PROS / This platform has a comprehensive list of tools and features for analyzing and trading stock options.
CONS / The advanced thinkorswim platform may be overly complicated if you are a first-time options trader.
VERDICT / TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim is a stellar platform if you are an experienced trader or if you are ready to get more serious about options trading.
If you are looking for more than the basic trading platform with advanced tools for researching, analyzing and trading options online, TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim platform can provide just that. With customizable tools to analyze risk and probability, scan stocks by price and strategy, and view the market from different perspectives, thinkorswim provides a powerful platform for options trading.
When trading options within the platform, there is a $9.99 trade fee plus $0.75 fee per contract. When looking at 50 contracts in one trade, you pay $47.49. These fees are within the average for online options brokers.
Other fees, however, are more pricy. For an option exercise or assignment, you pay $19.99 each time, the highest fee of the services we reviewed. The fee for broker-assisted trades is one of the highest, costing $44.99 plus each per-contract fee. Finally, the margin rates start at 9.25 percent for balances under $10,000 and drop to only 6.5 percent for balances of one million dollars or above. Rates are calculated from TD Ameritrade's established base rate, which is subject to change.
TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim platform is superior to most competitors in terms of analytics, charting and presentation of stock options. Although similar to what other brokers offer, its options trading dashboard provides complex analytic and stock options research tools that experienced traders may find especially useful. These include streaming market data, traditional analytics and powerful web-based ordering. When scanning stocks, you can choose from a number of preprogrammed strategies, including vertical, butterfly and iron condor, and the spread book further includes complex orders, such as straddle and strangle orders. Other charts show complex options trades and identify classic or candlestick patterns, and there are portfolio risk and probability analytics.
Further, this options trading system allows you to add, delete, minimize and maximize gadgets. You can also make the widgets as pop-out windows so you can keep an eye on the information when you're working in other programs.
While the website is optimized for mobile devices, you can also download the app for iPad, iPhone and Android phones and tablets. The apps have typical functions, including trading; setting alerts; and monitoring your watchlists, orders and positions. You also have access to charts, strategies and advanced research tools. The mobile website is a trimmed-down version of the full website, still allowing you to manage your accounts, research and trade options, and view and edit your watchlists, among other features.
The website has a number of educational resources, including tips and tools if you are new to investing in options and stocks or planning for retirement. The education center provides information on popular investments vehicles as well as instruction for TD Ameritrade's platforms. You can view video tutorials and live or archived webinars. For more personal assistance, you can visit one of the over 100 branches across the nation, call customer support 24/7 or send support an email.
TD Ameritrade's fees are slightly higher than the average for the industry. However, the thinkorswim platform provides a powerful platform for serious traders, with a huge suite of tools for in-depth stock analysis, basic to complex options trading, and portfolio management and assessment.