Fidelity Investments vs. TD Ameritrade 2019

This article was originally published on this site

Both Fidelity and TD Ameritrade have websites and downloadable platforms packed with features, news feeds, helpful research, and educational tools to grow your knowledge base and help you learn about other asset classes. Both were ranked in our top 5; Fidelity ranked first and TD Ameritrade fifth. Both brokers also offer multiple web-based and mobile platforms, and a downloadable platform aimed at frequent traders.

  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: $4.95 per stock or options trade 
  • Awards: Best Online Stockbroker
Read full review
  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: $6.95 for stock and ETF trades, $6.95 per leg plus $0.75 for options
  • Awards: Best for Beginners and Expert Traders
Read full review

Choosing between these two comes down to personal preference, and perhaps the geographical availability of one of their offices. TD Ameritrade’s footprint expanded as they absorbed the Scottrade customer base and physical locations into their brand. Both have excellent fundamental research offerings and over 200 commission-free exchange-traded funds. Their commission vary by $2 for equities and per-leg options fees. TD Ameritrade clients can trade futures and futures options while Fidelity’s customers have greater access to international equities, derivatives, and currencies. Short sellers have equal opportunities on both platforms.

Both firms let you open a cash account without funding it. An unfunded account at Fidelity, however, will not have access to most of the research functions after 30 days. It is a regulatory requirement to deposit $2,000 in an account with access to margin loans.

Trade Experience

Fidelity’s trade execution engine gives its clients a high rate of price improvement. Active Trader Pro, Fidelity’s advanced platform, offers streaming data and customizable charting. There is always an order ticket on display, and contextual help has been added to guide you through the process.

TD Ameritrade customers can choose from several platforms, from their standard “green site” on the web to their platform for frequent options traders, called thinkorswim. The downloadable thinkorswim platform is extremely customizable, allowing the client to define color schemes, layouts, and trading defaults. Over the last year or so, the standard website has added numerous customization options, including the Dock tool, which is a customizable dashboard. Trade tickets are ubiquitous on all platforms, so you can enter an order no matter where you are. TD Ameritrade’s order routing algorithms seek out price improvement, which can offset the cost of placing a trade. You’ll find streaming real-time data on all platforms. 

Trade Experience

Fidelity

  • Streamlined trade ticket with contextual help available
  • Streaming real time data on Active Trader Pro platform
  • Excellent order executions that generate price improvement

TD Ameritrade

  • Streaming real-time data on all platforms
  • Customization options abound on thinkorswim, and the dock on the standard website can also be customized
  • The smart order router seeks out price improvement.

Mobile and Emerging Tech

Fidelity’s mobile apps are much fresher and easier to use than the website, which is reflected in the 50% increase in trades placed on mobile devices between 2017 and 2018. The startup screen can be customized, and contextual help has been added to the trade ticket. Watchlists you generate on the website can be viewed on mobile devices as well, and the full range of offerings can be traded on your phone or tablet. 

TD Ameritrade has two mobile apps. The TD Ameritrade Mobile App is simple and mirrors most of the capabilities of the website. TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader is the mobile companion to the thinkorswim platform, letting you sync your watchlists, charts, and market scans between your desktop and your smartphone. Mobile Trader also gives you the tools to analyze and place complex options orders. You can watch streaming video produced by the TD Ameritrade Network on your mobile device as well. There are ways to connect with TD Ameritrade on Facebook Messenger, Twitter and WeChat.

Mobile and Emerging Tech

Fidelity

  • Streaming data and customizable news feed
  • Customizable landing page
  • Watchlists synch across platforms

TD Ameritrade

  • Streaming real-time data on all platforms
  • Customization options abound on thinkorswim, and the dock on the standard website can also be customized
  • The smart order router seeks out price improvement.

News and Research

Fidelity’s screening tools can be used to narrow down your investment choices across a wide array of asset classes, including stocks, ETFs, options, mutual funds and fixed income. Their proprietary charting packing is augmented by Recognia’s technical patterns and events. On Active Trader Pro, you can set up streaming news feeds and video from Bloomberg TV. The stock snapshot pages include environmental, social and governance (ESG) ratings from MSCI.

The thinkorswim platform lets you scan for trading opportunities using real-time data for equities and options, and place trades from charts. The TD Ameritrade website has multiple screeners, including an excellent bond screener and bond ladder builder. The news feeds can be filtered according to your portfolios and watchlists or by sector.

News and Research

Fidelity

  • Stocks, ETFs, options, mutual funds and fixed income screeners available
  • Stock snapshot pages include data for socially responsible investing
  • Customzable charting package includes technical events from Recognia

TD Ameritrade

  • Customizable charting on thinkorswim platform using real-time data
  • Multiple screeners available on the website for stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and fixed income
  • News feeds and video content can be filtered by sector or by the contents of your watchlists

Education and Security

Fidelity’s online Learning Center contains articles, videos, webinars and infographics that offer education for many investing-related topics such as options trading, fixed income selection, fundamental and technical analysis, and retirement planning. The firm offers webinars frequently, and online coaching sessions for more advanced topics. There are learning programs aimed at beginning investors in the mobile apps. Fidelity conducts a risk assessment when a client logs in, and based on certain criteria, may challenge the client with a two-factor authentication process, or with a security question.  

TD Ameritrade has made education a major focus, bringing it onto their trading platform and expanding the amount and depth of their content. They have produced hundreds of 2-minute videos that can be found all over the Internet. The TD Ameritrade Network produces original video content every trading day. Logging in from an unfamiliar device will prompt challenge questions and additional authentication.

Education and Security

Fidelity

  • Online learning center contains articles, videos, and other media for a wide range of investing and trading topics
  • Learning programs for those new to investing can be accessed from mobile apps
  • At logon, a risk assessment is performed. The security guarantee covers you in case of losses due to unauthorized activity

TD Ameritrade

  • The TD Ameritrade Network streams original video content throughout the trading day
  • Hundreds of short videos on a wide array of investing topics
  • Logging in from an unfamiliar device generates challenge questions, plus TD Ameritrade offers a security guarantee

Costs

Fidelity’s commissions are in the middle of the pack, for the most part. Their margin rates are slightly higher than average. For mutual funds that are not on the no transaction fee list, there is a $49.95 charge for an initial purchase, which is higher than average. Their bond transaction fees are just $1 per bond, and they do not mark up the secondary market bonds, which lowers the yield. Very frequent traders can work out their own commission schedule.

TD Ameritrade’s standard pricing is on the high side in the current marketplace, at $6.95 for a stock or ETF trade, and $6.95 per leg plus $0.75 for options. These prices include all exchange fees, though, so there won’t be any additional charges tacked on to surprise you, plus there are over 300 ETFs you can trade that are commission-free. Margin rates are also high. Frequent traders or those with high account balances can negotiate their own rates, but our review is based on the published rate schedule. 

Costs

Fidelity

  • Stocks/ETF trade fees: $4.95
  • Options fees: $4.95 per leg plus $0.65 per contract
  • Futures fees: Futures trading not enabled

TD Ameritrade

  • Stocks/ETF trade fees: $6.95
  • Options: $6.95 per leg plus $0.75 per contract
  • Futures fees: $2.25 per contract

Methodology

Investopedia’s mission is to provide online investors with the most unbiased, comprehensive reviews and ratings of self-directed brokers. Vetted by multiple industry experts – including a financial research firm with more than 20 years of experience in broker ratings – Investopedia’s Broker Ratings and Reviews embody industry best practices for research design.

Investopedia consulted independent researchers, and financial institutions, and conducted multiple tests, to design a system that rates brokers based on 10 categories and 149 carefully selected variables. Selection of ratings elements was a culmination of 5,498 survey responses, 100+ hours of industry research, and 100 hours of user feedback. Each category encapsulates the key elements needed for thorough evaluation. All have been tested for replicable results with a battery of evaluators. Every review goes through a rigorous verification process to maintain editorial separation and ensure an unbiased ratings result.

Source: Investopedia