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Written by Matthew Cerminaro on February 17, 2021
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TD Ameritrade vs Betterment 2021: Best Investing Platform?

Online brokers come in many different shapes and sizes. And, with so many different online brokers available on the market today, it can be hard to choose which one is right for you.

Novice investors often have a tough time navigating through all of the options ahead of them and determining which is best. Two of the more popular options are Betterment and TD Ameritrade.

We're going to be taking a close look at the features, fees, pros, and cons of TD Ameritrade vs Betterment. By the end of this article, you'll be able to determine which platform is going to best meet your needs.

TD Ameritrade vs Betterment: The Basics

Betterment is a robo-advisor that is built to automate the investing process. Instead of picking and choosing individual stocks and ETFs, you tell the platform what your goals and timeline are and they do the heavy lifting.

TD Ameritrade is very much a hands-on platform. You are picking and choosing all of your investments and will need more knowledge of investing to navigate the platform. If you are looking for a sophisticated trading platform, this is also something TD provides.

Both apps allow investors to get up and running in the stock market. However, their approaches differ significantly and they are both intended for a very different subset of people. Here is our in-depth comparison of Betterment vs TD Ameritrade.

Product Features Overall Price Buy Now
td ameritrade review

TD Ameritrade Review 2021: Best Brokerage Platform?

  • ThinkorSwim
  • Stock Research
  • Customer Support
  • Low Fees & Commissions
  • Assets
Download TD Ameritrade
betterment review

Betterment Review 2021: Is This The Best Robo Advisor?

  • Pricing
  • Assets
  • Account Types
  • Automation Tools
  • Prebuilt Portfolios
  • ETF Expense Ratio
  • Tax Strategy
  • Cash Management
Invest With Betterment

Betterment vs TD Ameritrade: Summary

  • TD Ameritrade and Betterment offer $0 commissions on stocks and ETFs
  • Betterment only offers ETFs
  • Betterment is a highly automated service
  • TD Ameritrade allows its users more autonomy when making investments
  • TD Ameritrade has a highly tactical trading platform, ThinkorSwim
  • Both offer $0 account minimums
  • Betterment and TD Ameritrade offer retirement accounts
  • Dividend Reinvestment Program (DRIP) offered on TD Ameritrade
FeaturesBettermentTD Ameritrade
Minimum Balance$0$0
Fees0.25% - 0.40%$0
Account TypesTaxable, Retirement, Joint, TrustTaxable, Margin, Retirement, Joint, Custodial, 529 Plan, Trust
Fractional SharesYesNo
Dividend ReinvestmentYesYes
Educational ResourcesLowHigh
Best ForHands-Off InvestorsHands-On Traders

What Is TD Ameritrade?

TD Ameritrade Logo

TD Ameritrade is an online broker that offers stock, ETF, and options trading on a world-renowned trading platform called ThinkorSwim. While maintaining low costs is TD's main interest, its features do not fail to impress. We'll get into some of its features later on but first, let's take a look at TD Ameritrade's mission statement to gain a better understanding of the company's goals.

TD Ameritrade Mission

TD Ameritrade's mission is for all of its users to be financially free. This mission is reflected in their actions as well. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words, and TD Ameritrade has acted in the best interest of its users by supplying them with some of the best features in the brokerage industry.

TD Ameritrade Features

The features of TD Ameritrade truly makes the online broker shine. Remaining competitively priced, TD Ameritrade offers many unique tools on its trading platform to optimize the experience for all of its users.

TD Ameritrade App

TD Ameritrade's app has all of the features of its website, at the convenience of your smartphone. Compatible on both Android and IOS devices, you can download the TD Ameritrade app completely free of charge! Look at equity research, check your trade history, make a trade, and so much more on the TD Ameritrade app!

td mobile trading

ThinkorSwim App

And if one app wasn't enough, TD Ameritrade created a second that mimics its ThinkorSwim trading platform. The ThinkorSwim trading platform was created for traders to utilize graphing tools and technical analysis to help map out trades. You can access the ThinkorSwim platform on Windows, Mac, or through the app.

This platform gives traders the ability to practice technical stock analysis and make informed trades. From stock charts to vast amounts of research, this is one of the most well-known trading platforms for good reason.

Dividend Reinvestment Program (DRIP)

If you have any familiarity with investing, you probably have heard of dividends. If you have not, here's a quick summary. Companies have the option to pay their shareholders cash dividends on a per-share basis. These dividends can be used in one of two ways.

Firstly, you can decide to take your dividends and pocket them, or you can reinvest those dividends back into the company. Not all brokers offer this reinvestment program, but for those interested, TD does!

You can elect to reinvest all of your dividends back into your dividend stock through TD's Dividend Reinvestment Program! This feature is perfect for those who have a long time-horizon and are looking to dollar-cost average their way into investments.

TD Ameritrade Fees

TD Ameritrade does its best to keep fees low for its users. Nevertheless, you should still be aware of some fees that the broker charges if you are interested in opening an account. Here are some of the main fees you should be aware of.

Per-Contract Fees

I mentioned that TD Ameritrade offers $0 commissions on stocks and ETFs, but options are a little different. Options are bought and sold on a per-contract basis, and TD Ameritrade's fee for options is $0.65 per contract. While this fee is still competitive with some other online brokers, you should still be aware of if you are interested in trading through TD Ameritrade.

Margin Fees

Margin trading involves borrowing money from your broker to invest with. When you choose to do this, you have to pay interest on the funds you borrow.

The effective rate for margin below $10,000 on TD Ameritrade is 9.50% versus margin between $250,000 and $499,999's rate of 7.50%. The interest rate that you pay on margin scales downward as your margin number increases.

In general, beginners will do best to stay away from margin as it brings significant more risk to your investing.

TD Ameritrade Pros

  • Tactical ThinkorSwim trading platform
  • $0 commissions on stocks and ETFs
  • Income calculator for dividends
  • Dividend reinvestment (DRIP) program
  • Equity Research reports

TD Ameritrade Cons

  • High margin fees
  • No fractional shares
  • Low portfolio automation
  • Can be intimidating for beginners

What Is Betterment?

Betterment doubles as an online broker and financial advisor, with its motto to "make more of your money." They are set up as a traditional robo-advisor which means they are an all-in-one solution for automating your investing.

You won't be buying individual stocks and ETFs on the platform, instead, you'll fill out a questionnaire on your risk tolerance and investing goals and Betterment will build a portfolio that matches your personal situation. In the past, you had to pay a financial advisor a hefty fee for this service, but Betterment has made this level of care accessible to a wider audience at a much lower price.

Spending, saving, investing, and retiring is made that much easier when using Betterment's service through the various features and initiatives the company has taken.

Betterment Features

Betterment's features are vast. From saving to investing, Betterment delivers. Let's start by covering one of Betterment's most well-regarded features, its mobile app.

Which robo-advisor is the best for you?

Answer a few quick questions and we'll recommend the best advisor for you, based on our objective analysis.

So-Fi Automated Investing

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Management Fees $0

Account Minimum $0

Best For: low account balances, beginner investors

M1 Finance

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Fees: $0

Account Minimum: $100/$500

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So-Fi Automated Investing

Read Full Review

Open Account

Management Fees $0

Account Minimum $0

Best For: low account balances, beginner investors

M1 Finance

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Open Account

Fees: $0

Account Minimum: $100/$500

Best For: beginner investors, pre-built portfolios

So-Fi Automated Investing

Read Full Review

Open Account

Management Fees $0

Account Minimum $0

Best For: low account balances, beginner investors

M1 Finance

Read Full Review

Open Account

Fees: $0

Account Minimum: $100/$500

Best For: beginner investors, pre-built portfolios

So-Fi Automated Investing

Read Full Review

Open Account

Management Fees $0

Account Minimum $0

Best For: low account balances, beginner investors

M1 Finance

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Fees: $0

Account Minimum: $100/$500

Best For: beginner investors, pre-built portfolios

Personal Capital

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Open Account

Fees: 0.49% to 0.89%

Account Minimum: $100,000

Best For: Access to human advisors, larger account balances

Betterment

Read Full Review

Open Account

Fees: 0.25% to 0.40%

Account Minimum: $0

Best For: Full investment automation, access to human advisors

Personal Capital

Read Full Review

Open Account

Fees: 0.49% to 0.89%

Account Minimum: $100,000

Best For: Access to human advisors, larger account balances

Betterment

Read Full Review

Open Account

Fees: 0.25% to 0.40%

Account Minimum: $0

Best For: Full investment automation, access to human advisors

Personal Capital

Read Full Review

Open Account

Fees: 0.49% to 0.89%

Account Minimum: $100,000

Best For: Access to human advisors, larger account balances

Betterment

Read Full Review

Open Account

Fees: 0.25% to 0.40%

Account Minimum: $0

Best For: Full investment automation, access to human advisors

Automated Investing

Instead of picking and choosing your investments as you would on TD, Betterment takes care of this for you. When you sign up for an account, you fill out an initial questionnaire. This questionnaire assesses your goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance.

With this information, Betterment is able to build a portfolio to help you reach your goals. From there, you can just set up automatic deposits and sit back knowing that your money is working for you.

Tax-Loss Harvesting+

One of the most attractive features of Betterment is their tax-loss harvesting or TLH+. This is essentially the process of finding investment losses hidden in your portfolio and capitalizing on the tax benefits that these offer.

In the past, you needed a financial advisor to spot these opportunities for you. But today, Betterment is able to fully automate this process.

For many investors, this tax savings alone will more than cover the cost of Betterement. In fact, in a study they ran, it was found that their typical user could see a 0.6% increased return as a result. This more than covers the cost of either of their plans.

Betterment Checking

Betterment offers a checking account and debit card for users of its services. There are no fees associated with Betterment Checking, and you can receive cash-back rewards for using it! With Betterment Checking you can feel safe and secure, especially considering the company is secured under the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Robo-Advisors Free Training

We put together a free 30 minute video training that walks you through the entire process, step by step. This training will help you get up and running in no time at all.

GET THE GUIDE

FDIC Insurance

The FDIC is a depository agency that secures up to $250,000 of your cash in a bank account. Because Betterment checking accounts have FDIC insurance, you can feel safe depositing your hard-earned cash into a Betterment checking account!

However, your investments with Betterment will not be FDIC insured. This is because the FDIC only insures bank accounts and not investment accounts. Your investments will be covered by SIPC insurance which is essentially the investment account equivalent.

Betterment Cash Reserve

You can save with 6x the average saving account interest through Betterment's Cash Reserve! Yielding 0.4% APY, Betterment outshines many other brokers (including TD Ameritrade) on its savings program. If you constantly have extra cash laying around in your savings account, Betterment may help you gain more!

betterment home reno

Betterment Fees

Betterment's fees vary depending on what features you are interested in accessing. Here is a breakdown of the three plans that Betterment offers to its users to paint a clearer picture.

No Fee Plan

This plan lets you open up a Betterment account for no excess fees. With a $0 minimum balance, a no-fee checking account, ATM fee reimbursement, and FDIC-insurance up to $250k, you will gain access to Betterment's banking services. This does not allow you to invest on Betterment.

Digital Investing

This pricing plan will cost you 0.25% of your account balance annually. Again, with no account minimums, this may be a great choice for those who have smaller accounts. This pricing plan gives you access to all of the features aforementioned with the addition of Betterment's investing options and tax-incentivized services.

Premium Investing

The most expensive pricing option for Betterment is its 0.40% annual fee and $100,000 account minimum. This plan lets you use all of Betterment's features with the exchange of Betterment charging $4 per $1000 in your account annually. You will gain access to a team of CFP® professionals to work with individually on this tier.

Betterment Pros

  • Highly automated investing
  • Tax-loss harvesting
  • Low fee structure
  • Retirement accounts
  • A high-yielding cash reserve savings account
  • Highly diversified investment accounts

Betterment Cons

  • High automation may be a con for some
  • No tactical trading platform
  • No individual stocks offered

The Final Verdict: TD Ameritrade vs Betterment

TD Ameritrade and Betterment are two of the most popular brokers on the market right now. In my opinion, you can't go wrong with either. It really depends on what you individually are looking for in an online broker.

If you are looking for a way to automate your investing and a high-yielding savings account, Betterment may be a better option for you. If instead, you are looking to make trades through your broker and are interested in a tactical trading platform, TD Ameritrade may be best for you.

It all comes down to what you want and we cannot make that determination for you! We hope that this information acts as a roadmap as you choose your online broker. And remember, there is no wrong choice. Assess your goals and make the choice that suits your tastes and preferences best.

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td ameritrade vs betterment
Article written by Matthew Cerminaro
Matt is currently attending Union College pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. He participates in the student investment fund and is a member of the Union College football team. Matt runs his own personal finance Instagram page and market-related blog where he writes about economics and general wealth accumulation tips.

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