Thinkorswim vs Interactive Brokers

Thinkorswim vs Interactive Brokers (TWS vs TOS)


2019 Interactive Brokers versus Thinkorswim: compare online trading platforms (IBKR TWS vs TOS), stock broker account fees, options and chart tools, differences.



Overview of Interactive Brokers and thinkorswim


If you’re an active trader looking for a sophisticated platform to buy and sell on, you’ll definitely want to take a look at TD Ameritrade’s desktop software thinkorswim and Interactive Brokers’ platform Trader Workstation. While both of them offer some very advanced tools, there are notable differences between the two. Let’s check them out.


Trading Ticket


First, let’s take a look at the trading tickets. The one on Trader Workstation comes with direct-access routing. With this feature, it’s possible to send orders to specific locations. Some of the venues include CBOE, IEX, and NYSE. The default option is SMART, and choosing this lets Interactive Brokers send your order to the best location according to IB’s routing program.


TWS vs TOS


thinkorswim also offers direct-access routing, although a call to customer service may be required to activate the feature. Some of the venues include BATS and C2.


tws vs think or swim


Both platforms offer a wide range of order types. TWS comes with market and limit on close, trailing, stop, and adaptive orders. thinkorswim has a similar selection, but not the adaptive order.

Both software programs also offer complex orders such as OCO (order cancels other). Trader Workstation has a nice feature that allows you to set stop-loss and take-profit orders based on an initial trade.


Research, News, and Education


As for financial research, the first difference we noticed between the two platforms is that thinkorswim includes live streaming of NBC’s business channel CNBC, while TWS has no video news. We did find news articles from a variety of sources on IB’s platform. thinkorswim also offers this service.

Both software programs offer security scanners that can search for assets based on a wide range of criteria.


Trading Alternative Assets


One feature that gives Trader Workstation an edge is the range of asset classes that can be traded. For example, bonds can be traded on IB’s platform but not on thinkorswim. There is a bond scanner on TWS that can search for both sovereign and corporate debt. Aslo on tap are options, warrants, forex, futures, structured products, and contracts for difference. TD Ameritrade’s platform offers options, forex, and futures. Mutual funds cannot be traded on either platform.


Option Tools


Both software programs come with some very robust derivative trading tools. TWS offers a quick drop-down option selection in the order entry ticket. Just enter a ticker symbol, hit enter, and a list of choices will appear for the symbol (such as stocks, bonds, or options). In the new window that appears it’s possible to scroll through a variety of expiration dates and strike prices.


TOS vs IBKR


Trader Workstation also has traditional option chains, and this feature can be found by going to the blue ‘New Window’ button in the upper-left of the screen and selecting ‘Option Chain’ from the list.

thinkorswim is equally impressive in this category. The software has a very impressive option search tool that can scan the derivative markets based on a variety of criteria. These include Greek values, open interest, volume, and days to expiration. It’s easy to select high and low values with the program’s graphical interface.

Traditional chains are on tap as well. Clicking on a bid or ask price populates an order ticket at the bottom of the platform. A lot of details can be adjusted here, including the contract type (put or call), the expiration date, the strike price, and the order type (limit, market, etc.). We were able to route option orders to specific exchanges during our testing, as with stocks.


Promotion Links


Thinkorswim: $0 commissions + get up to $600.

Interactive Brokers: Open account and get $200 for a friend you refer.



Charting


Now we come to charting, and here too, both platforms performed exceptionally well. Trader Workstation offers more than a hundred technical studies and several drawing tools, such as Fibonacci retracements, trendlines, and arrows. Right-clicking on a chart produces an assortment of options, including buy and sell buttons. We liked the ability to expand a chart the width of the monitor.

Interactive Brokers also comes through by offering multiple time scales and intervals. We liked the ability to turn a crosshair on and off. Another nice feature is the ability to save a chart as a template.

On the downside, we didn’t find a feature to add another stock as a comparison. It is possible to compare a security to an index.

Moving to thinkorswim, we find another great piece of software. This one comes with 400 technical studies, about four times the number we found on TWS. Like TWS, thinkorswim’s charting offers a right-click menu with a lot of helpful features. These include buy and sell choices, drawing tools (more than TWS offers), technical studies, and chart parameters.


IBKR versus think or swim charts


A graph on thinkorswim can be detached and displayed full screen. We also liked the ability to show company events, like dividends and conference calls, on a chart at the specific dates when the events occur.


Overall Feel and Customization


Both platforms are very complex, and as such, they are difficult to gain a complete mastery of. They are definitely less user-friendly than simpler platforms, like TD Ameritrade’s Trade Architect. We thought the blue ‘New Window’ button in Trader Workstation made the platform the simpler of the two to use.

Both software programs offer a great deal of customization. In thinkorswim, there’s a ‘Setup’ icon in the upper-right corner. Clicking on this will produce a pop-up window with a lot of customization features. Here, the platform’s color scheme can be adjusted, font sizes can be altered, and so forth. Personal hot keys can be set up as well.

In Trader Workstation, a layout can be locked or unlocked. Locking a layout prevents windows from being moved or resized. TWS also offers a great deal of customization for charts. The width of candlesticks can be adjusted, price and time labels can be modified, and there’s virtually an infinite number of colors to choose from.


Platform Reviews


Thinkorswim Platform Review

TWS Platform Review



Promotions


Thinkorswim: $0 commissions + get up to $600.

Interactive Brokers: Open account and get $200 for a friend you refer.



Thinkorswim vs Interactive Brokers Recap


It is impossible to say which platform is better. If you need a lot of technical studies, go with thinkorswim. If you want to trade foreign instruments, choose IBKR Trader Workstation.

Unlike Interactive Brokers that has an inactivity fee, thinkorswim's parent company, TD Ameritrade, has $0 minimum opening deposit and no inactivity fee. Essentially you are getting this amazing platform for free and with no obligation. There is also a generous bonus if you decide to deposit money. Therefore there is no reason not to give this software a try.