Top 8 Trading Platforms in the US
What Is a Trading Platform?
Traders use trading platforms to manage their trading activity.
Trading platform software is available in different formats. Some platforms offer web-based or mobile access; others can be accessed from your desktop.
You can use your laptop, tablet or smartphone to view your trading platform at any time.
Some platforms are free; others offer discounts if you have a funded account or commit to a particular number of trades per month.
Many platforms offer educational and analytical tools. These are designed to improve your knowledge and trading performance.
There are many trading platforms to choose from. They are all slightly different, so you will need to find one that is suitable for your preferred stock markets or trading option and your current level of trading expertise.
However, there are other important considerations too. This article guides you through the important factors to research before choosing a trading platform and gives a list of the top 8 trading platforms in the US.
Key Points to Consider When Choosing a Trading Platform
Analytical tools are used to track your trading activity. For example, you can view profit and loss information or find out market performance statistics.
The analytical tools offered are defined by the target customers. Platforms hoping to attract experienced traders tend to offer more detailed analytical tools.
Many platforms offer educational resources like webinars, online courses and instructional videos. Platforms aimed at novice traders tend to offer more educational resources.
Some trading platforms give you an option to open a demo account or sign up for a trial period. These options allow you to try out the platform's features before opening an account.
Real-Time Feed and News
Having access to up-to-date market information is essential to profitable trading.
This is less of a priority if you are swing trading or holding positions overnight.
The level of customer support on offer varies.
Many platforms offer 24/7 customer services. Some only have email support, which can be slow and inconvenient.
If you are an inexperienced trader or are not confident with using technology, choosing a platform with easy-to-access support is wise.
Profitable trading can be time-consuming. Your other commitments may mean that you can only access your trading platform at certain times.
If that is the case, consider using one that will send you alerts and execute orders on your behalf.
Types of Investment
- What are your trading preferences?
- Do you want to access all trade types or will you be focusing on one area (for example gold)?
- Are you planning to trade in overseas markets or only the US?
If you intend to use more than one trading type, you can choose specialist platforms for each investment category.
Alternatively, if you only want to use one platform, choose one that can handle multiple investment types.
Ease of Use
The markets can change quickly, so it is important to find a platform that you find easy to navigate.
You will be accessing your chosen platform regularly, so it needs to be both intuitive and aesthetically pleasing.
Trading is a high-risk activity. It is vital to choose a platform that offers the appropriate level of protection.
Once you have identified a platform that will provide all the features you need, find out whether it has a secure login process.
This could be biometric recognition (face or fingerprint) or a two-step authentication process.
You should also check whether the platform is regulated by a financial services authority.
Top 8 Trading Platforms In the US
Best for: Experienced traders
This trading platform brokers in stocks, bonds and cryptocurrency. Stock and ETF trading is free for clients in the US, but there are high fees for inactivity.
You can open an account online and, in most cases, there is no minimum deposit. This can vary depending on your chosen account type.
The account setup process is complicated, and it can take a while to receive account verification.
Interactive Brokers features useful analysis tools. It also offers some of the best quality educational resources available. Analytical and educational content can only be accessed by registered users.
Both the desktop and mobile platforms can be difficult to navigate, so they are unlikely to be suitable for novice traders. Customer service is available via email, phone or live chat; however, it is not a 24/7 service.
When using the mobile app, you can log in using fingerprint or face recognition. This platform also has a two-step authentication process.
Interactive Brokers is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It offers negative balance protection, and its parent company is listed on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange.
2. IG Group
Best: Forex broker in US
IG’s web trading platform is suitable for both new and experienced traders. It has a simple, customizable interface.
US traders can only trade forex products with IG. There are no fees for making a deposit; however, forex fees are high.
This platform has good research tools and a helpful news feed. You can also access IGTV where four news videos are posted each day. These focus on major news stories. You can also access chart analysis on key forex pairs.
There is a community forum where you can share knowledge and ideas with other traders.
Customer support is available most of the time, although it is not a 24/7 service. You can contact customer services by email, phone or web chat, but response times are often slow.
It is easy to set up a demo account and there are other useful educational resources available. These include videos, webinars and online courses.
IG is regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and National Futures Association (NFA).
Best for: Safer two-step login
Overall, this platform is user-friendly albeit with limited customization.
It provides clear reporting and has a safe two-step login process.
Web and mobile platforms are available, with different options available depending on what you want to trade.
The basic option brokers in stocks, bonds, ETFs and mutual funds. Forex trading is not available.
A demo account is available, but only if you opt for the POWER E*TRADE platform.
E*TRADE's newsfeed provides useful visuals, including charts. It is easy to read, with information sourced from third parties.
A link to Bloomberg TV can be accessed via the home screen. Users can view educational material that covers many useful topics. There are videos, webinars and tutorial guides.
24/7 customer support is offered via phone, email or live chat – although it can take some time to receive a reply.
This platform is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). There is no negative balance protection, but users are protected by a high investor protection amount.
4. Zacks Trade
Best for: stocks and ETFs
This platform offers low stock/ETF fees and there are no fees for inactivity.
There is an excellent choice of stocks and ETFs, which cover many global markets. There is no option to trade futures, forex, CFDs or cryptocurrency.
Customer service is fast and professional, although it is not available 24/7.
Setting up an account can be done online, but it is a slow and complicated process.
Zacks Trade offers complex research tools that may not suit inexperienced traders. The desktop version is not very user-friendly, but the web platform is more intuitive. Educational tools are limited, although demo accounts are available.
Zacks Trade is a division of LBMZ Securities. LBMZ is regulated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
LBMZs execution and clearing services are run by Interactive Brokers. This is an international stockbroker that is regulated by many top global financial authorities.
This platform is a sensible choice for novice and professional traders alike. It offers a user-friendly platform, excellent research tools and a reputation for high-quality customer care.
Fidelity offers commission-free US stocks and ETFs. It allows international stock trading and a transparent fee structure.
However, there is no option to trade futures or forex. Account set up is easy and there is no minimum deposit, although account verification can be slow. There are no inactivity fees.
Fidelity offers a simple user experience, but there are limited opportunities for customization. There is two-step authentication on the web platform, while the mobile platform offers biometric login. Setting up email, text or push notifications is easy.
Fidelity is regulated by the US’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
Best: Desktop trading platform
TD Ameritrade offers free ETF and stock trading, although it only allows trading on US markets.
There are low fees for forex, options and bond trading. However, fees are high for futures and mutual funds.
TD Ameritrade’s desktop trading platform is called Thinkorswim. It is highly rated in the trading community and the customer service team offers quick response times and helpful answers.
There are a few different account types to choose from. If you open a basic cash account, there is no minimum deposit for US citizens. Other account types may incur a higher minimum deposit.
It is worth noting that USD is the only base currency available on this platform.
The web platform offers a sleek design, but it is basic when compared to the desktop version. The web platform is not customizable.
Two-step verification is required for web and mobile logins, but this is not included with the desktop platform.
This platform is regulated by the US Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Best: Mobile platform
Robinhood offers a safe, user-friendly and well-designed trading platform.
The product portfolio is limited to mainly US markets and only offers ETFs, cryptocurrencies, stocks and options.
The web platform has a two-step login process. Alerts and push notifications are easy to set up but there are few opportunities for customization.
The mobile platform is considered to be one of the best available because all the development effort was put into it – there is no desktop version.
The research tool includes a quality news feed and helpful trading recommendations. Only basic charts are offered.
Users can access well-written educational content, but this does not feature any video or interactive training.
There is no option to open a demo account. Customer support is limited and only available via email.
Robinhood is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulation Authority (FINRA). It doesn't offer negative balance protection.
Best for: High-quality research tools
The desktop platform is highly customizable but restricted to Windows operating systems.
The web-based platform has a clean, but not customizable, design. The mobile platform offers biometric authentication and similar functionality to the web platform.
Charles Schwab allows users to trade many different asset classes. However, the portfolio is limited to the US and Canadian markets.
There are many research tools, and these are of a very high standard. Also the educational content includes plenty of informative articles and videos. However, it can be difficult to find the one you are looking for.
There is no option to open a demo account.
This platform offers 24/7 customer service via telephone or chat. There is no option for email-based customer support.
Charles Schwab is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). There is no negative balance protection.
There is a wide range of trading platforms to choose from. Your priority should be finding a platform that is suitable for your chosen trading activities and that you find easy to use.
You will access it regularly and will need to be able to act quickly when the markets change.
Remember to take advantage of free demo accounts or trial periods. These are useful for trying a few different platforms before deciding on which one you want to open an account with.
Use the demo account or trial period as a way of getting to know your way around the platform. Experiment with the different features and services to decide which platform best meets your needs.
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