TD Ameritrade vs. Robinhood: 2023 comparison

June 14, 2023
10 minutes
Trading Education

TD Ameritrade and Robinhood are two of the most popular stock trading platforms.

With commission-free trading and easy-to-use apps, they’re both beginner-friendly ways to trade stock.

While they do have some similarities, each one has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Robinhood is simple and easy-to-use, especially for beginner investors, as you can start purchasing fractional shares for as little as $1.

TD Ameritrade, on the other hand, is a full-service brokerage – complete with different account types, a wider array of assets to invest in and live customer service.

While neither is necessarily better or worse than the other, they do suit different styles of trader. The best one for you will depend on what you want to do, and how you want to do it.

To help you decide which broker to use, we’re taking a look at the best (and worst) features of both. This way you can compare, contrast, and decide whether you’re going to use Robinhood or TD Ameritrade.

Robinhood: the basics 

Based in Silicon Valley, rather than Wall Street, Robinhood made a name for itself by making online stock trading accessible to regular people.

Launched in 2013, it shot to fame in 2020 when more people began trading as a lockdown side-hustle.

Although it has faced criticism and controversy – as well as a $70 million FINRA fine for its system outages – it’s as safe to use as any other broker.

As well as being a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Robinhood is also regulated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). 

For even more peace of mind, it offers additional insurance for its users. This includes up to $1.5 million protection for cash and $10 million for securities: that’s over and above SIPC coverage.

People love Robinhood because it has a streamlined platform that’s super easy to use.

There’s no minimum balance requirement, and the gamified interface of the app is both intuitive and (dare we say it) fun. 

One of the reasons Robinhood is one of the best online stock brokers in 2023 that it’s easy for beginners, risk-averse people and those with little money to get started.

This is thanks to commission-free trades and the ability to buy fractional shares – that is, buying stocks by dollar amount rather than share amount.

This gives you the ability to add big-ticket stocks to your portfolio, even if you don’t have a large initial outlay.

Robinhood is best for:

  • Mobile users
  • Those who like no-frills, streamlined platforms
  • Crypto traders
  • Retirement saving
  • Beginners
  • Risk-averse people 
  • Those without a lot of money to invest.

TD Ameritrade: the basics 

Like Robinhood, TD Ameritrade offers commission-free trading and requires no minimum for account opening.

This trusted broker was recently acquired by Charles Schwab, and has won a whole bunch of Online Broker Review awards – including first place for Platforms and Tools (11 years in a row) and first place for its desktop platform Thinkorswim (10 years in a row).

And, while it’s easy for entry-level traders to use, TD Ameritrade also offers features that more advanced traders will enjoy.

For example, its industry-leading technology, wide array of securities and massive resource library.

TD Ameritrade is best for:

  • Advanced and active traders
  • Its wide investment selection
  • Portfolio-building guidance
  • Access to a library of research. 

TD Ameritrade vs. Robinhood: what you can trade 

Robinhood offers fewer tradable securities compared to TD Ameritrade.

Even so, with Robinhood you can trade stocks, ETFs, fractional shares and American Depository Receipts for more than 650 global companies.

If you’re not using an IRA, you can also trade options and cryptocurrency. 

With TD Ameritrade, there’s no direct access to trade cryptocurrency.

But, other than that, it has all the other assets Robinhood offers: with the addition of bonds, mutual funds, futures, forex, foreign ADRs and IPOs (for qualified accounts). 

And, although there’s no direct access to crypto in the platform, coin trusts are available over-the-counter. Qualified clients can also trade Bitcoin futures from CME.

Note that these types of trade do come with a big commission rate while Robinhood offers crypto trades without taking commission. 

The verdict: TD Ameritrade has more variety, but Robinhood is better for cryptocurrency. So if you want crypto in your portfolio, go for Robinhood. Otherwise TD Ameritrade has the edge.

TD Ameritrade vs. Robinhood: what is the research and data like?

Robinhood pulls in market news from Benzinga, Reuters, Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal.

You need to pay for Gold membership ($5 per month) to gain access to research – which comes from Morningstar, Nasdaq, and Nasdaq Totalview level II Market Data.

Additionally, Robinhood provides portfolio recommendations for IRAs with no extra charge.

TD Ameritrade has a more comprehensive offering. Users can see research, analysis, commentary and news from 15 providers.

These include Argus, CFRA, Reuters, Vickers and Morningstar (among others). It also scans Twitter and other social media sites to find investor sentiment.

As a TD Ameritrade user, you also have access to a comprehensive literature library – ideal if you want to hone your skills as a trader.

Verdict: while Robinhood has some rudimentary research and data tools, TD Ameritrade’s offering is way deeper. If you’re the kind of person who likes to dive into data, TD Ameritrade will be better suited. 

TD Ameritrade vs. Robinhood: the platforms

Photo by Thom Holmes on Unsplash

Robinhood’s mobile app is its biggest draw. Not only is it easy to use, it also has lots of great features.

You can create custom alerts so you know when to make a move, swipe through newsfeeds for the latest market information, use the advanced charting tool to build and develop strategies and listen to live earnings calls. 

Robinhood does fall a little short on web, however, with a very basic no-frills platform. So, if you prefer to trade on desktop, this probably isn’t the broker for you.  

TD Ameritrade offers two main platforms: TD Ameritrade itself, and its powerful thinkorswim platform.

Both are available on desktop and mobile, making TD Ameritrade a better option for traders who like to sit at their desk but have an on-the-go option.

The TD Ameritrade platform itself is quite basic, while thinkorswim has more features to suit advanced traders.

For example, the TD Ameritrade platform includes screeners, a customizable landing page and the GainsKeeper tool which keeps track of your capital gains/losses. This is a godsend, come tax season. 

Meanwhile, thinkorswim goes way more in-depth with customizable screeners and charting, real-time news, market heat maps and back-testing capabilities.

These are just a few of its robust features, which sit alongside a wide range of technical analysis tools and studies. It’s definitely among the best software for online stock trading.

Verdict: Robinhood is great for quick, easy mobile trading while TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim provides a much more comprehensive experience for active and advanced traders.

TD Ameritrade vs. Robinhood: customer support

Photo by sarah b on Unsplash

Things can’t always go to plan all the time. Especially in the world of tech. And, when something goes wrong, you want to know that there’s someone around to help you.

Luckily, both TD Ameritrade and Robinhood have great customer support options.

With Robinhood, most of the help is online. You can contact someone via email, social media or the in-app chat function.

If you’re really struggling, there’s also an option to request a call. Support is available 24/7. In the past, Robinhood’s customer support hasn’t been amazing.

The introduction of live chat and the callback service has drastically improved things, however.

Like Robinhood, TD Ameritrade offers 24/7 support via phone, email and live chat.

During business hours you can also get help via Facebook Messenger, Twitter DM, Apple Business Chat, text and even Amazon Alexa.

And, because it’s a bank with physical branches, you can even walk in and speak to someone in person. 

Verdict: both brokers have great customer service, but TD Ameritrade edges this one as it has more ways to get in touch and generally has a better track record in terms of resolving issues. It’s pretty cool being able to ask Alexa for advice, too.

TD Ameritrade vs. Robinhood: top 3 pros and cons 

Still undecided? Our quick and dirty run-down of the best (and worst) features of each app should help you to make your mind up.

What makes TD Ameritrade the best?

  1. Access to free research: you don’t have to pay any extra to access third-party research from reputable sources. TD Ameritrade users can keep up to date with the likes of Morningstar, Federal Reserve Economic Database, and the Center for Financial Research and Analysis.
  2. Professional-level trading platform: while the TD Ameritrade platform isn’t much to write home about, its proprietary thinkorswim is super powerful and available on both desktop and mobile.
  3. Large investment selection: you can trade (almost) everything, starting from low-cost mutual funds all the way up to more advanced securities like forex and futures. There are a few areas where it falls short, however, such as crypto and fractional shares (more on that below).

What is the downside of TD Ameritrade?

  1. No fractional shares: many online brokers let users buy fractional shares so they can invest by dollar amount. This is a great way for those with limited capital to invest in stocks that may be too expensive otherwise. Unfortunately TD Ameritrade doesn’t currently offer this. However, the broker has recently been acquired by Charles Schwab which does offer fractional share trading, so it could be on the table later.
  2. No direct access to crypto: there’s no direct access to this super-popular asset in either the TD Ameritrade or thinkorswim platform. While some users can access exchange-traded crypto trusts and bitcoin futures, the broker does charge a lot of commission on over-the-counter stock trades like this.
  3. Have to opt-in to ‘cash sweep’ program: this may seem small, but if you forget to enrol in this feature you could be losing out. Basically, this holds cash in an FDIC-protected account so you can earn interest on your idle cash. It’s just a little UX tweak that could make all the difference. 

What makes Robinhood the best?

  1. IRA’s with 1% match: Robinhood Retirement launched in January 2023, offering a 1% match on its users’ IRA contributions. This is a revolutionary for non-workplace pensions, and a great way for self-employed people and gig economy workers to boost their retirement savings.
  2. Free crypto trading: while many brokers now offer commission-free trading – a feature pioneered by Robinhood – not many offer free trading on crypto. While Robinhood can’t quite stand up to pure crypto brokerages in terms of trading coins, this is a nice little feature for those who want to dabble with crypto while also trading other assets.
  3. 24/5 trading window: the recently rolled-out 24 Hour Market feature allows customers to place limit orders any time between 8pm on Sunday and 8pm on Friday, giving you more time to make trades.

What is the downside of Robinhood?

  1. No mutual funds or bonds: as you become more advanced as a trader it’s likely you’ll want to branch out and experiment with a wider variety of assets. While there are a few different things you can trade with Robinhood, the lack of mutual funds and bonds makes it difficult to build a diverse portfolio. 
  2. Can be unreliable: one of the biggest criticisms of Robinhood is that it’s historically struggled to stand up to market volatility. In the past, it’s experienced frustrating outages and imposed trade restrictions during key moments, potentially costing its users money. It has been fined heftily for these issues in the past, which hopefully means it’s unlikely to happen again. It’s just something to be aware of.
  3. Limited customer support: while Robinhood’s customer service has gotten better over the past year, with the introduction of 24/7 live-chat and a call-back feature, it’s still got a way to go to catch up with TD Ameritrade and other brokers. 

Robinhood or TD Ameritrade: how to decide

As you see, both TD Ameritrade and Robinhood both have their good sides and their bad sides.

The platform you choose to use will depend on a lot of things: from your personal trading style to the interface you enjoy using the most. 

Before settling on one it’s important to ask some key questions:

       1. What type of assets do I want to trade?

  • More specifically, do I want access to crypto and fractional shares? (Robinhood)
  • Or would I prefer bonds, mutual funds, futures, forex, foreign ADRs and IPOs? (TD Ameritrade)

      2. Do I need robust research and charting tools, or can I wing it with a no-frills interface?

      3. Do I want to do most of my trading on mobile (Robinhood) or desktop (TD Ameritrade)?

Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from using both platforms. As both have their advantages, you could easily switch between the two to trade different assets. 

The key to doing this successfully is keeping track of what you’re trading, and where.

This is one area where using a trading journal could be useful, but the real power of journaling is gathering data about your own strategies and patterns.

By setting up, and maintaining a trading journal, you’ll be able to identify what’s holding you back from being the best you can be.

Along with the organizational benefits, of course. 

Find out more about what a trading journal is.

Whether you use TD Ameritrade or Robinhood, journaling is easy with TradeZella 

Whichever platform you settle on, you can easily journal your trades from Robinhood or TD Ameritrade as both have TradeZella integration

This means you can quickly import and synchronize your trades, direct from TD Ameritrade or Robinhood. It makes tracking and journaling much quicker and easier, as you don’t need to add information manually. 

All of your trades are already there, on your dashboard.

Now all you need to do is add the details: for example which strategy you were following, your daily market observations and any emotions you felt during the trade.

TradeZella can take this information and identify the patterns that led to your trade’s success or failure.

In the long-run, this analytical way of tracking helps you to become better at what you do. As patterns emerge in successful and less successful trades, you can build better strategies to ultimately increase your win rate.

As well as being able to make notes around the conditions during your trading day, you can also use TradeZella’s powerful tools and features for a range of analysis.

For example you can replay your trades, generate in-depth reports and gain helpful insights.

Over time, you’ll have all the information you need to boost your performance and reach the top your game.

Register for TradeZella today and see how our journaling software can help improve your trading on TD Ameritrade and Robinhood.

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