How to trade currency online (Forex)

by Neil Kokemuller ; Updated July 27, 2017
You only need a computer and an Internet connection to trade currency online.

Trading currencies online has become increasingly simple thanks to advancements in technology and more competitive for self-managed Forex accounts. Forex involves trading currency pairs for the purpose of profiting on perpetual price movements between two currencies. Forex is the largest investment market in the world, with over $4 trillion in value traded daily as of 2012, reports BabyPips.com

Application

Open an account to trade currency. The uncomplicated process involves going to an online broker's website to fill out and submit an application. The broker may require you to fax a completed and signed W-9 for tax purposes. Some brokers may require you to submit an initial deposit of $500 or more with your account application, while others may require a larger or smaller initial deposit. Your application may be approved within 24 hours, depending on the broker.

Get Familiar

Trading on the Forex is risky. Lack of experience could cause your entire account to be wiped out with a few bad trades. As such, brokers post disclosures that warn of the risks on their homepages. Additionally, most brokers provide tutorials to help you learn the basics of trading and how to execute orders in your account. Practice with a demo account for several weeks, or months, to learn how to make trades and test strategies without putting real money on the line.

Making Trades

Execute orders on your broker's platform by pitting one currency against another. For example, if you are confident the U.S. dollar will increase in value against the Canadian dollar based on recent financial events, you could buy the USD/CAD pair. These are the symbols associated with those currencies. Buying the pair means that you expect the value of the first currency listed to rise relative to the second. If it does, you make money. If not, you risk losses. Selling or shorting the pair means you expect the U.S. dollar to lose value against the Canadian dollar.

Profits and Losses

In Forex, you do not realize profits and losses until you close out a position. If you bought the USD/CAD pair, for example, you would take profit when you sell the pair after it moves in the direction you expected. If you buy the pair and the U.S. dollar declines, you need to decide at what point to get out. In fact, you should make this choice ahead of time and set a stop-loss order, which makes a preset counter trade that exits the position at the stated price ratio. Typically, you want to set your limit just below support levels or just above resistance from traders -- those price points that previously led to buying or selling -- to minimize losses.

About the Author

Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.

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