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
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.
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