TOS vs TradeStation

thinkorswim vs TradeStation

2023 TradeStation versus thinkorswim—which is better? Compare fees, trading platforms, stock broker accounts, charts, options, futures rates, and differences.

thinkorswim and TradeStation Rivalry

TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim and TradeStation both offer their clients advanced desktop trading platforms. Because experienced and professional traders often use these software programs to execute securities orders, you may wonder which one is the more appealing choice. This article will look at these two programs in detail and try to determine what their strengths and weaknesses are and which is better.


Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Mutual Fund
Annual IRA
Thinkorswim $0 $49.99 ($0 to sell) na $0 $0
Tradestation $0 $14.95 $0.50 per contract $0 $0


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


TD Ameritrade: $0 commissions + transfer fee reimbursement.

TradeStation: $150 cash bonus when you transfer funds into TradeStation.

Software Cost

TD Ameritrade charges nothing to use its flagship platform, thinkorswim. There are also no trading requirements or minimum balance needed. TradeStation used to charge software fees, but the broker recently eliminated them. Now, the broker’s platform is free.

TradeStation charges zero commissions on stock, ETF, option, and futures trades. Options cost an extra 60¢ per contract; while futures cost $1.50 per contract.

TradeStation offers free use of the broker’s mobile app, browser platform, and desktop program. Real-time data is free.

Stock and ETF trades placed on thinkorswim cost $0 each, while option contracts are an extra 65 cents. The broker does not have any account fees. Unlike TD Ameritrade, TradeStation does have an annual account fee. It is $50, and it can be avoided by maintaining a balance of at least $2,000 or placing 5 or more trades per year.

Usability and Customization

Because both platforms are designed for knowledgeable traders, neither one is user friendly. Both have many features that require several days to learn. The advantage of this learning curve is that once you master the software programs, they offer a lot trading power.

Logging into the TradeStation platform is fairly straightforward. Double clicking on the desktop icon launches a login window. There actually isn’t a login button. Instead, the window has a ‘Live Trading’ button and a ‘Simulated Trading’ button. Clicking on either takes you into a paper trading or real trading environment.

Once inside, you’ll discover that the platform is not customizable. There is no way to change icons, font sizes, or adjust the color scheme. A chart is customizable, however.

Thinkorswim also is accessed from the desktop. Like TradeStation, TD Ameritrade’s platform offers both simulated and live trading at the login window. Thinkorswim is more customizable than TradeStation’s software. The font size can be changed, and there are no less than four color schemes.


Advanced charting is available on both platforms. TradeStation offers more than 100 technical studies, including CCI Average, Awesome Oscillator, Rate of Deviation, and Stochastic Double Slow. They can be inserted quickly by right-clicking on a graph and adding them from the drop-down menu that appears. Many other functions are available in this menu, including the ability to adjust the time scale, add a security for comparison, or insert a drawing. Available selections include rectangles, time scales, and trendlines.

Choosing “Format symbol...” from the drop-down menu produces a small window where many customizations can be made to a chart. The frequency can be set anywhere from tick to monthly, and these can be single periods or multiple. A variety of graph styles are available, including point & figure, line break, kase, candlesticks, and OHLC bars.

Thinkorswim’s charting has a similar capacity, although the program has 400 technical studies, far outdoing TradeStation. There is a high level of customization that a thinkorswim graph offers. Many different drawing tools can be used. These include ovals, channels, and Fibonacci time ratios. Many different chart styles can be selected, including some exotics like monkey bars and seasonality.

tradestation vs TOS

Comparisons can be made to an index or another stock. The colors of graph lines can be adjusted on an RGB scale, which produces more than 16,000,000 colors. Trades can be placed directly from a chart by right-clicking and choosing buy or sell. TradeStation has similar features.

Stock Research

Both platforms provide equity research tools. Thinkorswim offers video news articles that relate to any symbol entered. This section can be located by going to ‘Tools’ in the top menu and then selecting ‘Videos.’ The news stories are courtesy of Reuters and CNBC.

A very powerful stock search tool called Stock Hacker can be found under the heading ‘Scan.’ The equity screener can look for securities based on many different criteria, including bid size, volume, EPS, and gross profit margin. The number of results can be adjusted by specifying high and low levels for the inputs.

TradeStation offers a few tools that can search for stocks based on a variety of variables. These search features can be found by clicking on ‘Trading Apps’ on the left-hand side of the screen and then selecting the appropriate icon. One in particular is simply titled ‘Scanner.’ It can look for stocks based on some very useful pre-defined screens, such as big movers. This scan will return stocks that are currently making major price gains or losses over a certain number of days or weeks.

Another search tool is called ‘Research.’ It displays important financial information for any ticker symbol entered. Metrics include P/E ratio, YTD price change, revenue/employee, and EPS growth. Unfortunately, there aren’t any third-party analyst reports available. TD Ameritrade does offer them for free on its website, although they don’t appear on thinkorswim.

TradeStation vs ThinkorSwim

Buying and Selling Options

Both platforms offer derivative trading. Thinkorswim has a useful tool called Option Hacker. It is similar to Stock Hacker. It can search for derivatives based on many option criteria, such as delta, implied volume, and days to expiration. It can also search by fundamentals of the underlying equity. Like the stock tool, the option screener can specify values between which the results must fall.

TradeStation has a helpful search tool called OptionStation Pro. It is able to search for complex derivative strategies, such as calendar spreads and strangles. The screener displays these results in a chain format. Clicking on one of the results can produce either a trading ticket or graphical information on the potential profit or loss. It is possible to toggle between these two choices within the platform. The trading ticket offers advanced order types, such as stop limit.

 ThinkorSwim vs TradeStation

Market News

Live streaming of CNBC is available on thinkorswim at no additional cost. It can be found at the very top of the platform by clicking on ‘Home Screen.’ The business news channel streams in standard definition. On-demand videos are also available that cover general market news stories. Upcoming events such as conference calls and dividend payments are also shown.

TradeStation does not offer video news of any kind, either in live streaming format or as an on-demand plan. There are videos on the platform, but these are devoted mostly to how to trade using the broker’s software. TradeStation does provide headline and article news from Benzinga at no charge. It is possible to search for news articles that pertain to an individual stock.

Alternative Investments

TradeStation customers can buy and sell futures contracts on the broker’s platform, while TD Ameritrade clients have access to both forex and futures on thinkorswim. TD Ameritrade’s platform offers on-demand futures videos, while TradeStation does not.

TradeStation provides trading in cryptocurrencies while TOS does not.

Thinkorswim offers user-friendly dealing boxes where currencies and contracts can easily be traded. The number of contracts can be changed, and a toggle switch on the currency box allows the user to change between commission-free and commission-based pricing.

TOS vs TradeStation

TradeStation has a trade bar at the top of the platform where trades for futures contracts can be placed. Advanced orders can be used. Whether thinkorswim’s dealing box format or TradeStation’s trade bar format is better is a matter of personal preference.

Mobile Trading

TD Ameritrade had a clever idea when it decided to take thinkorswim, with all its complexity, and make it available as a mobile platform. Most of the drawing tools and technical studies are available on the mobile version, and futures and forex can be traded on it as well. TradeStation does not offer desktop platform features on its rather simple app.

thinkorswim vs tradestation

Paper Trading

It’s difficult to learn either platform, because there are so many features and so much information to absorb. Thankfully, each program has a simulated trading version that can be selected at the login screen. The TradeStation platform begins with $4,000,000 of a virtual currency, and every feature that the regular version has is available. The paper trading version on thinkorswim also has all features of the live environment.

Tradestation vs TOS


TD Ameritrade: $0 commissions + transfer fee reimbursement.

TradeStation: $150 cash bonus when you transfer funds into TradeStation.

Thinkorswim vs TradeStation Results

Both platforms have a lot of advanced features that won’t be found at many other brokers, especially at the pricing schedules that TradeStation and TD Ameritrade have.

Since there is no cost for opening, maintaining and closing thinkorswim account as well as no minimum deposit requirement, there is no reason not to spend 10 minutes to open a TD Ameritrade brokerage account and take advantage of what they offer free of charge.

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.