Since opening its doors in 2010, Pepperstone Group has emerged as a top-tier player in the online brokerage landscape, building a highly competitive and full-featured trading portal that focuses on forex, shares, indices, metals, commodities and even cryptocurrencies.

A minimum opening deposit of 200 units in the base currency helps new traders get into the game, underpinned by leverage levels as high as 500:1. The company is regulated in the U.K. and registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA #684312) as well as the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC #147055703). Like many forex brokers, Pepperstone does not accept U.S. traders.

Customer accounts are segregated from company funds, providing an additional layer of security in an industry that is prone to turbulent periods. Support options are plentiful, highlighted by 24/5 chat/phone support and a functional FAQ that includes clearly stated policies on deposits, withdrawals, and trade disputes.

Numerous desktop, mobile, and web-based platforms, an industry-standard product catalog, above average educational resources, tight spreads, and multiple account types all combine to offer a trading experience that will appeal to novice and professional traders alike.

Key Takeaways

  • Rated our Best Forex Broker for Trading Experience.
  • Pepperstone offers very competitive FX spreads and a bevy of user interfaces.
  • Pepperstone does not offer guaranteed stop loss orders, and negative balance protection is available only for U.K./E.U. clients.

Who Pepperstone Is For

Pepperstone offers uncomplicated access to the markets which allows the client to focus on the complicated task of trying to successfully trade the markets. Pepperstone is ideally suited to traders that want a manageable range of low-cost offerings, multiple choices of user interfaces and account types, and efficient customer support. Investopedia's ranking algorithm factored in these attributes in declaring Pepperstone as the Best Forex Broker for Trading Experience in 2020.

Pros
  • Low FX spreads

  • Regulated by FCA (U.K.)

  • Offers protection for U.K. client accounts

  • Range of platform offerings

Cons
  • Website maintenance substandard

  • Does not accept U.S. clients

  • Limited account protection for non-U.K./E.U. clients

  • No guaranteed stop loss

Pros Explained

  • Pepperstone advertises minimum FX spreads starting from one pip but no commission for the "Standard" account, or zero spread but with commission for the "Razor" account. This is very competitive in the retail FX brokerage space.
  • Pepperstone is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA #684312) which is one of the main regulatory agencies in the U.K. and is highly regarded globally for being strict in ensuring that market practices are fair for both individuals and businesses. Simply put, being regulated by a reputable government-backed agency goes a long way towards establishing the credibility of a firm. Traders accept the risk that is inherent in markets but they would like the peace of mind knowing that their funds are not subject to risks outside of the ones that they are taking, such as counter-party risk. Additionally, all client funds are held at Tier 1 banks.
  • Pepperstone offers "negative balance protection" but only for its U.K. clients. This has become a fairly important feature that most online brokers are offering these days. The catalyst was most likely the SNB event of January 15, 2015 that roiled the markets, especially the highly leveraged retail FX market.
  • Pepperstone offers clients the choice between MetaTrader 4/5 and cTrader, a higher-end system with direct liquidity-provider pricing and advanced technical features that include detachable charts, back-testing, and algorithmic strategy support.

Cons Explained

  • Website maintenance leaves a lot to be desired. One of the hallmarks of an efficient organization, especially in 2020, is its web presence. While Pepperstone's website has an intuitive feel, there are a few pages with either incorrect, outdated, and/or incomplete information.
  • Pepperstone does not accept U.S. clients due to regulatory constraints, which precludes it from truly being considered a global broker. This would be a red flag were it not for the fact that the company is regulated by the FCA which, along with U.S. regulatory agencies (NFA, CFTC), is widely considered to be the preeminent regulatory body.
  • Pepperstone does not offer "negative balance protection" for non-U.K./E.U. clients. This means that a client can lose more than their account balance and end up owing money to the broker.
  • Pepperstone does not offer guaranteed stop loss orders (GSLO) for anyone. GSLOs protect the trader from market gap risk and many brokers are willing to offer it (for an additional charge) and accept the risk themselves.

Costs

3.5

Pepperstone's costs are very competitive within the online brokerage industry. New clients can choose between the "Standard" account with minimum FX spreads starting from one pip but no commission, or the "Razor" account with minimum FX spreads starting from zero pips but with commission added. The other instruments offered by Pepperstone all have either straight spreads or some combination of spread plus commission.

For example, the broker advertises that the average spread for EUR/USD on Razor is 0.13 pips and a commission will be added on to that. The average spread for the Standard account is 1.13 pips, all in. The average spread cost with an MT5 Razor account for a completed (buy & sell) €100,000 trade, where the base currency is euro, would be 0.13 pips + €5.23 commission. This would translate to a total spread cost of 0.653 pips.

The website's attempt at transparency regarding its spreads, while well intentioned, is confusing (outlined in the graphic below). Assuming that the differences highlighted are errors due to a lack of oversight, and that there aren't differences between MT4 and MT5 with respect to FX spreads, Pepperstone's spread costs are among the lowest available in the online retail forex arena.

Pepperstone Commissions Page (w/ errors)
Pepperstone Commissions Page (w/ errors).

The minimum to open an account is 200 units of the base currency. Funding options are comprehensive and include Visa, MasterCard, POLi, Bank Transfer, BPay, PayPal, Skrill, Neteller, and Union Pay. The broker states that "funding options are fee-free for traders in most countries." No dormant or inactivity fees were found when reviewing site disclosures and FAQs. Apparently, Pepperstone doesn't charge an inactivity fee, which is a rarity in this industry. There are, however, fees for international bank wire withdrawals.

As is the norm in the FX industry, clients will be charged swap fees on positions that they hold overnight. Pepperstone advertises that its "overnight rates are set at the benchmark regional interest rates for the underlying product, plus (or minus) our fixed charge of 2.5%," which is applied directly to the client's account.

Required margin varies with the type of instrument being traded but can only be found in the "New to trading" FAQ section on the website. Prospective clients can, however, access margin requirements for all available products by logging into the the "secure client area" > "trading tools" > "calculators" > "margin calculator".

Pepperstone also offers a no-swap Islamic account that incurs administration fees after a two-day holding period.

Trade Experience

4

Pepperstone offers a broad range of platforms to suit every investment and trading style. The platforms are third-party, white-label offerings, as Pepperstone has shied away from building a proprietary interface. Customers can choose between MetaTrader (MT) 4/5 and cTrader, a higher-end system with direct liquidity-provider pricing and advanced technical features that include detachable charts, back-testing, and algorithmic strategy support. Smart Trader Tools for MT4 extend technical functionality, adding a suite of apps that assist with trade execution, market research, and depth of market analysis.

Pepperstone's cTrader is a streamlined trading platform that is available as a download or web-based interface, which is stable and easy to access from any browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Internet Explorer). This platform provides an updated look and feel, one-click trading, and full integration across desktop and mobile platforms, which enhance the trading experience for all types of traders.

Pepperstone's cTrader has a simple and easy-to-use interface where traders can set up watchlists, analyze charts, place and monitor trades, have access to an instrument's "depth-of-market," and keep abreast of upcoming events with the market calendar. The technical analysis charts can be expanded to full screen and come with more than 70 technical indicators that you can apply over many different time frames, from tick charts to monthly charts.

The Autochartist program generates trade ideas based on technical analysis patterns. The platform additionally provides traders with the option of "copy" or "social" trading, which can be accessed through the desktop trading platform, and also automating their own strategies.

Pepperstone cTrader
Pepperstone cTrader.

Pepperstone's cTrader has four basic order types with the option of attaching "take profit" and/or "stop loss" orders to them. Additionally, the trader can make the stop loss a trailing stop loss, though the option for a guaranteed stop loss is not offered. Furthermore, there is a choice as to whether the trader wants the stop loss order to be executed at the bid or ask rate.

  • Market - The simplest order where a trader signals that their trade request should be executed at the prevailing market rate.
  • Limit - A pending order where the entry is at a predetermined point below or above the prevailing market rate depending on whether it's a buy or sell. The trader also has the option of selecting the expiration time of this order.
  • Stop - A pending order where the entry is at a predetermined point above or below the prevailing market rate depending on whether it's a buy or sell. The trader also has the option of selecting the expiration time of this order.
  • Stop-Limit - A pending order where the entry is at a predetermined point above or below the prevailing market rate depending on whether it's a buy or sell, but where the trader can select the tolerance range for execution. For example, if the market gaps over the selected rate and the tolerance interval then this order is immediately cancelled. The trader also has the option of selecting the expiration time of this order.

Impressive mobile options include MT4/5 and cTrader for iOS and Android. cTrader Web and the MT4 WebTrader provide tablet and iPad access, but there's no MT5 web version. All mobile versions are useful but limited in functionality, which is expected, but some customers may wish for more sophisticated feature sets.

Pepperstone has also partnered with Equinix to provide low-latency access to the global interbank system, centered at the Equinix Financial Exchange in New York. High-end clients, who demand blazing fast execution speeds and minimized pricing lag, can choose from a wide range of VPS options through this facility.

Range of Offerings

3.4

Pepperstone offers:

  • 60+ FX pairs
  • 16 index CFDs
  • 60+ share CFDs
  • 12+ commodity CFDs
  • 5 cryptocurrency CFDs
  • 3 currency index CFDs

All instruments are available in all account types, but cryptocurrency fees aren't well documented, which is disappointing due to that category's high volatility and relatively wide spreads. Pepperstone traders that select the MetaTrader 5 forex trading platform can trade U.S. share CFDs. Over 60 U.S. stocks can be selected to be traded as CFDs, with low commissions from USD$0.02 per share. Traders can go long or short on these CFDs.

Customer Service

4.6

Along with email support, the broker offers 24/5 chat/phone support as well as social media portals and an online contact form. Additionally, clients are assigned an account manager to assist them with relevant account-related matters. Given that the company advertises not having a dealing desk, it stands to reason that clients would not be able to contact the dealing desk in case of a trading emergency. Local clients can walk into the main Melbourne, Australia office, but online support options are likely to produce more rapid results. An adequate FAQ addresses most inquiries, though its organization and content could be improved.

Education

3.8

Pepperstone's website contains comprehensive educational resources through a dedicated section that includes "Learn To Trade Forex" tutorials, numerous archived and live webinars, and an impressive list of trading guides. Commodity trading is also covered in detail, along with discussions on slippage, hedging, and margin. In addition, Pepperstone uses this section to highlight support options that include platform comparisons, platform guides, and deposit/withdrawal procedures. The site also features standard educational fare that includes a market glossary and technical analysis tutorials.

Portfolio Analysis

2.6

Pepperstone offers traders a wealth of data in the "Active Market Panel" that opens on the right side of the cTrader interface. Everything is in real time and includes such necessary information as "margin required," "pip value," and "trade value," so that the trader can make an informed decision.

Pepperstone cTrader FIX API and Portfolio Analysis
Pepperstone cTrader FIX API and Portfolio Analysis.

The Pepperstone-branded cTrader offering also comes equipped with a tool for analyzing one's trading activity. Using a variety of filters, a trader can analyze their performance on a deeper level beyond the basic metrics, which can be especially useful for a new entrant to the leveraged world of online forex trading. The broker does not provide tax accounting tools on the platform.

Research Amenities

3

Pepperstone's market analysis and insights are on par with industry standards and serve to connect traders to the market and supplement its educational resources. Along with a "market calendar," there are sections for "market analysis" and "market news," which provide useful information and actionable analysis that add value to one's trading. Daily pre-market "forex reports" are emailed to the client prior to the start of each trading session.

Pepperstone Forex Report
Pepperstone Forex Report.

The analysis section covers a wide array of topics, from politics to other newsworthy events, while a section called the "Daily Fix" provides analysis on market-moving events. The broker's Twitter account also appears to be quite active. MT4/5 and cTrader provide few research features but the Smart Tools add-on for MT4 partially remedies this deficit. Additional research with "more insights and analysis" is available for active traders and high-volume traders.

Security

3.8

Pepperstone holds professional indemnity insurance through Lloyd's of London. The firm is an Australian-based broker, regulated by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) under ACN 147055703 and AFSL 414530, and the United Kingdom's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) under Company Number 08965105 and FRN 684312. ASIC requires financial services firms to "meet strict capital requirements and to implement and comply with internal procedures including risk management, staff training, accounting, and audits."

U.K. traders receive protection up to £85,000 under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme Protection (FSCS). Client funds are held at National Australia Bank in a segregated account to avoid misuse. Pepperstone Group is independently audited by Ernst & Young.

The trading platforms utilize automatic stop-out systems to eliminate negative balances, but the website admits that "losses may exceed your deposit amount" in volatile market conditions. Pepperstone offers negative balance protection, which is mandated under ESMA rules that went into effect in 2018, for its U.K./E.U. clients. However, non-U.K./E.U. clients do not receive negative balance protection, and no stop loss is guaranteed. The broker does have two-factor authentication (2FA) but does not offer bio-metric authentication for its mobile application.

Verdict

Pepperstone offers clients the most complete trading experience in the online forex broker community. The broker's lightning-fast execution systems, multiple account types, competitive pricing, and multiple platforms (MT4 and MT5, and full cTrader functionality) outshine the vast majority of worldwide forex brokers.

Being FCA-regulated lends credibility to the firm, but the inconsistency of offering negative balance protection while lacking guaranteed stop losses is a bit disconcerting. Substandard website maintenance speaks to a lack of attention to detail. Customer service is slightly above average, and the education catalog is adequate.

Overall, Pepperstone offers an exceptional trade experience for all types of traders, whether it is low spreads for the cost-conscious trader or interface functionality for the more technologically advanced trader.

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Methodology

Investopedia is dedicated to providing investors with unbiased, comprehensive reviews and ratings of online brokers. Our reviews are the result of six months of evaluating all aspects of an online broker’s platform, including the user experience, the quality of trade executions, the products available on their platforms, costs and fees, security, the mobile experience and customer service. We established a rating scale based on our criteria, collecting over 3,000 data points that we weighed into our star scoring system.

In addition, every broker we surveyed was required to fill out a 320-point survey about all aspects of their platform that we used in our testing. Many of the online brokers we evaluated provided us with in-person demonstrations of their platforms at our offices.

Our team of industry experts, led by Theresa W. Carey, conducted our reviews and developed this best-in-industry methodology for ranking online investing platforms for users at all levels. Click here to read our full methodology.