Compare Charles Schwab versus Thinkorswim (TOS): which trading platform, charting, mobile app is better?

Two Rivals: Thinkorswim and Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab and Thinkorswim (which used to be a brokerage firm and now is a trading platform at TD Ameritrade), are two of the best and most popular brokerage firms today. Which one is better? The answer depends on the services the customer utilizes and the associated costs.

Broker Fees

Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Mutual Fund
Annual IRA
Thinkorswim $0 $49.99 $0.65 per contract $0 $0
Charles Schwab $0 $49.95 ($0 to sell) $0.65 per contract $0 $0


Broker Review Cost Investment Products Trading Tools Customer Service Research Overall Rating
Charles Schwab

Account Minimums and Transaction Fees

TD Ameritrade/Thinkorswim currently has no minimum to open a brokerage account. Charles Schwab requires a $1,000 opening deposit. The minimum deposit at Charles Schwab can be bypassed by also opening a free Investor Checking account at the same time. TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab do not have trading minimums nor maintenance fees. Both brokerages also offer IRA accounts with no maintenance fees or minimum trading requirements.

Equity trades at Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade are $0 per trade. For options both brokers are $0 + $0.65 per contract. For trading through a live broker Charles Schwab charges $29.95 and TD Ameritrade charges $25.

Mutual Funds

Charles Schwab OneSource Mutual Funds offers clients over 3,500 no load, no transaction fee mutual funds. In addition they offer thousands more funds with transaction fees. Mutual funds that do have a transaction fee cost $49.95 to buy and $0 to sell.

TD Ameritrade offers more than 11,000 mutual funds. Of those around 4,200 have no load and no transaction fees. Mutual funds that do have a transaction fee cost $49.99 to trade for both buying and selling.

Education and Research

TD Ameritrade offers free access to research and reports from Morningstar, Credit Suisse,, and other independent agencies. TD Ameritrade also offers the Investools platform for online courses on technical analysis, option strategies, forex, futures, and more.

Charles Schwab offers free access to research and reports from Morningstar, Thomson Reuters, and others. The broker has its own rating system for U.S. stocks and Mutual funds that clients can access for free. Charles Schwab offers many online articles, videos, webinars, and live in person trading education.

Thinkorswim vs Charles Schwab

Trading Platforms

TD Ameritrade has 3 trading platforms available: their website, Trade Architect, and Thinkorswim. Their website offers the most easy to use interface. Trade Architect provides live video streaming, customized charting, and integrated research in one screen. Thinkorswim offers equities, options, futures, and forex trading in one platform with all the advanced features for expert traders.

The Charles Schwab StreetSmart Edge trading platform provides news, charts, and many technical analysis tools free of charge. They have a web and Windows desktop version of this platform to work on any computer. The platform allows for complex options trades, account management, research, and analysis of live market data. Trading is also available in the mobile app and website.

Thinkorswim vs Schwab

Customer Service

TD Ameritrade offers phone support 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. They have limited hours for Chinese and Spanish-speaking customers. They also offer email, fax, and in person help at over 100 branches nationwide.

Charles Schwab provides phone support 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. They also have Chinese speaking phone agents. They also offer online chat, email, fax, and in person help at over 300 branches nationwide.

Mobile Apps

TD Ameritrade offers 3 apps for Apple iOS and Android. The TD Ameritrade Mobile App is the simple version that provides the basic features. TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader app offers some more advanced features and research. The broker also has a mobile version of Thinkorswim for advanced traders.

Charles Schwab offers a more simplified mobile app for Apple iOS, Android, and Amazon Kindle Fire. The app is easy to use. It has mobile trading, remote deposit of checks, bill pay, and money transfers. Customer service can also be contacted through the app.

Cash Management Features

TD Ameritrade offers FDIC insured checking services to its brokerage clients. The account is free for all TD Ameritrade brokerage customers and includes a free Visa debit card and free checks. The broker reimburses all ATM fees in the United States. The FDIC insurance covers up to $500,000 since the money is held at 2 separate banks.

Charles Schwab provides FDIC insured Investor Checking through Schwab Bank. The account is free for all Schwab brokerage customers and includes a free Visa debit card and free checks. Investor Checking also reimburse all ATM fees worldwide with no limits. The FDIC insurance covers up to $250,000.


Additional Features

TD Ameritrade offers forex and futures trading on their platform. These services are not typically offered on the same platform at other brokerage firms.

Charles Schwab provides futures trading through their subsidiary OptionsXpress which can be easily linked to Schwab brokerage accounts. The broker currently does not offer forex trading. Charles Schwab also provides investing in twelve foreign markets in eight different currencies using a Schwab Global Account. Clients can also trade foreign investment through their Global Investing Services trading desk.

Which Brokerage is Better?

The answer: it depends. Overall the two brokerages are fairly even-matched. Each have unique features that will appeal to some investors. Active traders will benefit from Charles Schwab’s lower transaction fees on equity and option trades. Technical traders will benefit greatly from the TD Ameritrade Thinkorswim platform which has been rated the best.

TD Ameritrade has a slight edge with tools available for all investor knowledge levels; the ability to trade futures and forex on the same platform; and bigger offering of no transaction fee ETF's for the buy-and-hold investors. The ideal choice will depend highly on each customer’s trading patterns, strategy, and experience level. Since Thinkorswim (TD Ameritrade) could be opened with no money down and closed with no charge, there is no risk to give it a try.


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