Since 2005, MetaQuotes and the MT4 trading platform reigned in the Forex trading platforms sector, but over the past five years, other providers managed to increase their market share. See below the top trading platforms picked by our analysts.
Many new retail traders approach trading Forex with the same mentality as being active on social media. A mobile trading platform appeals to them. Traders from frontier markets and, to a marginally lesser degree, emerging markets, where income levels often prevent the luxury of owning multiple devices, generally opt for high-performance mobile devices. The problem with mobile trading platforms is not computing power but screen size. Analyzing financial markets requires more than what mobile devices can provide. It also increases the risk of placing the wrong order or parameters for one. While a mobile trading platform is unsuitable for trading, it can provide enough for social traders who prefer to follow others with the click of a few buttons.
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With the competition among Forex brokers heating up to capture a share of the growing global Forex market, many pay less attention to the Forex software sub-sector, particularly in Forex trading platforms. MT4 maintains the number one spot in automated trading solutions, and the MT4 infrastructure fully supports third-party developers. The combination of both ensures that even fifteen years after its launch, no other Forex trading platform surpassed MT4. It does not mean that there are no competitors, but MT4 is the only one offered by almost every online Forex broker.
Demand from emerging markets warrants additional investment in the Forex trading platform sector, with FinTech companies joining the competition and disrupting the industry. Frontier markets provide an additional opportunity, as internet access becomes more widely available, with a distinct focus on trading from mobile phones rather than laptops and computers. The next decade appears ripe for more innovation, and we have taken a look at MT4 and its successor MT5, plus eleven established competitors.
Essential criteria each trading platform must offer:
- Reliability - You must trade with a reliable trading platform that keeps you connected to financial markets at all times. It will also provide you with accurate price feeds, as quality data is one of the most defining aspects for traders.
- Technology - A cutting-edge technology infrastructure will allow traders to improve their cost structure, avoid requotes and, in many cases, receive superior pricing to the value entered in the order ticket.
- User-Friendly Interface - Since traders spend their time in front of the trading platform, managing all operations from there, a user-friendly interface ensures swift trading. It will improve the efficiency of the time with the trading platform.
- Advanced Charts - A chart represents the core of each analysis. Traders must ensure that they have access to advanced charts that remain fully customizable to improve their trading outcome.
- Technical Analysis Tools - Traders should demand a comprehensive set of technical indicators to allow for the creation of trading strategies, from simple to more complicated ones. They can be easy to add and modify; plus, the visual presentation and data associated with them remain crucial to the success of trading.
- Fundamental Analysis Tools - It is equally necessary to provide traders with economic indicators and reports of releases, market commentary, breaking news events and supporting data. It will improve the outcome of trading strategies and ensure traders possess a complete view of the markets.
- Portfolio Tools - An in-depth analysis of portfolios allows traders to spot weaknesses and capitalize on strengths. It also supports the adjustment of unfavorable trading strategies or elimination of them. The top Forex trading platform delivers complete reports to improve the profitability of traders.
- Automated Trading Solutions - While some may prefer to trade manually, the support for automated trading solutions together with the ease to develop them fulfills a critical role with cutting-edge trading platforms. It is the fastest-growing trend in global finance, and traders should not trade with an outdated platform that lacks support for it.
Cyprus-based MetaQuotes established the global market leader in retail trading platform with the launch of MT4 in 2005. One of the pioneers of FinTech, the company understood the significance of automated trading solutions and made it one of its core features. Support for third-party developers assisted MT4 in its meteoric rise, making the MT4 infrastructure more valuable than the MT4 trading platform. It allowed professional traders, proprietary trading outlets, and hedge funds to create cutting-edge trading solutions, with the most advanced ones simply connecting to MT4 for order placement. Today, over 15,000 custom indicators and expert advisors (EAs) exist, and development teams at FinTech companies, as well as individual traders, continue to add new ones, despite the unsuccessful MT5 successor platform. MT5 failed amid a lack of backward compatibility to MT4, which almost every broker supports, with hundreds of millions of traders using it.
Fifteen years after its launch, MT4 remains the most used trading platform globally. It represented the first specific online trading platform and was able to capture the market with ease. Its ongoing success created an entire ecosystem, and it continues to grow. MT4 supported the explosive growth of online brokers with a low-cost trading platform and continues to do so. While the out-of-the-box version represents a sub-standard Forex trading platform, though sufficient for most trading needs, an upgraded MT4 can compete with the most advanced alternatives.
Advantages of MetaTrader 4
The most significant advantage of MT4 is its flexibility. Developers can take the core trading platform and create add-ons, custom indicators, EAs, and complete trading solutions on the MT4 infrastructure. Since nearly all well-established Forex brokers offer MT4, traders have more choices than with any alternative, as there are more than 1,200 known MT4 brokers operational today. With more than fifteen years of experience, it is also the most reliable, used, and trusted trading platform. Among the best Forex trading platforms for beginners, it maintains an undisputed edge due to countless tutorials and videos. MT4 is available as a desktop client, a webtrader with a significantly improved user interface, and a mobile application.
Disadvantages of MetaTrader 4
Necessary paid upgrades to the core MT4 trading platform remains the most obvious disadvantage. Depending on the individual trader, they may cost between $50 to $250 but can easily exceed $1,000. The desktop user interface looks dated and is one of the most cited nuances of working with MT4. Developers must learn the MetaQuotes Language 4 (MQL4) to create custom solutions, as it does not support other coding languages. Advanced FinTech companies may only code an MT4 bridge, often provided by brokers, and develop in their preferred language.
MetaTrader 4 Supreme Edition Add-On
The MetaTrader 4 Supreme Edition Add-On is a third-party add-on that notably upgrades the MT4 trading experience. Developed by Admiral Markets, MTrading also deploys it. It consists of nine significant improvements to MT4 at Admiral Markets, offering clients a competitive edge. MTrading lists only six, with no explanation for the difference.
Best MT4 Brokers
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Launched in 2010, MT5 failed to replicate the success of MT4. The lack of backward compatibly remains the most significant reason for this. MT5 was intended as a multi-asset trading platform, offering CFD trading while being compliant with US regulations, but most brokers decided to offer CFD trading in MT4. It is also a more expensive alternative and lacks the support MT4 enjoys. MT4 is available at most brokers, but MT5 struggles to break into the market, becoming a victim of the success of its predecessor.
Advantages of MetaTrader 5
MT5 does feature an improved user-interface, expanded technical indicators and graphical objects, a streamlined news service, and support for more assets. Professional traders will benefit from the added market depth functionality, and MetaQuotes markets it to hedge funds. Despite the effort and visible improvements, a decade after its launch, it has not shown promising progress.
MetaTrader 5 Supreme Edition Add-On
Similar to the MetaTrader 4 Supreme Edition Add-On, it provides a much-needed upgrade to the core MT5 trading platform. Admiral Markets is the only known broker offering it to traders and is the apparent developer of it (or the one with exclusive rights).
Best MT5 Brokers
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Despite the deserved popularity of the MT4 trading platform, there are other top Forex trading platforms to consider. While none may challenge MT4 as a complete solution, competitors have carved out a niche of their own, where they provide a superior service than the out-of-the-box MT4 trading platform. Before selecting, traders must compare Forex trading platforms to find the one that meets their trading needs the best. An upgraded MT4 may be suitable for most, but several competitors are increasing their market share with an excellent approach to the inefficiencies of the core MT4 trading platform.
cTrader is the most prominent competitor to MT4. Spotware Systems, also headquartered in Cyprus, developed the leading electronic communication network (ECN) trading platform, and a growing number of brokers add it to their line-up. It features a user-friendly interface, and competitive tools provide the most superior out-of-the-box trading platform available today. It fully supports automated trading, and cAlgo allows for the development of cBots, the equivalent of EAs in MT4, while cTrader Copy enables social trading.
Developed in the US, NinjaTrader became the leading independent trading platform. It attracted over 100,000 users, and with more than 1,000 add-ons from over 600 developers, it features the densest relationship between custom applications and traders. NinjaTrader enjoys limited success in the US but failed to expand internationally. It requires price feeds, which come at a cost, and the trading platform is not suited for new traders.
Another US trading platform, eSignal, offers various pricing packages for access to its product. Owned by the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), this feature-rich trading platform caters more to the professional sector than retail. Over 50 brokers offer this costly trading platform, which does not support automated or social trading. With only a handful of add-ons, most of them at an additional cost, eSignal enjoys limited support within a small sector of the market.
French-based ProRealTime developed a competitive cutting-edge trading platform for professional traders and committed retail traders. The end-of-day version is 100% free of charge, and is an excellent alternative to MT4 or cTrader, being the third most popular trading platform. It allows automated trading and offers manual traders a competitive set of tools. This multi-asset powerhouse has more than 850,000 users and, with almost 600,000 financial instruments, is probably the trading platform with the broadest asset database.
Trading Station is the proprietary trading platform of FXCM. It provides clients with a competitive alternative and is one of a few that also supports automated trading strategies. Available as a desktop client, webtrader and mobile application, it includes advanced charting capabilities, indicators, and market data for free. FXCM also maintains an app center, where traders can locate third-party upgrades, which can further enhance the excellent trading experience of Trading Station, one of the best propriety alternatives.
ZuluTrade is the market leader in social trading, offering those who favor copying traders with the broadest selection of signal providers, assets, and trading strategies. ZuluTrade owns one broker, AAAFx, but it is essential to understand that ZuluTrade does not provide a traditional trading platform but rather one for social trading. Many brokers offer ZuluTrade, but assets and trading tools remain the responsibility of brokers and not ZuluTrade. It does not offer automated trading solutions but allows traders to automate social trading via a set of rules, a small but distinctive difference.
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FX Trader is the proprietary trading platform of Interactive Brokers for Forex traders. While it features a user-friendly interface, new traders may find it challenging to use at first. It supports over twenty order types, is fully customizable, and the Order Book alerts traders if superior pricing exists. With interbank liquidity, Forex traders who prefer manual trading have a genuine alternative. FX Trader does not support automated trading, and the IB Trader Workstation (TWS) presents a superior choice, which includes algorithmic trading and a highly competitive overall trading experience.
Plus500 created a below-average proprietary trading platform. It is the only one it supports, but it lacks support for core trading functionalities. Automated and social trading is not available, fundamental analysis is missing, and order management, as well as portfolio management, remains minimal. Plus500 does not introduce its trading platform properly, suggesting the overall product trails those of competitors. As far as proprietary trading platforms go, Plus500 ranks at the bottom, while it does not support MT4.
xStation, the proprietary trading platform of Polish CFD broker XTB, offers manual traders an excellent choice. The clean user interface makes it easy to navigate for new traders. It features advanced charting, improved order tickers and risk management, a sentiment indicator, and market analysis from the in-house research team at XTB. An integrated education section supports new retail traders. XTB developed a competitive trading platform for manual traders.
LCG Trader is another excellent proprietary trading platform deployed by UK-based LCG. This multi-asset trading platform supports over 7,000 assets from nine sectors, advanced charts with a full set of technical analysis tools, and the pricing improvement technology grants superior order placement. While it does not allow automated trading, manual traders can manage their portfolios with a competitive edge and intuitive user interface. It is available across all platforms and devices.
JForex, most popularly deployed by Swiss online bank and broker Dukascopy, is a feature-rich trading platform, with over 270 indicators and chart studies. It also supports automated trading, includes a historical tester, and is one of the most competitive broker alternatives to MT4 and cTrader. Unlike other trading platforms, JForex remains coded in the Java programming language. While it supports third-party development, only a handful of brokers offer JForex, but over 700 plugins exist.
The best Forex trading platform remains MT4 due to its flexibility, support from developers, and broker availability. Additionally, it is one of the best Forex trading platforms for beginners. Keep in mind, to turn MT4 into a competitive trading terminal, third-party upgrades are necessary, which come at a cost. The best out-of-the-box solution is split between cTrader and ProRealTime, while the best social trading option is ZuluTrade.
While MT4 tops the list of best Forex trading platforms for beginners due to extensive manuals, video tutorials, and user guides, together with easy-to-learn functionality, cTrader and ProRealTime offer a competitive alternative. Since cTrader is not available at the majority of brokers, ProRealTime occupies a unique position for traders who seek a cutting-edge trading platform, free end-of-day (EOD) data to analyze markets and to manually place orders with their broker.
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Forex Trading Platform Comparison
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The most defining aspect of any Forex trading platform remains the support of your trading strategies. It must feature advanced charts and analysis tools, both technical and fundamental, while support for automated trading solutions is beneficial. New retail traders who do not know what they need should start with MT4, as it supports everything.
While the ultimate choice boils down to individual preferences, traders should select a regulated and compliant broker with a wide range of assets, a trader-friendly cost structure and a cutting-edge trading platform with supporting technology infrastructure.
Each regulated broker provides details at the bottom of their homepage. Go to the regulator's website and check the license number against their database. Alternatively, calling the regulator or sending an e-mail to inquire about the regulatory status can confirm regulation.
A dealing-desk broker can directly interfere with the order flow and usually keeps an inventory of assets. Most trades placed with a dealing desk remain processed in-house and never reach the market. Usually, a dealing desk serves the best interest of the broker. An agency broker has a formal responsibility to act in the best interest of the trader, does not hold inventory, and merely executes placed orders in the open market. Agency brokers carry high costs for their services and cater to high-end professional traders.
In a commission-free trading account, spreads represent the principal trading costs. In a US dollar trading account, 1.0 pip totals $10 in currency pairs where the US dollar is the quote currency. In a commission-based account, traders pay smaller mark-ups but a fee per side. Transparent brokers provide all costs per asset and often have calculators available. Swap rates on leveraged overnight positions also apply, which differ based on the instrument. Most trading platforms display those costs, and brokers maintain a list on their website.
Our team of seasoned finance professionals spent several days testing each trading platform, together with many more that did not make our list. After several hundreds of hours analyzing and trading various assets, this review offers one of the most comprehensive insights into the best Forex trading platforms. While each trader must determine which one caters to their trading needs, this review provides undecided traders with an unbiased opinion conducted by real traders, for traders.
Here is a list of criteria our experts evaluated:
- Quality of Charts
- Technical Analysis Tools
- Fundamental Analysis Tools
- Order Management Options
- Risk Management Options
- Account Analysis Tools
- Trading Alerts
- User-friendly Interface
- Support for Automated Trading Solutions
- Third-Party Developer Support
- Customer Support
- Beginner Friendliness/Tutorials
- Demo Version/Costs
What is the best trading platform for Forex?
The best trading platform for Forex for most traders is MT4, followed by cTrader and ProRealTime.
What platform do Forex traders use?
Most Forex traders use the MT4 trading platform, which is offered by almost every Forex broker, and became the cornerstone of the online Forex trading industry.
Can I trade Forex with $10?
While some brokers offer trading accounts from $10 or less, sufficient to maintain one micro position, it is not enough to trade Forex.
Is trading Forex worth it?
Forex trading is worth it if new traders approach it with the same mindset as any other demanding profession. The failure rate, as high as 85%, confirms that most do not take it seriously or have misplaced and unrealistic expectations. Misleading marketing campaigns take partial blame for it.
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