Finding a great platform for stock trading might not automatically make you rich, but once you find one that lets you execute trades with ease, it does go a long way towards helping you make better trades and encourage you to monitor the markets more closely.
For access to US markets to trade and invest in US stocks, ETFs, options, and futures, there is TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim platform, which is touted as one of the best for amateur traders.
It was voted “Most Preferred Platform” at the ShareInvestor Awards 2019 and TD Ameritrade also won the accolade of being “Most Engaging Financial Company”. So, is it all it’s cracked up to be? Let’s find out.
What is TD Ameritrade?
TD Ameritrade is one of the US’s biggest discount brokers regulated by top-tier regulators and is open to Singapore investors to trade in US equities.
Its biggest draw is its low fees — read, $0 commission fee on online US stocks, ETFs and options trades — and it has a wealth of educational material catered to beginners and more pro traders on its platform.
TD Ameritrade overview: fees, products, trading platforms
|Trading products||Stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, options, futures, cryptocurrencies, treasuries|
|Minimum commission fee||
US $0 on US exchange-listed stocks and ETFs
US $0.70 on options
|Minimum funding amount||No – but recommended to start with at least US $3,500|
Stock Holding Type
|Trading platforms||thinkorswim (desktop and mobile)|
|Payment method||DBS/POSB electronic transfer, wire transfer, transfer from another broker, cheque|
As you can see, TD Ameritrade charges a $0 commission fee on US exchange-listed stocks and ETFs, down from its previous fee of US $10.65. This move only came into effect in early August 2020. Options trading will be charged at US $0.70 from its previous US $0.65, with no exercise or assignment fees. Great news for those who are considering getting into the US markets.
And while there’s no minimum amount required to open an account, it’s recommended to start with at least US $3,500. TD Ameritrade will even absorb the wire fee up to US $100.
To actively day trade, you should have US $25,000 or US $5,000 to sell options naked.
TD Ameritrade commission and trading fees
|TD Ameritrade Fees|
|US exchange-listed stocks and ETFs||$0|
|US Options||US $0.70 per trade|
|Mutual funds||US $50|
|Futures, Options on Futures||US $2.41 per contract (+ exchange and regulatory fees)|
Options fees are waived if you buy to close any short individual or single leg option for USD$0.05 or less.
Note that there are additional fees on trading activity added to your transactions:
- US $0.000119 per equity share
- US $0.002 per options contract
- US $0.00075 per bond
In addition, the NYSE and NASD require pattern day traders to maintain a minimum equity of at least USD25,000.
How to invest with TD Ameritrade thinkorswim?
thinkorswim is a platform for Singapore-based investors who wish to trade US equities. The huge time difference between Singapore and the US makes platforms that let you trade round-the-clock more valuable. thinkorswim enables you to trade in US markets 24 hours a day, 5 days a week, preprogramming your buy or sell orders for the next morning.
The platform has both a desktop and a mobile app, so you can trade from the comfort of home or while on the go. You can also access the platform via your browser without downloading an app.
As with many trading platforms, thinkorswim also gives you access to research, fundamental data, charts and tools, and educational resources that enable you to refine your strategy and pick your stocks more easily. Some features include advanced interactive charting, third party research reports, trade scanners, a market heatmap and a probability analysis tool.
There’s also a comprehensive guide on how to navigate thinkorswim on the app and mobile, as well as how to trade. For newbie traders, there is also a trade simulator called paperMoney that enables you to execute mock trades with $100,000 worth of play money.
TD Ameritrade has a Singapore office so if you run into any problems, you can call the Singapore office during weekdays at 6823 2250 or WhatsApp customer service at +1 855 281 8383. There’s also in-app chat support.
How to apply for a TD Ameritrade account?
To apply for a TD Ameritrade account, you can decide if you want to apply for an individual account in your name or a joint account with another person.
Once you’ve decided, applying for an account can be done in under 20 minutes and all you need is your NRIC and a copy of your recent bank account statement.
It takes up to 3 days for the account to be verified while funding your account through DBS/POSB transfers will also take around 2 to 3 business days. Unfortunately, bank transfers with other banks are not accepted but most Singaporeans should have a DBS/POSB, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Otherwise, you’ll have to do a wire transfer or transfer funds from another broker which may incur a small fee.
Once your account is open, your account value must, for 12 months, be at least equal to your initial deposit (ie. USD3,500), minus any losses due to trading or market volatility or margin debit balances, or you might be charged additional fees.
TD Ameritrade also offers the option to open a margin account where you’re essentially borrowing money from the brokerage to purchase your investment. Bear in mind that margin trading may not be for everyone as you have to pay interest and not all stocks can be bought on margin.
Guide to how to make a trade on TD Ameritrade thinkorswim
thinkorswim is considered a user-friendly, customisable platform that beginner investors can easily get used to. You can also practice making trades with a paperMoney account (choose the paperMoney option on the log in page) and you’ve got $100,000 to play with.
Once you’ve created an account, explore the platform and check out TD Ameritrade’s video tutorials to get the most out of it. Add indexes or specific products to a watchlist on the left sidebar or set up and customise charts, which is one of thinkorswim’s most used features.
On the thinkorswim dashboard, you can see your account info and watchlist on the left sidebar and on the main window, you can toggle between different tabs to monitor, trade and see charts and resources.
Let’s say you want to buy Apple stock. Search for the code or simply key in Apple and click on it to see more details.
There’s no Buy or Sell button but rather Ask or Bid shows the buying price and selling price respectively.
Click on Ask price to bring up the Order Entry window at the bottom.
Adjust the number of shares and price in the respective fields, type of order and time in force (TIF).
Click Confirm and Send to bring up the Order Confirmation Dialog box to review the price one last time, before hitting Send to confirm your trade.
Return to the Monitor tab (top of page) to see the order you’ve just placed for Apple under Filled Orders.
Who should use TD Ameritrade thinkorswim?
The main draw of TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim is that it offers Singapore investors the chance to trade American stocks and ETFs.
That means you can invest in big American tech companies like Google, Apple or Amazon. Technology stocks tend to be more volatile but also offer more potential for growth as well as the chance to capitalise on market volatility to make money.
Furthermore, thinkorswim is a relatively cheap platform to use for small-time stock traders who intend to make smaller trades.
You are also subject to transfer fees when transferring money from another brokerage unless you transfer at least USD3,500 each time.
The platform’s interface is highly customisable, which is great for experienced traders but comes with a steep learning curve for newbies.
For those residing in Singapore, this can be a secondary account to access the US markets on top of your regular brokerage.
Alternatives to TD Ameritrade thinkorswim
IG Markets — The established UK-based company is a leading brokerage for trading CFDs and you get access to more than 16,000 global markets and trade across more than 30 indices. Users have raved about its user-friendly and responsive platform with clean design, making it optimal for both beginners and more savvy investors. Find out more about IG Markets in our review.
Saxo Markets — Known for having low fees, Saxo Markets’ SaxoTraderGO is a popular brokerage that allows you to buy and sell stocks, ETFs, funds, bonds, options, futures, Forex, CFDs. It’s a subsidiary of Danish investment bank Saxo Bank and gives access to the SGX as well as a variety of foreign markets. Read our review of Saxo Markets to find out more.
Still undecided? Compare other online investment brokerages in Singapore to find the best one for you.
Have you ever traded with TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim? Share your reviews in the comments!