Investing > Vanguard vs TD Ameritrade

Vanguard vs. TD Ameritrade

In this head-to-head comparison, we examine Vanguard and TD Ameritrade on all fronts.

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Updated January 03, 2024

All reviews, research, news and assessments of any kind on The Tokenist are compiled using a strict editorial review process by our editorial team. Neither our writers nor our editors receive direct compensation of any kind to publish information on Our company, Tokenist Media LLC, is community supported and may receive a small commission when you purchase products or services through links on our website. Click here for a full list of our partners and an in-depth explanation on how we get paid.

Vanguard is well-known in the investing industry for its mutual fund investing prowess and benefits for large accounts.

TD Ameritrade, though smaller than Vanguard, has a few additional products and services geared toward long-term investors.

As a full-service online broker, TD Ameritrade caters to both passive and active investors, while Vanguard is structured mostly for passive investors and investing.

In November 2019, the online broker Charles Schwab announced it would acquire TD Ameritrade however they came across antitrust lawsuit against the merger so Charles Schwab wasn’t able to close the acquisition on TD Ameritrade until later in 2020. 💰

Here’s a quick review of these two investing platforms, side-by-side:

Further, TD Ameritrade offers several different ways to trade with a variety of platforms. Their thinkorswim platform is great for beginners, and perfect for learning the ropes if you’re interested in active day trading.

TD Ameritrade also publishes more educational content, often considered the industry gold standard when it comes to keeping investors informed. This helps investors gain more confidence and sharpen their trading skills. TD Ameritrade offers more asset classes to trade, almost all of which can be done via their mobile app.




Account minimum



Minimum initial deposit



Best for

Long-term, passive traders

Experienced and beginners


Vanguard Portfolio watch to assess your portfolio

Free and extensive research & data



Up to $600 cash credit with qualifying deposit





Account minimum



Minimum initial deposit




Best for

Long-term, passive traders

Experienced and beginners


Vanguard Portfolio watch to assess your portfolio

Free and extensive research & data



Up to $600 cash credit with qualifying deposit

Overview of Vanguard and TD Ameritrade


  • Lower offerings overall for anything but retirement accounts.
  •  High account balances get the most rewards and lower fees through Vanguard.
  •  Basic education and screeners are available, but most of the research is geared towards long-term investments.
  •  Customers cannot get support outside of trading hours Monday through Friday.
  •  Investors cannot access any streaming data through desktop or mobile application.

TD Ameritrade

  • As a full-service brokerage, TD Ameritrade allows you to trade stocks, ETFs, options, mutual funds, forex, and futures.
  • Commission-free trades include stocks, ETFs, some mutual funds, and some options with a $0.64 per contract fee.
  • Access the thinkorswim platform for customizable charts and dashboard screens, which include watchlists, news, education, resources, stock tips, and so forth.
  • More education offerings than most other brokerages with TD Ameritrade Network and daily stock commentary.
  • 24/7 customer support helps clients get answers to all kinds of questions, but you’ll be charged $44.99 for broker-assisted trades.

Trading Experience: Vanguard vs. TD Ameritrade 🤝

Vanguard works mostly with larger accountholders and offers more benefits to retirement investors who want low-cost mutual funds. Trading technology is quite outdated with Vanguard, however. With no streaming quotes or real-time data, you have to do your research first before using their system to set up a simple trade.

In addition, you cannot set up complex options trades unless you work with a live broker. These broker-assisted trades have a fee of $50.

TD Ameritrade investors can trade on multiple platforms, including the award-winning thinkorswim platform. This desktop application is very customizable and allows you to choose your own layout, trading defaults, news defaults, color schemes, and so forth.

There are also customization features on the website itself. For example, you can use the My Dock tool on the website to create a dashboard with all of your favorite stock news, tips, charts, and more.

You can place all kinds of orders across platforms, whether desktop or mobile. In addition, TD Ameritrade has a special order routing algorithm that should improve prices with excellent trade execution. You can set up trades straight from streaming data on all platforms as well.

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You should use Vanguard if you like:

  •  ☑️ Mutual funds and long-term investing options
  •  ☑️ Have a larger account over $500,000 and can take advantage of tax incentives
  •  ☑️ Don’t require streaming data or quotes

TD Ameritrade’s platform is better for those who want:

  •  ☑️ Trading across all asset classes with complex options and spreads
  •  ☑️ Commission-free stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and options
  •  ☑️ Streaming real-time quotes and data on all platforms
  •  ☑️ Access to a downloadable, customizable platform called thinkorswim
  •  ☑️ Price improvement through TD Ameritrade’s custom smart order router

Mobile Platform and New Technology 📱

You can find mobile apps available for Vanguard on Android, iOS, and Kindle Fire. Since they were recently developed, they have an easy-to-use interface that is less clunky than the website.

However, the most recently added tool was a mobile check deposit. The apps still don’t allow you to enter complex trades or get real-time streaming data. They are best used for checking your portfolio and managing your retirement portfolio.

With thinkorswim mobile platform traders can access their portfolio, trade, and check quotes wherever they are.

There are two mobile apps available with TD Ameritrade. The TD Ameritrade Mobile App is the main one and offers a simpler take on the functions of the website.

You can make simple trades, check on your portfolio, and set up watchlists from streaming quotes. However, the TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader app gives you access to the thinkorswim platform, making it one of the best ways to trade on the go.

You can sync up your customized charts, market scans, and watchlists across desktop and mobile platforms. There are also tools available for complex options order. You can stream helpful videos from the TD Ameritrade Network as well.

Vanguard’s mobile options include:

  •  ☑️ Apps for iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire
  •  ☑️ Limited capabilities for trades, no streaming quotes or watchlists
  •  ☑️ No chat capabilities or helpful tips

TD Ameritrade offers better mobile technology including:

  • ☑️ Convenience, easy-to-use trading platforms on two mobile apps, including TD Ameritrade Mobile App and TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader.
  • ☑️ Access to the thinkorswim platform on mobile.
  • ☑️ More options for complex trades, watchlists, custom charts, and so forth.
  • ☑️ Better education tools and streaming videos available.

Educational Resources, Research, News, and Stock Trends 👨‍🏫

Vanguard’s education center is severely lacking. Many of the videos are old, and while they produce some webinars, most of the content is aimed at retirement and long-term investors.

With no streaming news and little research for options besides options chains, clients can use a few screeners for stocks and ETFs to base decisions. However, their main strength is retirement calculators and planning tools.

In comparison, TD Ameritrade offers a ton of education resources, screeners, and streaming news features that you can customize in a dashboard. The thinkorswim platform offers an impressive number of tools with company profile pages, advanced earnings analysis, FRED data, customizable charts with social sentiment, back testing, and corporate calendar news.

Screenshot of TD Ameritrade's financial broadcast streaming with broadcast hostess smiling.
TD Ameritrade customers can watch financial broadcasts and get top-notch market analysis.

The TD Ameritrade Network offers streaming financial broadcasts from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM ET and includes all kinds of market analysis. Customers receive a written analysis and commentary every day, and you can use thinkMoney each quarter to gain some insider advice from the top brokers at TD Ameritrade.

You can also use the virtual trading simulator with TD Ameritrade to try out different strategies with absolutely zero risk. You get $100,000 in practice money along with access to a margin account, and you can use Mobile Trader on your phone to simulate trades as well.

There are also a ton of unique tools on TD Ameritrade, such as Social Signals, which uses a real-time streaming feed to show you brand-relevant tweets. You can even see this in a chart form. Ultimately, it’s easier to manage your risk with TD Ameritrade’s tools.

😕 Not sure where to start with tools? Learn about fundamental stock analysis.

If looking for retirement help, Vanguard offers the following:

  •  ☑️ Simple webinars on long-term investing and retirement planning
  •  ☑️ Basic retirement calculators and mutual funds research
  •  ☑️ Some research for options chains
  •  ☑️ Stock screeners and ETF screeners

For those who want more education and a ton of streaming news, tips, and quotes, TD Ameritrade offers a robust education center with plenty of tools, including:

  •  ☑️ Thinkorswim platform with over 400 technical studies available for customized charting
  •  ☑️ Plottable FRED data and advanced earnings analysis
  •  ☑️ Social Signals to chart social sentiments from different brands
  •  ☑️ Access to TD Ameritrade’s exclusive broker insights, daily commentary, and videos

Mutual Funds and Retirement 💰

Vanguard offers retirement planning and over 16,000 mutual funds to choose from with some requiring no transaction fees. How does TD Ameritrade stack up?

TD Ameritrade offers 4,000 no-transaction-fee mutual funds. There are also 11,000 low-cost mutual funds available with expense ratios of 0.50% or less. The Portfolio Planner Tool allows retirement savers to get a complete look of their performance and look for ways to balance out risky investments.

Are TD Ameritrade and Vanguard Safe? 🛡

When it comes to security, Vanguard offers customers the ability to secure their logins with strong passwords and will issue a security challenge if the login isn’t recognized.

TD Ameritrade verifies your account through text messages or a phone call. They may issue a security challenge if you try to login through an unrecognized device.

Both of these brokers are very well regulated by some of the top-tier financial authorities. The ones they have in common are Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

On top of that TD Ameritrade is also regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC), and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

Both TD Ameritrade and Vanguard fall under the SIPC protection scheme which protects against the loss of cash and securities in case the broker goes bust. The limit of SIPC protection is $500,000, which includes a $250,000 limit for cash.

Customer Support ☎

With 24/7 support, TD Ameritrade wins this category hands-down. In addition, support is offered in a variety of languages including Spanish, Mandarin, and Cantonese. There are also live help features in the desktop and mobile app versions.

Vanguard offers phone support Monday through Friday, during trading hours only. It’s difficult to get in touch with customer service if you don’t have a direct line to a broker, which will cost you. Higher account balances have a dedicated account manager, and there aren’t any local branches like with TD Ameritrade.

Which Costs More: Vanguard or TD Ameritrade? 🤔

TD Ameritrade customers do not pay any commissions on stocks and ETF trades. However, Vanguard has a different fee schedule that includes $7 per trade and $7 plus $1 per contract for options.

There are also several fees and higher costs if you have a lower account balance. For example, Vanguard charges $7 for the first 25 trades on ETFs and mutual funds, but then traders are charged $20 for all trades after this discount.

If you trade in derivatives, TD Ameritrade costs $0.65 per contract for options. However, you’ll pay $1 for every options contract in addition to a base charge of $1, $7, or $20 depending on your account size.

Larger accounts have less cost for fees. Traders with less than $50,000 in their accounts must pay $20 plus $1 for every options contract.

Overall, you’ll save more money with TD Ameritrade when it comes to commissions and fees. However, IRA accounts with large balances may benefit more from Vanguard.

TD Ameritrade clients can access over 13,000 mutual funds, and 4,200 of these do not have any load or transaction fees. If there is a transaction fee, you’ll pay $49.99 with TD Ameritrade.

In contrast, Vanguard offers over 16,000 mutual funds, and if you purchase Vanguard funds, you won’t be charged a transaction fee or load fee.

If you do find a mutual fund with a transaction fee, you’ll pay $35 standard for account balances under $50,000. Accounts with higher balances pay only $8 or $20 for mutual fund transactions.

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Vanguard vs. TD Ameritrade Verdict 🏁

In this match-up, we rank TD Ameritrade higher than Vanguard in almost every category. While Vanguard offers more mutual funds and lower transaction fees for these funds, most of the tools and trading platforms will not help beginner investors or DIY traders.

Vanguard offers retirement planning, but TD Ameritrade offers significantly more tools and education so that investors can trade on their own and build better portfolios. Most accountholders with Vanguard will need to work with a broker to get the most return on their portfolios, which comes at a higher cost as well.

In addition, TD Ameritrade does not have any commission fees on stocks and ETFs, and it’s much cheaper to trade options. Investors have access to more charting tools and options with thinkorswim than with anything currently being offered on Vanguard.

📚 Are you a beginner and you don’t know where to start from? Check out some of the most beginner-friendly stock brokers.

Vanguard vs. TD Ameritrade: FAQs

  • Does TD Ameritrade Require an Account Minimum Like Vanguard?

    While Vanguard requires that you pay a $20 maintenance fee unless you invest $10,000 in Vanguard ETFs, TD Ameritrade does not charge any fees or require a minimum balance. In fact, you don’t even have to pay an annual IRA fee with TD Ameritrade.

  • Do You Have Access to Your Own Broker with TD Ameritrade Like Vanguard?

    You can place a trade with a broker at TD Ameritrade for $25 per trade. Vanguard’s fee is determined by the account size and varies depending on the type of trade. The fee ranges up to $50.

  • Can You Trade on the Forex with TD Ameritrade?

    You can access forex trading on the thinkorswim desktop platform from TD Ameritrade. Vanguard also allows you to trade on the forex through their website platform.

Comparison Corner

Find out how Vanguard and TD Ameritrade stack up against other competition.

All reviews, research, news and assessments of any kind on The Tokenist are compiled using a strict editorial review process by our editorial team. Neither our writers nor our editors receive direct compensation of any kind to publish information on Our company, Tokenist Media LLC, is community supported and may receive a small commission when you purchase products or services through links on our website. Click here for a full list of our partners and an in-depth explanation on how we get paid.