CFDs, or contracts for difference, are derivative instruments used by traders to places bets on all types of securities without actually holding the underlying assets. Trading of this type originated in London, but CFDs have taken off in popularity thanks to minimal fees and terrific margin percentages. CFDs are also highly speculative and banned in a number of countries, including the United States.
Getting Started with Trading CFDs
Getting started on CFDs is just as easy as opening a traditional brokerage account. Just find a broker that fits you and fund your account. Remember, CFD trading is banned in the United States, so no American regulatory authority allows this market.
Most CFD brokers follow the rules and are regulated by some international body, but some offer very little oversight. Make sure your broker is legit before signing up! Between 70 to 80% of retail investors lose money trading CFDs. Check the websites of the brokers listed below — they’ll flat-out tell you most people lose money trading CFDs. Be aware of the risks before you open an account.
Step 1: Find a Broker That Offers CFDs
You won’t find a regulated U.S.-based broker to trade CFDs since they’re banned in the U.S., but international traders still have plenty of brokerage choices. Before you choose a broker, make sure it’s regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), or another government entity. Working with a reputable online broker is one of the most important aspects of CFD trading.
Step 2: Find an Instrument You Want to Trade
Once you’ve found a broker that fits your needs, it’s time to make that first trade. Go through your broker’s selections and choose the type of market you want to bet on. Here’s what you’ll find available at most CFD providers:
- European stocks/indices
- U.S. stocks and indices
Pay attention to the spreads here, especially in a no-commission account. Commodity and forex trades are usually done on the thesis of economic and political uncertainty, while stock and index CFDs are done on a micro level. Pick a market and select your instrument to trade.
Step 3: Fund Your Account and Execute Your Trade
Once you’ve decided what type of CFD to buy, fund your account and decide how much capital you want to put into the trade. Remember, CFD brokers usually give you margin rates around 2-3%, compared to 50% with traditional brokers.
Only a small amount of money is needed to record big wins in the CFD market, but beware the hazards of CFD trading. If business is done with an unscrupulous broker, you might be out of money even if you’re on the right side of the trade.
What are CFDs?
A contract for difference is simply a financial agreement between two parties, one deemed the buyer and one deemed the seller. CFDs are written for a number of different bets on financial products, including stocks, indexes, currencies and commodities.
Sellers of CFDs expect the underlying asset to decline in price, while the buyer expects the price to increase. Let’s say a CFD is drawn up over PayPal shares, currently priced at $94.91 per share. If the price has increased to $96.97 by the end of the contract term, the seller must pay the buyer $2.06 per unit. In the stock market, 100 PayPal shares in a traditional brokerage account equate to a $206 gain on a $9,491 initial investment.
That’s a measly 2% return (4% if trading on margin) and commissions haven’t been factored in yet! However, CFD traders buy their investment on 5% margin. Instead of $9,491, only $474.55 is needed to get that $206 gain. That’s a 43% gain (give or take the cost of the spread) and no commission is due.
Opportunities like these make it easy to see why CFDs are popular, but leverage works both ways and inexperienced traders could easily lose more than they deposit.
CFDs are legal to trade in most of Europe, as well as Canada, Australia, Israel, Japan, Turkey, Russia, Singapore, Chile and South Africa. CFDs are not legal to trade in the United States, India, Brazil, Belgium and Hong Kong.
Why Trade CFDs?
CFDs have a few advantages over the financial products offered by traditional online brokerages:
- They offer high leverage: Most stockbrokers require 50% margin to trade with leverage. CFD providers require far less, often as low as 5%.
- There are low (or no) commissions: The spread is usually the only “fee” when making a CFD trade. Even if the CFD brokerage charges a commission, it is far lower than commissions offered by traditional brokerages.
- There are no day trading limits: In the United States, active traders who buy and sell the same stock on the same day can only make three such trades before being labeled as a pattern-day trader. To get around this rule, a trader must have $25,000 in his account. No such rules exist in the CFD market.
- There are no rules against shorting: In some markets, shorting a stock might be illegal or unallowed, which means stock options are the only way to bet on share price declines. CFDs have no rules against shorting and traders are free to bet against any financial product that can be contracted.
CFDs have a number of benefits over traditional stocks, but leverage of this magnitude isn’t for everyone. The CFD market is highly volatile and unregulated, so inexperienced traders could lose more than their initial investment if they aren’t careful.
Benzinga's Top Picks for CFD Brokers
Ready to start trading CFDs? It's important you work with the right broker that can meet your trading needs. Here are some reputable brokers to get you started with CFD trading.
- securely through eToro Forex's websiteBest For:Demo Accounts
CFD trading is not available to U.S. users. 76% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.
- securely through Forex.com NON US's websiteBest For:Forex Trading in and Outside the U.S.
CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 68% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.
Let the CFD Trading Begin
CFDs offer flexibility, allowing traders to go both long and short. They also offer access to a wider range of markets than traditional stock trading. Making them attractive to many traders who may not have access to certain markets or who want more flexibility in their trading.
CFDs are currently banned from the United States, although reception appears to be warming up to them. Instruments like these are highly volatile and reputable CFD brokers admit that most of their clients do lose money. If you still want to travel down this road, take a look at the brokers listed above. You’ll likely find exactly what you’re looking for.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is CFD trading profitable?
Yes, CFD trading can be a highly profitable way to make money in the financial markets. CFDs, or Contracts for Difference, are financial contracts that allow you to speculate on the price movements of an asset without owning it. CFD trading allows traders to benefit from both rising and falling prices, enabling them to effectively trade in both directions.
How do beginners trade CFDs?
While CFDs can be a profitable venture, it is important to understand the risks and rewards associated with CFD trading before beginning. For beginners, there are certain steps they should take in order to ensure successful trades. Such as researching the market, creating a trading strategy, and developing a risk management plan.
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 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.