Having decided to start financial spread betting, the next question of course is what types of spread betting platforms are available, and which is the best platform for me? As you will no doubt appreciate all the companies offer different spread betting software platforms, depending on the markets traded and these are constantly being updated and relaunched in an effort to keep ahead of the competition, but in broad terms, these will fall into one of three categories.

Spread betting platforms explained

  • The first type of trading platform is one which you download to your pc, and therefore need to access if you want to trade. The disadvantage of this type of platform is of course that you need to have your laptop or pc with you in order to access your account. In addition some of these programmes do require a significant amount of memory to run them, and if you are running other applications simultaneously, then you may find that your spread betting platform may run more slowly as a result. This will be particularly noticeable if you are running an older pc or laptop in Windows. In addition if you use an Apple Mac you will also need to check the platform is compatible with MAC OS, or alternatively use Parallels or similar Windows emulator, which allows you to run both operating systems side by side. You will of course need to purchase a copy of Windows to run on your Mac pc.
  • The second type of spread betting platform is one that is browser based and requires no download to your pc. To log in to your spread betting account you simply visit the company site and click on the relevant button, and enter your log in details and password. All hosting of the software is provided by your spread betting company, and the beauty of a web based system is that you can access your account and trade from anywhere in the world. You do not need to have your own pc with you, but simply need an Internet connection and your login details. Please remember however, that if you use a public Wifi network  then this is NOT secure, and your login details can be captured. The same is true of many Internet cafes, and I would strongly advise against trading from such public places as passwords and login details are easily recorded and stolen.
  • Finally, many of the spread betting companies are now offering their trading platform on mobile devices if you like to trade on the move or simply keep up with the latest market news or your open positions. The most popular devices are currently the Apple iPhone, Smart-phone, PDA or Blackberry – not all companies offer this option at present so do check before you open your account.

So what do the major spread betting companies offer to their clients? Let’s take a quick look at the current trading interfaces now on offer from the major companies, along with the uniques of each, and if you would like further details, I have included the relevant links which will take you to the appropriate section of the site.

  • City Index – the company now offers a browser based onTheline trading system, so there is no need to download the application to your pc, giving you the freedom to trade from anywhere in the world and while on the move. The trading interface is fully compatible with all the latest browsers including Firefox, IE7 and above and Safari. You will however need to make sure you have both Flash and Java installed on your pc, as the trading platform uses both for execution and trading tools such as the advanced charting features.
  • CMC Markets – another of the spread betting companies to offer a web based product for online trading, called Marketmaker although interestingly the browser based version has less functionality than the download version which is also available,  and it is the locally hosted version that is recommended by the company for professional traders. The platform features an intuitive drag and drop layout, allowing you to place your trading windows and tools anywhere on the screen, as well as a one click function for order tickets and multiple orders. The platform is also compatible with many of the popular mobile handsets including the iPhone, Blackberry and Smart-Phone.
  • Capital Spreads – just like CMC markets the company offers a web based application for your online trading, and the company has recently launched its latest updates including a tear off facility for orders and trades, which included all the details including stop loss positions.
  • FXCM – the FXCM trading platform is hosted locally on your pc or laptop, and like many other spread betting platforms, features one click execution. The company has recently acquired ODL Securities in London, partly to establish and cement it’s position in the UK spread betting market, so we can expect to see some changes to their trading platform in the near future as a result. Indeed this could migrate to the MT4 platform which both companies run, but this is not clear at present. Worth waiting until the situation is clearer.

So having looked at the various spread betting platfroms available, now let’s see what types of accounts are available in the spread betting market at present.