Best Day Trading Simulators and Demo Accounts

Practice Day Trading for Free in a Real-Time Account

Day trading doesn't just require knowledge, it requires practice. While a demo account or day trading simulator can't mimic the psychological pressures of having real money on the line, it's still a valuable tool for honing strategies, developing trading confidence, monitoring market conditions or familiarizing yourself with the software before using it with real capital.

Whether you day trade forex, stocks, ETFs, futures, or all of them, here are three solid free demo accounts you can use. Each broker offers different types of software (trading platforms), so you can see which software best suites your trading style.

Futures Demo Account: NinjaTrader Brokerage

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Trade a real-time demo account with NinjaTrader Brokerage on the NinjaTrader platform. NinjaTrader

NinjaTrader is a great low-cost (can be free) futures trading platform, and the company also provides brokerage services.

Open a free Ninja Trader demo account and get access to one of the most recommended charting and trading platforms available, as well as some the lowest trading fees in the business. 

The NinjaTrader platform is a purchasable product, and can be integrated with a number of brokers. NinjaTrader is also available for free, although commissions will generally be higher with this approach (the cost of the platform is worked into the commissions). You can lease the platform for $50 per month, and this reduces the per trade commissions, or you can buy the platform outright for $995 and this results in the lowest commissions. 

Current NinjaTrader Brokerage commissions can be found here: http://ninjatrader.com/Futures#!Futures_Commissions

The great thing is that you can practice day trading futures on NinjaTrader for free. Setup a demo account, and you can practice all day and night! A "replay" feature allows you to download past trading days, and then trade them as if they were live. This means you can practice all day and weekend if you want, even when markets are closed. When learning to trade, the ability to practice this much is a huge benefit.

NinjaTrader also provides forex demo (and live) trading through a small group of forex brokers.

Forex Demo Account: Oanda with Desktop Trading Platform

oanda forex demo trading
Oanda.com

There is no shortage of forex demo accounts available, but for U.S. residents, Oanda.com offers a lot of flexibility, great software and competitive spreads.

Oanda does not charge a commissions on trades (when live trading). Rather, they make money by charging a slightly higher bid/ask spread. This means traders must pay the the spread to enter/exit a trade.

One great thing about Oanda practice accounts is that they do not expire. You can practice for as long as you want, using the popular MT4 trading platform or Oanda's own Desktop Trading Platform (or mobile app).

The Desktop platform is easy to use and includes trade functionality such as being able to easily place a stop loss and target (in pips or price) at the same time a trade is taken. The program also provides advanced charting, and an "autochartist" feature that highlights trade setups based on statistical data (located under Technical Analysis in the Resources tab).

Signing up for an Oanda demo account can be done very quickly, here: https://www.oanda.com/forex-trading/

Oanda is not an ECN broker. ECN brokers charge a commission on each trade but typically have much tighter bid/ask spreads. An ECN account is better for day trading forex, but as of 2017 there are very few ECN brokers opening accounts for U.S. residents.

Stock Trading Demo Account: TradingView Paper Trading

tradingview.com paper trading stocks
TradingView.com

TradingView.com is a platform that provides free real-time charting and demo trading. Free real-time stock charts are not official market data. Official data requires a payment. A full explanation of the difference between free and paid real-time stock market data is discussed in Best Free Real-Time Stock Charts for Day Traders. That said, for most people starting out in a demo account the free data will work fine.

The site is loaded with features, and allows you to make real-time simulated trades in stocks or forex. Futures demo trading is available, but data is delayed. Traders can trade a CFD on many futures contracts, though, and CFDs have real-time data.

TradingView has some of the best charting and market analysis tools available (especially considering they are free!).

After signing up for a free account, along the bottom of the screen click the Paper Trading tab. Pull up the chart you want to trade. Make a simulated trade by either right-clicking on the chart, or clicking in the DOM box.

TradingView can be synced up with a limited number of brokers if you decide to trade real money. If you don't like the brokers they offer, then you will need to use a different platform for your live trading (although you can still do free analysis on TradingView, if you wish).

Formerly, the TD Ameritrade thinkorswim Paper Money account was the recommended demo account for day trading stocks. Unfortunately, they no longer provide real-time data (now delayed 15 minutes) so it is no longer recommended. It is still a useful demo trading platform if taking longer-term trades based on the daily chart, for example.

Best Day Trading Simulators and Demo Accounts - Final Word

If you want to trade futures, then NinjaTrader Brokerage or TradingView can help you out. NinjaTrader is better for futures because of the replay feature, and quotes are live. TradingView is good for demo trading stocks, because quotes are live and there are great anaysis tools. TradingView also works well for demo trading forex (NinjaTrader can also be used to trade forex). Unfortunately, you will have limited forex broker options with NinjaTrader or TradingView. So you either like the brokers that sync up with their trading platforms, or you need to find another broker/platform to trade real money on. Oanda is a good option if you are interested in trading forex. They offer a great trading platform and competitive spreads for U.S. (and global) clients. They also offer a lot of statistical data (even if you don't have an account with them) which can be very useful when forex trading.