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Trading platforms let you speculate with leverage on the price of stocks, commodities, indices, fixed income and foreign exchange by going long or short via futures, options, CFDs or spread betting. We have ranked and reviewed the best trading platforms in the UK that are regulated by the FCA.

Trading online CFDs and spread bets are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. Between 65% and 82% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money. This article contains affiliate links which may earn us some form of income if you go on to open an account. 

Compare online trading platforms

You can use our comparison table of what we think are the best online trading platforms to compare market access, minimum deposits and the different types of accounts each broker offers.

Trading PlatformTradable MarketsMin DepositCFDsDMASpread BettingInvestmentsFutures & OptionsMore InfoRisk Warning
City Index Trading Platform12000£100✔️✔️See Platform69% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider
Interactive Brokers Trading Platform7000£1✔️✔️✔️✔️See Platform60% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider
CMC Markets Trading Platform9300£1✔️✔️See Platform76% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider
Pepperstone Trading Platform1200£1✔️✔️See Platform74% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider
IG Trading Platform17000£250✔️✔️✔️✔️See Platform73% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider
Saxo Markets Trading Platform9000£500✔️✔️✔️✔️See Platform70% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider
Markets.com Trading Platform8000£100✔️✔️See Platform77% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider
Spreadex Trading Platform10000£1✔️✔️See Platform69% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider
XTB Trading Platform2100£1✔️See Platform77% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider
eToro Trading Platform2976$10✔️✔️See Platform77% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider

Our picks of the best online trading platforms in the UK reviewed

We have chosen what we think are the best trading platforms based on:

  • over 7,000 votes in our annual awards
  • our own experiences testing the accounts with real money
  • an in-depth comparison of the features that make them stand out compared to alternatives.
  • interviews with the trading platform CEOs and senior management

City Index

City Index: Best online trading platform 2022

City Index won “best trading platform” in our 2022 awards. The trading platform has grown considerably since the acquisition of Gain Capital by StoneX and includes some excellent added-value features like Performance Analytics and SMART signals. When I was testing the trading platform, there were enough signals to discover some additional trading opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise come across.

On City Index’s trading platform, you can trade more than 13,500 markets, including 40 equity indices, over 10,000 UK and international shares and ETFs, 19 commodities, and 183 FX pairs. This means they offer more markets than most of the other online trading platforms regulated by the FCA in the UK.

Founded in 1983 City Index has a solid and longstanding presence in online trading; its trading platform is a genuine rival to IG and CMC Markets. In major UK markets, City Index pricing is competitive and often market-leading, but can be expensive for Asian markets.

City Index’s free desktop trading platform is web-based, so there is nothing to download you simply log in and trade on your internet browser. You can create and customise your own workspaces and layouts, adding quotes, charts, news and trading signals. However, you can also use City Index’s Market 360 feature to create a top-down view of an instrument in a single click, which contains charts, quotes, news and product information all in one place.

You can trade or place limit orders directly from a chart or you can click on the bid-ask quote at the top of the page in the 360 view. You can instantly access technical analysis, calendars, and newsflow by clicking on the market analysis, but the trading platform’s stand-out features are the SMART Signals, which produces trading ideas based on technical analysis and Performance Analytics which provides constantly updated reports on how to improve your trading, based account history.

Overall the City Index trading platform is very intuitive to use and it has a clean, clearly laid out interface making it suitable for beginners who want a simple platform with trading signals. It is also advanced enough for experienced traders executing large orders and needing post-trade analytics or voice brokerage as backup.

City Index Trading Platform

Pros:

  • Smart Signals
  • Performance analytics
  • Wide range of markets

Cons:

  • No DMA
  • No investing account

69% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider

Interactive Brokers: Best platform for sophisticated traders

The IBKR online trading platform is exceptionally good for sophisticated trading. It offers by far the most access to the most markets through DMA futures, options, physical shares and CFDs. it also has the most advanced execution tools for retail traders, including complex order types such as VWAP, pairs trading, iceberg, and algorithmic trading.

When I was testing the trading platform, one thing that is immediately obvious though is that the desktop version is almost too good for retail traders and most will only use a small percentage of its capabilities. However, new traders should not be put off by its institutional-grade offering. The heavy-duty Interactive Brokers Trader Workstation is available as a download on PC, but there is also a simplified web-based version that is very simple to use called Portal.

On the web-based Portal trading platform, you can execute trades as physical deals, CFDs, futures and options (on the widest range of stocks). There are lots of webinars (with the founder Thomas Peterffy and his team) that cover trading strategy. You can also evaluate your portfolio based on how ethical your positions are. There are stock scanners, fund scanners, bond scanners, a fundamentals explorer for hunting out undervalued stocks and you can convert currency at some of the best exchange rates around.

IBKR also gives you more control over your currency exposure. Most other trading platforms automatically convert currency when you trade instruments outside your base currency but IBKR lets you do it manually on a per-trade or ad hoc basis.

Overall, Interactive Brokers, as the pioneer of the online trading industry, remains one of the best all-round online trading platforms for sophisticated investors and traders.

Pros:

  • Low cost
  • Wide market range
  • Investment accounts

Cons: 

  • HQ in the US
  • Complex desktop platform

60% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider

CMC Markets

CMC Markets: Best for sentiment indicators and active online trading

CMC Markets trading platform is very much a technology-driven solution that aims to offer institutional-grade tools and execution to retail and experienced clients.

One of the stand out features of CMC Market’s main trading platform is the client sentiment indicators. Whilst most trading platforms provide this information, where you can see what percentage of the client base is long or short an asset, with CMC Markets you can break sentiment down by time frame and profitable clients. Essentially, giving you an indication of where the smart money is going.

Another key feature I liked when testing the platform was the share baskets. CMC has created it’s own sectors on popular themes like driverless cars, cannabis and cyber security. These give traders the ability to quickly speculate on themes through share baskets which are quicker to build than ETFs, meaning as a trader you can take advantage of sector moves quicker than on other trading platforms.

CMC Markets trading platform has one of the widest market ranges for CFD and spread betting clients, you can trade over 11,000 instruments including an industry-leading 338 forex pairs, 124 commodities, and over 1,000 ETFs. However, CMC Markets doesn’t offer as many UK shares (745) and US stocks (4968) as other platforms, instead focussing on the most heavily traded and liquid companies.

Compared to IGCMC Markets trading platform feels a bit more professional, it has a classic black background, more flashing lights and a slightly more urgent trading ticket. As such, it is more suitable for more active traders trading intra-day.

Overall, an excellent trading platform and a well-run company.

Pros:

  • Excellent platform
  • Client sentiment indicators
  • Tight pricing

Cons:

  • No DMA
  • No investment account

76% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider

Pepperstone

Pepperstone: Best online trading package of MT4 indicators

Pepperstone’s trading platform is a good choice for traders looking to speculate on the major markets, particularly those wanting to automate their trading through expert advisors on MT4 & MT5.

I’ve used both trading platforms that Pepperstone offer, MT4/5 and cTrader, which include sTradingView charting. cTrader is a more traditional trading platform with a basic layout, simple order execution and sentiment indicators. Whereas MT4 is one of the most popular and complex trading platforms available used by millions of traders and thousands of brokers.

However, what makes Pepperstone’s MT4 offering stand out is the brokerage behind it. Pepperstone offers it’s MT4 clients experienced account executives based in London and other local offices around the world. Plus, Pepperstone have put together a package of expert indicators and trader tools that are available to download for free that can be plugged into MT4.

To win business Pepperstone competes on price and compared to other trading platforms it is one of the cheaper options. For example, the Razor account can offer forex trading with zero pips, with the commission charged post-trade. Or traders can opt for the standard account, which adds a 1 pip markup, but is built into the spread.

Overall, Pepperstone’s MT4 is a good option for traders that want to automate their trading or want a basic account with very low costs.

Pros:

  • Good MT4 package
  • Discounted spreads
  • Stocks on MT4

Cons:

  • Third-party trading platforms
  • Limited market range

74% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider

IG: Best online trading platform for liquidity & market range

IG remains at the forefront of the online trading industry and has one of the best online trading platforms for new and experienced traders. I really like trading on IG’s platform and have done so for over 20 years now. As an experienced trader I find it very intuitive, but for new traders, it offers a simple layout with lots of news, research, and technical analysis indicators. For experienced traders, it offers deep liquidity, the largest market range, and DMA execution through L2 dealer.

IG’s main web-based trading platform is used by CFD and Spread Betting clients, although clients can also download MT4, ProRealtime and L2 Dealer. The platform is developed in-house and is suitable for most traders where you can access 17,000 markets to trade as a CFD or financial spread bet. The trading platform also provides access to none leveraged trading accounts for physical shares dealing and ETF investing with SIPP and ISA options.

There are a few limitations to the main platform though, for example, there is no facility for automated trading strategies. However, IG offers two alternative platforms (MT4 & 5) for those clients who use Algos and trading bots. However, for most users, IG’s in-house platform will be more than sufficient for their needs.

Some stand-out features of the trading platform are how Autochartist and PIA trading signals are copied straight to order tickets and their ability to constantly innovate features such as adding logarithmic charting and creating news and research around what traders are looking at on the platform.

Compared to other online trading platforms IG’s pricing is always competitive, they are by no means the cheapest broker, but they are not expensive. IG tends to win business based on market range, service, and liquidity and keeps spreads to the lower end of the industry standard.  Whilst pricing is an important factor when choosing a trading platform, with IG, you get what you pay for and that is a fairly priced excellent all-round service.

Overall IG has one of the most comprehensive trading platforms around. And after 46 years of offering margin products to retail customers, IG knows what works and what customers expect from their broker, namely reliable pricing, technology and customer service.

Pros:

  • Excellent market range
  • Deep liquidity
  • DMA & level-2 pricing

Cons:

  • Some pricing is not competitive
  • Very big so customer service can be a little slow

73% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider

Saxo Markets: Best for advanced & professional online trading

Saxo Markets SaxoTraderGo offers a very advanced trading platform and voice brokerage service for experienced and professional traders and investors.

I’ve been using Saxo Markets online trading platform for around ten years now and it’s evolved nicely over the years. The core functionality remains consistently high-end, whilst the front end is given a facelift every few years.

Whilst Saxo Markets does offer MT4, it’s own proprietary trading platform (SaxoTraderGo) is a well-established work-horse. The platform is exceptionally robust and suitable for institutional-grade hedge fund businesses as well as individual traders. It really stands out among peers as a serious platform for serious traders that is backed up by the products on offer, such as DMA CFDs, on-exchange futures, options, a huge range of bonds and access to dealers via voice brokerage who can work complex orders for you.

Unlike more retail-based trading platforms where CFD commissions are built into the spread with Saxo Markets, you trade at the bid-offer (or DMA) and commission is charged afterward. This enables clients to trade inside the market price if they have opted for direct market access.

Commissions are very competitive as Saxo Market is most suited to high-volume and high-net-worth traders. Smaller traders may be put off by auxiliary costs such as having to subscribe to live pricing from exchanges, level-2 data fees, and minimum commission charges.

Saxo Market’s trading platform market range is vast, you can go long or short over 19,000 instruments, which is more than any other retail derivatives provider with the SaxoTraderGO platform or apps.

The platform also has built-in post-trade analytics so you can see where you have been profitable in the past, and has an integrated research portal, webinars, trading signals, and market analysis.

Saxo Markets can be suitable for smaller traders as it has three different tiers of trading accounts – Classic, Platinum and VIP. Classic is the most basic with a minimum deposit of £1,500 whilst the VIP requires at least £1 million in funding, where traders will have access to the tightest spreads and dedicated Saxo service.

Overall, Saxo Markets is an excellent platform for experienced traders.

Pros:

  • Professional trading platform
  • Direct market access
  • Futures & options

Cons:

  • High minimum deposit
  • Can be too complicated for beginners

70% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider

Markets.com

Markets.com: Good for US stocks analysis & online trading ideas

Markets.com MarketX online trading platform is a nice-looking, simple platform suitable for newer traders who want to trade the most liquid markets and stocks with built-in research. The platform is developed in-house but they also offer MT4 and MT5 for those who prefer to use the Metaquotes trading environment.

When I was opening an account, I was slightly put off by the comic website. The jaunty graphics may not initially appear to convey some of the bells and whistles of more complex trading platforms but looks can be deceptive. When I was testing the trading platform and putting some trades on I found the platform to have a much more serious and functional design. The Markets.com product range is not as extensive as some of its peers for example IG and Saxo Markets have a far wider range of instruments but for most generalist traders the Markets.com offering should be sufficient. Pricing can also be a little on the high side compared to rivals on major markets. You can trade the usual indices, stocks, ETFs, commodities and bonds but there are some unique features like blends, which are pre-constructed portfolios that aim to track the performance of leading hedge fund managers and market themes.

There are some good analysis tools on the platform as well, for instance, analyst recommendations, blogger opinions, hedge fund confidence (which shows what the hedgies are buying and selling), plus news sentiment provided by TipRanks.

Overall, Markets.com is a decent online trading platform and a good option for new traders as they provide quite a bit of stimulus and research in a well-laid-out and simple-to-digest format.

Pros:

  • Good US stock data
  • Trading tips
  • Simple platform

 

Cons:

  • Limited market range
  • Pricing high on exotic markets

77% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider

Spreadex Financials

Spreadex: Best online trading platform for customer service

Spreadex is one of the most established online trading platforms and excels in providing personal service to a high-value customer base. I’ve been using them for nearly twenty years now and when I tested them for this review and over the years, the trading platform has remained simple yet effective. It has been entirely developed in-house from St Albans, just outside of London and you can trade directly from charts on the platform or overlay a range of indicators and macroeconomic data. It’s nice to see a trading platform these days that doesn’t rely on Tradingview for charting. You can add pro trading indicators like the VWAP and also save and edit chart templates allowing you to have a consistent view of the markets and the indicators that you like to use.

Spreadex offers more than 10,000 markets that cover equities, ETFs, commodities FX, Bonds and interest rates. You can also speculate on political markets and trade options on the UK and German markets. There are also some quick-fire watch lists that help you see what stocks and markets are moving

Overall, Spreadex is a suitable online trading platform for those that know what they are doing that is backed up by experienced dealers, from an established and trusted UK brokerage.

Pros:

  • Excellent customer service
  • Smaller cap stock trading
  • Wide market range

Cons:

  • Smaller brokerage
  • Simple trading paltforms

69% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider

XTB

XTB: Good for multi-asset online trading

XTB’s Xstation5 trading platform is highly customisable and it was clear from when I tested the platform that it is going to appeal to slightly more experienced traders wanting a little bit more than point-and-click trading. For beginners, it maybe a bit too “Bloomberg Terminal” looking.

XTB offers access to the usual markets and pricing is fairly standard, but what sets it apart from other brokers is some of the trading platform’s unique functionality.

Most brokers offer it now but XTB was actually one of the first brokers to offer post-trade analysis, where the trading platform will show you where you are profitable and where you lose money.

A couple of other nice features are the ability to close all of your positions in one go. A time saver if you are a day trader and want to be flat at the end of the day, or if you want out of the market in a hurry. You can also change the base currency of your trades between USD and GBP, which can help reduce currency exposure. For instance, if you are trading the S&P 500, you can trade in GBP, so you reduce currency conversions and your P&L is in your base currency (if you have funded your account in USD).

There is also a fair amount of research and data on the trading platform. This is provided by Morningstar and enables you to rank and rate markets and hunt for trading ideas. There is a nice heatmap feature, a stock scanner, sentiment indicators as well as an automatically updated “hot” watchlist that shows where the order flow is going.

Overall, XTB is a very good trading platform that offers a lot more than just vanilla trading, suitable for new traders or more experienced investors wanting to create and hedge their own markets.

Pros:

  • Multi-asset trading
  • Competitively priced
  • Lots of markets to trade

Cons:

  • Not UK based
  • Removed basket trading

 

77% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider

eToro

eToro: Best for social & copy trading

eToro has a very simple online trading platform and offers a social way to speculate on global markets. Through social and copy trading you can see other traders’ portfolios and copy their trades. You can only trade and invest in USD, but you do have the option to buy and sell cryptocurrency.

Pros:

  • Social and copy trading
  • Easy-to-use platform
  • Can change your leverage

Cons:

  • Accounts must be in USD
  • High FX conversion charges
  • Limited market range

77% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider

FXTM

FXTM: Good for forex traders

FXTM is an online forex broker and CFD trading platform founded in 2011. FXTM has over 2 million registered users trading, which can trade 200 financial markets (including 61 forex pairs) via the MT4 (Metatrader 4) of the FXTM mobile trading app.

Pros:

  • Focus on forex
  • Tight pricing on major FX pairs

Cons:

  • Limited market range
  • Expensive for indices

77% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider

What is a trading platform?

Trading platforms are operated by stockbrokers, CFD brokers, spread betting brokers and forex brokers and act as a platform for buying and selling underlying securities or OTC (over-the-counter) products.

All trading platforms are different and specialise in certain things. For example, City Index has some of the best trading signals and post-trade analysis for traders that want a bit of stimulus and to improve their execution strategy. Or, IG can have better liquidity than the underlying exchanges so is excellent for larger traders.

How to choose an online trading platform

Here are the main things to consider when choosing an online trading platform:

  • Market access – How many stocks, commodities, indices and forex pairs can you trade?
  • Account types – Does a trading platform offer spread betting (tax-free profits), CFDs, Spot FX and futures & options?
  • Trading experience – Is the platform better for beginners or experienced traders?
  • Regulation – All online trading platforms need to be regulated (by the FCA in the UK)
  • Costs & fees – Which brokers are cheapest for your type of trading?
  • Added value – Is it just a trading platform or do they offer added value trading tools, analysis and education
  • Voice brokerage – Can you work complex orders over the phone?

Advantages: 

  • Margin – Trade on margin to leverage your risk capital
  • Tax efficient – Profits can be tax-free through financial spread betting
  • Low cost – No stamp duty for short-term speculation

Disadvantages:

  • Risky – Trading is a very high-risk form of investment
  • Complex – Trading order types can be hard to understand
  • Short-term – Expensive for long-term investing

Different types of trading platform:

Choose a broker that offers the right way for you to trade

Once you have decided what you want to trade, you will also need to think about how you want to trade it. There are many different ways to speculate on the market and all come with different features and benefits.

CFDs

Trade the global markets through CFDs (contracts for difference) through UK-based FCA regulated CFD brokers.

Compare CFD brokers

Spread Betting

Unique to the UK, speculate through financial spread betting and pay no capital gains tax on trading profits.

Compare spread betting brokers

Futures

Trade the global markets through on-exchange futures from FCA-regulated brokers.

Compare futures brokers

Options

Options brokers allow traders to buy and sell options on stocks, indices, commodities and foreign exchange.

Compare options brokers

DMA

Direct Market Access (DMA) accounts enable investors to place ordres directly on the exchange order books to get the best possible execution price.

Compare DMA brokers

Long-Term Investing

Invest in low to medium-risk investments like funds, ETFs, stocks and bonds through GIAs, ISAs and SIPPS 

Compare investing accounts

What type of trading platform is right for you?

In this video interview, we discuss the differences between online trading platforms that offer CFDs or spread betting and which product is most appropriate for who.

Online Trading Platform FAQs:

We have ranked City Index as the best online trading platform in 2022.

For beginners, City Index, IG and CMC Markets are easy to use, offer lots of educational material, trading signals and seminars and are well established

Choose a broker that is right for your level of trading experience

When private clients trade online, they are split into two different categories – Retail or Professional.

The different ways to trade tend to revolve around how much experience you have, and it’s vital that you choose a broker that offers the right type of trading and markets for how experienced you are. If you are a beginner, you should consider starting with low-risk investments through a stockbroker to gain experience before moving on to riskier asset classes like leveraged trading.

Sophisticated trading platforms like Saxo Markets or Interactive Brokers are best for experienced traders as they also offer on- exchange futures and options and have very advanced order execution functionality and DMA (direct market access).

Whenever you open a trading account to trade derivatives products like CFDs (Contracts for difference) or financial spread betting, you will be asked by your broker to take an “appropriateness test” during the account application process. This is to make sure you understand the risks of trading on margin before you can have an account. It is required by the regulator and designed to stop clients without enough experience speculating with too much risk.

IG offers the most account types. The trading platform started with just spread betting in 1974 but now offers, CFD trading, DMA access, and investment accounts including stocks & shares ISAs.

Some brokers will only offer one of these types of trading with discounted rates, while others may offer all of them but be slightly more expensive.

Each different type of trading has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, the main advantage of financial spread betting is that profits are free of capital gains tax. The disadvantage, however, is unlike futures trading platforms and physical investing, you cannot work orders inside the bid or offer, so strategies such as scalping are not as effective and net costs can seem a little higher.

IG offers access to the most markets with over 17,000 assets available to trade via their online trading platform as a spread bet or CFD.

Choose a broker that offers all the markets you want to trade

When choosing an online broker, you first need to think about “what” you want to trade and “how” you want to trade it. If you only want to trade the most popular forex pairs, you will have a larger choice of brokers than if you want to trade stocks as well. However, online brokers that only offer a small selection of markets mean you may miss opportunities to trade other assets such as international stocks, minor forex pairs, fledgling indices, and ETFs.

The most popular markets for online trading are:

The top ten traded instruments on online trading platforms are:

You can read about why each instrument is so popular for traders and what makes them appealing in our guide to the best markets for trading online.

CMC Markets is often the cheapest broker for trading the major markets as their platform is heavily geared towards more active and frequent traders.

Choosing a broker that transparently explains the costs of online trading platforms

Comparing the costs and fees of brokers for online trading is not as easy as you’d think. Neither is it simply about just finding the cheapest broker. Brokers charge in different ways, so it makes direct cost comparison difficult.

Even if cost comparison were simple, choosing the cheapest broker may mean you don’t get the best broker for your needs. For instance, one CFD broker may charge commission by widening the spread around market prices, whereas another may give you the underlying price, but charge a commission on top.

Minimum deposit levels and account inactivity fees are all costs you may have to face too, so finding these out in advance can help you realise which brokers offer the cheapest trading for you over time. The actual rate you are charged can be hard to calculate if the spread is being widened, but it makes calculating your P&L easier. However, with DMA CFD brokers, you can trade at better prices but will have to include commission costs as a separate line on your trading P&L.

The most common types of fees that online trading platforms charge are:

  • Widening the bid/offer spread
  • Commission charged post-trade
  • Financing on overnight positions

You also need to be aware that if you are trading an OTC (over the counter) product like CFDs, FOREX, or spread betting, brokers may not hedge your trades in the underlying market. This basically means that they think your trades will be losers, so they accept your trade more like a bookie than a broker.

This is called the B-Book. There is a big debate about whether brokers hedging positions or not via the B-Book is a good or bad thing. In some cases, it is good because it reduces the need for brokers to widen the bid/offer spread, meaning that clients get better prices. However, some argue that it is bad because there is a clear conflict of interests as these brokers make money when clients lose.

Ultimately, whether clients make money or lose money, trading the market has little to do with how different brokers hedge their exposure, but rather more to do with the decisions that traders themselves make.

City Index offers some of the best added-value with as they provide trading signals through Smart Signals and post-trade analytics through Performance Analytics.

Choosing a broker that gives you advice and trading ideas

If you are looking for a broker to help with trading ideas, you need to be very careful. Whether or not you use the suggestions made by your broker, a broker’s recommendations should depend significantly on how much of an experienced trader you are.

Online platforms that offer trading to retail customers are not allowed to provide trading ideas, advice or anything that can be considered implied advice. We’ve covered in detail why you shouldn’t use advisory CFD brokers and why most trading educational courses are a waste of time.

You should not rely on others to help you make decisions in high-risk trading products like futures, options, CFDs and spread betting. Advice from wealth managers structuring your investments in a tax-effective manner through SIPPs and ISAs is one thing, but if you are a retail trader and a broker is phoning to pitch trading ideas, you should report them to the FCA.

Professional and institutional clients are allowed to discuss the markets and get advice from their brokers. This is because they have been appropriately classified as traders that fully understand the risks involved in the markets and leveraged products. Caveat emptor is a phrase that still applies to this, as trading is a self-directed form of speculation.

The FCA regulates online trading platforms in the UK for retail traders so margin rates are set and standard across most trading platforms.

Margin rates in the UK are capped at: 

  • Indices: 20%
  • Major Forex pairs: 3.33%
  • Commodities: 10%
  • UK & US shares: 20%

Getting the best margin rate from an online trading platform

These margin figures represent the deposit you have to put down when opening new positions and are in place to protect brokers as well as clients. The percentage is set based on what a big percentage move would be in the market to ensure that clients and brokers can fund a position.

However, if you are an experienced trader you can opt for a professional account, and get better margin rates. These differ from broker to broker. You can see the current professional margin rates in our professional trading account comparison.

Margin enables traders to leverage their risk capital and get more exposure to the market. For example, if you are trading the FTSE 100 you can trade £100,000 worth of FTSE with only £5,000 in your account if your broker is offering 5% margin. The advantage of this is that you get more exposure to the market and can diversify positions. However, the disadvantage is that your losses are multiplied and if you can lose your entire account balance with small percentages moves.

All trading platforms have demo accounts and it is one of the easiest ways to compare trading platforms is to open a demo account before you apply for a full account.

Testing a broker’s trading platform with a demo account

Most demo accounts will give you a good idea of the look and feel of a broker’s trading platform and usually come with some virtual funds to trade with. Demo accounts allow you to test order tickets, layouts and the trading tools that are available on the real platform.

Comparing demo accounts for trading is quick and easy to do as most provide almost instant access after confirming your details via email. Be aware that brokers use demo accounts as a lead generation tool to convert prospects into real traders. However, most salespeople at respectable brokers are very knowledgeable about the technology on their platform and are more than willing to talk to prospective clients on the phone, via email or in-person about the features on offer. One point to note though is that if a salesman is too pushy, that should be a warning signal that they are best avoided.

Saxo Markets, City Index and IG are three large online trading platforms that offer voice brokerage.

Choosing a broker that offers telephone trading as well as an online trading platform

Whilst most traders will choose a broker based on their ability to trade online, having an experienced dealer who can execute trades for you whilst you are not in front of a computer can be very important.

Some traders still prefer to trade over the phone, and those that do may form very close relationships with their dealers. Some traders talk to their brokers more than anyone else, so making sure that any broker you choose has a good desk of experienced dealers is vital.

Dealing over the phone is also handy if things go wrong and an error needs sorting out or if you have a particularly complicated strategy to execute that requires cross margin calculations that cannot be done online.

Voice brokerage is usually more common at prime brokers for professional and institutional traders, where hedge funds want to reduce the risk of trading errors by getting their traders to give orders over the phone or messaging systems rather than do it themselves. If you ask a dealer to execute a trade for you and they do it wrong, they will have to make good on what you asked for. Whereas if you are trading yourself online on a dealing platform and press buy instead of sell, you only have yourself to blame.

Brokers such as IGSaxo Markets and Interactive Brokers that provide DMA or hedge client positions allow scalping where traders buy and sell positions quickly in order to take small profits and losses.

Yes, it is possible to make money trading online. However, online trading is a very high-risk form of investment, and only around 20% of online retail customers make money trading online.

Margin rates are the amount of leverage you get when you trade. For example, a margin rate of 10% in share trading means that you can buy £1,000 worth of shares with a £100 deposit, the equivalent of 10 times leverage.

All trading platforms in the UK must be regulated by the FCA and on the Good Money Guide, we only feature trading platforms that are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Choosing a broker that is appropriately regulated for your type of trading

One of the most important things about choosing a broker for online trading is ensuring that they are properly regulated for the type of trading you want to do.

You can look up whether a broker is regulated by searching the FCA register. The FCA register keeps a record of all regulated persons and firms in the UK, as well as what financial services and products they are allowed to offer.

Regulated trading platforms must display the fact they are regulated and also appropriate risk warnings that display the risk of the products that they offer.

Never trade with a trading platform that is not regulated by the FCA, as your funds are not covered by the FSCS.

You will need your national insurance number, ID and the ability to prove you understand the risk involved in trading online.

As long as you are classified as a retail trader and use an FCA-regulated broker for online trading, your money is protected up to a certain amount by the FSCS.

Publically traded online trading platforms like IG, CMC Markets, City Index (owned by StoneX) and Interactive Brokers are generally safer as they must report their financial status to the stock exchange and investors more frequently than private companies. By keeping an eye on a company’s share price you can see how healthy its balance sheet is.

There is no guarantee that any trading platform will not go bankrupt, but there are ways to keep an eye on the health of the company behind it.

Funds up to £85k are predicted by the FSCS if a broker defaults, but not above that amount, unless insurance is in place.

Yes, as long as you use an FCA regulated broker

A level-2 trading platform shows the market depth as well as the bid-offer prices. They are useful for getting better pricing, placing big orders, and seeing liquidity on the order book.

MT5 is the successor to MT4, one of the most popular trading platforms across the global. Brokers without their won trading platforms are able to use branded versions on MT5 to give their clients access to the markets.

IG is the oldest online trading platform and was founded in 1974

It is no longer possible to trade cryptocurrencies through spread betting and CFDs as the FCA has banned crypto trading. However, you can buy and sell cryptocurrencies without leverage through a cryptocurrency exchange. Be careful though as cryptocurrencies are an unproven and unregulated asset class and extremely high risk.

However, you can read our analysis on some of the best accounts for buying cryptocurrency here.

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