What is a 'Demo Account'

A demo account is a type of account offered by trading platforms, which is funded with fake money that enables a prospective customer to experiment with the trading platform and its various features, before deciding to set up a real account funded with the customers actual money. Demo accounts are offered by a wide variety of online trading platforms, including stock trading platforms, foreign exchange trading venues and commodities exchanges.

BREAKING DOWN 'Demo Account'

Demo accounts became widespread in the twenty-first century, along with online trading. They are marketed to customers as a way for a customer to test a platform’s user experience and features before committing their own money to these investments or paying the platform trading commissions. For instance, one popular online stock trading platform is TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim. Prospective customers of the company, or customers who simply want to spend time practicing trading strategies risk-free, can sign up for a demo account online. Once you have a demo account you can use their “paperMoney” platform to buy and sell stocks using fake money, but test those trades under real, live market situations. According to TD Ameritrade, the product is geared toward who’ve always wanted to trade, but don’t have enough money, have the money but don’t know where to start, or are experienced traders who want to test new strategies. 

Demo accounts are also popular means for traders who are experienced trading in stocks, but want to experiment with other asset classes. For instance, investors may want to open a demo account before they start investing in futures, commodities, or currencies, even if they already have much experience investing in stocks. That’s because these markets are subject to different influences, allow different kinds of market orders and feature different kinds of margin requirements than stock markets.

History of Demo Accounts

Demo accounts were not particularly feasible prior to the widespread use of personal computers and the Internet. When trades were mostly recorded using paper, monitoring a virtual trade would have been time consuming and costly, eliminating the primary benefit of a demo account, namely that it’s free. Demo accounts began to be offered by online brokerages in the 2000s, as high-speed internet was starting to be adopted by more Americans. Demo accounts have also been adopted as a means of teaching high school students the basics of investing in the stock market. Many school districts around the country offer personal finance or economics classes that require students to maintain a demo stock account, and monitor the progress of their investments over the course of the semester.
 

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