Next to commission fees, trading platforms are the most important aspect of an online brokerage firm. In todayâ€™s fast moving stock market, the trading platform not only has to be fast, but also reliable and have the best tools to help investors and traders. This article will look at the trading platforms of three online brokerage companies.
Covered in this report
Requires no trading platform fees.
Has the ThinkOrSwim trading platform.
Best for: Is best for the fundamental investor with great investing tools.
Investment advisers who will pick the best invest basket for your risk level.
Will automatically reallocate your investment choices for your risk level.
Best for: Investors who need investment adviser help with portfolio management at an affordable price.
Has the most mobile trading platform apps.
Offers extended trading hours at no additional costs.
Best for: For the day traders and option traders.
TD Ameritrade offers four different trading platforms for your trading needs.
Their web platform has the following trading and investing tools to make the best investment choices and manage your investment portfolio.
- A planning calculator
- Investment selection wizard
- Fundamental research which includes free third-party analytic research.
- You can use their allocation calculators so you can figure out what allocation of stocks and bonds are best for you. TD Ameritrade has pre-built asset allocation models that you can customize.
- Screeners to find the best stocks, ETFs, options and mutual funds.
- You can set up alerts and set up a personal watch list.
- Snap Ticket allows you to get instant quotes and place a trade instantly.
TD Ameritrade Allocation Model
Trade Architect includes the following web based trading platform tools.
- Real time news from CNBC, CNBC International and Dow Jones News.
- You will receive reports from Credit Suisse, S&P Capital IQ and TheStreet.com
- Charting tools and technical analysis.
- Watch lists
- Streaming quotes.
- Access to trading specialists
- Access to Level II quotes
- Probability analysis
- Earnings analysis
- Idea generators
- Charts that you can customize
- Heat maps that will show you the hot and the cold stocks and sectors.
TD Ameritrade Sector Heat Map
In addition to the above features, you will be able to join their myTrade Investor Community forum and see what other traders are trading and copy their trades into your own trading or investing portfolio.
With Trade Architect you will also get option chain strategy tools including S&P Capital options screening tools. This tool will show you many different options strategies including:
- Calendar call spreads
- Calendar put spreads
- Diagonal call and put spreads
- Long and short straddles
- Butterfly spreads
ThinkOrSwim is now a part of TD Ameritrade and this is their premier high speed trading platform with many features including elite trading tools and analytics.
- The ability to trade One Cancels the Other (OCO), active trading ladders and contingent orders.
- Charting ability including P&L charts.
- Market monitor allows you to view the entire stock market graphically.
- Customizable pairs trading.
- Beta weighting using any stock option or index option as the common denominator.
- The ability to paper trade without using real money to test your theories and strategies before risking real money.
- Strategy Roller allows you to create covered call options using pre-defined criteria.
- Stock Hacker is a stock screener finding the next big stock moves.
- Futures Calendar Spreads.
- A Forex Global Currency Map that allows you to compare currency pairs.
- The ability to trade complex option strategies quickly and view theoretical prices, implied volatility and probabilities.
TD Ameritrade ThinkorSwim Trading Screen
TD Ameritrade Mobile Trading Apps
TD Ameritrade offers two different mobile trading platforms, their TD Ameritrade Mobile App and their TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader APP.
The TD Ameritrade Mobile App offers the following features:
- Analyze trends in the market.
- You can monitor your positions.
- Real time streaming quotes.
- Works on the iPad, iPhone and Android.
The TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader App has the following advanced features:
- You can trade stocks, options, multi-leg options, futures and forex.
- Paper trade to test your trading strategies with real market data.
- Customizable charts with many technical indicators.
- Streaming CNBC stock market news.
- Works with the iPhone, iPad and Android mobile devices.
Betterment is not a traditional online broker like TD Ameritrade and E-Trade are. Betterment is more of a portfolio management company. What Betterment will do is find the best mix of stock and bond ETFs allocation that matched your risk level.
You cannot trade stocks, options, bonds or ETFs on Betterment and they do not have a trading platform. Betterment is listed with the Securities and Exchange Commission like online brokers are. Betterment has the following three plans:
- Builder with a 0.35% commission fee.
- Better with a 0.25% commission fee.
- Best has a 0.15% commission fee.
How Betterment Works
Once you answer their questions about your financial goals and risk tolerance, their investment advisors will find the best allocation of stock and bond ETFs. As the prices change for these ETFs, their investment advisors will reallocate your mix of ETFs to keep your portfolio in your risk allocation range.
You have a choice of an investment basket of ETFs. You cannot just buy and sell ETFs. Betterment has a specific and limited number of ETF baskets which you and your investment advisor at Betterment can choose from and mix however you want to based on your risk tolerance level. The stock or equities ETFs choices and their percentage mix are:
- 25% Vanguard Total Stock Market (VTI).
- 25% iShare S&P 500 Value Index (IVE).
- 25% Vanguard Europe Pacific (VEA).
- 10% Vanguard Emerging Markets (VWO).
- 8% iShares Russell Midcap Value Index (IWS).
- 7% iShares Russell 2000 Value Index (IWN).
You will also have the following Treasury bond ETFs:
- 50% iShares Barclays TIPS Bond Fund.
- 50% iShares Barclays 1-3 year Treasury Bond Fund.
E-Trade is a well known online broker with a good reputation. E-Trade has the following three trading platforms.
E-Trade 360 is their basic trading platform for investing and offers the following options.
- Free streaming quotes streaming market data for all customers.
- Graphical Accounts View provides customers with a graphical view of account, balances, allocations and performances.
- Your personal watch list.
- Integrated Trading allows you to place all of your trades within the E-Trade 360 trading platform.
- Track your portfolios total profit and loss.
- Retirement Planning Calculators.
- Free demo.
E-Trade Pro is their trading platform for active traders and includes the following options.
- Extended hours trading that starts at 7 AM Eastern Time at no additional costs.
- Back testing.
- Technical screener with real time strategy recognition.
- Streaming alerts.
- Sector and Technology Tracker lets you find the top performing stock market sectors.
- Option tools that allow you to trade all types of options trades with option screeners and option analytics.
- Charting tools.
- Live CNBC streaming video.
E-Trade Mobile Trading Platforms
E-Trade has mobile apps with many features so you can trade from anywhere.
- Windows phone
The mobile trading apps have the following features.
- Level II quotes.
- Voice recognition that lets you speak the stock, option or symbol and get quotes and option chains.
- Shares calculator.
- The ability to track your portfolio over a certain time frame as compared to three different stock market indexes.
Certain features are not available on all mobile apps. The Android, iPhone and iPhone have the most features.
While TD Ameritrade and E-Trade are conventional online brokers, Betterment is completely different offering only portfolio management and just a handful of ETF options. Both TD Ameritrade and E-Trade have fine trading platforms with different features and commission schedules where you can trade any stock, option, ETF or mutual fund you want to. All three online companies have their place with investors and traders.