Trading Platforms

Brokerage firms provide trading platforms for customers to execute transactions, analyze portfolios, research investment ideas, track performance, and manage positions and trades.
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Brokerage firms provide trading platforms for customers to execute transactions, analyze portfolios, research investment ideas, track performance, and manage positions and trades. Trading platforms vary in complexity and capabilities. The trading platform best suited for a particular customer depends on the asset class traded and required service needs.

For example, some trading platforms specialize in a particular product, such as options or futures, while other platforms provide single-login access to stocks, options, futures, and currencies. Platforms that provide access to multiple products are often referred to as full-service platforms. 

Trading platforms may differ within the brokerage firm based on client sophistication and may be web-based or application-based software. Different features are often available on the web-based platform versus the application-based software. Typically, application-based software platforms provide more features and tools. Further, investors with higher levels of knowledge and experience may have access to additional platform features. 

Trading platforms may provide extensive API features and integrations that support autotrading. Some platforms are research focused while others have a relatively basic, intuitive user experience for less complex order entry and position monitoring. 

Platforms may be mobile-only or mobile-first, meaning they are optimized for mobile trading. Trading platforms differ in their appearance and offer unique chart styling, visual customization, and modeling features.

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FAQs

What is the best trading platform?

The best trading platform is subjective and will depend on each trader’s personal preferences. Trading platforms vary in complexity and capabilities. The trading platform best suited for a particular customer depends on the asset class traded and required service needs.

There are many platforms offered by the different brokerages, and each provides different features and tools that may be beneficial to specific users and markets. For example, some brokers specialize in a particular market, such as futures or options.

The most popular trading platforms and brokers in the United States include thinkorswim by TD Ameritrade, StreetSmart Edge by Charles Schwab, TradeStation, Trader Workstation by Interactive Brokers, Tastyworks, Tradier, E-Trade, Fidelity, Merrill Edge, Ally, and Robinhood.  

Which trading platform is best for beginners?

The best trading platform for beginners is subjective and will depend on each trader’s personal preferences. There are many platforms offered by the different brokerages, and each provides different features and tools that may be beneficial to specific users and markets.

Most brokers offer a sophisticated platform available via a software download or a simplified web-based and app version that has fewer tools but is typically more user-friendly and easier for traders not utilizing complex data inputs.

New traders should experiment with multiple platforms to find an interface they are comfortable and confident with, as well as find brokers that tailor to their preferred trading instrument. For example, some brokers may specialize in specific markets such as equities, commodities, forex, or futures. The type of account being used may also be an important determinant.

Brokers may provide more platform options if a trader uses a cash or margin account as opposed to a retirement account, such as an IRA. 

What is the best trading platform for day traders?

The best trading platform for day traders is subjective and will depend on each trader’s personal preferences. There are many platforms available by the different brokerages, and each provides different features and tools that may be beneficial to specific users and markets.

Day traders typically prefer to utilize desktop versions of a broker’s platform because they often offer more tools than the software’s web-based or app version. Day traders may focus on a specific market, such as futures or forex, or trade a range of markets, so they must identify a platform that enables them to trade their preferred instrument.

Other important factors for day traders include commissions, transaction costs, data subscriptions, and day trading margin requirements.

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