Thinkorswim rating

Thinkorswim Review

Thinkorswim Overview

Charles Schwab’s thinkorswim trading platform is perhaps the most famous trading platform on the market. With so many features, tools, and nuances included in the platform, there is a lot of information to cover when discussing it. We dove into all the details of the platform so, if you are looking for a full review of thinkorswim, you are in the right place.

Thinkorswim comes in three different versions including a downloadable desktop version, a mobile app version, and a web version. All three versions are available for free to all Charles Schwab customers. All three versions automatically include real-time streaming quotes and level 2 quotes for free for all non-professional users. Thinkorswim doesn’t require any paid subscription and there are no additional fees for using the platform.

Thinkorswim Commissions

Stocks and ETFs $0
Stocks and ETFs broker assisted $25
US Over-The-Counter (OTC) Equities $6.95
Options $0.65 per contract
Mutual funds $0/$49.95/$74.95 to buy, $0 to sell
Futures $2.25 per contract
CDs, Corporate Bonds, Municipal Bonds, Government Agencies, Zero-Coupon Treasuries, including STRIPS and Mortgage-Backed Securities $1 per bond, $10 minimum, $250 maximum
Preferred Stocks and REITs $0
Commercial Paper and Foreign Bonds, Unit Investment Trusts call for pricing

Investments stocks, bonds, mutual funds, futures, Treasury issues, options, CDs, insurance, ETFs, futures, annuities, non-U.S. securities and ADRs, WEBs and Canadian foreign orders
Charles Schwab minimum deposit to open account $0 for cash account, $2,000 for margin account
FeesThinkorswim fees
Promotion linkThinkorswim promotions

Thinkorswim Types of Accounts & Investments

You can use thinkorswim with essentially any type of brokerage account you have with Charles Schwab including non-retirement brokerage accounts, IRAs, and trust accounts. The types of securities that you can trade with thinkorswim are stocks, ETFs, options, FOREX, mutual funds, futures, and futures options. The only difference regarding tradeable securities between any of the three versions is that you can’t trade mutual funds on the mobile version.

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Thinkorswim Charting

Thinkorswim’s bread and butter are its charts and charting features. Thinkorswim has some of the best charts and charting features in the industry hands down. Both the thinkorswim charts and charting features are extremely customizable with hundreds of different settings to choose from.

The charts include the ability to use over 300 different technical indicators and patterns, over 20 different drawing tools, over 10 different chart types, and hundreds of potentially customizable timeframes. You can save all of your chart settings and create multiple customized layouts. You can also build and save sets of your customized drawings and technical indicators as well as save your customized timeframes.

Thinkorswim Review: Charts Custom Timeframe

The charts are dynamic and flexible which makes them preferable to use compared to many other charting platforms in the industry that are static and not flexible. You can rearrange the size of the charts any way you want, and you can move charts anywhere you want on the screen. You can add technical indicators and drawings on charts themselves or have certain indicators below the charts. You can have up to 32 charts open at once which seems excessive but it’s impressive that the platform has the capability nonetheless.

Thinkorswim charts also have dynamic navigation abilities. The “pan” cursor setting allows you to drag and slide the charts left or right to scroll across the timeframe you are looking at. The “pointer” cursor setting allows you to click and drag any area of the chart so that it becomes highlighted and then automatically zooms in on just that highlighted area.

You can right-click anywhere in the chart and choose “autozoom” which will automatically zoom out to the starting view for the timeframe you are viewing. You can also either click the little zoom-in and out buttons on the bottom of the chart or use customized hot keys to zoom in and out of charts quickly.

Thinkorswim Powerful & Unique Features

Thinkorswim has a long list of both powerful and unique features. For starters, thinkorswim has a paper trading feature included in all three versions. Not only does thinkorswim allow you to paper trade to learn or test out strategies, but it also has features and tools that allow you to back-test your ideas and strategies. The OnDemand tool allows you to go back to any date and time and watch the live price action of a security on a chart and then paper trade based on that chart. The thinkBack tool allows you to plug in hypothetical options trades going back in time to see how the trade would have performed over time.

Thinkorswim Review: thinkBack

Thinkorswim allows you to customize and use over 50 different hot keys for various commands such as entering orders, opening a specific tool, and editing a chart. One of the most unique features of thinkorswim is the customizable timeframes on charts. You can customize and save hundreds of possible combinations of timeframes. You can create a timeframe based on the number of ticks in a period, the range of ticks in a period, and standard time intervals.

Another extremely unique feature of thinkorswim is the Active Trader feature. The Active Trader feature is essentially a streaming price ladder that allows you to enter orders by simply clicking on the bid or ask side of the price level in the ladder in real-time. You can customize what columns show on the ladder such as the volume at each price level, your open-position profit/loss at each price level, and your fills at each price level. At the top of the ladder are order entry buttons that you can customize such as buy market, sell bid, or flatten.

Thinkscript is a feature in thinkorswim that allows you to create automated scripts to run inside the platform. The types of scripts you can run range from creating your own technical indicators to implementing strategies that automatically place orders for you based on whatever inputs you provide. You can also export your scripts to share with others or import others’ scripts to run for yourself.

Another unique feature of thinkorswim is being able to export and share images of charts. This is a powerful feature because you can create your own library of saved charts to reference and study from without having to scour the internet to find charts showing the patterns you are looking for. Lastly, the sheer number of customizable settings and options in thinkorswim is a sort of notable feature in itself.

Thinkorswim Order Entry

Thinkorswim allows you to enter orders in a variety of ways with some order entry methods being intuitive and some being hidden gems of sorts. The three main order entry methods include using one of the variations of the classic-looking order entry ticket, using pre-programmed order buttons such as buy ask, sell market, or buy market, and using the Active Trader ladder.

Thinkorswim App Buy Stock

There are many different ways to ultimately get to one of the three order entry methods including right-clicking on securities you have in your current positions or watchlist, right-clicking on a quote, clicking on the bid or ask of a security in the search results of a scan, clicking on the bid or ask of an option in an option chain, clicking on the bid or ask of a level 2 quote, and right-clicking on a chart.

No matter your preference, thinkorswim gives you plenty of options for entering orders as efficiently and effectively as possible. Thinkorswim also allows you to save orders in the classic order entry ticket that you can come back to and place at any time. Thinkorswim allows market, limit, stop, OCO, trailing, and on-the-close order types.

Thinkorswim Review: fundamentals data

Thinkorswim Research Tools

Finding which securities to trade can sometimes be harder than the skill of trading itself. Fortunately, thinkorswim comes with multiple research tools that can help you find and analyze securities for your trading strategy. Thinkorswim also has tools for researching the overall market and market-related data.

Thinkorswim has three different types of scanners which are a stocks scanner, an options scanner, and a spreads scanner. The stock scanner allows you to scan the market for stocks based on hundreds of available criteria including technical criteria such as put/call ratio or any one of hundreds of technical indicators. The options scanner allows you to scan the options market for single-leg options based on dozens of available criteria. The spreads scanner is a unique tool that allows you to search across all different markets including stocks, options, FOREX, and futures for different types of spreads based on dozens of available criteria.

Thinkorswim has great a calendar feature that allows you to display important events happening for stocks during a week or a month such as dividends, earnings, and splits. Other research tools include a Fundamentals tool that shows you a detailed overview of a company’s fundamentals, a probability analysis tool to view implied stock moves based on the implied volatility of options, and an Economic Data feature that displays a library of important economic data to browse.

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User Interface

The user interface of thinkorswim doesn’t have the most stunning and beautiful appearance but it is certainly not horrible either. The user interface could be described as outdated but very functional. You can tell by the interface that the platform was designed with trading features and trading efficiency at the front of mind.

The user interface on mobile and web is a bit cleaner looking compared to the desktop version which has somewhat of a pixelated appearance. All three versions have a plain and boxy-looking feel regarding how information is presented on the interface. The interface on all three have fairly intuitive and easy-to-use navigation for getting around the platforms and finding what you need.

Thinkorswim Cons

The biggest area for improvement of thinkorswim is definitely the user interface. Specifically, in the desktop platform, the quality of the appearance could be updated so that nothing appears pixelated or fuzzy. Also in the desktop platform, some of the menu navigation could be improved by making the tool titles clearer based on what the tools actually do. For example, the stock scanner is called the “stock hacker”. It’s clear based on the fact that the stock hacker tool is nested under the Scan menu what the tool does, but beginners might find the terminology unclear.

Another big area for improvement would be making an easier and more intuitive way to pull up a trading ticket for equities. There are multiple methods for order entry of equities, as mentioned earlier, however, it would likely take a few minutes for a beginner to even figure out how to get to the equity trading ticket using the methods that are available. Lastly, it is difficult to figure out exactly what some of the tools and features do at first so, implementing some sort of quick tip or explanation bubble that appears within the tools or when hovering over them with your cursor would be very helpful.

Who is Thinkorswim Best For

Thinkorswim is designed more for advanced traders and short-term investors. Beginners will probably have a tough time getting started with thinkorswim because of all the different features to learn and the overwhelming feeling of everything going on in the platform. Thinkorswim is an excellent trading platform for scalp traders, day traders, options traders, swing traders, futures traders, and FOREX traders.

Long-term investors can absolutely get value out of thinkorswim but there really aren’t any portfolio management features available. Thinkorswim doesn’t offer fractional share trading therefore, small balance investors may not get that much use out of thinkorswim for trading, but they can still benefit from the research tools and paper trading feature to practice.

Thinkorswim System Requirements

The thinkorswim mobile app doesn’t have any system requirements and is downloadable on both the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. The thinkorswim web version is useable on Safari 11, and the latest versions of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome. The thinkorswim desktop version system requirements are Windows 10 operating system for PC users or Mac OS 10.11+ for Mac users, an Intel Core i3+ processor, 8GB of RAM, 1 GB of free space on your hard drive, and a minimum 1280x768 display resolution.


Thinkorswim Review Summary

Thinkorswim is an incredibly powerful, feature-packed trading platform that can help take your trading to the next level when used effectively. Thinkorswim has value in it for everybody whether you are a complete beginner trader wanting to paper trade or a professional FOREX trader needing amazing charting tools and everybody in between. Thinkorswim comes with a steep learning curve and not the best user interface, but its amazing features certainly outweigh any negatives.

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About the Author
Paul Johnson is a Licensed Stockbroker with 7+ years of experience in the financial services industry. Paul enjoys teaching about investing and writing about financial topics. He is a husband and father of twin boys.