The MT4, is by far the most popular trading platform and the go-to platform, especially for small-scale, retail traders. This is attributed to the platform’s ease of use, the fact that it is widely adopted among brokers, as well as to its numerous incorporated added features, which greatly enhance the trading experience of traders.
To help interested traders, especially novice ones, wisely and successfully choose the most suitable and right MT4 broker to cover their trading needs, we have prepared this handy guide, which sheds light on all relevant aspects. We strongly urge all interested traders to carefully study this guide and would love to hear any comments they may have or answer any queries, which may emerge or are not adequately covered.
The Expert, Comprehensive Guide to Choosing an MT4 Broker
Though we feel the entire guide is worth your attention, for ease of navigation, we have broken it down into sections that you can also access individual using the quick links listed below:
- What is MetaTrader 4 (MT4)?
- What you should look out for when choosing an MT4 Broker
- The advantages and disadvantages of the MT4 trading platform
- The distinct features of the MT4 platform
- How to Get Started with the MT4: A step by step quick guide
- Concluding Remarks on MT4 brokerage selection
What is MetaTrader 4 (MT4)?
Access to a trading platform is essential when looking to trade forex online, and though the online, retail, branch of forex trading is served by dozens of different types of trading platforms, the MetaTrader 4 or MT4 as it is usually referred to, is by far the most well-known and widely used trading platform globally, being thus considered a point of reference and an industry standard.
Ever since its initial development by the MetaQuotes Software company back in 2005, the MT4 trading platform has managed to conquer the industry and be adopted by the majority of forex brokers. The actual MT4 software is made up of two main components, namely a client and a server, the former being what traders may download on their pc, while the latter is the one managed and operated by the forex broker.
As an electronic trading platform, the MT4 licenses its software to foreign exchange brokers, who in turn provide the usage of this software to their clients, that is, online retail exchange traders. Through this software, clients gain access to the live streaming of asset prices and charts, while they can also use it to place orders and to manage their trading accounts. Besides being able to place market orders via the MT4 trading platform, its user-traders may also place pending orders, i.e. orders which are only executed when the instrument price reaches a specific, predetermined level.
Through the MT4, market orders are executed under any of the following four forms:
- Market execution, where trades are executed on the basis of the prevailing market price, regardless of the price displayed on the trading platform.
- Instant execution, where trades are executed at exactly the price displayed on the trading platform.
- Exchange execution, where the processing of trading orders is sent to an external trading system to be carried out based on the current depth of the market.
- Request execution, which is a two-step process, allowing traders to request a specific quote, which then the system matches and lets the trader take the final decision about whether to actually proceed to its final execution. This type of execution is slower than the others but ensures certainty in achieving the desired price.
What you should look out for when choosing an MT4 Broker
Some may think that since you will be using the same trading platform to conduct your trading through, it makes no difference which MT4 broker you will choose to open an account with. This statement though is not true, as there are a few issues to consider when seeking the most suitable MT4 broker for your own trading needs. Performing a comparison based on the five key parameters listed below will help you discern among the plethora of MT4 brokers, which one best deserves your custom and preference.
1. How trustworthy is each broker?
Being able to gain, maintain, and prove over time that they deserve your trust is a basic element you should be looking out for in an MT4 broker. How reputable a brokerage is, plays a crucial role in allowing you to comfortably trust them with your funds and place your trades through them. Though many will argue against this notion, at start-business-online we do not maintain that only fully regulated brokers are trustworthy. In fact, we have illustrated how, at times, an unregulated broker may even be better for certain traders and their aspirations and needs. Not disregarding the value of operating under the stringent measures and rules imposed by watchdogs, we still prefer to propose that a broker’s trustworthiness is better measured by their professionalism, dedication, commitment, and transparency, which will give traders a valid reason to trust a particular broker over the course of time.
2. Does the broker allow you to trade what you want to trade?
The MT4 platform software can cater to the trading of all types of assets, however, it is up to each licensed broker to decide which ones they will actually offer for trading. Usually, most brokers do offer all the major and most of the minor currency pairs for forex trading, but nowadays the asset offering has extended greatly, with many brokers also offering exotic pairs, stocks, and the hugely popular cryptocurrencies. Therefore, if you have a specific preference on the assets you want to trade on, you should check what each broker actually offers prior to taking your decision to open a trading account.
3. How much trading with each particular broker cost you?
The cost of trading with each particular broker often varies greatly, because brokers follow different pricing policies, charging different amounts or percentages when it comes to their spreads, commissions, swap rates, and fees. In fact, even the method of calculating the overall trading cost for each trader may vary from broker to broker. As your aim should be to remain with a broker and allow the building of a trusting relationship in an environment of confidence on your part that will be conducive to your overall trading success, it is important to know from the beginning, in a clear and precise manner what costs you will incur when trading with each particular broker. To get to this remember to read the small print and always ask the broker to provide you with accurate information if anything you read on their website is unclear or ambiguous. Reading independent broker reviews is often a good way to find out about the pricing policy of each broker. To find out more about how you can effectively read such reviews, you can access our relevant posts.
4. How will your trades be executed?
For a trade to actually take place, as in the case of all other transactions, you need both a buyer and a seller at each leg, both willing and able to transact on the same instrument. Therefore, whenever you open a buy position on your MT4 trading platform, your broker is tasked with matching you up with a seller for that position. Exactly how this is done, depends on the type of broker this is and which model they adhere to.
The main distinction to make in this regard is between ‘market maker’ brokers, who take the opposite side of your trade themselves, and ECN brokers, who rely on an extensive network of liquidity providers via an electronic communications system, this being able to match your trade either with another trader or another financial institution or industry stakeholder.
Which of the broker models is more suitable for you entirely depends on your own trading style, preferences, aims, and strategies.
5. Will it be possible to trade at your desired volume and size?
When trading via the MT4 platform, you will still need to adhere to the rules and limitations set by your individual broker, and trying to trade in breach of them will lead the platform to display error messages that will prevent you from trading.
Such limits usually pertain to the setting of minimum and maximum deposit amounts, maximum open trade amounts, and minimum trade sizes. Therefore, if your own plan is to trade with very high or very low amounts, there is a big chance that your broker may not allow this. Define your own needs first and then do check out if those limits set by the brokerage you are considering to choose to accommodate your own desires in terms of the volume and size of your intended trades.
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The advantages and disadvantages of the MT4 trading platform
As a general comment and proven by its huge popularity over the years, the MT4 is a platform that has more in its favor than against it. However, to be fair there are also some less favorable characteristics of this particular platform, that may not sway you against it, but would be understood from the start.
To help you better decide whether the MT4 is the right platform for you and whether you should be looking for an MT4 broker to trade through, here are the main pros and cons to be aware of:
- It boasts undeniable user-friendliness, while also being very intuitive, which is especially good for novice traders.
- As it is the most popular platform amongst existing forex and CFD brokers, this benefits traders as they can switch between brokers without having to learn how to trade on a new platform.
- It caters to traders across the globe in their native language as it supports a massive range of different languages.
- Since 2005, it has proven its reliability and robustness over the course of many years.
- It’s available not only on PCs but on laptops, tablets, and smartphones as well. Besides running on Windows, its software can also run on the Mac and Linux systems through additional software readily available.
- It facilitates scalping and other short-term trading strategies thanks to its one-click trading feature.
- It is possible to hedge positions when trading on the MT4.
- It is a safe environment to trade in since it uses a highly secure encryption protocol.
- It comes with top-notch technical analysis charting tools as well as offering other indicator options.
- It enables automation through the running of Expert Advisors, while it can also rely on an extensive user community for support, being familiar with its programming language, the MQL4.
- Its back-testing function is not top-notch since it does not use bid or offer pricing, while also not accessing good quality historical tick data.
- The execution speed may not be as adequate or as suitable for high-frequency trading
There are no embedded social trading features and thus additional add-ons are needed if you wish to engage in social trading.
- The programming language of the MT4 is different to that of its younger sibling, the MT5, inhibiting the portability of plug-ins and accounts between them.
MetaQuotes no longer issues MT4 licenses to forex or CFD brokers launched after 2018 but instead licenses the MT5 platform to newly-established brokers.
- The use of repainting indicators, which is allowed on the MT4, may mislead traders making them believe they are performing better than they actually are in real-time.
If eventually, MetaQuotes decides to phase out the MT4 in favor of the MT5, existing MT4 will face problems when forced to switch platforms.
The distinct features of the MT4 platform
Even in its intact, out of the box version, the MT4 platform comes packed with a wide variety of functions and features, aiming not only to enable traders to actually trade the markets but also automate their trades, as well as easily and comfortably managing their trading strategies.
The key features which make the MT4 stand out and be particularly appealing to traders are:
- Expert advisors
- Strategy testing through backtesting
- Great Charting for technical analysis
- MT4 add-ons
- Signals and copy trading on the MT4
- Scalping and hedging on the MT4
- Trading Instruments: What can you trade via the MT4?
Having identified them, lets us now explore each of these features in greater depth:
Expert Advisors, also known as EAs in short, are essentially programmed plug-ins that allow the creation of trading programs or robots. Such robots operate automatically on the basis of current market conditions as well as the technical indicators embedded in the trading platform, thus allowing traders to fully automate their trading strategy.
Besides being programmed from scratch, EAs may also be obtained from third parties and the MT4 community marketplace includes nearly 2000 such different trading robots catering for a variety of trading styles. Many may be obtained free of charge, while the most successful ones may cost a few thousand dollars. However, if you cannot afford to buy an EA, it is also possible to rent one.
As the MT4 encourages community input, traders can use the platform’s built-in programming function to create their own expert advisors, indicators, and scripts, provided they possess the necessary programming skills. Moreover, provided they have the relevant permissions, and an EA is not locked, they can even modify existing plug-ins. This is done from the MetaQuotes Language (MQL) interface, which opens in a new window when you press the F4 button from within the MT4 platform.
Strategy testing through backtesting
A very useful feature offered by the MT4 platform is its backtesting feature, which can be used to test and optimize any trading robots as well as any trading strategy.
In order to be able to engage in strategy testing, you need to access historical data from the M1 time frame and such data be viewed via the MT4’s History Centre. When you want to access the backtesting function of the platform you must click Ctrl+R on your keyboard, or use your mouse to click on View > Strategy Tester.
Though extremely useful, this testing feature is also a complex function, and properly using it requires expert knowledge on trading strategies. It is possible however to teach yourself or be taught by more experienced users on how to best use this tool.
Great Charting for technical analysis
Another excellent feature of the MT4 is the charts it contains for all assets that can be traded on the platform for a range of different time frames. Charts are a great way to perform technical analysis and the MT4 platform allows its users to fully customize this kind of analysis by using or developing additional plug-ins building on the charting tools. Moreover, by using the provided built-in tools, traders can add lines, indicators, arrows, and text notes to the charts.
On the MT4 prices or exchange rates are represented through bar charts, line charts, and candlestick charts, all of which constitute widely popular methods for such representations. However, through the use of external plug-ins, it is also possible to also employ other price representation methods, such as point and figure charts.
Charting is an essential component of technical analysis for trading as it provides invaluable information for traders. For example, you can immediately view the open, high, low, and closing price for a predetermined time period through bar charts and candlestick charts, while the analysis of multi-period candlestick patterns can derive possible future market trends.
The MQL Community is a community marketplace created by MetaQuotes to satisfy the increasing demands by MT4 users for the existence of a one-stop-shop where one could get access to tools, indicators, EAs, scripts and all types of other add-ons to be used on the MT4 platform.
Since the MQL Community is fully integrated with the MT4 platform, those traders wishing to buy any type of add-on can simply use the “Market” tab in the platform terminal window. The MQL website is the perfect venue for traders not only to buy add-on software for the MT4 but also to sell to other traders, the robots or add-ons that they have created.
The full integration of the platform and the MQL community website also means that you can conveniently buy any add-on or other product featured on the MQL and pay directly using your trading account balance.
Signals and copy trading on the MT4
Social trading on the MT4 is available through its Trading Signals feature, which enables the real-time, automated copying of another trader’s trades. The provision of such trading signals by traders is sometimes completely free, while others require you to pay them a fee in order to allow you to copy their trades. To be able to copy another trader via the MT4, you will need an active MT4 live account, as well as a sufficiently funded MQL5.com account. This will enable you to access the signals providers list in the platform’s ‘Signals’ window and select those you want to subscribe to.
Scalping and hedging on the MT4
The MT4’s “one-click” trading feature easily and successfully allows the implementation of the intraday trading strategy of scalping, which capitalizes on small moves in the market. Though the platform makes implementing this strategy easy, you may not be able to viably adopt it in case your particular broker prohibits it, by imposing a minimum required holding time for trades.
Similar to scalping, another trading strategy which the MT4 caters to is that of hedging, however, whether a trader can actually use hedging or not is down to the rules applied by their specific brokers or the jurisdictions in which the said brokers operate.
Trading Instruments: What can you trade via the MT4?
The MT4 platform offers a vast array of trading instruments, however, which assets you will actually be able to trade on, depends entirely on the broker you will choose since not all brokers offer all the available instruments.
To view which instruments are catered for by your own broker when in the MT4 platform you can press Ctrl+U on your keyboard or click on “View” and then “Symbols” in the top navigation bar.
The instruments to be traded via the MT4 fall within the following six, typical asset classes:
- Currency pairs
- Stock indices
- Fixed income securities
Having identified them, lets us now explore each of these features in greater depth:
- Currency pairs: The vast majority of traders using the MT4 platform do so to trade forex, i.e. currency pairs. Such pairs on the platform are divided into the major pairs (for example the EUR/USD), the minor pairs (such as the EUR/CHF), and the so-called exotic pairs (e.g. the USD/SGD). The seven major pairs are offered by all brokers and the differences in their offering can be found in the number of minors and exotic pairs each brokerage includes in their asset list.
- Stocks: The number of stocks that can typically be traded via the MT4 platform is not very extensive, and it comprises popular, blue-chip stocks, such as those of Google, Apple, and Coca-Cola.
- Stock indices: The indices measuring the performance of national stock exchanges globally may also be traded in the MT4. Usually, this is true for the major stock indices, such as the UK’s FTSE100, France’s CAC 40, or Germany’s DAX 30.
- Cryptocurrencies: The new and booming market of cryptocurrency trading can also be catered for by the MT4 platform, as the platform can handle the execution of trades on all major cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, and Litecoin, as well the trading of derived cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold.
- Commodities: Most brokers also offer via the MT4 platform the ability of their clients to trade an array of popular tradable commodities. These include precious metals, such as gold and silver, as well as energy products like Brent crude oil, and agricultural products such as coffee, cotton, corn, and sugar.
- Fixed income securities: Fixed income instruments, mainly government bonds issued by major countries in Europe, as well as the USA and Japan, can also be traded by clients on the MT4 platform.
How to Get Started with the MT4: A step by step quick guide
Having discussed the MT4’s key features and capabilities, let us now briefly explore exactly how you can start using this platform. The brief guide below will tell you how to open an account, install the MT4 competent on your devices, and start making your trades.
Step 1: How to open an MT4 account
How to open a live account
A live account is an account allowing you to trade with real money, as opposed to a demo account where no real money deposit is required. Unlike the demo account, opening an MT4 live account cannot be done directly from the MT4 platform terminal. Therefore, you can only open a live trading account that will use the MT4 platform via a trading brokerage.
Once you sign up with a licensed broker, they will then provide you with login credentials which you will use to access the MT4 platform through the login command and be able to enter your personal details.
How to open a demo account
A demo trading account, which is not funded with real money, is a great way for novice traders to learn and practice the trading basics before putting their real funds at risk, as well as the perfect venue for seasoned traders to experiment with and try out new and different trading strategies and systems.
You can open a demo account in MT4, either by directly downloading the MT4 from the MetaQuotes website or from your chosen broker’s site. Once the download and installation are completed, then follow the steps below:
- Click ‘File’ from the menu and select ‘Open an account’
- Fill out all the fields which appear in the registration window and then click ‘Next’
- Pick an appropriate demo trading server from the provided list of available trading servers
- All your credentials will then appear in the registration window and you should make sure you will save those securely for future use.
- Click on the finish button and you’ll directly be logged into your demo account.
Step 2: How to install the MT4 on your devices
To be able to use the MT4 once you have opened an account through your brokerage, you will need to actually install the platform competent on the device you intend to use to access it and perform your trading transactions on.
One of the great strengths of the MT4 is that it is easily accessible across a range of devices, however, its most popular version is the one intended for desktop computers running on the Windows system, which you can download from your broker’s website.
Both the MT4 and its sibling the MT5 can also run on a Mac or Linux system, and this is definitely a plus since it makes them available to an even greater number of potential traders. However, to run the platform on these two systems you will need an extra software called Wine, which fortunately is open-source and therefore free, as is the extra application named “Play on Mac”, which users may download to be able to use the MT4 or MT5 on a Mac device. Another version of the Wine software may be downloaded by those who wish to run the MT4 platform on a computer operating the Linux system.
For those who don’t want to have to download and run the desktop client of the MT4 platform, trading is still possible since they can access the platform’s web-based version instead, which can be run directly from your internet browser. This possibility has truly revolutionized trading as it means that clients can trade from anywhere and at any time, provided they simply have an internet connection and any type of device that can access the internet and connect to their broker’s MT4 server via the relevant URL.
Moreover, and for even more convenience, though offering fewer features, the MT4 can also be accessed through both an iOS and an Android mobile app, enabling users to use their smartphone from wherever they are in order to trade and manage their trading account.
Step 3: Using and trading on the MT4
Though the use of the MT4 is user friendly and intuitive and there is an abundance of resources online explaining exactly how you can use this platform, we deem it useful to highlight here the main sections of the MT4 terminal that you should be aware of, to help your journey on the MT4 in a smooth manner and save you time in familiarizing yourself with what is at your disposal:
MT4 main menu
Through the main menu bar, users can access various shortcut functions, such as opening a new chart, placing a new order, activating a forex robot, and selecting which charts to display. Passing your mouse over each button reveals each button’s name and function.
Market watch window
The Market watch window is where the price quote for each tradable asset is displayed.
The chart window is where the MT4 charts are displayed. On its main menu, a user may set and adjust the time frame for any chart. You can also access tick charts, as well as point and figure charts if you have the relevant plug-in installed. Moreover, the cart window includes indicator boxes where technical indicators can be displayed.
This window is where you can access the most important MT4 displays that aid your trading, through the relevant sets of tabs. Such tabs include the trade tab, the exposure tab, the account history tab, the news tab, the alerts tab, the signals tab, and the expert’s tab.
Your broker details, your server and trading account number are shown on this window, while from its shortcut menu you can instantly apply indicators, expert advisors, and scripts to charts.
Concluding Remarks on MT4 brokerage selection
Steadily at the top of preference for brokers and traders alike, has proven its reliability and robustness in the 15 or so years following its launch, the MT4 is set to remain the dominant platform in the online, retail forex landscape for the foreseeable. However, one should not overlook those technological advancements and new solutions being crafted and promoted daily may well start threatening the MT4 dominance at some point soon. Moreover, even its maker, the MetaQuotes Software Corp has been trying to shift clients to its new platform, the MT5, for some time, but without remarkable success.
If therefore, you have been trading for a while now or are just starting out your journey in the world of forex trading, the MT4 platform is perhaps still the best platform to enable you to trade with ease and feeling safe and secure.
As already explained, however, the way each individual, licensed broker that uses the MT4 operates may well differ considerably and so will be their overall offering as well as the terms under which your customer-broker relationship will work. Therefore, just being an MT4 broker is not enough for you to proceed to open an account with a specific brokerage. First, you need to know how and to what extent is the broker offering the full range of MT4 tools, capabilities, and features, e.g. which asset classes and which assets specifically are being catered for, while you also need to compare brokers in aspects of their offering irrelevant to the platform, such as the level of their customer service or the height of their fees charged.
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