Best US Forex Brokers
Forex trading is highly regulated in the United States. In this guide, we go over all those regulations to equip you with the certainty needed to trade Forex compliantly. Then, we review the best US Forex brokers, comparing their fees, leverage, pros, and cons.
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Foreign exchange, the exchange of one currency to another, runs 24 hours, 5 days a week through over-the-counter markets, generating a huge trading volume per day. This highly liquid market allows for seamless access to traders across the globe. Australian traders for example, can trade in British Pounds (GBP) and Euros (EUR) through a US based broker.
This decentralized and global nature of the industry also carries significant risk, making it an ideal target for fraud. The growth of speculative trading has resulted in an increase in intermediaries, including brokers and banks engaging in scams, financial irregularities, exorbitant charges and exposure to high-risk through bad practices.
It’s no wonder then that regulation has become such an important part of the industry. That is to say, the most important criteria to take into consideration when choosing a Forex broker is the regulatory approval status of the broker and its governing authority.
However, regulation enforcement isn’t a straightforward process, and due to the global scale of the market, there is no standard regulatory framework that applies across all jurisdictions. So, can you trade forex in the USA?
Yes, though forex trading in the US is generally considered highly regulated. Forex brokers in the US are heavily regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and National Futures Association (NFA), independent agencies that enforce strict rules, including a restriction on leverage offered.
In comparison, ASIC, Australia’s regulatory body is less strict and imposes no cap on leverage offered.
Furthermore, if you are a US citizen, the regulation impacts your eligibility for non-US based brokers, unless they are registered with the NFA.
These stark differences in regulation make it imperative that you are aware of and understand the regulation that applies to the broker you are considering.
Additionally, the forex market is highly vulnerable to significant volatility as a result of economic turbulence. We can see this through the current coronavirus pandemic, the impact of which can be felt, in this case, regardless of regulations.
In this guide, we’re going to take you through:
- Key provisions of US Forex trading regulations
- How US Forex regulations differ
- 5 best US Forex brokers
- Quick Q&A on US Forex regulations
The Forex Trading Environment in the United States
Forex trading in the United States is vastly different from anywhere else in the world. Mostly, because Forex brokerage services must adhere to more stringent financial regulations.
In Europe, the regulatory environment for brokers is relatively straightforward and simple. The broker applies for a licence from the European regulators which allows it to accept traders across the EU. Essentially, a broker that is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK can proceed to accrue traders from Ireland, Germany, Bulgaria and Italy, along with all other member states of the EU.
In contrast, The US Forex market is not so flexible. Brokers with an EU license cannot accept clients in the US. Namely, because US citizens are protected by stronger regulations, and therefore, brokers registered with the concerned US authority (The NFA) must comply with more strict regulations, and face harsher penalties, than anywhere else.
Times of Crisis: Forex & The Coronavirus
We must state, the forex market is strongly influenced by, and vulnerable to, severe volatility from economic turbulence. The current coronavirus pandemic has caused almost unprecedented results in the forex market, with the U.S dollar making increased gains and hitting new highs while other major currencies, including the Norwegian crown are hitting record lows. The signs of stress were imminently felt as global central banks tried to keep the financial markets ticking over.
In 2008, we saw how the financial crisis – caused by unsustainable mortgage lending combined with the securitization of these subprime mortgage lending being sold off in the market – caused an economic heart attack, with a total of 8.7 million job losses over the course of 2008-2011.
As a result, the central banks tried to spur economic growth by decreasing interest rates to a record low among major currencies. Strategies including carry trades show a difference in performance post crisis, as a result.
While most countries have recovered, it has portrayed the susceptibility of the forex market to economic turbulence. Could the coronavirus have the same dire effects? Some are predicting the Coronavirus Crash will be worse. Only time will tell.
Dodd-Frank Act and Consumer Protection
Why does the U.S impose harsher penalties? The current nature of the US Forex environment is in response to the drastic effects of the worldwide financial crisis of 2007-2010.
After many traders endured great losses at the hands of brokers and financial institutions, Obama signed The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, in July 2010. This act reformed the previous insufficient regulation and held brokers to higher standards by introducing more transparency and accountability into the financial system.
After its introduction, many brokers and retail traders panicked and fled the country, leaving a completely different Forex environment in its trail. Today, less forex brokers operate in the U.S compared to anywhere else in the world – primarily due to The Dodd-Frank Act.
It is worth noting that in 2018 however, The U.S Congress and Trump passed a Bill rolling back a significant portion of Dodd Frank, arguing that it hurts small to medium sized banks that were not to blame for the financial crisis. It’s probably no coincidence that this same year Forex brokers, including Nadex, returned to the U.S.
Not concerned about a specific jurisdiction? See our best Forex trading platforms.
The Role of the CFTC and NFA
So, who enforces the Dodd-Frank Act?
There are two institutions responsible for enforcing this law and regulating the U.S Forex market. These saviors are the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the National Futures Association (NFA).
Think of the CFTC as the boss of the Forex market. In order to operate in the US, forex brokers must first register with the CFTC. Not only do forex brokers based in the U.S have to do this, but a non-US based forex broker can register with the CFTC, too, if they want to serve US clients.
The CFTC’s mission is to maintain a transparent and honest financial market by deterring fraudulent activities within the market, and preventing any form of market manipulation, and financial malpractices. Any brokers in defiance of these regulations will be met with direct actions to prevent any damage, or further damage to customers, including through heavy fines and sanctions.
The NFA is an arm of the CFTC that provides regulatory programs to safeguard the integrity of the Forex market, and it is with the NFA that US Forex brokers must register with. The NFA works to regulate individuals and companies who part-take in the U.S financial industry by maintaining fair and ethical business practices.
Both agencies work in conjunction to manage the behavior of member firms in accordance with their regulations. The NFA and CFTC will also act as judge and jury over any consumer disputes that arise.
Key Provisions of US Forex Trading Regulations
Forex brokers registered with the NFA must adhere to some restrictions, while also meeting a number of requirements. Here are the most important ones.
1. The Capital Requirement
The Capital requirement for US brokers is one of the biggest differences between the US and anywhere else. As per the NFA requirements, US registered brokers must maintain a minimum capital of at least $20 million in order to sustain client positions without declaring bankruptcy. With this, any broker with liabilities exceeding $10 million must have 5% of the amount.
Cyprus in comparison, home to many Forex brokers, requires significantly less, ranging from in-or-around $42,000 to $1 million. Since Cyprus entered the European Union it has been an appealing option for forex brokers, allowing them to trade under regulation that is less strict than most other EU countries, not to mention the US.
2. Leverage Restrictions
When compared to other jurisdictions, there are not many US Forex brokers with high leverage. Traders often look for brokers that offer customers a high leverage because it can potentially increase their winnings. This is a big reason why the Forex industry has been so successful – Because it doesn’t require traders to have a large amount of capital starting off. However, higher leverage can also result in a higher loss.
For this reason, brokers in the US, similar to brokers in the UK, are restricted by a maximum leverage. In the US, Forex brokers are restricted to a tight leverage of 50:1 on most major currencies. In comparison, brokers in Australia do not have such a restriction on leverage. As a result, you simply won’t find many US Forex brokers with high leverage.
3. No Hedging Allowed
When trading Forex, traders can utilize some strategies to potentially gain more effective results. Hedging is one of these, and it helps minimize the potential losses incurred. For example, when your sell order isn’t behaving as expected, you can place a buy order for EUR/USD.
Why isn’t hedging allowed in the US? Well, irrespective of the protection that hedging can offer, traders in the US cannot hedge trades as regulators believe that it can be a disadvantage for traders due to its high fees and trading costs.
4. CFTC Registration Required
As discussed, forex brokers must be registered with the CFTC and regulated by the NFA. Once registered, brokers will have a unique registration number.
All registration numbers will be displayed on the CFTC’s online database which is publicly accessible. Traders considering registering with the broker can check out whether the broker is regulated here, first.
5. Securing Funds
Last but not least, the NFA regulates the security of traders funds by ensuring traders do not lose their money. It does this in several ways.
Primarily, the NFA monitors and ensures that all registered brokers keep its own funds in a segregated account, separate to the accounts the broker operates. This method means that brokers can’t up and run with clients money, should anything go wrong.
Forex brokers doing this tend to have it clearly listed on their site, and it’s a good one to look out for when researching forex brokers. But no need to look too far, because we’ve done the hard work for you and put together a list of the most reputable, and best forex trading brokers in the US.
How US Forex Regulations Differ From Others
Before signing up with a forex broker you should verify status, ownership, and its location. Sites often boast low brokerage fees and high leverage (which involves increased risk). However, most sites are operated from outside of the US and may not be registered with the responsible authority in the host country.
In many cases, even those with local approval may not be registered with the concerned US authority. Different countries are monitored by separate authorities that put in place their rules and regulations on leverage offered, deposits required, reporting requirements and investor protection vary depending on where the broker is based.
See here for a list of Forex brokerage regulators for some select countries:
- United Kingdom: Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
- Australia: Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)
- Cyprus: Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC)
- Switzerland: Swiss Federal Banking Commission (SFBC)
- South Africa: Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA)
The following forex brokers accept US clients.
Top 5 US Forex Brokers 2020
1. Best US Forex Broker Overall: IG US
- Advanced web trading platform
- Comprehensive educational material
- Impressive research tools
- Competitive rates
- Over 16,000 markets
- High stock CFD fees
- High inactivity fees after 2 years
- No copy/social trading platform
Founded in 1974, IG was the first of its kind to offer CFDs and spread betting. Since, IG has established itself as a leader in the online trading industry, now serving over 178,000 clients globally. IG is a public company based in London and listed on the London Stock Exchange’s FTSE 250.
IG offers traders in the US over 90 forex pairs, comprehensive research tools, an advanced web trading platform, and real-time data. The firm offers over 16,000 markets, multi asset CFDs and currency pairs, and guaranteed stop losses. IG is regulated across the globe, including by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in the US.
Fees, commissions and spreads are all highly competitive with an average spread of 0.75 pips. On the downside, the firm does charge high stock CFD fees, and steep inactivity fees can be charged after 2 years of inactivity. All fees and costs are clearly outlined on IG’s fee section of the website.
The company lacks a social/trading platform which could be a big load for newer traders.
Education is a focus for IG. The company offers a variety of resources to help traders get off to an informed start and continue to grow through their demo account, tutorial videos, educational videos, webinars, and live sessions.
Luckily, the customer support team is also helpful, and ready to answer some quick questions, 24 hours, through live chat. For any questions that might need a more detailed reply, the team can be reached through email, and phone. Several phone calls were quickly answered.
2. Best App for US Forex: TD Ameritrade
- Wide selection of excellent research and trading tools
- Impressive desktop charting
- Low trading fees
- No web-based platform available for forex
- No credit/debit cards or electronic wallets for transferring money
- Available in US only
TD Ameritrade’s trading platform, thinkorswim, has captured the attention of traders globally. U.S traders will appreciate its clear design, impressive functionality, and securities trading optimization, including off-exchange spot forex and futures.
While forex traders will not have a desktop platform, thinkorswim has everything you could possibly need for your journey. Highlights include, CNBC Tv, advanced trading capabilities, real-time scanning, over 44 technical studies, trade alerts, and one of the biggest selections of technical indicators out there.
Forex traders can avail of a cool 75 forex pairs — While this is less than IG’s 91, the company does make up for it with its fully professional suite of tools.
TD Ameritrade charges no trading commissions as of October 2019.
When it comes to education, TD Ameritrade comes out on top, earning awards from StockBrokers.com for the past 7 years. The impressive, fully immersive curriculum includes experienced coaches to help guide you through the investing and trading topics, articles and videos with over 200 instructional tutorials, webcasts, and even a TD Ameritrade Network where you can pick up some strategy tips from the industry pros.
The customer support offered by TD Ameritrade can be easily reached in a multitude of ways including, it’s Virtual Investment Consultant, Ask Ted, and social media helplines, Facebook, Twitter, WeChate, and Amazon’s Alexa.
3. Best for Usability: Forex.com
- Superb desktop and mobile functionality
- Advanced charting capabilities
- Multi-channel avenues for research and trading ideas; traders in the US can avail of Bitcoin Futures
- MT5 account available
- No negative balance protection
Forex.com is another leading platform for Forex traders in the U.S looking for a well-rounded offering. Similar to TD Ameritrade, Forex.com is publicly traded, and highly regulated.
FX traders will gain access to 84 currency pairs and a good selection of trading tools. Along with its proprietary trading platform, Forex.com has rolled out MetaTrader5 for customers, allowing traders of all levels to maximize their full potential.
When it comes to costs and fees, Forex.com’s are competitive, overall. The company generates the majority of its revenue from spreads, while new customers can choose between two account options, the pricing depends on the account type.
The standard account charges spreads, and no commission, while the Direct Market Access account is commission based and more suitable to U.S traders with a very high trading volume.
A centralized and organized research section makes Forex.com easy to use and navigate. The company offers access to the latest research, real-time trading signals and analysis tools, and news from a variety of channels. You can also get your fix of education by registering for its weekly Foundations of Forex Trading webinar.
Forex.com’s customer support does let the company down, ever so slightly. The company offers a 24 hour online chat, and phone support from 10 am ET Sunday to 5 pm ET Friday, however getting a hold of a representative during peak hours can be a waiting game.
More general answers can be received on its FAQs page, but younger investors who often use social media as their preferred port of call might be let down by the lack of support offered there. For more in depth replies you can send an email across, but it can take up to 3 business days for a response.
4. Best Selection of Spreads: Nadex
- Low fees
- Wide selection of spreads and binary options
- Well thought out educational content
- Knowledgeable customer support
- Limited research tools
- Limited instrument list in comparison to competitors, like OANDA
- No promotions or bonuses on offer
Nadex is the perfect example of a broker that fled the US in 2011 after the introduction of the Dodd-Frank Act. In 2018 the company returned and implemented a plethora of changes, including the replacement of its CEO Tim McDermott by Ian Peacock, that would cement its return to the US Forex market.
Nadex offers low fees and minimums, comprehensive educational material, and is fully regulated. As an exchange, Nadex does not charge commission fees. Instead, the company charges a set fee of $1 per contract. Other fees include $25 per transaction for domestic and international, and no inactivity fee will be charged.
Nadex does put education at the forefront, offering material that aims to help traders understand how to explore and acquire the assets they’re after. Overall, Nadex emphasizes helping traders understand the risk that certain asset classes pose and how to strategize appropriately, to help minimize this risk.
For example, the Nadex learning center offers 5 free eCourses with each focusing on a different topic including, understanding Nadex, trading binary options, and trading strategies.
While the education does its best to help traders succeed, its research and insight tools however, are limited; no securities analysis or third party research providers are offered, leaving traders who value the research process to figure it out for themselves.
Support-wise though, Nadex has you covered with a knowledgeable and helpful team. The company’s account specialists can be reached from 7:00 am to 8;00 PM ET, Monday to Thursday. Existing clients can reach the team from 3:00 PM ET Sunday up to 5:00pm ET Friday through phone or email. A U.S number is provided but no live chat, you won’t be able to just pop onto the site to get a quick answer.
5. Best for Professionals: Interactive Brokers
- Highly regulated
- Substantial range of global markets and asset classes
- Low fees including discounts for high-volume traders
- Complex desktop platform may be unsuitable for beginners
- A lack of forex charts on web platform
- Minimum activity charges per month
Interactive Brokers (IBKR) should be a serious consideration for professional FX traders. The company is headquartered in the U.S and boasts strong regulatory licences.
This Broker is most suited to professional traders and offers 105 forex pairs, 7,400 CFDs, US-traded bitcoin futures, and much more. IBKS’s Trader Workstation is more difficult to use but does provide a full range of features.
Interactive Brokers fees appears to be competitive overall, however, the company does not publish its average spread for forex which makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly. Forex traders will receive an aggregated price from some of the largest dealers around the world, and then be charged a commission per trade that can range from $16-$40 per million round turn, as opposed to charging a spread.
Traders looking to prioritize research will appreciate the comprehensive array of third-party research, including both free and premium content. The company does however, lack a full-featured research offering for forex.
Originally, IBKR’s customer support was far from the most loved. Fortunately, the service has improved immensely, for example with the introduction of IBot on mobile, a virtual assistant that permits users to ask questions by voice command.
In addition, the team can be contacted in a variety of ways, including by phone, with an average wait time of 1 to 2 minutes. The team is professional but even with its improvements over the years, the service offered is lower than that of competitors like IG and TD Ameritrade.
A Brief Guide To Forex Regulation in the US
What is the lowest initial trading capital that a US forex broker requires?
Regulated forex brokers in the US offer a variety of account types to suit different kinds of traders. Depending on the account you choose, a different initial trading capital requirement will apply. The lowest possible trading capital veres at around $50.
How are regulations different for brokers based in the US vs Brokers based in other countries?
The biggest difference, brokers based in the US must adhere to stricter regulation set out by the CFTC. For example, as mentioned above, US based forex brokers must have an operating capital of $20 million, whereas UK based forex brokers are only required to have a working capital of £1 million.
Can forex brokers outside the US accept clients in the US?
We briefly mentioned this earlier but to reiterate, the short answer is no. Under law, non-US based brokers that are not registered with the NFA cannot accept clients based in the US.
What payment options do US forex brokers offer?
Payment options offered by US Forex brokers include, credit card (Visa, Mastercard, Union Pay etc), online payment processors (QIWI, Neteller, Perfect Money etc) bank wires and check payments.
How likely am I to be defrauded by a US forex broker?
Although Forex brokers in the past have conducted some shady activity, The Dodd-Frank Act was introduced in 2010 to combat this. In short, this act ensures that you will not be involved in a scam with a US based Forex broker. Any fraudulent activity conducted by a broker will result in the immediate revoking of its license, and a high fine.
Do US forex brokers cater to newer forex traders?
Before you begin your trading journey, you can get a head start by setting up a demo account with highly regulated US Forex brokers. This allows you to trade with virtual money without any risks and gives you a sense of the current trading environment.
What are the biggest positives to trading with a US forex broker?
The best part about trading with a US forex broker that is regulated by the CFTC and the NFA is that they are considered safe and reliable. This registration ensures customers that the broker has a good record of operations over the years. Not only this, but it also means that should the broker declare bankruptcy, you will be entitled to some compensation. Lastly, registered brokers will protect you from fraudulent activity.