This is a long overdue post that talks about the steps to open an international trading or investing account with TD Ameritrade (a US broker) for someone that is not a US citizen.
The steps to open an account are really straight forward. They can be summarized in one paragraph: First, you need to go to their website and fill in the form and print it out, sign and send it back to TD Ameritrade together with other supporting documents. It takes time to open the account. In my case, it took more than a month after sending the documents from Malaysia before I finally received the welcome email from TD Ameritrade. Then, you will need to wait for another month for the pin that they will send to you via post before I could log into my online account. TD Ameritrade does not require any deposit to open an account which, in my opinion, is quite “friendly” for those who just want to try out.
I break down the steps of what I did:
- I went to this page.
- Filled in the online application form accordingly.
- For citizen status, I selected “I am neither a U.S. citizen nor a permanent resident of the U.S.”
- I wanted an individual account.
- You can leave the SSN/ITIN and Foreign Tax ID fields empty.
- For cash sweep vehicle, I chose “TD Ameritrade FDIC-Insured Deposit Account”.
- Once done, printed out the application form. Ticked the 4 “Agree” check boxes in the form under the client agreement section. Signed and dated.
- Downloaded the W-8BEN form and filled in only the part I and part III sections. Then printed out the form and signed with date.
- Next, made a photocopy of my latest bank statement that shows the current address and a photocopy of my passport.
- Sent the application form, W-8BEN form and the supporting documents to the following address:
TD Ameritrade, Inc.
PO Box 2760
Omaha, NE 68103-2760
I sent the letter on 23 January 2015 (Friday) with RM 3 stamps.
- I received the welcome email on 28 February 2015 after a full 36 days of waiting.
- Before I could create an online account I need a four digit PIN from TD Ameritrade. The PIN arrived on 19 March 2015 (another 19 days after receiving the welcome email).
- With the PIN and the account number, I could proceed to register an online account. There was a few security questions and answers that I need to provide during the registration. Every time I login to the online account, I will be asked one of the security questions to confirm my identity.
- Then it was time for deposit. Follow the Wire In Instructions.
Send wire transfers to TD Ameritrade as follows:
First National Bank of Omaha
1620 Dodge Streets
Omaha, NE 68197
ABA # 104 000 016
Credit the Account of TD Ameritrade, Inc.
1005 North Ameritrade Place
Bellevue, NE 68005
For Further Credit to: Client Account Title, Client Address, and TD Ameritrade Account Number
The funds will be sent through an intermediary US bank. If your bank asks for a SWIFT code, it is FNBOUS44XXX. Wire transfers can only be made from a bank account where the TD Ameritrade account owner’s name is listed. Wires from a differently titled account may be rejected. They do not accept third-party wires from business accounts.
It takes about 2 to 3 days for funding the TD Ameritrade account.
Why Choose TD Ameritrade
The number one reason is that TD Ameritrade is ranked number one for long-term investing by Barron’s.
It welcomes international investors and it has no minimum requirement for deposit when opening an account which makes it easy for everyone to open an account and access to its platform. There is no barrier of entry. Each online equity trade has a flat-rate of $9.99 but it also offers 100+ commission-free ETFs. I was mainly attracted by its commission-free ETFs where I don’t have to pay any fee or commission or $9.99 when buying and holding the ETFs (there are terms and conditions applied: you need to hold the ETF for at least 30 days to avoid the commission). However, most other online brokers also have commission-free ETFs from different ETF providers.
For more reasons, visit Why TD Ameritrade?
With current market conditions where Malaysian Ringgit is weakening and oil price is at its low, it is ever more important to diversify into other markets like those in the US and other countries. Some even suggest to avoid Malaysian stocks. What do you think?