I apologise to those are now more interested in long-term investements and starting with sums $10k+ as when writing this I mainly consider my own possible portfolio size which will be anywhere between $1000 - $5000. But many things I mentioned here can be applied to bigger accounts as well.
There are couple of things you need to consider when choosing your trading platform, whether we’re talking about forex or stocks:
- How reliable a company is. The easiest way to go here would just be to go to some brandname company. Of course, with smaller investments it might be complicated, but many of the big names also offer mini-accounts which start from anywhere between $300 - $2000 minimum. Additionally, get lost into some investing forums and see what other people are suggesting. And then preferrably ask about the platform/firm they suggested in some other forum as well. This way you will get general information about experiences with the firm and additionally, when people are ready to suggest something, it often means that THEY consider the firm reliable
- How big are the commissions? For forex and stocks the commissions are usually calculated differently. For stocks there is often a certain fee for a trade – anywhere between $4 - $40 or per trade...eg. $0.02 per stock. With forex the commissions are often automatically added into the spreads ( the difference between the ask and bid price), thus no extra commission is taken. I myself have looked around and considering that...
1. I want to day trade not invest for longer term and
2. My initial investing capital will be only $1k-$5k
...the commissions really need to be small. I won’t be looking to earn 10% with a stock and I won’t be working with big numbers. So a $20 commissions on stocks are pretty much killers...buy+sell=$40 only for commissions..and $40 and if I have just $1000 to play with this means that the stock price would have to move to my desired direction at least 4% just not to lose with this deal. And this is a killer. Especially if, as a day trader, I would be happy to take just 1% of profit per deal. So instead I suggest you to find a firm that offers eg. $4 per trade or $0.01 per share. With forex – I have actually already tried to play on forex, without any knowledge of the market, just to try it out. The firm I used had 10 pip spread for mini accounts ( min deposit $25 )...and as I didn’t know a thing about pips and such ( if you don’t have any clue what pip is, check the forex channel on this site..there will be an introduction to forex markets soon) and only now I can say it’s a killer. Good platforms usually offer only a 2-5 pip spread and this is a lot better, independent of your portfolio value.
- With forex and small capital you also want to know what kind of leverage they are offering. Forex is good from the perspective that you might only have $1000 but you could buy currencies for $100k ( this case of course, you are risking all your money, but the possibility here is important). The leverage is different with different online brokers, usually between 50:1 and 400:1. I guess 100:1 or 200:1 is pretty good already while 50:1 might not do it.
- How does their platform look? While other people might say that this or that platform is very good, you might end up hating it. So I suggest you to register for free demo accounts on different sites and see yourself which you would be most comfortable with. For example if you don’t have a laptop with you all the time, it might be a good choice to go for a web-based platform, while if you do have access to your computer all the time, I would suggest a non-web-based platform as these tend to be a bit faster to use. But that again might be my personal fetish. And my 10-pip firm had web-based platform so I might not be as objective here as I could.