If you’ve recently developed an interest in trading and are looking to start your journey in the world of financial markets, one question you’ve probably been asking yourself is, “How do I choose the right broker?”
While there are many factors to consider when deciding which broker is the right fit for your needs, one that might help you narrow it down is the software they provide – that is, the trading platform. Considering you will likely be spending a bulk of your time on the broker’s platform, it is a good idea to look into and familiarize yourself with what each broker has to offer in that regard.
Now, to provide you with a bit of insight on how you can begin to figure this out on your own, we have put together a list of 5 of our favourite platforms, including the highlights of each as well as some of the brokers that utilize the software.
Meta Trader 4 (MT4)
The first platform worth mentioning on our list is definitely the MT4. This software is not only free to use and compatible with almost all devices, but is also one of the most commonly used platforms worldwide. The MT4 is one of our favorites as a result of its plethora of indicators and tools, in accompaniment to its immense processing power. This trading software allows you to customize and combine an array of tools during your analyses and is able to efficiently handle a great amount of trades carried out simultaneously. Among these highlights, the MT4 also allows for higher level order execution including the automation of trades utilizing sophisticated indicators, and provides the opportunity of a 30 day free trial during which you can explore and familiarize yourself with everything it has to offer. In terms of disadvantages, this trading platform does not have many, apart from perhaps ease of use if you are a new user that is unfamiliar with some of the more advanced features. Lastly, in regards to brokers, both ATFX and Admiral Markets offer this platform to their users, both of which are highly recognized and reputable in the financial industry.
A trading platform belonging to the stock broker of the same name, Ninja Trader is another advanced trading software which incorporates a wide range of technical analysis tools. While this platform is one of the more advanced options, a nice feature included in the product offering is the accessibility of free daily webinars that assist you in learning how to use the tools provided to their full potential. The Ninja Trader software is also quite attractive when it comes to customization, compatibility with third party apps and extensions, as well as reliable customer support.
In contrast, there are a few small caveats you should keep in mind if you are looking to get started with Ninja Trader. Firstly, depending on the degree of features you will need, as well as selection of brokers to work with, the cost of the platform varies greatly. You can certainly utilize the software for free at the basic level, assuming you are happy with the core essentials and having Ninja Trader as your broker. Conversely though, if you are looking for a wider array of tools or the option to choose another brokerage (eg. Interactive Brokers, TD Ameritrade, etc.) you will be faced with the option of leasing the product at a cost of $60/month or purchasing it outright for $1099. Finally, keep in mind that while all three options offer support for futures, options and forex, you will need an account with one of the other brokerages if you are interested in trading equities.
Another powerful, and free software that is quite popular in the trading world is xStation 5. This easy to use platform belongs to the Polish brokerage XTB and is held in high regard as a result of its user friendliness and disposition of a wide array of tools. The xStation 5 software not only provides users with the ability to enter over 3000 different markets, with the addition of over 50 different customizable indicators, but includes a built in economic calendar as well. Additionally, an especially useful tool that is included in its product offering is the Stock Scanner. While attractive for all users, the Stock Scanner tool can be especially useful for beginner traders as its functionality is to aid you in determining the right asset for your investments through the use of a multitude of different filters. Thus, the xStation 5 is a well-rounded, reputable and easy to use platform that is suitable for all types of traders. The one main drawback to this is that your selection of brokers is limited only to XTB.
If you have done any prior research on brokerages it is highly probable that at some point you have come across Interactive Brokers. This brokerage is highly recommended to serious traders, and the Trader Workstation is our preferred platform among the options they provide. Much like the xStation 5, the Trader Workstation’s availability is limited to clients of Interactive Brokers, but has many attractive components that make it worthwhile. Among the many features that come with the use of this platform, a few of our favorites include the ability to trade all security types, execute more than 50 types of orders, and do so with the comfort of a strong security system on your side. Upon signing up, Interactive Brokers clients receive a personal card, featuring series of codes that alternate in the system allowing for consistent security each time you access your account.
In terms of accessibility, the Trader Workstation can have its benefits and drawbacks, depending on your needs and expectations. Among the 4 options Interactive Brokers offer for platforms, the Trader Workstation is by far the best value, but there are some things to keep in mind. For starters, while it is free to obtain and use, it is important to note that there are additional monthly fees involved if you are interested in having certain data or charts at your disposal, as well as small inactivity fees if you are not using the platform. Lastly, as mentioned beforehand, considering this is software designed for active, serious traders, the interface itself can appear to be a bit advanced when using the desktop version in place of the web version. As a result, it would certainly be advisable to try out the demo first in order to see how it aligns with your level and your needs.
Finally, our last recommended stock trading platform is eToro. This brokerage and platform is likely the most user friendly of all due to its visual focused interface and simplicity of functions. In addition, the uniformity between the website and mobile app is carried out exceptionally well, making ease of navigation and operation between devices extremely simple.
In regards to functionality, the focus of eToro is primarily operations with forex and cryptocurrencies, with a minimum investment requirement of $25 for cryptocurrencies. One feature in particular that makes this platform attractive to new users is the ability to copy traders. While there is a minimum investment of $200 for each operation using the copying feature, this is a quite attractive attribute to some as it allows for real time replication of other featured traders’ operations, which are often worth learning from.
Finally, two things to keep in mind on the side of disadvantages include geographic accessibility and level of customer support. Starting with the former, it is important to note that although eToro spans over 140 countries, there are quite a few restrictions to keep in mind if you are a US citizen, including what you can trade and even whether you can sign up at all. Furthermore, when it comes to customer support, eToro runs on a tiered system in which accounts with a value of under $5000 receive general online support, those over $5000 are entitled to an account manager, and those over $25,000 become part of the Platinum Club, with the most personalized and responsive service.
There are many factors to consider when choosing where to take your money, but a good way to start your planning is by taking a look into the platform where you will be spending most of your time. Before searching and comparing blindly, determine what is important to you in both a broker and a platform, as well as what your goals are in the stock market in general. Once you have that in mind, revisiting this guide can give you a better idea of how much brokers and platforms really vary, as well as what small details you should look out for when making your final decision. Finally, always try out the demo version of the platform before you decide on signing up if there is one, and if you are unsure how to navigate through it, consider signing up for a Beginner Trading Course where you can learn firsthand how it all works.