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Best Paper Trading Platforms of 2024

Sam Levine, CFA, CMT

Written by Sam Levine, CFA, CMT
Edited by Carolyn Kimball
Fact-checked by Steven Hatzakis

February 12, 2024

StockBrokers.com has been reviewing online brokerages for 14 years and has helped over 20 million visitors research and compare brokers. Each year we collect thousands of data points and publish tens of thousands of words of research. Here's how we test. Our editorial content is independent and unbiased; here's how we make money.

Do you want to invest in stocks with no risk? Just open a standard investing account with a broker that permits paper trading. Paper trading, otherwise known as simulated or virtual trading, lets beginners experience what it’s like to actually buy and sell stocks, options, and other investments. And novices aren’t the only ones playing with Monopoly money; experienced traders use virtual portfolios to test out new strategies or try out trading platform features.

Is virtual trading the same as investing with your own money? Yes and no. The simulated accounts at the brokers we list here act almost identically to real money accounts so, yes, it’s the same online experience. But the real difference will be in how you experience virtual trading. Real profits and real losses feel very different than losing fake money. It’s one thing to lose $100,000 of simulated simoleons and quite another to drop $100 of your own personal cheddar.

Seven of the 17 brokers we tested in the 2024 Annual Stockbroker Review provide simulated trading: E*TRADE, eToro, Interactive Brokers, Charles Schwab, TradeStation, Tradier, and Webull. None of them require minimum deposits, average balances, or charge ongoing fees. It’s the sweetest deal on Earth. You can trade a million bucks on sophisticated trading platforms with no risk or cost. Simulated trading is also great for stock-picking contests among friends.

Best Paper Trading Platforms

Here are our top picks for brokers that let you invest fantasy funds.

Webull
4/5 Stars 4.0 Overall

Best for beginners

Minimum Deposit$0.00
Stock Trades$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.00

Webull offers attractive, easy-to-use downloadable platforms with a short learning curve that will have beginners quickly up and running. Its charts are also a standout. Read full review

Pros
  • Terrific user experience across all devices
  • Zero-cost option trading
  • 44 cryptocurrencies
Cons
  • Limited investment options
  • 1% markups and markdowns on crypto trades
Visit Site

Get up to 75 free fractional shares!

Charles Schwab
5/5 Stars 5.0 Overall

Best for complex trading layouts

Minimum Deposit$0.00
Stock Trades$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.65

Charles Schwab’s powerful thinkorswim trading platform, one of our perennial top picks among online brokerages, offers loads of features, including virtual trading. Streaming and video content is also strong. Read full review

Pros
  • TD Ameritrade’s excellent thinkorswim trading platforms now available
  • Trading-friendly app and browser enhancements
  • Exceptional high net worth services
Cons
  • No cryptocurrency trading
  • Mutual fund fees are complex
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Trade with thinkorswim®, now at Schwab.

Interactive Brokers
4.5/5 Stars 4.5 Overall

Best for foreign investing

Minimum Deposit$0.00
Stock Trades$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.65

Interactive Brokers is a longtime global leader, particularly for the breadth of tradeable instruments. Paper trading is available on the IBKR Mobile app as well as the pro-grade Trader Workstation platform. Read full review

Pros
  • Astounding array of customizable tools
  • Allows trading in foreign markets
  • Convenient apps for individual investors
Cons
  • Restrictive trading permissions
  • Main platforms might feel cold
Visit Site

New clients, special margin rates.

E*TRADE
5/5 Stars 5.0 Overall

Best for new options traders

Minimum Deposit$0.00
Stock Trades$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.65

If you have an interest in options trading, E*TRADE’s options tools will have you upping your game. For paper trading, download the Power E*TRADE app rather than the flagship app. Read full review

Pros
  • Watch lists are the best in the business
  • Smooth mobile navigation
  • High-quality high-net-worth Morgan Stanley proprietary research
Cons
  • Cryptocurrencies not currently available
  • Margin rates are high compared to other brokers
TradeStation
4/5 Stars 4.0 Overall

A window into automated trading

Minimum Deposit$0.00
Stock Trades$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.60

Many serious traders use TradeStation because of its proprietary programming language, which allows automated trading. Its mobile app is friendlier to beginners than its complex desktop platform. Read full review

Pros
  • Web trading platform is well thought-out
  • TradeStation Crypto is powerful and intuitive
Cons
  • User experience can be frustrating
  • No third-party fundamental research
Visit Site

Trade Stocks, Options, Futures, & Crypto.

eToro
4/5 Stars 4.0 Overall

The herd is the word

Minimum Deposit$10.00
Stock Trades$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.00

Paper traders, like real-money traders, can benefit from eToro’s strong community features. You can read posts from fellow individual investors and dip a toe into the world of copy trading. Read full review

Pros
  • Takes social investing to the next level
  • 26 coins to choose from
  • User-friendly website and app
Cons
  • Limited investment choices
  • You can't go short or borrow on margin
Visit Site

Deposit $100 and get a $10 bonus!

Webull – Best for beginners

Webull’s downloadable desktop and browser-based trading platforms are attractive, clear, and a joy to use. You can have multiple charts on the screen at once and layer your workspace with tabs. None of the tools are overly complicated. Webull has a $2.99 monthly charge for real-time quotes (if you want them). You can turn on simulated trading using the mobile app’s “paperTrade” button in the Shortcuts section of the account homepage.

Webull mobile gallery

Webull web platform

Charles Schwab – Best for complex trading layouts

Charles Schwab's feature-rich thinkorswim trading platform, which allows virtual trading, gives you streaming CNBC and its proprietary video content for free. Like E*TRADE (below), Charles Schwab has two mobile apps. The stellar thinkorswim mobile app is where you’ll find the “paperMoney.”

Charles Schwab mobile app gallery

Charles Schwab thinkorswim desktop gallery

Interactive Brokers – Best for foreign investing

Interactive Brokers can trade everything under the sun and probably the sun itself, if you could figure out its ticker symbol. Sure, that’s an exaggeration, but IBKR is known for its broad investment selection and global reach. U.S. clients can invest in 33 countries. Experienced and professional investors rely on IBKR’s highly sophisticated Trader Workstation, but beginners may find it frustrating if they try to do too much at once. Luckily, paper trading is also available on the flagship mobile app, IBKR Mobile.

IBKR Mobile app gallery

IBKR Trader Workstation (TWS) gallery

E*TRADE – Best for new options traders

If you already know the difference between a put and a call option but want to continue developing your options chops, Power E*TRADE is a winner. Though it’s perfectly fine to trade virtual stocks, the options tools will make you feel like you have a stock analyst behind you (in a good way, not a creepy way). It’s neither overly complicated nor so basic that it’s useless to experienced investors. Bloomberg video is free on Power E*TRADE. Real-time quotes are free with a $1,000 balance.

E*TRADE offers mobile virtual trading on its Power E*TRADE mobile app, but not on its flagship mobile app, so make sure to download the correct app if you want to paper trade.

Power E*TRADE Mobile app gallery

Power E*TRADE web trading platform gallery

TradeStation – A window into automated trading

TradeStation was an early disruptor in the online brokerage business by offering a suite of professional-quality tools to individual investors. Many serious traders use TradeStation because of its proprietary programming language, which allows automated trading. The complicated desktop platform is still TradeStation’s signature product, but its mobile app is much friendlier to newcomers.

TradeStation mobile gallery

TradeStation platform

eToro – The herd is the word

eToro offers almost the same ease of use as Robinhood (which doesn’t offer virtual trading) but goes a step further by combining brokerage with a Twitter-like news feed. Instead of relying on Dow Jones or the talking heads on CNBC or Bloomberg for ideas, you can read posts from fellow individual investors, many of whom are seeking to build their followings. Some of the user posts are thoughtful and well-researched but, as you should expect with any public platform, some aren’t. You can paper trade on eToro’s mobile app, too.

eToro mobile gallery

eToro web platform

What is paper trading?

Paper trading is trading with a simulated portfolio instead of real money. It allows novices to become comfortable investing real money and helps experienced investors evaluate complex trading strategies before putting money at risk.

What is the best paper trading account?

In our analysis, Webull offers the best experience for beginners. It’s easy to open an account and information is presented in an appealing but not condescending way. Seasoned investors will likely appreciate the sophisticated tools available at Charles Schwab or Interactive Brokers.

Is paper trading good for beginners?

Yes, paper trading helps beginners become familiar with the mechanics of researching, buying and selling investments. But investing fake money (and, especially, losing it) feels far different compared to investing your own money. You will learn more if you start off with paper trading, then invest small amounts of your own money by buying fractional shares.

Can you paper trade for free?

Yes. Paper trading is often bundled with other services in broker accounts. Most U.S. brokers do not charge monthly account fees or require minimum deposits, making paper trading free. You will have to open a standard brokerage account, but you do not need to deposit anything into it. Some brokers may charge for real time data, but delayed data is fine for paper trading.

Can you make money paper trading?

You may make paper profits, but you will not be able to exchange them for real money. You may, however, look for stock picking contests that offer cash prizes.

Can I paper trade with options?

Brokers that allow options trading in live accounts and offer paper trading will likely allow you to trade options in the paper account for practice, a very good idea for new options traders.

What is the best paper trading app?

Our hands-on testing and analysis finds that the best mobile apps for paper (or virtual portfolio) are:

  • Power E*TRADE — Tied with Charles Schwab’s thinkorswim mobile for being both convenient and rich in features. Best for practicing with a small number of stocks (especially if you really like the color purple).
  • Charles Schwab thinkorswim Mobile — as easy to use as Power E*TRADE; also features a rich, very nice watch list.
  • TradeStation — Crisp views and nice chart trading.
  • eToro — Strong active investor community.
  • Webull — Excellent for beginners, though the paper trading setting is buried in the app.

Does Fidelity offer virtual/paper trading?

At this time, Fidelity doesn’t offer paper trading, but beginners aren’t left in the cold. Fidelity offers fractional shares of stocks and ETFs, which still allows novices to get started without risking too much money.

Does Schwab have virtual/paper trading?

Yes, Charles Schwab offers paper trading through its thinkorswim trading platform.

Does Robinhood have paper trading?

At this time, Robinhood doesn’t offer paper trading. Beginners can get started by buying fractional shares.

Will paper trading make me a better trader?

Paper trading is a good introduction to investing, and it’s very helpful for learning how to use a broker’s specialized tools. But you will experience investing differently when you have real money at risk. A $10 loss of real money feels vastly different than a $100,000 loss of nonexistent money.

Track your trades: Read about the best trading journals on our sister site, investor.com.

Methodology

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About the Editorial Team

Sam Levine, CFA, CMT
Sam Levine, CFA, CMT

Sam Levine has over 30 years of experience in the investing field as a portfolio manager, financial consultant, investment strategist and writer. He also taught investing as an adjunct professor of finance at Wayne State University. Sam holds the Chartered Financial Analyst and the Chartered Market Technician designations and is pursuing a master's in personal financial planning at the College for Financial Planning. Previously, he was a contributing editor at BetterInvesting Magazine and a contributor to The Penny Hoarder and other media outlets.

Carolyn Kimball
Carolyn Kimball

Carolyn Kimball is managing editor for Reink Media and the lead editor for the StockBrokers.com Annual Review. Carolyn has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at major media outlets including NerdWallet, the Los Angeles Times and the San Jose Mercury News. She specializes in coverage of personal financial products and services, wielding her editing skills to clarify complex (some might say befuddling) topics to help consumers make informed decisions about their money.

Steven Hatzakis
Steven Hatzakis

Steven Hatzakis is the Global Director of Research for ForexBrokers.com. Steven previously served as an Editor for Finance Magnates, where he authored over 1,000 published articles about the online finance industry. Steven is an active fintech and crypto industry researcher and advises blockchain companies at the board level. Over the past 20 years, Steven has held numerous positions within the international forex markets, from writing to consulting to serving as a registered commodity futures representative.

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Securities trading offered by eToro USA Securities, Inc. (“the BD”), member of FINRA and SIPC. Cryptocurrency offered by eToro USA LLC (“the MSB”) (NMLS: 1769299) and is not FDIC or SIPC insured. Investing involves risk, and content is provided for educational purposes only, does not imply a recommendation, and is not a guarantee of future performance. StockBrokers.com is not an affiliate and may be compensated if you access certain products or services offered by the MSB and/or the BD.

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