market events.

TD Ameritrade operates its own TV network, which guests and account holders can access for free. A major advantage that TD Ameritrade’s stock profiles offer over IBKR Lite’s is more third-party reports. We found 7 for IBM. Social signals from Twitter are available, and peer comparisons can easily be made. Screeners are able to scan the U.S. space for many possible investments. thinkorswim offers even more scanners and research tools.

TD Ameritrade takes another victory.


7th Category: Option Contracts

Calls and puts can be traded on the IBKR Lite website portal. We did not find any pre-installed multi-leg strategies during our testing; and even worse, it’s not possible to create your own. It is possible to create 4-leg orders on the mobile app.

TDA customers can trade derivatives with pre-defined strategies like straddles and strangles on the broker’s website. More strategies are installed on thinkorswim along with a very robust options search tool.

Once again, TD Ameritrade takes the victory.


8th Category: Other Services

Both brokerage houses in this contest provide DRIP service and IRAs. TD Ameritrade offers periodic deposits into mutual funds, but IB does not.

TD Ameritrade wins another.


Promotions

TD Ameritrade: Open TD Ameritrade account and get $0 fee stock trades.

Interactive Brokers: Open account and get $200 for a friend you refer.



Our Recommendations

Beginners: We like TD Ameritrade’s customer service and learning section better than IB’s.

Mutual Fund Traders: TD Ameritrade has much better mutual fund resources.

Retirement Savers: TD Ameritrade’s financial planning and managed account services cause us to suggest it over its rival.

Trading Tools: With no desktop platform, IBKR Lite can’t compete here with the competition.

ETF and Stock Trading: Same issue as with trading tools.


Interactive Brokers vs TD Ameritrade Summary

IBKR Lite has a wider selection of financial instruments. In all other cases, TD Ameritrade appears to us to be the top dog in the race.


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