I would say the first thing to do is outline which mkts one wants to trade....
For fx alone, the best possible broker-dealer is dukascopy.com, in my opinion. I know the name doesnt inspire confidence, but they are Swiss, NFA registered and very well regulated. Their platform is very good and since they are one of the world's largest liquidity providers for the forex mkt, their spreads and execution is excellent. When trading purely FX, brokers charge rollover fees for positions held open overnight. Dukascopy's charges are mostly the same as the rest of the industry. I used DbFX and FXCM but dukascopy turned out to be the best in terms of slippage control, limit and stoploss execution and speed.
Having said this, let me make something clear. ALL FX BROKERS play the spreads themselves, where small account holders like us are concerned. This is why most retail customers almost never make any money when actively trading currencies. Brokers make money by creating a secondary mkt for fx deals because our lot sizes are so small. Meaning our orders are never entered in the actual primary fx mkt via mt4, they are simply executed at the internal fx mkt that the broker creates and which reflects to a large extent the rates in the primary mkt with the difference of 1-2 pips. Out of the bunch dukascopy is the only one who admits to this practice and says that they still try to provide the tightest spreads to their retail clients.
If I were you I would NOT trade fx like this. Trust me, you will find yourself on the losing side, no matter which broker u use, unless you have a medium to longer term fx trading outlook (but i dont think any of us have the global economic know how to pull that off :P)
The better, and less volatile and less manipulated way to trade fx is thru etf's (exchange traded funds) listed on the NYSE, AMEX and other exchanges. ETF's are funds which are listed on the stock exchanges and which follow the performance of the sector they are based on. For example the US dollar index etf has shares listed in New York. Every rise and fall in the US dollar is reflected in the dollar index and consequently reflected in this etf's share price, on a percentage basis. Similarly the gold etf (ticker symbol GLD) follows the price of spot gold, and rises or falls 1% for every 1% rise or fall in gold price. Etf's were specifically created so retail as well as institutional clients could participate in various asset classes and mkt's without needing multiple platforms/brokers etc and without the temptation of the 200:1 allowed leverage of fx ;D Etf's are available for almost anything you can name. There are etf's that follow the U.S stock indexes like dow jones and s&p 500, the european indexes like dax, cac and ftse and the indian index even.....there are etf's for most major currencies like the dollar, euro, yen, sterling etc and there are etf's for major commodities like gold, oil, wheat etc. For the more adventurous there are even leveraged double long or double short etf's for most sectors, like DDM which rises 2% for every 1% rise in the dow jones.
The best thing to do would be to use a multiple market broker, who is registered with regulatory authorities in several countries, most importantly in the U.S. and whose client deposits are insured by the FDIC/SIPC. And most importantly one who is direct access. Meaning the trades you enter on their platform are executed directly in the actual mkt, not just in house! A multiple mkt broker allows clients to trade stocks/etf's/futures/options/fx etc thru a single platform.
I started with etrade.com They were not direct access but when I started I didnt know that. Plus they are now so big they even have a bank of their own and our involved in the subprime mess in some ways. So I got scared of 'em and tired of the slow execution speed of their platform since it wasnt direct access.
I switched to, and still use, interactivebrokers.com They are based in the U.S. and in my opinion they are the best. They fulfill all the above criteria, have no banking or subprime dealings, are very well capitalized as a company and are direct access. Their fx is not the best but since I trade currencies thru etf's on the stock mkt as stated above, I dont mind. Infact I havent ever used their fx module more than once if I remember. Their strong point is their customer service and the speed of rates quoted and order execution. Their built in charting package is realtime and quite good. The only problem mite be that their platform is pretty advanced in terms of interface so it mite seem a little 'unfriendly' at first to use. But I got used to it pretty soon.
You can download their demo and try it from their website. Their commission structure is flexible but i use the $o.oo5/share option.
One other thing of note. The FDIC/SiPC passed a resolution in 2001, defining what a daytrader is under U.S. law. Anyone who opens and closes 4-5 trades a week is classified as a daytrader. And if you are designated a daytrader, you need to have $25000 in your a/c. If you trade less than that, you can open an acount with as little as $5000
Apart from interactivebrokers.com, i'm looking at other platforms these days, just for the heck of it. Maybe I'll find one thats even better.
Let me know if any of you have any questions.