If you google up online Forex broker thousands of websites will pop up. There are tones of forex brokers available, so how to choose the right one?
1. Customer Service
Forex is a 24-hour market, so 24-hour support is a must! Can you contact the firm by phone, email, chat, etc.? Do the reps seem knowledgeable? The quality of support can vary drastically from broker to broker, so be sure to check them out before opening an account.
TIP: choose several online brokers and contact their help desks. Seeing how quickly
they respond to your questions can be key in gauging how they will respond to your needs. If you don't get a speedy reply and a satisfactory answer to your question, you certainly wouldn't want to trust them with your business. Just be aware that as in other types of businesses, pre-sales service might be better than post-sales service.
2. Online Trading Platform
Most, if not all, Forex brokers allow you to trade over the Internet relatively easy. The backbone of any trading platform is their ordering system. So trading software is very important. Get a feel for the options that are available by trying out a demo account at a few online brokers.
Closely examine the broker’s screen layout. It should include:
Most trading platforms are either Web based (in Java), or a client-based program you can install on your computer, and which version you choose is your personal preference:
Web based software is hosted on your broker’s web site. You won’t have to install any software on your own computer, and you’ll be able to log in from any computer that has an Internet connection.
A client-based software program, or one that you download and install, will only allow you to trade on your own computer (unless you install the program on every computer you use).
Usually, the "download and install" program runs faster, but most programs are operating system specific. For example, most brokers only offer their trading platform application to run on Microsoft Windows. If heaven forbid you are a Mac user (!), you won’t be able to install the application and will have to use your broker’s Web based or Java-based trading platform. These two (the Web or Java-based) will run on any computer since they run through your internet browser.
Java-based software programs are preferred by most brokers, who think they are more safe and reliable. Java-based software tends to be less vulnerable to attack from viruses and hackers during transmissions than "download and install" software.
But always be sure to open a demo account and test out the broker's platform before opening a real account!
3. Don’t forget your high speed Internet connection
The Forex market is a fast moving market and you will need up-to-the second information to make informed trading decisions. Make sure you have a high speed Internet connection. If you don’t, you might as well not even bother trading. Dial-up will absolutely not work for Forex! If you plan to trade online you will need a modern computer and high speed Internet connection, and we can’t stress this enough!
4. Bells and Whistles
Any Forex broker worth his salt should offer you real-time quotes and allow you to quickly enter and exit the market. These are minimal requirements of any trading software. Upgraded software packages are usually offered as an extra monthly fee by brokers.
Most brokers now offer integrated charting and technical analysis packages with their trading platforms. The level of integration with the trading platforms varies and is worth understanding carefully.
5. Mini/Micro Accounts
Most brokers offer very small “mini-accounts” and even smaller "micro-account" for as little as a couple hundred bucks. These little cute accounts are a great way to get started and test your trading skills and gain experience.
6. Broker Policies
Before selecting an online Forex broker, you should closely examine their features and policies. These include:
Available Currency Pairs
You should confirm that the prospective broker offers, at minimum, the seven major currencies (AUD, CAD, CHF, EUR, GBP, JPY, and USD).
Transaction costs are calculated in pips. The lower the number of pips required per trade by the broker, the greater the profit that the trader makes. Comparing pip spreads of half dozen brokers will reveal different transaction costs. For example, the bid/ask spread for EUR/USD is usually 3 pips, but if you can find 2 pips, that’s even better.
The lower the margin requirement (meaning the higher the leverage), the greater the potential for higher profits and losses. Margin percentages vary from .25% and up. Low margin requirements are great when your trades are good, but not so great when you are wrong. Be realistic about margins and remember that they swing both ways.
Minimum Trading Size Requirement
The size of one lot may differ from broker to broker, spanning 1,000, 10,000, and 100,000 units. A lot consisting of 100,000 units is called a “standard” lot. A lot consisting of 10,000 units is called a “mini” lot. A lot consisting of 1,000 units is called a “micro” lot. Some brokers even offer fractional unit sizes (called odd lots) which allow you create your own unit size.
Rollover charges are determined by the difference between the interest rate of the country of the base currency and the interest rates of the other country. The greater the interest rate differential between the two currencies in the currency pair, the greater the rollover charge will be. For example, when trading GBP/USD, if the British pound has the greater interest differential with the U.S. dollar, then the rollover charge for holding British pound positions would be the most expensive. On the other hand, if the Swiss Franc were to have the smallest interest differential to the U.S. dollar, then overnight charges for USD/CHF would be the least expensive of the currency pairs.
Margin Account Interest Rate
Most brokers pay interest on a trader’s margin account. The interest rates normally fluctuate with the prevailing national rates. If you decide to take an extended break from trading, the money in your margin account will be accruing interest. Keep in mind that most brokers DO NOT allow you to accrue interest unless your margin requirement is at least 2% (50:1).
Nearly all brokers align their hours of operation to coincide with the hours of operation of the global Forex market: 5:00 pm EST Sunday through 4:00 pm EST Friday.
Be sure to scrutinize a prospective broker’s “fine print” section to be fully aware of all the nuances that a specific broker may impose on a new trader.
Finding the right broker is a critical part of the process. It’s not easy and requires some real work on your part. Don’t pick the first one that looks good to you. Keep looking and trying different demo accounts.