Margin Trading: What Is Buying On Margin?
  1. Margin Trading: Introduction
  2. Margin Trading: What Is Buying On Margin?
  3. Margin Trading: The Dreaded Margin Call
  4. Margin Trading: The Advantages
  5. Margin Trading: The Risks
  6. Margin Trading: Conclusion

Margin Trading: What Is Buying On Margin?

The Basics
Buying on margin is borrowing money from a broker to purchase stock. You can think of it as a loan from your brokerage. Margin trading allows you to buy more stock than you'd be able to normally. To trade on margin, you need a margin account. This is different from a regular cash account, in which you trade using the money in the account. By law, your broker is required to obtain your signature to open a margin account. The margin account may be part of your standard account opening agreement or may be a completely separate agreement. An initial investment of at least $2,000 is required for a margin account, though some brokerages require more. This deposit is known as the minimum margin. Once the account is opened and operational, you can borrow up to 50% of the purchase price of a stock. This portion of the purchase price that you deposit is known as the initial margin. It's essential to know that you don't have to margin all the way up to 50%. You can borrow less, say 10% or 25%. Be aware that some brokerages require you to deposit more than 50% of the purchase price.

You can keep your loan as long as you want, provided you fulfill your obligations. First, when you sell the stock in a margin account, the proceeds go to your broker against the repayment of the loan until it is fully paid. Second, there is also a restriction called the maintenance margin, which is the minimum account balance you must maintain before your broker will force you to deposit more funds or sell stock to pay down your loan. When this happens, it's known as a margin call. We'll talk about this in detail in the next section.

Borrowing money isn't without its costs. Regrettably, marginable securities in the account are collateral. You'll also have to pay the interest on your loan. The interest charges are applied to your account unless you decide to make payments. Over time, your debt level increases as interest charges accrue against you. As debt increases, the interest charges increase, and so on.

Therefore, buying on margin is mainly used for short-term investments. The longer you hold an investment, the greater the return that is needed to break even. If you hold an investment on margin for a long period of time, the odds that you will make a profit are stacked against you.

Not all stocks qualify to be bought on margin. The Federal Reserve Board regulates which stocks are marginable. As a rule of thumb, brokers will not allow customers to purchase penny stocks, over-the-counter Bulletin Board (OTCBB) securities or initial public offerings (IPOs) on margin because of the day-to-day risks involved with these types of stocks. Individual brokerages can also decide not to margin certain stocks, so check with them to see what restrictions exist on your margin account.

A Buying Power Example
Let's say that you deposit $10,000 in your margin account. Because you put up 50% of the purchase price, this means you have $20,000 worth of buying power. Then, if you buy $5,000 worth of stock, you still have $15,000 in buying power remaining. You have enough cash to cover this transaction and haven't tapped into your margin. You start borrowing the money only when you buy securities worth more than $10,000.

This brings us to an important point: the buying power of a margin account changes daily depending on the price movement of the marginable securities in the account. Later in the tutorial, we'll go over what happens when securities rise or fall.

Margin Trading: The Dreaded Margin Call

  1. Margin Trading: Introduction
  2. Margin Trading: What Is Buying On Margin?
  3. Margin Trading: The Dreaded Margin Call
  4. Margin Trading: The Advantages
  5. Margin Trading: The Risks
  6. Margin Trading: Conclusion
  1. Put-Call Parity

    A principle that defines the relationship between the price of ...
  2. Maturity

    The period of time for which a financial instrument remains outstanding. ...
  3. Employee Stock Option - ESO

    A stock option granted to specified employees of a company. ESOs ...
  4. Maintenance Margin

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

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

    The most basic or standard version of a financial instrument, ...
  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. What is a stock split? Why do stocks split?

    All publicly-traded companies have a set number of shares that are outstanding on the stock market. A stock split is a decision ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How do I place an order to buy or sell shares?

    It is easy to get started buying and selling stocks, especially with the advancements in online trading since the turn of ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Is there a difference between financial spread betting and arbitrage?

    Financial spread betting is a type of speculation that involves a highly leveraged derivative product, whereas arbitrage ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What does a high turnover ratio signify for an investment fund?

    If an investment fund has a high turnover ratio, it indicates it replaces most or all of its holdings over a one-year period. ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How does a forward contract differ from a call option?

    Forward contracts and call options are different financial instruments that allow two parties to purchase or sell assets ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Gross Profit

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

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

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

    Expenses associated with the maintenance and administration of a business on a day-to-day basis.
  5. Cost Of Funds

    The interest rate paid by financial institutions for the funds that they deploy in their business. The cost of funds is one ...
  6. Cost Accounting

    A type of accounting process that aims to capture a company's costs of production by assessing the input costs of each step ...
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!