How to compare online trading brokers?
Traders rely on the services of an online trading broker to trade the markets. With new brokers constantly coming online, choosing the best broker for your needs requires a lot of research and patience. To save you time and help new traders, we have identified some of the key aspects that every trader must evaluate when choosing a trading broker.
Online brokers regulatory authority
It is important to know in which country the online broker operates from and if they have regulation from the relevant authorities. Not all regulations and licenses give the same protection. It would be a good idea to look up and verify the brokers regulatory license.
The most trusted and reliable brokers are regulated which ensures that they must operate with the upmost transparency and fairness. These regulatory authorities are to protect the interest of traders whilst upholding the rules that dictate how brokers should conduct their operations. They monitor the activity of brokers under their jurisdictions to prevent abuse, fraud and manipulations. The regulatory authorities you should look for are:
- Australia: Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) and Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL)
- Austria: Austrian Financial Market Authority (FMA)
- Bahamas: Securities Commission of The Bahamas (SCB)
- Belarus: National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB)
- Belize: International Financial Services Commission of Belize (IFSC)
- British Virgin Islands: British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission (BVI)
- Bulgaria: Financial Supervision Commission (FSC)
- Canada: Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF), Investment Industry Regulatory Organisation of Canada (IIROC)
- Cayman Islands: Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (CIMA) and Securities Investment Business Law (SIBL)
- Croatia: Croatian Financial Services Supervisory Agency (HANFA)
- Cyprus: Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC)
- Czech Republic: Czech National Bank (CNB)
- Denmark: Danish Financial Supervisory Authority (DFSA)
- Dubai: Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA), Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC)
- Estonia: Estonian Financial Supervision Authority (EFSA)
- Finland: Finnish Financial Supervisory Authority (FIN-FSA)
- France: Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF), French Prudential Supervision and Resolution Authority (ACPR), The Financial Agents Register (Regafi)
- Germany: Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht (BaFin)
- Greece: Hellenic Capital Market Commission (HCMC)
- Hong Kong: Securities & Futures Commission (SFC)
- Hungary: Hungarian National Bank (MNB)
- Iceland: Financial Supervisory Authority of Iceland (FME)
- India: Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI)
- Ireland: Central Bank of Ireland (CBOI)
- Italy: Commissione Nazionale per le Società e la Borsa (CONSOB)
- Japan: Financial Services Agency (JFSA)
- Latvia: Financial and Capital Market Commission (FCMC)
- Liechtenstein: Financial Market Authority Liechtenstein (FMAL)
- Lithuania: Central Bank of the Republic of Lithuania (CBRL)
- Luxembourg: Financial Sector Supervisory Commission (CSSF)
- Malta: Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA)
- Mauritius: Financial Services Commission (FSC)
- Netherlands: Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM), Dutch Central Bank (DNB)
- New Zealand: Financial Markets Authority (FMA), Financial Services Provider Registry (FSPR) and Financial Services Complaints Limited (FSCL)
- Norway: Financial Supervisory Authority of Norway (NFSA)
- Poland: Komisja Nadzoru Finansowego (KNF)
- Portugal: Portuguese Securities Markets Commission (CMVM)
- Romania: Romanian Financial Supervisory Authority (ASF)
- Seychelles: Seychelles Financial Services Authority (FSA)
- Singapore: Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)
- Slovakia: Central Bank of the Slovak Republic (NBS)
- Slovenia: Slovenian Securities Market Agency (ATVP)
- South Africa: Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) and Financial Services Board (FSB)
- Spain: Comision Nacional del Mercado de Valores (CNMV)
- St. Vincent and the Grenadines: Financial Services Authority St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVGFSA)
- Sweden: Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority (SFSA)
- Switzerland: Swiss Federal Banking Commission (SFBC), Swiss Federal Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA)
- Turkey: Capital Markets Board of Turkey (CMB)
- United Arab Emirates (UAE): Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA)
- United Kingdom: Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA)
- United States: National Futures Association (NFA), Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)
- Vanuatu: Vanuatu Financial Services Commission (VFSC)
Many regulators have an investor compensation scheme that will protect deposits up to a certain amount if the broker was to become insolvent and overly exposed to the markets. This gives added peace of mind to clients. All brokers listed on this website must be regulated, some will be regulated by more than one regulatory authority.
UK brokers must comply with the strict regulation and compliance guidelines of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Australian brokers must be registered with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC). US brokers need to be registered with the National Futures Association (NFA) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). When choosing a broker, it is best practice to make sure that they are regulated by one of the major regulatory authorities.
Online brokers company profile
It is a wise idea to check how long the broker has been providing its services and how proven their track record is. You should read all agreements with a fine-tooth comb as part of the due diligence process.
Online brokers location
Wherever you live in the world you will want to ensure that the broker offers its services in your country. Some jurisdictions have tougher rules/regulations than others and this can place some obstacles in your way when opening a trading account.
Our trading broker reviews contain brokers that allow traders across the globe the hassle-free opening of a trading account, the funding of that account and the withdrawing of any earnings. We include brokers in the United States, UK, Australia and the rest of the world. You can use our broker comparison tool to identify brokers who offer services to your country.
The location can impact the regulatory authority of a broker. Trading brokers located in the United States, UK and Australia who are regulated, have some of the strictest regulation rules that they must follow which make them a popular choice amongst traders
Online brokers markets
Each online trading broker will offer a wide range of different markets for you to trade online such as forex, stocks, indices, CFDs, energies, precious metals and cryptocurrencies. If there is a particular trading instrument that you plan to trade, check that it is offered by the broker on their trading platforms. It is also worth considering what other markets they offer if you plan to branch into other market in the future. E.g. You may want to trade forex currencies now but if the broker also offers CFDs you will have access to them should you wish.
Online brokers trading platforms
Amongst the most popular trading platforms are MetaTrader 4/5 and cTrader. Consider what trading platform you would like to use and if you need desktop, web or mobile options.
The trading platform will allow you to execute trades through an online broker so you should ensure that the trading platform is reliable and easy to use. The majority of online brokers listed on this website offer the most popular and user-friendly trading platforms – MetaTrader 4 (mt4) and cTrader. These platforms are free and available via desktop, web and mobile. If you plan to trade on the go, then make sure the broker provides mobile platforms.
With these online trading platforms, you can follow multiple currency pairs across multiple timeframes. You can set alerts for trading signals via notifications, emails and SMS. Some brokers provide additional trading tools to assist with your trading. Most brokers will allow you to trades on one account across multiple platforms and markets.
Some brokers will have social trading platforms such as ZuluTrade and eToro. These platforms enable you to copy trading signals of other traders and also to offer your own trading signals for copying. If you want to find out more about social trading, we have a comprehensive review of our best social trading platforms.
Online brokers trading accounts
Most brokers will offer different account types to traders depending on your deposit size and requirements. These can be standard, mini or micro accounts. Each account type will have its benefits and disadvantages. Whilst a micro account will tend to require a smaller deposit, the leverage may be limited and the spreads higher. A standard account may provide more trading instruments and lower commissions.
Some online brokerages will offer fixed and variable spread accounts. A fixed spread account can help control trading costs but during times of low market volume and news releases, the spreads can still increase. A variable spread account will tend to have lower spreads overall due to the direct access to raw spreads provided by liquidity providers.
Fixed spread accounts are not always a sustainable model as actual spreads may be greater than the fixed spread set by a broker. When using a fixed spread trading account, you should check the small print as they are not always fixed 24/5 especially around economic releases or hours of low liquidity.
Nearly all online brokers will offer a free demo account. As trading is very risky it is always best to practice on a demo account before opening a real account.
Online brokers deposits & withdrawals
Every online broker has their own policies on handling client deposits and withdrawals. Some brokerages require funding trading accounts via bank transfer whilst others are more flexible and accept payment providers such as PayPal and Skrill which can make the process faster. Use a broker which provides payment methods which are the most convenient and cost effective for you. Check what currency options are offered as conversion fees do not usually apply when using an account in your own currency.
Online brokers trading fees
Oline trading brokers make money through the spread and commission that traders must pay for using their services. The spread is the difference between the bid/ask (buy/sell) prices. Commission is usually fixed depending on the volume traded whilst the spread can vary depending on liquidity. The lower the commission and spreads, the less your trading costs will be. Some brokers will charge no commission but add a mark-up to the spread. Be aware of additional fees such as those applied to deposits and withdrawals.
You need to factor commission into your online trading costs. If the broker does not charge a commission then consider how much mark-up they will put on the spreads and if this will impact your trading strategy. When a broker charges a commission, they tend to offer variable spreads which will vary depending on the liquidity pools that they use, without any mark-up. This will often mean lower spreads and overall trading costs, even after the brokers commission fee is factored in.
Online brokers leverage
Leverage determines the maximum position size that you can open on your trading account. If you had an account of $1,000 and leverage of 1:50, you would be able to open positions of up to $50,000 (account multiplied by leverage). Whilst high leverage allows you to trade with more than you would otherwise, it also increases risk. Make sure that you have a clear understanding of leverage and the high risks involved with trading before you start.
Online brokers margin
Margin is the amount of funds you would need to allocate in order to take a leveraged position with your trading broker. This is a deposit kept to cover potential losses and is used to keep your positions open. The more margin that you have available, the more positions you can take. Using too much margin can cause a margin call as you may not be able to cover potential losses.
Online brokers order types
Whilst most trading brokers offer instant market orders, make sure they allow stop and limit orders if you plan to use these. Consider if they have restrictions on the distance from current price when placing orders. If you plan to hedge, scalp or use automated software, check they allow this.
Online brokers spreads
If the broker uses an STP/ECN model with no dealing desk then spreads come direct from the liquidity providers and are thus likely to be lower than those of a market maker broker who add a mark-up to their spreads.
Online brokers trade execution
Consider if the brokerages execution policy is suited to your trading style. If you need the lowest possible spreads and fast execution then you may consider an ECN/STP broker.
Online brokers trading tools
Online brokers can offer a wide range of trading tools that you can use to assist with your trading. These include technical analysis tools for identifying potential trading opportunities, economic calendars for keeping up to date with market news, daily analysis and more. These are usually provided free to clients or for a small fee.
Check what trading tools are available and if they are free to clients or come at an extra cost. These tools can help analyse the markets, make trading more efficient and allow you to keep up to date with the latest market news releases.
Online brokers educational resources
Some online brokers can provide free educational material to help improve your trading knowledge. If you are new to trading, this can be beneficial and help you get started on your trading journey at no extra cost. Education can include how to guides, video tutorials, webinars and a dedicated team member to answer all of your questions.
If you are a beginner then the more educational materials provided the better. Even the more advanced traders can find useful educational articles, videos and webinars from some brokers.
Online brokers customer service
Some trading instruments are available to trade 24 hours a day and a trading broker’s clientele may be located in different locations across the globe. It is therefore important that the broker provides at least 24/5 support to get assistance whenever you need it. Support is usually available via phone, live chat and email. Use a broker that provides the most convenient support method for you and in your language.
Those new to trading will want to have better access to both dealing support and technical support. See what services each broker provides and whether it will suffice for your purposes.
Check when the customer service team is available, how they can be connected and what languages support is offered in. Consider if you are in a country with a different time zone how this will affect response times.
Online brokers managed accounts
Some online trading brokers will offer managed accounts where you can copy signals or invest with other traders. If this is something you would like to do, check if this is part of the brokers service.
Online brokers data security
Online brokerages should encrypt client’s data using SSL-encryption or the equivalent. You want your data to be stored safely with high security and protection in a worst-case scenario.
Online brokers account opening
Hopefully you now have a good idea of the key things to consider when comparing trading brokers. All of the brokers listed on the trading brokers website have undergone our in-depth broker research and analysis procedures then been allocated an unbiased broker rating based on our findings.