How Should You Choose an Online Broker?
The era of online trading has produced hundreds of commodities brokers operating in virtually every country in the world. Many of these firms promise low fees, free introductory trades and great customer support. Some firms promote their research and educational capabilities, while others lure customers with generous leverage or a large menu of products to trade. So how can traders sift through the seemingly endless list of brokers and features?
We try to sort these issues out by reviewing the top online brokers and comparing their features. Our goal is to highlight both the advantages and disadvantages of each of the platforms and let our readers decide which platforms best suit their goals and styles of trading.
Regulation: The Most Important Issue of All
The most important consideration in choosing an online broker is whether it’s regulated by a credible governmental agency with real enforcement powers.
A regulated broker must adhere to the rules established by the agency or agencies that govern it. These rules usually include important customer safeguards such as segregating customer trading funds in separate accounts, submitting regular audits to regulators and maintaining adequate capitalization.
Regulated brokers register with government agencies that issue them licenses. If the firms fail to adhere to the regulators’ standards, the regulators can revoke these licenses. Many regulatory agencies use fees from license to fund compensation schemes for traders. These schemes enable customers to recover funds in the event that a brokerage firm becomes insolvent.
An trader who opens an account with an unregulated broker is taking serious, unnecessary risks. An unregulated broker doesn’t answer to any authorities and, therefore, can do whatever it wants with customer funds. Since these firms operate online, it can be almost impossible to track them down if they defraud customers.
Prior to opening an account, traders should check a brokerage firm’s website for the licenses and registrations held by it. Reputable brokerage firms will provide the license numbers so traders can verify their authenticity with regulators.
Traders should beware of claims of regulation by bogus agencies. If an agency lacks an operating history, independence and the authority to fine or sanction offenders, then it probably offers no protections to traders. If a broker has no agencies that regulate it, traders should avoid opening an account with it at all costs.
The major agencies that regulate online brokerage firms include the following:
|Australia||Australian Securities and Investments Commission||(ASIC)|
|Belize||International Financial Services Commission||(IFSC)|
|European Union||Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission|
The Markets in Financial Instruments Directive
(governs the harmonization of securities laws in the European Union)
|Germany||Federal Financial Supervisory Authority||(BaFiN)|
|Japan||Financial Service Agency||(FSA)|
|New Zealand||Financial Markets Authority||(FMA)|
|South Africa||Financial Services Board||(FSB)|
|Switzerland||Financial Markets Supervisory Authority||(FINMA)|
|United Kingdom||Financial Conduct Authority||(FCA)|
|United States||Commodity Futures Trading Commission|
Financial Industry Regulatory Authority
National Futures Association
Securities and Exchange Commission
What Features Matter When Choosing an Online Broker?
There is no one online broker that’s the best fit for every trader. Simplicity and ease of use may be important to some traders, while other traders may want low fees or the ability to employ a lot of leverage. Still, others may want the ability to trade the greatest number of products, create advanced charts or access reliable customer service any time of day.
Our reviews of online brokers cover the following 10 topics:
Broker Review Topics
|Topic||Questions We Answer|
|#1||Reputation||What awards, accolades and publicity has the firm received from the trading community?|
|#2||History||When was the firm founded?|
What were the major milestones in its history?
|#3||Operating Territories||Which countries does the broker serve?|
|#4||Safety||Which agencies regulate the broker?|
How do these agencies help protect customers?
|#5||Products||What are the specific financial products traders can trade on the platform?|
|#6||Accounts||What types of trading accounts are available?|
What are the features of each type of account?
|#7||Fees||What spreads, fees and commissions does the broker charge its customers?|
|#8||Deposits||What is the minimum deposit required to open an account?|
What methods can traders use to fund their accounts?
What deposit and withdrawal restrictions, if any, does the broker impose on its customers?
|#9||Platform||What are the most important features of the trading platform?|
What does the platform look like?
What educational materials (e.g., videos, reports and tutorials) does the broker provide to traders?
Does the broker provide demo accounts and, if so, are there restrictions on using these accounts?
|#10||Promotions||Does the broker offer promotions such as signup bonuses for new account holders?|
We reviewed well-known brokerage firms with extensive product offerings and broad geographical operating territories. All of the firms we reviewed are regulated by one or more recognized and well-regarded government regulatory agencies.
Traders can read our reviews to decide which brokers offer the specific features most important to them. In addition, all of these brokers have detailed websites that can answer many of your questions.
The table below outlines the main features of each of the brokers we reviewed:
The Best (& Worst) BrokersOur proprietary trust score is calculated based on regulation, structure, client fund handling, risk management and length of operation. It is recalculated and updated quarterly to include any action taken against brokers by regulatory agencies.
|Broker||Our Trust Score||The Good||The Bad||Sign up|
|90/100||Easy to use platform and leading risk management tools.||No phone support, only email and live chat.||Start TradingCFD Service. 80.6% lose money.|
|100/100||Scored a perfect 100 in our broker trust rating.||Demo account not linked to live platform and only available for 2 weeks.||Start TradingYour capital is at risk.|
City Index Review
|90/100||Easily copy leading traders.||$25 withdrawal fee is quite high compared to other brokers.||Start Trading65% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider.*|
|85/100||Proprietary technical analysis features.||Limited fundamental analysis features.||Start Trading|
|85/100||Unique dealCancellation feature giving you 1hr to reverse a trade.||Account withdrawal time of 3-10 days is slower than other brokers.||Start TradingYour capital is at risk.|
|95/100||Trade over 7000 markets.||Demo account not linked to live trading platform.||Start TradingYour capital is at risk.|
ETX Capital Review
|www.Forex.com||100/100||Impressive platform with advanced features.||Demo account only available for 30 days||Start TradingYour capital is at risk.|
|www.HYCM.com||85/100||Established 40+ years, which is more than most brokers.||Lower leverage maximums than some other brokers.||Start TradingYour capital is at risk.|
|www.Pepperstone.com||85/100||Up to 500:1 leverage available.||Lack of comprehensive research tools.||Start TradingYour capital is at risk.|
|80/100||Lightning-fast execution on trades.||Smaller number of markets (only 700) than some other brokers.||Start TradingYour capital is at risk.|
|75/100||Up to 400:1 leverage available.||High minimum deposit compared with other brokers.||Start TradingYour capital is at risk.|
|85/100||No min. deposit and no deposit or withdrawal fees.||Website and support only available in English.||Start TradingYour capital is at risk.|
Core Spreads Review
|75/100||Easy-to-use platform with impressive array of advanced tools.||Only regulated by a lower-tier regulator.||Start TradingYour capital is at risk.|
|75/100||Trade more than 2000 markets.||Only regulated by a lower-tier regulator.||Start TradingYour capital is at risk.|
|40/100||N/A||N/A||Not recommended at this time. Please read the review.|
|20/100||N/A||N/A||Not recommended at this time. Please read the review.|
|65/100||N/A||N/A||Not recommended at this time. Please read the review.|
|95/100||N/A||N/A||Not recommended at this time. Please read the review.|
|10/100||N/A||N/A||Not recommended at this time. Please read the review.|
*You should consider whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.
CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. Between 74-89% of retail trader accounts lose money when trading CFDs. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.
Here is a brief overview of each of the brokers we reviewed:
- City Index
- ETX Capital
Which Brokers Do We Recommend?
This leading global contract for difference (CFD) brokerage firm provides traders with an easy-to-use platform and superb risk management tools. Plus500 account holders can trade a large number of CFDs on a variety of different asset classes including indices, commodities, forex, cryptocurrencies, shares and options. The firm offers a free demo account and access to 24/7 email and live-chat support in several languages. Plus500 operates in more than 50 countries.
City Index’s parent company has been established for over 30 years, and today this platform offers customers the ability to trade CFDs and forex and perform spread betting. Traders enjoy access to more than 12,000 markets across commodities, shares, indices and forex. 24/5 customer support is also available via live chat, email and phone and in multiple languages. City Index operates in over 150 countries with access to demo accounts for both of the platforms (MT4 and City Index) being unlimited.
As an online market maker, easyMarkets offers customers contracts for difference (CFD) trading in a variety of asset classes including forex, metals, agricultural goods, energy, indicies and cryptocurrencies. This unique trading platform is renowned for its dealCancellation tool which allows customers to cancel a trade one hour after it was placed. 24/5 email, phone, fax and live chat support is available in a variety of languages. easyMarkets is available in more than 150 countries.
eToro was the first online broker to establish a social trading platform. The firm was also the first to allow traders to easily copy the trades and strategies of leading traders on its platform. eToro, which was founded in 2006, offers CFDs on commodities, cryptocurrencies, stocks, indices and ETFs. The firm offers traders a demo account and access to 24/5 customer support in several languages. eToro has about 5 million customers worldwide and operates in more than 60 countries.
ETX Capital providers traders with the choice of three different platforms as well as mobile options. From these they can choose to trade a variety of asset classes, including forex, indices, shares and commodities. It also offers spread betting and binary options. Available in 15 different languages and with 24/5 customer support via email or phone, ETX Capital boasts access to over 6,000 markets and can also be utilized through a demo account. ETX Capital is a trading name of Monecor (London) Limited, a member firm of the London Stock Exchange that was established in 1965.
Award-winning online trading platform with over 40 years’ experience in the business. Available in over 200 different countries/territories, HYCM offers account holders the ability to trade in a variety of CFDs in a number of different markets, including forex, indices, metals, oil and gas, soft commodities, stocks and cryptocurrencies. The broker also provides 24/5 support in multiple languages across live chat, email, fax and phone. A free demo account is available, too – for life.
This online broker offers retail customers CFD products on a variety of asset classes including bonds, commodities, cryptocurrencies, forex, indices, ETFs and shares. The firm is known for its impressive menu of financial products and its innovative trading platform. Markets.com offers its account holders access to sophisticated and proprietary technical analysis features and 24/5 customer support via email or live chat. The firm, which was founded in 2007, operates in most countries across the globe. Playtech plc, a publicly traded software company, owns Markets.com.
Nadex (the North American Derivatives Exchange) is the first regulated exchange for trading binary options and spreads on forex, commodities, stock indices and economic events. The firm is the only binary trading firm regulated by the CFTC, and, therefore, is the only legal way for US citizens to trade binary options. Nadex, which was founded in 2004, operates in more than 40 countries. The company boasts a 99.9% uptime rate for its platform. Nadex offers customer support six days a week via phone or email.
With over 1.5 million customer worldwide, XM.com markets itself as a “big, fair and human broker.” Offering lightning-fast execution, transparent pricing and unprecedented use of leverage, traders can trade CFDs and forex on precious metals, stocks, indices and energy. The broker also offers 24/5 customer support via live chat, phone and email (in 29 different languages), webinars 6 days a week and the platform is available in over 200 countries.
This online brokerage firm provides traders with access to forex and CFD trading in bonds, shares, indices, ETFs, commodities and cryptocurrencies. Traders in the UK and Ireland are also given access to spread betting, and Islamic accounts are available, too. The broker offers 24/5 customer service via email, live chat or phone and a demo account is on offer for 21 days. AvaTrade operates in more than 150 countries, with the platform being available in a variety of languages.