In order to day trade, you need to have reliable intraday charts. Without this crucial source of information, you’re dead in the water.
What is an intraday chart? An intraday stock chart is simply a chart that displays information for time-frames shorter than a day. For most traders this includes 1, 5, 15 and 60 minute charts. Also, if you’re trading a market that trades 24 hours a day, like the Forex, a frequently used intraday chart is the 240 minute (or 4 hours, for the mathematically challenged). Using these charts, day traders are able to make decisions based on where the price has been. It is common for traders to use intraday charts in multiple time-frames when trading. You should stick to 1 minute or 5 minute charts, and only trade off of one of them, depending on the time of day. When not actively trading you can scan through 1, 5 and 60 minute charts to keep an eye on the whole picture.
Perhaps you’ve noticed this, but free online stock charts are usually delayed 15 minutes. This information is not useable for the purpose of day trading. I wouldn’t even recommend swing trading off of this information, and even entering long term positions on delayed info is a bit shaky. Your broker is a great source for free intraday charts that are real-time and actually useable for trading. Broker’s typically have charts you can analyze directly on their site, or they’ll have a stand-alone product that allows for proper chart and technical analysis. Often, you can trade directly off of these charts using multiple order types. Another option you have, if you have a compatible broker, is to use your broker’s data feed combined with NinjaTrader. I find them to be the best for free intraday stock charts. Their charts are highly customizable to your trading style, with many indicators available, including time/sales (the tape). The only issue is that you can’t trade directly from these charts unless you pay a monthly fee. It’s up to you whether or not you think that convenience is worth the cost. Other than that, the charts are fully functional.
As I said above, having reliable intraday charts is crucial to your success as a day trader. Finding the right time-frame and indicators to fit your style will require a bit of trial and error, but once you find a set you’re comfortable with, you’ll notice that your day trading will improve over time.