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Best Paper Trading Apps (2022)
Paper trading is a dated term, but not a dated practice. The phrase “paper trading” dates back to the early 1900s.
It essentially describes what we would now call “simulated trading”, as paper trading means that you are practicing trading by pretending to buy and sell stocks without actually spending money.
In the past, this practice trading was done by writing the non-existent trades out on paper and then watching the market move to see whether or not the recorded trades would be a good idea or not.
The most obvious advantage of paper trading is that it allows you to explore your market options without risking any real money. Most trades that you make, as an individual, will not influence the market enough to cause its direction to change.
That means that you can invest money and sell stocks and bonds and approximately what would have happened had you actually made those trades.
Paper trading, therefore, allows you to get your hands in the market and get a feel for seeing what comes next. Trading stocks in general can feel like a process that is very much based in one’s intuition. There are simply too many variables to track for a normal human brain to keep up with everything going on.
With all of that out of the way, let us take a look at some of the best paper trading apps on the market.
We took a look at some of the best paper trading apps in 2022 and compiled them into this list.
- eToro – Best CFD Trading App
- Plus500 – Best Overall Paper Trading App
- AvaTrade – Best Advanced Trading App
- FXCM – Best Foreign Currency Trading
- Interactive Brokers – Best High Yield Paper Trading
- Thinkorswim – Best Experimentation Paper Trading App
- E*Trade – Best Platform Learning Tools
- Webull – Best Margin Paper Trading App
- TradeStation – Best Diverse Trading Options
- TradingView – Best Cryptocurrency Paper Trading
1. eToro – Best Overall Paper Trading App
eToro has made quite the name for itself over the years it has been around. It started as a stock market tracking site, and so it makes sense that it would expand into an app, which naturally includes paper trading.
But even that description sells short the amount of freedom that eToro offers you.
eToro AUS Capital Ltd ACN 612 791 803 AFSL 491139. OTC Derivatives are speculative and leveraged. Capital is at risk. See PDS
Most people who trade using a phone app know about eToro, but the reason it stands out in regard to paper trading, in particular, is that they give you a $100,000 paper trading budget to start off. This means that while you obviously have a lot of fake money to work with, you still have a limit.
This is an important element of their paper trading program. eToro is known for having an easily navigated knowledge base for learning how to trade, and this $100,000 limit is part of that as it allows you a large degree of freedom while still forcing you to work with an amount of money you are likely to actually have access to.
After all, if they gave you $1,000,000 then you might not learn a thing.
The flip side of this coin is that eToro is not known for being a platform that rewards advanced traders. It does not have tools for employing complex or high-speed, high-frequency trades. There is no automation that will allow you to program an investment strategy and then fire it off.
This can be viewed as a blessing in disguise for newer traders, as it means that you are never encouraged to take your hands off the reins, as it were. All the tools just mentioned are great for people who know what they are doing and know what contingencies to employ in any given situation.
But for the people most likely to actually need a paper trading app, eToro is one of the best out there.
When you start doing real money trading with eToro you are required to put in a minimum deposit into your eToro account. This minimum is in the amount of $200 or more. All of this is still yours to trade with, but the reason why a minimum is required is to keep bots from piling up in the service.
This has proven quite effective, as despite being one of the biggest international trading platforms in the world, eToro is well known for being secure from bots in its trading spaces.
- Secure and reliable for years
- Great learning tools and paper trading limitations
- Upgrading to real money trading is easy
- Not a lot of tools for experienced traders
2. Plus500 – Best CFD Trading App
Paper trading is great because it allows you to not only explore spending and earning money, but it allows you to learn about and practice some of the most esoteric economic contracts available.
CFD trading is an acronym which stands for “contract for differences”. Trading in these contracts means paying the differences in the settlement price between the open and closing trades on a given security.
In short, rather than buying a stock for how much it is worth, you are lent a stock and then pay the original owner for how much the value of the stock increased since they lent it to you. It is intuitive once you think about it, but it is not the kind of thing that people talk about when they talk about buying and selling stocks. Not many people outside stock brokerage know about it because of this.
Contracts for differences are not very well known because they require something that not many people know is even allowed in stock market trading: Communication. You have to know what they are, how to communicate their value, and how to establish the line of exchanges going between you and the person you are trading with.
This is why Plus500 is such a great paper trading app, as it focuses on these sorts of trades. Plus500 is also connected to the London stock exchange, meaning that the simulated money it gives for paper trading is in British pounds. It starts you off with 50,000 of them and refreshes the amount every 49,800.
That means you have a lot (but not unlimited) of wiggle room when it comes to learning the ins and outs of CFD trading. Of course, since so much of CFD trading is based on communication between two people (which you cannot do in paper trading, where there are no other people) you will be able to learn the mechanics of the trades, but not necessarily the art of the trades.
Luckily, Plus500 makes it easy to upgrade from paper trading to real trading. They have absolutely no commission on their trades, allowing you to maximize the value of even the most modest trades.
They also have a $100 minimum deposit. This is smaller than most minimum deposits while still keeping bots out. Once you know what you are doing with CFDs you can easily make that $100 feel like $500 of trading power, given that you can take possession of stocks that are rising in value rapidly.
The big downside of Plus500 is that it does not offer traditional stocks and bonds on its marketplace. That means that you can only trade in CFDs. This is not so bad once you understand them, but it means that the app is not the most friendly to beginners in a lot of ways.
CFDs are not given a lot of focus in other apps, so Plus500 is great for people who are looking to get value out of this otherwise lesser-known trading option. If you want tools for taking on the whole stock market though, whether with money or through paper trading simulations, that is its main limitation.
- Cheap and easy to use
- Gets you acclimated with a niche way of trading
- Well regulated
- Only trades in CFDs
3. AvaTrade – Best Advanced Trading App
Up until recently, retail investors were not allowed to invest in a form of trade called “options”. This is a form of stock trading where you do not buy the stock itself, but you “occupy” the stock by buying the option for it.
Buying the option means that the stock does not go anywhere (as in, no one else can buy it) but you retain the option to buy it later. Selling the option is also an…alternative.
This is a good way to manage your cash flow while still asserting some control over the stocks that you want. So, why was it illegal for unlicensed, retail stock buyers? Because it is a complex maneuver that required extra language in each purchase contract to make sure that it did not malfunction.
You see, imagine if every retail investor on the stock market bought options, and then never bought or sold the stock that they optioned. The stocks would not be owned by the people who bought the options, but they could not be sold by the company they relate to either.
Only once trading became advanced enough to account for automated buying and selling could options be opened up to people without licenses. This is because nowadays a computer can write a contract for an option which means that the optioned stock has to be bought or sold within a period of time.
Enter trading apps like AvaTrade. AvaTrade is a trading app that allows you to explore highly complex and competitive stock market maneuvers like options. This means that its paper trading functionality reflects these complexities as well, allowing you to trade in options, CFDs, and other advanced methods.
The biggest advantage of being able to trade in options is that you are able to risk very little capital while still getting value out of a chosen marketplace. Not only that, but it allows you to build relationships that make you reliable in the eyes of other people in that marketplace.
For instance, if you trade in gold a lot, then starting by buying and selling options for gold is a great way to show the other people who trade in gold that you have money, know how to use it, and can reliably move it around to generate value.
Whether you are talking about functioning in society at large or in the limited context of a marketplace, repeated interactions have been found, time and again, to be the foundation of trust.
This means that getting started in a marketplace in some small way can pay off in a big way later, when that trust can be used to leverage deals that otherwise might not exist without the presence of the trust you cultivated.
- Highly advanced trading options
- Paper trading that teaches you how to do unusual things
- Not easy to use
4. FXCM – Best Foreign Currency Trading
Foreign currency trading sits in the middle of the scale between well-known practices and lesser-known practices. Being less popular than stock trading, but more popular than CFD trading, foreign currency trading looks almost mystical to the eyes of someone sitting outside of the practice.
This is because many people do not have access to the tools to actually take part in foreign currency trading themselves. FXCM gives you those tools, as well as an idea of how to get started in the trade.
Foreign currency trading is so simple that it is almost deceptive. All you have to do to trade foreign currency is buy one currency for a certain amount, and then find a marketplace where it is worth a greater amount. The confusing thing for many people is that you have to spend currency native to your own marketplace in order to get the foreign currency.
Imagine you have two currencies: Currency A and currency B. Currency A is worth twice as much as currency B. The person who buys currency A will often imagine the value of currency A as having one single value. That value will be however much of currency B they spent to acquire currency A.
But now imagine that you buy currency A with currency B, and then sell it for currency C. Currency C might be worth more in currency B than currency A is. In that case, you then sell currency C and make a profit. If this all sounds rather complicated, then rest assured that you are having a rational reaction.
Foreign currency exchange is indeed complex and hard to wrap one’s head around, which is why FXCM is so great. It provides a paper trading marketplace for foreign currency that teaches you where to buy, where to sell, and how to do all of it. Once you know those components, it is just a matter of skill.
The app is also open to CFDs. Paper trading on the app comes with a $20,000 limit, meaning that you have a good amount of money to spend on learning how to make use of some otherwise pretty strange methods of trading. It is worth noting though that this limit is non-rechargeable.
Nothing is stopping you from making another account if you somehow zero your paper trading account out. The reason for this non-rechargeable limit is to give you time to rethink your strategy before going back in. There are consequences to losing $20,000 in real life, so if your strategy led you to lose that amount in paper trading then you might want to seriously examine your behaviors before upgrading.
With that being said, FXCM also requires a $360 minimum deposit in your account before you can go ahead with normal trades. It charges no commission, but a lot of retail traders are going to be turned off by this high starting price. It is once more a method of dissuading bots, which is even more important in the world of foreign currency trading.
- Excellent foreign currency trading resources
- Also trades in CFDs
- No commission
- High minimum deposit
5. Interactive Brokers – Best High Yield Paper Trading
When you start up Interactive Brokers you are going to be struck by a few things. You are going to notice its plethora of options, as well as its sparse interface. You are going to notice its lack of forward-facing help and guidance tools. And you are going to notice that it allows you to paper trade up to $1,000,000.
Much has been said so far about the value of giving the user a low starting amount for paper trading. And it is true that giving the user a low starting amount tends to be reflective of their actual trading capabilities. But if your capabilities exceed the sums that those apps give you for paper trading, then it does not teach you anything. Rather, the situation simply restricts you from practicing meaningfully.
Putting aside the $1 million it gives you to paper trade with, Interactive Brokers also has access to a massive number of markets and securities. These markets cover the entire planet, meaning that you can effectively trade with Interactive Brokers no matter where you are.
It is worth noting that Interactive Brokers comes in two forms: Its base form and a version called “IBKR Lite”. Interactive Brokers is subject to the commission fees of whatever brokerage you end up trading through. IBKR Lite only gives you access to commission-free trading.
This, along with the bare-bones interface and lack of helpful tools, establishes Interactive Brokers as the trader’s trade platform. You should have an idea of what you are doing before you go too deep into it. This makes their paper trading even more valuable, in a way, since it lets you experiment with the most unfiltered and complex tools without having to worry about your own money.
IBKR Lite is better if you are a retail trader who is just starting out trying to find places to trade and people to trade with. Just know that IBKR Lite definitely feels more limiting than its bigger brother.
With such diverse trading in stocks, foreign currency, CFD, and other mediums, Interactive Brokers solidify itself as one of the best options for both paper trading simulations that can develop extremely complex and (at times) programmable trading strategies.
That makes it one of the easiest apps to recommend to traders who are more experienced or at least want to try their hand at playing in a higher stakes ball game without necessarily risking their money. Just be aware that if you are not a more advanced trader, it is not going to hold your hand at all.
- Massive market
- Huge amount of money for paper trading
- Variety of options
- User unfriendly
- Not for beginners
6. Thinkorswim – Best Experimentation Paper Trading App
There are essentially two parts of the learning process that paper trading can impart upon you when it comes to learning how to trade. The first is learning what you can do.
This means learning the different things you can trade, learning general terminology, and learning what they can get you.
The second part is learning how to do it. This is important because how you trade any given stock, option, or foreign currency can be different based on who you are, where you are, and even what kind of account you are trading your money from. This is what Thinkorswim specializes in teaching you.
Thinkorswim is a trading platform that gives you two different kinds of accounts from which you learn paper trading. The first is the standard margin account that most people trading in stocks will use. In real life, you can only have one of these, but you can use them to buy stocks using loans that you repay.
The other account it gives you is an IRA account. These buy stocks differently than a margin account, as an IRA account has to pay for stocks completely in cash. However, you can have as many IRA accounts as you want. This is because while they are technically higher risk, the risk is localized on just you.
Each account gets $100,000 to trade with, but trading with a margin account and trading with an IRA account are very different experiences. You will immediately notice your money goes up and down faster with an IRA account, but a margin account can drain your pockets in the dead of night.
Paper trading on both types of accounts will teach you a lot. Particularly, they will each teach you a different way of being cautious with your money. An IRA account will teach you to be cautious like you are in the same room with a sleeping lion that will pounce on you if make a noise. But a margin account will teach you to be cautious like you are in a garden with a snake that will bite you if you hold still.
Aside from this feature, Thinkorswim also features information feeds through over 400 technical indicators and a TradeWise newsletter that details what options are being exchanged on the market.
Thinkorswim also features an Options Statistics feed. This is an information feed that lets you know how each option is doing in terms of its value and trades. While Thinkorswim is not focused on options like some other apps are, it certainly provides a lot of resources for learning about them.
The biggest drawback to Thinkorswim is the commissions it demands for trades. These are higher than normal, offset somewhat by the lack of a minimum deposit required for your account. This means that retail traders (who trade less) are rewarded for using it while professional traders are punished.
- Lots of learning tools
- Highly reliable and secure
- Connected to TD Ameritrade
- High commissions
- Difficult interface
7. E*Trade – Best Platform Learning Tools
A paper trading app can teach you a lot about paper trading, but it is just as important for you that it teaches you about the app as well. That is what E*Trade does that is so special: It has access to the stocks and options you need, and it teaches you how to make use of them quite well.
But more than that, it also teaches you how those things are represented, found, and interacted within the app.
If you need the reason why this is important, then just look back at the reviews of other apps. Even the greatest apps provided by the biggest banks will sometimes have dry or esoteric interfaces.
If you have a trading app that can connect you to buying all the stocks in the world, but you cannot find the sell button, then all you really have is a great way to lose your money. An app needs to be a little intuitive.
When a paper trading app becomes more intuitive it becomes easier to make decisions on it without the app getting in the way. There are fewer surprises waiting for you on the other side of every menu navigation or important button press. And once you get rid of all the surprises, you glide right through it.
That is the feeling that E*Trade creates after just a short time navigating it.
E*Trade has a large focus on retirement accounts, and as such has no commissions on any trades that you make on it. It definitely has fewer trade options than other apps due to being connected to fewer markets. But despite the retail trader focus, the lack of commissions can make it appealing to pros too.
One of the strangest and most unique features E*Trade has is its commentaries. These are articles and short voice commentaries that cover a multitude of different subjects. From cryptocurrency to insurance, retirement to mutual funds, the amount of knowledge present here is staggering.
The knowledge base E*Trade provides is not as well organized or intuitive as the app itself, but the sheer volume and breadth of it means that you can find and learn about nearly any topic related to trading.
While E*Trade might not be the largest or most competitive platform, either for paper trading or real money trading, its focus on being easy to use and highly informative makes it worthwhile anyway. This is true whether you are a retail investor or a professional, as both can stand to learn something here.
- Amazing learning tools
- No commissions
- Great interface
- Limited markets
8. Webull – Best Margin Paper Trading App
Everyone who has ever touched a stock has opinions on margin trading. Some say that it is the key that unlocks retail investors’ financial freedom. Others believe margin trading is just a tool to keep retail investors constantly in debt. While still others believe it is all a conspiracy to give big firms control.
Whatever your opinion on margin trading, one thing is clear: It is not going away any time soon. In a way, this makes paper-trading for margin trading accounts much more important than other kinds of paper trading. Even if you disagree with the existence of margin trading, learning how it works matters.
That is the advantage of Webull. Webull is a trading platform that focuses on margin trading, using margin trading features to evade normal trading costs. Essentially, this means that Webull does not have commission fees, nor does it have minimum deposit amounts for trading. Instead, it has a margin.
This bears some explanation: How margin works is that you essentially get a loan with which to buy stocks. You buy the stocks with the money that was loaned to you, and then you pay the loan back.
The loan you get to buy the stocks will have an “interest” rate. You have to pay the loan back, plus a percentage of the money you borrowed on top of that. So, if you borrowed $100 at a 6% interest rate, you have to pay back $106 to the person you borrowed the loan from.
The reason why people take out loans to buy stocks like this is because you might take out a $100 loan with a 6% interest rate and use all $100 to buy a stock that ends up increasing in value by 10%. That means you pay back your $106 and keep $4. This is not a huge amount but imagine if you did it a lot.
Paper trading stocks bought on margin are a lot more important than paper trading stocks bought through an IRA account, or even stock options, because it is a lot more high stakes. It is not your money that you are buying the stocks with, it is someone else’s. And if the stock you buy does not increase in value, then you have to pay back those loans out of your own pocket.
This can make margin stocks a tricky and risky game, hence some people’s negative outlook on it. Practice is important to make sure you know what to risk and what not to risk.
After all, if you set aside money to pay off any loan on a margin stock that does not pan out for you, then the risk of the margin loan is heavily mitigated. Some companies that give out these loans look even more favorably on people who have paid loans off after their stocks did not work out as compared to people who just get lucky with every stock they buy.
While Webull has its payment security setting situated in margin stocks, it also gives you access to a good-sized market and IRA options. Some people might not be the biggest fans of the margin-based payment system, but if you are comfortable with it then it is the perfect environment for you.
- Excellent place to learn about margin stocks
- Good market size and interface
- Extended hours trading times
- Real trading requires margin loans
9. TradeStation – Best Diverse Trading Options
The impression that a lot of retail investors get (as well as people who do not trade stocks at all) is that the whole stock market is designed like a casino. That is to say, it appears to be a complex of clever tricks made to get you seeking riches and, in the process, unwittingly part with your money.
TradeStation is a great platform for putting that idea to the test. Let us not mince words: TradeStation is complicated. It is clearly meant for more advanced traders due to having a huge market and tons of options. It has no commission and no minimum deposit for an account, but it does take payments from you in a variety of other ways that many retail investors might find difficult to swallow.
That is not meant as a criticism of retail investors either. Once you get a look at the pricing scheme TradeStation has available, you will quickly see what we mean. In most of these reviews, we have left the bad qualities for the end of the review. In this case, it bears mentioning this downside upfront.
Imagine you want to trade on TradeStation. Your first question will usually be, “How much does it cost to trade on TradeStation?” To which TradeStation will reply, “Well, what are you trying to trade?”
Answering a question with a question is usually a bad sign, but there is a reason they ask: Buying stocks through TradeStation is free of commission. Buying stock options, however, is free with a fee per contract. That is a fancy way of saying that it is not free at all. Futures and micro futures also have their own fees associated with them, trading on margin has its own interest rates and minimum fees…
You get the idea. The point is that TradeStation allows you to take part in a massive number of different kinds of trades. Each of these trades has been carefully and individually priced out. It is a classic case of a platform’s greatest strength being its greatest weakness as well, as the same expansiveness that gives you lots of options can also end up drowning you in fine print and hidden fees.
This is part of the reason why TradeStation’s paper trading components are so great. All of these same rules apply to TradeStation’s paper trading system. That means that as complex as TradeStation is, it does provide a risk-free environment in which to learn how it all works.
On top of this, while its learning tools are pretty limited, it does have a great knowledge base and an intuitive interface. This means that while it does present you with a truly daunting mountain to climb to understand its nuances, that mountain still has a path you can take to climb it. Nothing is there that will make the climb easy, but nothing exists that could make that climb easy.
TradeStation is a great platform for learning exactly how complex trading can be, which includes all the good and the bad of trading along with it. Luckily, it provides a space for you to do that without risk.
- Great knowledgebase
- A huge number of trading options
- Intuitive interface
- Complex scheme of fees and payments
- With so many options it can be hard to navigate
10. TradingView – Best Cryptocurrency Paper Trading
Using paper trading on cryptocurrency makes sense in theory but has been weirdly absent from many paper trading apps ever since cryptocurrencies exploded in value.
There are many theories as to why this is the case, from simple refusal to acknowledge the new form of wealth growth in the world, to complex theories that the lack of crypto paper trading is a conspiracy to delegitimize it.
The truth is likely much more practical. In all likelihood, it just took some time for the apps that allow for crypto paper trading to be developed. This explanation resonates as true because it has taken a while for even the most dedicated cryptocurrency brokers to establish mathematics for predicting the movement of cryptocurrency. And you can hardly have a paper trading app without predictive math.
Now that the cryptocurrency market has been around and popular for a few years, platforms like TradingView have taken to incorporating it into their options for trading. This means that cryptocurrencies are far from the only thing that TradingView deals in, however.
TradingView handles crypto, foreign currency, CFDs, options, futures, indices, and (in case you thought they forgot) plain old stocks and bonds. Lots of trading platforms handle some of these, but very few platforms are involved in so many markets as to have all of them available at once.
Paper trading on TradingView can almost be overwhelming, though it is through no fault of TradingView’s own. There is a lot to account for, meaning that a movement in one market that you have no understanding of can influence one you are well-versed in and create a surprising reaction.
Of course, this reflects actual markets as well, making the confusing clutter of all these different markets realistic if nothing else. But as good as it is for you to get experience paper trading in such a web of interests, that is hardly the best part of TradingView. The best part of TradingView is its community.
Not many trading apps have communities because not many trading apps have community tools. Stock trading has long been a profession, like butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers, and like all professions, the community would congregate around the physical places of business in the real world.
But in the age of trading platforms, when your closest trade partner can literally be on the other side of the world, this is hardly acceptable. Most trade professionals in the stock market have resorted to secondary community hubs to talk to their trade partners—Facebook groups, YouTube channels, Reddit threads, and other places that are generalized community hubs repurposed for talks on stocks.
Where most trading apps get their knowledgebase from a team of copywriters and professional analysts, a majority of TradingView’s knowledgebase is actually driven by the community. There are chat rooms, forums, and blog posts. But most importantly, there are sections of the platform that feature stand-out voices from among these, highlighting insights found in the chats, forums, and blogs.
Of course, anyone who is a part of TradingView is welcome to contribute to this discourse. And here is where we found the main reason why people might not be interested in TradingView: It’s pricing.
TradingView has a monthly subscription for its use. It has no commission for its transactions and offers no margin for which you might pay interest. All the costs of your use of the platform are handled in this one monthly payment. Some people, particularly retail traders, will love this. Some will not.
Traditionally, operating the stock market has been done through brokerage firms and on-the-ground buying and selling. These brokers charge a commission to use your money in a way that is advantageous to everyone involved (most of the time). When stock trading went digital, websites would usually charge commission for using the platform to buy and sell stocks. It is a well-regulated practice.
Therefore, not every professional trader is going to be a fan of a Netflix-style subscription being implemented rather than commission or minimum deposits. It slants the distribution of value slightly in favor of the platform, which professionals dislike on principle. However, this view is changing for the most part. Some people consider it a red flag, some people consider it the next step in market evolution.
- Trades in tons of currency, including cryptocurrency
- Amazing community tools that no one else has
- Intuitive interface
- Monthly subscription
- Not well regulated
There is no single best paper trading app or platform. Even the “overall best”, eToro, has its limitations and nuances. And given the complexity and diversity of the stock market, it is actually preferable to many traders to stick to their niche.
Someone who is an expert in margin stocks will not have much knowledge that transfers directly over to cryptocurrency trading, for instance. And someone who has a lot of experience with foreign currency exchange will do better with crypto than they will with trading indices.
In short, apps that allow you to paper trade in a wide range of markets have their place. They are great for finding your preferences, and they usually incorporate tons of learning tools. But do not think that that an app that focuses on a niche is necessarily lesser than one that casts a wide net.
As we said early on, the stock market is so complicated that reading its movements can be a matter of intuition rather than intelligence. That makes both the big picture and the small one equally valuable.
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