As you start to research investing, you’re bombarded with a slew of information about how to invest, different investing strategies, and the types of stocks you should be looking for. Many investors research for weeks or even months before risking their first dollar.
When you decide that it’s time to pull the trigger and make your entrance into the stock market, you may feel a bit overwhelmed. You’ve done the research, chosen a strategy, and picked some investments you believe will perform well. But there’s no assurance that things will go as you plan — especially if it’s your first time putting money in the stock market.
Wouldn’t it be great if you had somewhere you could practice your investing strategy before risking your own money?
Trading simulators are all over the Internet. These platforms allow you to test your investment ideas in real-time with virtual currency, meaning that you’re not risking a dime.
What Is a Trading Simulator?
A trading similar is essentially a copy of the stock market on a virtual trading platform. These virtual platforms provide market data like you would generally see in your active trading account.
But there’s one big difference.
In your active trading account, your trades are made using your money. So, when you lose, you lose real money. With these virtual platforms, you’re trading with virtual money, or paper money, that has absolutely no value.
With this virtual money, you can make investments in the market in a virtual environment in real time. If your trading strategy is successful and you’re making plenty of virtual cash, then it’s time to try your hand in the real world with real money. If your strategy leads to losses the majority of the time and you’re blowing through your virtual money, there’s no harm done. It’s time to tweak your strategy and put it to the test in the virtual world until the tweaks create a winner.
These platforms can be used to practice your strategy regardless of the asset you plan to trade, from commodities to options, forex, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and of course, individual stock trading.
Beyond developing an investing strategy, seasoned investors often trade in a virtual environment to tweak successful strategies given changing market conditions and gauge whether these adjustments will lead to larger returns than those being created at the moment.
The Best Trading Platforms That Let You Simulate Trading
There are several trading simulators online today, most of which are free. Some of them are offered by brokerages looking to earn your business by providing you the tools you need to succeed, while others are offered by trade signal services, investing education platforms, and automated trading services for the same reason.
1. thinkorswim by TD Ameritrade
TD Ameritrade is one of the most popular discount brokers online today, with its new trade desk, thinkorswim, being designed by traders for traders. As you would expect from a leading brokerage and intuitive platform, thinkorswim comes with one of the most intuitive virtual stock market experiences online today.
Not only can you test your strategies in the open market, you can do so with a wide range of assets that make finding and assessing opportunities simple with best-in-class tools and charts.
You can see it for yourself by signing up for free without so much as a requirement to open a brokerage account.
An online investment platform doesn’t become one of the best in the business without offering intuitive charting abilities. Among a wide range of tools, the comprehensive charts offer all of the best technical indicators and an easy-to-read setup that brings simplicity to the trading process.
A Wide Range of Assets
If TD Ameritrade offers it to trade for real through thinkorswim, you can practice trading it through paperMoney, the platform’s digital money trade desk. This includes a wide range of assets like stocks, ETFs, currencies, options, and futures. The company has also begun offering Bitcoin as a trading asset and plans on bringing more cryptocurrencies into the fray.
Long and Short Trading Strategies Supported
Long trading strategies are bets that a security will increase in value, but what if declines happen? To profit from those moves, short selling is the way to go. The TD Ameritrade platform and trading simulator lets you practice short selling too, supporting your trading strategy whether you’re looking to learn how to profit from rising stocks or falling stocks.
In order to test your strategy, you’ll need to find the best stocks to add to your watchlist to deploy your strategy with.
The stock screener offered through the thinkorswim platform gives you the ability to quickly pinpoint the stocks that fall into the categories you’re looking for based on a wide range of factors including growth, valuation metrics, average volume, and countless others.
Ease of Use
The thinkorswim trading simulator is designed by one of the most popular online brokerages. It’s only fitting that it and the accompanying live platform include all the tools you need to be successful in a layout that’s easy to understand and use, making it a perfect option for new investors.
TradeStation is one of the most popular online brokers for active traders. The platform is free to use if you make at least five trades in the 12 month anniversary following the date you open your account or maintain an average end-of-month equity balance of at least $2,000.
If you plan on active trading, it is a great broker to work with. Moreover, the company’s demo trade desk offers all the tools you’ll need to test your strategies and make sure they’re effective before you start trading.
All in all, if you’re looking for an intuitive way to test your abilities as a trader, the platform may be just what you’re looking for. Here’s why the company’s simulator is well worth looking into:
Access to Cryptocurrency
TradeStation offers a wide range of assets in both their live accounts and their demo accounts. Along with traditional assets like stocks, options, and currencies, traders also have access to cryptocurrency. Keep in mind that while you can trade digital currencies on the platform, these assets are not supported as part of virtual trading.
The paper trading platform comes with all the tools that you’ll find on its live platform. This includes compelling charts and indicators and the ability for brokerage account holders to jump back and forth to test their strategies in real time.
TradeStation also offers a wide range of community forums, allowing new investors and traders to connect with the pros.
These connections are invaluable whether you’re learning options trading, stock trading, or trading in any of the other assets offered on the platform. Newcomers to the stock market and particular asset classes will find ideas, opportunities, and strategies strewn throughout the community forums.
An Intuitive Mobile App
Whether you’re taking advantage of a real-life account or a paper trading account, you’ll have access to an intuitive mobile app that comes with all the tools you need to test and execute your trading strategies.
NinjaTrader is yet another highly-trusted broker specifically focused on active traders. If you plan on jumping into the world of day trading, the company’s simulator is a great way to try your strategies with virtual money rather than risking the real thing.
The one downside to the company’s practice platform is that you’ll have to download software, unlike other offerings that are available for use online. With the exception of that one pitfall, the software is some of the best in the business and well worth diving into, especially since it’s free.
Some of the perks you’ll enjoy when you launch the demo platform include:
Turn the Clock Back
Perhaps the most unique feature of the virtual environment offered by NinjaTrader is the ability to look into past performance by turning the clock back. With the simulator, you can see how your trading strategy would have done on a historical basis, as well as in real-time. This backtesting capability isn’t a common tool and will prove to be overwhelmingly valuable when testing your strategies.
A Robust Set of Tools
Any quality investment platform is going to provide a robust set of tools, including easy-to-read charts, all of the indicators traders look for, and the ability to set up trading algorithms. As you would expect, all the tools offered on the real life platform are also on its practice platform.
Stock screeners are important tools for traders, giving them the ability to pinpoint opportunities in the stock market that would go unseen otherwise. NinjaTrader’s stock screener is intuitive, making it simple to find your next opportunity.
Cryptocurrency is still relatively new. As a result, it may be difficult to find virtual accounts that give you the ability to test your strategy on digital currencies as well as more traditional investment vehicles like stocks and options. NinjaTrader offers the best of both worlds.
4. Warrior Trading
Warrior Trading is a trading education and signal service that has garnered quite a bit of attention. The company also offers a trading simulator that easily earns its position as one of the top paper-trading platforms online today.
Whether you’re a newcomer to the stock market or you’ve made millions and see the value in testing new strategies before deploying them in the real market, Warrior Trading’s virtual platform fits the bill.
The platform provides a compelling trading experience while providing reporting that’s second to none, giving you the ability to dive into the details of your strategy and ensure that every aspect of your strategy is helping you to create profits.
Advanced Reporting Metrics
The reporting metrics on the Warrior Trading practice platform are second to none. They give you the ability to not only test your strategy, but also to dive into detail with regard to what aspects of the strategy are performing well and what aspects aren’t.
Simulate Current Market Conditions
The trading simulator at Warrior Trading is a culmination of a collaboration with Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange. This collaboration has led to Level 2 Quotes, which, when combined with Warrior Trading’s technology, gives you the ability to see what your strategy would do in real time as if you were participating in real trading.
A Compelling Trading Experience
Warrior Trading isn’t a stockbroker. The company makes its money by educating new traders on the market and about the concepts of trading while providing one of the best signalling services on the market today.
Ross Cameron, the founder of Warrior Trading is an active trader himself, and he and his team know what it takes to generate a compelling trading experience. This is exactly what they’ve done with their stock market simulator, giving you a risk-free way to test your strategy in a platform that’s easy to use and understand.
Made for New and Experienced Traders
The vast majority of practice accounts are geared toward the new trader. The brains behind Warrior Trading are expert traders who see the value in using these practice arenas to test their own new strategies.
Although the practice platform is easy to use and a perfect fit for the new trader, it’s also quite a bit more intuitive than most competing offers, making it a strong fit for experienced traders as well.
5. Wall Street Survivor
Wall Street Survivor is a financial education platform that uses concepts and principles from games in order to teach users how to live a more appealing financial lifestyle, including investing to build wealth.
Wall Street Survivor offers a detailed demo account that gives you the ability to trade and invest with virtual money to help you learn how to trade and invest with no real-world risk.
The platform is a great pick for those looking to test their strategies while working toward greater overall financial well-being. Not only does Wall Street Survivor teach the concepts of successful investing and trading, it also goes into financial planning, setting you up with what you need today and in the future.
Humans are competitive creatures. It’s enjoyable to compete in games and test your skills against your peers. Wall Street Survivor gives members the ability to set up trading games to compete with others to see who has the best strategy.
Not only can you create your own trading game, you can also join existing games by choosing from a massive list on the practice platform.
While most demo accounts are geared toward traditional stock trading, Wall Street Survivor’s virtual platform covers the full gamut of the stock market, including futures and options trading.
Shorting and Covering
You’ll also have the ability to test your skills with various trade types including buying and selling stock in the traditional sense as well as shorting and covering. To take advantage of downward swings in the market, Wall Street Survivor allows you to test short-selling strategies.
Compelling Charting and Tools
You can’t test strategies in the stock market without quality charts and a long list of trading indicators. The practice trade desk at Wall Street Survivor offers everything you need to test your strategy as though you were actually trading using it.
Founded in 1997, MarketWatch is one of the most trusted websites centered around the stock market today. The company offers real-time quotes, news, signal services, and much more. Part of its offering is a stock screener that stands up well to any of its competition.
With a strong history of quality analysis and a mission to bring wealth to the masses, the company has earned its reputation as a leader, and it offers up a virtual account with all the features you would expect to see from a company with such a high-end reputation.
Like some of its peers, MarketWatch gives its users the ability to create and join stock market games to put your strategies to the test against those used by other traders.
Full Quote Overview
As a news and analysis provider, MarketWatch has something that most other practice platforms don’t have. You have the option to see a full quote overview. This gives you quote information like all other simulators would, but you also have access to the company’s vast database of news and analysis while making your trading decisions.
As one of the biggest stock market-centric websites in the world today, MarketWatch knows what tools traders need to succeed in the market, and the company provides every single one of them, ranging from quality charting to a vast list of indicators, analysis, and news.
Sometimes finding an opportunity in the stock market is the hardest part of the trading process. The stock screener MarketWatch offers is one of the most robust on the market today, even giving you the ability to screen in the premarket and after hours.
HowTheMarketWorks.com was a pioneer in stock market simulators. In fact, it was one of the first to launch, and it has centered its entire business around the concept. As a pioneer in the space, it’s not surprising that the company offers one of the most robust practice accounts online today.
For the beginner investor or trader, joining HowTheMarketWorks.com is worth the time simply for the free educational resources it provides. The practice trade desk is icing on the cake.
However, there is one drawback. The company doesn’t support options and futures trading, nor currency pairs or commodities on its practice platform. The only assets supported at HowTheMarketWorks.com are stocks and ETFs.
Here’s what you’ll enjoy when taking advantage of the HowTheMarketWorks.com virtual platform:
HowTheMarketWorks.com may have been the first platform that offered investors and traders the ability to compete with each other through virtual trading accounts.
As with other platforms that offer trading games, you can create your own game or choose from a vast list of open games to join, driving education and strategy improvements through a little healthy competition.
Trading Tools and Charts
HowTheMarketWorks.com offers a long list of robust tools and chart capabilities. Beyond charting, the practice account gives you access to stock market analysis and other materials designed to help you learn how the stock market works and how to exploit movements in the market to build wealth.
HowTheMarketWorks.com works for everyone, but it was designed for the new trader. The website was designed to teach you how the stock market works and how to make money investing and trading. With education being the center of attention during the development of the platform, the educational materials offered are second to none in the space.
A Similar Feel to Live Online Platforms
The virtual environment available at HowTheMarketWorks.com has a similar look and feel to what you would find when you open a live account with an online trading service, helping to familiarize you with the stock market and make you feel comfortable when you enter the real market.
8. Bear Bull Traders Simulator
Last but not least, Bear Bull Traders offers a unique simulator.
Bear Bull Traders is a platform designed to teach new traders how to be successful in the market, particularly as day traders. As part of its education process, the company offers classes, and the virtual platform gives traders a way to practice what they’ve learned in a risk-free environment.
Bear Bull Traders is a perfect fit for the new trader. But the company didn’t leave out seasoned traders either, offering up advanced trading courses as well.
With all the tools you’ll need and the ability to customize the platform to your unique preferences and experience level, the simulator at Bear Bull Trades is one of the best in the business.
Here’s what traders love about Bear Bull Traders:
Customize Your Setup to Your Trading Preferences
Depending on the way you trade, you’ll use different indicators and different tools in the process. Knowing this, Bear Bull Traders gives you the ability to customize the platform to meet your needs.
Classes for All Experience Levels
The whole idea at Bear Bull Traders is to teach you how to be a more successful active trader. This is the case whether you’re a newcomer to the trading environment or an experienced trader. Bear Bull Traders offers beginner, intermediate, and advanced trading classes.
The Platform Can Be Used for Live Trading
Once you’ve learned enough about the trading process and are ready to enter the trading environment, the Bear Bull Traders trading platform that has been used as a virtual environment also can be used for live trading in the real-world stock market.
This provides a seamless transition from virtual to real trading, avoiding any confusion resulting from having to switch platforms.
Compelling Trading Tools
Finally, as with other practice accounts on this list, the Bear Bull Traders demo platform provides an extensive list of tools, charts, and indicators, giving you all the tools you need to be successful in the stock market.
Stock market simulators have become an important part of learning how to trade and invest. Through these practice platforms, you have the ability to put your investment strategies to the test without risking your hard-earned money.
As is the case with any product, not all simulators are the same. Some are designed for traders, some are designed for investors. Moreover, each virtual environment will have its own quirks that will appeal to some investors more than others.
Because most trading simulators are free, it’s a good idea to try out a few different options to find the one that fits your investing or trading style. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to start testing your investing strategy!