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thinkorswim Review — How This Trading Platform Stacks Up


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At a glance

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Our rating

4.5/5
  • What It Is: thinkorswim is a trading platform developed by traders for traders, which is offered by one of the most trusted online brokers on the market, TD Ameritrade.
  • Benefits: Compelling charting and trading tools, competitive pricing, free trading simulator, quality educational materials, several order types, and an intuitive on-the-go experience.
  • Drawbacks: The platform is so expansive that it carries a learning curve, options tools aren’t user friendly, and no tools for assessing potential profits and losses.


Dig Deeper

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Offered by TD Ameritrade, one of the most trusted online brokers, thinkorswim is a trading platform that was designed by traders for traders. That means you’ll have all the charting tools and technical indicators you need to be successful when using the platform. 

Not only is the platform as intuitive as — if not more intuitive than — other platforms you’d have to pay exorbitant monthly fees to access, the brokerage makes it available for free to all users.

Whether you’re into stock trading or investing for the long run to build wealth in the stock market, the platform will scratch your itch. Investors will find quality research and educational tools designed to give you everything you need to be successful. 

Key Features

With a name like TD Ameritrade to live up to, the thinkorswim platform has some pretty big shoes to fill, and it does so easily. Traders and investors alike enjoy thinkorswim’s trading tools, trading simulator, and stock screener features, as well as the competitive pricing and multiple order types available on the platform. 

Trading Tools

While not necessarily intended for the long-term investor, the technical analysis tools thinkorswim offers are second to none. Successful active traders know the tools you use often make the difference between profit and loss, which is why so many of them choose to use this platform. 

First off, the platform itself is made for customization, giving you the ability to make sure the data that’s most important to you is available at a glance. 

You’ll also have access to all the charting tools and technical indicators you could imagine, making analyzing trends and pouncing on the right opportunities at the right times a more efficient process. 

Traders and long-term investors alike have raved about the platform’s stock screener offered, dubbed the “Stock Hacker.” The screener gives you the ability to quickly find assets that meet your specifications, from basic to more advanced categorizations by criteria such as industry, volume, percentage change, put/call ratio, and many, many more. 

If you find an interesting investing option but aren’t quite sure whether you’re ready to pounce, simply add the asset to your watchlist and you’ll never forget the ticker. 

Trading Simulator

If you’re going to try your hand at active trading, it’s imperative that you do your research and practice your strategies before risking your first dollar. The best way to do that is with a paper trading platform that gives you meaningless virtual money to test in a real-time trading environment. 

To access the paperMoney simulated trading platform on thinkorswim, all you need to do is flip the switch on the login screen. When you log in, you’ll be granted a boatload of virtual bucks and the ability to test your strategies using all of the tools and capabilities of the live thinkorswim platform. 

Once you’ve fine-tuned your strategy and you’re ready to trade stocks and other assets with real money, simply log out and flip the switch on the login screen to access the live market. 

Education

One of the biggest benefits to working with large brokerage firms is their industry knowledge and, believing in the idea that knowledge is power, their willingness to educate their customers. TD Ameritrade is no different. 

When you log into thinkorswim, you’ll have access to educational materials including videos, webcasts, tutorials, and more. With such a successful, well-respected broker being behind the development of these educational materials, you can rest assured that they’re top-notch and can offer something of value regardless of your level of experience in the market. 

Competitive Pricing

You’re in the market to make money, not spend it, but no matter who you choose to work with, there will be fees involved. After all, companies have to be incentivized to act as middlemen between the general public and the financial markets. 

The good news is that TD Ameritrade offers some of the most competitive fees you’ll find on the market today. 

First and foremost, the company has long been a proponent of commission-free trading. As a result, you’re not going to pay a dime in commissions on stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and closed-end funds. Instead of charging investors commissions, the firm takes part in payment for order flow activities, which means when it sends orders to specific market makers, it earns a percentage of the spread charged when the order is filled. 

While you’ll pay for other types of trades, those fees are minimal as well:

  • Forex. Like most forex brokers, you’ll pay a spread when trading currency on thinkorswim. The company’s profits are baked into that spread, but they are more than reasonable when compared to other brokers. 
  • Options. When trading options, you won’t be charged a base charge, but contracts will come with a fee of $0.65 each. 
  • Futures. Futures contracts are charged a flat rate of $2.25 per side on each trade. 

Regardless of what type of asset you’re trading, your fees will either be zero or below average when using the thinkorswim platform. 

Order Execution

Most successful traders aren’t simply buying and selling stocks at the market price. Instead, they take advantage of multiple order types that allow them to exit bad situations or profit from good situations somewhat automatically. 

When trading with thinkorswim, there won’t be any shortage of these complex orders at your disposal. Some of the order types that give you more control over trading than those offered by most other brokers include:

  • Stop Order. Stop orders will be triggered once the stock moves past a predetermined price. When this takes place, the stop order becomes a market order and the trade is executed at the next available price.
  • Trailing Stop Order. A trailing stop order is designed to lock in gains or protect the trader from significant losses based on a predetermined percentage. For example, if a 10% trailing stop order is placed on a long trade, the order will automatically become a market order if the stock falls farther than 10% from its peak. Therefore, as the stock heads up, the trailing stop follows, helping to limit losses or lock in profits. 
  • One-Cancels-Other Order. With one-cancels-other orders, two orders are placed simultaneously. When the parameters for one order are met, that order is executed and the second is cancelled.  
  • 1st Triggers Sequence Orders. With 1st triggers sequence orders, you’re able to place up to eight orders simultaneously. Once the first order in the book is executed, the next order is up for execution. No orders in the line are filled until the orders before them are executed. 
  • 1st Triggers All Orders. Finally, you’re able to set up to eight orders with 1st triggers all orders. Once the first order is executed, the remaining orders are all activated. 

Advantages

Considering the fact that the best minds behind TD Ameritrade developed thinkorswim, it only makes sense that there’s quite a bit to be excited about when using the platform. Some of its biggest advantages include:

  1. A Trustworthy Broker. When working with a broker, you’re not just choosing a pair of shoes; you’re working with an entity that will help you manage your money. It’s important the broker you choose is worthy of the trust you give them. Considering the clout TD Ameritrade has in the market, you can rest assured your money’s in good hands. 
  2. All the Tools Day Traders Need. The platform comes with tools that would rival even the most expensive paid platforms, and it’s all free. Between charting tools, indicators, screeners, simulators, and research tools, you’ll have everything you need to be successful day trading in the market. 
  3. No Account Minimums. Whether you’re starting with $10 or $10,000, TD Ameritrade wants your business. There are no account minimums or minimum deposits to worry about. 
  4. Trade on the Go. Not only is a top-notch desktop platform available, the thinkorswim mobile app is available for both Android and Apple (iOS) devices. Just like the desktop platform, the mobile platform has all the tools you’ll need to be successful in the market. 
  5. Industry-Leading Cost Structure. Due to the incredibly high volume of business TD Ameritrade does, the company is able to get away with offering an industry-leading cost structure. Much like Amazon.com, the company is focused on driving volume rather than profit per transaction. 
  6. Education. With thinkorswim, you’ll have access to some of the best educational materials on the market, showing that the company’s interests align well with those of their customers. 

Disadvantages

While there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the thinkorswim platform, every rose has its thorns, and this platform is no different. Some of the drawbacks to using it include:

  1. Download Required. thinkorswim was developed as a downloadable software. If you want to use the desktop platform, you’ll have to be willing and able to download and install it on your computer as opposed to using a web-based application that simply allows you to log in on the company’s website. Not to mention, the program takes a while to launch, which can be frustrating at times. 
  2. Learning Curve. There are a huge number of tools and resources available on the platform, which does have a downside. It will take some time to learn how to use all the bells and whistles. Beginners are strongly encouraged to use the paperMoney platform first while making their way through the learning curve. 
  3. No Profit/Loss Features. Some platforms show you the probabilities of profits and losses and how big those profits and losses might be before you execute some types of trades. That’s not the case on this platform, which adds some guesswork into the equation.  
  4. Options Tools Aren’t Easy to Use. There’s no questioning the fact that the options trading tools available on the platform are valuable, but if you plan on using them, be prepared to add quite a bit of time to the learning curve, because they’re not very user friendly.  

Final Word

As a stockbroker, TD Ameritrade is one of the best in the business. It’s not surprising that the company’s thinkorswim platform is up to par with what you’d expect from a leader in the financial space. 

With so many tools available at your fingertips, there may be a learning curve, but there are few platforms that offer anything near the capabilities offered by thinkorswim. Add in the fact that there are no account minimums, a low cost structure, and quality educational materials, and you have a trading platform that’s well worth considering whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned veteran. 

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The Verdict

Thinkorswim Logo

Our rating

4.5/5

The thinkorswim trading platform is one of the best offerings online today. While there is a learning curve to using the platform, especially if you’re trading options, the competitive fee structure, quality charting and trading tools, and a quality mobile app make it a strong fit for just about every investor.

The thinkorswim platform is an intuitive offering that deserves one of the highest review scores possible. With few drawbacks and plenty to be excited about, there are few investors or traders who wouldn’t benefit from giving it a go.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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