If you fret about the volatility and risk associated with stocks, then forex trading is likely not your cup of tea. There are a plethora of risks involved, including leverage, transaction, country and interest rate risks, to name a few.
Quick look: Our Favorite Forex Brokers
- Best Overall: FOREX.com – Open an account
- Best for low costs: FOREX.com – Open an account
- Best for beginners: FOREX.com – Open an account
- Best for platform & research tools: TD Ameritrade – Open an account
- Best for advanced traders: Interactive Brokers – Open an account
- Best currency pairs offered: FOREX.com – Open an account
The choice becomes further complicated for two reasons:
- There are hundreds of brokers who offer a multitude of platforms for trading currencies.
- There are no hard-and-fast rules for forex trading.
What is forex trading?
Forex trading is a global, decentralized, over-the-counter market for trading global currencies. The market participants in a forex market include traders, investors, governments, banks, businesses, etc. The market is open 24 hours, five days a week.
Although there is no physical marketplace for the forex markets, important world trading centers for currencies are located in Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Frankfurt, Zurich, Paris, London and New York. It can be confusing; this video breaks down forex opening and closing times around the world.
Forex quotes are offered by central banks and what our broker quotes is the average of all the quotes received from the banks. Essentially, the broker acts as a market maker and sells the currency pair to you and not another trader.
Characteristics of the Forex Market
- High liquidity, with roughly $3 trillion worth of transactions handled each day, allowing easy entry and exit. That said, the forex market is not regulated and therefore, lacks transparency.
- The number of currency pairs traded is limited, making research and asset picking easy. This is unlike the equity market, where a plethora of stocks are trading.
- The currency market allows anywhere, anytime trading.
- High volatility associated with the currency market offers sizeable profitable trading opportunities. On the contrary, high volatility also exposes one to high risk.
- Geopolitical and macroeconomic factors drive forex.
- The tight spread in terms of pips facilitates trading even with low capital.
Understanding the Risks Involved in Forex Trading
Conventional wisdom states that high returns are always associated with high risks. There is no dearth of risks in the forex market. Here is brief on a few major risks one should be wary of while trading currency pairs.
1. Exchange Rate Risk
Exchange rate risk or currency risk arises when an investor needs to close out a long or short position at a loss due to adverse movement in the exchange rate of the currency pair they are trading.
2. Risk Associated with Leverage Trading
Once an investor decides to take a plunge in the forex market, he does by opening a margin account in a brokerage, which provides him with leverage or loan for trading.
The leverage provided could be in the ratio of 50:1, 100:1 or 200:1 depending on several factors. A 50:1 leverage means the trader has to maintain at least $1 for every $50 worth of trade he makes. This is substantially higher than the 2:1 leverage allowed in stock trading and 15:1 for futures trading.
This exposes a forex trader to enormous leverage risk if his bet goes wrong. When his position loses value to the extent of him not meeting the margin requirement, the broker will begin to liquidate his assets just so that the account complies with the margin requirement.
3. Volatility Risk
Volatility refers to the change in the value of the currency pair held as an investment, annualized and expressed as a percentage. The volatility associated with a currency pair also poses a risk to currency traders.
4. Interest Rate Risk
With the direct relation interest rates share with the value of a nation’s currency, the prevalent benchmark interest rates or a change thereof can introduce risk in currency trading.
5. Sovereign Risk
Sovereign risk refers to a nation failing to meet its interest payments or principal repayments, which in turn can impact the value of the nation’s currency. Devaluation of a nation’s currency also creates sovereign risk.
6. Counter-party Risk
Since the currency market is not regulated in both the trading and clearing, a forex trader may be exposed to counterparty risk, which arises if the forex broker defaults or does not keep up his end of the bargain.
If this happens, a currency trader will be straddled with huge losses. The best way to go about trading safely in the forex market is to choose well-regulated brokers.
It is best to do a background check on the agency under whose regulatory jurisdiction the broker falls. Forex trading is regulated by bodies such as the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, or CFTC, which regulates leveraged trading offered to retail traders.
The CFTC requires that all online forex dealers be registered and meet strict financial standards enforced by the National Futures Association, or NFA.
Our Picks for the Best Forex Brokers in the United States
After carefully considering prices, platform, fees, and the number of currency pairs offered, we made our picks for the best forex brokers. Scroll down for our picks and click on the full reviews for more information.
Best Overall Forex Broker: FOREX.com
FOREX.com remains as one of the most favored brokerages because of is technological prowess through its platform.
- The famous Thinkorswim platform is a totally comprehensive, self-directed research platform that provides some of the most user-friendly tools to analyze foreign exchange markets.
- Offers 84 tradable currency pairs – the most of all the picks on this list.
- High-volume traders have the options to reduce trading costs by up to 15% with FOREX.com’s Active Trader Program.
The firm also provides an app for a mobile platform that makes everything easier for FOREX.com clients who are always on the go.
Best Low-Cost Forex Broker: FOREX.com
Forex.com, a subsidiary of GAIN Capital, strictly offers commissions in the form of slightly widening the spread of a currency pair offered by one of their liquidity providers.
By trading on FOREX.com, there’s a good chance that you will receive the lowest spreads the market has to offer.
It remains as the only foreign exchange broker that publicizes its execution scorecard and financial strength. GAIN has almost $1.5 billion in assets and available liquidity of nearly $350 million. It executes 99.65% of trades in under one second, and has executed 100% of limit orders at the price or better.”
The brokerage continues its mission of being completely transparent with its customers by making security its number one priority. The firm guarantees that it will never engage in proprietary trading, and is registered with 6 other jurisdictions worldwide through its affiliates.
Best Forex Broker for Beginners: FOREX.com
FOREX.com comes packed with features perfect for the beginning investor. You’ll find live streaming market data, commentary, screeners, analyst research, and much more. The platform provides the easiest to use interface, crafted for beginners.
FOREX.com makes it easy to stay informed, especially with their newsletter delivered right to your inbox. The newsletter, powered by Faraday Research, goes through the market and identifies entry and exit points for you.
Plus, FOREX.com‘s site provides courses for beginner to advanced traders, so even as you grow your knowledge, you won’t outgrow the educational offerings on the platform.
Most beginners don’t want to dump their life savings into a new account. Luckily, FOREX.com only requires a $50 minimum deposit on their standard account.
Best Forex Broker for Advanced traders: Interactive Brokers
Interactive Brokers has come a long way from its inception in 1977. The company was one of the first to offer a simple, multi-asset interface.
- Trade 23 different currencies, while viewing a multi-asset display.
- Traders who prefer commission-based fee structures will find excitement with spreads as low as 1/10 pip.
- The minimum commission is $2.00, with commissions ranging from 8 to 20 basis points based on monthly volume. TD Ameritrade is the only other firm that can beat the $2.00 minimum, by charging a $1.00 minimum on all foreign currency trades.
Essentially, you are paying a small premium for the services and powerful tools that come along with using Interactive Brokers.
The firm’s acquisition of FXtrader prompted users to choose from 20 different order types, including trailing stop limit, bracket, Good For the Day, Good ‘Till Cancelled, and more.
The best part is that you will never have to worry about security or liquidity, as all of Interactive Brokers’ vendors combine for nearly 60% market share.
Best Forex Broker for Research and Tools: TD Ameritrade
TD Ameritrade offers powerful charting tools, capable of comparing multiple currency pairs alongside each other, as well as providing any necessary technical indicators.
Although it’s not as important when trading foreign currency, the platform also allows you to analyze social sentiment from Twitter.
Doing this, one may be able to correlate a price change with news being released. They provide reputable third-party research tools from Morningstar and Market Edge that tailor to the many beginners who may struggle to navigate the company’s flagship platform.
Additional free perks that are easy to use include the ETF market screeners that charge no commissions whatsoever. Beginners may choose to strictly choose from foreign currency ETFs with allocations that most resemble their diversification preferences.
Best Forex Broker for Currency Pairs Offered: FOREX.com
If you are an advanced trader, you want the most currency pairs a brokerage has to offer.
Being able to hedge a riskier bet with other currencies provides you an effective trading strategy if you know how to pull it off.
FOREX.com currently offers 84 different currency pairs, the most trading pairs of any brokerage worldwide.
Coming in at second is TD Ameritrade, providing 74 different currency pairs.
Oanda comes in at third with 71 currency pairs available.
According to their website, Oanda is used by the treasury teams at PWC, Twitter, Expedia, and other gigantic enterprises.
|Broker||Best For||Commissions||Account Minimum||Choose your platform|
||Spreads start as low as $1 But vary based on trading volume||$250||
Get started securely through FOREX.com's website
1 Minute Review
One of the few forex brokers to provide MetaTrader support for U.S. clients, Forex.com has an impressive array of pairs to trade and three different accounts to choose from. Its educational materials are spot-on, but the margin requirements aren’t as accommodating as some competing forex brokers.
Get started securely through TD Ameritrade's website
1 Minute Review
This publicly listed discount broker, which is in existence for over four decades, is service-intensive, offering intuitive and powerful investment tools. Especially, with equity investing, a flat fee is charged, with the firm claiming that it charges no trade minimum, no data fees, and no platform fees. Though it is pricier than many other discount brokers, what tilts the scales in its favor is its well-rounded service offerings and the quality and value it offers its clients.
Trade commission–free for 90 days & get up to $2500
||$0.005 per share minimum $1 and maximum 0.5% of trade value; volume discount available||$0 for cash account, or a margin account with $2,000||
Get started securely through Interactive Brokers's website
1 Minute Review
If you consider yourself a sure-footed professional trader, Interactive Brokers might be a major possibility for you, particularly if you’re adept at navigating tricky trading platforms (can you say 124 option indicators?) or have done more than just dipped your toe a “coupla times” into the complex world of international markets.
Lower minimum activity requirements ($3/month) and opening account minimum requirement ($3,000) for clients 25 and younger.