Recently there has been a surge in the amount of firms available to choose from and many of these are simply white labels of major providers. With all this choice, what questions should you ask yourself when choosing your spread betting provider?

How much will it cost? The biggest factor most traders consider is the price. The spreads are effectively the commissions you pay on each trade you make and the biggest charge you will face if you as a trader. The spread is the difference between the buy and sell price and this effectively is the commission you pay to the spread betting firm. The spreads don’t vary much between all firms and if they are a little higher, it could mean you will get a better overall service. It is important to note that some firms may charge more at different times of the day, whereas some will offer consistent spreads no matter what time of day it is. If a firm heavily promotes low spreads or even zero spreads make sure you are applicable to claim them as usually it is marketing fluff. Usually you will have to place a certain amount of trades and bet unfathomably large amounts of money to get these headline grabbing rates.

Spreads are not the only factor to consider in terms of price as there are roll charges, which is the amount you pay to roll a daily price on to the next day. If you are trading future prices this will not be a concern!

Is the platform any good? The platforms can vary in functionality and ease of use. Get a feel for the website and view any videos or guides they have to see how easy it is to place a trade. Look for the functions you will need when you start trading. Do you need a decent charting package and the ability to choose orders to open, guaranteed stops, trailing stops and limit orders? If you want to make orders on the move, look for mobile trading.

What markets are available? The availability of a wide variety of markets is important. Make sure the company offers the markets you want to trade. If you are a late night currency trader, make sure the firm offers 24/7 trading.

Does the company protect your money? If you want to invest large amounts of cash and use spread-betting as your primary investment method, make sure that firm ring-fences your funds. If they don’t and the company goes bust, your money will not be secure and your money will go to the hands of the company’s creditors.

Does the firm offer phone trading? If you want to speak about the markets with experienced traders, look for a firm with a reputation for this. Many firms now offer online execution only, but if you want to scream “SELL, SELL, SELL” down the phone in a Gordon Gecko-esque fashion, look for a phone trading service.

Do you need credit? If you don’t want to be tying up your other investments and assets, trading on credit is available. Again, don’t risk more than what you can afford. Only a few firms offer credit facilities so choose carefully.

There are some factors you shouldn’t take into account. Minimums are not that important as they vary on the market. In general the smaller the amount you can bet the higher the volatility of that market. This could mean a 10p bet could have more risk than a £1 bet on a different market. Stop loss distances are also a moot point. You don’t want to set them so close they get triggered in seconds. A firm could be helping you if they give you a reasonable minimum distance.

Weigh up these factors and consider which firm would most fit your trading needs on our comparison table.