When an investor uses a margin account, he or she is essentially borrowing to increase the possible return on investment. Most often, investors use margin accounts when they want to invest in equities by using the leverage of borrowed money to control a larger position than the amount they'd otherwise by able to control with their own invested capital. These margin accounts are operated by the investor's broker and are settled daily in cash. But margin accounts are not limited to equities - they are also used by currency traders in the forex market.

Investors interested in trading in the forex markets must first sign up with either a regular broker or an online forex discount broker. Once an investor finds a proper broker, a margin account must be set up. A forex margin account is very similar to an equities margin account - the investor is taking a short-term loan from the broker. The loan is equal to the amount of leverage the investor is taking on.

Before the investor can place a trade, he or she must first deposit money into the margin account. The amount that needs to be deposited depends on the margin percentage that is agreed upon between the investor and the broker. For accounts that will be trading in 100,000 currency units or more, the margin percentage is usually either 1% or 2%. So, for an investor who wants to trade $100,000, a 1% margin would mean that $1,000 needs to be deposited into the account. The remaining 99% is provided by the broker. No interest is paid directly on this borrowed amount, but if the investor does not close his or her position before the delivery date, it will have to be rolled over, and interest may be charged depending on the investor's position (long or short) and the short-term interest rates of the underlying currencies.

In a margin account, the broker uses the $1,000 as security. If the investor's position worsens and his or her losses approach $1,000, the broker may initiate a margin call. When this occurs, the broker will usually instruct the investor to either deposit more money into the account or to close out the position to limit the risk to both parties.

To learn more, see Getting Started In Forex, A Primer On The Forex Market and Getting Started In Foreign Exchange Futures.

  1. Can mutual funds invest in options and futures?

    Mutual funds invest in not only stocks and fixed-income securities but also options and futures. There exists a separate ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How do futures contracts roll over?

    Traders roll over futures contracts to switch from the front month contract that is close to expiration to another contract ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Why do companies enter into futures contracts?

    Different types of companies may enter into futures contracts for different purposes. The most common reason is to hedge ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What does a futures contract cost?

    The value of a futures contract is derived from the cash value of the underlying asset. While a futures contract may have ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What are the goals of covered interest arbitrage?

    The goals of covered interest arbitrage include enabling investors to trade volatile currency pairs without risk as well ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How does a broker decide which customers are eligible to open a margin account?

    Brokers have the sole discretion to determine which customers may open margin accounts with them, although there are regulations ... Read Full Answer >>
Related Articles
  1. Stock Analysis

    Is the Stock Market Crashing? 5 Signs to Consider

    Learn about some signs of a potential stock market crash including a high level of margin debt, lots of IPOs, M&A activity and technical factors.
  2. Forex Education

    The Most Famous Forex Traders Of All Time

    The five most famous forex traders share common virtues such as strong self-confidence.
  3. Investing Basics

    What Does Plain Vanilla Mean?

    Plain vanilla is a term used in investing to describe the most basic types of financial instruments.
  4. Investing

    Oil: Why Not to Put Faith in Forecasts

    West Texas Intermediate oil futures have recently made pronounced movements. What do they bode for the world market?
  5. Economics

    Is the U.S. Economy Ready for Liftoff?

    The Fed continues to delay normalizing rates, citing inflation concerns and “global economic and financial developments” in explaining its rationale.
  6. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    The Risks of Investing in Inverse ETFs

    Discover analyses of the risks inherent to inverse exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that investors must understand before considering an investment in this type of ETF.
  7. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Top 4 Inverse Equities ETFs

    Explore analysis of some of the most popular inverse and leveraged-inverse ETFs that track equity indexes, and learn about the suitability of these ETFs.
  8. Forex Fundamentals

    Oil & Currencies: Understanding Their Correlation

    Crude oil shows tight correlation with movements in many currency pairs.
  9. Forex

    How Much Leverage Is Right for You in Forex Trades

    It isn’t economics or global finance that trip up first-time forex traders. Instead, a basic lack of knowledge on how to use leverage is at the root of trading losses.
  10. Stock Analysis

    Coca-Cola Vs. PepsiCo: Which Stock Should You Buy?

    Learn about the bull case for Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. Find out which is more attractive for investors, and learn about the strengths of each company.
  1. Maintenance Margin

    The minimum amount of equity that must be maintained in a margin ...
  2. Implied Volatility - IV

    The estimated volatility of a security's price.
  3. Plain Vanilla

    The most basic or standard version of a financial instrument, ...
  4. Equity

    Equity is the value of an asset less the value of all liabilities ...
  5. Derivative

    A security with a price that is dependent upon or derived from ...
  6. Debt/Equity Ratio

    Debt/Equity Ratio is debt ratio used to measure a company's financial ...

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Zero-Sum Game

    A situation in which one person’s gain is equivalent to another’s loss, so that the net change in wealth or benefit is zero. ...
  2. Capitalization Rate

    The rate of return on a real estate investment property based on the income that the property is expected to generate.
  3. Gross Profit

    A company's total revenue (equivalent to total sales) minus the cost of goods sold. Gross profit is the profit a company ...
  4. Revenue

    The amount of money that a company actually receives during a specific period, including discounts and deductions for returned ...
  5. Normal Profit

    An economic condition occurring when the difference between a firm’s total revenue and total cost is equal to zero.
  6. Operating Cost

    Expenses associated with the maintenance and administration of a business on a day-to-day basis.
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!