The Best Forex Trading Platforms
The sheer size of the forex, or foreign exchange, market dominates all others — even the stock market. Every payment that crosses currencies contributes to its fluctuations and momentum. And without a centralized marketplace, forex activity buzzes practically without cease, with traders waking up and doing business everywhere, in every time zone. To get a piece of the action, you need a forex brokerage with best-in-class technology and stellar support.
However, with so many options to choose from, it can be tough knowing which is the best forex trading platform. That’s why we looked at dozens of different platforms and consulted with stockbrokers, investors, and financial experts to bring you our top picks.
Since 2013, Reviews.com has helped millions of people find the best of the best in all things, including forex trading platforms. After investigating 65 major brokers and consulting with third-party financial experts, we’ve continued updating this review every to ensure it stays fresh. The author of this review does not own stock in any of the brokerage firms mentioned here, or in any other financial service companies.
The 4 Best Forex Trading Platforms
The Best Forex Trading Platforms: Summed Up
Data as of Dec. 10, 2019.
thinkorswim – Most Currency Pairs
- High number of currency pairs
Customized and automated
One synchronized account
- Complicated for beginners
Why we chose it
High number of currency pairs
Thinkorswim is the best option for U.S. traders looking to trade forex and multiple other products, allowing experienced traders or international traders to get a part of currency fluctuations in more obscure economies. Thinkorswim sits among the top forex brokers in terms of tradable currency pairs.
Customizable and automated
Thinkorswims’ robust platform puts every imaginable forex trading tool at your fingertips. Two trading perks you don’t often see: customized alerts for on-the-go trading as well as automated trading (only available if you subscribe to its newsletters.)
One synchronized account
Part of vast online brokerage TD Ameritrade, thinkorswim enables you to trade forex, stocks, futures, and options all from one account. Save time and keep abreast of your diverse portfolio without the hassle of switching between windows and platforms. Even better, these combined tools are available through just about any device.
Points to consider
Complicated for beginners
While thinkorswim provides a ton of virtual and in-person support (unique amongst online firms), the complexity of its trading platform may be overkill for beginners. Same goes for the lofty $3,500 minimum deposit. Check out Ally Trading if you’re a forex novice.
Ally Invest – Best for Experienced Traders
- No minimum for self-directed accounts
- Lacks educational resources
Why we chose it
No minimum for self-directed accounts
If you know what you’re doing, then you can get started with an Ally independent brokerage account with no minimum deposit required. This is an incredible feature for experienced traders and one of the many reasons Ally Invest is our top pick for the best Cheap Online Stock Trading.
One of the best parts about Ally’s trading platform: the intuitiveness of its layout and functions. The smart and streamlined trading interface makes it quick and easy to watch trends and make trades. New investors should be able to get familiar with the lay of the land fairly quickly by navigating from the trading panel. The panel also includes shortcuts: Buy and sell with one click. As your preferences develop, you can customize the look and location to suit your trading style.
Points to consider
Lacks educational resources
While Ally’s price points are ideal for new traders, the educational resources are somewhat sparse. The site can walk you through the basics, but you’ll need to look elsewhere for courses, videos, and tutorials.
You’re also not able to access other investment products within the same account. Unlike thinkorswim, you’ll have to open up and individually access other accounts if you’re interested in trading stocks, options, or futures in addition to forex.
ATC Brokers – Most Streamlined Tech
- Elite trading tech
- Not ideal for beginners
Why we chose it
Elite trading tech
High-end trading tools and perks that will be attractive to adroit traders, like a non-dealing desk environment. The advanced platform also allows you to customize and quickly execute orders, moving between analysis to trading without navigating windows.
ATC’s Straight Through Processing (STP) order system posts your order directly to counterparties, taking away the possibility of your broker holding a conflict of interest and trading against you.
Points to consider
Not ideal for beginners
ATC provides backtest trading software to run simulations and testrun strategy, but goes light on other beginner-friendly features. For instance, it has a high minimum deposit ($3,000) and weak educational resources. Look to OANDA for an easier entrance to forex.
OANDA – Best for Beginners
- Compatible with all skill levels
- Sets its own price
Why we chose it
Compatible with all skill levels
OANDA serves the forex trading needs of the inexperienced and experts alike, with robust and user-friendly desktop and web-based platforms. Both options translate to mobile apps, so you’re never far from your investments.
Another major bonus with OANDA’s powerful tech: access to historical exchange rate data. Backtest strategies before you trade in one of the largest currency databases across the globe. You can also subscribe to the data feed for even deeper analysis.
OANDA doesn’t provide any products to American investors besides forex. In some ways, the clarity and concentration of a forex focus is ideal for all types of forex investors. The inexperienced can set their sights on mastering one corner of the market. The seasoned can take advantage of a trading platform that’s designed to manage nothing but forex. That said, if being able to diversify your interests while staying within the same brokerage is important to you, check out thinkorswim or Ally Invest.
Points to consider
Sets its own price
One downside to OANDA — it’s a market maker. Setting the bid and the ask price means its protocol stands in opposition to the open pricing and non-interest conflict of an Electronic Communications Network. However, these pricing mechanisms are almost wholly automated, meaning concerns of partiality are largely unfounded.
How We Chose the Best Forex Trading Brokers
We gathered a list of 65 forex trading brokers and narrowed it down to the best five by analyzing research features, customizability options, and trading platforms. While introductory incentives (special offers, free demos, referral programs) can make brokerages attractive for the short term, we looked for standard practices that keep you happily trading for the long term. Responsive client support, for example, earned a company more points than first-time perks.
Flexible and interactive tech
All good forex brokers update account information in real time, display balances, and provide history reports and statements. But exceptional brokers offer trading technology that boasts a broader spectrum of features, from alerts to automated trading, cooperatively helping you execute strategic trades. Specifically, we prioritized forex brokers with trading tech that offers customizable interfaces and interactive charts.
We also wanted technology that’s not desktop-bound. As mobile trading continues to grow, the best brokerages make high-performance, on-the-go research and trading tools as powerful as traditional platforms. We prioritized brokers staying ahead of the curve with dedicated, well-functioning apps that are compatible with a variety of devices.
Forex brokers provide clients with resources to understand market activity and make fast, informed choices. These resources should include third-party research, research reports, and market commentary, alongside venues for sharing knowledge (community forums) and receiving advice and confirmation (live chat, email, and phone support). Exceptional brokers also include access to historical data, so traders can back-test strategies before allocating real money. (Experimenting with virtual trading is also a good way of getting your feet wet.) Alongside research options, we wanted to see education: opportunities to learn more about forex trading and platform navigation via articles, videos, and webinars.
Major Currency Pairs
Major Currency — currencies from the world’s most developed economies including Europe, Japan, Canada, and Australia — represent the most heavily traded and liquid currency markets for any forex trader. A major currency pair is created when one of these currencies is traded against the U.S. dollar. Examples include Euro vs. the U.S. Dollar (EUR/USD) and the U.S. Dollar vs. the Canadian Dollar (USD/CAD). Their availability on a forex brokerage is essential.
Cross Currency Pairs
Cross Currency Pairs signifies secondary currencies traded against each other and not against the U.S. dollar. Examples include Euro vs. the Japanese Yen (EUR/JPY) or the British Pound vs. Swiss Franc (GBP/CHF). Most reputable brokers offer this category of trades, and it’s especially important for a forex trading account denominated in a currency other than the U.S. dollar, or for more advanced traders capitalizing on discrepancies between other economies.
How to Choose a Forex Trading Platform
Identify top concerns
If the velocity of your trades necessitates low fees, know that you will be sacrificing some educational resources in favor of a streamlined system designed for the pros. You’ll be jumping in with both feet. On the other hand, a low minimum account typically comes with the educational resources and communication channels required by new forex investors. The identity of different brokerages rest on the type of investors they aim to appeal to. Choose accordingly.
Test the tech
Because the functionality of the trading platform has such a huge impact on your experience trading forex, take the time to try before you buy. Explore the features of your top two or three brokerages, either by diving deeply into their site’s introductory info or by running a demo of their platforms. The platform that’s best for you will feel intuitive and clear: You shouldn’t have to scour the site to find basic functions.
Keep an eye on regulatory compliance
Forex trading is governed by the National Futures Association, and they routinely check brokerages for financial irregularities, hidden or overly high fees, and scams. A key point of comparison between forex brokerages is their regulatory approval status with the NFA. Because the forex market and its major players move rapidly, it’s wise to regularly check on that status via the NFA’s Status Information Center. Increased regulation (coupled with higher capital requirements) continue to force forex brokers to leave the playing field, and one side effect is that it’s increasingly easy to find the best out of a constrained number of options.
Forex Trading Platforms FAQ
Yes, forex trading is legal in the United States.
Believe it or not, this question does come up from time to time, especially from anyone unfamiliar with the foreign exchange market. Unlike the futures markets, there is no central governing body nor any arbitration panels or clearing houses that control the foreign exchange market. All trade is conducted through credit agreements between individual members.
It can be depending on the platform you are using and your level of experience. We found that forex trading platforms like OANDA and Ally Invest feature user-friendly interfaces and were much easier to use. However, these platforms may not be the easiest options for everyone which is why it’s important to shop around and review your choices. Our list is a great place to start.
The bare bones of foreign currency exchange trading are simple. You make money off exchanging one country’s money for another. However, exploiting those fluctuations or price movements requires both strategy and savvy. Signing up for online tutorials or in-person conferences will help you lay a base layer of knowledge on the forex market, but traders agree that true expertise is built on the job. Jump into a demo or a real (small sum) account and start hitting buttons, pulling from vast online resources whenever you hit a snag or just a big, fat question mark.
Experts say that forex is a zero-sum game. That means that someone always loses commensurate to someone else’s win — that’s how the game is played. When you add in costs and fees associated with running a forex account and making trades, you enter negative-sum territory. That said, shrewd trading moves can pay out. Substantially. If you have the time and interest required to learn to identify patterns in price fluctuations and execute far-sighted trades, you will make wins on the forex market. That said, the most thoughtful strategy is also liable to bring about loss. Don’t trade more than you can afford to lose.
Forex trading scams are a concern for even the savviest investor. Foreign exchange fraud has been on the rise for the last few decades, leading the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and other agencies to deploy task forces analyzing and curtailing schemes. The ingenuity of fraudulent schemes, whether they’re based on phony software or creating fake accounts, increases, but their telltale signs remain largely the same. Steer clear of forex brokerages promising sure wins, fast results, or secret formulas for success. The market has proved time and again that there are no shortcuts. Scammers bank on the human propensity to believe otherwise.
In return for executing your buy and sell orders, forex brokers will either take a commission per trade or a spread. A spread is the difference between the bid price and ask price for the trade. The asking price is the lowest price that a currency pair will be offered for sale and the bidding price is always lower. When forex brokers successfully execute a buy with the lower bid, they will take that difference — the spread — as payment.
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