As many of you already know Forex trading is the trading of foreign currencies based on expectations of how currency exchange rates will change. If the chosen currency rises relatively to some other currency, this represents a profit. However, if you sell the currency which ascends in value you have made a poor judgement and you will suffer a loss.

The Forex market is very liquid, it is global and in practice it is very difficult to regulate. This is because in addition to individual investors (also known as retail customers) the Forex market is also used by large investment banks, insurance companies and financial institutions. They use the market to manage the risks of currency exchange rates fluctuations.

The risks to small individual investors and traders in a large and unregulated market are enormous. For example, unregulated Forex brokers often use the allure of high leverage to make themselves attractive to individual investors with low initial investments and capital. They promise huge profits by using only your small initial investment.

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However, as many Forex traders know, this is a dangerous strategy and it can lead to big losses just as easily. High leverage increases your profits in the same way it increases your losses. A small trader should always look to use only his own funds. He should only put at risk what he can afford to lose. High leverage may seem attractive, but it can be the death of a small investor.

Fortunately for retail customers, there are regulatory agencies around the world which regulate big international markets and try to protect traders. These governmental, sometimes federal and sometimes private institutions make sure that the risk of fraud and misinformation is minimized or completely eradicated.

There is no one specific central agency to regulate the Forex market. However, most developed countries have clear rules and laws regarding Forex trading and Forex brokers. For example, the UK Forex market is regulated by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority), the AISC (Australian Securities and Investments Commission) is in charge of regulating the Australian capital markets, corporations and financial services and the Swiss PolyReg and the Swiss Federal Department of Finance have the same duties in the Swiss financial markets.

Frequently Asked Questions

In an attempt to explain legal US Forex trading we will list the answers to the ten most frequently asked questions on the topic.

  1. What is the lowest possible initial trading capital that US Forex brokers require?

    Forex brokers which are regulated in the US offer many different types of accounts depending on the type of user you are. All these account types come with different initial trading capital requirements. The lowest possible initial trading capital is around $50.

  2. Which financial control rules should regulated US Forex brokers adhere to?

    NFA and CFTC regulated Forex brokers must have no less than $20 million in operating capital. They are also subjected to regular and comprehensive audits every year and are also obliged to report their account balances to the NFA every week.

  3. How do US based brokers differ from Forex brokers based in other countries when it comes to financial regulations?

    US Forex brokers are probably the safest brokers to trade with because they are subjected to a lot of strict checkups and inspections. They are also expected to meet some of the highest standards set by a regulating agency. For example, the operating capital for US Forex brokers as we already mentioned is $20 million whereas in the UK Forex brokers are only obliged to possess a working capital of only £1 million.

  4. Can non-US brokers accept US citizens as clients?

    No they can’t. Forex brokers based outside the US and not registered with the NFA are not allowed to accept US citizens as customers. However, if you live in the US and you are not a US citizen you will have no problem accessing any Forex broker you choose.

  5. What are the payment options that US based Forex brokers offer to customers?

    US Forex brokers conduct transactions to customers via credit card payments (Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club International, Union Pay etc), online payment processors (Neteller, Skrill, QIWI, Perfect Money etc), check payments and bank wires.

  6. Can I be involved in a broker scam with a US based broker?

    There was some dubious activity in the past in the US Forex market and this led to some very strict regulations to be imposed on US Forex brokers by the NFA and CFTC. So, in short, no, you can’t be involved in a scam with a US Forex broker. If a broker gets involved in fraudulent transactions then his license will immediately be revoked and enormous penalties will have to be paid which makes any fraudulent behaviour not worthwhile for the broker.

  7. How can I avoid getting involved in a broker scam?

    This one is very easy. The NFA and the CFTC possess a register of companies called BASIC (Background Affiliation Status Information Center) which lists all brokers allowed to engage in Forex trading. In it you can see the main information about the regulated brokers.

    If you are a US citizen you will have no other option, but to trade with a regulated Forex broker so you might think that going through the register might not be worthwhile. However, checking the information about each broker might be invaluable when making the decision which Forex operator to choose.

  8. Are banks, insurance companies and financial instructions regulated in the same way as individual traders?

    Individual traders or retail customers represent only 5% of the US Forex market. The other 95%, which include banks, insurance companies and trading institutions, are subjected to mush stricter laws than those imposed on retail customers.

  9. Do US Forex brokers cater to people who are new to Forex trading and Forex Trading Platforms?

    US Forex brokers offer the possibility of trading with virtual money for the purpose of learning how to trade without losing your deposits. If you are new to Forex trading most regulated US Forex brokers will offer you the chance to open a demo account and start trading.

  10. What are some other positives of trading with a regulated Forex broker?

    A Forex broker which is registered with the NFA and CFTC should be held as a reliable operator. It means that the broker has been operating conscientiously for a number of years. It also means that the trader will be due a certain compensation should the broker becomes insolvent or is liquidated. Finally, a registered and regulated broker is a guarantee that no fraudulent behaviour will occur.

US Forex – Before Regulation

There is no greater sign that the regulatory agencies are doing the right thing than looking at what was happening in the past. Before the NFA and the CFTC started imposing strict regulations on Forex brokers there were a lot of Forex related scandals in which innocent individuals lost their money.

For example, in the period between 2001 and 2007, 26 thousand people were the victims of illegal activity and fraud. They lost approximately $460 million in currency related scams initiated by unregulated Forex brokers with dubious background.

Legal US Forex Market

The US Forex market is one of the most highly regulated markets in the world. This makes the market safe for investors and unattractive for fraudulent brokers. The two organizations in charge of regulating the US Forex market are the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the US National Futures Association (NFA).

The CFTC is a governmental agency, independent from other bodies, which governs over and oversees all Forex transactions conducted through regulated Forex brokers which operate in the United States.

The NFA is a non-profit, self regulating body, for the US futures industry. Its main objectives are maintaining the integrity of markets within the USA and protecting traders and investors from being involved in a scam or a fraud.

As we already mentioned regulations are always made to protect the small investor or customer (with assets of less than $10 million). This means that the regulations which are put in place in the US by the CFTC and NFA are aimed at protecting individuals and small businesses involved in the market. Some of the key regulations include:

  • Maximum available leverage on major currencies is 50:1;
  • Maximum available leverage on minor currencies is 20:1;
  • No possibility of hedging while trading;
  • Money due to be paid out to customers by brokers must be kept in qualified US institutions or money centre countries.

These regulations differ quite a lot from other countries where markets are less regulated. In fact, since the Forex market has started being regulated in the US, a lot of Forex brokers looking for quick profit have left the US and moved to countries with more lenient laws.
This further strengthens the notion that the US Forex market is one of the safest for small investors and businesses.