Known for its powerful options trading platform that also offers stocks and forex trading, thinkorswim was acquired by major US brokerage house TD Ameritrade (NASDAQ: AMTD) in 2009 and has since continued to evolve as an innovative brand under the company.
Under its derivatives entity, TD Ameritrade Futures and Forex LLC, TD Ameritrade remains one of the few regulated brokerages to still offer retail forex trading in the United States. The brand continues to benefit from the backing of its parent company for both technology innovation and customer support resources.
Commissions & Fees
TD Ameritrade’s fees for trading forex on thinkorswim vary depending on whether you choose the commission-free pricing available as a separate FX contract or the commission-based contract from within the platform each time you submit an order for execution.
For example, on the commission-based model, while the EUR/USD spread was 0.30 pips, including a commission of 2.00 pips round-turn (all-in cost 2.3 pips), at the same time, the same spread on the non-commission EUR/USD contract was 0.90 pips, making it a more attractive spread at a 60% discount, using random spread data.
|View All Fees||TD Ameritrade||Interactive Brokers||OANDA||Saxo Bank||Forex.com|
|All-in Cost EUR/USD - Active||N/A||N/A||1.000||0.600||0.700|
|All-in Cost GBP/USD - Active||N/A||N/A||1.500||0.900||1.300|
|Average Spread GBP/USD - Standard||N/A||N/A||1.700||1.300||1.700|
|Average Spread EUR/USD - Standard||N/A||N/A||1.200||1.000||1.300|
|Commissions & Fees|
While we were not able to obtain any average spreads published by TD Ameritrade, we looked at sample real-time price quotes for its major forex pairs to make a general comparison from within the platform. It’s also worth noting that thinkorswim uses GAIN Capital, the owner of FOREX.com, as its liquidity provider to handle its forex execution (for both pricing options).
Overall, we would like to see the firm publish its average spread for its major forex pairs to offer a more precise comparison with industry peers. Otherwise, TD Ameritrade appears to compete well on spreads in its non-commission FX contracts.
The thinkorswim platform from TD Ameritrade is loaded with powerful research tools, including a set of several detailed screeners, such as the Stock Hacker, and live CNBC news feeds and headlines from additional sources. There are also a detailed economic calendar and fundamental analysis tools that offer traders a diverse arsenal of means to research the markets.
Beyond the basics normally found in an economic calendar, thinkorswim adds smart features such as the ability to filter the calendar based on various news events, and even set alerts on upcoming events relevant to your portfolio.
Numerous social features developed from in-house and third parties are also found on the platform, giving traders access to plenty of premium content.
Platforms & Tools
Upon installing the thinkorswim desktop platform for Windows, my initial reaction to the home screen window shown upon login was that the platform is rich with innovative features. The home screen window includes a high-level overview of the markets, with streaming tickers, CNBC TV, recent market news, a listing of upcoming economic events, and quick links to popular tools.
All in all, the number of positive features in the thinkorswim platform far exceeds any negative attributes.
Instead of grouping all products into the same area, thinkorswim separates them out into individual tabs, which makes trading streamlined and efficient. Under the Forex Trader module, rates are displayed for six currency pairs by default. Users can choose from 131 different forex pairs, which is impressive. However, this number trails industry leader CMC Markets’ offering of 183.
Within each forex quote window, there is a sidebar that lets you quickly show or hide different views just for that currency pair. Although this feature was difficult to use the first time because the layout adjusts on the fly, I quickly got the hang of it and found the extra optional layer of customization to be a net benefit. Also, if six pairs isn’t enough for you, you can easily adjust the grid to accommodate up to 24 pairs at once in a 4x8 configuration. A nice touch.
Moving to the charting section, I was impressed to find over 370 technical indicators – by far the most in the industry. Without question, technical analysis enthusiasts will quickly fall in love with the endless depth available to them.
If having access to 370 indicators wasn’t enough, each one can be customized then grouped and saved into sets. This allows for clean charts themed to whatever analysis you desire. Furthermore, by using the thinkScripts tool, you can modify and create new indicators, which is a similar functionality to custom indicators in the MT4 platform or the JForex3 platform from Dukascopy
Aside from the powerful charts, the heatmap is another highly configurable tool that lets you explore indices and various sectors in incredible detail. It is conveniently located in the watchlist module so you can create custom lists and heatmaps based on items already on your watchlists.
One final note is that while forex trading is currently supported only within the thinkorswim desktop platform, the TD Ameritrade website indicated that forex trading is coming to the web-based Trade Architect platform at some point down the road.
All in all, the number of positive features in the thinkorswim platform far exceeds any negative attributes. The platform takes time to learn; however, the plethora of tools and depth are well worth the patience required. TD Ameritrade finished Best in Class for Platform & Tools in our 2017 Forex Review.
The thinkorswim mobile app for Android is, without a doubt, an incredible mobile app and comes packed with a ton of features, ranging from authorizing trades with your fingerprint (for compatible devices) to creating advanced blast orders, all organized neatly in a modern, user-friendly way.
One impressive feature was the range of order types available, and how advanced order types are displayed visually.
I tested the app on my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and logged into the paper trading demo where exploring the app was made easy, thanks to a clean side navigation menu. The colors, clean sleek lines and overall design give the mobile experience a premium feel.
One impressive feature was the range of order types available, and how advanced order types are displayed visually. For example, choosing a Blast order will let you create a multitude of orders and blast them all at the same time, whereas using a “1st triggers sequence” order will let you create an order that will trigger a sequence of other orders, as an example of order types available.
There are additional order types under the “Advanced Order Group” found at the bottom of the order editor when creating a trade ticket to place an order. An eye catcher is that each order type shows a visual layout to helps users understand how the orders work.
In terms of research in the app, the same calendar experience from the desktop platform is present for filtering news events by symbol, watchlist, or account positions. This filtering makes sense and ensures that traders will always view the news that is most relevant to their portfolios, including global economic indicator events for forex traders.
Furthermore, additional research tools such as myTrade let you see what other users are trading and allow you to share your own posts. Other social features include multiple chat rooms with dedicated themes – including one exclusively for forex trading. These all sync with the same chat rooms in the desktop platform, helping to unify the user experience across devices.
When it comes to charting, while most brokers usually have less indicators in their mobile apps compared to the desktop and/or web platform, thinkorswim includes the full list, which is impressive.
The mobile app lacks the functionality of drawing trend lines and adding drawing tools. The app could also make it easier to open a chart, instead of having to go through a watchlist.
Despite these differences in accessing charts and the lack of drawing tools, the mobile app from TD Ameritrade is highly innovative and ranks near the top among US forex brokers competing with mobile apps from FXCM, FOREX.com, and OANDA.
With so many analysis tools and an array of hundreds of studies and strategies, research tools, and over 130 currency pairs to trade, TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim gives US-based forex traders a unique platform. This is true even though many of thinkorswim’s most advanced features are designed for other asset classes such as equities and options trading.
Beginners will find the mobile app easier to use than the desktop version, which is not as user-friendly for newcomers. Meanwhile, even experienced traders may need extra time to adjust to the vast array of tools on the desktop platform. That said, for US residents, accessing thinkorswim’s premium features is worth the effort.
For our 2017 Forex Broker Review we assessed, rated, and ranked 20 international forex brokers. Each FX broker was graded on 255 variables. Learn more.
Forex Risk Disclaimer
There is a very high degree of risk involved in trading securities. With respect to foreign exchange trading, there is considerable exposure to risk, including but not limited to, leverage, creditworthiness, limited regulatory protection and market volatility that may substantially affect the price, or liquidity of a currency or currency pair. It should not be assumed that the methods, techniques, or indicators presented in these products will be profitable, or that they will not result in losses. Learn more.View all TD Ameritrade FX Fees & Features
Reviewed by Steven Hatzakis Steven Hatzakis is the Global Director of Research for ForexBrokers.com. Steven previously served as an Editor for Finance Magnates, where he authored over 1,000 published articles about the online finance industry. Over the past 18 years, Steven has held numerous positions within the international forex markets, from writing to consulting to serving as a registered commodity futures representative.
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