TD Ameritrade FX Review
By Steven Hatzakis
February 18th, 2019
Last Updated: April 22nd, 2019
The ForexBrokers.com Annual Review (3 years running) is among the most cited in the industry. Our Head of Research, Steven Hatzakis, is frequently referenced as a leading analyst covering forex brokers and cryptocurrency. Learn more.
Under its CFTC-regulated entity, TD Ameritrade Futures and Forex LLC, publicly traded TD Ameritrade (AMTD) remains one of the few regulated brokerages to still offer retail forex trading in the United States.
Serving only US-based forex traders, TD Ameritrade is home to over 11.5 million funded client accounts and offers investors stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, bonds, options, futures, and forex trading.
Note, this review focuses on TD Ameritrade’s forex offering. For TD Ameritrade’s stocks and options trading services, please see the TD Ameritrade review on our sister site, StockBrokers.com.
With nearly 80 currency pairs to trade alongside a plethora of trading tools and research, TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim platform provides US-based forex traders a winning solution.
- Regulated in the United States and publicly listed under TD Ameritrade (AMTD).
- Powerful desktop charting that syncs with mobile.
- Wide array of premium research and trading tools.
- Futures and options trading on forex and bitcoin futures.
- Forex only available to US residents.
- No web-based platform offered for forex.
- Platform complexity may deter beginners.
- Get up to $600 + Trade Commission-Free for 60 Days Learn More
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|Publicly-Traded Company (Listed)||Yes|
|Regulated in Major Hub||Yes|
|Regulated in Emerging Hub||No|
|Authorised in the European Union||Yes|
Commissions & Fees
While assessing the true costs of trading forex with TD Ameritrade is difficult due to a lack of published data, our best guess is that the broker offers competitive pricing that is slightly better than the industry standard.
- 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 equates to an 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.
- You can tell which FX contracts are commission based from the distinct marking in search results with the “#” symbol added to the end of the forex pair (i.e., EUR/USD#), annotating that it is commission based, and you can toggle between both from the forex quote screen.
- For traders on the commission-based pricing, spreads are low but a steep commission of 1.0 pip per side brings the total round-turn (RT) cost to $20 per standard lot (100,000 units) traded, making it an expensive option.
- With non-commission forex contracts, prevailing spreads are marked up (wider) in lieu of commission.
- 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).
|Minimum Initial Deposit||$0.00|
|Average Spread EUR/USD - Standard||N/A|
|All-in Cost EUR/USD - Active||N/A|
|Active Trader or Premium/VIP||Yes|
Platforms & Tools
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.
- 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 75 different forex pairs, and each pair lives in its own module that can be further customized.
- 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 nearly 400 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, including the ability to use thinkScripts for algorithmic trading, as well the ability to create push notifications and alerts on individual indicators. In addition to candlestick patterns, there is an editor that enables users to create their own custom candlestick patterns, a rare feature that candlestick enthusiasts will appreciate.
- 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.
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|Virtual Trading (Demo)||Yes|
|Desktop Platform (Windows)||Yes|
|Social Trading / Copy-Trading||Yes|
|MetaTrader 4 (MT4)||No|
|MetaTrader 5 (MT5)||No|
|Charting - Indicators / Studies (Total)||403|
|Charting - Drawing Tools (Total)||20|
|Charting - Trade From Chart||Yes|
|Watchlists - Total Fields||506|
|Order Type - Trailing Stop||Yes|
While not built solely for forex trading, 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 alongside additional 3rd party sources such as Dow Jones, Thomson Reuters, and Morningstar.
- There are also a detailed economic calendar and fundamental analysis tools that offer traders a diverse arsenal of means to research the markets, including in video format. One area I found useful for fundamental research is the FRED Data, which include historical data on interest rates and other economic indicators that affect monetary policy and currency 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, including the Social Signals service that pulls insights from Twitter, adding to the broad range of research and content that TD Ameritrade delivers.
|Daily Market Commentary||Yes|
|Forex News (Top-Tier Sources)||Yes|
|Trading Central (Recognia)||No|
|Social Trading / Copy-Trading||Yes|
|Social Sentiment - Currency Pairs||No|
The TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader app, available for iOS and Android devices, comes packed with a ton of features, ranging from charting with several hundred indicators to creating advanced Blast orders, all organized neatly in a modern, user-friendly way.
- One feature that stands out is how available order types are displayed visually. For example, choosing a Blast order will let you create a multitude of orders and place them all at the same time. Alternatively, using a “1st triggers sequence” order will let you create an order that will trigger a sequence of other orders, similar to a One Triggers Other (OTO) order.
- 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.
- Charting is also robust, as the thinkorswim app includes over 300 optional indicators and trendlines can be drawn on the chart. When indicators are added to a chart, they become the default template when other charts are opened or when logging back in (i.e .they are automatically saved). Trend lines I drew on the EUR/USD in the desktop app charts synced perfectly with the mobile app charts, which is a very useful feature for technical analysis across devices.
- It is worth noting that watch lists in the app are highly customizable, and there is a watch list for fx commission pairs, as well as one for non-commission fx pairs. Creating one from scratch was easy.
|Apple iOS App||Yes|
|Trading - Forex||Yes|
|Trading - CFDs||No|
|Alerts - Basic Fields||Yes|
|Watch List Syncing||Yes|
|Charting - Indicators / Studies||397|
|Charting - Draw Trend Lines||No|
|Charting - Trend Lines Moveable||No|
|Charting - Multiple Time Frames||Yes|
|Charting - Drawings Autosave||Yes|
Offering of Investments
The following table summarizes the different investment products available to TD Ameritrade clients.
|Currency Pairs (Total Forex pairs)||75|
|CFDs - Total Offered||0|
|Cryptocurrency traded as actual||No|
|Cryptocurrency traded as CFD||No|
In addition to trading forex, TD Ameritrade’s FX offering also supports additional forex instruments such as options and futures on pairs, as well as the US Dollar Index.
For cryptocurrency trading, clients can trade Bitcoin futures as well as the first exchange-traded Bitcoin product, Greyscale’s Bitcoin Investment Trust (Ticker $GBTC).
For US-based investors and traders, TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim platform is a sophisticated multi-asset desktop experience that is great for forex trading. The one drawback is that thinkorswim’s tools are mostly built for trading other asset classes such as equities and options, but this is merely a minor distraction.
All variables considered, TD Ameritrade delivers. The broker finished best in class in multiple categories out of 28 brokers in our 2019 Review.
Forex Risk Disclaimer
"There is a very high degree of risk involved in trading securities. With respect to margin-based foreign exchange trading, off-exchange derivatives, and cryptocurrencies, 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 related instrument. 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.
About the author: 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. Steven is an active fintech and crypto industry researcher and advises blockchain companies at the board level. Over the past 20 years, Steven has held numerous positions within the international forex markets, from writing to consulting to serving as a registered commodity futures representative.