The best trading platforms let you speculate on the world’s financial markets through derivatives with leverage by spread betting or CFDs. We have ranked and reviewed some of the best trading platforms and compared them by market access, added value and trading fees so you can choose the best trading platform for your trading.
Best Trading Platforms
Our picks for the online trading platforms are based on over 7,000 votes in our annual awards, our own experiences testing the accounts as well as an in-depth comparison of the features that make them stand out compared to alternatives.
- City Index – best trading platform 2022
- Interactive Brokers – most appropriate for sophisticated traders
- CMC Markets – excellent sentiment trading tools
- Pepperstone – huge package of indicators for MT4/MT5
- Saxo Markets – professional OTC & DMA (direct market access) platform
- IG – widest range of market access
- Spreadex – smaller trading platform with excellent customer service
Trading Platform Reviews
Our methodology for reviewing trading platforms: When we review trading platforms, we open real accounts, deposit funds and trade in a live environment on major and exotic markets. We also interview the CEOs so we can highlight unique features that traders may not be aware of, we list the pros and cons of each account, what you can trade in, how much it costs, and how they compare to the competition as well as tell you who they are most appropriate for so you can choose the best account for your trading.
City Index Trading Platform
✔️ Trading signals
✔️ Post-trade analysis
✔️ Wide range of markets
✔️ UK based
❌ No DMA
❌ No investment options
❌ No futures & options
City Index Trading Platform Review
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 give a good idea of some additional trading opportunities.
City Index’s trading platform offers more than 12,000 markets to its clients including 21 equity indices, over 10,000 UK and international shares and ETFs, 25 commodities, and 84 FX pairs.
Founded in 1983 City Index has a strong and longstanding presence in online trading, where 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, meaning 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 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.
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 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.
Overall the 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 to experienced traders executing large orders and needing post-trade analytics.
74% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider
Interactive Brokers Trading Platform
✔️ Institutional trading tools
✔️ Wide range of order types
✔️ Excellent research and analysis
✔️ Investment account options
✔️ Very low cost trading platform
❌ Desktop version too advanced for beginners
❌ Customer service slow
❌ US based
IBKR Trading Platform Review
The IBKR trading platform is exceptionally good for sophisticated trading. It offers by far the most access to the most markets through DMA and CFDs and offers 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 and his team) that cover trading strategy, you can 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 was the pioneer of the online trading industry and remains one of the best all-round trading platforms for sophisticated investors and traders.
60% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider
CMC Markets Trading Platform
✔️ Excellent sentiment tools
✔️ Wide range of markets
✔️ Tights spreads and low costs
❌ No investment account
❌ Limited shares on offer
❌ No DMA equities trading
CMC Markets Trading Platform Review
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 found when testing the platform were the share baskets, where 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 and share baskets can be quicker to market than ETFs, meaning as a trader you can take advantage of moves quicker than other 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 IG, CMC Markets trading platform feels a bit more professional, it has the classic black background, more flashing lights and 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.
66% of retail investor accounts lose money when spread betting and/or trading CFDs with this provider
Pepperstone Trading Platform
✔️ Tight spreads
✔️ Fast execution
✔️ Good MT4/MT5 trader tools
❌ Limited shares on offer
❌ No investment accounts
❌ Major markets only
Pepperstone Trading Platform Review
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 tried both trading platforms that Pepperstone offers, MT4/5 and cTrader. 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 and which 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 mark up, but is built into the spread.
Overall, Pepperstone’s MT4 is a good option for traders that want to automate their trading or have a basic account with very low costs.
79.3% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading spread bets and CFDs with this provider
IG Trading Platform
✔️ Biggest market range
✔️ High levels of liquidity
✔️ DMA accounts
✔️ Investment accounts
❌ Customer service can be slow
❌ No futures and options
❌ Almost too big
IG Trading Platform Review
IG remains at the forefront of the online trading industry and has one of the best 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 and 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.
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, for example, there is no facility for automated trading strategies. Though 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.
Compared to other trading platforms IG’s pricing is always competitive, they are by no means the cheapest trading platform, 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.
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.
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.
Your capital is at risk. 73% of retail CFD accounts lose money
Saxo Markets Trading Platform
✔️ Professional-grade trading platform
✔️ Integrated research and analysis
✔️ Excellent market range
✔️ Investment account options
❌ Maybe too advanced for beginners
❌ Fees not built into the spread
❌ High minimum deposit
Saxo Markets Trading Platform Review
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 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 business 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.
70% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider
Markets.com Trading Platform
✔️ Blends and sector trading
✔️ Hegde fund sentiment analysis
✔️ TipRanks Integrated
❌ No investment accounts
❌ Analysis limited to US stocks
❌ HQ not in the UK
Markets.com Trading Platform Review
Markets.com MarketX 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 website 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 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 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.
77% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider
Spreadex Trading Platform
✔️ Excellent reputation and service
✔️ Sports trading also available
✔️ Smaller personal brokerage
❌ No investment accounts
❌ Some may be put off by sports
❌ Limited order types
Spreadex Trading Platform Review
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 the trading platform it remains is simple yet effective. It has been entirely developed in-house from St Albans, just outside of London, you can trade directly from charts on the platform and 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 to you 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 trading platform for those that know what they are doing and just want a tap and trade trading platform, that is backed up by experienced dealers, from established and trusted UK brokerage.
69% of retail investors lose money when trading spread bets and CFDs with this provider
XTB Trading Platform
✔️ Ability to create your own baskets
✔️ Good webinars and education
✔️ Zero commission trading
❌ No investment accounts
❌ Can seem complicated
❌ HQ is not in the UK
XTB Trading Platform Review
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 Morning star 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.
77% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider
Compare Trading Platforms
Use our online trading platform account comparison to compare each provider by account types, what you can trade in, and fees. We only include providers that are authorised and regulated by the FCA where your funds are protected under the FSCS and where customers have voted for them in our awards survey.
In this section you can also compare trading platforms:
|Trading Platform||Trading Platform||Active Clients||Minimum Deposit||Founded||Inactivity Fee||Public Company||Client Loss %|
|City Index||126,000||100||1983||£12 per month||✔️||70%|
|CMC Markets||308,644||0||1989||£10 per month||✔️||66%|
|Saxo Markets||525,000||0||1992||£25 per quarter||❌||70%|
|Markets.com||11,000||100||2008||£10 per month||❌||77%|
|IG||313,000||£250||1974||£12 per month||✔️||73%|
|FXTM||n/a||$50||2011||$5 per month||❌||77%|
|XTB||447,000||0||2002||€10 per month||✔️||77%|
Use our side-by-side trading platform account comparison to compare the best trading platform by pricing, market access, account types and services.
Fees & Spreads Comparison
Use our trading platform spreads and fees comparison to see which brokers offer the best spreads and cheapest pricing for trading the top ten traded markets.
|Trading Platform||Trading Platform||FTSE 100||DAX 30||US30||NASDAQ||S&P 500||EURUSD||GBPUSD||USDJPY||Gold||Crude Oil||UK Shares||US Stocks|
|City Index||1||1.2||3.5||1||0.4||0.5||0.9||0.6||0.8||0.3||0.008||$0.018 per share|
|CMC Markets||1||1||2||1||0.5||0.7||0.9||0.7||0.3||3||0.001||$0.02 per share|
|Pepperstone||1||0.9||2.4||1||0.4||0.09||0.28||0.14||0.5||2||0.001||$0.02 per share|
|Saxo Markets||1||1||3||1||0.5||0.6||0.7||0.6||0.6||0.5||0.0005||$0.01 per share|
Market Access Comparison
Use our trading platform market access comparison to see which brokers offer access to the most markets in total and broken down by indices, forex, commodities, stocks and UK & US shares.
Account Type Comparison
Use our trading platform account type comparison to see which brokers offer the right type of account for your trading. You can see which of the best trading platform offer CFDs, spread betting, forex, futures, options DMA and investing.
|Trading Platform||CFDs||Spread Betting||DMA||Professional||Investments||Futures & Options|
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.
Choosing An Online Trading Platform
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, or Here’s a ten-step guide to the major points you should consider to help find a good trading broker including:
- Market access
- Account types
- Risk appetite
- Safety of funds
- Transparent costs
- Added value, analysis and education
- Demo account
- Customer support & voice brokerage
- Margin rates
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.
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. The main ways to speculate through online trading are:
- Financial Spread Betting
- Forex Trading
- Social & Copy Trading
- Index Trading
- Commodities Trading
- Futures Trading
- Options Trading
- DMA Trading
- Professional Trading Accounts
- MT4 Trading
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.
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.
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.
Safety of Funds
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.
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.
Added Value, Analysis & Education
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.
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.
Customer Support & 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.
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.
Different Types of Online Trading Platforms:
The main ways to speculate through online trading are:
CFD (Contracts for Difference)
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:
- 2022: Saxo Markets – Wins again because of DMA access, low costs and range of markets.
- 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.
Financial Spread Betting
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.
In our awards the best spread betting broker winner over the last four years has been:
- 2022: IG – best liquidity and range of markets
- 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.
Social & Copy Trading
A copy trading platform is a type of trading platform that lets traders copy the trades of other traders. Automatically copy the positions and portfolios of other traders. Use our comparison tables to compare FCA regulated social trading brokers in the UK.
Futures & Options
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.
In our awards the best futures and options trading platforms have been:
- 2022: Saxo Marktes won best futures broker for it’s support and service. IBKR won best options broker as they offer an exceptional options trading facility.
- 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.
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:
- Saxo Markets – general investing, SIPPs and stocks and shares ISAs
- IG – general investing account as well as stocks and shares ISAs
- 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.
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.
DMA & Pro Accounts
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 – Professional trading accounts offer reduced fees and improved margin rates for experienced and high-net-worth traders with the relevant trading experience and risk appetite.
Popular Markets On Online Trading Platforms
The main markets for online trading are:
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:
- Saxo Markets – 19,000
- IG – 16,000
- CMC Markets – 9,000
- Spreadex – 5,000
- City Index – 4,500
- Capital.com – 1,000
- Pepperstone – 600
You can compare the best trading platforms for buying stocks here.
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.
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:
- IG – 38
- CMC Markets – 33
- Capital.com 28
- City Index – 25
- Pepperstone – 23
- Spreadex – 21
- Saxo Markets – 19
- Markets.com – 10
For more information on where to trade commodities, read our guide to the best commodities brokers.
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:
- Spreadex – 37
- IG – 34
- Saxo Markets – 23
- Capital.com – 23
- CMC Markets – 22
- City Index – 21
- Pepperstone – 16
- Markets.com 10
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.
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 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 the most established broker for online trading in the UK?
Here are some of the biggest online trading platforms regulated in the UK and ranked by when they were established
- IG (1974)
- Interactive Brokers (1978)
- City Index (1983)
- CMC Markets (1989)
- Saxo Markets (1992)
- Spreadex (1999)
- Markets.com (2008)
- Pepperstone (2010)
- Capital.com (2016)
What is scalping in online trading?
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:
- Saxo Markets – DMA futures & options
- IG – Hedged CFD & spread betting
- Interactive Brokers – commission-based CFD trading
CFD Trading Tips
Financial Spread Betting
Trading Platform Reviews
CMC Markets Reviews
Saxo Markets Reviews
Interactive Brokers Reviews
City Index Reviews