Testing the Trading Waters With Simulators and Demo Accounts
Practice Day Trading Without the Risks
Making a profit through day trading requires practice as much as it does knowledge. A demo account or day trading simulator might not mimic all of the pressures and risks that come with having real money on the line but they can still be valuable for learning and honing your trading strategies.
Using a day trading simulator is a way to develop confidence in your trading decisions and trade without fearing mistakes. Simulators often have real-time or slightly delayed market data, so you can monitor market conditions, and explore different charting tools and indicators.
You can also familiarize yourself with trading software and the steps involved in entering, reviewing and executing your trades before working with real capital, and practice using stop-loss orders and limit orders as part of your risk-management strategy.
Whether you day trade on the foreign exchange market (forex), stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), or futures, there are free demo accounts available for you to try. Each broker offers different types of software called trading platforms. Taking time to explore how each platform functions will give you the chance to see which one of them best suits your trading style.
Futures Demo Account: NinjaTrader
NinjaTrader is a low-cost trading platform. There is an option to download the for free for trade simulation, advanced charting, strategy backtesting, and other features.
The free software lets users simulate live day trading futures at their leisure. There is also an option to download data from prior days so you can practice trading with the market activity from that period.
If you want to use NinjaTrader to conduct actual transactions, the company provides that service, with fees, through the brokerages it has partnered with. Paying customers can lease the platform, which can cost as much as $600 annually, or they can pay to own the software with a single payment of $999 or in smaller increments.
Forex Demo Account: Oanda
There is no shortage of forex demo accounts available, but for U.S. residents, Oanda.com offers a lot of flexibility and competitive spreads.
Oanda does not charge a commission on trades (when live trading). Rather, they make money by charging a slightly higher bid/ask spread. This means traders must pay the spread to enter/exit a trade.
Oanda practice accounts do not expire, which allows you to practice for as long as you want. This can be done through Oanda's desktop trading platform or mobile app.
The desktop platform includes trade functions such as placing a stop loss and target (in pips or price) at the same time a trade is taken. The program also provides advanced charting and an "autochartist" feature that highlights trade setups based on statistical data. The autochartist feature provides support and resistance levels and technical chart patterns.
Stock Trading Demo Account: TradingView
TradingView.com is a platform that provides free real-time charting and demo trading with a caveat. The site offers extensive charting and market analysis tools. The real-time stock charts that are available for free are not official market data. Getting access to official data requires a payment. For people who start a demo account for practice purposes, the free data tends to suffice.
The site includes features that allow you to make real-time simulated trades in stocks or forex. Futures demo trading is available, but the data is delayed. Users can also trade a contract for difference () on many futures contracts.
TradingView can be synced up with a limited number of brokers if you decide to trade real money. If you do not want to use the brokers they offer, you will need to turn to a different platform for live trading.