Platform lists And Award Winners
Best trading platform shortlists and award winners made easy. Here you can jump straight to the detailed list you are looking for below for an overview of the best trading platforms. Alternatively, if you are short on time, you can go directly to the best in category.
What is meant by trading platform?
Simply put, a trading platform is where you will be able to see the instruments and the relative prices of them. You will also use a trading platform to buy or sell any position.
Before you can begin to make any trades, you will need to use a trading platform that displays and provides access to the products that your broker makes available.
If you think of your broker as supplying access to an instrument in this case, then the platform is the marketplace where you can access it. The trading platform is the software that you will engage with on the front end, like the clerk in a shop. The broker is the one who supplies and stocks the shop, and decides the pricing.
In the same way that you would be unable to buy goods from the shop if there was no clerk or system to manage your purchase, you cannot open or close a trading position online without access to a trading platform. The product would still exist and be available, but you would not be able to buy or sell them without someone to take your order. The trading platform is the interface for your order taking and trade making.
How do I get access to a trading platform?
Trading platforms are provided for free by online brokers as a way for you to interact with their underlying business. They are populated with the instruments that the broker will offer, and the pricing that each is available for in that given moment.
Certain platforms provide faster execution speeds than others, whereas you might find others with more instruments available and supplementary services. Using the same example of a physical store and a clerk, each clerk will have slightly different behaviors. The trading platform then should be considered as part of the ‘service’ offered by the broker.
You will find some brokers invest very heavily in providing access to the best trading platform possible, sometimes at the expense of trading costs (spreads, commissions, etc). Others invest very little in this area but will offer you the very best they can in trading conditions and fees.
The very best trading platforms are those where the broker invests in delivering the absolute best market access and features possible, with an additional focus on trading conditions. These brokers usually (but not always) make this possible by trying to target the higher volume trader. It is through this volume often then that a broker can recoup their investment in the platform and services side of their business.
Trading platforms to avoid
The trading platforms we want to steer clear of are those which offer poor usability, trading conditions and limited availability of instruments. These trading platforms are usually supplied by brokers who have no real interest in the trading experience of its users, and are more focused on extracting as much profit out of you as possible.
These brokers will typically churn through users very quickly; have limited real educational support and in some cases even have aggressive sales teams who are there to push users through burning their account as quickly as possible. They will usually not make money on spreads or trading volume, but by taking the other side of a trade and profiting on the losses of their users.
We will steer you as wide of these brokers and trading platforms to avoid as possible in this article.
What is the difference between a trading platform and a broker?
Trading platforms are the place where you can execute your trades, a broker in the colloquial sense is the brand that offers you the trading platform. A lot of people will interchange the use of the words ‘trading platform’ with ‘broker’.
In most cases, when using the term broker this is coming from the older definition and being misused in this case. This is coming from a world where advice and recommendations were given often by an individual person over the phone. This person was your broker, and charged a fee for his or her services.
The online trading world where you are self-executing positions often will not provide these recommendations and ‘brokers’, but access to customer service support agents as required. Your broker in this modern sense is then the company you interact with rather than a single person.
In reality then, your trading platform and your broker are intrinsically linked and you can’t use one without the other.
How We Rate The Winners – What separates the best trading platforms from the rest?
1. Costs To Fund And Minimum Deposits
Certain trading platforms have fees or costs associated with your deposit, and these will vary based on the method that you use to deposit. There are other broker platforms online that will not charge you at all for the pleasure of funding or withdrawing from your account. This is something to keep in mind and one of the things that could determine whether you feel this is the best platform for you.
There is also then the consideration of how much the minimum amount is to get your account open and operable. Depending on the type of instruments traded typically and the leverage available, various platforms will increase or decrease the minimum deposit amount.
There can also be variation in the minimum deposit of the trading platform based on the type of account you choose to open. Brokers offering ECN, MT4, Pro and STP accounts for example may have a minimum deposit of $50 on one, but $500 on another.
With a belief of online trading being inclusive to people from all walks of life, we have tried to focus our choices emphasizing those platforms that have low barriers to entry and with minimal (if any) fees attached. Each provides a demo platform to enable even those just testing the waters the opportunity to get their feet wet and try trading.
2. Variety of instruments
The very best trading platforms for beginners offer a variety of instruments. It is great to see your CFD and forex markets mixed in with real stocks, cryptocurrencies and even ETFs for the modern trader.
A trading platform that can allow you to handle a lot of your instruments under one umbrella provides more flexibility and a greater chance to take advantage of opportunities which might not be supported by some of the more niche platforms. That being said, the conditions on these instruments need to meet the passing grade for this to carry any weight for a trader.
The speed, reliability and security of the platform can all be grouped into execution. A platform that has a minimum of downtime issues, lightning execution and excellent security will be a place that is significantly more trusted as a place from which to trade. Those micro seconds during volatile conditions can actually make a huge difference in your longer term P/L.
4. Ease of use/Intuativeness :
The steps to learn how to trade can be a complex journey. The trading platform you use to access the market does not need to be. There are different platforms available for each level of trader and some will prefer the complexity on offer above the easy to use platforms because historically they have offered more by way of features. we do not feel that you should have to sacrifice one for the other.
A great user experience in terms of intuitiveness, without sacrificing quality of other features is definitely something that will separate the best trading platforms with the also rans.
5. Additional Features
Trading platforms in general can be as simple or complex in their offering as they choose. There are off the shelf trading platforms available to brokers such as MT4 which integrate many features and in a familiar way to most users.
Those that provide an array of charts, indicators, news, and other useful trading tools are going to stand out as one of the best trading platforms.
For those trading using technical analysis, these tools are going to be even more important and constantly flipping between one screen and another when you may have multiple positions open is far from ideal. As mentioned in other sections, the more of your trading tools and activity that can take place in one platform without sacrificing quality, the better!
6. Ongoing costs/fees
There are plenty of no commission trading platforms and brokers these days for us to choose from and we need not select from those that are still charging for the same market access. But this is what needs consideration, ensuring that the platform and broker is not offering a different level of service or charging considerably more in other areas to make up for it.
Lots has been said about the ‘payment for order flow’ brokers benefiting or harming the retail trader over the past few years but by and large, this practice is now mainly happening in the US rather than elsewhere. With this practice being outlawed by regulators in the UK, Canada, plus others’ looming, this will not be something that is as relevant to the majority of our readers as elsewhere.
The best trading platforms will have no inactivity fees, low spreads on the majority of commonly traded instruments and low fees for margin trading. You expect to have to pay to use leverage in overnight positions, but the broker can support users in delivering the best platform by keeping these as low as possible. The overall cost or trading fee proposition that the platform offers is one that warrants a good amount of consideration as it can be a considerable difference when compounded over a longer time period.