Nigel Frith equities trader

Nigel has been in the regulated financial services industry for nearly a decade, has previously owned a financial brokerage and has written many times for sites relating to personal finance and trading.

Best Online Trading Platforms for Beginners

12 min/23 November 2020
best online trading platform for beginners

Are you a new trader looking for the best online trading platforms for beginners? Look no further. These top-rated brokers are best-in-class for inexperienced traders. From award-winning customer service, to top-notch educational resources and user-friendly platforms, you're in good hands with these brokers.

  1. Plus500
  2. eToro
  3. XM
  4. Avatrade
  5. Pepperstone

#1 Plus500

Trader Rating
What We Liked
  • Platform functionality is ideal for beginners
  • Thousands of markets are available and easy to trade
  • Very strong in CFDs, an excellent entry-level product for beginners
  • Advanced risk management tools including two-step authorisation and automatic log-out
  • Regulated by Tier-1 authorities

Plus500 has won critical and public acclaim since being founded in 2008. It hosts millions of clients and is a leading provider of Contracts for Difference (CFDs) trading via its state-of-the-art trading platform.

The platform has a clean and attractive appearance. Additional tools are held out of sight in sidebars but are easy to call upon when needed. Navigating across the platform is incredibly easy and reflects the years of investment and testing that have gone into the design.

The Account Snapshot screen is one example of how thoughtful design can enhance the user experience. It gives clients all the information they need about their account in a simple and straightforward way.

Plus500 offers its clients the choice of thousands of markets to trade. There is also an extensive range of asset classes including shares, forex, commodities, cryptocurrencies, ETFs, options and indices.

The Plus500 platform gains extra points for the range of markets it offers. It’s one of the best options trading platforms on the market. Beginners might question whether they need to have such a variety of markets on hand when they start trading. The other markets and asset classes are ultimately relatively easy to trade and can be ‘leading indicators’. Price moves there offer some clues as to where the rest of the market is heading.

The Plus500 platform gains extra points for the range of markets it offers.

The company offers a global trading experience. It’s regulated by some of the most highly regarded authorities in the world and has offices in Israel, the UK, Cyprus, Australia, Singapore and Bulgaria. An additional layer of security is provided by the fact that the firm is listed on the London Stock Exchange, which means it is required to provide regular financial updates to investors – not something that all brokers have to do. 

When trading, good communication is vital and the Plus500 platform can be set to operate in over 30 languages

Plus500 was one of the early adopters of mobile trading and has taken all the excellent functionality of the desktop platform and has somehow crammed it into the smaller screen format. Plus500 got off to a head start and has been offering hand-held trading on iPhones since 2011.

It continues to be one of the pioneers in that sector. The Plus500 mobile trading experience is a masterclass in blending the complicated relationship between charts, data, information and trading interfaces with a need for simplistic functionality.

#2 eToro

Trader Rating
What We Liked
  • Possibly the most user-friendly online platform for beginners
  • Thousands of Copy Trading opportunities to study or sign up for
  • Strong regulatory framework
  • Account management such as cash deposits and withdrawals are very straightforward
  • More advanced tools are available as and when you want to use them

The eToro online trading platform is pitched towards catering for beginners. Its simple functionality allows users to navigate between the different areas of the site seamlessly. Trading monitors, portfolio reports, profile settings and withdrawals/deposits are all very easy to access and manage.

Powerful software tools are operating in the background. The charting indicators are as advanced as at other brokers, it’s just that they are kept back so that they don’t clutter the trading experience.

The eToro platform is also recognised as being a market leader in terms of Copy Trading. This service involves supporting thousands of traders who willingly provide trading signals for you to follow and apply to funds in your account. It offers an opportunity for the very busy and more hands-off traders that are looking to gain exposure to the financial markets and to leverage off the experience and skills of others.

The eToro platform helps out its clients by applying a system of metrics to the different Copy Traders. They are graded in terms of risk-return and whether they are trading their own money. As an investor, you can’t get too much of that kind of information and it is a useful resource even if only used for information purposes.

#3 XM

Trader Rating
What We Liked
  • High quality and user-friendly trading interface
  • Offers market-leading MetaTrader platforms MT4 and MT5
  • A global broker with millions of clients
  • Strength and security (regulated by ASIC and CySec)
  • Low minimum deposit
  • Professional and friendly customer support available on Live Chat, email and phone

XM is a significant player with a global outlook and offices around the world. It was founded in 2009 and since then has built up a client base of more than 3.5m users across 196 countries. That fact provides beginners with some comfort. Not only does the firm have the critical mass to survive the ups and downs of the market, but the fact that so many have signed up to the site suggests XM is getting a lot right.

Establishing the relative strengths and weaknesses of a broker can be challenging. The online platforms they each offer have a host of really useful additional extras. It’s just a case of evaluating how effective these are at helping a trader make a profit. With that in mind, XM deserves credit for outlining all the information relating to their trading platform in a highly transparent manner.

That makes it easier for you to get an understanding of what’s on offer and is also a tell-tale sign that the firm is comfortable with its position in the peer group. There’s very little about its operation that XM doesn’t want to shout about.

The fact that so many have signed up to the site suggests XM is getting a lot right.

The broker’s site is one of the best in the market in terms of sharing details about the terms and conditions relating to the online trading platform. In the case of XM, it even details the specific terms such as the hours the markets are open. That is useful information and can be the difference between a loss and a profit if a trader gets ‘stuck’ in a trade and unable to sell out of it because the market is closed.

Traders using XM can choose between three market-leading online platforms, XM Webtrader, MetaTrader 4 (MT4), and MetaTrader 5 (MT5). The former covers a broader range of asset classes and is particularly strong on equity trading. MT4 caters more for forex trading but is such a popular choice that is it the most widely used retail online trading platform in the world.

The MetaTrader platforms are known for their razor-sharp appearance. They are robust, accurate, and packed to the brim with powerful software tools. Traders can even take on the signals of more experienced traders by using the Expert Advisors function.

Support for beginners goes beyond ‘how to trade’ and onto ‘what to trade’. The ‘Summary Risk Indicator’ feature gives an easy to use risk-rating to all of the tradable stocks. It’s also worth noting that the trading costs at XM are very competitive and that it offers clients the security of being regulated by Tier-1 authorities.

#4 AvaTrade

Trader Rating
What We Liked
  • Great proprietary trading platforms which can accommodate beginner and advanced level traders
  • Competitive pricing and reliable trade execution
  • Extensive research and learning materials
  • Great customer service
  • Regulatory licenses across five continents

AvaTrade caters for a whole range of traders, of varying experience and styles. It offers beginners ‘a chance to grow’ as some of the software tools are quite powerful and associated with institutional-grade trading. It doesn’t have to be complicated and beginners will welcome the intuitive layout of the online platform. Setting up an account is very straightforward and once you go through to the main dashboard, you will find an easy to use trading experience.

The in-house trading platform called AvaOptions is unique to AvaTrade and comes with handy tools such as pips graphics and a profit calculator. These have all been developed to help your trading P&L and can be particularly useful. To further boost your learning, the site is also packed full of research and learning materials in written and video format.

Beginners will welcome the intuitive layout of the online platform.

Copy Trading is also available at AvaTrade, via a hook-up with third-party Copy Trading specialist ZuluTrade.

One of the benefits of setting up with AvaTrade is the trade execution technology. The trading infrastructure is set up so that once your instructions are entered into the online platform they go out into the market and benefit from AvaTrade’s status as a ‘market maker’.

That means the broker (and your trade instruction) go more deeply and quickly into the heart of the market you are trading and can lead to better prices and more reliable ‘flow’. All that goes on behind the scenes but is something to note when considering which broker to use: another spin-off of this improved ‘market flow’ is that AvaTrade can offer its clients a very competitive fee structure.

#5 Pepperstone

Trader Rating
What We Liked
  • Award-winning customer service
  • Extended hours trading on US stocks
  • Extensive research and learning materials
  • Tight trading spreads
  • Tier-1 regulatory licenses
  • Particularly strong in Forex markets

Pepperstone is very well regarded by its users and the industry experts who make up the investment community. The broker has earned this reputation by providing its clients with a top-quality service. The trading platforms it offers are market-leading and allow you to trade effectively and with confidence.

The costs of execution (trading spreads) are also at the low end for their peer group. Pepperstone customer service is as good as it gets – something that will be necessary for a beginner, plus the regulatory protection on offer is first-rate.

The Pepperstone market analysis section is one of the best in the sector.

Offering access to the dynamic US stock market means Pepperstone is tapping into the area of the financial markets where things are happening. It is one of the few brokers offering extended market hours on US equities.

So, traders have the added security of not missing out on their stop losses coming into play if a stock ‘gaps’ between the close of one day’s session and the opening of the next. It also allows you to trade when the all-important earnings announcements are made and to put on a position before the market opens for everybody else the next day.

The Pepperstone market analysis section is one of the best in the sector. The site is full to the brim of useful and informative reports and updates. There is a lot of ‘real-time’ news provided, which helps beginners get up to speed with how to trade fast-moving markets.

Pepperstone has a readily accessible back-catalogue of webinars. They cover topics ranging from risk management ‘How to use the Risk Calculator’ to learning new skills ‘Forex scalping strategies for part-time traders’.

For many traders, security is front-of-mind when it comes to choosing an online trading platform. Fortunately, virtually every broker has a number of security procedures in place to ensure a safe trading environment. These include SSL encryption, secure servers, two-step authentication and automatic logout after a period of inactivity. However, there are also some things you can do on your end to maximise safety when trading online, including installing an antivirus and anti-spyware program, using a strong password or passcode and securing a connection to the internet via a VPN.

An online trading platform is a computer software program used to facilitate trading through a financial intermediary such as a broker. Many brokers offer their own in-house trading platform that you can access via a web browser or via an app on your phone or tablet. These platforms vary in their complexity and ease-of-use, so it’s worth trying out a few before you commit to one. There are also third-party platforms available such as the ever-popular MetaTrader 4 and MetaTrader 5, which some brokers will license and provide free access to for their users.

Every time you enter a trade using an online trading platform, you will have to pay either a commission fee or spread charge. This is how the majority of brokers make their money. They also make money through other trading-related fees such as overnight charges and currency conversion fees.

When choosing the best online trading platform, it’s important to first do some initial research. Read reviews online to get a feel for the platform. For example, how easy is it to use? What features does it lack? What separates it from other platforms? The best trading platform is the one that suits you – there is no point choosing a tool with a suite of advanced features if you’re a new trader. Similarly, more experienced traders may find a basic online trading platform to be unsuitable for their needs if it lacks advanced technical features.