I downloaded Think or Swim (TOS) and test drove it for well over 30 trading days. It’s my turn to share my thoughts on this platform and whether you should consider using it. This Think or Swim review will cover mainly how I used it and the different things I witnessed. Please remember, this is my view of the platform and although I did find plenty of issues, I still like it for certain reasons as well.
If you are in the process of trying to find a platform to day trade on, this will be a pretty good idea of what you can expect with TOS.
I’m going to go over the things I used or saw one by one.
We’ll kick things off with one of the most important things when it comes to a broker trade station. DATA FEED
Table of Contents
- 1 Data Issues
- 2 Order Issues
- 3 TOS Order Ladder
- 4 Level Two is Garbage
- 5 Charting Package
- 6 TOS Scanner
- 7 Stock Watchlists
- 8 Support
- 9 News
- 10 Account Statement and Profit and Loss
- 11 Privacy Feature
- 12 Trading Simulator
- 13 Final Think or Swim Thoughts
Everything seemed to work fine the first week of trading with Think or Swim. Soon after, I started receiving data issues. My platform would lock up for about 10-20 seconds and then a flood of data would flow through. This continuously happened until I left.
The worst part of losing your data connection was when you’re in a trade. You would find yourself helpless and didn’t know what to do. There were multiple occasions where I got lucky.
Big Issue #1
Why do they set the platform on delay by Default?
When you first load the platform the data feed is set to a delay. Luckily I learned about this early on and didn’t miss out on speed issues. I didn’t ask them why they do this but if you know, please tell me. If you are just learning about the platform, be sure to make this change immediately. No one likes delayed quotes.
Big Issue #2
Seeing Charts Spin and Not Load
Sticking with the data feed problems, there was nothing worse than switching charts from stock to stock at 9:32 AM, and not seeing anything load. This happened every day and didn’t stop until around 10:00 AM when things calmed down a little. On occasion, I did see pretty good load times, but it is still worth mentioning in my review. I can’t have 30 seconds or longer to load a chart.
Between charts not loading, the platform freezing, you can see why I decided to leave Think of Swim. Errors like this were quite common as well.
One of the most important things about a trading platform is the sureness of the order entry system. Day trading is hard enough and anyone can press a button. It’s up to the broker once the button has been pressed to deliver the fill. How about when the order gets lost or isn’t going through? How about when you are in a trade and want to get out super fast? For the most part, Think or Swim did a decent job entering and exiting positions. However, there were a couple of occasions where I got stuck in a trade for longer than I wished. One time it worked out for me but the other time it didn’t. I took my biggest loss with TOS when this happened. If you are trading an in-play stock that day, you can see huge price swings. This is something that happens with a lot of brokers and it is part of the business but when it happens to you, it doesn’t feel good. Keep this in mind when you are deciding what kind of trader you are.
TOS Order Ladder
Entering and exiting orders can be quite tedious if you make it that way. Most trading platforms including TOS and Tradestation offer a Ladder or Matrix trading order entry system. This makes it really easy to enter limits, market orders, TCO, and all kinds of other order types. This was one of the features I really liked about the platform. Although the charts weren’t working at times when I needed them to, I was able to see price movement on the ladder. I was able to scale out of my trades I entered without too many issues. It’s a nice added bonus to have if you don’t feel comfortable applying fast executions on the normal order execution platform.
Level Two is Garbage
Since moving to Tradestation I realized I was blind when it came to level 2 data. TOS says they have full book market depth but let me tell you, they don’t. I get so much more data with Tradestation and it has helped tremendously. Although there is a cost at Tradestation, it is worth it. If you plan to use level 2 for entries and exits you’ll need this data from another source. If this isn’t important to you, then don’t worry about it.
I mentioned charting data issues above. However, the charting itself is fairly good when it was working. The biggest issue was the data not loading fast enough, especially in the morning. If this isn’t a problem anymore I would say their charting is way better than ETrade and several other brokers. From indicators to setting alerts you have all the options that most expensive charting providers give you.
A few features I liked specifically
- Shows the High and Low of the day with a little post-it bubble. This shows where the last high low was. It makes it easy to spot when looking intraday and sifting through charts.
- Creating alerts right on the chart is super easy. This will allow you to come back to that instrument quickly without missing a trade opportunity.
- Switch pre-market data on and off. It is easy to turn the pre-market data on so you can see what is happening before the open. It also displays it in a different color.
- Buy right from the chart. I didn’t use this feature very often but it is great if you want this option.
- The CTRL button is helpful. You can make the chart smaller or bigger in no time with the CTRL button and mouse wheel. Although there are tons of ways to zoom in and out, I found this to be the quickest way for me to look further out or get a closer look.
Although it has a learning curve, the Think or Swim scanner is a nice free feature to have. Sites like Trade-Ideas and Scanz.com will charge over $100 a month and you can pretty much do the same thing. I was using the scanner with a simple strategy to find stocks gapping up in the Pre-Market. I don’t need all the bells and whistles of Trade-Ideas. This isn’t to take away from them, it shows you that you can find similar trade ideas for free with the TOS scanner.
As for the learning curve. It does take a little to get used to. The cool thing is, there are 100’s of free scans available if you know where to look. People add their scans all the time to the TD forum and marketplace. You can search Google or even YouTube for some great scan ideas.
This is a pretty generic feature for all brokers. They have a decent watchlist layout which allows you to add 100’s of symbols if you wish. You can add tons of columns of information about each stock. You can apply indicators and strategies as well that will alert you of a setup. As you can see, I have the symbol, last price, net change, and the bid/ask. For most of my watchlists now, I have last, net change, net change %, and volume. It will be up to you on what you want to see.
One of the biggest things you need to have is a decent support team should something go wrong. As you know, I was having a lot of issues and it was really difficult to get a hold of someone when needed. It some times took more than 24 hours. Yes, this was around the start of the COVID situation but they still need to provide support. Fortunately, I didn’t find myself in too many desperate situations.
I never really took advantage of the live news feature on TOS so I can’t say much about it. I did however use a widget so when I clicked from symbol to symbol the news feed section would show the latest information. This helped determine the timing of when halts would be over and give me some breaking news ideas. I wouldn’t say this feed is the best in terms of taking a fast trade based on the news. Some people have super fast news feeds and will most likely get the news way ahead of TOS. If you plan to trade the news, be sure to look at other fast feed/squawk services.
Account Statement and Profit and Loss
A lot of people have a big thing when it comes to their Proft and Loss. TOS does a pretty good job showing when you have won or lost on an instrument on the top of the ladder. You can see open and closed positions on one screen. As for the account statement, I found it easier to get my numbers from the TDAmeritrade website. The platform account statements can be a little cumbersome. Several times I would request certain days or days worth of data and it would pull it up. When I decided to go back to today’s data it would still display the other data I requested. This could be my fault, but I didn’t see an easy fix to this simple little reporting issue. If you like clean reporting then you may not like TOS.
This is a nice touch they added to the platform. You have a simple way of toggling your account information on your platform. With a click of a button, all of your personal information, including account numbers and buying power gets ************ out. This allows you to share screenshots, perform videos, or just not know where you stand so you’re not distracted while trading.
It’s nice to have a trading simulator that works all of the time but TOS is a little clunky at times. You are definitely spending more time updating the data feed to where you want it vs. actually trading it.
The fact that they have this feature is pretty cool. I wish it worked with a little more fluidity.
If you want to go to a specific time and day using the fast forward button it makes a mess of the time and sales data. You have to wait 24 hours until the previous day’s data is populated.
- You definitely need to be patient with the simulator.
- Although you get the true pricing, if you do backtest data you’ll most likely have to wait for it to populate. They consider it the OnDemand data.
- Sometimes you will see the prices move, but the charts won’t update or the time and sales will fall out of line.
Although this feature is great to have, I feel like it falls a little short if you are looking to execute FAST execution trades like you would in real-time.
No. Although free is a good thing, I ran into plenty of issues with the platform. This will also depend on your style of trading and needs. I no longer trade at TOS.
I only use it for equities, but you can trade stocks, options, futures, Forex and other instruments. I would suggest contacting their support to see if they meet your criteria.
I will have to say I like the Think or Swim charts. Once you get used to how they work they become really nice. You can set them up in so many different ways.
TOS is free when you open an account with TDAmeritrade. There are probably other ways to get it for a fee but I don’t think that is neccessary.
If you plan to use Think or Swim as your platform you should definitely download the desktop version and learn how it works for a few days. You will find what is working for you and what isn’t. Over time you will see what it can do for your trading.
Final Think or Swim Thoughts
Using Think of Swim as your trading platform will depend on your style of trading. It provides a lot of bells and whistles but I have to say this is not the platform for a fast execution style of trader. If you don’t need full book level 2 quotes or time of sales then you can definitely consider TOS. If you don’t trade the first 15 minutes of the day, you can consider TOS.
If you plan to trade the first 15 minutes and need fast execution I would say TOS isn’t for you.
Free commissions – This is the case for most retail broker platforms out there right now.
Are you looking to swing trade and make longer-term trading decisions, then TOS is a great platform. You have all kinds of charting options and other trading tools for free. When it comes to Free, you can expect certain baggage to go along with it.
As soon as I started trading with Tradestation it was definitely an eye-opening experience., especially with level 2 data and time and sales. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my issues with Tradestation as well. These things will be discussed in a Tradestation review in the future.
No matter which broker you use, you’ll find some problems. Although I don’t feel like Think or Swim is the broker for my style of trading it doesn’t mean it won’t be for you.
Be on the lookout for the Think or Swim vs. ETrade vs. Tradestation post in the future.