There are a certain number of characteristics, some essential, some a matter of choice that you should consider in choosing a forex broker.
In the US, a reputable forex broker will be a member of the National Futures Association and will be registered with the U. S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission as a Futures Commission Merchant and Retail Foreign Exchange Dealer.
A broker that is a member of the National Futures Association and subject to CFTC regulations will state this and its NFA member number on its website, typically in the "about us" section and on each web page.
In the UK, brokers are regulated by the Financial Services Authority. In other countries, there is a specific regulator responsible for forex brokers. Any platform should have a legal indication of being regulated by such an authority, in the interest of protecting your deposit.
The offer of each broker may differ in terms of leverage and margin.
Forex brokers will offer a variety of leverage amounts depending on the broker, such as 50:1 or 200:1. The ability to select the leverage a trader desires enable better control of risk.
Different brokers may also offer different commissions and spreads.
A broker that uses commissions may charge a specified percentage of the spread, the difference between the bid and ask price of the forex pair.
However, most brokers advertise that they charge no commissions, and instead make their money with wider spreads. The wider the spread, then, the more difficult it can be to make a profit.
Popular trading pairs, such as the EUR/USD and GBP/USD will typically have tighter spreads than the more thinly-traded pairs. A trader should compare spreads on the pairs the trader prefers to trade from broker to broker.
Different brokers also offer different terms for deposits and withdrawals.
Each forex broker has specific account withdrawal and funding policies. Brokers may allow account holders to fund accounts online with a credit card, via ACH payment or via PayPal, or with a wire transfer, bank check or business or personal check. Withdrawals can typically be made by check or by wire transfer. The broker may charge a fee for either service.
The offer of currency pairs can also vary from broker to broker. Many brokers offer only the majors, and then a few minor pairs. There are, however, a great deal of less-traded pairs that merit attention, and it may be worth finding a broker who offers a great variety.
Ease of use of the trading platform is another important offer from a broker. The platform should be easy to use, visually pleasing, and have all the tools that the trader likes to use.
The trader should have no difficulty working with the platform so that there are no mistakes when trading.
One other factor that may affect your choice of a broker is customer service.
This can vary wildly from one broker to another. Trading forex is a 24-hour activity, so your broker should certainly offer full-time customer service. There should also be rapid intervention if you have a problem making a withdrawal of funds – one typical problem with forex platforms is that it can awkward trying to get your profits out.
Your platform should have a consistent withdrawal policy and, if something goes wrong, customer service should intervene without delay or any issues.
Similarly, if there is a trading problem – that is, if the trading software malfunctions – your customer service should unwind the trade for you without any questions.
Can you trust user reviews of forex brokers?
We have debated adding a review section to each of our broker pages, but in researching other forex site a trend is clear: many bad experiences of trading with a particular company come down to naivety or inexperience with trading markets. It is easy for people who have been sold a 'make money online' dream to feel scammed if they very quickly lose their capital - but is this the fault of the trader, the broker or the website or mailing list who sold them on the dream to begin with?
Likewise, due to the vast sums moving through the financial markets each day, it is not hard to find suspect reviews, either absurdly positive ratings that suggest they were written by a member of staff from a small time broker, or aggressively negative posts that appear to be an attempt by unscrupulous brokers to smear their competitors.
In short, it's a mess. So what is a trader to do when evaluating a platform?
In our view one of the best steps you can take is to choose a broker that is regulated by a organisation that actually has teeth. While the UK's old regulator, the FSA, used to take a lax approach to regulation, in recent years they have taken a particularly hard line with brokers. This may mean a more laborious sign up process, as they must now meet stringent money laundering requirements - but in turn it means they, and the partners that advertise them, are strictly limited in the claims they can make so you know you're not being oversold. They must also meet much tighter licensing and accounting procedures so you know your money is safe.
Use our broker comparison list and make your own opinions
To choose between the regulated brokers, we suggest taking a good look at the spreads they offer and the quality of their trading software. Sign up for a demo account or take a no-deposit deal and test the waters - can you see yourself using this platform every day? Is it responsive to your trades, or do you witness slippage in placing or closing your positions?
Compare the pros and cons of each trading platform, and make an informed choice as to whether a better platform is worth paying higher fees for - or indeed, if a simplified interface or features such as social trading are worth paying a premium for. We only list forex brokers we feel meet an exacting criteria, but your priorities may differ - make sure to explore each broker in full rather than opting for the company with the biggest welcome bonus.