The API You Need $25,000 to Use

Move over Wolfram Alpha, there's a more expensive API in town. Online investment house TD Ameritrade wants $25,000 before it will extend an API Key to its Ameritrade API.

A reader shared with us a snippet of the email that Ameritrade sends to the capital deficient:

Regrettably, your request for access to the TD AMERITRADE API could not be
processed at this time. This may be because you do not meet our minimum
requirements for access to the TD AMERITRADE API, related information, and/or
mechanisms for distributing information related to the TD AMERITRADE API.

Below is a guideline to help you meet our minimum requirements:

1. Be the primary or custodial owner of an individual TD AMERITRADE account
that is both
a) In good standing and
b) Has a total liquidation value of $25,000 (USD) or more

It's understandable that the company would require a trading account to use the API. However, I would expect it to be subject to the same minimums as any ordinary account. According to a TD Ameritrade representative, their accounts have no minimums. Though, creating an account online requires a $500 deposit, still well shy of the API requirement.

Why would a company require 50 times the capital to use its API? Likely, they're considering the developers to be super-traders. And in the land of super-traders, $25,000 is a rounding error. What TD Ameritrade is missing is that developers can enable super-traders without being one themselves.

That's the real power of an open API. And TD Ameritrade is passing it by. There is certainly ground to be gained with stock quotes and analysis via API, though most available (see our 89 finance APIs) are not simple and REST-based. So, TD Ameritrade has done something right, now its work should be available to all.

Hat tip: Chris Eke

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