Paper trading on thinkorswim: a comprehensive review

Paper trading simulators—also known as demo trading accounts—allow you to access market prices and trading platforms without involving real money. You can navigate different tools and dashboards and practice placing trades on live market prices without risking your own capital until you’re ready. 

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the technology and fine-tuned your trading strategies, you can upgrade to a real account with some experience of the broker’s platform. 

In this review, we’ll review Thinkorswim’s, one of the best paper trading platform and provide a step-by-step guide to its different features, including: 

  • How to open Thinkorswim’s paper trading simulator and get started
  • How to navigate the dashboard
  • How to use some key features
  • Placing trades
  • Managing and analyzing positions
  • Overall impression and review

WARNING

Trading exposes you to the risk of losing more than your initial investment and incurring financial liability. Trading is suitable only for well-informed, sophisticated clients able to understand how the products being traded work and having the financial ability to bear the aforementioned risk.

Transactions involving foreign exchange instruments (FOREX) and contracts for difference (CFD) are highly speculative and extremely complex. As such, they are subject to a high level of risk due to leverage. Please keep in mind that CDF trading is banned in the US.

Information published on the NewTrading.io website is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as offering investment advice or as an enticement to trade financial instruments.

Getting started with thinkorswim paper trading platform

thinkorswim is a US-based electronic trading platform that was acquired by Ameritrade in 2009 for approximately $606 million before Charles Schwab Corporation acquired Ameritrade and made the Thinkorswim platform available to Charles Schwab customers. Thinkorswim’s platform is geared towards self-directed investors and offers stocks, options, and futures. 

This review will focus on thinkorswim’s web app, which doesn’t require installation (although it does offer a desktop download if you’re interested in additional software).

To sign up for thinkorswim’s paper trading simulator, complete the following steps: 

  1. Visit https://www.schwab.com/trading/thinkorswim/guestpass (no need to do this if you are already a Charles Schwab customer, you should have access already)
  2. Click ‘Sign up for a Guest Pass’
  3. Complete the form – in this case, you’ll need a valid email address
  4. You’re ready to begin!

Navigating thinkorswim’s paper trading dashboard

Once your Guest Pass with thinkorswim has been set up, you’re given 30 days’ access to the platform. thinkorswim’s paper trading simulator comes with an account value of $200,000 that is broken down into stock buying power and forex buying power. For the purposes of this review, we’re going to focus on stocks only. 

thinkorswim’s dashboard is fairly basic compared to some of its competitors – your account summary and all positions are listed on the left and right-hands, respectively, with four different tabs to choose from on the left-hand side: positions, trade, charts, and scans.

Your dashboard offers an option to toggle between one and three charts, and you can apply a wide range of tools to your chart under the ‘Studies’ and ‘Drawings’ menus, which are located as buttons at the top left of your chart.

The only difference between the ‘Trade’ and ‘Chart’ tabs seems to be that the Chart tab focuses solely on the market of your choice, whereas the Trade tab has more information, including an integrated newsfeed, an ‘Option Chain,’ and some additional information about the market itself, including market cap, EPS, 50-day average volume, and some more useful data. 

Executing trades with thinkorswim’s paper account

When executing trades on thinkorswim’s platform, it’s important to bear in mind that any technical analysis or tools that you apply to a chart under the ‘Chart’ tab don’t seem to carry over when you move to the ‘Trade’ tab. 

Let’s take an example: when selecting Nvidia as a stock to trade, we apply a SMA (Simple Moving Average) to the chart under the ‘Chart’ tab. If we then click on the ‘Trade’ tab because we want to see more information – the latest news on that stock, for example – the SMA is no longer on the chart. You’re able to trade from both the Chart and Trade tab, so for the best experience, we suggest sticking with one tab only without switching if you need to keep your chart setup visible at all times. 

Placing a trade is simple, even if it is not immediately obvious to do so from the chart. Select either the Chart or the Trade tab and find your market by searching for it in the search bar at the top of the platform. Once the chart has loaded, your deal ticket is located at the top of the chart. Select ‘Sell’ or ‘Buy’, and your deal ticket will pop up as a limit order by default. You can also right-click on the chart, and you’re given the option to buy, sell, or create an alert. 

Whichever method you choose, the deal ticket opens, and here you can adjust the type of order, the direction of your trade, and the order type. You can also make your order contingent, an OCO (one cancels the other), or a ‘Blast All’—submitting up to eight orders simultaneously, each independent of the others. 

Monitoring and analyzing trades with thinkorswim

The strongest aspect of thinkorswim’s demo platform is its stock screener, which is quite advanced compared to other paper trading simulators. It has over 60 different filters, 30 of which screen fundamental factors such as earnings per shares (EPS), return on equity (ROE), and operating profit margin. This screener is a really handy tool when it comes to finding your next investment opportunity.

In addition to the screener, there are the aforementioned tools, such as the integrated newsfeed and the range of indicators to choose from to help you monitor your open positions. These indicators, called studies on the platform, are broken down into different categories—popular, market strength, trend, and volatility. If you want to draw your own tools directly onto the chart, you can select the ‘Drawings’ button and choose from trendlines, channels, price levels, Fibonacci retracements, and more. 

It’s also easy to set up an alert on thinkorswim’s dashboard. Simply load the chart up of your choosing and click anywhere on it that you’d like to set an alert for. You’re able to choose from several different options such as ‘At or above’, ‘at or below’ and toggle between market price, bid, or ask. Once you’ve created an alert, it’s easy to view or remove it under the Notifications tab at the top right-hand corner of your screen.

Our take on thinkorswim

Overall, thinkorswim’s platform is definitely powerful, even if it does take more time to familiarize yourself with its features. Compared to some of its competitors, the dashboard is not as intuitive, and the interface is not as slick. However, once you’ve spent some time getting used to the platform, it’s surprisingly deep. Perhaps it’s more suited to advanced stock investors rather than beginners, but it is still fairly accessible.

Best ALTERNATIVE
ProRealTime Paper Trading Simulator

ProRealTime is a trading platform that delivers a comprehensive suite of charting software and technical analysis tools designed to help traders navigate the markets with precision.

With over 22 years of experience in the field, ProRealTime has garnered the trust of more than a million users worldwide. While there may be a bit of a learning curve, ProRealTime is undoubtedly the gold standard for trading platforms.

Pros
Smooth trading experience
Intuitive interface and dashboard
Powerful tools and features
Comprehensive market access
Cons
No glaring weaknesses
author
Maxime Parra

Maxime holds two master’s degrees from the SKEMA Business School and FFBC: a Master of Management and a Master of International Financial Analysis. As founder and editor-in-chief of NewTrading.fr, he writes daily about financial trading.

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