By Jeffrey Cammack Updated: May 29, 2020

Forex brokers are companies that provide traders with a trading platform and access to the foreign exchange market. There are hundreds of Forex brokers and South African residents can legally trade with any of them, whether the broker is based in South Africa or not.

Forex brokers are not created equal and the type of service of they offer can vary. Differences in trading conditions, trading platforms, trading assets and educational support can hugely affect your trading experience.

South African Forex traders are not the same either, we all have different levels of knowledge and different needs. No single South African broker will be the best for all South African Forex traders. This is why we provide you with detailed information on each Forex broker on this list, so you can decide which of these brokers is best for you.

To make this list of the best South African Forex brokers we judged each broker on several factors: How well regulated they are, how much they charge, what trading platforms they have available and how good they are for beginner traders:

Broker Regulation: Forex brokers with offices in South Africa must be regulated by the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA), which ensures a safe and fair environment for traders. Some international brokers prefer not to have a South African office, which is not always a bad thing. Most brokers who offer their services to South African residents are already regulated by strict national authorities, such as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK.

Broker Minimum Deposit: Most brokers will require a minimum amount of money from you to open an account; this is called the minimum deposit. For some brokers this will be 10 USD, for others it may be 100 USD or even 200 USD. Some brokers will require even larger deposits for accounts with improved trading conditions.

Broker Trading Conditions: Trading conditions will affect how much it will cost you to make a trade. Most of this cost is in the spread, which we will discuss in more detail below. Another trading condition we consider is the leverage available. Leverage is how much you can borrow from a broker to make a trade, a risky but essential part of Forex trading.

Broker Trading Platforms: Brokers will always offer you a trading platform to access the Forex market. Some brokers have their own software, but many use programs that you can download to your computer or mobile phone. Forex traders value choice and the best Forex brokers will offer a range of platforms with their own advantages and disadvantages.

Brokers for Beginners: Some brokers are better than others for beginners. The best brokers for beginners will have lots of educational material and excellent customer support. Some brokers offer one-on-one training and live webinars. It is important for beginner Forex traders to also have a demo account that will not expire, so you can be completely comfortable with the market and the trading platform before you start trading with your own money.

Each Forex broker on this list has excellent regulation, comprehensive education sections, demo accounts for beginners, and many of them have ZAR trading accounts. ZAR trading accounts are useful for South African Forex traders because you will not have to pay currency conversion fees to open an account.

These are the best performing Forex brokers in South Africa based on our expert's reviews

By Jeffrey Cammack Updated: May 29, 2020
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  • Broker
    AvaTrade

    AvaTrade  - Best Forex Broker in South Africa

    REGULATED BY
    ASIC ASIC
    FSCA FSCA
    B.V.I FSC B.V.I FSC
    FSA FSA
    Trading Desk Type
    Minimum Deposit
    USD 100
    Trading Conditions
    Trading Platforms
    • MT4
    • MT5

    AvaTrade is one of the largest brokers in the world, with more than 200,000 registered clients globally and regulation from ASIC and the South African FSCA. Trading conditions are uniformly excellent, with a wide range of assets to choose from and spreads starting at 0.9 pips on the EUR/USD and 1.1 pips on the USD/JPY. A minimum deposit of 100 USD is required to open the single account, but higher minimum deposits grant access to a personal account manager, 20% deposit bonus and the DupliTrade copy trading platform.

    AvaTrade has full support for MT4, with hedging, scalping and the use of EAs and other trading robots all allowed. Deposit and withdrawals are fast and free, withdrawal times to e-wallets will take a maximum of 24 hours, though are often much quicker. AvaTrade also offers clients with deposits of more than 500 USD access to AutoChartist, a powerful pattern recognition tool which seeks out trading opportunities based on deep technical analysis of markets.

    Swap-free accounts are also available for Muslim clients and with low fees, tight spreads, a range of trading tools and great customer service, AvaTrade is an easy broker to recommend.

    • Good for beginners
    • Well regulated
    • Low minimum deposit
    • Dealing desk
    • Limited education
    AccountSpread FromCommissionExecutionMin. Deposit
    Islamic1.2 pipsNoneInstantUSD 100 Account Details
    Professional0.9 pipsNoneInstantUSD 100 Account Details
    Retail0.9 pipsNoneInstantUSD 100 Account Details
  • Broker
    FXTM

    FXTM  - Most Trusted Broker

    REGULATED BY
    CySEC CySEC
    FCA FCA
    FSCA FSCA
    FSC FSC
    Trading Desk Type
    Minimum Deposit
    USD 10
    Trading Conditions
    Trading Platforms
    • MT4
    • MT5

    Established in 2011 and regulated by both CySEC and the UK’s FCA, FXTM has also held a licence from the South African FSCA since 2016. This means that funds are kept in local accounts and managed according to South African regulatory policies. 

    FXTM offers six accounts overall and splits its account types into two groups: Instant execution accounts and ECN Accounts:

    Instant Execution Accounts: The Cent Account, with a minimum deposit of only 10 USD, has spreads starting from 1.5 pips on the EUR/USD. With a higher minimum deposit of 100 USD you can open a Standard Account, where the spread is down to 1.3 pips on the EUR/USD. FXTM also offers a Shares Account for those interested in trading stocks.

    ECN Accounts: The ECN Zero Account has a 200 USD minimum deposit and minimum spreads of 1.5 pips on the EUR/USD but no commission. A 500 USD minimum deposit will get you access to the ECN Account, which has spreads as low as 0.1 pips on the EUR/USD and a commission of 2 USD per lot. FXTM also offers an ECN Pro Account, though this requires a minimum deposit of 25,000 USD.

    All accounts are available on the MT4 and MT5 platforms, except the Cent Account and Shares Account which are only available for MT4. Leverage is variable but can be raised to 1:1000 on most accounts type. Demo accounts are available for all accounts except the Shares Account and ECN Pro Account, demo accounts are unlimited and only expire after 90 days of inactivity. 

    FXTM has a great deal of quality educational material and market analysis, though this is focused on beginner traders. Swap-free accounts are also available for Muslim clients and hedging and scalping are both allowed.

    • Good for beginners
    • Excellent education
    • Well regulated
    • Low minimum deposit
    • Expensive withdrawals
    AccountSpread FromCommissionExecutionMin. Deposit
    Cent Account1.5 pipsNoneInstantUSD 10 Account Details
    Standard Account1.3 pipsNoneInstantUSD 100 Account Details
    ECN Zero Account1.5 pipsNoneMarketUSD 200 Account Details
    ECN Account0.1 pips$2.00MarketUSD 500 Account Details
    FXTM Pro Account0.0 pipsNoneMarketUSD 25000 Account Details
  • Broker
    Blackstone Futures

    Blackstone Futures  - Best Research

    REGULATED BY
    FSCA FSCA
    Trading Desk Type
    Minimum Deposit
    ZAR 1000
    Trading Conditions
    Trading Platforms
    • MT4
    • Cloud Trade

    Based in Johannesburg and active since 2009, BlackStone Futures is an established and well-regarded FSCA regulated broker.

    Trading conditions are particularly good for a South African broker, with both ZAR and USD accounts offered on the MT4 and CloudTrade platforms. Minimum spreads are as low as 0.6 pips on major pairs and STP execution ensures no conflict of interest and limited slippage or requotes. Maximum leverage is 400:1 but BlackStone Futures responsibly only offers this to experienced traders with a proven track record.

    BlackStone Futures has wisely invested in educating new traders and the educational material available here is of a higher quality than we are used to seeing at local brokers. Both webinars and in-person classes are offered, alongside a collection of guides and educational articles.

    Deposits and withdrawals are fast and free for South African clients, with withdrawals to local bank accounts posting same-day via the OZOW payment platform.

    Overall, BlackStone Futures are a responsible and dependable South African broker with the trading conditions and funding policies to keep all traders satisfied.

    • ZAR accounts
    • Tight spreads
    • Fast and free withdrawals
    • Limited platform choice
    • Local regulation only
    AccountSpread FromCommissionExecutionMin. Deposit
    USD Account0.6 pipsNoneMarketUSD 100 Account Details
    ZAR Account0.6 pipsNoneMarketZAR 1000 Account Details
  • Broker
    HotForex

    HotForex  - Best Trading Conditions

    REGULATED BY
    CySEC CySEC
    FCA FCA
    FSCA FSCA
    DFSA DFSA
    FSC FSC
    Trading Desk Type
    Minimum Deposit
    ZAR 70
    Trading Conditions
    Trading Platforms
    • MT4
    • MT5

    An STP broker with tight spreads and low minimum deposits, HotForex is also extremely well regulated, with oversight from CySEC, the FCA and South Africa’s FSCA.

    With six different trading accounts, including the market execution Zero Account, traders will be spoiled for choice. Trading conditions at HotForex differ depending on account type, with minimum deposits starting at 70 ZAR on the Micro Account. The Micro, HF Cory, Auto, Premium and Premium Pro accounts have spreads starting at 1.0 pips and leverage starting at 400:1, though this can be increased to 1000:1. The Zero Spread account requires a minimum deposit of 2800 ZAR (200 USD), has a spread starting at 0.0 pips and a cost of 3 USD (6 USD round trip) commission per lot.

    Deposits and withdrawals are free and fast, and we recommend HotForex to new traders due to the high quality of its well-structured educational material and unlimited demo accounts. Both MT4 and MT5 are fully supported with a host of tools available for either platform, including free VPS hosting, free access to Autochartist and a collection of Premium Trader Tools such as live sentiment and correlation tracking, tick charts and an MT5 indicator package.

    Swap-free accounts are available, hedging and scalping are both allowed, and HotForex runs several bonus schemes - including demo account contests and a 2 USD rebate for every lot traded.

    • Low minimum deposit
    • Tight spreads
    • Well regulated
    • Good range of accounts
    • Limited base currencies
    AccountSpread FromCommissionExecutionMin. Deposit
    Micro1.0 pipsNoneMarketUSD 5 Account Details
    Islamic1.0 pipsNoneMarketUSD 100 Account Details
    Premium1.0 pipsNoneMarketUSD 100 Account Details
    Auto1.0 pipsNoneMarketUSD 200 Account Details
    Zero0.0 pips$3.00MarketUSD 200 Account Details
    HFCopy1.0 pipsNoneMarketUSD 300 Account Details
    Premium Pro1.0 pipsNoneMarketUSD 5000 Account Details
  • Broker
    XM

    XM  - Best Overall Broker

    REGULATED BY
    CySEC CySEC
    ASIC ASIC
    IFSC IFSC
    Trading Desk Type
    Minimum Deposit
    USD 5
    Trading Conditions
    Trading Platforms
    • MT4
    • MT5

    A large and heavily awarded market maker, XM was founded in 2009 and is particularly well-regulated - with oversight from all three major regulators: CySEC, ASIC and the FCA.

    XM offers three account types - the Micro, Standard and the XM Ultra Low - with a maximum leverage of 1:888 available on all three. Spreads are tightest on the XM Ultra Low Account, with average spreads on the EUR/USD at 0.7 pips. Spreads on the Micro Account and Standard Account are wider, with EUR/USD spreads usually around 1.6 pips, but minimum deposit on these accounts is only 5 USD, while minimum deposit for the XM Ultra Low is 50 USD. All accounts are available as Islamic accounts, and XM charges no extra fee for this - neither in the spread or in commission. 

    XM has a strong focus on client retention via excellent customer support, a wide range of account types and highly competitive trading conditions. Also notable is the quality and depth of its educational and analytical output and unlimited demo accounts, of which five can be active simultaneously.

    Both the MT4 and MT5 trading platforms are supported with a no-requotes policy and deposits and withdrawals are fast and free, with XM covering all bank transfer costs on deposits and withdrawals over 200 USD. Scalping and hedging are both allowed across a wide range of assets and 57 currency pairs.

    • Well regulated
    • Excellent education
    • Wide range of assets
    • Fast and free withdrawals
    • Dealing desk
    AccountSpread FromCommissionExecutionMin. Deposit
    Micro1.0 pipsNoneInstantUSD 5 Account Details
    Standard1.0 pipsNoneInstantUSD 5 Account Details
    XM Ultra Low0.6 pipsNoneInstantUSD 50 Account Details
    XM Zero0.6 pips$7.00InstantUSD 100 Account Details
  • Broker
    FxPro

    FxPro  - Best Trading Platforms

    REGULATED BY
    FCA FCA
    CySEC CySEC
    FSCA FSCA
    DFSA DFSA
    SCB SCB
    Trading Desk Type
    Minimum Deposit
    USD 100
    Trading Conditions
    Trading Platforms
    • MT4
    • MT5
    • cTrader
    • FxProEdge

    A strictly no dealing desk (NDD) broker, FxPro is known for its fast market execution and first-class international regulation, with oversight from the FCA, CySEC and the South African FSCA. A wide range of account currencies are available, including ZAR, and over 70 currency pairs are available to trade.

    FxPro offers three account types, depending on which platforms you wish to use. MT4, MT5 and cTrader are all supported, with the cTrader account having the tightest spreads in return for a commission of 4.5 USD per lot traded, while the MT4 and MT5 accounts incorporate the fees in the spread. Spreads on the cTrader Account can get as low as 0.1 pips on the EUR/USD but often average about 0.4 pips. Spreads on the MT4 and MT5 accounts are decent, averaging about 1.5 pips on the EUR/USD, and fixed spreads are available on the MT4 account - though these are slightly higher at 1.6 pips.

    The minimum deposit for all accounts is 100 USD, though FXPro recommends a balance of 500 USD before you start trading, and deposits and withdrawals are fast and free for all funding methods. While FXPro does allow South African traders to deposit in ZAR, be aware that your trading will still take place in USD - so currency conversion costs will apply.

    Overall, FxPro is a solid, dependable broker with great platform choice and competitive trading conditions for all types of traders.

    • Well regulated
    • Great platform choice
    • Tight spreads
    • Limited education
    AccountSpread FromCommissionExecutionMin. Deposit
    FxPro cTrader0.45 pips$4.50MarketUSD 100 Account Details
    FxPro MT41.2 pipsNoneMarketUSD 100 Account Details
    FxPro MT51.52 pipsNoneMarketUSD 100 Account Details
    Islamic1.2 pipsVariableMarketUSD 100 Account Details
  • REGULATED BY
    CySEC CySEC
    ASIC ASIC
    Trading Desk Type
    Minimum Deposit
    USD 100
    Trading Conditions
    Trading Platforms
    • MT4

    Founded in 2001, easyMarkets is a large but standard market maker, it states its values as Simple, Honest and Transparent and much of its product offering reflects this aspiration. Traders will find three simple live accounts, distinguished by the required minimum deposit, and the same set of services no matter which account you open – including an account manager, platform tour, Forex education, and an introduction to technical and fundamental analysis.

    Trading conditions are good, with fixed spreads on all accounts, 103 currency pairs to trade and leverage of 1:400. On the Standard Account, which requires a 100 USD minimum deposit, spreads on the EUR/USD are 1.9 pips, this tightens to 1.4 pips on the Premium Account (2000 USD minimum deposit) and even further to 0.9 pips on the VIP Account (and eyewatering 10,000 USD minimum deposit).

    Where easyMarkets really shines is in its innovative trading tools. easyMarkets was the first to introduce negative balance protection and guaranteed stop loss, and it now offers the unique easyTrade, Freeze Rate and dealCancellation tools, all intended to assist new traders and keep trading transparent and simple.

    MT4 is fully supported, though to take advantage of the tools mentioned above, traders will need to use the easyMarkets platform, a robust and simple platform that many beginner traders will find easier to use.

    • Well regulated
    • Wide range of assets
    • Innovative trading tools
    • Limited platform choice
    • Limited account options
    AccountSpread FromCommissionExecutionMin. Deposit
    Islamic1.9 pipsNoneInstantUSD 100 Account Details
    Standard1.9 pipsNoneInstantUSD 100 Account Details
    Premium1.4 pipsNoneInstantUSD 2000 Account Details
    VIP0.9 pipsNoneInstantUSD 10000 Account Details
    Super VIP1.2 pipsNoneInstantUSD 50000 Account Details
  • REGULATED BY
    CySEC CySEC
    ASIC ASIC
    Trading Desk Type
    Minimum Deposit
    USD 200
    Trading Conditions
    Trading Platforms
    • MT4
    • MT5
    • cTrader

    A well-regulated Australian ECN broker, IC Markets is consistently one of our highest rated brokers – ranking well for its regulation, platform choice, customer service and trading conditions.

    Oversight comes from both CySEC and ASIC, ensuring a fair and secure trading environment and all three major platforms are supported with a single account type per platform. The MT4 account is commission-free and includes its fee in the relatively low spread, averaging 1.1 pips on the  EUR/USD and equally tight across all majors pairs. The cTrader and MT5 accounts attract a commission per trade but both have spreads down to 0 pips (averaging 0.1 pips on the EUR/USD) and the cTrader account has a lower commission of 3 USD per lot (MT5 commission is 3.5 USD per lot). The minimum deposit on all three accounts is 200 USD and 64 currency pairs are available to trade with scalping and hedging both allowed.

    Deposits and withdrawals are fast and free, customer service is best in class and cutting-edge trading technology ensures ultra-fast order execution across all platforms. The only minor downside to IC Markets’ offering is a lack of structured trading course for beginners, but frequent market analysis is available through the IC Markets blog and the Trading Central application.

    • Well regulated
    • Tight spreads
    • Wide range of assets
    • Great platform choice
    • High minimum deposit
    • Limited market analysis
    AccountSpread FromCommissionExecutionMin. Deposit
    RAW - cTrader0.0 pips$3.00MarketUSD 200 Account Details
    RAW - MetaTrader0.0 pips$3.50MarketUSD 200 Account Details
    Standard - MetaTrader1.0 pipsNoneMarketUSD 200 Account Details
  • REGULATED BY
    FSCA FSCA
    Trading Desk Type
    Minimum Deposit
    USD 250
    Trading Conditions
    Trading Platforms
    • MT4
    • Sirix

    Active since 2012, CM Trading is an FSCA-regulated South African broker with a large client base and competitive spreads. A market-maker broker, CM Trading supports both MT4 and the Sirix Webtrader and hosts a range of trading tools, including the CopyKat copy-trading system and the Guardian Angel automated feedback tool.

    Four account options are available, each with a different level of required minimum deposit - the Bronze Account offers spreads on the EUR/USd of 1.5 pips and can be opened with 250 USD - but all have a maximum leverage of 200:1. The other three accounts require a much higher level of minimum deposit (Silver Account: 1000 USD, Gold Account: 10,000 USD, Premium Account: 25,000 USD) but spreads are tighter with the EUR/USD spread at 0.9 pips on the Gold Account. The higher tier accounts also come with other perks including risk-free trades and personal account managers

    Education and market analysis are basic but available and customer support is available 24/5 via a range of methods. Deposit and withdrawals are fast for South African customers, though fees for both deposits and withdrawals are quite high. We recommend getting in touch with CM Trading customer support for more information on funding fees.

    • Good for beginners
    • Great customer support
    • Copy trading accounts
    • Expensive withdrawals
    • Local regulation only
    AccountSpread FromCommissionExecutionMin. Deposit
    Bronze1.5 pipsNoneInstantUSD 250 Account Details
    Silver1.2 pipsNoneInstantUSD 1000 Account Details
    Gold0.9 pipsNoneInstantUSD 10000 Account Details
    PremiumNot Published pipsNoneInstantUSD 25000 Account Details
  • REGULATED BY
    CySEC CySEC
    FCA FCA
    FSA-Seychelles FSA-Seychelles
    Trading Desk Type
    Minimum Deposit
    USD 100
    Trading Conditions
    Trading Platforms
    • MT4

    Tickmill is an FCA and CySEC regulated STP broker with tight spreads and full support for the MT4 platform.

    Tickmill offers three accounts, the Classic Account has a minimum deposit of 100 USD and a minimum spread of 1.6 pips with no commission taken on trades. The Pro Account is a direct market access account and also has a minimum deposit of 100 USD but spreads can be down to 0 pips on the major pairs. The Pro Account has a commission of 2 USD per lot per side (4 USD round turn), but this is one of the cheapest commissions available for a direct market access account.

    The direct market access VIP Account is only available for those with a minimum account balance of 50,000 USD but commission is only 1 USD per lot per side.

    Tickmill runs a zero fees policy on all deposits and withdrawals and will even reimburse any fees charged by your bank up to 100 USD. Educational material is strong and useful for new traders and Tickmill has some great trading tools, including AutoChartist and a discounted VPS service.

    • Tight spreads
    • Well regulated
    • Fast and free withdrawals
    • Wide range of assets
    • MT4 only
    AccountSpread FromCommissionExecutionMin. Deposit
    Classic1.6 pipsNoneMarketUSD 100 Account Details
    Pro0.0 pipsVariableMarketUSD 100 Account Details
    VIP0.0 pipsVariableMarketUSD 50000 Account Details
  • Broker
    REGULATED BY
    FCA FCA
    CySEC CySEC
    ASIC ASIC
    MAS MAS
    Trading Desk Type
    Minimum Deposit
    ZAR 1500
    Trading Conditions
    Trading Platforms
    • Plus500

    A London-based broker with a single account, Plus500 keep things simple and straightforward. Plus500 only allows trading on its own platform, but this is easy to use, quick for new traders to learn and has a solid reputation in the industry.

    The minimum deposit is 100 USD but spreads on the EUR/USD average about 0.7 pips – as spreads are variable, expect spreads to be wider in times of low liquidity or high volatility. No commission is ever charged on trades and leverage up to 300:1 is available, depending on your location and traded asset.

    Customer support is open 24/7, but education and market analysis are slightly lacking compared to Plus500’s competitors.

    • Well regulated
    • Wide range of assets
    • Limited education
    • Limited account options
    AccountSpread FromCommissionExecutionMin. Deposit
    Standard0.0 pipsNoneInstantUSD 100 Account Details

We pride ourselves on giving good advice, and we always put our readers first. When choosing partners, we do our research according to our review process which covers areas such as regulation, trading conditions, and the product offering.

We don't put just anyone up here. We put you first.

To pay the bills, and keep the lights on, we need a business model. That business model makes use of affiliate programs whereby we get a commission from partners featured on our website.

Our business model never influences our opinion of any partner, and the partner selection and review processes are separate. The compensation we receive from partners may affect how our lists are arranged, but the reviews are genuine, and the data is accurate. Our opinion can not be bought, and we always put our readers and their financial livelihoods first.

Critical Factors In Choosing a Forex Broker

  • Regulation is a critical factor when choosing a broker. Make sure your broker is regulated by either the FCA, CySEC or ASIC. FSCA regulation is also important as this means any complaints you have will be resolved through the South African legal system.
  • Consider the different Account Types on offer at your broker, most brokers offer swap-free Islamic accounts, and some offer unlimited demo accounts to practice with.
  • Think about whether you want a ZAR Account rather than a USD Account. Not many brokers offer ZAR accounts, but they do save you money in conversion fees and guarantee that your money is deposited with a local bank.
  • Choose a Trading Platform and find a broker that supports that platform. MetaTrader 4 is a safe choice as it’s the industry standard and there is a multitude of online tutorials.
  • Choose what Broker Type you want. Some brokers offer commission-free trading and are known as dealing desk brokers or market maker brokers. Some brokers charge commission but have tighter spreads, these are known as non-dealing desk brokers or direct market access brokers.
  • Always check for additional Broker Fees that may be charged. We always highlight these in our reviews, but common ones are deposit and withdrawal fees and currency conversion fees.
  • Find a broker with the Trading Conditions that will support your trading strategy. Think about how much Leverage you want to have available; keeping it low (100:1 or less) is a good idea if you are still learning how to trade.

How To Choose A Forex Broker

Forex brokers should be measured by regulation, account options, platform choice, trading conditions, and beginner friendliness. 

Regulation

Regulators ensure that brokers have a fair trading environment and anti-money laundering processes, all the while operating strict auditing oversight and ensuring client fund protection. Brokers that are regulated by more than one major regulator are considered more trustworthy.

The major regulators are:

These international regulators are respected for their commitment to consumer protection, strong oversight and swift enforcement of sanctions on fraudulent brokers.

The South African regulator is called the Financial Services Conduct Authority (FSCA) and is the most credible regulator on the African continent.

A trustworthy broker should be regulated by at least one of the major regulators or the FSCA. Brokers that are regulated by more than one regulator are considered more reliable.  

Be wary of brokers who are only regulated by small island states like St Vincent, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. These regulatory agencies are not as well regarded as the major international regulators as they give more leniency to brokers and less coverage for traders.

Also, be cautious of brokers who have just moved to South Africa. With the recent tightening of European and Australian regulations, several questionable brokers have moved into South Africa recruiting for traders.

Account Types

Each brokerage will have various account types, and there is a trend in the industry to have fewer account types available than in years past. The primary distinction between account types is between the Live accounts, Demo accounts, and Swap-free accounts. Managed accounts are available, but rare.

Live Accounts

These accounts use real money, and everything that you do in this type of account will affect your profit or loss.

Demo Accounts

These are accounts loaded with virtual money and do not expose a trader to any risk. Demo accounts allow traders to test the trading platform, customer service, research area, and trading conditions before committing real money. Most demo accounts are time-limited but are easy to reactivate. These are the best demo accounts.

Swap-Free (Islamic) Accounts

Islamic accounts, or swap-free accounts, are an optional trading account type which allows Forex traders to be compliant with the principles of Sharia law. In Sharia law, interest on loans is prohibited, so swap-free accounts don’t earn overnight interest on open positions.

Managed Accounts

Select brokers will operate a managed account for you, but it is rare. There are independent money managers who can manage your account while they are trading for themselves. It is vital that you read our article on managed accounts and understand the minimum deposit requirements and additional risks involved when trading CFDs.

Foreign currency (USD, EUR, GBP) or ZAR accounts?

Generally, having a ZAR account is a good thing; you will avoid any broker conversion fees and the currency conversions that banks and credit card companies charge when making a wire deposit or withdrawal. 

Brokers with ZAR accounts usually use South African bank accounts, where withdrawals and deposits are much faster and often happen instantly. With a USD account at an international broker, this will not always be the case.

Platform Choice

When it comes to choosing a broker to trade with, deciding on the right platform can make a substantial difference to a trading career. That said, your broker should support a platform you are comfortable using.

While a minority of brokers have proprietary platforms, others use mainstream trading platforms like MetaTrader and cTrader. 

MetaTrader 4 and 5 are the most common CFD trading platforms; however, MetaTrader’s older interface and complex setup make it less accessible to beginners. cTrader, on the other hand, has a more modern interface and is easier for beginner traders to set up.

If you are an experienced trader with a particular software choice in mind, or if you are a beginner seeking to learn more about platform options, we have put together a list of the best Forex trading platforms for traders and the brokers that support them.

All brokers have mobile trading apps, and some will have developed proprietary apps, but a vast majority rely on the MetaTrader software for IOS and Android.

Types of Forex Brokers

Forex brokers fall into two main categories – Direct Market Access (DMA) brokers and Market Maker brokers.  

Each broker category can be split into two subcategories. DMA brokers are divided into subcategories called ECN and ECN/STP, and market makers can have a dealing desk (DD) where the broker can alter trades before they are executed.  

Pure ECN Brokers

In the DMA category, a Pure ECN (or Electronic Communication Network) broker, will never interfere with your trade, and the only source of liquidity comes from other members of the network. ECN execution will mean that if there is no liquidity in the market, your trade will have slippage, and you may get a requote. 

Pure ECNs are entirely free of conflict of interest, but traders should expect requotes, and slower trade execution speeds. The top ECNs brokers are:

ECN (Electronic Communications Network) brokers usually place your orders directly through to third-party liquidity providers, usually large financial institutions or global banks. In a pure ECN environment, traders have direct access to interbank market prices and an accurate picture of the entire trading environment.

STP/ECN Brokers

An ECN/STP broker is an ECN broker using Straight Through Processing (STP) to place trades. With STP your order is sent directly to the counterparty through the Financial Information Exchange (FIX) protocol. The FIX protocol decreases trade execution time, reduces slippage and ensures that traders get the best available pricing. Some ECN/STP brokers will be counterparty to your trade to prevent requotes and reduce slippage.

Depending on the trader profile, or the trade itself, an ECN/STP broker will decide which execution method is in the best interest of the customer.

If there is liquidity available for a particular trade, then STP execution could be used.  But if it is better for liquidity to be taken from within the network, then ECN will be used.

This combination of execution types is intended to be able to help traders get liquidity and to execute trades faster. The top ECN/STPs are:

Market Makers

Market Makers, also called Dealing Desks, operate in a very different way. Instead of executing the trade on the market, market maker brokers are counterparty to the trade, and become, for all intents and purposes, the market. The top Market Makers are:

While this means that there will always be liquidity for any trade, being the counterparty implies that the broker is always trading against its client base and that it profits directly from the client’s losing trades. This opens up a direct conflict of interest.

Trading Conditions

Spreads

The spread, set by the broker and measured in pips, is the difference between the buy and sell price of a currency pair. This is the broker’s fee for providing access to the market and it gives traders and idea of how profitable their trades could be.

A trader can also tell from the spread if the buy and sell prices for a currency pair are far apart (wide) or close together (tight). If the spread is 15 pips, that is considered a wide spread, where a 0.4 pip spread is deemed to be tight.

Spreads on currency pairs differ between brokerages, so to maximise profits, a trader should always find a broker who has the tightest average spreads on the pairs they trade. If you are trading with market execution, remember that a per lot commission will be charged in conjunction with the spreads.

Leverage

Leverage is capital borrowed from a liquidity provider, via your broker, to amplify the volume of a Forex trade. Leverage is essential in Forex trading because the movements of the market are so small that if there were no way to increase the size of the trade, it would be near impossible for individual retail traders to profit from their trades.

Leverage is presented in a ratio format, e.g. 300:1 – in this case, a trader can increase the size of a trade by a maximum amount of 300 times. It’s important to remember that you will remain liable for all losses on the total leveraged amount of the trade.

Using high volumes of leverage dramatically increases the exposure of the trader to risk, which has led to some regulatory bodies like CySEC restricting leverage to 30:1 for retail traders. The maximum leverage offered varies among brokers, and some may also limit a client’s leverage based on their trading experience.

Trading Assets

A large broker will have many different assets available to trade, including Forex CFDs, cryptocurrencies, equities, commodities, precious metals and bonds. A good Forex broker should have 50+ FX pairs.

Scalping

A Forex scalping strategy is where a trader seeks to profit from sizeable rapid price changes in a short period. Scalping opportunities are usually created when significant unexpected news event happens, or when the equity markets open. A scalper, a trader who employs a scalping strategy, enters and exit trades several times a day, and closes all trades on the day they were opened.

Hedging

Hedging is protecting yourself against adverse price movements that would affect open trades and can be seen as a form of insurance. Direct hedging is a common hedging strategy, where a trader buys a currency pair and then sells the same pair at the same time. Not all brokers allow hedging on their platforms, but most DMA brokers do.

FAQs

I am a beginner trader, what should I look for in a broker?

As a beginner trader, choose a broker with an unlimited demo account, as this will give you the opportunity to practice before making a deposit. Limited demo accounts usually expire after 1-3 weeks, which is not enough time to learn how to profit from CFD trading.

Beginner traders should get educational support when starting, and each broker varies significantly in what material they provide. The minimum you should accept is some general videos and articles, but some brokers have invested in creating small trading universities that include video material as well as live webinars hosted by experts.

Each of our reviews has a section on the educational content to help beginner traders decide the best path forward.

How do I know I can trust a Forex broker?

Four things should be considered when determining if a broker may be trusted – regulation, trade execution method, client funds management, and industry recognition of their achievements.

The more major regulators the broker group is regulated by, the more oversight the group has. The number of regulators overseeing their processes gives a strong indication of the level of trust the government regulatory agencies have in them.

It is more of a concern if fewer major regulators regulate a market maker. Therefore, a heavily regulated market maker is considered more reputable than one with lesser regulation. It is noteworthy that some market makers have strong reputations and lots of client resources.

The execution method of trades is another component because if the broker profits from your loss – as is the case with market maker brokers – this can be seen as making the broker less trustworthy.

Most regulators require strict processes to keep client funds safe. This process includes placing client funds in segregated accounts at major banks in the local jurisdiction. Segregated bank accounts that are audited every evening means that client funds are protected against any bankruptcy.

Industry awards are given to brokers from journalists, financial watchdog organisations and their peers. While it can be argued that these award ceremonies are biased, they remain the best gauge industry recognition.

Do brokers trade against you?

If the broker is a market maker, then they are the market and will be trading against you by being the counterparty to your trade to create the liquidity you need. Since a vast majority of trades by retail traders are lost, a market maker is making money in most client trades. DMA brokers do not have any conflict of interest and do not trade against you.

How do brokers make money?

Market Makers will make money only from the spread – the difference between the buying and selling price of the currency pair. Since a Market Maker will become the counterparty to any trade, they will also make money when clients lose trades.

DMA brokers will make money from a tight spread and a commission, which is calculated on a per lot amount.

How to deposit with a broker?

Each broker is going to have different deposit methods, but all will have a deposit by credit/debit card and bank transfer option. Some will accept regional payment methods, but local deposit methods have not yet been adopted in South Africa. On occasion, brokers will accept Bitcoin deposits, and PayPal in addition to standard currency.

Which broker should I choose?

Traders have different requirements of Forex brokers, and thus there is no single best choice. This is how we compare them, and we offer insight into your choices. At the top of this article, there is a list of those that we believe are the best brokers for traders based on their reputation, platform, trading conditions and resources available to beginners.

How can I report scam brokers?

If you believe you have been scammed by your broker, the first thing to do is warn others and tell your story.  We have a report a scam broker form which we use to gather information so that we get the word out.  If you have been scammed, please complete the form.

Resources

These documents were used in the inspiration, research and data collection for this article.

FSCA Annual Report 2018 (pdf - 202 page)

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Trading Forex and CFDs is not suitable for all investors and comes with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 75-90% of retail investors lose money trading these products. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

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