If you want to start trading futures or switch brokers, visit NinjaTrader.

If you’ve decided to launch your investments in a brand new (uncharted-by-you) direction, have your thoughts drifted to futures or maybe forex?

Have you seen futures prices on the local news (corn, soybeans, pigs, precious metals, crude oil) and thought to yourself, “What’s all that about, anyway? Can I make money off of that?” The answer is a resounding, “Absolutely!”

get started securely through NinjaTrader’s website
Best For
Advanced Futures Trading
N/A
1 Minute Review

NinjaTrader is a powerful derivatives trading platform specializing in futures, forex and options. The platform has a number of unique trading tools. A free version does exist without the extra goodies provided by Trader + and OrderFlow + but users can still break down charts, backtest strategies and trade without upfront payment. NinjaTrader hosts its own brokerage services but users have their choice of several different brokerage options. Accounts have minimums depending on the securities traded and commissions vary depending on the version of the platform. Advanced derivatives traders will have endless fun with the platform’s mighty array of tools and analyzers.

The free version, which is included with all brokerage accounts is a great starting platform for new traders without the financial commitment. As you grow in your trading and are ready for more tools and functionality, you can add more complexity.

Best For
  • Futures Traders
  • Traders looking for 24/7 action
  • Advanced Traders
Pros
  • Powerful analysis tools
  • Free download and simulated trading
  • Open source trading apps to enhance experience
Cons
  • Can only trade derivatives like futures and options
get started securely through Tradovate’s website
Best For
High-volume Traders
N/A
1 Minute Review

Tradovate is an innovative futures broker offering a tiered pricing structure and a comprehensive proprietary trading platform you can access with additional fees. Tradovate offers a community tab that allows you to connect with other traders and exchange trading ideas. New users can test out Tradovate’s platform with a demo account and free trial, which allows new investors to master the learning curve before opening an account. Though the platform might be too complicated for traders who prefer a simplified experience, it can be a strong choice for more experienced users.

Best For
  • Experienced and intermediate futures investors
  • High-volume traders
  • Mobile traders
Pros
  • Free trading platform packed with unique features
  • Community tab allows users to connect with other traders
  • Tiered pricing structure
  • Easy to use out of the box for experienced futures traders
Cons
  • Currently only supports futures trading
  • Platform can be overwhelming for new traders
get started securely through Discount Trading’s website
Best For
High Volume Traders
N/A
1 Minute Review

Discount trading is a no thrills futures trading broker that offers a multitude of options available to start trading. Low commissions, no inactivity fees, and powerful platforms to start trading.

Best For
  • High volume / High frequency futures day traders
  • Futures investors looking for the lowest futures margins
  • Traders ​needing ultra-low commission rates
  • Traders looking for great customer service and fast account opening
Pros
  • Ultra-low commission rates ($0.49 or less)
  • $500 (or less) Day Trading Margin on most markets
  • No monthly inactivity fee
  • Five different ​trade ​routing solutions
  • ​O​ver 20 of the most popular platforms in the industry
  • A completely free trading platform that includes free Level 1 Streaming Futures Quotes ● Support team that answers phone calls quickly
Cons
  • Tough to find the best platform for your needs, due to the sheer number of options available
  • Geared for traders with at least some experience trading the futures markets
get started securely through Optimus Futures’s website
Best For
Trading Micro Futures
N/A
1 Minute Review

Optimus Futures is a leading discount futures broker offering highly customized trading solutions geared towards cost-conscious retail traders with an eye for technology and personal service. Customers gain access to premium tools at no additional cost such as depth-of-market surface, footprint charting, and real-time news alerts along with a fully integrated trading journal. 

Users can register a trial version of their software to take a test-drive of the platform, unlocking many of the analysis and charting features including unlimited simulated trades. Traders can also leverage Optimus Futures 3rd party app integration, allowing you to choose the futures trading platform best suited for you.

Best For
  • Low account minimums, commissions, and margins
  • Futures & micro futures traders
  • Beginner futures traders
Pros
  • Unlimited simulated trading
  • Low day trading margins
  • Highly experienced and competent technical support
  • Customizable data fees and order clearing
Cons
  • Limited to derivatives trading like futures
  • The selection of data feeds and clearing firms can be overwhelming for newer traders

Futures and Forex

If you claim you’ve never participated in the forex market, pause for just a second. Have you ever traveled overseas? Maybe you’ve exchanged U.S. dollars for euros if you’ve gone to Germany or Italy. Or maybe you’ve turned U.S. dollars into yen on a trip to Japan.

If you’ve ever exchanged any money at all, you’ve made a foreign transaction and ultimately, made a tiny mark on the forex market. Now, multiply that action by trillions, and you’ve got the full-fledged forex market, an extremely liquid and gigantic market (it’s the largest in the world) which has an average daily trading volume of $5 trillion. On the other hand, futures are contracts, or more specifically, they are financial contracts to complete a sale or purchase in the future (that’s why they’re dubbed futures!)

A futures contract involves both a buyer and a seller. An agreement occurs between said buyer and seller regarding an asset, which will be bought or sold for a specific price on a specific day. The asset can be a commodity, a currency, or even an index.

Forex Snapshot

When you trade forex, you’re simply buying and selling currency pairs, and the most often-traded currency pairs include:

  • EUR/USD: The euro and the U.S. dollar
  • USD/JPY: The U.S. dollar and the Japanese yen
  • GBP/USD: The British pound sterling and the U.S. dollar
  • USD/CHF: The U.S. dollar and the Swiss franc

When trading forex, you sell one currency (the base currency) in order to purchase another (called the quote currency). An example of how to read a forex quote is below:

How To Read A Forex Quote
How to Read a Forex Quote
Source: MTPredictor.com

Just like when you exchange your U.S. dollars for yen when traveling in Japan, you’ll also pay attention to the exchange rate when you’re trading forex.

The exchange rate shows how much you’ll pay in units of the quote currency to buy one unit of the base currency. In the example above, you’ll pay 1.5143 U.S. dollars in order to buy one British pound.

When you sell, the exchange rate reflects the number of units of the quote currency you will receive for selling one unit of the base currency. Note: If you want to buy (the base currency and sell the quote currency), forex lingo refers to this as “going long” and if you want to sell (the base currency and buy the quote currency), it’s referred to as “going short.”

For more details about how to make your first foray into forex trading, check out Benzinga’s How to Start Trading Forex for Beginners.

Futures Snapshot

Since prices of commodities, for example, are constantly in flux, individuals or businesses use futures contracts to mitigate risk by locking in a fixed price at a future date.

Similar to forex, you’ll hear two terms that sound almost exactly the same in futures: “long position” and “short position,” and those refer to an agreement between two parties, the party who agrees to deliver a commodity (short position) and the party who agrees to receive the commodity (long position). The actual contract itself includes the following:

  1. The quantity and quality of the specific asset.
  2. The date and method of delivery of the asset.
  3. The currency unit involved.
  4. The unit of measurement.

Here’s a great video by TD Ameritrade that explains futures in a nutshell:

A few important questions to ask yourself before you enter into a futures contract include the following:

  1. What is the margin requirement? (This is easily the most risky part of futures trading. A commodities broker may allow you to leverage up to 20:1, which is much higher than any other market typically goes.)
  2. What is the spread (difference between the bid and ask?)
  3. How liquid is the contract? (The more liquid it is, the less it will cost for a contract to enter and exit the market.)
  4. Are the volume fluctuations or inconsistencies above or below the historic average?

Finally, you’ll need to choose a broker, and we’ve done the hard work for you with Benzinga’s The Best Futures Brokers Trading Platform

Pros and Cons of Trading Forex

Pros:

  • Sizeable leverage can turn a lot of money into a major profit.
  • The forex market is extremely liquid and accessible.
  • There’s no central exchange, and it’s decentralized and deregulated, all good things for traders who like consistency.

Cons:

  • Extreme volatility can occur in the forex market.
  • There can be less regulatory control, but if you stick with U.S.-based brokers, you’re better off.
  • Price determination can be tough to discern, particularly regarding foreign economies and global politics.

Pros and Cons of Trading Futures

Pros:

  • Futures trading involves an extremely liquid market.
  • Costs are fixed in advance.
  • Speculators can borrow a lot of money to trade futures.
  • The greater the leverage, typically, the greater your potential gains.

Cons:

  • Futures are considered riskier than trading stocks, and that’s primarily because of leverage and the amount of leverage allowed. The potential for loss could be substantial.
  • No industry standard for commission and fee structure through brokers.

Final Thoughts

In some ways, future and forex are so different, yet have similarities. They both employ leverage in order to maximize and move some major coin, which, of course, inherently comes with a side of risk as well. The great news is that you can spend a lot of time paper trading before you even begin in order to test your strategies.

If you start with a fairly simple trading technique and hone that particular strategy, paper trading (for months!) can truly be a great option and a great idea for brand-new forex or futures traders.

Want to learn more about futures trading? Check out Benzinga’s guides to the best online futures brokers, the best futures trading software and how to trade futures.

Get a Forex Pro on Your Side

FOREX.com, registered with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), lets you trade a wide range of forex markets plus spot metals with low pricing and fast, quality execution on every trade. 

You can also tap into:

  • EUR/USD as low as 0.2 with fixed $5 commissions per 100,000
  • Powerful, purpose-built currency trading platforms
  • Monthly cash rebates of up to $9 per million dollars traded with FOREX.com’s Active Trader Program

Learn more about FOREX.com’s low pricing and how you can get started trading with FOREX.com.