How did Trading Brokers choose our best stock brokers?
Following on from our list of the best stock brokers of 2020, we will now look at what factors we deem are amongst the most important when you are looking for an online stock broker.
What makes a good stock broker?
Some of the key factors that you should consider when choosing an online stock brokerage include:
Stock broker regulation
One of the most important things to be aware of is if the stock broker is regulated in the jurisdictions in which they offer their online trading services to. Some of the most popular regulators to be aware of are the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK.
Not only is it vital to check that the broker is regulated, you should verify that the regulation is up to date by checking the brokers licenses number with the relevant regulator. Different regulators have a different set of rules and restrictions although most are put in place by the government to protect investors interests. Choosing an online stock broker that is regulated can give you account protection that you may not get with an unregulated offshore brokerage firm.
Stock broker trading platforms
There are a variety of different stock trading platforms available for trading stocks online. Some brokers will offer their own in house developed proprietary stock trading platforms whilst others will have licensed platforms such as the popular MetaTrader platform. It is imperative to choose a stock broker that either offers a stock trading platform which you are already familiar with or a platform that has an intuitive user interface so that it is easy to use.
It would also be worth considering if all of the trading instruments that you wish to have in your trading portfolio are offered through the platform. You should make sure that it will be compatible with the devices you wish to use it on. Some online traders will need mobile stock trading platforms for trading on the go. If this is the case, ensure there is a version of the platform that is compatible with your mobile device.
Finally, the best stock brokers will usually provide video and tutorial guides to help new traders learn how to use the trading platforms available to them.
Online stock brokers will usually offer a range of individual stocks and stock indices for trading online. If you have any particular stock instruments in mind that you wish to include within your trading portfolio then you should ensure that it is offered by the broker. Some brokers will offer more instruments than others, thus it could be a good idea to consider if you wish to diversify in the future what other stocks and markets (forex, cryptos, commodities, etc) they provide.
Stock broker commissions
When trading stocks online through a stock trading platform, you may be required to pay commission fees for taking, maintaining and exiting your positions. Stock trading commission fees will need to be factored into your overall money management and trading strategy, along with other online trading costs.
You should clarify all of the applicable commission charges and compare brokers to see which will save you the most in stock trading fees over the long term. It is worth noting that some online stock brokers will offer commission free trading but compensate for this by having other additional costs such as monthly fees for using their stock trading platforms or spread mark-ups.
Stock broker spreads
Most online stock brokers will charge a spread when you place trades on their stock trading platforms. The spread is the difference between the buy and sell price of the underlying asset that is being bought or sold. It is important to consider the cost of spreads in your trading strategy, especially if day trading stocks as the spreads can quickly add up.
Some stock brokers will get their spreads direct from liquidity providers (LPs) without any interference. Usually, the deeper and more diverse the brokers liquidity pools are, the tighter the spreads will be. Other online stock brokers act as market makers and will take the opposite side of your trade instead of putting it directly through to the LPs. This particular type of “dealing desk” stock broker will usually add a mark up to spreads in order to cover costs.
Stock broker leverage
Online stock brokerages will usually offer leveraged trading on stocks CFDs. Leverage basically enables you to enter a position larger than your account would be capable of opening without it. Whilst this can seem like an attractive proposition, trading leveraged stocks also increases risk. E.g. If your stock broker account has $5,000 of equity available and 1:5 leverage, you would be able to take a position size of $25,000 (5,000 x 5 = 25,000). You should opt for a leverage that you feel comfortable with as each stock trader will have a different risk appetite.
Stock broker order types
Stock trading platforms should support a variety of different order types. Order types include market execution (instant), pending orders, limit orders, trailing stops, break evens, etc. If your online stock trading strategy requires specific order types, ensure that the broker you are considering supports these order types via their stock trading platforms.
Stock broker trading tools & educational resources
Some of the best stock brokers will have an abundance of trading tools and educational resources to help traders of all experience levels with the efficiency of their online trading and to increase their overall stock trading knowledge. It is in the best interest of the brokers to offer the tools that will enable you to be successful and to keep using their online trading services.
Beginners may wish to check that there are educational guides which can familiarise them with stock market whereas the intermediate to advanced traders may require specialist trading tools for conducting thorough market analysis. These tools can include technical indicators, economic reports, sentiment analysis, trading calculators and more. If you require any specific tools or would find them beneficial, check that they are offered to traders by the stock broker and if they are free or come at an additional cost.
Stock broker funding methods
You will find that different stock brokers will have different methods of making deposits and withdrawals from your online brokerage account. Whilst most will provide bank transfer and debit/credit cards, others will have online payment processor options such as Skrill, Neteller, PayPal, etc. Check that they have an account funding option that is convenient to you along with the costs to make deposits and withdrawals, if any.
Stock broker customer service
No matter how experienced the stock trader is, at some point they will need quick and efficient customer support for technical or general questions. Check what options are available to contact customer support along with the hours they are available and office locations. If you are located in Europe, you would ideally want them to have a European office or provide support 24 hours day if they are located outside of the EU. Ensure that support is available in your language and the different ways to contact them are suitable for your needs. The best stock brokers will usually offer online chat which can be more convenient to some traders rather than trying to reach them via telephone or email.
What is an online stock broker?
An online stock broker acts as the intermediary between you the trader and the exchange where the stocks are traded. Most brokers will not just offer online stock trading but also other trading instruments such as forex, commodities, metals, energies, cryptocurrencies, bonds, options, ETFs and more. Online stock brokers enable traders around the world to buy and sell stocks of global companies directly from the stock trading platforms they provide that run on desktop, web and mobile devices. This makes online stock trading easily accessible to anyone. You just need an online stock brokerage account with a broker of your choice and to download their stock trading platform. Once you have opened an account, you can add funds to it using a choice of convenient funding options and speculate on if stock prices will go up or down by analysing charts, placing and managing trades via the stock trading platforms.
What are stocks?
In simplest terms, stocks are an investment within a company. The stock of a company is made up of all the shares from which the ownership is divided between shareholders. Investors can buy and sell shares of a particular company to speculate in the price fluctuation of the stock. A single share of the stock represents fractional ownership of the corporation in proportion to the total number of shares. A person that holds shares of stocks is called a shareholder. The total value of a companies issued stocks is known as market capitalisation. The price of a share can change depending on economic factors, company performance and investor sentiment. When a company goes public and offers its stock for the first time, this is referred to as an initial public offering (IPO). Companies will often sell shares in their business in order to raise capital for growth, expansion or to clear debt. Any company profits can be shared between stockholders through the issuing of a dividend or they can use profits to reinvest. Stocks that frequently issue dividends are called income stocks whereas companies who reinvest profits are called growth stocks. Some of the most popular stocks trade online include Adidas, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Nike, Netflix, NVIDIA, Tesla, Vodafone, Uber, Walt Disney, etc.
What are CFD stocks?
Most online stock brokerages will offer trading on stock CFDs. A contract for difference (CFD) is a popular form of online trading that enables the investor to speculate on the rising or falling prices of a particular global financial market without actually owning the underlying asset. Some of the popular online CFD trading markets include stocks, forex, indices, commodities, cryptocurrencies and more.
What is CFD stock trading?
When you trade CFDs, you are not buying or selling the underlying asset (for example a physical share, gold bar, diamond, currency pair, etc), Instead you are buying or selling a chosen number of units for a particular financial instrument to speculate on the price, depending on whether you think prices will go up or down. For example, if you think the price of a particular stock CFD may increase, then you may consider buying units in that stocks CFD. For every point that the price of the instrument moves in your favour, you will make a gain. For every point the price moves against you, you will make a loss. You can choose to set an upper or lower price level (stop loss & take profit) in which to close the CFD trade or exit manually. Amongst the benefits of online stock CFD trading are that brokerages will offer leveraged trading and you can go short (sell) if you think prices will go down or go long (buy) if you think prices will rise. Overall, CFD stock trading is much more accessible to anyone who has a trading account with an online stock broker. You can read in more detail about CFD trading on our best CFD brokers page.
How much money do I need to start trading stocks online?
You can start trading stocks online with just $1 depending on the minimum deposit that your chosen online stock brokerage requires. Due to the risks involved with trading stocks online or any other trading instruments, you should only ever trade with what you can afford and feel comfortable with as there are no guarantees in trading online.
Can you make money trading stocks online?
Successful online stock trading can take years of practice. Stock trading requires immense dedication, patience and discipline. According to our thousands of hours of in-depth research across hundreds of online stock brokers, most online stock traders actually lose money.
How to open an online stock trading account?
Simply choose an online stock broker, follow the trading account opening process and you will be able to start trading stocks online through one of their stock trading platforms.