Ally Invest vs TD Ameritrade
In this Ally Invest vs TD Ameritrade comparison, we put the two side-by-side on virtually every metric: investments offered, pricing and fees, mobile applications, and even educational resources. Who comes out on top?
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Ally Invest came on the scene and grabbed market share with its low-cost approach. Since switching to commission-free trades, it now competes on the same level as larger brokerages like TD Ameritrade. Both of these brokerages offer futures and forex trading. However, Ally Invest caters to active traders and options traders with a simple, fluid interface and mobile app.
With TD Ameritrade, most investors gain access to every research tool, screener, educational article, and webinar on stock and trading topics. However, it’s also the historical data and human advisors that set TD Ameritrade apart. In the end, Ally Invest may not be able to compete with all of these services, but the brokerage’s main goal has always been to provide a simple trading interface with access to complex trading strategies and low-cost options trading. And you can’t forget about fees — how do Ally Invest fees match up against TD Ameritrade fees?
All of these aspects need to be considered before you make a selection.
Ally Invest vs TD Ameritrade – Quick Comparison
While Ally Invest may be a newer brokerage, it competes on zero commissions and offers a forex trading app. In comparison, TD Ameritrade is hard to beat when it comes to investment selections, research, and retirement planning. Here are some highlights from our comparison and review:
Pros and Cons of Ally Invest:
- $0 commissions on stocks, ETFs, and options with $0.50 per contract flat rate
- No NTF mutual funds, but over 18,000 funds in total with $9.99 per trade
- Extensive research and screener tools available through the InvestLIVE platform
- Offers web-based and mobile apps with an additional and exclusive Ally Forex app
- Options traders get the most out of Ally’s trading strategy scanner and probability tools
- No account minimums
- Access Ally Managed Portfolios for a low-cost robo-advisor
Pros and Cons of TD Ameritrade:
- Large brokerage with multiple investment selections and all account types
- $0 commissions on stocks, ETFs, and options with $0.65 per options contract
- Robust robo-advisor TD Ameritrade Essential Portfolios with tax-loss harvesting, automatic rebalancing, and socially responsible investing choices
- Over 4,400 NTF mutual funds, with over 11,000 in total, $49.99 per trade for other funds
- Access to the award-winning thinkorswim desktop platform, which is best for active and experienced traders
Fees and Commissions
Both brokerages switched over to commission-free stock, ETF, and options trading in October 2019. Neither brokerage requires an account minimum. Ally Invest offers some advantages for options traders in cost, but investors looking for no-transaction-fee mutual funds should stick to TD Ameritrade.
Ally Invest Fees
Ally Invest does not offer NTF mutual funds. Instead, you’ll pay $9.99 for all no-load funds. Fees will change depending on the sales load for other mutual funds. In contrast, TD Ameritrade offers 4,100 NTF mutual funds. Other mutual funds cost $49.99 to trade.
TD Ameritrade Fees
Broker-assisted trades cost $44.99 with TD Ameritrade, but you can access human advisors on Ally Invest for $20. Margin rates are also lower on Ally Invest, which charges about .50% to 1.50% lower in margins depending on the account balance.
There are some other fees associated with Ally Invest accounts, including an IRA closure fee of $50 and higher ACH and wire fees of $30 a piece. You’ll also pay a stock certificate processing fee of $300. Domestic wires are available for Ally Invest for $30, which is higher than TD Ameritrade.
Winner: TD Ameritrade is probably the better choice when it comes to fees, particularly with mutual funds. Ally Invest does a good job of lowering the costs for your average investor on first glance, but when you dig deeper, there are some additional Ally Invest fees that make it slightly more expensive to use their platform.
TD Ameritrade has been adding to their investment choices since 1975. The full-service stock broker does its best to accommodate all trader personalities by offering the following:
- Stock trading
- OTCBB/Pink sheets
- Mutual Funds
- Bitcoin futures
- International trading
Ally Invest has boosted their investment selections recently, but they don’t offer international trading. You can trade forex with Ally Invest, however. In addition, Ally Invest does not have NTF mutual funds. You will still find over 18,000 mutual funds available to trade in. Previously, Ally Invest decided against offering Bitcoin futures unlike the CME Group.
Winner: TD Ameritrade simply offers a bit more to investors than Ally Invest. Can you trade futures with Ally? Yes. However, the company has a ways to go before launching Bitcoin and offering the same low-cost mutual fund selection as TD Ameritrade. This is likely why TD Ameritrade makes our list of the best stock brokers available.
TD Ameritrade has been known as the leader in full-service brokerages because of its diverse investment choices. While Ally Invest was founded in 2005, there are some things that the platform shies away from, such as Bitcoin futures and international trading.
Trading with Ally Invest
Ally Invest takes a two-fold approach by offering banking and investing in one integrated experience. Their intuitive and responsive InvestLIVE platform uses HTML5, enabling it to work on most browsers and mobile. You can drag and drop all kinds of widgets to customize your dashboard. These widgets include news feeds, watchlists, portfolio holdings, charts, streaming quotes, and other research tools.
One thing we like is the bulk order entry feature that lets you start a trade basket to place multiple individual transactions at the same time. It saves a ton of time, particularly if you are an active trader. You can also change tax lots for a position you’re holding even after the trade has been executed.
Trade execution quality is one of the most important factors to consider when looking at the overall trade experience. Fast order routing and price improvements are expected with all brokerages, so it’s a shame that Ally Invest does not try to use a smart order router. It shows on their reports that they are below average in trade execution. While you can designate how you’d like to order route by talking to a broker for an extra $20, your only choices are ARCA and NASDAQ.
Trading with TD Ameritrade
TD Ameritrade has always led the way with its trading platform. With its full-service approach, the company built out several trading platforms, which can honestly be a bit confusing for new investors. Still, these robust offerings set the brokerage apart from other trading houses.
With the website platform on TDAmeritrade.com, investors can swiftly view their portfolio holdings, look at research tools, try a screener, trade stocks, test options strategies, and look at videos or live market commentary.
However, it’s the thinkorswim platform that truly empowers the TD Ameritrade investor. This is a desktop platform that is aimed at active, experienced traders who want to purchase stocks, ETFs, options, futures, and forex. You can access advanced trading features, technical analysis tools, hundreds of studies, customizable charts, and backtesting capabilities. In fact, we say thinkorswim is the best stock trading app you can find.
Even if you don’t have access to a computer or the mobile app, you can place trades using Facebook Messenger, Twitter direct messages, Google Assistant, or Alexa.
As far as trade execution, TD Ameritrade is among the leaders for price improvement and speed. The company publishes their figures and shows a 98% price improvement for most of its trades.
Winner: TD Ameritrade and Ally Invest are almost equal until you look at the thinkorswim platform and trade execution quality. It’s impossible to beat the robust thinkorswim platform, which was made for experienced frequent traders.
Education, Research, and Robo-Advisors
TD Ameritrade has definitely been working on the simplicity and usability of their platform, and they have also streamlined their research and educational offerings in the past year. For awhile, the larger platform had difficult getting all of their tools in one place and offered older information that wasn’t relevant to today’s trends. In comparison, Ally Invest hasn’t changed a whole lot since adding mobile apps in 2017 after it acquired TradeKing.
Education and Research with Ally Invest
There are just two stock screeners available with Ally Invest. One includes 80 fundamental and technical data analysis points, and you can perform backtesting with the other screener on any investment strategy. Ally Invest also added a mutual fund screener and a fixed income screener.
You can customize charts with 33 years of history, and every stock has an overview page that links to a summary with CFRA reports. Each ETF and mutual fund also has a Lipper scorecard to check out as well.
If you are an options trader, you can use the Strategy Workbench to see all of your current portfolio holdings and analyze for potential trades, which assesses risk automatically. If you want to use the Probability Calculator, you can conduct options research and adjust for volatility. This is a proprietary tool that options traders will love.
While portfolio analysis and reporting are limited on the InvestLIVE website, you can see review your portfolio and see how it’s been performing. There have been talks to add more features soon, but so far, the platform is still pretty limited.
The “Do It Right” Education Center on Ally Invest offers more articles, but the investing topics are pretty generalized. There are some specific asset classes explored on the blog, but it’s the options education that beginner investors will like the most. Webinars are also offered on a weekly basis, and even senior options analyst Brian Overby will offer webinars to discuss trends and strategies.
Does Ally Invest Have a Good Robo-Advisor?
Investors who want automated investing can use Ally Invest Managed Portfolios, which offers AI management for 0.30% annual fee of your total portfolio. You also need to invest $500 minimum. Accounts supported include individual taxable accounts, Roth IRA, traditional IRA, 529 plans, joint taxable accounts, and more. However, automatic rebalancing and tax-loss harvesting are not offered.
Interested in automated investing services from Ally? Check out more information in our Ally Invest review — where we give the platform a 9/10.
Education and Research with TD Ameritrade
What if you had a tool that could search and find trading opportunities in real-time? That’s possible with the thinkorswim platform on TD Ameritrade. You can access real-time data for options and equities with thinkorswim, specifying industries, risk, and so forth. There are also a ton of screener tools, including an excellent tool for bond selection and bond ladder building.
You can customize just about everything in the thinkorswim platform as well, including your dashboard that allows watchlists, charts, and other technical analysis options.
Investors can also get customizable portfolio performance reports through the web or on thinkorswim. You can also cut up and organize your portfolio by the root asset if you are an experienced options trader, which allows you to see how a potential trade may affect your portfolio’s performance.
There are hundreds of short video clips explaining all kinds of topics in trading, whether it’s investment selections or complex options strategies. These are released almost every week, but you can find many of them already on YouTube.
One of the most intuitive tools from the big brokerage is the Ask Ted feature. You can now live chat with an AI bot that will point you in the direction of any article, video, strategy, or trade order type. You can use the tool to access just about any data that you want to look at, or you can set up trades right within the chat.
Want to learn more about Ted? Read more about the feature in our complete TD Ameritrade review.
Lastly, investors who want to gain confidence in their selections and strategies can use the Virtual Trading Simulator on thinkorswim or on the mobile app. This allows you to use a $100,000 in fake money to set up trades and orders without having to incur any risk. It’s free for 60 days even if you’re not a customer. If you do sign up, you can access the tool for free.
Does TD Ameritrade’s Robo-Advisor Offer a Good Experience?
For those who want automated investing, TD Ameritrade Essential Portfolios is available. Although it requires a $5,000 minimum investment, the broker offers tax-loss harvesting, automatic rebalancing, socially responsible investing, and niche account types. There is also a 0.30% management fee assessed annually.
Winner: TD Ameritrade hits it out of the park on education and advisor tools. While Ally is simplified and streamlined, TD Ameritrade has changed up its strategy in regards to content with Ted and its smart robo-advisor.
Mobile and New Trade Tech
Both Ally and TD Ameritrade offer mobile apps. How do they stack up?
Ally Invest offers two apps for iOS and Android, including Ally Mobile and Ally Forex. You can also use InvestLIVE in your mobile browser thanks to its adaptable technology. All of these apps offer streaming quotes, ACH transfers, watchlists, and charting capabilities.
Within Ally Forex, you can track down and add your own currency watchlists with alerts. Each currency has a scorecard and historical data attached, so you can see it’s performance streaming right in the palm of your hand.
TD Ameritrade has the funding to go further with mobile apps. The brokerage giant has two mobile apps. The TD Ameritrade Mobile app acts as a mirror of the website, allowing you to do just about everything that you can do in the browser on your phone. The TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader app is for thinkorswim users, and it allows you to log in and check on your charts, stocks, watchlists, and more. You can also use tools like the virtual trading simulator from the mobile app.
Another thing that TD Ameritrade offers is easy ordering through Facebook Messenger, Twitter direct messages, Google Assistant, and Alexa. You simply have to speak your order or request more information to get help from these smart home tools.
Winner: With the inclusion of the virtual trading simulator and multiple ways to place a trade online, TD Ameritrade is definitely looking at how to make it easier for customers to invest.
Frequently Asked Questions: Ally Invest and TD Ameritrade
Is Ally Invest or TD Ameritrade best for retirement?
There are a few ways to look at this question. TD Ameritrade and Ally Invest both offer similar account types, but Ally Invest does not offer any no-transaction-fee mutual funds. TD ameritrade offers more than 4,000. There are also more retirement planning tools such as calculators and automated investing options with tax-loss harvesting from TD Ameritrade’s Essential Portfolios.
Ally Invest also charges a pretty high IRA closure fee of $50, which TD Ameritrade does not have. Ultimately, we think it’s better if casual and passive investors go with TD Ameritrade for retirement.
What brokerage offers better customer support: Ally Invest vs TD Ameritrade
Ally Invest and TD Ameritrade claim to offer 24/7 customer support with live chat, email, and phone support. However, TD Ameritrade also offers in-person support at branch locations.
Here is a more detailed look at their customer service approach:
Ally Invest Customer Support
Ally Invest does have a live chat feature that works 24/7 to connect you to a real human representative. You can ask complex questions, get account information, and even troubleshoot issues with your trades. However, you will need to log in first before you can use this feature. However, it’s still faster than trying to reach a phone support representative.
TD Ameritrade Customer Support
We found it interesting that TD Ameritrade claimed to have live chat, but it was only offered through Facebook Messenger and Twitter. There is no proprietary live chat on TD Ameritrade currently. While you can use “Ask Ted,” which is the AI bot feature, you can’t speak to a human unless you call the 24/7 phone support line.
It was difficult getting a response on Facebook and Twitter in under 5 minutes like with other 24/7 live chat brokerage support services. We think it’s probably difficult for anyone without an account to reach a customer representative on these platforms as well.
Verdict: Which Broker is Right for You?
Ally Invest is a relatively newer platform built upon TradeKing’s platform from 2017. While it’s streamlined, easy-to-use, and has a ton of features that active investors will love, you may not get all of the research tools, human advisors, or automated investing options that TD Ameritrade offers.
In addition, Ally Invest and TD Ameritrade both offer commission-free trading, but you’ll realize quickly that there are no no-transaction-free mutual funds with Ally Invest, which makes it a bit difficult to invest in low-cost mutual funds for retirement.
Overall, TD Ameritrade is the better broker and will give more to beginner and advanced traders.