If you’re a short-term trader or you regularly buy or sell options, an advanced trading platform like thinkorswim can help you research potential investments.
The TD Ameritrade thinkorswim platform is free and popular with stock traders. You can use the desktop, web or mobile versions to trade and research from anywhere with an internet connection.
Here is a closer look at this powerful stock screener to help you determine if it’s right for you.
Thinkorswim is free for all TD Ameritrade customers and provides in-depth charting and data for stocks, options, futures and forex. This platform is best for active traders. Casual investors will find this service too difficult to use to research and place trades.
- In-depth research and charting
- Many investment options
- Desktop, web and mobile platform
- Confusing desktop layout
- Not for long-term investing
- Data may have delays
What is Thinkorswim?
Thinkorswim is a free stock research platform created by TD Ameritrade. It provides access to research tools that are unavailable in your standard online brokerage account.
In addition to the advanced research features, you can also simulate trades with a paper money account or place live trades with real money.
Some of the core thinkorswim features include:
- 24/5 live or simulated trading
- Research stocks, funds, options and derivatives
- Advanced charting tools
- Market data
- Customizable layout
- Synchronization between platforms
You will need to open a TD Ameritrade brokerage account to use the service, but the minimum account balance is $0. There are no account service fees either.
You can access thinkorswim on the following platforms:
- Desktop (PC or Apple)
- Mobile (iOS or Android)
It’s not uncommon for similar desktop platforms to only be available for PCs or Apple computers with Microsoft Windows installed. Downloading this service directly to your MacBook or iMac is an advantage to similar systems.
While the desktop version has the most features, the web and mobile editions are highly effective.
Who is thinkorswim For?
Consider using thinkorswim if you want a free stock screener that offers many research tools. Other platforms require a paid subscription to unlock similar technical and market data.
Thinkorswim is for active traders that pursue these strategies:
- Swing trading
- Pairs trading (i.e., one long & one short position)
This platform won’t be helpful for long-term investors or casual investors who don’t rely heavily on technical charts and advanced market data.
Other stock screeners can be easier to use for basic investment strategies.
Here is a closer look at the various tools this platform offers.
You can trade most assets the standard TD Ameritrade offers. However, if you want to trade futures or forex, you may need to use thinkorswim instead.
Your investment options include:
- Multi-leg options
Additionally, you can trade with a non-leveraged cash account or a margin trading account.
In addition to the many investment options, there are several tools you can use before placing trades.
Some of the best research features include:
- Analyze: Research stocks, ETFs and futures by industry sector
- Scan: Find stocks and options meeting your custom criteria
- MarketWatch: Real-time price quotes, heat maps and a stock market calendar
- Charts: Interactive charts with technical or fundamental studies
- Monitor: Track your current positions and unfilled orders
Furthermore, you can view Level II data to see the current bid and ask prices that most investors won’t see.
However, you won’t see the third-party analyst reports that long-term investors might depend on.
One of the best reasons to consider this research platform is for its paper money trading simulator. You can use this tool on the desktop, web or mobile apps.
You automatically get a $100,000 balance to use with the investment simulator.
This perk helps you learn how to use thinkorswim and lets you customize your layout before trading with your existing brokerage account.
Additionally, this feature lets you try new investment strategies. For example, you may be trying a new options strategy or using a new technical indicator to screen potential equities.
When logging into the platform, you can easily switch between your actual and simulated account to avoid accidentally investing with the wrong account.
Some of the other educational tools include:
- Learning Center
- Courses and how-to videos
- Market News
- Trader TV
Web, Mobile and Desktop
The ability to access thinkorswim from just about any phone or computer is convenient. You will need to download the desktop platform to use most features.
However, the web and mobile versions are excellent for charting and trading when you only want to look at one position at a time.
Here is a closer look at how each platform compares to another.
The thinkorswim web platform lets you access your account from any internet browser. No software download is necessary, but you won’t have as many features as you would with the desktop version.
Unfortunately, you’re unable to access the advanced screening tools that can make it easier to find stock, funds, options and economic data, nor are you able to live stream CNBC or share your charts.
The web platform has four different sections:
- Positions: See your current positions and working positions
- Trade: Create buy or sell orders for stocks, funds and options
- Charts: Add technical or fundamental studies to the interactive chart
- Watchlist: Use and create watchlists with customizable filters to find investments
This platform has the fewest features of the three ways to access thinkorswim.
Although you won’t be able to run custom screens for stocks and options like the desktop version, the premade watchlists make this task easier.
After choosing a list, you can modify many of the inputs to narrow down your investment options.
While the web platform isn’t as good as the desktop version for extensive research, it can provide more insights than the standard TD Ameritrade web platform.
There is a quick start guide you can read to learn how to use the platform easily.
The thinkorswim desktop platform offers the most research features. As a result, it can take the longest to learn how to use, and the tutorial can be extremely helpful.
This platform is compatible with PC and Apple devices.
It’s possible to customize your layout, add or remove widgets and minimize windows you’re currently not using.
You can view these widgets all on one screen:
- Trade tickets
- Market headlines
- Portfolio performance
- Trader TV live streams
There are several vertical and horizontal tabs you can click to open or close different features. You can also customize most filters to perform in-depth fundamental or technical analysis.
If you only want to perform causal research, the web or mobile platforms are easier to use. It might be easier to create trading tickets on these two alternatives as well.
Two other features of note include:
- Chat rooms: Interact with other traders, discuss market news and more
- Hotkeys: Programming keys make it easier to trade or research stocks
You might also download the thinkorswim mobile app from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store. This app is separate from the standard TD Ameritrade phone app.
Despite having the smallest screen, which can make extensive research difficult, the app has more features than the web platform.
For instance, you can access the market calendar and interact with other traders in the chat room.
The best thinkorswim mobile features include:
- Current positions
- Trade ticket
- Order editor
- Market news
- Market calendar
- Trader TV
- Chat rooms
Having all these features on your phone or tablet is convenient when you are on the go.
You can trade select stocks and ETFs from Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern until Friday at 8 p.m. Eastern. Trading hours vary by asset.
This 24/5 trading window is available on all three platforms. In most instances, you will get the best trading quotes when the stock market is open.
Pre-market, extended hours and the futures trading windows can have worse spreads because of lower trading volumes.
In addition to 24-hour trading, the brokerage offers continuous live support if you need assistance with placing a trade or navigating the platform.
As you’re most likely watching several positions simultaneously, you can create custom alerts from nearly any screen on the web, desktop or mobile platform so you don’t miss a desired price or market condition.
Some of the alert filters include:
- Trading price (ask, bid, last, opening price, closing price or mark)
- Price threshold
- Market exchange
- Calendar event (dividends, earnings, split, etc.)
- News headlines
- Analyst rating changes
You can enable an in-platform sound alert. It’s also possible to receive mobile or email notifications.
There are no additional fees to use the thinkorswim platform or access the Level II quote data.
The brokerage doesn’t require you to complete a minimum number of trades to retain your permissions.
Your trading commissions are the same as the TD Ameritrade fees:
- Stocks and ETFs: $0 ($6.95 per trade for over-the-counter stocks)
- Options: $0 plus $0.65 per contract
- Futures: $2.25 per contract (plus exchange and regulatory fees)
- Forex: Varies
Your online equity trades can be commission-free. However, a $5 charge applies to phone-based trades and $25 for broker-assisted transactions.
As of October 19, 2021, the effective margin rate can be 9.50% or less.
As thinkorswim is an advanced stock research tool, it’s important to understand how it works before you start investing.
Yes. Thinkorswim has the same data security and SIPC coverage benefits as a TD Ameritrade brokerage account.
However, it can be easier to incur standard market losses as the platform supports risky investment strategies like options, futures and forex.
Using the paper trading account first can reduce the likelihood of making investment errors.
Live chat support for thinkorswim is available Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m on Fridays.
You can also call phone support, send an email or view the online help database.
Another option is calling the trade desk during the 24/5 trading window to get trading advice from former floor traders.
Thinkorswim can be worth it if you make frequent short-term trades for stocks, ETFs, options and futures. The desktop and mobile platforms offer the most research tools and are worth trying first.
Some investors who only want advanced charting tools or an interactive stock screen may feel the platform has too many features.
Casual traders and long-term investors will find more value from a traditional online brokerage. These services offer easy-to-use charts, analyst research reports and other investment metrics that frequent traders don’t use.
You can create a TD Ameritrade brokerage account online for free with a $0 minimum deposit.
Then, you can download the thinkorswim desktop or access the web and mobile platforms. The service automatically connects to your TD Ameritrade accounts, or you can effortlessly switch to the paperMoney trading simulator.
Unfortunately, you must buy whole shares of stocks and ETFs. This is the same policy as trading equities on TD Ameritrade.
What Others are Saying
Here are some reviews from actual thinkorswim users to help you determine if the platform is right for you.
Apple App Store
The iOS app currently has 4.7 out of 5 stars with over 245.7k ratings. iPad, iPhone and Apple Watch devices are compatible.
Here are some reviews from app users:
“Think or Swim gives you SO many options for your interface! You can completely control how it looks/what tools & indicators you use… They have an amazing staff.. I love their education tools.
(I mostly do day trading) I could go on & on & when I have more time, I will…but for now, I just wanted to say.. as far as charts go, whatever their supposed selling point, you can set up the charts however you would like!” –AddEmUp 10
“I don’t like the platform, it’s not intuitive to me for trading. I love it for research, and I like the drawing tools. That’s the only reason I gave it 3 stars. I tried to use it as a platform, and it is confusing to me…I probably should have spent more time in the paper trading function, which I appreciate they have, but at the end of the day, due to frustration, I made market orders that led to unprofitable trades.” –colberc1
In the Google Play Store, the app currently has 3.7 out of 5 stars with over 10.7k reviews.
Recent reviews include:
“Overall a decent companion app. I use the desktop app to open all of my orders because the interface within this app is a little too cumbersome when it comes to options. However, it is very easy to adjust or cancel working orders here. Watchlist is great, you can search individual option details (chart included) which can be helpful on the go.” –Vin
“This is an exceptional app. The research and charting are first class, and Trader TV is a must-have for me at this point.” –G.C. Barnett
Thinkorswim is one of the best investing apps for serious traders who want to make short-term trades or pursue advanced investment strategies. The charting and data features are some of the best in the industry.
However, this service can be challenging for inexperienced investors and people with long-term “buy and hold” strategies.
Consider your investment strategy and expertise to determine whether or not thinkorswim is right for you.