You may be surprised to learn that forex—the trading of international currencies, and even precious metals—is one of the largest financial markets in the world. It’s even bigger than the stock market. Despite that fact, forex doesn’t have nearly as many participants as the stock market. While tens of millions of investors around the world invest in stocks, only a relative handful ever engage in forex trading. In this article, we’ll focus on forex trading and overview the best forex trading platforms.
What is Forex Trading?
Forex trading is when a trader exploits changes in currency values for profit. For example, an investor may focus on specific currency pairings, like the U.S. dollar (USD) and the euro (EUR), or the euro and the Japanese yen. Small fluctuations in currency values relative to one another can produce big profits.
But it can also produce big losses, which is why forex is considered a very high-risk trading activity. That also helps to explain why so few people participate in it.
However, at least some of that risk can be reduced by working with the right forex trading platform. With the right tools and information, you’ll increase the chance of turning profits, while reducing the likelihood of losses.
For that reason, we prepared this list of the best forex brokers in the U.S. Some are dedicated strictly to forex trading, while others offer diversified investment opportunities along with forex trading.
Best Forex Brokers in the U.S.
Account Minimum: $0
Fees: IDEAL PRO (Trading) plan: 0.00002 trading currency value ($1 million trade, $20) with $2.50 minimum commission. IDEAL (Conversions) plan: $0.00001 trading currency value, with $2.50 minimum commission.
Best For: Forex traders who prefer flat fee commissions to bid/ask spreads.
InteractiveBrokers gives forex investors the ability to trade in 23 currencies. You can also fund your account and trade in assets denominated in multiple currencies. InteractiveBrokers offers trading in over 100 currency pairs. In addition, you get industry-leading investment tools and research, as well as access to market data 24 hours a day, six days per week.
You can trade forex with FXTrader, which provides real-time streaming quotes, up-and-down indicators, trading volumes, pending trades, executions, positions, and average price plus profit and loss.
Two account plans are available for forex traders.
- IDEAL Pro is designed for traders over $25,000 (or equivalent).
- IDEAL is for currency conversions under $25,000.
With either plan, they offer flat fee commissions, making the fee structure both transparent and predictable. This is different from most forex brokers that charge a bid/ ask spread on purchase and sale, increasing the value fractionally in lieu of commissions.
Beyond forex, InteractiveBrokers offers complete brokerage services. That includes trading in stocks, options, futures, metals, bonds, funds, and even hedge fund investing. If you prefer a managed option, InteractiveBrokers offers dozens of actively and passively managed portfolios through InteractiveAdvisors, with minimums starting at $100.
- Flat fee commissions for forex trades, offering a more certain fee structure than the more common spread-based pricing
- Powerful forex trading platform
- High-level trading tools and investor information
- Diversified investment broker
- Fee structure is less attractive to smaller account holders (<$100,000)
Account Minimum: 100 of your selected currency but 2,500 is recommended.
Fees: Bid/ask spread, or tight spreads with 0.1 or 0.2 commission, depending on portfolio size. Commissions either fixed at $5 per $100,000 traded or variable starting at $60 per million.
Best For: Those who want to earn interest on account balance and cash rebates/discounted commissions based on a trading plan.
As the name implies, Forex.com specializes in forex trading. However, it does offer to trade and invest in gold, silver and futures. You can trade more than 80 currency pairs, plus gold and silver. It also pays interest of 1% on your average daily available margin balance if you open an account with a minimum of $10,000 or trade $50 million of volume in a calendar month.
Margin trading on currency pairs is based on the specific currencies involved and can be as high as 50:1. Forex.com provides trading opportunities 24 hours a day, five days per week. And as indicated above, it offers flexible fee schedules, including discounts and cash rebates (up to 15%) based on your trading volume.
- Offers discounted commissions or cash rebates based on trading activity.
- You can earn 1% interest on your marginable account balance.
- Flexible fee schedule that allows you to choose pricing.
- Doesn’t offer more conventional investments, like stocks or funds.
3. Saxo Bank
Account Minimum: $10,000 for their Classic account, $200,000 for Platinum and $1,000,000 for VIP
Fees: Bid/ask spread ranging from a low of 0.6 PIPs (percentage in point) to 1.2 PIPs
Best For: A forex platform with the most currency pairs
Saxo Bank Overview
Based in Denmark, Saxo Bank is a diversified investment broker, offering stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, and contracts for differences (CFDs), in addition to forex. All together, Saxo Bank offers more than 40,000 trading instruments, including trading in 182 currency pairs. It also offers both social trading and copy trading.
Its SaxoTraderGo is one of the most advanced forex trading platforms in the industry, offering more than 50 technical indicators, integrated trade signals, and innovative risk management tools.
Although Saxo Bank uses the more typical bid/ask spread fee structure, the spreads are low for the industry, starting at 0.6 PIPs. That’s 40% lower than the more typical 1.0 PIPs charged by other forex brokers.
- Trade more than 180 currency pairs.
- Though Saxo Bank uses the bid/ask spread pricing method, many currency pairs are deeply discounted.
- Offers one of the top forex trading platforms in the industry.
- Accommodates other investments, in addition to forex.
- A High minimum initial investment, $10,000.
- Not NFA registered (see How to Check if a Broker Is Regulated in the U.S. below).
4. Ally Invest
Fees: Bid/ask spreads, as low as 1 to 2 PIPs.
Best For: Comprehensive investing, including both forex trading and equity and fixed-income investments.
Ally Invest Overview
Ally Invest is well known for commission-free investing of stocks, ETFs, and options. But the bank also offers forex trading. You can trade more than 80 currency pairs, as well as gold and silver, in real-time. Customer service and trading are available 24 hours a day, five days per week.
Ally offers an advanced trading platform, including premium charting tools, 18 technical indicators, and access to extensive education, information, and research. Ally Invest Advanced Desktop offers a highly intuitive user interface, with the ability to customize your trading environment. It helps you to spot trends and plan your next trade, as well as to automate your trading strategies.
- Plenty of educational resources to help new and intermediate level forex traders.
- Ability to hold other investments, like stocks and funds, as well as a managed portfolio option.
- Offers a mobile app with all the features of the web-based app.
- May not be as advanced as forex-only trading platforms.
5. TD Ameritrade
Fees: Bid/ask spread
Best For: Customer support
TD Ameritrade Overview
TD Ameritrade is a diversified investment brokerage that also offers most other investments, including stocks, options, and funds. And since it also offers forex trading, you can keep all your investing activities with the same broker. TD Ameritrade offers more than 70 different currency pairs.
TD Ameritrade has both desktop and mobile trading through its trademark Thinkorswim trading app. It provides professional-level tools and technology to access every major currency market. Trading is available from 8 p.m to 8 p.m., Sunday through Friday.
- Better known than the many forex-dedicated investment platforms.
- Full range of investments offered, including stocks, bonds and options.
- 24/7 customer service.
- No copy trading offered.
- More limited trading hours than other brokers on this list.
6. IG Group
Account Minimum: $250
Fees: Bid/ask spread starting as low as 0.6 PIPs
Best For: Foreign investors
IG Group Overview
Based in London, IG Group serves investors in 17 countries, including the U.S. But they only entered the U.S. market in 2019, making them one of the newer players in the space. However, IG Group has been providing services to international investors since 1979.
IG Group participates in more than 80 forex markets, enabling you to trade over 80 currency pairs. They offer multiple trading platforms as well as a mobile trading app, and 24-hour customer service. Margin is available at spreads ranging from 20:1 to as high as 50:1, depending on the currency pair.
- 24-hour customer support
- Available to customers outside the U.S.
What to Consider When Choosing a Forex Broker
If you’re a heavily experienced forex trader, it’s likely you know exactly what you’re looking for in a forex broker. But if you’re a new or intermediate level trader, there are some basic factors to consider.
Number of Currency Pairs Offered
Even though most forex traders focus on only three or four currency pairs, you may want to expand your activities to include some less common pairings. That won’t be so important when you’re just starting out, but may become a preference as you gain experience. More pairs allows more room for growth in your trading activities.
Usability of the Trading Platform
You want to choose a broker with a trading platform that’s both comprehensive and user-friendly. It should offer all the basic tools needed for forex trading without being difficult to use or understand.
Fortunately, many forex brokers offer demo programs to let you test drive their platforms. You should take advantage of that feature wherever it’s offered.
Since the whole idea behind forex trading is to take advantage of small changes in currency valuations to generate profits, how much you’ll pay in fees will have a material effect on your bottom line. The lower the fees, the more profitable your trades will be.
If you plan to be a high-volume trader, now or in the future, you should also look for a broker offering reduced commissions or spreads for higher volume trading.
Margin of Availability
Margin is a basic necessity of forex trading since leverage is needed to magnify small gains. Virtually all brokers offer margin, so you’ll need to concentrate on those that offer the highest leverage on the currency pairs you’re most likely to trade.
Even if you’re a self-sufficient investor, there will be times when you may need help. And if you do, you’ll probably need it quickly. Availability of customer service should be a consideration, even if you don’t think you’ll rely on it heavily.
Educational Tools and Resources
These are especially important for new and intermediate level traders, though they can help advanced traders improve their performance. In a best-case scenario, a broker will offer educational tools and resources for everyone, from the beginner investor to the advanced traders.
How to Check if a Broker Is Regulated in the U.S.
Most forex brokers are registered in multiple countries. As an investor, that’s good news for you — more countries means more regulatory bodies. If the broker operates in the U.S., UK, Canada or Australia, it’s likely subject to rigorous regulatory oversight.
As a U.S. investor, you should check whether the forex broker is registered with the National Futures Association (NFA). Not only does the NFA enforce forex licensing requirements, but it also requires participants to maintain capital requirements, and will pursue disciplinary action where necessary.
Dealing Desk vs. Agency Broker: Which Should You Choose?
A dealing desk broker is essentially the market maker in a forex trade. When you take a position in a trade, the broker takes the counter position. As a market maker, the broker sets the bid and ask price of the trade. In a real way, that makes the broker your competitor. Their profit, after all, comes from buying at lower prices and selling at higher prices — which you will pay for.
Agency brokers (commonly referred to as no dealing desk brokers) are also sometimes referred to as electronic communications network (ECN) brokers. This type of broker does not take a position in a trade, and thus will not profit from your trade.
Agency brokers with liquidity providers to match traders with other traders who are on opposite sides of the same trade. This creates a more competitive and lower-cost bid/ask spread environment, which benefits the forex trader.
The downside, however, is that the spreads tend to be something of a moving target, adjusting based on market conditions. It is possible, in certain environments, for ECN spreads to exceed those of dealing desk brokers.
Considerations for Beginners vs. Advanced Traders
As a beginner, you’ll want to emphasize the availability of educational training tools and resources, as well as customer service. A demo account (paper trading accounts) will also help you to both get comfortable with the trading platform and learn the basics of forex trading.
As an advanced trader, you’ll be primarily concerned with the number of currency pairs offered, margin ratios, and the fee structure — particularly if you are an active trader.
But whether you are a beginner or an advanced trader, you may also want to consider what other investments a broker offers. If forex trading is only one of your investing activities, you may prefer a broker that also offers diversified investments. These can include stocks, bonds, funds and options.
From there, you can decide whether you want to keep all your investments on the same platform where you engage in forex trading. Or you might want to keep other investments in a separate account, while maintaining a dedicated broker for your forex trading activities.
The Bottom Line
If you’re mostly invested in stocks and funds, you’ll want to move slowly into forex trading. It’s a classic high-risk/high-reward investing activity, and the high-risk side of the equation needs to be carefully considered. This is especially true given that margin is involved, which can magnify losses in an unstable market.
If you want to get started with forex investing, do so with a small amount of money. The vast majority of your holdings should be in more conventional investments. This will lower the risk of loss to the portion you have invested in forex trading.
Once you decide on how much you will invest, the next step is to educate yourself and choose the best forex trading platform. The list in this guide includes some of the best in the industry, and you can check out which one will work best for you.