Compare The Best Online Trading Platforms

Compare trading platforms so you can speculate on the price movements of financial markets. Compare the best trading brokers for online trading and choose an account with the most market access, added value and cheapest fees to save money on your trading activity.

What's in this guide to trading platforms? show

Featured Trading Platform

City Index

✔️Spread Betting

City Index offers access to over 9,000 global markets, is fully authorised and regulated by the FCA and one of the oldest trading platforms having been founded in 1983.

City Index Trading Platform

Account Types

  • CFDs
  • Spread Betting
  • Pro Account

Key Information

  • Total Markets: 9,000
  • Forex Pairs: 182
  • Commodities: 19
  • Indices: 23
  • UK Stocks: 5,000
  • US Stocks: 2,000

Trading Costs

  • EURUSD: 0.5 pips
  • UK 100: 1 point
  • Wall Street: 3.5 points
  • Gold: 0.8 points
  • UK Shares: 0.8%
  • US Shares: 1.8¢ per share

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

IG Trading Platform

Account Types

  • CFDs
  • Spread Betting
  • Direct Market Access
  • Pro Account
  • Investments

Market Access

  • Total Markets: 17,000
  • Forex Pairs: 51
  • Commodities: 38
  • Indices: 34
  • UK Stocks: 3,925
  • US Stocks: 6,352

Trading Costs

  • EURUSD: 0.6 pips
  • UK 100: 1 point
  • Wall Street: 2.4 points
  • Gold: 0.3 points
  • UK Shares: 0.10%
  • US Shares: 0.10%
Your capital is at risk. 73% of retail CFD accounts lose money

IG Trading Platform Review

IG offers several different trading platforms aimed at different audiences. Its main offering is an online web-based platform used by CFD and Spread Betting clients.

The platform offers live pricing, charting and indicators, the ability to manage positions and monitor account balances, deposit and withdraw funds.

You will also find research tools on the platform such as streaming news, trading signals and the economic calendar. The trading platform is offered to clients free of charge and you can sign up for a demo account to put it through its paces.

Through the trading platform, you can access any of the 16,000 markets that IG offers to its retail clients.

There are a few limitations on the platform, for example, there is no facility for automated trading strategies. Though IG offers two alternative platforms 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.

CMC Markets Trading Platform

Account Types

  • CFDs
  • Spread Betting
  • Direct Market Access
  • Pro Account

Market Access

  • Total Markets: 9,300
  • Forex Pairs: 338
  • Commodities: 124
  • Indices: 82
  • UK Stocks: 745
  • US Stocks: 4968

Trading Costs

  • EURUSD: 0.7 pips
  • UK 100: 1 point
  • Wall Street: 2 points
  • Gold: 0.3 points
  • UK Shares: 0.10%
  • US Shares: 2¢ per share

66% of retail investor accounts lose money when spread betting and/or trading CFDs with this provider

CMC Markets Trading Platform Review

CMC Markets main trading platforms are customisable and web-based clients can configure the trading platform using pre-set templates for example trade signal view or multi charts, should they prefer they can create their own by simply opening items from the platform taskbar at the top of the screen and then dragging, dropping and resizing the respective windows.

Right-clicking on an instrument brings up a menu of options which includes order tickets and settings, chart, quotes and client sentiment data for that instrument.

Navigating around the platform using the taskbar and drop menus is very easy and watchlist features such as geographic filters are also intuitive to use.

The platform is free to clients and there are demo accounts that allow users to put the system through its paces before opening a live account.

Overall the platform is user friendly and full of tools and information that can assist traders. Yes, a few popular, but high-end technical indicators are absent from the charting software but we must remember this is a free platform and not a subscription service.

CMC Markets focus is on technology and its trading platforms have won awards and if you spend any length of time on them you can see why and why CMC can compete with peers such as IG and  Saxo where trading platforms are concerned.

Pepperstone Trading Platform

Account Types

  • CFDs
  • Spread Betting
  • Pro Account

Market Access

  • Total Markets: 178
  • Forex Pairs: 62
  • Commodities: 32
  • Indices: 28
  • UK Stocks: 192
  • US Stocks: 880

Trading Costs

  • EURUSD: 0.09 pips
  • UK 100: 1 point
  • Wall Street: 2.4 points
  • Gold: 0.05 points
  • UK Shares: 0.10%
  • US Shares: 2¢ per share

79.3% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading spread bets and CFDs with this provider

Saxo Markets Trading Platform

Account Types

  • CFDs
  • Direct Market Access
  • Pro Account
  • Investments
  • Futures & Options

Market Access

  • Total Markets: 12,000
  • Forex Pairs: 84
  • Commodities: 25
  • Indices: 21
  • UK Stocks: 3,500
  • US Stocks: 1,000

Trading Costs

  • EURUSD: 0.6 pips
  • UK 100: 1 point
  • Wall Street: 3 points
  • Gold: 0.6 points
  • UK Shares: 0.05%
  • US Shares: 1¢ per share

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

Account Types

  • CFDs
  • Spread Betting
  • Pro Account

Market Access

  • Total Markets: 8,000
  • Forex Pairs: 20+
  • Commodities: 10+
  • Indices: 10+
  • UK Stocks: Yes
  • US Stocks: Yes

Trading Costs

  • EURUSD: 0.6 pips
  • UK 100: 2 points
  • Wall Street: 2 point
  • Gold: 0.5 points
  • UK Shares: 0.1%
  • US Shares: 0.1%

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

The MarketsX platform is the in house trading platform of though they also offer MT4 and MT5 for those who prefer to use the Metaquotes trading environment.

MarketsX is a simple to use and approachable platform which has, what I would describe, as a softened interface with muted tones and shades in the display. Which is no doubt designed to create an air of calm that’s often missing from the markets.

Navigating around the platform is accomplished using a series of icons and menus. There is also a search bar at the top of the page which you can use to find instruments you are interested in trading and for each instrument, you can view quotes, charts, key statistics and profile data.

You can trade in indices, stocks, ETFs, commodities and bonds as well as what calls blends. Just over a dozen pre-constructed portfolios that aim to track the performance of leading hedge fund managers and market themes.

You can also benefit from insights provided by the platforms built-in tools, that provide access to indicators and analysis, blogger sentiment and opinion and analysts consensus recommendations this is something that the platform does better than many of its peers.

Don’t overlook the charting package (which comes courtesy of Trading View) either, which allows you to compare multiple instruments and indicators on the same plot a feature that’s normally only associated with subscription software, if you are a technical trader then you likely to be impressed.

MarketsX may not initially appear to have some of the bells and whistles of more complex trading platforms but looks can be deceptive. For a casual or infrequent trader, it’s probably a good bet and one on which to learn the ropes, but the deceptive simplicity of the platform belies a surprising level of sophistication and that may well end up persuading you to stay for the longer term.

Spreadex Trading Platform

Account Types

  • CFDs
  • Spread Betting
  • Pro Account

Market Access

  • Total Markets: 10,000
  • Forex Pairs: 54
  • Commodities: 20
  • Indices: 17
  • UK Stocks: 1,575
  • US Stocks: 2,110

Trading Costs

  • EURUSD: 0.6 pips
  • UK 100: 1 point
  • Wall Street: 4 points
  • Gold: 0.4 points
  • UK Shares: 0.2%
  • US Shares: 0.3%

69% of retail investors lose money when trading spread bets and CFDs with this provider

Spreadex Trading Platform Review

As well as its mobile trading platform Spreadex has an award-winning desktop or pc based trading software. The platform can be used to trade CFDs or to place Spread Bets. It has a customisable interface and comes complete with its own charting package, that includes useful tools such as chart pattern recognition.

You can trade directly from charts on the platform and plot a range of indicators and macroeconomic data on to those charts. You can also save and edit chart templates allowing to you have a consistent view of the markets and the indicators that you like to use.

You can place hedge trades, which Spreadex refers to as force open orders. There are also guaranteed stop orders and one-click trading for the most active traders, and you can also set price alerts and receive notification in a method of your choice.

Spreadex offers more than 10,000 markets that cover equities, ETFs, commodities FX, Bonds and interest rates.

The platform which is free to account holders compares well to the competition and the fact that you can trade and Spread Bet from one account and one interface, is a plus point for those traders who like to toggle between the two product types. Trading Platform

Account Types

  • CFDs
  • Spread Betting
  • Pro Account

Market Access

  • Total Markets: 3,900
  • Forex Pairs: 138
  • Commodities: 31
  • Indices: 22
  • UK Stocks: 450
  • US Stocks: 1575

Trading Costs

  • EURUSD: 0.8 pips
  • UK 100: 2 point
  • Wall Street: 5 points
  • Gold: 0.28 points
  • UK Shares: 0.3%
  • US Shares: 0.5%

76.72% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider

FXCM Trading Platform

Account Types

  • CFDs
  • Spread Betting
  • Pro Account

Key Information

  • Total Markets: 300+
  • Forex Pairs: 39
  • Commodities: 11
  • Indices: 15
  • UK Stocks: 23
  • US Stocks: 85

Trading Costs

  • EURUSD: 1.3 pips
  • UK 100: 1.63 points
  • Wall Street: 2.94 points
  • Gold: 0.42 points
  • UK Shares: 0.2%
  • US Shares: 0.5%

67% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider

FXTM Trading Platform

Account Types

  • CFDs
  • Spread Betting
  • Pro Account

Market Access

  • Total Markets: 200+
  • Forex Pairs: 61
  • Commodities: 3
  • Indices: 11
  • UK Stocks: 0
  • US Stocks: 119

Trading Costs

  • EURUSD: 1.5 pips
  • UK 100: 4.5 points
  • Wall Street: 2.4 points
  • Gold: 2 points
  • UK Shares: na
  • US Shares: na

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

Compare Trading Platforms Side-By-Side

Use our side-by-side trading platform account comparison to compare the best trading platform by pricing, market access, account types and services.

What is a trading platform?

A trading platform connects traders to the financial markets allowing them to speculate on the price of stocks, commodities, indices, fixed income and foreign exchange. 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.

The main markets for online trading are:

  • Forex
  • Indices
  • Commodities
  • Treasuries
  • Stocks

How to choose an online trading platform

When choosing an online trading platform, it’s worth considering more than just the fees and charges. Here’s a ten-step guide to the major points you should consider to help find a good trading broker.

Ten things you need to consider when comparing online trading platforms are:

  1. Market access
  2. Account types
  3. Risk appetite
  4. Regulation
  5. Safety of funds
  6. Transparent costs
  7. Added value, analysis and education
  8. Demo account
  9. Customer support & voice brokerage
  10. Margin rates

1. 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.

Trading PlatformTotalForexCommoditiesIndicesUK-SharesUS-Stocks
CMC Markets9,300338124827454,968
City Index12,0008425213,5001,000
Saxo Markets9,00018219235,0002,000
This table represents how many assets can be traded by market as a derivative contract.
Table last updated: 23rd November 2021 2:31 pm by Richard Berry

2. 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.

Trading PlatformCFDsSpread BettingDMAProfessionalInvestmentsFutures & Options
CMC Markets✔️✔️✔️
City Index✔️✔️✔️
Saxo Markets✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
Table last updated: 23rd November 2021 1:59 pm

Compare the different types of trading platforms:

The main ways to speculate through online trading are:

  • CFD Trading – Compare CFD brokers for trading contracts for difference. Make sure you understand the risks and potential rewards with our guide on how to trade CFDs
  • Financial Spread Betting – Compare financial spread betting brokers and find out why spread betting is tax-free with our guide to financial spread betting
  • Forex Trading – Trade the world’s largest market through a UK based and FCA regulated broker in our forex comparison and get a better grasp of FX by reading our how to trade Forex guide.
  • Social & Copy Trading – Automatically copy the positions and portfolios of other traders. Use our comparison tables to compare FCA regulated social trading brokers in the UK.
  • Index Trading – Understand how to trade indices on the underlying markets of the largest public companies in different countries and compare brokers for index trading in our comparison tables.
  • Commodities Trading – Speculate on gold, oil, frozen concentrated orange juice in our comparison table of commodities brokers and read our guide to the most popular traded commodities in the market.
  • Futures Trading – Trade futures directly on exchange with an FCA regulated futures broker. Compare the costs of trading futures in our futures broker comparison and read our guide to understanding futures trading.
  • Options Trading – View our comparison tables to compare the best UK based options brokers authorised and regulated by the FCA. See how puts and calls can be used in trading with our guide to options trading.
  • DMA Trading – For larger more experience traders compare brokers that offer DMA (direct market access) for trading direct on the exchanges for better pricing, quicker execution and lower costs.
  • Professional Trading Accounts – Compare brokers that offer professional trading accounts and see if you qualify for reduced fees and improved margin rates with our professional trading account comparison.
  • MT4 Trading – MT4 (Metatrader4) is one of the most popular trading platforms across the globe. Make sure you are using the right broker with our comparison of FCA-regulated UK-based MT4 brokers.

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 DMA CFD trading 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.

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

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.

Whenever you open a trading account to trade derivatives products like CFDs (Contracts for difference) of 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.

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

4. 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.

All trading platforms in the UK must be regulated by the FCA. 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.

If you need a broker that allows you to trade on markets based overseas, many UK-based brokers will offer this service. You do not need a US-based broker to trade US stocks. For example, the brokers we compare in our US trading for UK residents table all allow clients to trade CFDs on US markets if they are based in the UK.

If you are based in the United States and want to open a trading account, you can compare brokers here on our US broker comparison.

5. Ensuring your money is safe with an online broker

When comparing brokers for online trading, always make sure that the broker you are considering is regulated by the FCA, as some of your funds will be covered by the FSCS deposit protection scheme should your broker go bust. Beware that even the biggest brokers in the world can become insolvent, so it’s imperative that you understand how FSCS protection works and if you fall into the type of trader that is covered.

As with trading how and what you trade, all brokers are not regulated for the same things. Some are only regulated for professional clients and others are only regulated for private clients. Whilst some are only able to deal with other institutions and not individual traders at all.

Whilst professional categorised clients can get better commission rates and more leverage, they do not get the same level of protection as retail clients.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. Testing a broker’s trading platform with a demo account

One of the easiest ways to compare trading platforms is to open a demo account before you apply for a full 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.

9. 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.

10. Getting the best margin rate from an online trading platform

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

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

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.

What is the best broker for online trading in the UK?

IG has won “best overall online trading platform” four years in a row in our annual awards, due to a combination of market access, account types and competitive pricing.

Deciding which online broker is best for you depends on so many factors that it is difficult to give a generalised answer to which broker is best. However, by considering your needs, features and services like trading assistants and tools that are important to you and your strategy, as well as considering the points discussed here like regulation and market types, you are more likely to choose the best broker for you.

Here are some of the biggest online trading platforms regulated in the UK and ranked by when they were established

  1. IG (1974)
  2. Interactive Brokers (1978)
  3. City Index (1983)
  4. CMC Markets (1989)
  5. Saxo Markets (1992)
  6. Spreadex (1999)
  7. (2008)
  8. Pepperstone (2010)
  9. (2016)

Retail trading platforms in the UK

Retail clients are normal people who want to speculate on the markets and have a good understanding of the risks involved and how leveraged trading works. The regulators ensure that normal people have their margin capped (so they cannot inadvertently get too much exposure to the market) and also have negative balance protection in place, which means you cannot lose more than the money in your account.

In our awards the best retail trading brokers have been:

  • 2021: IG
  • 2020: IG
  • 2019: IG
  • 2018: IG

IG has consistently been ranked highest in our matrix of retail trading platforms which measure client satisfaction, market access, pricing, spreads and account options.

Professional trading accounts

For clients that are more experienced, some brokers offer the option to apply for a “professional account”. Professional trading accounts offer greater leverage (so you can trade more with less), and in some cases, discounted fees. However, there are disadvantages to them as some do not come with negative balance protection. To qualify to trade with professional trading accounts, you will have to prove that you can answer yes to two of these questions:

  1. Has your trading averaged 10 significantly-sized leverage transactions per quarter over the last 4 quarters?
  2. Do you have a financial instrument portfolio, including cash deposits, exceeding €500,000?
  3. Have you worked in the financial sector in a professional position, requiring knowledge of derivatives trading, for at least a year?

In our awards the winner of the trading platform with the best professional trading account option has been:

For more information on pro trading read our guide to the best professional trading accounts.

Best online trading platforms for scalping

Scalping is a type of trading where traders buy and sell positions quickly in order to take small profits and losses.

We’ve covered in greater detail which brokers offer scalping and what it is here, but essentially the best brokers for scalping offer direct market access, and hedged CFDs such as:

  1. Saxo Markets – DMA futures & options
  2. IG – Hedged CFD & spread betting
  3. Interactive Brokers – commission-based CFD trading

Physical share trading platforms

Physical trading simply means buying shares outright, usually for the purposes of long-term capital growth or investing for income from dividends. Compared to trading on margin, physical investing is considered lower-risk than spread betting or CFD trading. However, it is important to note that all investing comes with risk, no matter how safe it may seem.

Different types of investing platforms offer different features, fees, and have their own advantages. Compare investment platforms to choose an investment broker that is right for your needs.

The best online trading platforms that offer physical share dealing as well as CFDs and spread betting are:

  1. Saxo Markets – general investing, SIPPs and stocks and shares ISAs
  2. IG – general investing account as well as stocks and shares ISAs
  3. Interactive Brokers – general investing account

For more information about investing in stocks rather than speculating on them, read our guide to the best investing accounts here.

Financial spread betting trading platforms

Financial spread betting is a type of financial trading that is technically structured as a bet and therefore not eligible for capital gains tax. This means that any profits you make through financial spread betting are tax-free. However, where there are potential tax advantages, there are also high chances of losses, which can exceed your initial deposit.

Find out more about how to spread bet and find a spread betting platform that is best for you from our comparison tables.

In our awards the best spread betting broker winner over the last four years has been:

  • 2021: CMC Markets – excellent sentiment tools, publically listed and innovative
  • 2020: IG – widest range of spread betting markets as well as IPO grey markets
  • 2019: Spreadex – small-cap spread betting personal service from a experienced professional team
  • 2018: IG – huge range of markets, as well as investment and ISA accounts

To see which spread betting platform offers the most markets and compare spreads read our guide to the best spread betting brokers here.

CFD trading platforms

CFDs or Contracts for difference are similar to financial spread betting as they offer leverage but include advantages such as direct market access. CFDs do not have the tax benefits of spread betting and are a global trading product. Understanding how to trade CFDs successfully before you begin can help you to avoid making costly errors. CFDs are generally suitable for more sophisticated investors, and choosing the right CFD broker can also make a big difference to your CFD trading success.

In our awards the winners of best CFD trading platform have been:

  • 2021: Saxo Markets – DMA CFD trading on the widest range of markets for experienced traders
  • 2020: Saxo Markets – provides one of the most comprehensive CFD offerings in the UK with a robust trading platform and DMA access to international markets for experienced traders. Here’s our full 2020 Saxo Capital Markets review.
  • 2019: Saxo Markets – continues to provide an excellent CFD offering through their proprietary trading platform with DMA, CFD options, level-2 pricing, research tools, and voice execution support.
  • 2018: Saxo Markets – an excellent trading platform with DMA, CFD options, level-2 pricing, and research tools

For more information on which CFD broker is right for you read our analysis of the best CFD brokers here.

Futures & Options trading platforms

Futures and options are more for professional traders and investors, as the minimum lot size of a future can often be in the tens of thousands of pounds. They are also more popular for US traders, where financial spread betting and CFDs are not permitted.

Buying options enable you to limit your risk on a trade to the premium you pay. However, writing options can also result in unlimited losses, so the criteria for being allowed professional trading accounts are quite stringent.

There are differences to consider, so read our how to trade futures and how to trade options guides, which explain the nuances of the trading types.

For more information on futures and options accounts, compare options trading platforms through our comparison or check and compare futures brokers.

In our awards the best futures and options trading platforms have been:

  • 2021: Saxo Markets – maintains a low cost, transparent futures and options trading platform for professional and instititional traders
  • 2020: Interactive Brokers – scored top marks among professional traders for their futures and options trading platform in our online trading 2020 survey. Here’s our Interactive Brokers review.
  • 2019: Saxo Markets – continues to provide excellent on-exchange futures and options trading through their proprietary trading platform.
  • 2018: Saxo Markets

We provide costing and access ranking for the best futures trading platforms on our comparison page here and have a separate guide to the best options trading platforms here.

Forex trading plaforms

Forex trading is one of the most popular forms of online trading, with EURUSD, USDJPY and GBPUSD being the most commonly traded currency pairs. The currency markets are the largest in the world by traded volume but are also one of the riskiest and hardest to understand.

Understanding how to trade forex before you begin is very important to your success, and knowing the potential risks and rewards of currency trading in advance can help you to plan your strategy effectively.

Choosing a forex broker is an important step, and using our forex broker comparison can help you understand the different features each currency broker offers and how to choose the one that is right for you.

In our awards the best Forex trading platforms have been:

  • 2021: XTB – a wide range of currency pairs, basket trading and innovative trading tools
  • 2020: CMC Markets – continues to provide an innovative online forex trading platform with some unique sentiment tools and over 300 forex pairs via CFDs or financial spread bets. Get the latest from CMC Markets in our review.
  • 2019: IG – huge range of fx pairs, options, orders types, market data, research and excellent customer service
  • 2018: Saxo Markets – wide range of FX pairs, tight spreads, FX futures, FX options, and currency ETFs

For a breakdown of which brokers offer the best trading platform for forex read our analysis here.

Index trading platforms

If you want to speculate on the price of global stock markets, index trading combines stocks and indices so you can effectively trade multiple stocks at once with a broker that offers indices trading. Our comparison can help you find the best broker to trade indices.

The most common indices for trading are the FTSE 100, DAX 30 and S&P 500. For more information, read our how to trade indices guide to see why the FTSE 100, DAX 30 and S&P 500 are so popular.

Trading platforms ranked by which one offers the most indices to trade are:

  1. Spreadex – 37
  2. IG – 34
  3. Saxo Markets – 23
  4. – 23
  5. CMC Markets – 22
  6. City Index – 21
  7. Pepperstone – 16
  8.  – 10

Commodities trading platforms

Whilst commodities were the original markets for farmers to lock in prices for their upcoming harvests, commodities trading is now accessible to many online traders.

Trading commodities has its own pros and cons, and understanding the best commodities to trade and how to do so effectively can help your trading. Commodities brokers vary in what they offer for private clients and professional traders. Our commodities broker comparison shows you clearly what features each commodities broker offers, how you can trade commodities, and can help you decide which is the best broker for your needs.

Trading platforms ranked by which one offers the most commodities for trading are:

  1. IG – 38
  2. CMC Markets – 33
  3. 28
  4. City Index – 25
  5. Pepperstone – 23
  6. Spreadex – 21 
  7. Saxo Markets – 19
  8. – 10

For more information on where to trade commodities, read our guide to the best commodities brokers.

Fixed-income trading platforms (treasuries)

There is a big difference between investing in fixed-income investments like bonds and speculating on interest rates. Treasuries can be traded through futures, options, and CFDs, mainly by professional speculators based on economic events.

Understanding this difference and knowing the pros and cons of bond investing upfront can be important to your success. Our educational article on how to invest in bonds explains more.

Use our bond broker comparison tables to choose from a list of UK-regulated brokers.

Stock trading platforms

Also known as equities or shares, stock trading is probably the easiest type of online trading, as the companies that form part of the major indices are well known, with an almost constant newsflow and regular market updates and results announcements. To understand the key elements of stock trading, read how to invest in stocks and use our table to compare stock brokers to see which brokers offer the most comprehensive stockbroking service.

Trading platforms ranked by which ones offer the most stocks for trading:

  1. Saxo Markets – 19,000
  2. IG – 16,000
  3. CMC Markets – 9,000
  4. Spreadex – 5,000
  5. City Index – 4,500
  6. – 1,000
  7. Pepperstone – 600

You can compare the best trading platforms for buying stocks here.

Trading platforms that offer Cryptocurrency investing

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

Online trading platform reviews

Our industry survey and broker reviews can help you find out what other traders like about the brokers you are considering, what popular features they offer, and which brokers offer award-winning customer service or trading platforms.

If you are a beginner, you should be very careful when choosing a broker because trading online is very risky. Before you choose a broker, make sure you have read all of our reviews, which include client satisfaction surveys and feedback from real traders.

When looking for a broker for online trading, there is not really a single solution or one broker that is better than all of the others. Certain brokers are better at and offer different features than the others, meaning the best broker can depend upon what you want to trade.

Some brokers will only offer access to the top ten traded instruments in each market, whilst others will offer thousands of instruments in each asset class. However, the brokers that have a smaller market coverage may be cheaper for those markets, compared to brokers that offer a wider selection.

You will have to weigh up whether you will stick to a small universe of the most popular traded assets on discounted rates, or if you are happy to pay a little bit more in trading costs to have the flexibility to trade everything from one platform.

IG Trading Account Review

ig reviewIG offers various retail trading accounts, there are separate Spread Betting and CFD accounts, and accounts that combine spread betting, CFD trading and physical share dealing.

In terms of choosing the right account, it’s best to think about how and what you are going to be trading.

For example, Spread Betting offers potential tax advantages over CFD trading but only to individual UK taxpayers, and then only if you are profitable.

If you have medium to long term time horizons as part of your strategy then share dealing rather than margin trading may be more appropriate and so on.

IG offers 17,000 markets in totals including equity indices, FX, commodities, bonds, individual stocks, as well as futures and options on these. It’s also possible to trade UK and international stocks and ETFs in a physical format rather than as margin trades or bets.

As such IG has one of the most comprehensive product offerings 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.

Read our full IG review

CMC Markets Trading Account Review

CMC clients can choose between CFD and Spread Betting accounts. They can access and trade, or bet on, more than 10,000 markets through the firm. These markets cover stock indices, commodities, FX, individual equities and ETFs, government bonds and thematic baskets of shares.

Alongside its retail accounts, CMC offers professional and corporate trading accounts, as well as institutional trading services, through its CMC Connect division.

CMC Markets coverage is smaller than peers such as IG and Saxo Markets but for most practical purposes 10,000 different markets should be more than sufficient.

CMC is very much a technology-driven business that aims to offer institutional-grade tools and platforms to all its customers.

Read our full CMC Markets review

Spreadex Trading Account Review

Spreadex TradingThe 10,000 plus markets, that Spreadex offers include equity indices, Forex, commodities, stocks and ETFs. As well as bonds and interest rates. Spreadex also offers a range of options over leading stock indices and commodities such as gold, silver and crude oil, plus UK and US shares. Spreadex may also make options prices on other markets on request. Options can be traded with the firm either online or over the phone.

Read our full Spreadex review Trading Account Review have a wide range of equity indices, stocks, ETFs, bonds and commodities. As well as what calls blends, thematic stock baskets that track well know traders and market themes.

The product range is not as extensive as some of its peers for example IG and Saxo have a far wider range of instruments but for most generalist traders the offering should be sufficient. tries to offer its customers a more personalised service than many of its peers by for example providing traders with a range of free analytical and research tools, many of which can be accessed directly from the trading platform.

Read our full review

City Index Trading Account Review

City Index’s free desktop trading platform is web-based, meaning there is nothing to download you simply log in using your credentials and the platform opens in your internet browser.

You navigate around the platform using a menu of tabs at the top of the screen which includes titles such as browse markets, market analysis, platform settings etc.

You can create and customise your own workspaces and layouts adding quotes, charts and news as required. However, you can also use City’s Market 360 feature to create a topdown view of an instrument in one click which contains charts, quotes, news and product information all in one place.

Doing this also allows you to toggle through the instruments that populate your watchlist.

You can trade or place pending 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 tab.

City Index offers separate trading and Spread Betting accounts though clients can choose to combine those activities within a single account if they wish to.

Existing customers can also add CFDs or Spread betting to their account, by simply applying for the required additional account, which will then be linked to their active account. Account applications can be made online and if CIty Index can verify you electronically your account could be opened immediately.

City Index offers more than 12,000 markets to its clients including equity indices, shares and ETFs, alongside commodities and FX. Their services are aimed at all types of traders from newbies and novices, through to experts

Overall the platform is very intuitive to use and it has a clean, clearly laid out interface which most users will like.

Read our full City Index review

Saxo Markets Trading Account Review

saxo capital makets reviewSaxo Markets has traditionally catered for traders and sophisticated investors. They offer leveraged trading on thousands of instruments including stocks, futures, FX, indices and commodities. Most of the trading activities is channeled electronically and online via Saxo TraderGo/Pro platforms.

With Saxo Bank, you can under certain qualifications increase your exposure to the underlying instruments significantly via CFD (Contract for Differences – GoodMoneyGuide) or margin accounts. For FX trading, Saxo has access to competitive rates and so the spreads, under normal conditions, are fairly tight. You can trade FX spot, forwards and some options.

To be profitable in trading often requires a good execution capability, with minimum slippage and low transaction costs. On some of these aspects, Saxo generally does well. Limit Orders for USDJPY, for example, shows no slippage for 70% of the orders according to some Saxo aggregate statistics in February.

Saxo has three different tiers of trading account – Classic, Platinum and VIP. Classic is the most basic whilst the latter requires at least £1 million in funding where traders will have access to the tightest spreads and dedicated Saxo service. Leverage services are catered for designated professional traders (min E500,000 in funds).

You can apply for a designated Professional account (see FSA’s COBS 3.5) provided you meet certain conditions, such as two of the following:

  • Have a financial portfolio that exceeds €500,000
  • Have placed at least 10 relevant trades in significant sizes over the last four quarters
  • Work, or have worked, in the financial sector for at least one year

A professional account gives you the benefit of tighter spreads and access to a deeper margin facility. But obviously, the risk is much higher when trading leverage increases. Even for deep-pocketed accounts, excessive leverage can wipe out the entire capital base – like Archegos Capital recently.

Read our full Saxo Markets review


Online Trading Platform FAQs:

What do you need to start online trading?

To start online trading, you need an online trading account, funds to trade with, and an understanding of how the financial markets work.

What is the best online trading platform?

To find the best online trading platform, compare brokers in our online trading comparison table.

What are margin rates in online trading?

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.

Can I open a trading account online?

Yes, all the online trading platforms in our comparison tables offer online account opening.

Can I make money trading online?

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.

Is online trading safe?

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.

Is online trading legit?

Yes, as long as you use an FCA regualted broker

What is a level-2 trading platform?

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.

What is the MT5 trading platform?

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.

What is a copy trading platform?

A copy trading platform is a type of trading platform that lets traders copy the trades of other traders.

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