TD Ameritrade Competitors

Who are the largest, top rated TD Ameritrade competitors? TD Ameritrade vs competition alternatives: compare fees, rates, and services.

TD Ameritrade Competitors: Introduction

TD Ameritrade customers receive a lot of great investment services. But several of the broker's competitors, including Vanguard, E*Trade, and Merrill Edge, also offer a lot of useful features, at a similar cost. Let's compare TD Ameritrade and largest competitors against each other and try to find the best one.

TD Ameritrade vs Competitors: Pricing

Broker Fees Stocks/ETFs
Mutual Funds
IRA Setup
and Annual Fees
TD Ameritrade fees $6.95 $49.95 $6.95 + $0.75 per contract $0 $0
Etrade fees $6.95 $19.99 $6.95 + $0.75 per contract $0 $0
Merrill Edge fees $6.95 $19.99 $6.95 + $0.75 per contract $0 $0
Vanguard fees $7-$20 $8-$35 $30 + $1.50 per contract $20** see

** Vanguard is charging $20 annual maintenance fee (waived if user chooses to receive statements and other information electronically).

Customer Service

Merrill Edge, E*Trade, and TD Ameritrade all have customer service associates available over the phone 24/7. The Merrill Edge and E*Trade websites also have on-line chat. Merrill Edge has representatives who speak Chinese, while TD Ameritrade has agents who speak Chinese and Spanish. E*Trade has 30 branch locations for clients who want in-person service. TD Ameritrade has the most local offices: more than 600.

Vanguard is the lone firm not to offer customer service around the clock. The Vanguard website doesn't have on-line chat. The broker also doesn't offer any service on Saturday and Sunday, nor does it have a network of branch locations.

Mutual and Exchange-traded Funds

Merrill Edge provides clients with 800 no-transaction-fee funds. It has a total of just under 5,000 mutual funds. Transaction fee funds cost $19.95 per trade. $39.95 will be charged if NTF fund is sold in less than 90 days after purchase.

The E*Trade website has more total mutual funds (7,500), although the broker offers fewer with no load and no transaction fee (around 2,000). Investors pay $19.99 for any transaction of a fund outside the NTF category.

Vanguard clients can trade more than 16,000 mutual funds. Of these, about 2,400 carry no load and no transaction fee. The broker's customers pay $35 for funds with a transaction fee, although large accounts receive lower rates. The fee is charged to all transactions.

The TD Ameritrade mutual fund screener displays 11,900 products. Roughly 2,200 carry no transaction fee and no load. The broker's charge for transaction-fee funds is $49.99.

Commission free ETF's are available at three firms. Vanguard clients have a list of 55 ETF's that are commission-free, E*Trade offers 105, while TD Ameritrade provides 296. Merrill Edge doesn't offer any ETF's commission free.

Cash Management Features

TD Ameritrade clients can get checks and a debit card at no cost. ATM fees incurred while using the card are refunded by the broker. FDIC insurance is available on cash balances. In fact, TD Ameritrade customers receive double the standard $250,000 protection because two FDIC-insured banks are used for the cash sweep option.

FDIC insurance is also available with a checking or savings account with Merrill Edge. However, only the normal amount of protection is available.

Vanguard also offers checks and a debit card for its brokerage clients. However, investors must have at least half a million dollars in securities to apply for banking features. Even worse, use of the checks and debit card come with fees for accounts with less than a million dollars in assets.

Investors at E*Trade have two different checking account options. One of them has no minimum balance requirement, while the other has a $5,000 requirement. The second account receives free ATM rebates.

Trading Tools

Merrill Edge clients have access to a nicely-designed website. Trades can be made within the browser that also has a useful trade ticket at the bottom called TradeBar. The broker also offers an advanced platform called MarketPro®. However, it requires 15 trades every 3 months or assets of at least $50,000 across all Merrill Edge and Bank of America accounts.

A much better trade bar is on TD Ameritrade's website. It can show a small chart, and orders can be submitted on it. Two desktop platforms are available with no active trader requirement. One of them has very advanced charting tools. There is a TD Ameritrade app for Apple Watch, along with three different mobile apps, two of which stream CNBC free of charge.

The E*Trade website is also easy to navigate. However, it doesn't have a trade bar. Frequent traders receive access to the firm's desktop trading software, which includes free streaming of CNBC. The broker has a platform for Apple Watch. Live streaming of CNBC can be viewed by active traders on the E*Trade mobile app.

Of the four brokers in our survey, Vanguard has the hardest website to navigate. There is no trade bar, and the firm does not have an app for any smartphone. Vanguard also does not offer a desktop platform. It does offer a mobile app, but it's not as advanced as the other three.

Our Recommendations

Beginner Investors: TD Ameritrade and Etrade.

IRA accounts: all four brokers.

Stocks/ETFs Traders: TD Ameritrade.

Options Traders: TD Ameritrade.

Long Term, Inactive Investors: all four brokers.

Mutual Funds Investors: TD Ameritrade and Vanguard.

New Account Promotions

TD Ameritrade: Trade free for 60 days + get up to $600.

Etrade: At E*TRADE, get $6.95 trades + 65₵ per options contract.

Merrill Edge: Get up to $600 when you open new Merrill Edge account with at least $20,000.

Vanguard Brokerage: None

Detailed Brokerage Reviews

TD Ameritrade (click here),

Etrade (click here),

Merrill Edge (click here),

Vanguard Brokerage (click here).

TD Ameritrade Competitors reviewed by Rating: 4.5