LightSpeed vs TD Ameritrade Thinkorswim

2022: TD Ameritrade Thinkorswim vs LightSpeed Trading—which is better? Compare platforms, trading accounts, online investing fees, stock broker rates, and differences.

Overview of TD Ameritrade vs LightSpeed Trading

If you need a broker that offers advanced software with services that support frequent traders, you definitely need to check out Lightspeed and TD Ameritrade. While the latter broker offers one desktop platform, thinkorswim, Lightspeed offers several. thinkorswim offers a lot of professional-level features, though. This article will compare and contrast the two firms, and then we’ll try to make some recommendations for you.


Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Mutual Fund
Annual IRA
Thinkorswim $0 $49.99 ($0 to sell) $0 $0
LightSpeed $4.50 na $0.60 per contract $25 monthly fee (if less than $15,000 in assets) $25 monthly fee (if less than $15,000 in assets)


Broker Review Cost Investment Products Trading Tools Customer Service Research Overall Rating

Promotion Links

LightSpeed Trading: none right now.

TD Ameritrade: $0 commissions + transfer fee reimbursement.

Desktop Software

The thinkorswim platform is launched from the desktop, and the first thing we noticed when we were trying it out is the option to go into simulated-trading mode. This is a huge benefit to anyone who hasn’t used the software before. It is rather complex and requires some time to learn.

Charting on thinkorswim is the best we have seen. There are several hundred technical studies available. There are lots of drawing tools, and of course company events and comparisons are included. One unusual feature is the ability to place an NBC icon on a graph at a point where CNBC released a news article about a stock.

lightspeed vs Ameritrade

The software’s order ticket offers direct-access routing, several time-in-force options, and complex order types, such as order cancels other.

Lightspeed offers several programs. Starting with the simplest, there is a browser system that is able to place trades and provide basic quote information.

Lightspeed vs Ameritrade

The first desktop system is Livevol X. We found basket order capability, which isn’t available on the broker’s browser platform. Next in line in order of sophistication is LS Trader. This software provides direct-access routing and hot keys.

Lightspeed’s customers can also use the Sterling Trader platform. Watchlists, API access, advance charting, and basket orders are all available. It does lack good research tools, however.

Lightspeed also permits the use of several specialty programs. These include SILEXX OEMS and RealTick Pro.

thinkorswim, the Lightspeed web platform, and Livevol X are free to use. Lightspeed’s other three software programs do impose fees, but two of them (LS Trader and RealTick Pro) offer rebates for placing a minimum number of trades

Mobile Trading

Both brokers offer mobile trading. TD Ameritrade provides three apps, one of which is a thinkorswim platform. It somehow incorporates most of the desktop program’s advanced features, including professional-level charting and direct-access routing. The order ticket has a lot of advanced features, and we liked the economic calendar on the app.

Lightspeed vs TD Ameritrade

The Lightspeed mobile app doesn’t have customizable routes, which puts it at a disadvantage here. It does offer advanced order types, watchlists, real-time data, charting, and market news. There is no live streaming of financial news, which the thinkorswim app offers courtesy of CNBC.

Lightspeed Trader

Level II Quotes

If you need Level II data, you can get it at either brokerage firm. TD Ameritrade offers the quotes on thinkorswim free of charge, to both professionals and non-professionals. The software doesn’t provide the Level II window automatically. You need to click on the “+” sign in the lower-left corner and add it.

Lightspeed charges for Level II data. Quotes are available on most platforms it offers, the primary exceptions being the mobile and browser systems. Sterling Trader offers Level II data with different prices in different colors. This makes for easier viewing. thinkorswim offers the data in shades of blue, which we find less useful.

Options and Other Financial Instruments

If you trade more than just stocks, both brokerage firms have you covered. On thinkorswim, forex, options, and futures can be traded. Although TD Ameritrade offers bonds and mutual funds, these products cannot be traded on the desktop platform.

Option contracts are available on most platforms that Lightspeed provides. RealTick Pro is able to trade futures. Mutual funds and fixed-income securities are not available at Lightspeed on any platform.

The best program at Lightspeed for derivative trading is Livevol X. It has scanners, charts, and a calculator for options. Also available is Level II data on derivatives.

thinkorswim itself has pretty good derivative tools. During our testing, we found the software’s option scanner to be very helpful with lots of search criteria.

Extended Hours

Both companies in our survey offer trading outside of regular weekday sessions. Lightspeed traders get to start at 4:00 in the morning and go until 30 minutes before the opening bell. The broker’s after-hours session is 4:00 pm until 8:00 pm.

thinkorswim’s pre-market session is much shorter than Lightspeed’s. It starts at 8:00 am and goes until 9:15 am. The thinkorswim after-hours session starts 15 minutes after Lightspeed’s and closes at the same time.


Lightspeed customers pay 9% for margin loans under $50,000. The company’s maintenance margin requirement is 25%, and initial is 50% (for long equity positions).

TD Ameritrade charges 11% or lower for margin loans, depending on the amount borrowed. The brokerage house imposes the same margin requirements for borrowed stock positions.

Investment Research

Security research is possible on thinkorswim and Lightspeed’s platforms. thinkorswim offers a very useful economic calendar with dates of upcoming earnings announcements. The software’s stock scanner is able to search by many criteria, and we like the information on currencies, which Lightspeed doesn’t offer.

LS Trader specializes in security research. It offers advanced scanners and filters with tools from TipRanks. There’s a tool called Lightscan that looks for stocks and options using professional-level activities, such as inversion trades.


For infrequent traders, we have to recommend thinkorswim over Lightspeed’s platforms. Because TD Ameritrade doesn’t charge any software fees, thinkorswim will be a better value.

Forex traders have no choice but to go with thinkorswim. As for futures traders, we think RealTick Pro is probably the better choice.

Chartists should go with thinkorswim due to the software’s very large list of technical indicators.

For day traders, we also suggest thinkorswim because Lightspeed is still charging commissions.

Promotion Links

LightSpeed Trading: none right now.

TD Ameritrade: $0 commissions + transfer fee reimbursement.

Thinkorswim vs LightSpeed Summary

thinkorswim and Lightspeed’s suite of trading platforms both offer many great tools. With this article, you should now be able to choose whichever platform fits your trading regimen. Since thinkorswim costs nothing there is no reason not to give them a try.

About the Author
Chad Morris is a financial writer with more than 20 years experience as both an English teacher and an avid trader. When he isn’t writing expert content for, Chad can usually be found managing his portfolio or building a new home computer.