TD Ameritrade vs OptionsXpress Matchup
With new commission schedules, optionsXpress and TD Ameritrade are both trying to remain competitive while offering the best in trading technology. Let’s compare the two brokers against each other and see which one is the better value.
Research & Education
Stock reports can be downloaded by TD Ameritrade customers in pdf format at no cost. There are several analysts available, including Credit Suisse, TheStreet.com, and Vickers. A stock’s profile page on the broker’s site includes a lot of information, including peer comparisons, which display performance history of similar stocks.
The TD Ameritrade website has excellent learning materials that cover a wide variety of financial areas, such as retirement, forex, and annuities, besides the normal range of securities. The site also hosts many self-guided courses and videos.
Unlike TD Ameritrade, optionsXpress does not offer any stock reports in pdf format. An equity’s profile page may have some information from an analyst like Zacks. However, this data is fairly limited, such as buy, hold, or sell recommendations. OptionsXpress does have a selection of educational videos.
OX does have some really good research tools. One is called Dragon. It scans the securities markets for equities and derivatives based on a variety of issues, such as volatility and open interest.
Despite optionsXpress’s strengths here, TD Ameritrade outperforms its rival.
OptionsXpress vs TD Ameritrade Commissions and Fees
Both brokers recently lowered their trading fees. TD Ameritrade went to $6.95 stock and ETF trades, while optionsXpress came down to $4.95, where its parent company Schwab is at.
Options at TDA cost an additional 75¢, while optionsXpress charges just 65¢. TD Ameritrade clients pay an additional $44.99 when placing a trade with a live broker, while optionsXpress surprisingly charges nothing.
A trading account with either firm comes with no annual fee. Neither company charges anything for inactivity or a low balance. Closing a non-retirement account is free of charge at both firms. optionsXpress does charge $50 to close an existing IRA, while TD Ameritrade clients pay nothing. Neither broker has a minimum deposit to open a brokerage account.
Overall, optionsXpress seems to be the better choice here.
While optionsXpress specializes in derivative trading, TD Ameritrade also has some good option tools. One is a screener that searches for contracts based on a variety of criteria, such as strategy type, % in the money, and days to expiration. An option report in pdf format is available for each contract in the search results. Option chains for a variety of strategies are available as well.
Option chains are also available at OX for a variety of strategies. These include diagonal, married put, butterfly, and condor. Multiple legs can easily be added. The broker’s all-in-one trade ticket makes submitting orders quick and easy.
optionsXpress has more option search tools, but TD Ameritrade has a lot of educational materials for derivative traders. Both TDA and OX host free webinars on trading options.
optionsXpress has more detailed information on advanced trading topics, such as bear put spreads.
TD Ameritrade loses this category, but just barely.
TD Ameritrade has two trading platforms. One is a simple browser-based program called Trade Architect. The other is far more advanced. Named thinkorswim, it has a variety of capabilities, one of which is sophisticated charting. A convenient trade bar called SnapTicket can be used to buy and sell stocks, ETF’s, and options.
Strangely, optionsXpress’s trade bar cannot be used to place orders for options, or any other securities for that matter. There is a paper trading system at OX, but thinkorswim also has the feature.
Both brokers have mobile apps for trading stocks, ETF’s, and options. Mutual funds can be traded on one of TDA’s mobile apps, whereas OX does not provide the capability. TD Ameritrade customers also have a platform for Apple Watch, which OX does not offer.
TD Ameritrade wins here, too.
A company associate at optionsXpress can be contacted via on-line chat during the week from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm, EST. The broker’s phone service opens at 9:00. TD Ameritrade doesn’t have on-line chat for most functions. However, it does have an automated question and answer service called Ted. It also offers customer support 24/7.
TD Ameritrade operates a nationwide branch network of over 100 locations. Disappointingly, optionsXpress does not have any brick-and-mortar offices.
TD Ameritrade wins again.
TD Ameritrade customers have access to over 11,900 mutual funds that are open to new investors. More than 3,700 have no load and no transaction fee. NTF funds carry a $49.99 short-term redemption fee if they are sold in less than 6 months after purchase. Products that aren’t on the broker’s NTF list cost $49.99, and the fee is assessed on both the buy and sell side.
Mutual funds are available at optionsXpress, but the firm does not specialize in them. Information on a fund’s profile page is simply pulled from Morningstar. A transaction costs $9.95 plus any load the fund may have. There are no funds without transaction fees at OX. There are some no-load funds, but the broker’s screener isn’t nearly as good as TD Ameritrade’s.
TD Ameritrade also has an excellent screener for ETF’s. More than 100 of them are free to trade. Once again, TD Ameritrade’s screener is better than optionsXpress’s. For some reason, sorting is not possible on the OX screener. Although optionsXpress does not advertise commission-free trades, customer service states that all of Schwab’s commission-free ETF’s are also commission-free at OX. This is more than 200.
TD Ameritrade has better fund research tools, and so optionsXpress loses the category.
OptionsXpress vs TD Ameritrade Results
TD Ameritrade (read review) won four categories, and optionsXpress (read review)
took two. TD Ameritrade wins comfortably. Despite the overall results, OX is highly recommended for options traders, especially with the broker’s new
TD Ameritrade: Trade free for 60 days + get up to $600.
OptionsXpress: Open OptionsXpress account and get 50 free trades.