Contributor, Benzinga
September 13, 2021

Want to jump straight to the best options broker? Most people prefer Interactive Brokers for their options trades.

There are fundamental difference between the forex (foreign exchange) market and options. Understanding the differences and choosing forex vs. options can be complicated, and everyone has their own way of investing. So, you should review both perspectives before deciding how to proceed.

Start with our guide to understand your choices and move forward with the best investment strategy.

Similarities Between Options Trading and Forex Trading

Before considering forex vs. options, it’s important to note how they are similar. The basic rules of trading — supply and demand and news absorption — apply to both markets. Understanding these rules and how they apply to all markets is essential to investment success.

To keep things simple here, we will assume that we are comparing the options markets within major trading indices (the S&P 500, the Dow Jones Industrial Average or NASDAQ) to forex trading.

Leverage

If you have a leveraged account, you can own more assets in that account than your money would normally buy. Brokers give leverage just like banks give loans. With the proper setup, you can purchase forex currency pairs or options contracts on margin, meaning that you are using leverage. 

Forex brokers offer more leverage on trades. Depending on the broker you choose, you may be able to open an order at 1,000 times your own capital, for example, trading $1,000 worth of currency for every $1 you hold in your forex account.

No reputable options broker will ever have leverage this high but you must consider that options itself is leverage. Every options contract that you purchase, whether call or put, represents 100 shares of the underlying stock. 

Accessibility

Modern brokerages make it incredibly easy to trade the exact financial instrument you want. (We have a list of brokerages that you can use to trade forex and options, and you can read this FOREX.com Review for a good introduction to the most well-known forex broker in the world.) This is in stark contrast to previous generations of investors who were often limited in their choice of instruments. 

You may run across opinions that advise you against forex or options because of the difficulty in accessing one instrument over the other. Check the timing and the veracity of the sources — you may be dealing with out-of-date information that bleeds over into dated investment advice.

Regulation

Both forex and options trading invoke regulations to limit the potential risk investors take on. These regulations may come from different places but they all serve the purpose of protecting traders from taking unmanageable risk.

If you plan on trading forex, you should get used to putting a stop-loss in with your buy orders. Many brokers will not allow you to execute an order without a stop loss. 

By law, trading options on a U.S.-based brokerage requires that you self-assert your level of trading expertise and net worth, among other financial information. Depending on the answers you give, that brokerage will assign you an options level.

Brokerages may not check this information, but it doesn't help you to lie. Higher options levels expose you to more trading tools but also bigger risk that you may not be prepared to take on.

Differences Between Options Trading and Forex Trading

As you might assume, there are also some major differences between options and forex. Below are 3 of the most important to help you determine which investment tool is right for you.

Asset Type

Forex market investors trade currency pairs, which are assets that you own directly. This is known as spot trading.

When you trade options, you are trading a contract on an asset. Options are known as asset derivatives. As such, you can actually trade options on forex currency pairs.

Options have characteristics that assets do not have and may be used in sophisticated trades that play the buy and sell side at once. Options can also lose money more quickly than assets.

24-Hour Trading

The options market is open only during the normal market hours of Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST. The forex market is open 24 hours per day even for forex beginners. During dead hours, the prices of options “freeze” even though news may be coming in that changes the market. 

At the start of the new trading day, investors may experience a sudden jump in price (up or down) as the market responds to the new information. This phenomenon can cause options to completely jump over automated stops (orders you pre-fill based on certain conditions and entrust an algorithm to execute). Before committing to an options trade, you must be sure that you are prepared for these possible jumps at the start of trading. 

Forex markets can experience jumps over the weekend, as the majority of forex brokers are closed on Saturday and Sunday. News will continue to flow and may cause price gaps on the following Monday. The 24-hour trading schedule of forex usually keeps huge price gaps from occurring on weekdays, although it can occur.

Volatility/Liquidity

The forex market is the most liquid market in the world. Liquidity means that trading is easy. Forex’s liquidity attracts mainstream investors who are looking for efficient, stable markets. It also makes forex the biggest market in the world. 

The contrast with the options market is stark. Depending on the options you choose, you could be trading against only a few people across the entire world. Liquidity in this case is objectively lower and price becomes more volatile.

Pros and Cons of Options Trading

There are some other advantages and disadvantages to options trading based on the differences between the asset types.

ProsCons
Automatic leverage
Can create non-directional and hedging strategies
Potentially higher ROI than trading underlying assets directly
Less capital required to control more assets
Not all losses tax-deductible
Relatively low liquidity
Higher barriers to entry
Fixed fees for trading

Pros and Cons of Forex Trading

Here are a few additional points you should consider before diving into currency trading with forex.

ProsCons
Less susceptible to volatility shocks
Highest liquidity of any financial market
Investors protected against fraud and theft of funds through KYC standards
Default risk limiters
No middleman fees
Less volatility means less short-term growth potential
Susceptible to unexpected political events
Gains easily tracked and taxed
Temptation of extremely high leverage

Best Brokers for Forex Trading

You must do business with reputable forex platforms to take full advantage of the market’s strengths. Consider the following list:

  • Forex.com
    More Details
    Best For
    Forex Investing
    Overall Rating
    Read Review
    securely through Forex.com's website
    More Details
  • IG Markets
    More Details
    Best For
    Forex Execution
    Overall Rating
    Read Review
    securely through IG Markets's website
    More Details
  • eToro Forex
    More Details
    Best For
    Copy Traders
    Overall Rating
    Read Review
    securely through eToro Forex's website
    More Details

    eToro USA LLC; Investments are subject to market risk, including the possible loss of principal.

Best Brokers for Options Trading

If you’re trading options seriously, your options broker will definitely influence your chances of success in the market. You may want to test the following brokers to see which best fits you:

  • Webull
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    Best For
    Intermediate Traders and Investors
    Overall Rating
    Read Review
    securely through Webull's website
    More Details
  • TD Ameritrade
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    Best For
    Options Trading
    Overall Rating
    Read Review
    securely through TD Ameritrade's website
    More Details
  • Tastyworks
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    Best For
    Options Education
    Overall Rating
    Read Review
    securely through Tastyworks 's website
    More Details

Currency or Derivatives?

Forex currency pairs and derivative options are two different asset classes, which naturally produce different strategies for success. When you are deciding the next market to take on, consider your own personality and investment goals before committing to 1 or the other.

If you have more than $30,000 and you are willing to forego some short-term growth for a smoother experience, the forex market may be your play. If you have less money, need built-in leverage and don’t mind a bit of volatility, then options could work for you.

As always, never invest money that you are not willing to lose. No matter where you stand in the battle of forex vs. options, these markets and asset types carry risk.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q
Do I need to implement a stop-loss?
A

Yes.  A stop-loss will automatically close out of trading if you reach a predetermined amount of losses. You can also put a stop-limit on a single currency you’re holding to tell your trader to sell if the currency ever reaches below a predetermined price. It’s important not to bid more than you can afford.

Q
How can forex charts help me?
A

Forex traders rely on charts in order to make calculated guesses about how a currency value will change by observing historical fluctuation patterns. Most charts have personalized setting options so you can view a variety of technical indicators to analyze price movements.

The 3 most common forex charts are bar chartsline charts and candlestick charts. See Benzinga’s article on Best Forex Charts for more details.

Q
What are the benefits of trading forex options?
A

Several of the advantages include liquidity and 24-hour trading.

Q
Can you make more money trading stock or forex options?
A

Forex options give you leverage to increase returns.

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