Do you have a virtual stock and/or options trading account? I recently opened up a Virtual Trading account at OptionsXpress for the sole purpose of practice trading. It is a way to test out trading ideas without risking any real money. When you sign up, they put $25,000 of "play" money in your virtual trading account. Virtual trading lets you use the optionsXpress (by Charles Schwab) platform to screen stocks and options. You can then go through the motions of using the trading tools and resources to execute practice trades. This is a way to test trading strategies on stocks, options, and futures without risking any real money.
My biggest complaint so far is the sign up process. They claim that it only takes 5 minutes, but it seemed to take longer than that. You will be asked for all the personal information that you would need to open a real trading account. You are not required to provide a checking account or credit card, and you are not required to fund your account (with real money) at all. You also have to provide your social security number, so I can understand if people think it is not worthwhile. But if you're willing to go through this process, you will have access to the exact same platform as a real OptionsXpress account.
For the record, I also have an OptionsHouse account (different company) that I keep around for the purpose of virtual trading. My real OptionsHouse has a balance of $0.01. OptionsHouse starts you with $5,000 of virtual "play" money.
If you decide to open a real brokerage account, consider taking advantage of one of these great offers:
Open up a new optionsXpress account and get $100
Sign Up for an OptionsXpress Account and Choose Your Free Investment Book
Get a FREE Xbox 360 when you open and fund a new OptionsHouse account
12 hours ago