Ease of Use
ThinkOrSwim is a trading platform provided by TD Ameritrade. The platform is free for Ameritrade customers and offers a wide range of features, including charts, level 2, scanners, watch lists, and more. The platform also offers the option to choose between live trading or paper trading.
ThinkorSwim is a trading platform offered by TD Ameritrade. Ameritrade has really ramped up its trading platform Think or Swim (TOS) to better serve the active trader demographic. ThinkorSwim (TOS) is their advanced level standalone platform for serious traders. It has all the bells and whistles covering everything from stocks, options, mutual funds, futures, commodities, and Forex in one platform. It also has a rich diverse group of research providers, training and educational content suitable for new and intermediate level traders.
Is this platform worth using? Keep reading our ThinkorSwim review to find out.
How Much Does it Cost to Use ThinkorSwim?
ThinkorSwim is available for free for T.D. Ameritrade clients. You can get access to real-time data as long as you have a funded TD Ameritrade account. Ameritrade offers additional data streams for an additional monthly cost, but the free data will be suitable for most traders.
If you want to trade within the platform, you will be subject to TD Ameritrade’s commission schedule. You can trade stocks and ETF’s for free. Options will incur a fee of $0.65 per contract.
ThinkOrSwim Platform Features
ThinkorSwim is a feature-rich, all-in-one desktop platform. Users will also have access to a mobile app (ThinkorSwim mobile) and web-based version of the software, but the desktop platform will be the focus of this ThinkorSwim review.
ThinkorSwim offers a suite of powerful trading tools for both beginner and advanced traders.
If this is your first time using a trading software, there is a slight learning curve, but ThinkorSwim is relatively easy to use once you get the hang of it.
The main reason many traders use ThinkorSwim is for the charting features. These are definitely one of the stars of the service.
The TOS charts are very versatile. Traders can use traditional bar, line, and candlesticks for charting. ThinkorSwim also has less conventional charting using Heikin Ashi and Equivolume charts. Charts can also be linked by color code to other windows. This makes it convenient when shifting between different stocks on multiple time frames.
Personally, I like to have linked windows with a 1-minute, 5-minute and 15-minute chart, which gives me a wider perspective of the short-term price action. Whenever I change the symbol, it updates the data simultaneously across all linked windows.
Initially, I got annoyed whenever I changed a symbol, the updated charts would be compressed and require manually expanding them to be readable. Here is a major tip to solve this issue. Go to Chart Settings and Click Time axis and make sure “Keep time zoom” is checked on. This will allow any new symbols to be updated on a beautifully refreshed readable chart.
ThinkorSwim has more technical studies and indicators that you could ever use. They are arranged by category like momentum studies, moving average studies, trend studies to specific customized studies of gurus like John Carter’s studies or John Person’s studies. TOS does a great job of addiing studies and the selection keeps growing. I really like the Bearish-only and Bullish-only candlestick pattern studies, which identifies when a selected pattern forms. However, you have to vet them out to see if they are truly valid. For example, hammer candles can form during a consolidation but aren’t truly effective unless preceded by at least four red candles.
The level 2 is basic and shows the major exchanges and ECNs. Unfortunately, there is no subscription currently to the NYSE Open book or Nasdaq TotalView feeds. On the flip side, level 2 is free, so no complaints there from me.
Level 2 is an essential tool for stock trading, so it’s definitely nice that it is included as part of the service.
The newsfeed is useful when looking for information pertaining to specific stocks. It updates in real-time and is good for momentum traders that jump on news-related price action. This doesn’t replace a standalone news service like Briefing.com or TheFly, but it will be suitable for casual traders who want to have access to important headlines.
The scanner can be configured based on fundamental or technical criteria. It is versatile and effective for finding ideas and potential trades. The options scanner is a great tool to find options trades that meet certain set-up criteria.
This is a basic scanning tool with functionality similar to FinViz or StockFetcher. It is not a replacement for tools like Trade Ideas and Equityfeed, but it’s a nice free addition to the TOS service.
TOS has basic order entry buttons using point-and-click on Level 2 for pricing selection. Traders can also opt to use a vertical DOM matrix to place orders. TOS doesn’t allow direct order routing and instead uses its own algorithms to fill orders through their own dark pool. This can make for some tough transparency on fills, but it should be expected since TDAmeritrade is not a direct access broker.
The platform lets you place price or indicator based alerts, which makes it much easier to concentrate on the set-ups currently on your plate and not worry about monitoring what hasn’t triggered yet.
TOS has preprogrammed watch lists with gappers/dumpers, new highs/lows and stocks trading at specified volume and price change levels. It also has watchlist windows that I can add my own watchlist stocks and have them linked to my charts. Watchlist settings are configurable as are most things on this platform.
TOS was originally an independent options trading platform before Ameritrade purchased them. The analyzers, calculators and tools for options trading are second to none. Traders can decide what type of strategy they want to partake to see what kind of profits or losses are possible. TOS will execute multiple legs options strategies after reviewing them first through their options strategy analyzer. This is the best platform for anyone who trades options.
Users can draw trend lines and also plot Fibonnacci retracements, which are two of my favorite price action tools. There are a ton of educational tutorials, webcasts and course content.
TD Ameritrade and ThinkorSwim have a vast library of videos and tools to get you acclimated. The interactive courses do a good job of helping self-directed traders to get all the tips and techniques needed to smoothly navigate through the platform. There is also the Education Center which has online courses that new traders or investors can use to learn about different topics including stocks, options, futures, technical analysis, with access to courses, podcasts and webinars.
Ameritrade TOS provides a community chat room with hundreds of traders of all experiences and skills. There are definitely some good traders in there but I never trust free chatrooms. Honestly, it is a mosh pit of comments with traders trying to hype their own positions. Without any guided alerts or signals, it’s pretty messy in there and I don’t hang out there often.
While the chat room is a nice free addition to the service, serious traders are likely to prefer a chat room like Investors Underground.
Customization And Saved Layouts
You can save your layouts and also post them up for others to use or to share with friends who also use TOS. The layouts are saved on the cloud so you can use them on different computers and devices, which I found convenient. There are a number of other features that the thinkOnDemand which lets you replay the market during past time periods to better train yourself and tweak your tools. The API is also programmable which lets computer-saavy traders program in their own indicators or tweak existing ones.
ThinkorSwim users can reach TD Ameritrade customer service if they have any issues with the platform. While there are plenty of resources and guides online, you can call or email TD Ameritrade if you have any specific questions. They have great service and are usually timely with their responses.
ThinkorSwim Platform Differentiators
The Think or Swim platform is one of the best trading platforms on the market. They provide so many tools it can become overwhelming. It is prudent to have multiple desktop monitors to truly utilize the full range of tools in the software. While the free software and data is generous, the lack of direct order routing and relying solely on the in-house darkpool can result in some frustrating fills. Still, ThinkorSwim is one of the best trading platforms out there. Anyone can sign up and try the demo for absolutely free.
What Type of Trader is ThinkorSwim Best For?
Think or Swim originally started as an independent options trading platform before Ameritrade acquired them. Options traders will probably get the most benefits out of this platform. The options analytics and calculators are very convenient and really simplify the expected returns on basic and complex options strategies including spreads, straddles and condors. Self-directed investors will also have a field day with all the fundamental tools and videos. As complicated as the platform may appear, it is really catered to the new trader who doesn’t care about pass-thru rebates or order routing. At $6.95 a trade through TD Ameritrade, this can be expensive for traders that like to scale in and out of positions in 100-300 share increments at a time.
For the newbie traders, this is a good value with all the extra education perks that come with the platform. This is the platform used in the popular beginner course by Ricky Gutierrez.
Active intra-day traders will find the expensive per-trade commissions and lack of direct access routing to be cost-prohibitive. The lack of direct-access also means no pass-thru rebates, which active traders rely on to lower commission costs. These traders may prefer a day trading broker. However, very large position traders will find unlimited sizing with zero commissions to be more cost-effective, provided they use strict limit orders on fills.
Is ThinkorSwim A Good Value?
TOS a jack-of-all-trades, which is very versatile for portfolio trading and management, but can spread thin in areas requiring deeper concentration like direct order routing. The best part of the platform is that it is absolutely free to test out in “paper money” mode, which is their demo mode. The platform itself doesn’t cost extra, which is an amazing value, especially since the quote and news feeds are included in the demo. As I mentioned before, I can’t help the feeling that there is a little too much focus on cosmetic enhancements and not enough focus on what active stock market traders may need like per-share pricing, ECN rebates and direct access order routing.
Is ThinkorSwim Better Than Robinhood?
Since the time of our initial ThinkorSwim review, we’ve had a few traders reach out and ask how this platform compares to Robinhood.
The short answer is, ThinkorSwim is 1000x better.
Robinhood is a mobile trading app, whereas ThinkorSwim is a robust trading software. The two aren’t really even comparable. ThinkorSwim has WAY more features in the platform and TD Ameritrade offers way more services as a broker.
Initially, the main attraction to Robinhood was the zero-commission trading. Now that TD Ameritrade has zero-commission trading as well, there’s really no reason to use Robinhood instead (unless you prefer the simplicity).
- Free software and data feeds
- No monthly maintenance or inactivity feeds
- Easy to learn platform
- Massive amounts of tools, studies and educational content
- Always improving with upgrades
- Multi-market trading platform
- Great for skilled options traders, investors, intra-day and portfolio traders
- No direct-access routing
- Expensive per-trade commissions of $6.95 bad for scaling in and out
- Can be a big resource hog