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For residents of the UK and Ireland, it is relatively easy to get started with a spread betting demo account. Most Brokers are not required to perform the number of checks and collect as much personal information for a demo account as they do for a live account. Setting up a demo account is generally a speedy process.

A spread betting demo account will let you practice trading with paper money – which means your profits and losses will not be real. It will give you a feel for the platform you choose before you commit real money.

We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of spread betting demo accounts for you to cast your eye over. Follow the links to find our independent review of each broker. Before you make any kind of decision on which spread betting demo account you wish to trial though, take a look at our short guide to choosing a spread betting demo account below.

Choose a spread betting demo account

BrokerFree AccessDurationVirtual Funds
Ig GroupUnlimitedUp to £500,000open a demo account
30 Days£10,000open a demo account
ETX CapitalUnlimited£10,000open a demo account
Ig GroupUnlimited£10,000open a demo account
Spread Coopen a demo account
Accendo Markets Unlimited £10,000open a demo account
ADS Prime $50,000
Core Spreads £10,000
Financial Spreads 30 Days£10,000open a demo account
AvaTrade 21 Days $100,000open a demo account

How to make best use of a spread betting demo account

For beginners, a spread betting demo account offers you an opportunity to understand how fast the markets move, and will let you explore some of the other facilities spread betting companies offer, like market news and charting.

Bear in mind a demo account may not incorporate all of the markets you would expect from a funded account and the prices quoted may not necessarily be the live prices. However, most of the popular markets are likely to be available, giving you a chance to practice your trading strategies risk free and developing a style of trading that works for you.

It is important to bear in mind that a spread betting demo account will not necessarily prepare you for live trading.

Here’s the crux of it.

There is an added pressure that comes with trading real money that you simply can’t replicate with a demo account.

This is where your trading strategy will be invaluable. You will need to strive to formulate and hone your strategies using your spread betting demo account so that your trades become a simple function.

Removing emotion from your trading before you do it for real with a live account will help you avoid the big losses that come from beginner’s mistakes. Trading with real money is a game changer.

A spread betting demo account will allow you to monitor the underlying performance price of your chosen markets and understand their relationship with other markets and events over time.

A good spread betting demo account will also offer you the opportunity to manage your risk by setting stop orders as you would with a live account.

Spreadbetting platforms for beginners

We’ve taken a look at all of the online platforms available and put together this list of the best spreadbetting platforms for beginners. Each platform offers a limited risk feature that will significantly reduce your exposure to losses while you learn to trade.

Before you go ahead and sign up for a spread betting demo account, we’ll explain how you should go about choosing your spread betting broker

Choosing the right broker can be a bewildering process. There are now more companies offering access to the financial markets than ever before. The barriers to entry are lower, while the big, established firms are seeking ways to innovate, and to provide products and services that others cannot afford to deliver.

In addition, the overall cost of trading is coming down as more firms seek to compete on price. For the new trader, this is a great time to be starting out, as many companies will bend over backwards to win your business.

Competition is hot out there for your business, but not all brokers offer the same suite of products and services. It is fair to say that some are better positioned to deal with the beginner than others.

1. A lesson for beginners

For starters, some of the bigger companies have had the resources to invest in substantial educational programmes, which include colourful trading guides, videos, seminars and access to trading coaches who can answer your questions. These are usually offered free, and The Armchair Trader would encourage you to take advantage of them.

2. The trade off

Many brokers use different trading ‘platforms’ – the system you use to place your trades, follow prices, even do some analysis on. These are getting more sophisticated all the time, so it is important that you familiarise yourself with a spread betting demo account before you commit your funds to a live trading account.

Much is made of these platforms, and indeed they can cost a considerable amount of time and money to build from scratch, so their creators can feel justly proud of them.

But trading platforms are not the be-all and end-all. A poorly designed trading interface, however, can really cripple your ability to trade financial markets online.

Brokers will be able to take you through the process of familiarising yourself properly with the way their trading platform works, and it is essential that you do get to grips with it, or costly mistakes can occur later.

The majority of brokers now offer mobile applications (‘apps’) that allow traders to follow markets and trade on the move.

Obviously, there are limitations on just how much functionality can be delivered to a mobile device. If trading when you are out and about is important to you, you’ll need to choose a broker that offers the mobile technology you need.

3. Your Opening Gambit

Next, look at how much firms are asking as a minimum account opening sum. This still varies quite widely. Some companies are not only set up to cater to novice traders, they are also equipped to service thousands of retail clients, even those only prepared to stake a maximum of a few hundred dollars.

Others will only be interested in the big money traders.

When brokers compete on price – and they are increasingly having to do this – they compete on the size of their spreads.

One of the ways brokers make their money is by quoting a spread which is marginally wider than the spread they can get themselves in the market from their prime brokers.

Fifteen years ago, when there were fewer brokers competing in this space, they could afford to quote nice, fat spreads.

Nowadays, spreads are getting narrower all the time, and according to some sources within the business, some spreads are now so narrow that firms have to be running some of these tight markets at a loss, in order to attract new business.

We are seeing record narrow levels in spreads on some key markets, like the big stock market indexes. These are already highly liquid markets, with plenty of volume in the futures markets, so brokers can already afford to transfer this level of market activity to their customers in the form of tighter spreads.

Not all brokers are convinced that competing on spreads is the way to go, and they quietly maintain the conviction that a shiny new trading platform or a bigger range of markets will still allow them to compete. Time – and the consumer – will tell.

4. Set out your Stall

The range of markets offered can be important to some traders. Much of the volume in trading at any given brokerage will be in a small handful of key, headline markets.

These include the big financial indexes, the most important currency pairs, and the commodities that are most closely followed by the media, economists and global trading desks.

Indeed, 80 per cent or more of the volume of trading in any given month will be accounted for by fewer than a dozen markets.

This means most of the traders, and most of the money, are focusing on the same prices. These are the markets where brokers will be competing most aggressively when it comes to hacking down spreads and margins. Outside these markets, the pricing will not necessarily be as competitive.

5. A Showering of Awards

While it is true that deeper pockets can also provide superior products and services to the trader, this is not always the case.

However, publishers of financial magazines always need to have one eye on their bottom line, and glitzy black tie awards ceremonies, while making everyone feel good about themselves, also contribute heavily to magazines’ profits.

Our advice to the beginning trader: don’t be guided by how many awards a company has won.

Marketing departments love to plaster them all over their advertising, but the proof of the pudding, as always, is in the eating.

6. Compare the Markets

Astute traders will use more than one broker account.

The primary reason for doing so is to allow proper comparison of the prices between them.

If a trader is focusing in particular on a handful of markets, he can develop a good idea of where a price should be, and place trades with the firm that can offer the most competitive prices most consistently.

While this is less of an issue for the beginner, it is worth considering further down the line if you have the spare capital to commit to a second account.

7. Credit where it’s due

Brokers are in the business of lending money.

The very fact that they offer margin trading facilities means they are offering credit.

When opening a live account with an online broker, you are entering into a credit agreement. The company concerned will analyse your financial circumstances, just as a mortgage lender would, to assess whether you can afford to trade in the first place.

The long and short of it

The most important thing we want you to take away from this is to do your homework before you commit to a broker.

Take the opportunity to trial a few spread betting demo accounts and meet with a selection of brokers through their education offerings, in person at their offices if you can, and get a full understanding of the tools you will need in your armoury in order to implement your trading strategy.

Want to read more? You can get a copy of our Beginners Guide to Choosing the right Spread Betting Company which features a more in depth look at the topic. Get your FREE copy here.

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Stuart Fieldhouse

Stuart Fieldhouse has spent over 20 years in journalism and financial communications, including six years as a wealth management correspondent for the Financial Times group, covering capital markets and international private banking, and as an investment banking correspondent for Euromoney in Hong Kong.

Stuart has worked as head of content at CMC Markets, supporting the re-launch of its global financial spread betting and CFD trading platforms. He is also the author of two books on trading, published by Financial Times Pearson. Stuart continues to work with hedge funds, private banks, stock exchanges and other financial institutions on their communications, data and marketing requirements.

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