PROS / Flat $9.95 fee schedule. Powerful trading platform.
CONS / $500 account balance minimum. Higher trade rates than some other online brokers
VERDICT / This is a good service with great trading tools and independent research sources.
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thinkorswim is an online stock trading service dedicated to educating clients about investing in the stock market through web resources and live seminars. With thinkorswim you can place orders and manage your account through a web-based portal or with your cell phone. This brokers offer stocks, options, futures and currency exchanges. We like the casual approach to traditionally serious subjects and the inventive trading education tools.
This broker doesn’t have tiered commission rates, which is advantageous if you have a smaller account or don’t trade a lot. Everyone, regardless of account size or trade activity, pays $9.95 per trade (market or limit orders; 5,000 shares maximum). Or you can conduct trades at $.015 per share with a $5 minimum. Options are priced at $.95 to $2.95 per contract, depending on the rate plan. Or you can get them at $1.50 per contract plus $9.95 (for unlimited spread legs). With mutual funds, the first three trades per month are free, and the rest are $15 per fund trade. Futures are $3.50 per contract (inclusive of exchange fees). thinkorswim does have a minimum account requirement, but it's more affordable than most: $500. To open an account you must deposit $3,500 or more.
You can trade stocks, options, mutual funds, exchange–traded funds, bonds, currency and T-Bills. You can set up an IRA for retirement or an education savings plan. The education savings plans include Coverdell ESAs, Custodial Accounts and 529 Plans. The website and software platform have tabs that make navigation simple. There are demos on a variety of topics that will teach you how to use the service and tools. thinkorswim has four different trading platforms, so you can trade from your home office, a cyber cafe, or a hammock stretched between palm trees. The four platforms are think desktop, web-based trading, think anywhere and think mobile. Think Desktop is a premiere software–based platform that has charts, quotes and alerts. This is the one to install on your home office computer or laptop. WebBased trading has the most powerful features of think desktop and is available from any computer with an internet connection. Think Anywhere is a platform for handheld devices that allows you to trade from anywhere you have a cell phone signal. Think Mobile is a wireless platform for mini web browsers. It lets you monitor quotes and orders, create simple orders or cancel any working order from your cell phone.
There is an Options School, a blog, reports and calendars, a magazine, FAQs, market info and rules. thinkorswim only has one location in Chicago. However, you can contact customer support by email, telephone or live chat. The broker will be happy to answer your questions and help with trades.
There is a support service called Swim Coach. For a monthly subscription price you can send questions to a trading coach or you can access audio, Q&A and live instruction and check out questions from other traders.
thinkorswim is a fun service to use, with great mobile options. The fee schedule can get a bit confusing. But once you figure it out, you can choose the option that is best for you. We like the variety of mobile apps and that there is live chat support for accounts, trading and technical support. We like thinkorswim’s casual approach to trading. This broker offers serious tools and good information in a non-stuffy manner.