TradeKing, Scottrade, and TD Ameritrade are three very different brokers. They emphasize different investment services, and each one has unique strengths and weaknesses. The following article will compare the three against each other and see if one can be considered the best value.
The three brokerage firms have representatives who can be reached over the phone. However, only TD Ameritrade offers this service 24 hours a day. Scottrade does provide phone service on the weekend, although TradeKing does not. TradeKing does, however, have on-line chat, which Scottrade and TD Ameritrade don't offer.
Both Scottrade and TD Ameritrade operate nationwide networks of branch locations. Currently, TD Ameritrade has more than 100 locations, while Scottrade maintains over 500. TradeKing does not have any branch locations.
TD Ameritrade wins the category for its 24/7 phone service.
TradeKing has the lowest commission in our survey, charging just $4.95 for equity trades. Option contracts are just 65¢ extra. There is no minimum deposit to open an account, although TradeKing does impose a $50 annual inactivity fee. This charge can be eliminated by maintaining an account balance above $2,500 or placing at least one trade per year. A margin debit of $10,000 at TradeKing currently costs 8.0%.
Scottrade's commission for stock and ETF trades is slightly higher at $7. Derivative contracts are an additional 70¢. The broker has a $2,500 minimum opening deposit for a securities account, although there are no fees to keep it open. A loan of $10,000 in a margin account costs 7.75% right now.
TD Ameritrade charges $9.99 for ETF and stock transactions. Option traders pay an extra 75¢ for derivative contracts. There is no minimum deposit requirement and there are no account fees. Presently, the broker charges 9.0% for a margin loan of $10,000.
Most investors can probably maintain a balance of at least $2,500; so this category goes to TradeKing.
Mutual Funds and ETF's
TradeKing customers have access to over 8,500 mutual funds. Unfortunately, there are no funds here that have no load and no transaction fee. Funds with no load have a $9.95 charge, while funds with a load are free to buy and sell. Disappointingly, the broker does not offer any ETF's commission-free.
Scottrade outperforms TradeKing here, offering more than 11,400 mutual funds. Of these, there are 2,100 that carry no transaction fee and no load. Unfortunately, there are no commission-free ETF's here, either.
TD Ameritrade provides the most mutual funds at 11,900. Slightly more than 1,900 are no-load, no-transaction-fee products. The broker is the lone firm in our competition to provide ETF's that are free to trade. There are 101 exchange-traded funds that carry no commissions.
TD Ameritrade is victorious in this category.
Despite TradeKing's low commissions, the broker's website is nicely designed and easy to navigate. At the bottom of the browser is a simple trade bar. It shows important data, such as volume and bid-ask spread. However, it is not able to show a chart. A web-based platform named TradeKing LIVE operates within a browser window. It is free for all clients. There is also a sophisticated desktop system, but it comes with active trader requirements.
Scottrade recently updated its site, and the changes have improved its navigability. The website has good charting tools, which allow a graph to be shown full screen. Hidden in the lower-left of the screen is a trading ticket. It is easily expanded so that orders can be entered. Scottrader Streaming Quotes is a basic platform, which is free to use. A more advanced platform called ScottradeELITE is available to active traders.
TD Ameritrade has the best website and trading ticket of the three. SnapTicket is a handy tool that appears at the bottom of the browsing window. It shows important trade information, is able to display a graph, and trades can be placed on it. The broker also offers Trade Architect, a Java-based platform that is launched from the website. A more sophisticated trading program, thinkorswim, is also available. The software has 400 technical studies. Both platforms are free for all traders.
TD Ameritrade wins again.
Trading on the go is available with all three firms. The Scottrade app has bill pay and mobile check deposit free of charge. The platform also has decent charting with a few technical studies. Unlike Scottrade, TD Ameritrade's app offers live streaming of CNBC free of charge. One of broker's three mobile apps is a thinkorswim version with advanced charting. There is mobile check deposit and paper trading as well. TD Ameritrade is the lone broker of the three that offers a platform for Apple Watch. The TradeKing app is the least advanced of the three. It doesn't offer any live streaming of financial news, nor is there a mobile check deposit.
Once again, the victory goes to TD Ameritrade.
TD Ameritrade won four categories, TradeKing took first place in one category, and Scottrade failed in all categories. TD Ameritrade is the best overall choice. Despite the results, Scottrade is a good broker for mutual fund and frequent stock traders.
More detailed information about each company in this comparison is available in our brokerage reviews articles:
TD Ameritrade review read here,
Scottrade review read here, and
TradeKing review read here.
TD Ameritrade: Trade free for 60 days + get up to $600.
Scottrade: Get up to $100 in account transfer fee reimbursed.
Get $100 in free commissions. No hidden fees. No minimums.
Updated on 1/14/2017.