Compare Firstrade versus thinkorswim (TOS): which trading platform, charting, mobile app is better?

Two Rivals: thinkorswim and Firstrade

If you’re an active trader of stocks, ETF’s, or options, you’ll definitely want to take a look at Firstrade and TD Ameritrade’s platform thinkorswim. Here are the details:

Broker Fees

Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Mutual Fund
Annual IRA
Thinkorswim $6.95 $49.95 $6.95 + $0.75 per contract $0 $0
Firstrade $0 $0 $0 + $0 per contract $0 $0


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


TD Ameritrade/Thinkorswim: Trade free for 60 days + Get up to $600.

Firstrade: $0 commissions + up to $200 in transfer fee rebates.

Range of Investments

On thinkorswim, it’s possible to trade ETF’s, futures, options on futures, bitcoin futures, closed-end funds, stocks (including penny and OTC stocks), currencies, and option contracts. On TD Ameritrade’s website, it’s also possible to trade mutual funds and bonds.

On the Firstrade website, stocks (including over-the-counter and penny stocks), bonds, mutual funds, options, closed-end funds, and ETF’s are available.

thinkorswim secures its first victory.

PC Trading

Firstrade offers a website with an excellent trade bar. It can submit orders for ETF’s, closed-end funds, stocks, and options. The tool provides real-time trade information, and option chains can be displayed above it. Mutual funds and fixed-income securities need to be traded on web pages, which are able to get the job done.

Firstrade vs TOS

Charting on the Firstrade site uses software borrowed from Morningstar. A graph cannot be displayed the width of the monitor, but there are many tools, such as technical indicators and company events.

thinkorswim is a desktop platform, something Firstrade doesn’t offer. It provides more advanced order types than Firstrade’s trade bar. Charting is also much more sophisticated with hundreds of technical studies and full-screen mode.


thinkorswim wins the second category.

Mobile Apps

Moving to mobile trading, thinkorswim makes another appearance with excellent charting capability. What we really liked about this platform is direct-access routing and the ability to trade forex and futures. CNBC streams free of charge, and mobile check deposit is a feature on a separate TD Ameritrade app.

thinkorswim Mobile

Firstrade offers just one app, and it doesn’t have a mobile check deposit tool or any video news. It does, however, deliver horizontal charting with some graphing tools. There is also a watch list.

Firstrade mobile app

Another failure from Firstrade.

Extended-Hours Trading

thinkorswim clients get to start trading an hour and a half before the opening bell. This early-bird session closes 15 minutes before the bell. Fifteen minutes after the closing bell, the after-hours period begins and runs until 8:00 pm, EST.

At Firstrade, the pre-market session starts at the same time as thinkorswim’s, but shuts down 5 minutes before the regular session (instead of 15). The broker’s late-night session opens 5 minutes after the closing bell and lasts until 8:00 pm.

Firstrade takes its first victory.

Level II Quotes

Level II quotes can be accessed on the thinkorswim platform by clicking on the “+” sign in the lower-left corner. The data is free to both pros and non-professionals. Firstrade doesn’t offer Level II data at any price.

thinkorswim is obviously the better pick here.


Margin accounts are available at both brokerage firms. On thinkorswim, initial margin is 50%, and maintenance is 25%. At Firstrade, the numbers are 50% and 30%. Firstrade also has a concentrated rule, which means that if one position makes up more than 60% of an account’s value, its maintenance requirement increases to 50%.

thinkorswim looks better here.

Option Tools

On thinkorswim (both desktop and mobile systems), option orders can be sent to specific market makers. There are two programs that look for puts and calls and multi-leg strategies (such as iron condors). Greek values are also automatically computed by the platform.

At Firstrade, options can be traded on either the mobile app or website. One weakness of the mobile platform is the lack of spreads. Only individual calls and puts can be traded, although multiple contracts can be bought or sold in one trade. OptionsPlay is an advanced tool on the website for multi-leg strategies and profit-loss diagrams.

Pretty even here.

Other Services

IRA’s and dividend reinvesting are available at both Firstrade and TD Ameritrade. Automatic investing in mutual funds is possible at both brokers as well.

It’s a dead heat here.


TD Ameritrade/Thinkorswim: Trade free for 60 days + Get up to $600.

Firstrade: $0 commissions + up to $200 in transfer fee rebates.

Our Recommendations

If you’re a beginning trader, we recommend Firstrade. thinkorswim is a very advanced platform that is difficult to learn.

If you plan to trade mutual funds, go with Firstrade. They can’t be traded on thinkorswim.

If you intend to open a retirement account or invest for the long-term, either brokerage firm would be a good selection.

If you plan to trade stocks or ETF’s, either company in our survey could be recommended. Firstrade has the lower commissions, while thinkorswim is the better software.

Firstrade vs Thinkorswim: Recommendation

thinkorswim won more categories. It is definitely a good platform for advanced traders. But budget traders will find a better value at Firstrade.


Continue Reading