Financial technology or Fintech, has greatly advanced as investors can trade stocks or foreign currencies with just a click of a button. In the past, it was much harder to do this as people needed to call a currency or stockbroker, who would make trades for larger fees.
Trading foreign currencies (or Forex) isn’t for beginners as there are higher risks and rewards. For example, slight changes in currency exchange rates can magnify gains and losses, compared to standard stock trading. This guide will highlight the best Forex brokers for 2021, including their best features and detailed customer reviews.
Why use Forex?
Some top reasons that people trade Forex include:
- Access to international markets 24/7. US markets like the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) have fixed hours, but Forex can be traded anytime and anywhere.
- The ability to magnify returns. Forex is more volatile and has greater price fluctuations than most standard US stocks and mutual funds. This leads to a high risk reward situation.
- Like the above point, traders can use margin or debt to fuel growth. Forex traders have more access to this compared to trading stocks, which can amplify returns and losses.
- Higher Liquidity. The Forex market is much larger than the US stock market, which makes it easier to trade assets rapidly. There are less restrictions and waiting times compared to trading US stocks.
Check out our roundup of Best CFD Brokers
Basic Forex Process
There are many brokers that have customizable dashboards, which let users monitor currencies, place alerts, customize charts and more. While processes vary per broker, the general set up is as follows:
- Provide some basic info. It’s common practice to ask for standard pieces of information like name, birth date, address, employer name, and Social Security Number or TIN.
- Answer financial questions. Forex is a risky endeavor, so brokers will ask about financial statuses, assets, financial crimes and bankruptcy status.
- Choose the type of account. Accounts can vary as some platforms have individual, joint, corporate and high trader accounts. Minimum deposits can vary and most brokers will offer discounts for high volume traders.
- Once the account type has been chosen and the paperwork has been approved, traders can make their first series of trades. They can also customize their charts and set necessary alerts.
Forex.com is one of the largest brokers that help investors trade forex currency pairs, foreign exchange/domestic indices, and stocks throughout 180 global markets. Besides this, it’s possible to trade alternative investments like cryptocurrencies (i.e bitcoin) and commodities. This broker has several main trading platforms, including the Advanced and Web Trader options.
The advanced program has simple, but powerful technology. For example, it’s the only broker that offers Direct Market Access (DMA) to US traders. DMA is powerful since orders go directly to the forex market or stock exchange, instead of through a third party like a market maker. Some key advantages of this include quicker executions, lower fees, and less potential for human error.
Its web trader platform offers many benefits but some that stand out are:
- 70 technical indicators
- 50+ currency pairs including EUR/USD
- A clear economic calendar.
These tools are very customizable as they let traders set up trailing and stop losses. Scheduling these losses will give users downside protection in case the index or the asset depreciates. Also, it’s possible to trade unique investments like commodities and cryptocurrency like bitcoin or Ethereum with this software.
The Metatrader4 system enable users access over 20 apps to use custom indicators through the different financial markets. The Pivot Points and High Lows lets traders set alerts for changes in certain currencies and securities. Meta Trader 4 can be found with different brokers as it refers to general software that helps traders set alerts and use algorithms to find matches.
Forex brokers either charge a percentage of the transaction or flat fee as a trading commission. Other firms, including Forex.com, are compensated via a spread, which are similar to bid-ask spreads. Forex fees are similar to bid-ask spreads, but they use units called pips. Pips are slight price changes between the two currencies.
So if the USD/EUR changes from 1.6041 to 1.6042, then the .0001 would be the pip. Pip spread fees for Forex.com usually range from 1.9 to 0.84 pips. It also charges $15 per month for inactive accounts. Lastly, it offers a 15% discount for those that deposit $10,000 and trade at least 30 standard lots in the first month. Besides this, it offers high volume discounts for frequent traders.
- Unique and useful trading tools. These resources include the feeds to Reuters news, customizable charts, heat maps, and technical resource guides.
- Low forex fees. Forex.com doesn’t charge trading commissions and makes money through the spreads. It also has a low minimum account fee, which is $50.
- Some users have mentioned that the desktop interface isn’t user friendly. It has received poor feedback for having too many options and being tough to navigate.
- Lack of account options like retirement accounts including IRAs and Roth IRAs. IRAs and Roth IRAs can be great tools, as investors can save on a tax-deferred or tax-free basis for retirement with them, respectively.
TD Ameritrade isn’t just known for forex trading, but also stock, bond, options, and ETFs trading. It has also expanded its offerings to foreign ADRs and futures as well. Besides this, it’s possible to open various account types like Roth IRAs, brokerage accounts and 529 plans. These traits make it one of the highest-rated firms throughout broker reviews. It also has a dealing desk that provides day and night phone assistance.
Its main forex trading account is known as “think or swim”, which is very intricate and has a steep learning curve. However, users have reported that the program becomes intuitive after the initial trading forex learning period.
It has also received positive reviews for its charts that have 382 technical indicators, which is the most of any broker. It also offers 83 indicator signals, including stop losses that will trigger trades once specific conditions are met. These make the trading experience more precise than basic forex trading platforms.
Like most retail brokers, TD Ameritrade offers commission-free trades on ETFs, stocks, and mutual funds. Furthermore, it promotes funds with low or no expense ratios as these erode gains over time. Its forex platform has reasonable fees, which is an approximate 1.065 spread. Unlike other competitors, it doesn’t have a minimum deposit fee.
It also charges low fees for options at $0.65 per contract. Also, the futures fees are reasonable at $2.25 per contract plus exchange fees. Besides this, it has higher fees for live broker-assisted trades, which are an additional $20 per option trade. However, live broker-assisted trades could be helpful for those just starting out.
- Stability. TD Ameritrade has been around for decades and is a very sound broker. Investors can feel confident knowing that their funds and data will be secure. Be sure to check with CFTC, FCA (Financial Conduct Authority for UK based investors), and NFA regarding the fx broker‘s legitimacy. These regulatory agencies will show if a broker has had any past infractions. The NFA or National Futures Association applies to brokers that offer futures trading.
- Affordability. TD has very reasonable or non-existing fees for transactions involving ETFs, stocks and the like. It also has relatively low spreads for forex accounts.
- Technical indicators. Think or Swim is a very robust program that has over 300 technical indicators and over 83 indicator signals. These will let traders gain exposure to various currency markets and achieve ideal timing with limit and/or stop orders.
- Expensive margin rates at approximately 8%. Margin refers to using debt to buy stocks, ETFs, Forex and other investments. It can be used to magnify gains, but take care when using it as only advanced traders should use margin. It’s similar to a loan as the broker charges interest.
- High learning curve. Think or Swim can be a powerful program, but many traders have mentioned that it’s tough to learn.
Oanda is an established broker that was founded back in 1996 that is known for its usability. Unlike other competitors on this list, it focuses on simplicity by only offering CFD and forex trading. It also lets users trade 70+ currency pairs via its mobile and desktop programs.
The platform is very well designed as it easily allows users to change each tab’s position or size. It also makes finding currencies simple through its search function, which is found under the rates tab. Having this intuitive search function differentiates it from the other systems that make it harder to find the right currencies.
While it’s easy to use, traders can’t set up real-time alerts and notifications. These can be crucial when trying to time markets or trades. It also makes forex trading more high risk without these fundamental tools.
Like most Forex brokers, Oanda charges pip spreads, which can vary. However, 1.2 pips and 1.6 pips are common for USD/EUR and USD/GBP, respectively. It also offers the option to take a lower spread and a fixed trading commission. The fixed fee can go up to $50 per 1M and this can be more cost-effective depending on the spread savings.
It also doesn’t have withdrawal fees, except for bank transfers which can be relatively high. Lastly, it does have a minimal $10 inactive account fee for accounts that haven’t been used in 2 years.
- Ease of use. Compared to other competitors, it’s easy to find certain areas like currencies and stop losses. It has a sleek desktop design, which lets users easily customize charts.
- Different pricing options. Some investors might prefer a trading commission with a lower spread and others might want a pure spread fee. Either way, it’s great that Oanda gives these options.
- Poor customer support. Unlike larger regulated brokers, it doesn’t have 24/7 support and the speed could be improved. Per Trustpilot, there have been reviews stating they failed to fix errors. Instead, they blew off these customers and these reviews stated that it took several days to hear a response.
- Limited options. This can be seen as a pro or a con. It’s not possible to trade stocks, options or other investments aside from Forex and CFD with Oanda. This can be very limiting, but others might think that it makes the platform more focused.
Interactive Brokers is similar to TD Ameritrade as it’s a sturdy, publically traded financial firm that offers retail investor accounts. It has been around since the 1970s and users can trade stocks, ETFs, options, futures, and Forex. Like TD Ameritrade, its forex platform is very robust and offers 96 customizable charts. This number is second to TD’s think or swim platform.
Its main system is the Trader Workstation or TWS, which can be tough to use for inexperienced traders. For example, there are many metrics that can be used to create watchlists and most of these apply to stocks. Traders need to be aware that certain metrics like P/E ratios are meant for stock analysis, not Forex speculation.
Users can also choose from different order types like stop-loss, buy limits, and more. It also offers 85 CFDs or 105 cash forex pairs that can be added to a watchlist. CFDs refer to investments that are traded with contracts like commodities or those that are derivatives such as options on indices. Conversely, Forex refers to pure currency trading.
Similar to TD Ameritrade, it doesn’t have trading costs for certain investments like US-listed stocks and ETFs. It doesn’t have a spread range for Forex, but it has a sliding basis point scale. So, the fee for trades under 1,000,000 would be .20 basis points with the minimum fee being $2. So, a trade for 100,000 USD/EUR would be just $2. As trading volume increases, this fee drops to 0.08 basis points.
It also charges sliding scale fees based on trading volume for options, which fluctuates between $0.15 to $0.50 per contract. Keep in mind that it can tack on international fees like VAT tax and exchange fees. This is extremely important to note for those that frequently trade foreign investments.
- Extensive research tools. Interactive brokers offer tools like providing content from Reuters, Trader’s insight, forex webinars, and Market Pulse. Other platforms offer similar benefits, but Interactive brokers stand out for the quantity and depth of its resources. It also has an in-house research team that creates useful guides.
- Wide variety of investments. Users can trade ETFs, stocks, CFDs, and Forex. It also offers more forex pairs and CFDs than the average broker at 105 and 7,400 respectively.
- Mediocre customer service. Unfortunately, Interactive Brokers doesn’t have the best forex broker reviews when it comes to customer service. For instance, users have complained that they’ve been locked out of their accounts without reason. They’ve also mentioned it’s tough to get important paperwork like tax forms.
- Steep learning curve. While their system is fairly robust, it can be difficult to use initially. For example, some traders have mentioned that the watchlist options have metrics that are relevant to different asset classes outside of Forex.
Ally Invest is unique as it’s a broker and bank that offers CDs, loans, stock, ETFs, and Forex. It’s also more geared to novice Forex traders as it has low fees, 24/6 customer support, and simple platforms. For instance, users can set preset layouts or templates which save time when trading. Like other foreign exchange market brokers, it also offers mobile trading.
Besides this, it also offers ways to automate trading strategies. It’s possible to do this by setting up buying and selling signals that can hopefully lead to an ideal entry or exit price. It also offers 80 technical indicators and drawing tools to let investors track various interest rates and financial markets.
The price is based upon spread, which can vary between 1-2 pips. It also has a minimum deposit of $250, but traders must deposit $2,000 for margin accounts. The higher deposit is required as margin accounts are much riskier.
It also had no trading fees for common investments like stocks or ETFs. Like other brokers, it provides a live broker assisted option, for an additional $20 per trade. Lastly, it also charges a flat $0.50 for options trades.
- Easy to use tools. The tools are much more beginner-friendly than other platforms. They are more customizable for different metrics, indices, and buy/sell signals. On top of that, they offer a practice demo account, so it’s possible to trade without risk.
- Customer service. Ally has mostly positive customer service reviews and they make it easy to contact them via phone, email or live chat.
- A branchless company with minimal video training. Ally is an internet bank that doesn’t offer in-person consultations. This could be a con for those that like face to face interaction. Its training resources are good but lack video training.
- High deposit requirements. Many competitors have low or nonexistent deposit fees. Be sure to keep these in mind when choosing a forex broker.
Technology has made it much easier to trade investments from anywhere with wifi. These platforms also offer tools like investor education and alerts, which will help most people master Forex trading’s steep learning curve. However, it’s wise to choose the proper fx broker based on fees, tools like mobile apps, live charts, and customer service. The top forex brokers also emphasize data security, top-notch training, and have clean track records with regulatory agencies like the FCA.
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