I Opened a TD Ameritrade Account

After the initial excitement of having a US-based online brokerage account, readers messaged me asking what else they need to do to actually start investing through TD Ameritrade. They needed additional information and guidance on how to proceed.

This post is to bridge that knowledge gap from account activation to buying the stock or mutual fund of your choice.

I wrote this post because I thought that if there are people who took the time to write me and ask these questions, there must be others who have the same questions but didn’t bother to write. If you’re one of those people who are still confused but can’t be bothered to send an email, you’re in luck.

Some of you may think that these questions are completely basic and “obvious”. But to paraphrase Lady Jessica in that pivotal dinner scene when Liet-Kynes was about to stab the watermonger in Dune, we must make allowances for the differences in people’s training, education, and culture. What is “obvious” to one person may not be so obvious to another. One may be farther along in their financial education than another person.

Below are the common questions I received from readers who successfully opened TD Ameritrade accounts and needed additional help.

TD Ameritrade home page

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Question: How do I access my trading account?

The log-in details sent to you via snail mail will allow you to access the TD Ameritrade web-based platform. You can access this by signing in at the TD Ameritrade website. This is your “home” platform so to speak.

Other than this, you have the option to download Sink or Swim, TD’s advanced trading software. Sink or Swim is available for PC and Macbook, as well as on mobile. I have both the Macbook version and the mobile app. Both are easy to navigate and convenient to use.

It’s essential that you familiarize yourself with the platform you want to use before doing any transactions. If you’re a beginner web-based is great. If you want to have access to more advanced tools (or want to feel a big-shot trader, like those Wall Street types on tv), download Sink or Swim.

Either platform is fine as long as you study it before doing any transactions. The mobile app is also convenient if you have the itch just to monitor your portfolio on the go.

2. Question: How do I fund my account?

After activating your account and before you can actually start buying stocks and ETFs, you need to do something really important: fund your TD Ameritrade account.

You can only fund the account after it’s activated. This is because the bank transfer details can only be found in your profile.

If you don’t have a US bank account, the easiest way to send money is through wire transfer. If you’re like most non-residents, you don’t have a bank in the USA. Use the wire transfer information under “If your bank is located outside of the USA”.

There are no wire transfer limits and TD Ameritrade says that the money should be there within the day. But each country has their own regulations of international wire transfers. Check the threshold for money laundering holds as well as overseas remittance limits.

Most of the time, if you’re transferring US10,000 or more, the funds will be held. There are also some countries that limit the amount that you can send overseas annually. For example, South Korea has a USD 50,000 overseas remittance annual limit.

Additionally, your bank may not be familiar with how to process the wire transfer to TD Ameritrade. There’re a lot of information that needs to be included for the transfer so that the funds will be deposited to the right account. This may be confusing for the bank employee, so be patient.

The bank employee who assisted me with my first wire transfer to TD Ameritrade took a while to figure it out. Then they called me later in the day to say that they had to re-do the process. They ended up having their US branch transfer the funds instead.

I don’t know what internal processes they followed but to make the long story short, the money was in my account in 2 days.

Now I make sure that I transact with the same employee every time because she’s already familiar with my request.

You may or may not encounter the same issues when doing wire transfers. Just be patient with the bank employee because most likely, they’re doing their best to help you.

Other funding options

Non-residents have limited options in funding their TD Ameritrade account. Other funding options require that you have a US bank account.

3. Question: How do I invest in Vanguard mutual funds?

Being able to invest in Vanguard funds is one of the reasons many of you opened a TD Ameritrade account. But some are confused about how to do so. Some think that they need to open another Vanguard account within TD Ameritrade to trade Vanguard funds.

No. You only have to find the ticker symbol of the Vanguard fund you want to invest in.

There are literally hundreds of Vanguard funds so take care that you trade the correct one.

To find what Vanguard products are available, use Symbol Look-up and type Vanguard. It should pull up a list of all Vanguard products that you can trade through the platform.

VTSAX in TD Ameritrade

Most people who want to invest in Vanguard want to buy the Total Market Stock Index. This is available as a mutual fund and ETF. Ticker symbols are:

  • VTSAX – Vanguard Total Stock market Index Fund Admiral Fund
  • VTI – Vanguard Total Index Fund ETF


Or they want to invest in the Vanguard Standard & Poor 500 index. Ticker symbols are:


  • VFIAX – Vanguard S&P 500 Admiral Shares
  • VOO – Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF

Just remember that you will be charged a commission for trading a mutual fund. Commission-free trades are only for stocks, ETFs, and options.

4. Question: How do I pay taxes to the IRS?

I already address this issue at length with my post, Taxation on US stocks of Non-resident Aliens. Basically, we have to distinguish between (1) dividend income and (2) proceeds of the sale of US stock holdings.

Dividends

For dividends, non-residents will be subject to withholding taxes. If you receive dividends, either in stocks or cash, your brokerage will withhold the taxes on behalf of the IRS. Of course, check your statements for taxes withheld because your liability as an investor and the brokerage’s liability as a withholding agent are separate.

Further, check if you are eligible for a lower dividend tax rate. Foreign investors are automatically levied a 30% final withholding tax. But this can we lowered if your country signed a bilateral income tax treaty with the US.

For example, the Philippines and the USA signed a bilateral income tax treaty in 1974. Under Article 11, Philippine citizens who receive dividends from US sources are taxed not more than 25% of the gross amount of the dividend. US citizens are likewise granted the same benefits for their investments in the Philippines.

Again, taxes collected from dividends payments will be withheld by the brokerage. This means TD Ameritrade should automatically withhold taxes from your dividends.

Meanwhile, proceeds from the sale of US stocks will not trigger a taxable event. If you are a non-resident selling their US stock holdings, the IRS will not tax you. Read the post Taxation on US stocks of Non-Resident Aliens for more details about this.

Final Thoughts

Opening a US-based online brokerage is a great way to diversify your investments. Diversification does not only mean putting your money in different instruments. It can also mean putting your money in another market. Geographic diversification is one factor that we should take into consideration when making investments and allocating our portfolios.

Having a TD Ameritrade account can help you in diversifying your investments. Instead of being confined to your home stock exchange, you now have access to the US stock exchanges. If you have the means, I suggest you open a US brokerage account right as soon as you’re able.

I hope that this post answered some of your burning questions about your TD Ameritrade account. 


If you have other questions, feel free to post them in the comments section below.

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37 Responses

  1. Hi Katie,
    I’m interested in opening a brokerage account too. Have you also considered Charles Schwab too? Their rates can be found here -> https://www.schwab.com/pricing. I’ve inquired with Schwab and they say it depends on the treaty rules of the country you are residing. For Philippines : Interest withheld 15%, Dividends withheld 25%, IRA/Pension 30%.

    1. Hi Den,

      I wrote about contacting Schwab in the original post. In Asia-Pacific, only residents of HK, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore can open Schwab accounts. They also require a minimum of US$25,000funding when opening an account.

      Regarding taxation, yes, it depends on the bilateral treaty signed. The pertinent portion of the treaty is on dividends since dividends are subject to Chapter 3 withholding. So make sure that when applying for an account, you indicate that you want to claim treaty benefits when filling out the W-8BEN form.

      Thank you.

      1. Thanks for the reply Katie. My confusion was because I emailed Charles Schwab and they said ‘We are able to do business in the Philippines and in Germany” [I’m working there]. My worry is the additional fees from brokerage accounts and also tax implications. Since Schwab is an all-in-one place, I was putting it as one of the options. The only drawback is the $25,000 minimum brokerage account though. lol.

    1. TD charges zero commissions for us stocks, ETFs, and options trading. Since VTI is an ETF, it’s zero fee. VTSAX is a mutual fund and not included in the commission-free products. It should still be 6.99usd to trade mutual funds.

  2. Hi Katie,

    I just wanna ask, is it better to invest in Vanguard ETFs in a lump sum (only one time) or by cost averaging (fixed amount divided to regular intervals)?

  3. Hi Katie! I was inspire to read and research about TD Ameritrade through your post. However, when I messaged their FB page, they replied that “Hey, unfortunately we are unable to maintain accounts for residents of the Philippines. If your residency changes we offer over 2,300 commission free ETFs if the ETFs you have in mind are not included commission would be $6.95 for non U.S residents.” I’m confused now 😦

    1. Hi Ed!

      There are readers based in the Philippines who messaged me that were already able to open TD Ameritrade accounts. I guess the best way to find out is to actually just submit the requirements and see what happens. Usually applicants who were denied an account were because of some national regulations, ex: UAE, Australia. But there’s no such regulation in the Philippines.

      I recommend that you submit the requirements and see what happens. And please give us an update on this. Good luck!

  4. Hi Katie,

    Thank you so much for this post! Ever since I bumped into jlcollinsnh and other FIRE bloggers’ posts and vlogs, I’ve been interested in investing and started a few years ago with some VUL, MF and UITF. Vanguard is not available directly in the Philippines, and lately, I’ve been searching for a viable way to invest in Vanguard mutual funds/ETF. I read about Security Bank’s offerings, but I think investing via TD Ameritrade is a much better option. My question is related to this statement in your post, as I would like further clarification:

    “Again, taxes collected from dividends payments will be withheld by the brokerage. This means TD Ameritrade should automatically withhold dividends.”

    Does this mean that, taxes from dividends will be deducted from the investor’s account, and TD Ameritrade will NOT return any dividends to the investor?

    I’m looking for an investment that will give me dividends, because this is one form of passive income that does not touch the principal investment.

    Again thank you and more power! 🙂

    1. Hi Jaclyn,

      Thank you for reading my blog.

      Regarding the taxes from dividends, I actually left out a couple of words. I have since edited the post to say that the brokerage should automatically withhold the taxes from your dividends.

      Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

      1. Hi Katie,

        Thanks for clarifying and making the correction! Another question that is somehow related to this (i.e., Vanguard, Jack Bogle): Have you read “The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing”? If yes, how did you find the book? I saw it being sold in Amazon, and I’m going to check if it’s being sold in a Philippine bookstore.

        Best regards,
        Jaclyn

        1. Jaclyn,

          I follow the Boglehead philosophy because I think it makes perfect sense. I urge you to read it and incorporate what it says for your long-term investment strategy.

  5. Hi Miss Katie! So grateful to come across your blog, especially since I’m only a 2nd year college student myself and ayun it’s nice to know na you started dreaming of investments around my age as well hehehe.

    Question lang po, does BDO/banks in the PH in general include full name and address on bank statements? Also, do you think magkano po ang minimum na laman ng account to have high approval rate? I think po kasi mas madali yung bank statement option for me in comparison sa bills huhu.

    Thank you po, excited to learn and hear from you more po!

    1. Hi Blessie,

      I’m not sure if the statements include the address… I haven’t tried getting a paper statement from a Philippine bank.

      Wala namang minimum amount na kailangan laman yung bank account mo, as long as it’s under your name and has your address.

      Good luck!

    2. Blessie,

      I think banks in the Philippines do include your address in the statement.

      Also, do you think magkano po ang minimum na laman ng account to have high approval rate?

      You mean like 500pesos? Maybe increase it first, especially if you want to invest in US stocks….

  6. Hi Katie! I’m so grateful to have stumbled upon your blog!!! I recently graduated and am still looking for a job, so basically I’m unemployed. Do you think this would hurt my application?

  7. Hi Kate!

    Any other example of proof of residence? Utility bills are not under my name. I only have phone and credit card statements. Any suggestions?

    1. Aaron,

      According to TD when I messaged them last year with the same question, the only other alternative is a letter from your bank with your name and address. Credit card statements are not accepted.

      1. Hello Katie, may I know what kind of letter from the bank they can accept? Also, since I’m only renting, can I use my contract of lease instead?

  8. Hi Katie, I’m glad I saw your blog regarding the brokerage acct in TD Ameritrade. I wanted to open an account too.

    Please let me know if you can provide feedback on the following:
    (1) Is it easy to withdraw money from TD ameritrade acct and transfer it to your BPI/BDO? (2) Aside from wire transfer, can the TD ameritrade acct be funded using Credit Card/paypal?
    Thank you. 🙂

    1. Ed,

      I haven’t cashed out yet so I don’t have any experience to share yet. But I don’t see any reason why it should be hard.

      2) Aside from wire transfer, can the TD ameritrade acct be funded using Credit Card/paypal?

      This is not possible.

  9. Hi, Katie

    I am thinking of other ways to fund my td ameritrade account aside from wire transfer (to avoid fees yes).

    Is it possible to ask a relative in the US to fund my td ameritrade account instead?? I will provide my account number and full name (of course) to have those enter it in their US bank apps and then transfer to my td ameritrade? I am not sure, but this is similar to the process here in the PH where anyone can fund my COL Financial account as long as they have my account number and name. Is it also possible for td ameritrade? Oh and no worries I will pay my relative of course in the exact same amount by depositing it in their account here in PH. Haha! Please advise 🙂

    1. Aldrin,

      Is it possible to ask a relative in the US to fund my td ameritrade account instead??

      Yes, just make sure that they use the correct account details for a successful transfer.

  10. Hi Katie,

    is it possible to have a US relative fund my td ameritrade account using their own online bank apps? I will provide my account number and name so that they can input those in their own bank apps to transfer any amount of USD in my td ameritrade account? Similar to funding COL financial here where anyone can fund my account as long as they have my account number? I’m not really sure if it is the same process.. please advise 🙂

  11. Hi Katie,

    I am still in doubt opening a TD Ameritrade account because of the hassle of funding it as I currently don’t have US dollar account. I only have Php account on BPI and BDO.

    What are your thoughts on using TransferWise to fund your TDA account? Is it possible? TIA.

    1. Ton,

      There are a lot of people using TD that use Transfwerwire, although I myself is not using it. It seems to be a safe way to transfer and withdraw funds from TD.

  12. Hi Katie,

    I’m a Belgian permanently living in the Philippines. Last June I got my TDA account approved, and was waiting for the welcome kit to be able to create a user ID and password. After a litte over 2 weeks I became too impatient and tried to give them a call. The waiting time is mentioned at the beginning of the call and varies between 1 and 1,5hrs nowadays… and I had my call cut off 3 times after exactly 15 minutes. The 4th time I finally managed to get someone to help me, who created a temporary user ID and password for me. Silly me I didn’t try it while I was still on the phone with him, so I found out those credentials didn’t work. After another call that cut off after 15 minutes, it took me another hour to get someone on the phone. That’s where we found out the previous agent gave me the wrong user ID, so that was finally sorted out. I also asked about how to fund my account, as I only have EUR and PHP, so I mentioned my Transferwise borderless account which contains some USD. The agent forwarded the call to someone else who would know more about that. After waiting for another 10mins I was able to talk to the other agent, who told me it was not possible to use Transferwise.

    What I also noticed is that you need to put your account number, your name and full address in the reference box. When I tried to use Transferwise to fund my TDA account (yes, I did try even after I was told they wouldn’t accept haha) I noticed the refence box can only containe 8-10 characters, so I can never fit in all the required data. Later I found out about the possibility to fund your account in a foreign currency as you also described in your post. But I believe I will have the same problem with the limited amount of character I can put in the reference box. My PH address alone fits on one sheet haha.

    So my questions are; How to you solve that problem of sending all your credentials when funding your account? And when sending a foreign currency, how ‘bad’ is the exchange rate they use to convert? Because I read they use a third party service for the conversion and they make money with that… but they don’t mention the exchange rates, which leaves me a bit anxious to just send money and see how much of it actually arrives on my TDA account after the conversion.

    Sorry for the long story, and thanks in advance for replying!

    Cheers,
    Tom

    1. Hi Katie,

      It would be great if you could tell me about your experiences of funding your TDA account using foreign currency and how good/bad their exchange rate is. Or if you have any experience using a USD account of a PH bank, and how much the fees are (as I believe they categorize that also as an international wire, but with the same currency).

      Thanks in advance!

      Cheers,
      Tom

      1. Manillion,

        I’m currently not based in the Philippines so I can’t speak directly from experience about doing wire transfer from there. But based on information from my readers, wire transfers to a TD account is fairly easy but the fees can be as much as 30$.

  13. Hi Katie,

    Thanks for your reply. In the meantime I was able to fund my account using TW. When you have a US bank account is surely is a lot easier, but from the Philippines it takes quite some effort + fees to get money in your TDA account. The fact that you have to go to a branch of your bank, especially in covid times, takes quite some time. I mean… we’re living in 2020, right? 😉

Let me know what you think

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