Download ThinkOrSwim Paper Money and signup to demo trade with the professional trader tools from TD Ameritrade. Paper trading is available for free for 60 days for those without a funded TOS account, and is included for free with any funded account.
Think Or Swim Paper Money includes all kinds of free indicators already installed and ready to use. You can also download and install premium indicators from SWIMdicators if you need some additional trading tools.
ThinkOrSwim’s paperMoney demo trading platform includes almost all the same features as the main “real money” trading platform. The main difference is that in Paper Money the market data is delayed by about 20 minutes. So the latest bars on your chart will be older bars — they won’t be the real time current market data.
Other than that, though, the platform is great, and it allows you to test almost any product, instrument, strategy, indicator, etc., just like in the real money program.
Once you’ve perfected your strategy over a series of sample trades, now it’s time to logout of think-or-swim, switch over to “live trading,” and make some REAL money!
TD Ameritrade is an all-inclusive, one-stop-shop-style discount broker for basically every kind of trader and investor out there. Whether you’re a beginner investor just trying to buy some ETFs or mutual funds for your Roth IRA, a swing trader looking to create or hedge complex positions using options contracts, or a high-speed day trader wanting to buy and sell individual stocks, forex pairs, commodities, or futures, TD has basically got you covered. The only thing they don’t really do is algorithmic automated systems trading (though you can accomplish this fairly easily using a TDA account in conjunction with another company called Prodigio — and without any programming knowledge no less!)
To me, TDA’s most compelling features include that they have no minimum balance requirement, excellent free research and news tools, and a choice of three trading platforms (with my favorite, of course, being thinkorswim). I’ve also found their support teams to be extremely easy to reach via phone, email, or even live chat, and the reps seem friendly and accommodative.
To pay for all the freebies and low fees that make Ameritrade so accessible to so wide an audience of investors, the firm has traditionally charged more in commissions than most other discount brokers. Recently at $9.95 per trade, the commissions were getting pretty out of sync with some of the competition out there for awhile, especially for more active traders. But the recent commission price cut to $6.95 per trade for stocks and ETFs has alleviated some of that imbalance. Traders have to realize the trade off is there due to the other free services the company provides, such as a good research and news, a pre-configured data feed, well-supported scriptable platforms, etc. — features which more specialized low-cost brokers charge customers for out of pocket. Still, even with the freebies and the recent price drop, TD may not be the best option for the more active traders among us.
Compare TD Ameritrade
As of 3/6/17
Online equity trades
Minimum opening deposit
($2k for margin/options)
Access to real-time streaming quotes
Platform conditions apply
Access to Level II quotes
Platform conditions apply
Platform conditions apply
TD Ameritrade’s Commissions & Fees
Stocks: $6.95 per trade
Options: $6.95 per trade plus $0.75 per contract
Futures: $2.25 per contract plus exchange and regulatory fees
Spread-only pairs: Avg. spread of 1.4 pips EUR/USD as an example
Commission-based (#): $1 min. and/or $0.10 per 1,000 units
100+ ETFs: $0
All others: $6.95
Almost 4000 NTF and Load funds: $0
No Load: $49.95
Account minimum: $0
No annual or inactivity fee; $75 outgoing transfer fee
Promotion: $100 to $600 cash bonus, depending on account size
Where TD Ameritrade Really Shines
Account minimums: TD Ameritrade has a very accessible $0 account minimum for both IRAs and taxable brokerage accounts, so this can make it extremely easy for anyone to start investing. I mean, free is much, much lower than the typical $500 to $2,500 many brokerages want. Another nice add-on to the low account minimums is that TD doesn’t charge account inactivity fees either, and regardless of your balance you still get access to the free tools, news, and research. However, customers trading options or using margin are required to maintain at least a $2,000 account balance to be able to trade.
Curated investments: TD Ameritrade has more than 100 commission-free ETFs and nearly 4,000 no-transaction-fee mutual funds. Moreover, Morningstar, an independent investment research firm, compiles a quarterly “Premier List” of no-transaction-fee mutual funds in 45 different fund categories for TD Ameritrade clients, and customers have free access to that.
Free research: TD Ameritrade provides traders with analysis from Market Edge, S&P Capital IQ, and Credit Suisse, as well as free streaming CNBC news, market heat maps, and free real-time streaming quotes. Another little perk is the online social community myTrade. And if you want input from your local broker, there are over 100 locations around the U.S. that you can call or visit.
Simulated trading: TDA offers some great ways for traders to get started without risking anything. Not only does it offer basic demo trading accounts, called TD Ameritrade Paper Money, but they also offer a fully functional version of their advanced trading platform on demo mode as well. Just download and run the thinkorswim paperMoney platform. You can also demo trade right inside any of the mobile apps by switching the mode as you login.
TD Ameritrade’s Platform Options: TDA has some great options for traders and investors, from your basic mobile app or online web-trading platform, to the more advanced Trade Architect, to the full-fledged all-in-one desktop trading platform thinkorswim.
Trading commissions: Like I mentioned previously, my biggest gripe against TD Ameritrade has always been the commissions. That definitely got a whole lot better in March when the company lowered its base commission rate for stocks, ETFs, and options from $9.99 to $6.95.
But the whole industry reduced commissions at about the same time, including Fidelity, Charles Schwab, and also TradeStation (a big competitor to thinkorswim), among others. This means that TD Ameritrade is still pricier than its peers, but again we have to remember that TDA offers a lot of freebies and lower minimums to offset some of that annoyance.
Broker-assisted trades: TD charges a whopping $44.99 for broker-assisted trades, compared to more typical competitor rates of $25 t0 $35, though this can be reduced by $10 if you choose to place the trade on the interactive voice response phone system (but then you have to ask yourself why you didn’t just go on the mobile app and trade for $6.95 instead!) Broker-assisted trades and the IVR phone system would mostly be useful for closing a position in an emergency if your power goes out or something. And, by the way, it’s always a good idea to keep their number in your phone for that very purpose: 800-669-3900
The Bottom Line
TD Ameritrade does a good job of wearing a lot of hats and covering a lot of bases for different types of investors and traders. From getting portfolio guidance, independent research, commission-free ETFs, no-transaction-fee mutual funds, and your pick of three great multi-product trading platforms in addition to being accessible via the mobile app, they really check a lot of boxes.
When you add to that that these features are all available for free and with no minimum initial deposit, TD’s service becomes a truly compelling offering.
TD Ameritrade is best for:
Beginner investors wanting low fees and minimums.
Advanced traders who don’t want to deal with complex data feeds and software configuration.
This article tells you exactly how to find your way around the ThinkOrSwim login screen. If you’re new to TD Ameritrade’s think or swim platform, read on for more information on getting started and logging in to trade.
Get the Program
The first thing you need to know is how to get ahold of the program itself. Just go to our thinkorswim download page if you don’t have the application installed yet, and download thinkorswim. Launch the installed and go through the prompts, making sure you install for all users. Once you’re done, click OK and the program should launch on its own.
The Thinkorswim LogIn Screen
Once you have the program, locate it on your hard drive and double-click the icon to open it. It will show a “Checking for updates…” progress bar for a few moments. This is where the application calls home to TDA and makes sure there are no updates to be installed. If there are, it will install them and relaunch. If there aren’t, it will take you to the login screen:
The Thinkorswim login screen has your typical username and password fields. But there are also a few other options here to discuss:
Once you type in your username, you can click the “lock” icon in the field. This saves your user ID so that next time you launch the program you won’t have to type it in again. It basically saves you some time and effort each day.
Question Mark Icon
The question mark icon is there just in case you run into any technical difficulties on startup. Basically it just gives you the toll free 800 number to call in case of technical issues to get customer support.
Thinkorswim Login Options
The login options will be displayed once you click on the gear icon on the lower left side of the login window. It will bring up a window that looks like this:
Look and Feel
Here you have some options you can set before launching the platform. First, you have the color theme. Most people use the dark them, and that’s the one I prefer as well. It’s a little easier on the eyes after staring at your screen for several hours, in my opinion. But you can select a light them or whatever other options you prefer.
Next you have the font size. If you have a small monitor then you might want to choose the smaller font size to be able to squeeze more onto your screen. If you can’t read small text very well, on the other hand, you may need to set the font to be larger.
After that you have a space for a proxy server address in case you need to connect through a specific server. Most people can simply ignore this.
In the next two fields you can specify a minimum and maximum memory allotment for the platform. This basically tells TOS to go ahead and block out a certain amount of RAM on your computer to be used just for this program. It comes with some default settings, but if things are running slow, you might want to bump up the minimum and maximum settings. The platform will actually alert you later if you start running low on memory anyway.
If you ever mess something up or make a change in the software that you don’t like, don’t worry. The platform automatically backs itself up, and you can always rollback to a prior version. Or if you have a version saved externally from a different computer, you can always load that one as well. Just click the clock icon and select the date of the backup you want. If you want to choose a backup saved somewhere other than the application’s main folder, select the last option in the menu and browse to find the file.
After you have all your options chosen and set how you like them, click Save to go back to the main Thinkorswim Login window. From there you can finish typing in your password, choose either Live Trading or PaperMoney simulated trading, and then click Log In.
Home Screen Shows up after Thinkorswim Login
Once the think-or-swim log-in process is complete and the platform finishes loading, if this is your first launch, you may notice a popup called the “home screen”. This is ThinkOrSwim’s news and updates screen, featuring recent blog posts and streaming CNBC. You can close this out by clicking the X at the top right. And you can always re-open it by clicking Home Screen in the top right corner of the platform.
I personally find the home screen popup to be annoying, and a lot of other people do to. But if you happen to be one of those people, you’re in luck. You can turn off the home screen popup very easily. Just click Setup in the top right corner, and select Application Settings. In the window that appears, click on Startup, and then uncheck the box that tells it to open the home screen on every startup. Accept the changes and you’re all set. Next time you launch the platform the popup won’t launch automatically.
Hopefully this gives you a good comprehensive overview of logging in to ThinkOrSwim. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below. Incidentally, if you’ve forgotten your password or username, you can always go to the thinkorswim login help page and TD Ameritrade will get you set up.
And here’s a full video on the TOS log in screen in case we missed anything in the tutorial above.
Josiah is a stock trader, thinkScript programmer, real estate investor, and budding mountaineer. He's also rumored to be an in-shower opera singer. Josiah & his family live in Nashville, TN. Twitter | YouTube
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