The Best Free Paper Trading Accounts and Stock Market Simulators
A free paper trading account or stock market simulator is an excellent alternative to a brokerage account and a big advantage for investors in general, but an ultimate benefit for any day trader.
Whether you plan to trade stocks, futures, options or forex – a paper trading account is the perfect tool in building a solid foundation for your successful trading career.
There are many advantages that come with paper trading and stock market simulators, as well as some major down sides you should be aware of.
In this article, I will reveal the most important facts and list the most interesting demo accounts, free paper trading acconts, and stock market simulators available right now.
Transparency: When you buy certain products from some of the sites we link to, we may earn a small share of the revenue.
A good paper trading account provides you with the same functionalities and features as a real trading account. But there is one important difference.
You are day trading with virtual money instead of real money. Trading virtual money with a stock market simulator allows you to gain trading experience without putting your capital at risk.
My Favorite Free Paper Trading Account
Right now, I have two favorites - Webull and thinkorswim.
Webull's investment app is the hottest competitor to Robinhood's app and can be considered as the best investment app right now. It has more functionalities, an excellent user interface, and it allows you to trade without any commissions.
Yes, you read this right, Webull is a broker who does not charge any commissions.
On top of that, they have included a free paper trading account within their app.
The Webull app can be used on your mobile, tablet, or personal computer.
On top of that, if you open an account with Webull and fund it with at least $200 within 24 hours, then you receive a free stock worth up to $1,000! Click here to receive your free stock.
TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim
TD Ameritrade's provides his customers with the best free paper trading account ever. If you are located in the United States, then it should be a no-brainer to open an account with them.
You do not have to fund this account, but you can use their free trading platform thinkorswim with all the features it has.
This offer is fantastic for anybody who wants to learn how to trade on a trading simulator or trading account. Another benefit, the platform, and the data feed are completely free of charge.
Also, Nathan Bear at Weekly Money Multiplier uses TD Ameritrade. Nathan also streames his trades live by sharing his TD Ameritrade platform with subscribers.
There is one little downside regarding TD Ameritrade compared to my other free paper trading account favorite Webull.
Effective October 3rd, 2019, TD Ameritrade charges you $0.0 in commissions for online stock trading and ETFs. Options trades are priced with $0.65 per contract with no assignment and no exercise fees. Thats awsome news!
Paper trading was always free and is still available for free. The only downside: TD Ameritrade is not available all over the world. Anyway, TD Ameritrade's trading platform thinkorswim is free to use and worth it!
Must Have Functionalities of Any Paper Trading Account
Important Differences between a Real Trading Account and Paper Trading
Your paper trading account will be funded with virtual money only. As with computer games, a virtual paper trading account has a major pitfall. Computer games allow you to restart your game whenever you want.
Paper trading accounts provide you a similar functionality and in most cases you can reset your account balance as often as you want.
Real life is different. If you lose money in real life, then someone else has it.
In real life you cannot hit a magic button allowing you to reset your account. Instead, you have to put more funds into the account.
Here are the most important differences between a real trading account and a demo account:
Paper Trading Account
Real Trading Account
Balance reset possible
Fees for Datafeeds
x (real time)
*until reset of your demo account or end of the demo account period.
Hint: A funded trading account is a mix of a paper trading account and a real trading account. Various funded trader programs offer people to trade an account of another company while keeping up to 80% of profits.
How to Know What and When to Trade?
Trading strategies are one of the biggest hurdles for new traders. Where to start? What pattern to trade? When to buy and when to sell a stock?
Stock screeners like Trade Ideas Pro A.I. help you to have the right trade idea at the right time. Take a look at the trade ideas review to learn why Trade Ideas Pro A.I. is the perfect tool for any day trader and investor.
Advantages and Disadvantages in Using Paper Trading
4 Paper Trading Advantages
Perfect for self-learning
A paper trading account can give you a much more realistic picture about the financial markets than any trading course can. You will understand the market structure and price action.
Buying and selling stocks, options, forex, or even cryptocurrencies is dangerous for your pocket if you don’t know what you are doing. A stock market simulator protects you from any losses.
Risk-free trading strategy exploration
Making money trading the financial markets is not an automatism. You need a good trading strategy to make money. Most beginners are undecided about which way to go and often jump from one strategy to the other.
With paper trading, trading strategies and trade ideas can be explored and tested without risk.
Platform handling experience: You will learn the process of how trading works and become a master in handling the trading platform. This is a solid foundation for your trading career.
Using a trading platform from your online broker will give you an additional benefit through which you will learn how to execute, buy, and sell orders right from the order screen within the trading platform.
Once your paper trading account becomes a real trading account, this will be a huge benefit.
Losses are part of the game. Your trading strategy and preparedness could be as effective and perfect as possible, but there will be days when you have the feeling that everything went wrong.
The demo account will protect you during the learning phase to handle such losses. You will gain more self-confidence when you recover from losses with the right strategy. Have a plan, stick to your plan and trade with your plan.
3 Paper Trading Disadvantages
Not 100% realistic order executions
The buy and sell orders you generate are not transmitted to the financial markets. Therefore, your orders do not have any impact on order executions and market liquidity.
In real life, your orders will have an impact and the order execution could be different. Usually, your paper trading account executions are declared more favorable than they would be in real trading accounts.
Fee structure not transparent
Trading in real life will trigger fees that have to be paid to your broker, the stock exchange, the bank and more.
Your market simulator will never be 100% transparent and correct in terms of your total fees. Always expect that your fees will be higher once you trade for real.
Paper trading is not 100% free
The closer a paper trading account comes to realistic trading environments, the more expensive the demo account becomes. If you want to use real time data, then you have to pay for it.
If you need a brokerage API for testing purposes, most vendors will charge a fee.
Completely "free" accessible demo accounts are full of advertisements to refinance the cost of the vendor or have only low-level functionalities and data.
It is an old saying but also a true one, "you get what you pay for."
What Will Happen Once You Switch from Your Paper Trading Account to a Real Trading Account?
General rule of thumb: If you don’t make money in your risk-free trading account, you will never do so in a real account.
Once you make your way to a real trading account, you will be faced with even more challenges, making it harder to make money.
You know me. I always give you a clear and honest picture about trading and investing.
Day trading is not easy and you have to know what you are doing.
Here are some of the challenges you will face when trading real money in your brokerage account:
No reset, less money
Many paper trading accounts come with a virtual amount of $100,000. The average amount of a real trading account is much lower. As a result, you will have less buying power.
When beginning, use the demo account settings to adjust the virtual money value as close as possible to your upcoming live trading value. And please be aware that you cannot reset your real money trading account with one mouse click. Only an additional deposit will give you additional funds.
Spreads can be huge
A spread is the difference between Bid and Ask in the order book. Trading stocks or financial instruments with high spreads is not a good idea.
Within the paper trading account you might get your order filled at a very unrealistic price level. In real life you might not get an execution due to some order book magic. However, this part is complex and I will dedicate a separate blog post to this topic.
Within most free paper trading accounts your buy and sell orders will be executed 100%, whether you order 1,000 stocks or 10,000. Market liquidity will be ignored in most simulated accounts.
Trading with a real trading account and real money will put you in the position in which your order will be filled only partially. Imagine you trade a stock that has an average trading volume of 20,000 stocks per day. You alone could generate a buy order of 10,000 stocks at market open. Ouch!
Deal rejectionTrading stocks, options and futures as a primary instrument will put you in a comfortable situation so that in most cases a deal rejection would not come true.
If you consider trading CFDs for stocks, forex or even binary options, then you will be faced with the deal rejection issue. Simply put, if the broker has a feeling that you could get a price where he would lose money, then he will reject your order.
This happens because CFDs are not an original financial instrument and brokers want to protect themselves as much as possible. The best way to avoid such things is simple. Do not trade CFDs and other exotic financial instruments.
Interests, dividends, cash transactions, deposits, withdrawals and many other things can cost additional money.
It depends on your broker what additional costs could arise. Make sure to check the terms before you open a brokerage account.
You will experience less favorable order executions during real trading than you would during the demo account. The real market is harder than trading with virtual money. Using the right order types will protect you from uncalculated losses.
Final Thoughts on the Best Free Paper Trading Accounts
Day trading requires knowledge and a ton of practice. A demo account is the perfect choice for any beginner. Even experienced traders are sensible enough to use a demo account for evaluating new trading strategies.
As I mentioned above, using real life to learn day trading, buying and selling stocks, options, futures and other financial instruments will be extremely challenging.
The paper trading account gives you the ability to gain experience in handling your trading platform and it is a great chance to practice the know-how you acquired while attending a trading course.
Wise preparation, along with a continuous development and improvement of skills are important for long term success.
Once you are ready to trade with real money, you will be well prepared with the right trading strategies and loads of self-confidence.
This is the perfect foundation for long term success when trading the financial markets with real capital.
It is not that crucial if you decide to start with a demo account from an online broker or if you are using a standalone trading tool.
The most important thing is that you start practicing with paper trading within a demo account or with a stock market simulator.
Plus, a stock screener like Trade Ideas helps you to keep track of the financial markets right from the start and to specifically search for stocks that meet your chosen trading strategy and selection criteria.
About the Author
Alexander is an investor, trader, and founder of daytradingz.com. After devoting many years to educating himself on powerful day trading techniques and effective investment styles, he started trading and investing more actively. In the past 20 years, he has executed thousands of trades. In 2015, he began writing articles about trading, investing, and personal finance. He is very passionate about sharing his knowledge and strives for success in himself and others. Alexander has been featured on Benzinga, Rockstar Finance, and ESI Money.