How do you choose a Trading Broker?

Richard Montana | October 21, 2022

With so many trading brokers to choose from, it can seem overwhelming for those who are looking for the best broker according to their individual requirements. Deciding which trading broker is the best for your individual trading needs is a big decision that can affect the overall performance of your investments in the mid-long term. For that reason, it is imperative to consider the different broker options available to you for trading online.

The trading brokers review team help to make it a quick and easy process as we have spent thousands of hours studying and analysing hundreds of online brokers in great detail. This experience has enabled us to understand some of the key factors to consider when choosing a trading broker. Here we will explain what to look for and how you can choose a trading broker that has products and services which are suitable for your online trading needs.

What to look for in a trading broker?

When you are considering and comparing different trading brokers with whom you plan to trade online with, there are numerous things to consider which can depend on variable factors such as your investment size, location, trading strategy, markets of interest and experience level. Let’s take a look into some of the most important aspects to consider when you choose a trading broker.

Regulation

When you trade online you are already putting you funds at risk by speculating on price movements throughout various global markets. It is important to minimise risks should anything go wrong with the broker that you have chosen to trade online with. Regulated brokerage firms can offer investors more protection than unregulated brokers can in a worst-case scenario. They must comply with strict rules and regulations that are put in place to protect investors. There is a reason why most experts and professionals would only ever open a trading account with a regulated broker. AvaTrade is a good example of a broker that is regulated in multiple jurisdictions.

Not only is it important to look for a regulated broker but you should verify the brokers regulation is valid and up to date with the relevant regulatory authority. It is also important to consider the difference in standards between each regulatory authority as some are more lenient than others. It could be a good idea to also ensure that they offer services to your country of residence as some brokers are restricted from providing brokerage services in specific regions due to strict rules and regulations. Some of the top tier regulators to look out for include ASIC, IIROC, SFC, CBI, JFSA, MAS, FMA, FINMA, FCA and CFTC.

Instruments

Generally speaking, the majority of trading brokers usually offer a combination of markets and financial instruments including Forex Currency Pairs, Stocks, Indices, ETFs, Commodities, Options, CFDs, Futures and Spread Betting. If there is a particular asset class, market or trading instruments that you would like to trade online, you should ensure that it is offered by the broker in question. Furthermore, it may be worth considering that if you plan to expand your portfolio in the future, the broker has a wide range of tradeable instruments. IG are a top broker with an excellent range of over 17,000 financial instruments for you to choose from.

Platforms

There are a few trading platforms that you will see provided by most brokers. The different trading platforms can have different features and functionalities. If you require certain order types, time frames, charting tools, automated trading or anything else, you may want to check that they are available from the brokers trading platform. There are platforms for desktop, web browsers and mobile trading apps. Thus, check the compatibility of the platform with your preferred device.

One of the most popular by far is the MetaTrader platform. This platform is well known for its user-friendly interface, quick learning curve and vast array of built in tools. MetaTrader is use by millions of traders worldwide and freely available for desktop, web and mobile devices (iOS & Android). If you are already familiar with a specific trading platform or have one in mind, it would be worth making sure that it is available with your chosen broker. If you are a beginner and looking for a new trading platform, our MetaTrader brokers can be a good place to start. There is an abundance of online resources which can help you get used to using the platform including tutorial videos and detailed platform guides.

Tools

In addition to trading platforms, some brokerages can also offer a choice of standalone trading tools. These tools include trading calculators, economic calendars for fundamental analysis, sentiment data and more. If you incorporate a certain methodology into your trading strategy and require broker specific tools such as market sentiment data and expert market analysis, you can check these are provided. If you do not currently use such additional tools, it can still be useful to have them at hand if and when they are required.

For the average retail trader, the trading platforms provided by the broker are likely to have more than enough trading tools for their day trading needs. In addition to this, platforms such as MetaTrader have a large amount of free and paid tools which can be acquired from within the platform and online. You can even develop your own trading tools if you have the programming skills to do so, or hire a freelancer to do it for you. Whatever your idea for a trading strategy, chances are you can make it a reality.

Some professional traders may also need a broker who supports FIX API trading, offers PAMM accounts or social trading platforms. Again, ensure that when you choose a trading broker you take this into consideration.

Accounts

You will find that each broker offers a range of different trading account types to suit the needs of various traders. They may have a choice of accounts that cater to specific levels of investment and experience levels. There can be different trade execution methods between the accounts and minimum requirements. Leverage may also be different as can the trading platforms, tools, asset classes and services that come with each account type. It is worth considering that there is an account which matches your investment size and has the features you trading strategy requires along with the brokerage services that you desire. Things to look at for with the trading account types are execution policy, minimum deposit, spreads, commissions, leverage, instruments, etc.

Once you have settled on your broker of choice, you will need to open a trading account by completing an online form. This is usually easily accessible from the brokers website by clicking on an “open account” button or something similar. You will need to provide some personal information and verify your account by providing proof of identity (e.g. passport or drivers license) and proof of address (e.g. a utility bill no more than 3 months old). This is a normal part of the Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures that brokerage firms have to follow to verify the identity of its clients and assessing their suitability, along with the potential risks of illegal intentions towards the business relationship.

After you have submitted your trading account application form, you will need to wait for it to be verified. Some brokers can even verify your trading account on the same day whilst others take longer. If you get stuck at any point during the account opening process, the brokers customer support team should be on hand and happy to assist. It is imperative that you read all of the brokers terms, conditions and policies during the account opening process. You should only proceed if you understand and agree to them all.

Fees

Most trading brokers will charge you a small commission fee for each position you place in the markets through them. Each broker will have different trading fees and other additional fees. Some brokers charge a commission in addition to providing you with raw spreads direct from the liquidity providers (LPs) whereas others will not charge you a commission but instead mark-up the spreads which acts as fee. There are account deposit and withdrawal fees to consider. Some brokers can charge fees greater than others which can add up if you frequently make transactions on your trading account.

The commission fee is usually relative to your position size. If you are investing for the long term, then the commission fees may not be as important as they are to someone who is day trading. However, whatever the trading strategy you are using is, it is worth considering the commission fees within your money management. The lower the brokers commission is, the more you can save in trading costs over the long term. A discount broker charges a reduced commission on transactions but typically does not provide investment advice or other services. You should also factor in any other broker fees that are applicable such as platform, charting, tools and accounting fees.

Although some brokers say they do not charge any fees, third parties such as banks and payment processors may charge a fee. You should also be aware of the swap/rollover fees that brokers can charge for holding a position overnight. Other broker fees worth considering are account inactivity fees, data fees, education fees, management fees, etc. As broker fees can vary and change, it is imperative to ensure that you check and understand all of the latest information that can affect your online trading costs.

Spreads

When you place an online trade through a trading broker you will usually have to pay the spread. The spread is the difference between the bid and ask prices of the instrument that you are trading. The tighter the broker spreads are, the more you can save on your trading costs in the long term. Some trading strategies are entirely dependent on tight spreads such as scalping strategies. It is thus imperative to ensure that the broker in question has suitable spreads for your trading strategy.

Funding

You can deposit and withdraw funds into your trading account through a trading broker using a variety of convenient methods such as bank transfers, credit/debit cards and online payment processors such as PayPal, Skrill and Neteller. More and more brokers are also accepting crypto as a form of payment. If you would prefer to use an alternative option then you may wish to choose a broker that offers your preferred payment method.

Education

Having educational materials readily available can help traders of all experience levels to improve their trading skills and knowledge. A broker that has a more complete brokerage service will tend to offer educational resources and trading academy’s which can include trading guides, video tutorials, quizzes, webinars and other useful learning resources. If you are a new to online trading, it may be wise to make sure that the broker has some educational materials and that the support team is on hand to assist you as and when you need them. In addition to educational resources, a broker who provides expert daily market research and analysis can help to assist with finding possible opportunities and making informed trading decisions. Please feel free to browse our best brokers for beginners if you are looking for a broker with plenty of educational resources.

Support

It is important to have a reliable and knowledgeable customer support team on hand who are prompt, polite and accurate in their responses to any general, technical and account related questions that traders may have. You can always ask them some relevant questions prior to opening a trading account to test the quality of their support and response times. When you have a trading account with them, you will want prompt and accurate support so this can be a vital time during the account opening process. Feel free to ask them as many questions as you need to.

There are brokers located all over the globe and operating in different time zones. If you plan to require support from your broker on a regular basis, it may be worth considering what time they offer support and in what time zone they are located. If customer support is only available during office hours and they are 8 hours ahead of you, it may take a while for you to get a response. Thus, make sure the broker you are considering has support available in ways and at times that are suitable for you and fit around your trading schedule. Thankfully, many of the largest brokers either operate 24/5 or have offices located throughout the globe. At a minimum, the broker should have a telephone number and email contact, ideally with an online chat option as this can be a more convenient method of contact for many traders. You would ideally want someone instantly available to offer support should you need them. It wouldn’t be great if you had an emergency and the brokers response time was up to 24 hours long.

About the Author

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Richard Montana
Richard has many years of experience in broker research, testing, analysis and reviews. He knows what to look for through years of trading himself with different brokers and listening to the feedback of others.

Review Methodology

For all of our broker reviews, we research, validate, analyse and compare what we deem to be the most important factors to consider when choosing a broker. This includes pros, cons and an overall rating based on our findings. We aim to help you find the best broker according to your own needs. You can read more about our review process.


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