I’ve opened a new TD Ameritrade account after reading multiple good things about the company over the years. They are one of the leading online brokers and have been around as long as online investing has. In the 2013 Barron’s list of the top online brokers, TD Ameritrade came in 4th highest overall and tied for the top score in customer service. (click for a larger view)
I’ve had a discount broker before that drove me crazy because the website was hard to navigate and getting someone on the phone was a nightmare. They put you through a gauntlet of automated messages before you could ever hope to talk to a live person which is NOT what you want when you have a problem or question. So, having never heard of the top company on that Barron’s list and #2 and #3 are for high volume traders, I chose TD Ameritrade in hopes I would be happy with their website and customer service. I’m glad I did.
Available Sign Up Bonuses
Many online brokers offer an incentive for new customers to open an account and TD Ameritrade is no different. If you deposit at least $2,000 you automatically get 60 days of free trading and you can also get a $100 to $$600 bonus if you deposit a larger amount. I did get one of the cash bonuses and it showed up in my account immediately after they got my money that I sent to fund the account. Please note: there is a rule that you have to keep your account active by keeping your money in your account for 9 months to remain eligible for the bonus. Failure to do so will mean they take that bonus back. In my case though, I hope to have my TD Ameritrade through my retirement years so that is a non issue. (click for a bigger view)
What Are The Trading Fees?
TD Ameritrade charges me $9.99 for every stock trade I make. It doesn’t matter whether the trade involves 10 shares or 1000 shares, it costs the same and it also doesn’t matter if the total transaction amount is $500 or $50,000. A few brokers charge lower than that (you can find a few that charge $5 to $7 per trade) but they are geared toward frequent traders which I am not. I feel the $9.99 price is a good middle of the road price that I am happy to pay in return for getting an online broker I feel confident in and has such a high reputation within the industry.
Funding Your Account And Safety
Once you go online and go through the signup process (which should take 15 to 30 minutes) you will need to get money into your account so that you can get started buying stocks. Funding your TD Ameritrade account can be done by wire transfer, electronic funding, paper check, or by transferring money from another broker or retirement accounts. Each of those options are clearly outlined with instructions on exactly what to do.
There is no minimum amount for opening a TD Ameritrade account but if you are going to put in less than $500 you need to do that by check. Each of the funding options may have minimum or maximum dollar amounts so read that carefully.
Your money is safe up to $250,000 because it is FDIC insured and I actually called them on the phone to verify that. I was told that because they use two different banks I would be safe up to $500,000. They also have a guarantee on their website that says if there is any suspicious activity on your account that results in you losing cash or stocks, they would refund the full amount. Of course, it would have to first be verified that your account was somehow compromised by a thief rather than by you or someone you know.
Ease Of Website Navigation
One of the things that matters most to me is the user interface on the website because it can be very irritating if it isn’t user friendly. That same broker I was unhappy with in the customer service department also had an outdated website that I found hard to navigate. I often couldn’t figure out where to go to find the information I was looking for!
TD Ameritrade just updated the look of their dashboard in October 2013 and it looks great. Finding what I am looking for is easy and everything is clearly laid out in drop down tabs along the top of the page. They also have an “Ask” feature at the top of the page that will help you find what you are looking for if needed which I have successfully used. The bottom line is that the website and dashboard (which you will use a lot) looks professionally designed and is clear to understand.
Great Learning Tools
TD Ameritrade clearly wants to be a complete destination for online stock investing. They have a good selection of online courses that include webinars, workshops, eBooks, online courses, and videos that you can use. Only the workshops cost money and everything else is free with your account. I counted 28 different courses that are labeled either beginner, advanced, or experienced that you can take any time and cover a variety of investing subjects. There is also an extensive selection of videos that walk you through different stock market strategies and help explain common questions stock investors have.
TD Ameritrade Has Real Branches In Many Cities
Another thing that made me happy to sign up to TD Ameritrade is that they have actual real offices in many of the major cities including Scottsdale Arizona which is within a half an hour of where I live. Some online brokers are just that: they are only online and while they are probably just as safe, I like knowing that I can actually go speak to someone at the company if I really need to. It a comfort level that I appreciate and you can see the map below which shows where their offices are:
My Overall Thoughts On TD Ameritrade
About a week after I funded my account, I got a call from a woman at TD Ameritrade who welcoming me and said they appreciate my business. She was polite, to the point, and didn’t once try to sell me any other service. She told me that if I ever had any questions to please give her a call and then said goodbye. It was a short, unobtrusive, and professional phone call which I ended up appreciating. Please note that no one has ever called me since (I was worried that call might be the first of many).
I’m very pleased with my TD Ameritrade account and whether you are an experience stock investor or just a beginner, based on my experiences I definitely recommend them. The have no minimum requirement for opening an account which is great for first time investors. For many years now they have come on top or near the top of most ratings lists and I fully understand why they do. They have a long track record within the investing industry you can be confident with and know that your money is being held by a reputable broker.
TD Ameritrade gives you a clean and easy to navigate website that you will quickly become familiar with and you won’t waste a lot of time figuring out where to go to get different kinds of information. The learning tools are all top notch and the phone support I have received has been great as well. I’m see no reason why I won’t have my account with them for many years to come.