Potential investors should take note that not all online stock brokers are created equal, as demonstrated by the obvious and, in some cases, glaring disparities between M1 Finance and TD Ameritrade.
That’s not to argue there’s any blatant superiority between the two. The contrary, in fact. Commission-free trading, low-cost cash management accounts, and low-interest portfolio lines of credit are just a few of the many commonalities between M1 Finance and TD Ameritrade that make them attractive to a wide variety of investors.
It’s a good bet, though, that either M1 Finance or TD Ameritrade will appeal to you more than the other, based on your own investment goals and tastes.
Put this side-by-side analysis to good use and choose the option that best suits your needs.
Cash management accounts and portfolio line of credit solutions are available at no cost or at minimal cost on both M1 Finance and TD Ameritrade’s automated and self-directed investing platforms.
M1 Finance has greater yields on cash holdings and lower portfolio borrowing thresholds, whereas TD Ameritrade offers a wider variety of products and platforms. When opening an account, both brokerages offer generous incentives.
Opening Bonus for Account
When it comes to brokerage account promotions, the one offered by M1 Finance is among the best. As a matter of fact, TD Ameritrade is generous as well.
Account Opening Bonus from M1 Finance
If you sign up for M1 Finance and move your existing account to us within 60 days, we’ll give you a $2,500 incentive.
The bonus amounts given out by M1 Finance are based on the following transfer stipulations:
- $250 Bonus: Transfer an account worth $100,000 to $249,999.99.
- $500 Bonus: Transfer an account worth $250,000 to $499,999.99.
- $1,000 Bonus: Transfer an account worth $500,000 to $999,999.99.
- $2,500 Bonus: Transfer an account worth $1,000,000 or more.
In order to make a transfer from one type of M1 Finance account to another, the two account types must be identical.
Direct 401(k) rollovers, wire transfers, and ACH deposits are not eligible for this promotion. Once the funds have been sent, it should take no more than 90 days for you to receive the bonus.
The Account Opening Bonus from TD Ameritrade
To be eligible for the up to $2,500 bonus cash, you must open a brokerage or retirement account with TD Ameritrade by the offer end date and make a qualifying deposit.
Here are the cutoffs for bonus payments:
- $350 Bonus: Deposit $250,000 to $499,999.99 in cash or assets.
- $700 Bonus: Deposit $500,000 to $999,999.99 in cash or assets.
- $1,500 Bonus: Deposit $1,000,000 to $1,999,999.99 in cash or assets.
- $2,500 Bonus: Deposit $2,000,000 or more in cash or assets.
To keep your bonus eligibility, your account balance must remain at or above the initial funding amount (minus any trading losses, if any) for a full year after the date of deposit.
Not all TD Ameritrade accounts qualify for this promotion. Accounts associated with tax-exempt trusts, profit-sharing plans, 401(k)s, Keoghs, money-purchase plans, and some managed portfolios are excluded from this offer.
Account Types That Are Avail
M1 Finance and TD Ameritrade both provide customers with access to interest-bearing checking accounts in addition to a variety of investment options including tax-deferred accounts, margin trading, and margin borrowing against securities stored in the account.
There are also specialist accounts, such as college savings plans, and trusts, that are only available through TD Ameritrade and not M1 Finance.
Account Types Offered by M1 Finance
There are three primary accounts at M1 Finance: the M1 Invest account, the M1 Spend checking account, and the M1 Finance portfolio line of credit (M1 Borrow).
In addition to standard IRAs, Roth IRAs, and SEP IRAs, M1 Invest supports a wide variety of tax-advantaged accounts that allow for both active and passive investing. There are no minimum balance requirements or service charges associated with the account.
When it comes to passive investment, M1 Invest offers more than 80 prebuilt template portfolios that are tailored to individual investing aims and comfort levels. Market participants can further tailor and diversify their portfolios by allocating assets to certain industries or sectors.
As a result, M1 Finance provides superior customization versus the semi-customized portfolios of competing Robo-advisors. M1 Invest caters to active traders by letting them pick their own stocks and funds, but due to its limited trading hours (just two per day), it is not suitable for day trading. You can purchase a fraction of a share.
The M1 Spend cash management account includes a Visa debit card, which can be used at millions of locations across the world, as well as several features that are more common to checking accounts. An M1 Spend account can be opened with no starting balance.
If your taxable investment portfolio is worth more than $10,000, you may qualify for M1 Borrow, a low-cost portfolio line of credit that offers users the ability to borrow up to 35% of portfolio value.
While there is a high danger of losing the entire line of credit’s principal, it can be utilized for a wide variety of lawful purposes, such as consolidating debt, funding home improvements and other large project expenses, or simply raising the portfolio’s leverage.
Any unpaid balance will accumulate interest, but there is no specified repayment timetable for draws.
Available Account Types at TD Ameritrade
The investing account choices at TD Ameritrade are more extensive than those at M1 Finance.
In this category are items such as:
- Taxable brokerage accounts
- Cash accounts tied to brokerage accounts, both for managing funds earmarked for investments and funds for day-to-day spending and expense management
- Traditional IRAs
- Roth IRAs
- Rollover IRAs
- 529 plans
- Coverdell education savings accounts
- Gift accounts for minors, including UTMAs and UGMAs
- Specialty accounts like individual trusts, annuities, pension accounts, and business accounts
There are three distinct account setups available at TD Ameritrade that investors should be aware of.
Accounts for Self-Directed Trading
The majority of the common types of securities can be traded commission-free in TD Ameritrade’s self-directed trading accounts, and there are minimal commissions and costs for all other securities.
Individual stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, bonds and other fixed-income securities, foreign currency, digital currencies, and futures are examples of securities that are available.
For those who choose to sit on the sidelines, TD Ameritrade has three different managed portfolio options (Robo-advisor choices) with varying minimum investment requirements and fee structures.
Essential Portfolios, the entry-level option, offers five standardized investment plans for a minimum investment of $5,000 per client and ongoing management fees of 0.30% of AUM.
The more flexible Selective Portfolios are available to those with at least $25,000 to invest and charge a variable management fee based on the portfolio’s valuation and composition.
In order to qualify for the premium Personalized Portfolios service, investors must have a minimum of $250,000 in investable assets and pay a management fee that varies depending on the size of the portfolio. Participants have access to fully personalized portfolios managed by a team of financial experts.
Line of Credit for Portfolio
Eligible customers of TD Ameritrade can use their portfolio lines of credit to draw on their available credit for up to 70% of the value of their portfolio at very low-interest rates. However, there is a catch: you need a minimum portfolio worth $150,000 to qualify.
Day trading is not a good fit for M1 Finance’s trading platform, however, it is well-suited for TD Ameritrade or frequent trading of any kind. Given that M1 Finance doesn’t offer anything like TD Ameritrade’s four free platform options, it’s important to learn more about them.
The primary desktop trading platform of TD Ameritrade is designed for low-frequency self-directed traders or those who either invest for the long term or execute a limited number of short-term trades each day. Anyone with experience trading stocks online should be able to recognize it.
Events calendars, watchlists, multi-variable stock screeners, and tax reporting are all standard features. It also offers some unusual capabilities, such as a social signals tool that uses a Twitter interface to track changes in social sentiment toward particular individual stocks in real time.
Thinkorswim caters to professional traders and other experienced high-frequency traders. For more information on Thinkorswim, check out TD Ameritrade’s summary.
Mobile TD Ameritrade
The primary mobile trading platform offered by TD Ameritrade is a streamlined, mobile-friendly version of the Web platform. Everything you need to perform quick and easy transactions anywhere you go is included.
Mobile Trader by TD Ameritrade
The primary mobile interface isn’t as feature-rich as Thinkorswim, but Mobile Trader delivers a far bigger punch for frequent traders. As a portable alternative to Thinkorswim, it performs admirably.
Pricing and Plans
While TD Ameritrade’s pricing structure may be summed up as pay for what you use, the features made available by M1 Finance are conditional on the user’s chosen subscription plan.
M1 Finance offers two plans, each with significantly different capabilities:
- M1 Standard, a free configuration known as the “Basic Account”
- M1 Plus, a premium account available for $125 per year
Although there are no outright costs associated with an M1 Standard account, funds in an M1 Invest account may be subject to fees charged by a third party, and interest will be charged on any M1 Borrow credit lines.
The cornerstones of the M1 Standard are:
- No yield on M1 Spend cash balances or cash back on M1 Spend purchases
- One monthly ATM fee reimbursement
- $10,000 daily ACH transfer limit for M1 Spend
- 3.5% base interest rate on M1 Borrow draws
- All open M1 Invest trade orders execute within a single morning trading window
These are some of the additional features of M1 Plus:
- 1.30% yield on M1 Spend cash balances and 1% cash back on M1 Spend purchases
- Four monthly ATM fee reimbursements
- $50,000 daily ACH transfer limit for M1 Spend
- 2% base interest rate on M1 Borrow draws
- M1 Invest transactions execute in one of two daily trading windows
Resources for Education and Research
When it comes to investing, M1 Finance is a do-it-yourself paradise. Although it is straightforward to use, it does not provide novice investors with much in the way of training or guidance.
If you’re looking for an alternative to the standard cheap brokerage, TD Ameritrade’s investor education resources are significantly superior.
Its education component offers a wealth of study material and other content, including:
- Trading courses led by market experts
- Instructional videos, articles, and tutorials for DIYers
- Access to dozens of investing publications, although some charge subscription fees for premium content
- “Talking Green” podcast, a TD-sponsored investing show
- TD Ameritrade Network, a stripped-down, lower-budget version of Bloomberg TV
- Education modules built around specific life goals, such as retirement or college education
- Market Edge, a compendium of top-shelf market research from reputable external sources
- Social sentiment insights pulled from Twitter
- An exclusive list of recommended equities curated by Morningstar experts
- A morning newsletter featuring overnight news, data, and analysis from overseas markets
Is TD Ameritrade Better Than M1 Finance?
Investing with M1 Finance is a Good Idea If…
If any of the following apply to you, M1 Finance is the better option:
- You Must Have Access to Quick and Easy Funds. If you’re looking for a great checking account, go no further than M1 Spend. One of the top high-yield checking accounts is available to M1 Plus clients.
- You Seek to Engage in the Buy-and-Sell of Individual Shares in Smaller Quantities. There are now a variety of brokerages, including M1 Finance, that facilitate trading in fractional shares. Those with limited financial resources will greatly benefit from this.
- To Avoid Paying Asset Management Fees, of Course. While there are no asset management fees imposed by M1 Invest, investors will still be responsible for any fees and expenditures levied by the funds in their portfolios that are assessed by a third party. This has the potential to improve returns by decreasing fee-related losses in the long run, albeit this is contingent on a number of other variables.
- You’re Interested in Securing a Loan based on Your Investment Portfolio. While TD Ameritrade’s portfolio lines of credit are an option, the $150,000 minimum required can be prohibitive for clients with smaller portfolios. The minimum market value for M1 Finance approval is a low $10,000.
You Should Use TD Ameritrade If…
The following describes situations in which TD Ameritrade would be a superior option:
- Your Goal Is to Have Access to Highly Effective, Independently Traded Platforms and Tools. When comparing M1 Finance with TD Ameritrade, TD Ameritrade is clearly the superior option for self-directed trading. Because of this, high-frequency traders cannot use M1 Finance to practice their trade.
- You Need To Investigate the Current Market Conditions in Your Trading Area. TD Ameritrade also offers a wealth of tools for market analysis and trader training. Although these capabilities and materials are not exclusive to TD Ameritrade, since they can be found in free or low-cost market research publications and open-source portals like Yahoo Finance, there is still value in having them conveniently located within the trading interface.
- You Wish to Have the Opportunity to Make Use of Alternative Investments. TD Ameritrade gives you the chance to trade in unconventional asset classes like foreign currency, futures, and digital currencies. Although not all investors should use these securities, offering them as an alternative is welcome by savvy traders.
If, Both Are Excellent
If you fit any of these categories, you should use either TD Ameritrade or M1 Finance:
- You Seek Lower Risk Investments and Favour Passivity. TD Ameritrade and M1 Finance, two of the most popular online brokerages, both provide a wide variety of managed portfolio alternatives and template portfolios, or pie slices, for passive investors.
- To That End, you’re probably thinking about opening a tax-deferred retirement account. To help save money on taxes in retirement, both sites provide a number of IRA options. Solo 401(k)s and other specific tax-advantaged vehicles are available from TD Ameritrade.
- You’re On the Lookout for a Generous New Account Bonus. Both services presently offer thousands of dollars in opening incentives to new customers who make qualifying deposits or transfers of assets.
After reading this, you should have a good idea of what distinguishes M1 Finance from TD Ameritrade. Because of the prevalence of high-frequency trading algorithms, whose motivations and behaviors can be baffling to human investors, M1 Finance is a great option for those who don’t care about market timing or employ cutting-edge trading and research tools to gain an edge over the competition.
But TD Ameritrade is great for both active traders and passive investors, so it’s not just for one group or the other. So, which one do you pick? It all depends on your goals for using an online brokerage.