- Minimum to open: $0 for a cash account, $0 for an IRA.
- Promotion: $0 stock/ETF trades and transfer fee refund.
Overview of Simulated Trading on TD Ameritrade
If you plan to use TD Ameritrade’s very advanced platform thinkorswim to buy and sell securities, futures, or currencies, you may want to get some practice in first. The software provides two login options: one for Live Trading and one for Paper Money. Choose the second option to practice without risking a single penny of real money.
Cost and Access Requirements
TD Ameritrade does not charge anything to use thinkorswim either in live or practice mode. The brokerage firm does not impose any account minimums or frequent trading requirements for the software, either. Even better, it’s possible to use thinkorswim in simulated trading mode without even having a TD Ameritrade account.
To download the program without a TD Ameritrade account, just go to tdameritrade.com/thinkorswim and click on the “Register now” button. On the next page, specify that you don’t have an account and follow the instructions. You’ll be able to download the software in no time.
If you already have a TD Ameritrade account, scroll to the bottom of this page and click on “Download thinkorswim.” Alternatively, you can login to your account and download the software from the “Trade” tab.
Also available free of charge from TD Ameritrade is a 30-minute guided tour of the software from one of the broker’s platform specialists. To arrange this online meeting, just scroll down on the same thinkorswim page mentioned earlier on the TD Ameritrade site and click on “Schedule now” under the Demo icon. You’ll be able to choose a date and time where you’ll be able to meet up online with a thinkorswim expert who will take you step-by-step through the software.
TD Ameritrade Simulated Account Info
When you login to thinkorswim in simulated trading mode for the first time, you’ll see $200,000 in cash. Of course, this is not a real currency, so feel free to squander this however you wish. The account value translates into $200,000 of option buying power and $10,000 of forex buying power.
You can reset the starting value anytime by going to the “Monitor” tab in the top menu and right-clicking on a position. In the drop-down menu that appears, select “Reset all positions” to go back to $200,000. You can do this as many times as you like.
TD Ameritrade Practice Trading Environment
In the top-left corner, you’ll see “SIMULATED TRADING” if you have chosen the correct login. Make sure you see this (with a brown background) before making ridiculously stupid trades. If you have an actual funded TD Ameritrade account, this is especially important.
In this corner, buying power will be shown for options, forex, and day trading. If you want to hide these numbers, just click on the small triangle next to “Option Buying Power” and select “Privacy.”
After you have your account balance set, it’s time to place some practice trades. The simulated trading environment on thinkorswim has the exact same interface and trading tools as the live version.
Trades can be started from a variety of sources on thinkorswim. The left-hand side of the platform has a watchlist by default. You can right-click on one of the entries already populated here and select buy or sell from the drop-down menu.
Buy custom and sell custom are also available in the drop-down menu. These will produce more complex orders. Because this is simulated trading, it’s a good idea to practice these types of trades.
Practicing With the Trade Menu
Perhaps the best place to practice trading on thinkorswim is the “Trade” menu. After clicking on this, you’ll see several choices. One is “Forex Trader.” Because the currency market has a lot of volatility in it, practicing forex is a must.
After you click on Forex Trader, you’ll see several trading boxes with currency pairs. Sell buttons are in red, and buy buttons are in green. Clicking on either button will produce an order ticket below the trading boxes.
One nice feature on thinkorswim that we really like is that if you choose the buy side, the order entry line will be shown in green; and if you choose sell, the line will be shown in red. This makes everything color coded for easy viewing and trading.
Although thinkorswim only allows for one currency order by default, this can be changed by going to “Advanced Order” underneath the trade ticket and selecting “Pair” instead of “Single Order.” Now you can send two forex orders simultaneously.
While using thinkorswim in simulated mode costs nothing, it’s a good opportunity to learn the broker’s commission system. Currencies can be traded either commission-free or commission-based. The former has a wider bid-ask spread because no commission is charged. If you toggle between the two options, you’ll see the change in the bid-ask spread.
After you review your order, it’s time to send it. Be default, a pop-up confirm window will be produced, so that you can look over the trade one last time. Be sure to read everything in this box, especially the first time you use the software, so that you understand all caveats.
After you place your first order, the positions menu on the platform will now have an entry. This menu can be found either at the bottom of the platform below the currency boxes, or in the left-hand menu under watchlist. The watchlist needs to have “All account positions” selected.
Don’t Forget to Practice Trading Futures, Options, and Stocks
All products that TD Ameritrade offers can be traded on thinkorswim, in both live and practice modes. Be sure to take advantage of the simulated service by practicing all products that you may want to trade in the future.
Under the “Trade” tab next to “Forex Trader” is “Futures Trader.” The layout is similar, although we found some graphs in addition to trading boxes.
To trade options, go to “All Products” under the Trade tab and enter a ticker symbol. You’ll find lots of option contracts. Be sure to practice the multi-leg strategies. For stocks, we recommend trading from a chart with a right-click.
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