The rise of online share trading platforms has democratised trading by making it more accessible to “regular” people. You don’t need to visit and hire a share broker, buying shares can be done by performing a few taps on a smartphone – as long as you have some idea of what you’re doing. One of the first things you need to do is to choose the right platform for you. Comparing share trading apps and platforms Here’s what you need to look at. The fees All online trading platforms will charge a brokerage fee for each transaction you make. On average, fees are around $15, but as trades get bigger, the fee is worked out as a percentage of the value. For example, the CommSec Share Trading Account charges $10 for trades up to $1,000, then for trades between $1,000 and $10,000 it’s $19.95 and between $10,000 and $25,000 it’s $29.95. Once trades go over $25,000 in value, the fee is 0.12 per cent. The Westpac Online Investing integrated Account, on the other hand, has a simpler fee schedule; either $19.95 or 0.11 per cent, depending on the size of the trade. What you can trade Some platforms offer only trading in ASX shares, while others offer domestic and international shares. You may also be able to trade in Forex (foreign currency), market indices, and complex investment vehicles like CFDs (Contracts for Difference) on some platforms. The ease of use Share trading for beginners can look very complicated. If the user experience of your platform is more like a mental obstacle course, then you could make mistakes. Aim for clean and intuitive interfaces. Market data and research tools You need a platform that updates in real–time rather than after a lag. You also need to be able to research a stock and find out more about how it’s performed. E*trade has educational tools to help beginners, so it’s a popular site for newbies. Your trade options Can you place your orders either at market or with a set price limit? Can you add in protective features like stop/loss orders? Mostly beginners who are just setting out on their investment journey stick to ‘at-market’ orders and don’t make daily trades until they are experienced with investing and buying and selling shares. How does the platform report to you? How does the platform tell you how your stocks are doing? How does it record your dividends and do you get help with your tax reporting? Does the platform offer margin loans? You don’t want a margin loan until you really know what you’re doing with share trading. When you gain experience, you might want to borrow money to expand your portfolio in the shape of a margin loan. Right now, however, you might prefer a platform that definitely doesn’t offer them. The customer support You need different channels – phone, live chat and email – as well as good round–the–clock coverage. The educational tools The more tools there are, the better. Look for how–to guides, webinars and even mentoring services to help you to trade successfully. The security This is very important so find out how secure the platform is and what happens if there’s a breach or fraudulent activity. How to choose your ideal platform There are some questions you need to ask yourself. What kind of trader are you? Are you a beginner who’s looking to learn? A very active trader or even an expert? Your activity and experience levels will help to determine the platform you need. If there’s not many educational tools, you might not want it if you’re inexperienced, for example. How often will you trade? If you’re only going to trade once or twice a month then you’re fairly casual. The more trades you make, however, then the more features and analysis tools you’ll need. What will you be trading? Most people trade in ASX or international shares, but others want to branch out into other forms of asset or security now and again. You’ll need a platform that lets you do this. How much does it all cost? As well as the brokerage fees, there may be ongoing fees. Your brokerage fees may also be reduced if you place more than a certain number of trades each month. For example, the ANZ share investing platform charges $24.95 for the first trade worth $5,001 – $10,000 each month and this reduces to $19.95 for the second and subsequent monthly trades. The advantages of using share trading platforms You can control your investments to a high degree by choosing from a huge range of domestic and global products. It’s very convenient as you can perform a trade while sat on a train or relaxing at home; you don’t even have to pick up the phone. It’s very affordable, especially as online trading is becoming more popular and therefore competitive, and. The information is right there at your fingertips, making it easier than ever to make informed decisions. The disadvantages of using share trading platforms The control that you have can sometimes lead to making the wrong decisions as there’s no broker there to advise you; this can be very expensive indeed. You can get a bit tap-happy because you’re trading with just a few clicks, which can make you forget that you’re dealing with actual money, and. You can make simple errors because you don’t take the time to review your trade before you submit it; make sure you review and proofread – always. Applying for a share trading platform After spending time on a comparison site you’ve no doubt found your ideal platform. If the provider is part of your current bank, you may be able to just deposit funds into a trading account and get going. If you’re going with a different provider then you’ll need to open a new account, which involves providing details like your name, address and contact details, as well as your Tax File Number, your driver’s license number and your linked bank account number. Then, once your funds are in, you’re ready to start trading! The information contained on this web site is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from a financial adviser. If you or someone you know is in financial stress, contact the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.