TOS vs TradeStation

thinkorswim vs TradeStation (2024)

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

thinkorswim vs. TradeStation Introduction

Are you looking for the best trading platform in the universe? You may want to check out thinkorswim from Charles Schwab or TradeStation’s desktop software. Both pack quite a punch. Here are the details on these two trading powerhouses:


Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Mutual Fund
Annual IRA
Thinkorswim $0 $49.99 ($0 to sell) $0.65 per contract $0 $0
Tradestation $0 $14.95 $0.50 per contract $120* $35


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


Charles Schwab: Thinkorswim + $0 trades + satisfaction guarantee at Charles Schwab.

TradeStation: Get up to $150 cash bonus with a $5,000+ qualifying deposit

Overview of Platforms

Charles Schwab has a catchy name for its platform: thinkorswim. TradeStation isn’t as artistic. It simply gives a number to its latest release.

thinkorswim or Tradestation

Both thinkorswim and TradeStation are launched from the desktop. The necessary file to install either program can be downloaded from the broker’s website.

thinkorswim functions on Mac, Windows, Unix, and Linux computers. TradeStation’s platform is only compatible with Windows machines, although an emulator will run it on macOS.

An account is required to download, install, and open thinkorswim. TradeStation’s platform, by contrast, is available to investors without a TradeStation account, although this setup is very expensive.

TOS vs Tradestation

For account holders, TradeStation requires a deposit of funds to gain access to its desktop software. It also has several online documents of fine print the account holder must go through and electronically sign before being able to log into the platform. We did not experience such bureaucracy with thinkorswim.

Once either platform has been installed, and login privileges are established, it’s possible to practice it in simulated mode.

Winner: thinkorswim

Fees and Minimums

TradeStation is free to any customer signed up on the TS SELECT commission schedule, which is currently the commission schedule TradeStation is advertising. Some legacy accounts also qualify for free use. These pricing schedules include TS GO, the $1.50 single-tier futures pricing plan, and the $5 per-trade equity schedule. Some pricing plans may charge $149.95 per month to use the platform, but it’s probably simpler just to open a new account with the $0 equity commission schedule and pay no fee to use the platform.

TradeStation also rents out its desktop platform to non-customers at a price of $99.99 per month ($199.99 for professionals).

thinkorswim is available only to Charles Schwab customers. There are no fees or minimums of any kind.

Winner: thinkorswim

Open an Account

Charles Schwab/Thinkorswim: Thinkorswim + $0 trades + satisfaction guarantee at Charles Schwab.

TradeStation: Get up to $150 cash bonus with a $5,000+ qualifying deposit

Tradable Instruments

TradeStation can be used to trade the following assets:

Closed-end funds

thinkorswim can be used for forex trading plus the same list of investment products that TradeStation can trade.

Winner: Overall, pretty even


A chart on thinkorswim can be blown up the full size of the monitor screen. There are tons of tools. We counted nearly 400 pre-installed technical studies, and it’s possible to create your own. A graph has a drop-down menu with trade buttons and other choices like alerts and drawing tools.

TOS vs Tradestation

TradeStation’s desktop software doesn’t quite have the same number of technical indicators. We found around 200 of them already installed. But like thinkorswim, it’s possible to import extras.

thinkorswim vs Tradestation

A graph on TradeStation has a lot of the same features just mentioned for thinkorswim. A chart can be expanded the full width of the computer screen, and a drop-down menu has several selections. Trade isn’t one of them, although an order ticket can be appended to a chart on the right-hand side.

Winner: Toss up

Order Submission

In the past, TradeStation’s desktop platform had the trade ticket permanently at the top, which is the setup TradeStation 9 still uses. The most recent version of TradeStation has changed this layout. Now, there are three order tickets, and neither one of them is the default ticket.

The quick trade bar is styled like a forex dealing box, although TradeStation no longer offers forex trading. The widget can submit orders for securities.

Then there is the chart trade bar. It can be added to a chart by selecting Chart Trading from the right-click menu. There are many advanced order types in here, including bracket, OCO, and fade orders.

Finally, there is Matrix. This is a price ladder of current ask and bid prices. In the window there is integrated another trade ticket similar to the one in the charting window.

Over on thinkorswim, there is only one trade ticket. It sits permanently at the bottom of the window on the right-hand side. It, too, has a lot of advanced features, including the ability to submit orders at specific times in the future. Order types include first triggers 2 OCO and market on close.

Winner: TradeStation


Given their powerful desktop platforms, it should be no surprise that both brokerage firms in this shootout offer margin trading. Only Charles Schwab offers portfolio margin (with a minimum balance of $125k).

TradeStation charges margin interest on a tiered schedule ranging from 13.5% to 7.5%. Charles Schwab’s schedule starts at 13.575% and ends at 11.575%.

Neither platform shows margin details for specific assets.

Winner: TradeStation

Other Platform Versions and Features

One of the things we really like about thinkorswim is the incorporation of video news. CNBC and Charles Schwab Network both stream free of charge, and there’s an on-demand video library that really sweetens the deal. TradeStation offers no video news.

A computer’s desktop was just the beginning of thinkorswim. Charles Schwab has also created a mobile app version and a browser platform version. The latter is the most simplified one of the three, although the order ticket has some of the same professional-level trade types. Amazingly, the mobile app has the same number of technical studies.

TOS vs Tradestation

Although TradeStation doesn’t have a mobile app or browser platform that is modeled after its desktop software, it does offer those trading platforms, and they are quite useful. Like the thinkorswim web-based platform, TradeStation’s browser platform has a very good trade ticket.

Tradestation or TOS

Winner: thinkorswim

Day and Swing Trading

Short-term traders will find good resources on both thinkorswim and TradeStation’s platforms, including these highlights:

Leverage: thinkorswim and TradeStation offer day traders 4:1 leverage.

Routing Fees and Rebates: Available only with a TradeStation account.

Shorting: Both brokerage firms in this competition permit shorting. Only TradeStation has discrete buy to cover and sell short buttons (and a short locate tool).

Level 2 Quotes: Both firms offer Level 2 quotes. TradeStation does charge for some Level 2 data, although we were able to access some quote levels for free on TradeStation for some securities.

Extended Hours: TradeStation customers can start trading at 8:00 am, EST. Charles Schwab clients can start trading on thinkorswim at 7:00 am. Both firms finish at 8:00 pm. Only Charles Schwab offers a selection of ETFs for overnight trading. Futures market is open 24/5.

Direct-access Routing: Although Charles Schwab does offer direct access to market makers and ECNs, we found only 3 venues on thinkorswim. TradeStation’s platforms, by contrast, have 18 routing choices.

Winner: TradeStation

Other Services

Fractional-Share Trading: Only Charles Schwab offers whole-dollar investing in stocks or ETFs.

DRIP Service: ETFs and stocks purchased through thinkorswim are eligible for auto dividend reinvesting. TradeStation doesn’t have a DRIP.

Individual Retirement Accounts: thinkorswim can be used with an IRA. The same is true for TradeStation, although only TradeStation charges closeout and annual fees.

Initial Public Offerings: IPOs are available for trading with either broker-dealer in this contest.

Winner: thinkorswim

Open an Account

Charles Schwab/Thinkorswim: Thinkorswim + $0 trades + satisfaction guarantee at Charles Schwab.

TradeStation: Get up to $150 cash bonus with a $5,000+ qualifying deposit


Beginners: thinkorswim (the Learning Center for the software will be found under the Education tab).

Small Accounts: Because of the possibility of fees in some cases and TradeStation’s surcharge on equity trades above 10,000 shares, we recommend thinkorswim.

Stock & ETF Trading: We pick thinkorswim for Charles Schwab’s better research tools, which will be found on both the desktop program and the broker’s website.

TradeStation vs Thinkorswim: Judgment

A professional-level trading experience will be found on thinkorswim and TradeStation. Forex traders should stick with thinkorswim.

Updated on 5/22/2024.

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.