You must find a broker that complies with U.S. laws if you live in the United States and want to trade in the forex market. You’ll have a significantly larger selection of international brokerages if you live outside the United States.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was signed into U.S. law on July 21, 2010, to respond to the 2008 global financial crisis, and it affected all U.S. federal financial regulatory agencies and the entire U.S. financial services industry, including online forex brokers and the stock market.
Quick Look: The Best International Forex Brokers
- Best overall: FOREX.com – Open an account
- ATC Brokers
What You Need to Know About Trading Forex Internationally
In January of 2015, the National Futures Association (NFA) imposed limits on the leverage allowed on forex positions and other restrictions on U.S.-based forex traders. Many international forex brokers stopped accepting clients from the U.S. Also, due to the new restrictions, international forex brokers increased in popularity relative to American brokers because they typically give traders better terms than U.S.-based forex brokers.
For example, forex brokers in the United States only allow a maximum leverage ratio of 50:1, while some international brokers offer client leverage up to 3,000:1. This high amount of leverage, while extremely profitable when you’re on the right side of the market, could be disastrous if you hold a losing position, especially if you have limited capital.
Another example is the FIFO regulation. FIFO stands for “first in, first out,” and this rule requires you to liquidate positions in the same currency pair in the order that they were established instead of choosing which opposing transaction to liquidate.
The new U.S. legislation also banned hedging a forex position by taking an opposing position in the same currency pair as one already established. Doing this means you effectively hedge the original position and can trade out of both sides individually, which is no longer allowed for U.S.-based forex traders.
Do International Forex Brokers Accept U.S. Clients?
Just because you live in the United States doesn’t mean you can’t trade forex. Many top-tier forex brokers such as FOREX.com are based in the United States and also fully comply with the relevant regulations of the NFA and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
Although many international brokers decided not to accept traders from the United States after the 2015 legislation change, a number of international brokers have elected to become members of the NFA and CFTC and accept U.S. clients. Keep in mind that when a forex broker lacks oversight from a reputable financial regulatory agency, you run a considerable risk when you open an account with them. It’s possible to lose your entire deposit without even making a trade.
Also, if you’re U.S.-based and trade forex through an international broker licensed in the United States, your account will be subject to CFTC and NFA rules and restrictions. This means that regardless of the amount of leverage or other features offered by the international broker, you must adhere to the 50:1 U.S. leverage limit, the FIFO rule, the no-hedging rule and any other relevant U.S. forex account restrictions.
What Makes the Best International Forex Brokers
Finding the best forex broker for you could take some effort and depends in part on where you’re based. For example, if you live in the U.S., your choices are somewhat limited to those relatively few brokers that accept U.S. clients. Nevertheless, if you live outside of the U.S., you have a large number of online brokers to choose from.
International forex brokers that offer their services to U.S. clients tend to be the largest and best capitalized since the process of registering and complying with CFTC and NFA regulations requires a significant initial investment and cash reserve amount. Keep in mind that not all forex brokers are created equal, so make sure you carefully consider your needs before you open an account.
Outside of the United States, a wide choice of brokers exists, and some brokers offer leverage of as much as 3,000:1. Regardless of where you live, choose a broker regulated by a reputable government agency such as the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) or the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC).
If you have little or no experience in the forex market, read Benzinga’s best forex broker for beginners, which can offer a large selection of educational material, including videos, podcasts, audio and printed articles. Large international forex brokers, such as Oanda and FOREX.com, offer educational material to less-experienced clients and they also accept U.S.-based customers.
The Best International Forex Brokers
If you want to verify that an international forex broker is registered with the NFA and can accept U.S.-based clients, the NFA provides an online verification system known as the Background Affiliation Status Information Center (BASIC). Enter the broker’s information to verify if it has been approved by the NFA and complies with all regulatory requirements.
Founded in 2001, FOREX.com was one of the internet’s first online forex brokers. FOREX.com has offices in New Jersey, London, and Tokyo. It’s overseen by the NFA and CFTC in the United States, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the U.K. and the Japanese Financial Services Agency (JFSA) in Japan. In addition, FOREX.com is regulated by the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC).
This top-tier forex broker offers trading in more than 80 currency pairs, cryptocurrency pairs, CFDs on indexes, metals, energy, commodities and a large selection of U.S. and U.K. stocks. Forex.com accepts clients from around the world, with the exception of Singapore, New Zealand, Iran, Yemen, Belarus and some nations on the list of the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC)
FOREX.com offers the popular MetaTrader 4 and 5 trading platforms from Metaquotes. It also offers mobile and web-based platforms, as well as a proprietary Advanced Trading Platform with integrated trading strategies for more experienced traders. Leverage for major forex currency pairs is 50:1 for U.S.-based clients and 30:1 for clients based in the EU.
The broker requires a minimum deposit of $50 that can be made via credit card or bank transfer. Withdrawals occur within 48 hours of the original request and funds are returned to the originating bank or credit card account. FOREX.com offers novice traders an extensive FAQ section and video tutorials on how to use its trading platforms. Customer support is provided by designated phone numbers in the countries where the firm has a presence.
Based in San Francisco and New York City, Oanda was established in 2001. Oanda is one of the world’s largest forex brokers and has a significant international presence with additional offices situated in London, Singapore, Sidney, Tokyo and Toronto. The broker is overseen by the NFA and CFTC in the United States, the IIROC in Canada, the FCA in the U.K., the JFSA in Japan and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
Oanda is an electronic communications network/straight-through processing (ECN/STP) broker. It offers leverage of 100:1 to clients in Australia and New Zealand, 50:1 to U.S. clients and 30:1 to clients based in the EU. The broker accepts U.S.-based clients and offers trading in more than 70 currency pairs, as well as CFDs on indices, metals, energy products, commodities and U.K., U.S. and German government bonds.
Platforms available at Oanda include the MetaTrader 4 platform, proprietary desktop and web-based platforms that integrate TradingView charts, and the Oanda API for automated trading. The award-winning broker requires a minimum deposit of $20 to open an account and its website is available in eight different languages.
3. ATC Brokers
Based in Glendale, California, ATC was founded in 2005 and operates offices in London and George Town in the Cayman Islands. The broker has oversight and regulation from the U.S. CFTC and NFA, the U.K.’s FCA and the Cayman Island Monetary Authority (CIMA).
ATC accepts clients from all over the world, with the exception of some countries on the OFAC list. Maximum leverage at ATC is 200:1 for most clients, 50:1 for U.S.-based clients and 30:1 for traders based in the EU.
ATC offers trading in over 40 currency pairs, plus CFDs on indices, precious metals and energy products. Clients can use the MetaTrader 4 and MT4 mobile trading platform, as well as an enhanced MT4 Pro software package developed by ATC. Because the broker offers straight-through processing (STP) of trades, a commission of $1 is charged per mini contract of 10,000 units and $10 for a standard contract of 100,000 units.
In addition to regular forex trading accounts, ATC offers a corporate account and a money management service that clients can subscribe to. Deposits can be made through U.S. ACH wire transfer for U.S. based traders, as well as via credit card and international bank wire transfers. A minimum deposit of $2,000 is required to open an account and withdrawals are charged at a rate of $20 for the first monthly withdrawal and $35 for the second withdrawal.
The broker’s customer service consists of a telephone hotline, an email address and a live chat function on its website. Also, ATC offers a “Trader’s Corner” area on its website where it publishes trading strategies and advice for new traders.
The best international forex brokers are the ones that satisfy your needs as a trader. Despite restrictive forex regulations in the United States, U.S.-based forex traders can operate in the forex market much like traders who live elsewhere, although the rather low leverage ratios and lack of hedging imposed by U.S. regulators can seem stifling for some trading strategies.