TD Ameritrade thinkorswim vs Tradestation - compare trading platforms, commissions, investing fees, account differences, pros and cons. Which brokerage firm is better?

TradeStation vs. TD Ameritrade Introduction

Two brokerage firms that are often chosen by active traders are TradeStation and TD Ameritrade. If you’re looking for the best in software and trading features, you really have to check out these two.

Comparison Table

TD Ameritrade Rating TradeStation Review
Rating 4.5-star brokerage firm rating TradeStation rating
Stocks $0 $0
Mutual Funds $49.99 to buy, $0 to sell $14.95
Initial Funding Requirement $0 $2,000
Inactivity Fee $0 $0
IRA Annual Fee $0 $0
Full Account Transfer $0 $125
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 $0 stock/ETF trades + transfer fee refund. Get Up to $3,500 with a Qualifying Deposit.

Category #1: Available Assets

Both TD Ameritrade and TradeStation offer self-directed accounts only. Neither firm offers managed accounts or investment advice.

In its self-directed accounts, TradeStation provides access to the following financial products:

  • Bonds and other fixed-income securities
  • Stocks
  • Exchange-traded funds
  • Mutual funds
  • Closed-end funds
  • Futures
  • Cryptocurrencies

TD Ameritrade removes cryptos from this list and replaces them with government-issued currencies.

In the realm of futures trading, TD Ameritrade charges $2.25 per contract, per side. TradeStation is at $1.50. But bond commissions are more expensive at TradeStation, and it doesn’t have any mutual funds without transaction fees (TD Ameritrade has about 3,500 of them).

Winner: TD Ameritrade

Category #2: Websites

As to be expected, both brokerage firms in this face-off have websites with trading capability. But there are many differences, so we need to take a closer look.

TradeStation’s website has a browser platform that can be easily launched by clicking on the Log In button at the top of the site and choosing Web Trading from the pop-out window. There are two versions of the platform: live and simulated. As these names suggest, the second one is for practicing without real money.

TradeStation vs TD Ameritrade

In either mode, we found lots of useful trading tools. These include full-screen charting with tools and a very good order ticket with lots of advanced features. Examples include bracket orders, OCO orders, and tons of duration choices. A second trade ticket called Matrix provides a ladder view of bid and ask prices and can quickly submit limit orders at those prices.

The rest of TradeStation’s site has mostly account management tools. It’s not the most user-friendly, although it is passable.

TD Ameritrade’s website is easier to navigate, thanks to a very good top menu with drop-down windows and lots of links. Although it doesn’t have a browser platform, the site itself has some really effective trading widgets.

TD Ameritrade vs Tradestation

Perhaps of greatest importance is SnapTicket. This is the site’s very good trade bar. Sitting at the bottom, it can be detached and moved around. It has some really advanced features, including a rapid mode that can submit orders with just a short string of characters. The regular trade ticket on the website has professional-level order types, including OTT (one triggers two) and OCA (one cancels another).

Charts on TD Ameritrade’s website have several graphing tools and they can be displayed the full width of the computer monitor.

Winner: Pretty close

Category #3: Desktop Platforms

Trading power increases with two very good desktop programs. TD Ameritrade’s is named thinkorswim. This platform boasts some really advanced features plus some that aren’t really on a professional level but are worth mentioning anyway. They include:

thinkorswim vs Tradestation

- High level charting with many tools like technical studies and multiple plot styles
- Live streaming of CNBC
- Advanced order ticket with lots of trade types
- Video games like Tetris

TradeStation’s platform doesn’t have a name and it doesn’t have any video games or free streaming video news. Nevertheless, it does have some pro-level features. These include:

TradeStation vs thinkorswim

- Sophisticated trade ticket with several order types
- Full-screen charting with graphing tools
- Time & sales data

The TradingApp Store on TradeStation’s desktop platform (where discrete trading applications have been normally available for purchase) will be permanently shut down in September 2023.

Both desktop systems have paper-trading modes, which makes practicing them easy.

Winner: TD Ameritrade

Category #4: Mobile Apps

TradeStation’s mobile app also has a practice-trading mode. This, of course, is useful, although the software is not difficult to learn. Charts can be displayed horizontally, although the top and bottom are overlaid with app and security details. These portions take up about half of the viewing space, and we view this as a major flaw.

TradeStation vs TD Ameritrade

The app’s order ticket has stop and trailing types. Bracket orders are integrated as well. Stop-loss and take-profit orders can be added with toggle switches, and these make the process super easy.

TD Ameritrade has two apps, one of which is a thinkorswim app with a lot of powerful trading features. Charts aren’t blocked by display problems, which is a major advantage in this category. Both apps have mobile check deposit, a great feature that is missing on TradeStation’s app.

TD Ameritrade vs TradeStation

Winner: TD Ameritrade

Category #5: Margin

Cash and margin accounts are both available at TradeStation and Ameritrade. Margin borrowing will of course come with interest charges. Here is Ameritrade’s tiered schedule:

Debit Balance Margin Interest Rates
above $499,999 call 800-655-4777
$250,000 - $499,999 12.00%
$100,000 - $249,999 12.25%
$50,000 - $99,999 12.50%
$25,000 - $49,999 13.50%
$10,000 - $24,999 13.75%
under $10,000 14.00%

TradeStation’s tiered schedule is a little simpler (and cheaper):

Debit Balance Margin Rate
under $25,000 12.50%
$25,000 - $49,999.99 12.50%
$50,000 - $499,999.99 11.50%
$500,000+ call 800-770-4049

Winner: TradeStation

Category #6: Day Trading

Shorting: Shorting is possible (with discrete sell short buttons) at both firms in this competition.

Extended Hours: TD Ameritrade and TradeStation have pre-market and after-hours trading sessions. Ameritrade’s morning session is longer than TradeStation’s.

Routing Fees and Rebates: TradeStation has them, but TD does not.

Level II Quotes: Both broker-dealers have Level II quotes. Only TradeStation charges for them.

Direct-access Routing: TradeStation’s software has about 20 routing choices. thinkorswim has just 3.

Winner: Draw

Category #7: Other Services

Fractional-Share Trading: Stocks and exchange-traded funds can only be traded in whole shares at TradeStation and TD Ameritrade.

Banking Tools: TD Ameritrade customers, but not TradeStation clients, can sign up for a host of really good cash management tools, like a Visa debit card, ATM fee refunds, checkwriting, and more. There is no charge for any of these great services.

Recurring Purchases of Mutual Funds: Once again, available at TD Ameritrade, but not at TradeStation.

Individual Retirement Accounts: IRAs can be opened at both firms in this contest. TD Ameritrade has more IRA choices.

DRIP Service: Dividends from stocks and ETFs can be automatically set to purchase additional shares of the securities that paid them inside a TD Ameritrade account. TradeStation does not offer this convenient service, unfortunately.

Initial Public Offerings: Both firms offer access to impending equity offerings.

Winner: TD Ameritrade


Tradestation: Get Up to $3,500 with a Qualifying Deposit.

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

Our Recommendations

ETF and Stock Trading: Both brokers have really good software. TD Ameritrade has better research tools, so we endorse it.

Beginners: Both firms offer free paper trading, which of course is highly recommended for beginners. TD Ameritrade has a better educational section on its website, so we lean towards it.

Mutual Fund Traders: TradeStation charges $14.95 for every mutual fund trade. TD Ameritrade does not. Plus, it has a really good mutual fund screener that TradeStation doesn’t have. Easy choice.

Retirement Savers: Although both firms have IRAs, TD Ameritrade has more available account types, including a self-employed 401k. Plus, its selection of no-transaction-fee retirement funds is really good.

Small Accounts: TradeStation has a $50 annual inactivity fee. TD Ameritrade does not. Another easy decision.

Tradestation vs TD Ameritrade Summary

Except for margin trading and direct-access routing, TD Ameritrade seems to be the outperformer here.

Open Tradestation Account

Open Tradestation Account

Open TD Ameritrade Account

Open TD Ameritrade Account

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