The Foreign Exchange Market, or Forex, is the largest financial market in the world. Every day, trillions of dollars worth of currencies are exchanged on the Forex market. It’s used by everyday investors, day traders, financial institutions, and large banks alike.
The Forex market is the official global market to trade currencies. A bank looking to exchange Euros (EUR) for Canadian Dollars (CAD) would take to Forex to conduct the trade. Likewise, a trader looking to bet on the US Dollar (USD) strengthening compared to the Australian dollar (AUD) could easily place that wager on the Forex market. And investment banks may use Forex for hedging purposes.
Nearly every currency from major countries is traded on the Forex market. Currencies are always traded in pairs – USD/CAD, for example. Technically, you are buying USD by selling CAD if you trade this pair, or vice versa.
Forex is chiefly responsible for setting global exchange rates for nearly every currency. The trading that takes place on the Foreign Exchange Market is what actually sets the prices for each currency. Prices can be affected by global events, expectations of inflation, and more.
Forex is a fairly complex market. Its main participants are large banks and financial institutions. That said, everyday investors and traders can also participate. Forex is often used to speculate on a particular currency increasing in value.
If you want to trade Forex, first understand that this is a risky proposition. You should be fully aware of the risks of trading currencies before starting.
In order to trade on the Forex market, Canadian investors will need to seek out a licensed Canadian Forex broker. This guide will help investors choose the best Forex broker in Canada, as well as explaining what traders should know before beginning Forex trading.
What is a Forex broker?
A Forex broker, also called an FX broker, is a company that facilitates trades on the Forex market. A broker offers the actual trading platform, and connects buyers and sellers. In many cases, brokers actually are the buyers and sellers, meaning that the broker actually serves as a middle-man, and profits off the difference between the buy and sell price of a given currency.
Most brokers make their money through the spread, which is the difference between the buy and sell price. Some will also charge commission on trades.
Brokers also offer live pricing for the currency pairs they offer. The Forex market operates 24 hours a day, 5 days a week, and prices update in real-time.
Most brokers also provide the option to trade on margin. This essentially means that you can borrow money from a broker in order to leverage your trades. This is risky, but most Forex traders do use leverage.
In many ways, a Forex broker is similar to a stock broker. In fact, some Forex brokers also offer the option to buy stocks, bonds, and funds. Some go even further, offering alternative assets like cryptocurrencies.
In summary, a Forex broker is where a trader must go in order to participate in the Forex market. They are essentially a middle-man, and provide the technology needed to facilitate Forex trades.
Why are Forex brokers needed?
Brokers are always needed to facilitate trades of currency pairs. Every trader participating in the Forex market uses a broker of some sort (although large banks may function as their own broker, in some cases).
Forex brokers offer modern interfaces that make it easier to trade on Forex, and to understand the complexities of this massive financial market.
Brokers also serve as the main method to get live currency exchange rates. Rates for each currency pair are clearly displayed, and update nearly every second, based on current trading activity.
Risks of Forex trading
Before you start trading Forex, you should be aware of the risks involved. Forex trading is a high risk activity.
In general, trading on Forex is very risky. If you notice the legal disclaimers on many trading platforms, you will notice that many traders lose money trading Forex.
Most trades are conducted with leverage, or margin. This magnifies profits – but also losses. This means that even a relatively small amount of volatility in the wrong direction can cause substantial losses.
Currency movements are difficult to predict. Also, some Forex products, like CFDs, are complex instruments that are often misunderstood.
Forex trading is not recommended for inexperienced investors. For sophisticated investors, it’s important to be knowledgeable on the topic, and to fully understand the risks.
What to look for in a Canadian Forex broker
There are several FX brokers in Canada competing for your business. How do you know which one to choose? Here are the key factors you should keep in mind when deciding.
Trusted, regulated brokers
The most important factor is to choose a trusted, fully regulated Forex broker. This helps to avoid scams and other issues. In Canada, the relevant financial authority is the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC). There are also Canadian securities administrators on a provincial level – for example, the British Columbia Securities Commission. Other regulatory bodies may be involved, but the IIROC is the primary regulator for Forex brokers in Canada.
The IIROC is charged with regulating all brokers that operate in Canada. In order to accept Canadian users, a Forex broker must first obtain a license from the IIROC.
By choosing brokers that are policed by regulators, investors can ensure that they are using a trustworthy firm. All brokers on the list below are regulated by the IIROC.
Each brokerage will have a different trading experience and a different platform that can be used to conduct trades. The Forex market is complex, so having an intuitive interface that’s easy to navigate is important.
Most brokers have both online trading (via a web browser) and mobile app trading. Some even have downloadable software for desktop trading.
There are several established platforms that license their technology to various brokers. The most popular is MetaTrader 4 (MT4), which can be found powering dozens of Forex brokers. If you have used a particular trading platform in the past, it may make sense to stick with a broker that offers that platform.
Along with the trading platform, keep an eye on the different features and trade styles supported by each broker. Experienced traders will likely want to seek out advanced charting, spread betting, CFD trading, etc.
Each broker will offer a different selection of tradable financial instruments. The basics of Forex trading involve currency pairs, such as CAD/USD. There are hundreds of potential pairs, but each broker may offer 50, 100 or 150+ pairs, depending on their selection.
Some brokers offer more complex instruments, like CFDs and derivatives. If you are interested in trading CFDs, less-common currency pairs, or other financial instruments, seek out a broker with a wide selection.
Every broker will have some trading costs, but the fees and spreads can vary significantly between brokers. Trading costs can substantially impact your trading profits, so it’s important to keep costs down where possible.
In most cases, there are two primary costs to keep in mind:
- Spread, which refers to the difference between the buy and sell price of a currency pair
- Commission, which is a fee charged on every transaction
In most cases, the spread is the most important factor to pay attention to here. There are both variable and fixed spreads, depending on the broker. Spreads will impact every trade, whether you profit or not. Spreads can vary substantially between brokers, and between currency pairs.
Margin rates and fees are also important to pay attention to if you plan to trade using leverage.
Keep in mind that some brokers have multiple account types, often with different pricing structures. For instance, they may offer retail investor accounts, with no commission but higher spreads. Or, high-volume accounts with a higher commission, but lower spreads.
Leverage and margin
Most Forex traders use margin in order to increase the size of their trades. For instance, a trader may invest $1,000 in cash, and borrow a further $9,000, in order to trade with $10,000.
Using margin can improve returns – but also magnify losses. If you plan to use margin, you should be aware of the unique risks it presents.
Traders should also investigate the margin costs and limitations offered by each broker. Every broker will have different rules for how much margin can be used, and how much they will charge for the service.
Customer service should also be a factor to keep in mind when shopping for an FX broker. Good customer service is important for every trader, but it’s particularly key for beginners, who may have questions, and high-volume traders, who may want more customized support.
To get a feel for the customer service of a broker, you can simply call in to ask some questions. Or, read customer reviews to learn about the experiences of other customers.
The Forex market is complex, and there’s a lot to learn in order to become a successful trader. Many brokers offer resources, tools, and learning libraries to help. This could include blog posts, webinars, training videos, or even demo accounts. If you’re looking to learn more about Forex, seek out a broker with a good selection of learning resources.
Other financial services
If you’d prefer to keep several financial services in one place, you may wish to seek out a broker that offers a variety of services. For instance, some Forex brokers also offer trading of stocks and mutual funds or even cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. Some also have a banking branch for standard checking and savings accounts.
Best Forex Brokers in Canada
Canadian traders have a handful of options to choose from when it comes to getting a Forex trading account. The options below are the best Canadian Forex brokers, which were selected based on a combination of available investment options, pricing, features, and customer support.
An established broker offering competitive spreads and a wide variety of currency pairs
CMC Markets is a popular Canadian Forex broker regulated by the IIROC. Forex traders appreciate the wide selection of currency pairs that can be traded at CMC – over 150 pairs at the time of this writing. There are also around 10,000 CFDs to trade. That’s one of the widest selections available in the industry, and more than twice what some competitors offer.
CMC also has very competitive pricing. The typical spread on a popular pair like EUR/USD is just 0.74. High-volume traders may also qualify for rebate programs, bringing costs down even further.
There is no minimum deposit to get started with CMC Markets. The powerful Next Generation platform they use is both user-friendly and full-featured, so CMC is a good choice for both beginners and experienced traders.
A broker offering sophisticated trading tools, and access to many investable markets and financial products.
Interactive Brokers is a popular online broker that facilitates trading in Forex currency pairs, CFDs, stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds, and much more – all in one place. In fact, Interactive Brokers even allows users to deposit funds in multiple currencies, and trade instruments denominated in various world currencies.
There are over 100 currency pairs that can be traded on Interactive Brokers. The pricing and fee structure is somewhat complex but is generally well suited to active traders.
Interactive Brokers (IBKR) is popular because of the sheer variety of investment options it offers. Experienced traders can participate in global markets, trade Forex pairs, purchase options, and much more. On the other hand, because of the sophisticated nature of IBKR’s platform, it can feel somewhat intimidating for new investors.
A popular and simple broker for Canadian Forex traders
AvaTrade, also called Friedberg Direct, is an IIROC-regulated broker for Forex trading in Canada. It offers a clean interface, a solid app for mobile trading, and a host of valuable investor research and learning materials.
The selection of tradable instruments at AvaTrade is a bit lackluster, however. Currently, there are around 55 currency pairs available to trade, and around 700 CFDs. If you’re looking for a wider selection, most other options on this list offer more.
As for pricing, AvaTrade is in-line with industry averages. The EUR/USD spread was 0.9 at the time of this writing, which is a touch higher than our top picks, but fairly average overall.
A well-established platform with a simple and intuitive user experience
Forex.com is one of the largest Forex brokers, and it operates in several countries, including Canada. They offer a very user-friendly experience, with an intuitive design for new users, but also sophisticated enough trading features that will satisfy professional investors.
Forex.com is not, however, a discount broker. Their average spreads are around 1.4 pips, which is substantially higher than the industry average. There are 90+ currency pairs available to trade, as well as options and even cryptocurrencies in some countries.
The main reason to use Forex.com is for their trading experience. If costs are a substantial factor for you, this is probably not the best option.