Compare M1 Finance versus TD Ameritrade thinkorswim: IRA, commissions, investing fees, trading tools, account pros and cons. Which online broker is better?

M1 Finance vs. TD Ameritrade Introduction

M1 Finance is trying to upset the brokerage industry with a new way of investing. Should TD Ameritrade clients jump ship? This article has an answer.


Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Mutual Fund
Annual IRA
M1 Finance $0 na na $0 $0
TD Ameritrade $0 $49.99 ($0 to sell) $0 $0


Broker Review Cost Investment Products Trading Tools Customer Service Research Overall Rating
M1 Finance
TD Ameritrade


M1 Finance: Get $10 for making a $100 deposit.

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

First, Let’s Examine Investment Styles

Both brokerage firms in this duel offer self-directed accounts only. Stocks, ETF’s, and closed-end funds can be traded at either firm. TD Ameritrade goes a step further by adding mutual funds, bonds, futures contracts, and traditional currencies.

But M1 Finance has something that TD Ameritrade doesn’t: Pies. These are baskets of securities with various themes like responsible investing and hedge funds. They are similar to mutual funds and ETF’s.

M1 vs TD Ameritrade

What’s really unique about M1 Finance is that customers can create their own Pies. A single Pie can hold up to 50 stocks, ETF’s, or closed-end funds. Even better, there’s no expense ratio on the Pie. So essentially, you can be your own fund manager at M1 Finance and pay no management fee.

But here’s the catch: trades at M1 Finance can only be submitted during trading windows. Clients cannot submit orders during the market day whenever they want. TD Ameritrade, on the other hand, provides trading during the entire market day.

And TD Ameritrade doesn’t charge an annual fee, either. The best services at M1 Finance will only be found on the company’s Plus plan, which costs $125 per year.

Winner: We could debate this for hours.

Next, Let’s Look at Customer Service

The M1 Finance website has a robo chat widget. The icon for this tool appears in the lower-right corner. During our testing of it, we didn’t find it very useful. For example, when we asked for “price of Tesla stock,” the bot didn’t have a clue what we wanted. By comparison, the chat bot on TD Ameritrade’s site did tell us where to find this information on the site, although it didn’t return a quote.

TD Ameritrade also has real, live human associates standing by on the chat widget. M1 Finance doesn’t offer this old-school service.

Another feature TD Ameritrade’s website has that M1’s doesn’t is internal messaging. It’s possible to both receive and send messages. A great feature on this widget is an attachment tool. There are lots of compatible files, including jpeg and pdf.

Investors who would rather just skip the online tools can pick up a phone and call either brokerage house. TD Ameritrade is open all hours of the day and night. M1 Finance has more limited hours.

Finally, TD Ameritrade has a large network of physical locations for customers who want really traditional service. M1 Finance has no branch offices.

Winner: TD Ameritrade

Third, We Need to Investigate Margin

Both firms offer margin accounts with margin trading. The similarities stop there.

M1 Finance is the novel brokerage house in the contest. As such, its margin service is unique. It charges a flat rate on margin balances. Currently, it’s 5.75% (or 4.25% with a Plus subscription).

TD Ameritrade is the traditional brokerage firm. As such, it charges interest on a stepped schedule. Here it is:

Debit Balance Margin Interest Rates
above $499,999 call 800-655-4777
$250,000 - $499,999 9.00%
$100,000 - $249,999 9.00%
$50,000 - $99,999 9.25%
$25,000 - $49,999 10.25%
$10,000 - $24,999 10.50%
under $10,000 11%

Asset profiles on TD Ameritrade’s platforms don’t show margin details. Security profiles at M1 Finance, by contrast, show margin eligibility and maintenance requirement for assets that are margin eligible.

Winner: M1 Finance

Fourth, It’s PC Software

TD Ameritrade clients can use a desktop platform, the broker’s website, or both. The desktop system has a lot of powerful trading tools, including direct-access routing and very good charting.

thinkorswim vs M1

We really like the order ticket that permits both buying and shorting (M1 Finance does not permit shorting). An order can be saved to use later, and a ticket can be popped out to form its own window.

The Ameritrade website itself has some pretty good features, including a stock order ticket with advanced order types, and two other tickets for bonds and mutual funds. There’s also an equity trade ticket at the bottom of the site with a rapid-fire mode. A string of characters is all that’s needed to submit an order.

TD thinkorswim or M1

M1 Finance does not have a desktop platform, so the website is it. The site is fairly simple, although it can get the job done. Charts are on a very low level with no tools of any kind. A graph cannot be expanded the width of the monitor.

M1 vs Ameritrade

The broker’s order form is equally as stark. There are no advanced order types, and in fact, there are really no order types at all. Customers add securities to their Pies, and M1 submits orders in batches as market orders.

Winner: TD Ameritrade

Fifth, We Need to Inspect Their Mobile Apps

Mobile traders will find much to like over at TD Ameritrade. Once again, the brokerage firm has two platforms, one of which is modeled after its desktop platform. This one has very advanced charting, including hundreds of technical studies. It also has a trade ticket that can buy and sell forex and futures.

TD Ameritrade vs M1 Finance

The other app should not be forgotten because it has many features that are absent on the first. These resources include market news articles and educational videos. The trade ticket on the second app can submit orders for equities using one of six order types. They are market, limit, stop market, stop limit, trailing stop $, and trailing stop %.

M1 Finance has just one app, and like its website, it’s very plain. A bottom menu makes navigation fairly easy, one of the few highlights here. The Research tab delivers some news articles with thumbnails, and it is on this tab that Pies can be created and edited.

M1 or TD Ameritrade

We were disappointed not to find mobile check deposit on the M1 app. Both TD Ameritrade apps have this useful feature.

Winner: TD Ameritrade

Sixth, Let’s Scrutinize Asset Research

TD Ameritrade has asset screeners on both its website and desktop platform. The tools can look for potential investments based on a wide variety of criteria. Examples include:

- Exchange: OTC, NYSE, Nasdaq, and AMEX
- Profit margin (ranges or specific values)
- Price to Sales (TTM)
- New 52-week high/low
- Bollinger Band® Bandwidth (Squeeze, Low Volatility, Normal Volatility, High Volatility)

Asset profiles have lots of data points on them. These range from earnings numbers to cash flow statements to valuation metrics. Stock profiles offer free reports in pdf format from several analysts. For Boeing, we found reports from 8 analysts.

M1 Finance offers no reports in any format and it has only a rudimentary stock screener. Available on the website, it can look for equities using just a few criteria, such as market cap and dividend yield.

Profiles at M1 Finance have less information on them compared to TD profiles. During our probing, we found details like EPS, price to sales, 52-week range, and number of outstanding shares.

Winner: TD Ameritrade

Finally, We Need to Explore Other Services

Individual Retirement Accounts: IRA’s can be opened at either brokerage house in this competition. TD Ameritrade has more IRA types than M1 Finance.

Fractional Shares: Trades for securities can only be submitted in whole-dollar amounts at M1 Finance, which effectively means that every trade is a fractional-share trade. TD Ameritrade is the exact opposite (except for mutual funds).

Periodic Mutual Fund Investing: TD Ameritrade has it.

Extended Hours: TD Ameritrade offers pre-market, after-hours, and late-night trading. M1 Finance does not.

Initial Public Offerings: Available only through a TD Ameritrade account.

DRIP Service: Dividends can automatically be converted into additional shares at either brokerage firm. M1 Finance has a $25 minimum investment amount.

Cash Management Features: Both M1 Finance and TD Ameritrade offer various banking tools, including debit cards.

Winner: TD Ameritrade


ETF & Stock Trading: We have to side with TD Ameritrade for its excellent software and extensive security research.

Small Accounts: We recommend TD Ameritrade because M1 Finance has a $100 minimum investment amount ($500 for IRA’s).

Mutual Fund Trading: As already mentioned, TD Ameritrade is the only option. It has thousands of funds, a very good fund screener, and in-depth fund profiles.

Beginners: This one is a little more difficult. Neither broker-dealer has a robo service. M1 Finance does have some professionally-built Pies. On the downside, we found investing in Pies to be a little complicated on its platform. Self-directed investing on the TD Ameritrade website would probably be a better idea. Plus, its desktop platform has a practice mode.

Long-Term Investors and Retirement Savers: M1 Finance has target-date Pies, and TD Ameritrade has target-date mutual funds. We lean towards TD Ameritrade for its education accounts and larger selection of learning materials on retirement.


M1 Finance: Get $10 for making a $100 deposit.

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

M1 vs TD Ameritrade Final Verdict

The major advantage with M1 Finance is that it offers the really unique ability to be your own fund manager and pay no management fee. For most other types of investing, TD Ameritrade customers will be better off staying put.

Updated on 5/16/2022.

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