One of the first things to consider as you learn how to trade forex is the device you’ll trade on. Most forex brokers support mobile trading on iOS and Android, but trading on your computer is another story. Macs, not PCs, often get left out of the equation.
That doesn’t mean forex trading on a Mac is impossible, but you do need to prepare to make some sacrifices.
- What Difference Does a Mac Make in Forex Trading?
- How to Trade Forex on Your Mac
- Step 1: Consider Your Needs as a Forex Trader
- Step 2: Pick a Forex Broker that Supports Mac or Desktop Trading
- Step 3: Download the Appropriate Software
- Step 4: Fund Your Account and Make Your First Trade
- Final Thoughts
What Difference Does a Mac Make in Forex Trading?
PC users have an advantage over Mac users in the forex market. MetaTrader, the powerful forex trading software, was designed by MetaQuotes Software to run on Windows-based operating systems. Linux and Mac OS don’t have official versions, although there are ways to get MetaTrader on a Mac.
You’ll need to download either Parallels or Wine (from the PlayOnMac program) to imitate a Windows operating system and run MetaTrader through that. However, this process can be tricky and tedious since the imitation is often imperfect and bugs frequently occur. Some features like API and Expert Advisors might be unavailable on these imitation platforms, which restrict the efficiency of automated trading.
If you want to create robots to trade forex while you sleep, you might want to avoid MetaTrader if you have a Mac.
Some brokers do have their own imported version of MetaTrader for Mac available for download, but U.S. traders can’t access many of them. If you’re a U.S. client who trades on a Mac, you’ll need to find a new platform or use MetaTrader for desktop trading.
MetaTrader for desktop does lose some of the automated functions that make the platform so popular, so make sure to consider this. cTrader is another forex trading app supported by Mac operating systems with features comparable to the mighty MetaTrader.
How to Trade Forex on Your Mac
You can still trade forex on your Mac, you just can’t get the full functionality of MetaTrader. For some, this might be a dealbreaker. MetaTrader’s Expert Advisors tools are too powerful to give up and many traders would rather just buy a Windows laptop than deal with the bugs and inefficiencies of MetaTrader for Mac. But if you can survive without the assistance of Expert Advisors, trading forex on a Mac is a snap.
Here are a few steps to follow to ensure you get the best forex broker for your specific needs.
Step 1: Consider Your Needs as a Forex Trader
Forget about your operating system for a second and think about what you need as a currency trader. What are you looking for in a forex broker? Even if you find a broker with a near-perfect native MetaTrader 4 for Mac app, will the commissions and fees be too high to be feasible? Is the broker regulated by an international authority?
Consider these questions and qualities as you shop around for a broker.
How much capital is needed to open an account? What are the minimum and maximum unit sizes for individual trades?
Commissions and Fees
How much does it cost to trade? Are commissions on all accounts, or is there a spread-only option? How high are the spreads on non-commission accounts? Are there hidden fees for transfers, inactivity, etc.?
Leverage and Margin Requirements
Leverage enables forex traders to move large positions with only a small amount of capital. Buying securities with borrowed money is known as leverage and it’s a must in forex trading since currency price moves are so small. Brokers that support U.S. clients should offer major pairs on 2% margin (50:1 leverage), but brokers outside the U.S. can offer leverage of 500:1 (or more).
Available Currency Pairs
Since all currencies are traded in pairs in a long/short relationship, brokers advertise how many pairs they have available to trade. Be sure to choose a broker with at least 40 currency pairs to trade.
Most forex brokers fall into two groups: market maker or direct access. Market maker brokers funnel all orders to a trading desk, while direct access brokers allow sophisticated traders to see the market directly and choose their own order routes. Market maker brokers have a higher tendency to trade against clients.
Step 2: Pick a Forex Broker that Supports Mac or Desktop Trading
After you determine what’s important to you as a forex trader, apply that information when you choose a brokerage. Apple computer users are mostly concerned with desktop trading and native MT4 apps for Macs. Note that MetaTrader desktop apps will lose some functionality, though. Here’s a list of brokers that either support MetaTrader for Mac or have a Mac-friendly desktop trading platform.
FOREX.com lacks a dedicated application for getting MetaTrader on Mac. But there are still plenty of options for Mac users, including the advanced trading platform, mobile trading and NinjaTrader.
Since 2001, Admiral Markets, a U.K.-based forex broker, has provided currency and CFD products to all kinds of international traders. Its best feature might be its compatibility; both MT4 and MT5 have native Mac applications. MetaTrader WebTrader is a desktop version that requires no download and retains all of the trading strategies present in the original versions.
Vantage FX, an Australian-based brokerage, operates as a direct access broker and pulls quotes from various ECNs and liquidity providers to minimize spreads.
Vantage FX’s team of engineers have also developed a MetaTrader for Mac app that doesn’t require Parallels or Wine. Download either MT4 or MT5 on your Mac and learn all the tricks with Vantage FX’s platform education manuals.
Another Australian-based ECN broker, IC Markets has a proprietary app for getting MetaTrader on your Mac that doesn’t sacrifice any of the functionality found on PC versions.
Not only are MT4 and MT5 on Mac supported, but IC Markets offers cTrader for both PC and Mac operating systems.
TD Ameritrade is the only trading platform more powerful than MetaTrader is the mighty thinkorswim from TD Ameritrade. You’ll get access to Level II quotes and fast trade execution, where you can switch between stocks, currencies and commodities with ease.
The London-based brokerage XM is part of the Trading Point Group and has all your MetaTrader needs in one spot. Both MT4 and MT5 are available for download on PC or Apple computer, plus iOS and Android mobile operating systems.
Non-MetaTrader users can use the XM WebTrader, available on any browser without download.
Step 3: Download the Appropriate Software
Once you’ve chosen a broker, decide which platform you want. Most brokers have a proprietary platform of their own, either available for download or use right on your desktop’s internet browser.
MetaTrader, cTrader and NinjaTrader are the most popular platforms here. Simply navigate to a broker’s website, locate the specific platform you want and confirm that it works on your current computer or operating system.
If you’re an experienced trader, you might be interested in creating your own trading programs and algorithms. Many brokers offer custom API solutions to clients but retail traders likely won’t have any use for these.
Step 4: Fund Your Account and Make Your First Trade
Once you’ve downloaded the trading software and linked your account, you’re now ready to make your first forex trade. Remember, most forex brokers allow 50:1 (or more outside the U.S.) leverage on major pairs, so you don’t need a windfall to fund your account.
Just make sure you can cover the minimum account balance and fund your trade. Brokers often offer demo accounts to new traders; play around with pretend money first if you’re unsure of your forex trading prowess.
Trading forex on your Mac is a little more difficult than a PC thanks to MetaTrader’s programming, but you don’t need to buy a new computer just to trade currencies. Macs still have plenty of support from brokers with native MetaTrader for Mac apps and platforms like cTrader and NinjaTrader are available, too.
You might not have all the MetaTrader bells and whistles, but you can still build a successful forex trading operation on your Mac.