Contributor, Benzinga
September 27, 2023

If you’ve dubbed yourself a brand-new day trader and want to know how to start day trading, congratulations! You’ve just entered into a partnership with the unruly animal known as the stock market. However, the market’s risk can offer great rewards.

Learning to control risk and practicing your trading strategies are two of the most important aspects of learning how to day trade. It’s important to practice before you start.

If you can find one strategy that works and the trading pattern that accompanies it you can start paper trading — and eventually graduate to earning real money. When you’re just getting started, it could be six months to a year before you actually turn a profit.

To become a successful day trader, you’ll also need a few tools, including a trading platform on a quick internet speed and a broker — not to mention a concrete plan.

What is Day Trading?

Day trading is a strategy where you buy and sell financial instruments, such as stocks, commodities or currencies, within the same trading day. Day traders look to take advantage of short-term price fluctuations in the market to make quick profits. Traders typically close out all their positions before the market closes each day to avoid overnight risks. Day trading requires active monitoring of the market and making frequent trades throughout the day. It involves using technical analysis tools, charts and indicators to identify potential trading opportunities. 

Steps for How to Start Day Trading

Get started with day trading by following the steps below.

Step 1: Decide What You Will Be Trading

To pick the best broker for you, it’s important to determine what type of financial instrument you’ll choose to trade. Most people assume that day traders trade only stocks — but the possibilities can include trading futures, forex, options, derivatives or currencies.

Beginning day traders should pick one and master that type of market before moving on to others. Many beginning traders believe that you need over $25,000 to begin day trading. While you do need over $25,000 to bypass the pattern day trader rule, you do not need $25,000 to actually trade. Traders with under $25,000 will be limited to three round-trip trades (buying and selling in the same day) within a five-day period, which is great for beginning traders who need to learn how to choose fewer trades wisely.

You can trade any of the following:

Step 2: Find the Best Day Trading Broker for You

Once you’ve determined what you’re trading, you’ll need to look for a broker. Brokers are usually falling all over themselves to attract day traders to their business — frequent trading by you means commissions for them.

Here are a few things to consider in order to identify the best broker for you.

  • Consider commissions: Commissions, margin rates and other expenses could eat up any day trader’s profits, as commission costs can reach into the hundreds or thousands of dollars for high-volume traders. Cost is a major factor when choosing a broker.
  • Research: The speculative nature of day trading demands excellent research tools. Technical and fundamental research are the backbone of a trader’s craft, and the broker a day trader chooses must have excellent research capabilities.
  • Charting: Make sure you’re getting great charting tools and software. The options are staggering — varying markets, trading strategies and software features — the list goes on and on. If you ask other traders which trading software they like best, you’re liable to get many different answers.
  • Speed: For high-frequency traders, execution speed with real-time execution is a must. A second’s delay could eat into traders’ profits, so the chosen broker absolutely must have a top-notch, real-time trading platform that is easy to use.
  • Paper trading: For brand-new traders, it might be worth it to find out if a broker has paper trading so that you can first practice trading without using your own money. Some traders disagree with that approach, but if you’re nervous to start, it’s a good way to get your feet wet.
  • Regulation and safety: Be sure that the firm you’re looking into is regulated by an agency with key metrics they are required to follow.
  • Consider safety and reputation: It’s also an excellent idea to ask questions about security, years in business and the stability of the broker. It might not be the best idea, for example, to choose a brand-new broker based solely on bonus offers.
  • Customer service: Don’t forget about good customer service. In an endless search for fast executions, the lowest commissions and knock-your-socks-off platforms, it might be possible to ignore the human element of the equation. If you’re in the middle of a trade and there’s a glitch on your trading platform, you’d better have a broker who can help. For more specific brokers, check out Benzinga's Best Brokers for Day Trading.
  • securely through Centerpoint Securities's website
    securely through Centerpoint Securities's website
    Best For:
    Momentum traders
    Read Review
  • Securely through Interactive Brokers’ website
    Securely through Interactive Brokers’ website
    Best For:
    Active and Global Traders
    Read Review
  • securely through Magnifi's website
    securely through Magnifi's website
    Best For:
    AI Investing
    Read Review
  • securely through Webull's app
    securely through Webull's app
    Best For:
    Intermediate Traders and Investors
    Read Review
  • securely through TD Ameritrade's website
    securely through TD Ameritrade's website
    Best For:
    Retirement Savers
    Read Review
  • securely through Plus500's website
    securely through Plus500's website
    Best For:
    Mobile Users
    Read Review

    86% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

Step 3: Determine When You'll Day Trade

It’s best to trade at the same time every day. It’s typical that day traders will trade the stock market an hour after the open, 9:30-10:30 a.m. EST, or in the last hour before close, 3-4 p.m. EST. It’s been continually noted by day traders that the open and close are the best times to make the most money.

Step 4: Choose Stocks to Trade

Selecting the stocks you’d like to trade can be an overwhelming task, considering the thousands of options available to you. To narrow the field, you could choose one or two stocks you’d like to trade and trade them all the time.

Otherwise, you can search for stocks that are performing well on a day-to-day basis. Doing this involves diligent research on which stocks could perform well. You’ll need to be in tune with the news, and in particular, alerts that will help you determine which stocks will be worth trading the next day. However, when you’re just starting out, it’s recommended to stick to the one-to-two stock strategy until you become a savvy day trader.

Step 5: Set Aside an Amount to Invest

You’ll need to decide in advance how much money you can risk on each trade. It’s recommended that you risk no more than 1-2% of your account per trade and assess the amount well ahead of time. Also, for beginning students in the art of day trading, it’s a really good idea to abstain from margin trading until you’re comfortable with day trading in general. Brokers don’t allow you margin trading for free — and most charge high interest rates for borrowing their money.

Day Trading Lingo

The mechanics of day trading are crucial to beginners’ understanding and can be confusing. Here are a few common terms to research in-depth before becoming a full-fledged expert day trader.

  • Ask: The price a seller is willing to sell for.
  • Bid: The price a buyer is willing to buy for.
  • Breakout: When a stock breaks out above its previous resistance level.
  • Candlesticks: A type of chart where each candle represents the high, low, open and close for a given period.
  • Covering: Buying back the shares that were sold short.
  • Float: The amount of shares available for public trading.
  • Gap Up/Down: When a stock opens above or below its previous closing price.
  • Going Long: Buying a stock with intentions of selling at a higher price.
  • High/Low of Day (HOD/LOD): A stock’s highest or lowest price for the day
  • Hard-to-borrow: A stock that is not readily available to short. Brokers will often charge an additional fee to those trying to short hard to borrow stocks.
  • Liquidity: The ease with which a stock can be bought or sold without drastically affecting the stock’s price
  • Low Float: A stock with a low amount of publicly traded shares, often times experiencing higher volatility
  • Market makers: The firms responsible for facilitating buy & sell orders and maintaining liquidity in the markets.
  • Market Cap: The total dollar value of a company based on the stock’s price and outstanding shares.
  • Outstanding Shares: The total amount of shares issued, including both the float and institutional ownership.
  • Profits and Losses (P&L): A portfolio’s gains/losses for a given period.
  • Red-to-Green and Green-to-Red: When a stock goes from being up on the day to down on the day (or vice versa).
  • Resistance: A price level at which sellers repeatedly overpower buyers, making it difficult for the stock to increase in price.
  • Scalp: Taking advantage of very small price changes
  • Short Selling: Selling shares of a stock that you do not own in hopes of buying the shares back at a lower price.
  • Spread: The price difference between the bid and the ask
  • Support: A price level at which buyers repeatedly overwhelm sellers, making it difficult for the stock to drop lower in price.
  • Technical Analysis: Analyzing a stock’s historical price action (using charts and technical indicators) to predict future movement.
  • Trend: The general direction of a stock’s price movement. A stock can be in an uptrend or downtrend.

Day Trading Essentials

You don’t have to have huge amounts of money to be a day trader. However, if you’re interested in pattern day trading, you must have a margin account and you’ll be required to maintain $25,000 equity to continue trading.

If your account falls below $25,000, an equity call is issued and the minimum must be restored by cash deposit or other marginal equities. If the day trading call isn’t met within five business days, the account’s day trading buying power is restricted for 90 days or until the margin call is met.Ready to start day trading? Check out Benzinga's top picks for the best day trading software, the best day trading brokers and the best courses to begin day trading.

Frequently Asked Questions


Should you start day trading?


Deciding whether or not to start day trading depends on individual circumstances and preferences. It has the potential for high returns but also carries significant risks. Day trading requires market knowledge, constant monitoring and the ability to make quick decisions. It can be mentally and emotionally demanding and involves handling large amounts of money with the potential for losses. Thorough research and understanding of the risks are important before starting day trading.


What is the first rule of day trading?


The first rule of day trading is not to invest more than you can afford to lose. It is important to recognize the risks involved in day trading and to only use disposable income that you are willing to potentially lose.


What makes day trading difficult?


Day trading is a challenging and risky practice that requires constant monitoring and decision-making. Market volatility, lack of information and competition from institutional investors add to the difficulties. Successful day trading requires extensive knowledge, experience and discipline.