Below you will find the best ECN brokers in South Africa. To review them, we opened both demo accounts and real accounts and deposited and traded R4000 of our money. We confirmed their status as ECN brokers by studying their client agreements and reviewing their trading costs to ensure they always have a variable spread and a commission. True ECN brokers do not have dealing desks and traders will experience both positive and negative slippage. Finally, a true ECN will never apply restrictions on trade sizes or stop loss and take profit limits.

When assessing these brokers, we rate the quality of their financial regulation and trading platform choice. We also read the fine print to get a grasp of how transparent each broker is with their clients. 

These are the best ECN Forex brokers in South Africa for 2021, according to our testing and our research.

English

These are the best ECN Brokers for 2021

Last updated on 3 Dec 2020
Updated 3 Dec 2020
by Editorial Director Jeffrey Cammackby Jeffrey Cammack
Jeffrey Cammack
All Brokers Regulated
All Brokers Regulated
by Trusted Authoritiesby Trusted Authorities
Trusted
1
Axitrader
Min. Deposit
USD 5
4.434.43
Min. Spread
0 pips
Fx Pairs
80+
EUR/USD Trading Cost per lotEUR/USD Trading Cost per lot Information
USD 12
Overall Rating
11110.54.43/ 5
AlertAccepts South African Clients. Average spread EUR/USD 1.20 pips on trading account with lowest minimum deposit. Max leverage 500:1. Islamic account available. MT4 & MT5 platforms supported. Axi Group is regulated by the FCA, ASIC and the DFSA.
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Built by traders, for traders, Axi is an ASIC and FCA regulated ECN broker for the serious trader, where traders execute their positions directly on the markets without any broker interference.

While the trading platform choice is limited to MT4, Axi has received strong industry recognition for their setup including Best MT4 Broker 2018 (Compare Forex Brokers Australia) and Best MT4 Provider 2018 (UK Forex Awards).

Joining Axi requires a $5 minimum deposit which gives you a strong MT4 setup and an ECN account.  This combination only highlights further that they are built by traders, for traders.

Pros
  • Low minimum deposit
  • Wide range of assets
  • Well regulated
  • Tight spreads
Cons
  • Poor customer service
  • Limited demo account
Read More About Axitrader
2
FXTM
Min. Deposit
USD 10
4.234.23
Min. Spread
0.10 pips
Fx Pairs
59
EUR/USD Trading Cost per lotEUR/USD Trading Cost per lot Information
USD 19
Overall Rating
11110.54.23/ 5
AlertAccepts South African Clients. Average spread EUR/USD 1.90 pips on trading account with lowest minimum deposit. Max leverage Flexible. Islamic account available. MT4 & MT5 platforms supported. Leverage offered can vary depending on country of residence, and your trading knowledge and experience. FXTM is regulated by CySEC, FCA, FSCA, and the FSC.
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FXTM is regulated by the FCA, CySEC and the FSCA in South Africa and the educational material offered is first-class. By keeping the focus on beginners looking for reasonable trading conditions, the FXTM team of educators and analysts have succeeded in creating a welcoming environment for new traders. Additionally, FXTM are one of the few brokers with 24/7 support, allowing new traders to get set up on weekends or holidays.

For the absolute beginner, FXTM has a great deal of training material to help new traders get started. Materials include articles, videos, webinars and a searchable glossary of new vocabulary. This is an excellent resource and many hours can be spent covering the basics of Forex Trading. There is an additional set of videos that cover analysis topics, and more detail on chart reading techniques.

FXTM has an open “Daily Market Analysis” section on their website where research analysts post bulletins that connect daily news items with analysis and actionable trading ideas. This can be combined with other sources to achieve a more comprehensive view of global events and the trading opportunities they represent.

The Standard Account has a minimum deposit of 100 USD and spreads start at 1.3 pips. FXTM also offers a Cent Account where the minimum deposit if only 10 USD but the spreads will be wider. If you can afford it, I would recommend starting with the Standard Account.

Pros
  • Good for beginners
  • Excellent education
  • Well regulated
  • Low minimum deposit
Cons
  • Expensive withdrawals
Read More About FXTM
3
FP Markets
Min. Deposit
USD 100
4.174.17
Min. Spread
0 pips
Fx Pairs
60+
EUR/USD Trading Cost per lotEUR/USD Trading Cost per lot Information
USD 7
Overall Rating
11110.54.17/ 5
AlertAccepts South African Clients. Average spread EUR/USD 0.1 pips on trading account with lowest minimum deposit. Max leverage 500:1. Islamic account available. MT4, MT5 & IRESS platforms supported. FP Markets is regulated by CySEC and ASIC.
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FP Markets is an ASIC-regulated, STP broker with simple account options and an exciting set of tools for traders with higher minimum deposits. Spreads are tight, even on the Standard Account, and the lack of dealing desk intervention for all accounts removes any concern over conflict of interest.

Trader education and market analysis are slightly weaker than other brokers, but the material presented is well-structured and useful. Overall, FP Markets is an excellent choice for beginner and more experienced traders alike.

Pros
  • Well regulated
  • Tight spreads
  • Good range of accounts
  • Great customer support
Cons
  • Expensive withdrawals
Read More About FP Markets
4
IC Markets
Min. Deposit
USD 200
4.264.26
Min. Spread
0.10 pips
Fx Pairs
60
EUR/USD Trading Cost per lotEUR/USD Trading Cost per lot Information
USD 7
Overall Rating
11110.54.26/ 5
AlertAccepts South African Clients. Average spread EUR/USD 0 pips with 7 USD commission round turn on the trading account with lowest minimum deposit. Max leverage 500:1. Islamic account available. MT4, MT5 & cTrader platforms supported. IC Markets is regulated by CySEC and ASIC.
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A hugely respected ECN broker, IC Markets has invested heavily to provide traders with the lowest spreads and fastest execution speeds possible – and has seen huge success as a result. ASIC and CySEC regulated and with support for MT4, MT5 and cTrader, this broker is serious about providing the best possible trading environment for its client base. 

Headquartered in downtown Sydney, IC Markets represents the best of the Australian Forex industry; beginner traders will welcome IC Markets’ simple account structure and responsive and informed customer service; the company understands customer retention involves a combination of tight spreads, cutting edge technology, fast trade execution and specialised support. 

Pros
  • Well regulated
  • Tight spreads
  • Wide range of assets
  • Great platform choice
Cons
  • High minimum deposit
  • Limited market analysis
Read More About IC Markets
5
IronFX
Min. Deposit
USD 100
4.194.19
Min. Spread
0 pips
Fx Pairs
85
EUR/USD Trading Cost per lotEUR/USD Trading Cost per lot Information
USD 11
Overall Rating
11110.54.19/ 5
AlertAccepts South African Clients. Average spread EUR/USD 0.2 pips on trading account with lowest minimum deposit. Max leverage 500:1. Islamic account available. Only MT4 platform supported. IronFX is regulated by CySEC, FCA, ASIC, and the FSCA - FSP:45276.
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IronFX, a brand of Notesco, was founded in 2010 with the goal of creating a trading company bringing together customized trading functionality, the widest suite of trading products, the best pricing, execution and liquidity.

Regulated incomparably better than most brokerages including the ASIC, the FCA, CySEC and the FSCA, and offices in over 50 countries around the world and 30 languages spoken by customer service, IronFX has taken their product offering to a global audience.

Pros
  • Well regulated
  • Tight spreads
  • Wide range of assets
Cons
  • Expensive withdrawals
Read More About IronFX
6
Vantage FX
Min. Deposit
USD 200
3.783.78
Min. Spread
0 pips
Fx Pairs
40
EUR/USD Trading Cost per lotEUR/USD Trading Cost per lot Information
USD 14
Overall Rating
1110.503.78/ 5
AlertAccepts South African Clients. Average spread EUR/USD 1.40 pips on trading account with lowest minimum deposit. Max leverage 500:1. Islamic account available. MT4 & MT5 platforms supported. VantageFX is regulated by the FCA & ASIC.
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A well-respected broker, VantageFX is regulated by the FCA and ASIC – both of which are tier 1 regulatory organizations.  With ECN/DMA trade execution on all accounts, tight spreads and support for MT4 and MT5, and a healthy welcome bonus, VantageFX is a great place for the serious beginner.  Customer service is available 24/5 and withdrawals are fast and free of charge, rounding off what we consider to be a solid trading experience.

Pros
  • Well regulated
  • Tight spreads
  • Fast and free withdrawals
  • Great platform choice
Cons
  • High minimum deposit
  • Limited education
Read More About Vantage FX
7
InstaForex
Min. Deposit
USD 150
3.323.32
Min. Spread
0 pips
Fx Pairs
110
EUR/USD Trading Cost per lotEUR/USD Trading Cost per lot Information
USD 30
Overall Rating
1110.503.32/ 5
AlertAccepts South African Clients. Average spread EUR/USD 3 pips on trading account with lowest minimum deposit. Max leverage 30:1. Islamic account available. MT4 platform supported. Instaforex is regulated by CySEC and FSC (British Virgin Islands).
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InstaForex is an award-winning broker offering good trading conditions with both market and instant execution across five different account types. With three market execution accounts, one of which is specifically built for scalping, two instant execution accounts with no minimum deposit, and a copy-trading service, InstaForex will appeal to a wide range of traders.

The market analysis and education sections feature regularly updated content for traders of all experience levels and MT4 is fully supported via download and webtrader.

Pros
  • Wide range of assets
  • Copy trading accounts
Cons
  • Limited market analysis
  • Limited education
  • Wide spreads
Read More About InstaForex
8
OctaFX
Min. Deposit
USD 50
4.104.10
Min. Spread
0 pips
Fx Pairs
28
EUR/USD Trading Cost per lotEUR/USD Trading Cost per lot Information
USD 11
Overall Rating
11110.54.10/ 5
AlertAccepts South African Clients. Average spread EUR/USD 1.10 pips on trading account with lowest minimum deposit. Max leverage 500:1. Islamic account available. MT4 & MT5 and cTrader platforms supported. OctaFX is regulated by CySEC.
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OctaFX is a CySEC regulated STP/ECN broker founded in 2011 that will appeal to all Forex traders, both beginners and professionals.  They have an excellent analytical section and offer a range of useful trading tools such as AutoChartist, copy trading and an account monitoring service so you can learn anonymously from other successful traders.

Trader education for beginners is well-presented and a generous bonus scheme exists for new deposits; platform support is almost unbeatable, with MT4, MT5 and cTrader all offered – but platforms are linked to account type and trading conditions.

Pros
  • Great platform choice
  • Fast and free withdrawals
  • Copy trading accounts
Cons
  • Limited education
  • Restrictive account types
Read More About OctaFX
9
ThinkMarkets
Min. Deposit
USD 5
3.983.98
Min. Spread
0 pips
Fx Pairs
36
EUR/USD Trading Cost per lotEUR/USD Trading Cost per lot Information
USD 12
Overall Rating
1110.503.98/ 5
AlertAccepts South African Clients. Average spread EUR/USD 1.20 pips with 0 USD commission round turn on the trading account with lowest minimum deposit. Islamic account available. MT4 & MT5 platforms supported. ThinkMarkets is regulated by the FSCA, FCA, and ASIC.
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ThinkMarkets is a very well-regulated international broker which has been operating in South Africa since 2017. It offers support for MT4, MT5 and its own ThinkTrader platform on two account types: One with a very low minimum deposit and the other a commission-based ECN account for more experienced traders.

Education is well-structured and useful for beginners, though market analysis is poor and sometimes left to in-platform third parties. Customer support is excellent and provided locally and execution times are world-class, perfect for automated trading.

Pros
  • Low minimum deposit
  • Well regulated
  • Great platform choice
Cons
  • Limited market analysis
  • Non-transparent spreads
Read More About ThinkMarkets
10
FBS
Min. Deposit
USD 1
3.773.77
Min. Spread
0 pips
Fx Pairs
37
EUR/USD Trading Cost per lotEUR/USD Trading Cost per lot Information
USD 10
Overall Rating
1110.503.77/ 5
AlertAccepts South African Clients. Average spread EUR/USD 1 pips on trading account with lowest minimum deposit. Max leverage 3000:1. Islamic account available. MT4 & MT5 platforms supported. FBS is regulated by CySEC and the IFSC.
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FBS offers tight spreads, a simple account structure and support for both iterations of MetaTrader; education and market analysis are both excellent and 24/7 customer service is always welcome for beginner traders.

The trading conditions on the Cent Account are exceptional for such a low minimum deposit and should ensure a steady influx of new traders, other accounts are equally impressive – with negative spreads on the ECN account for instance.

Pros
  • Tight spreads
  • Low minimum deposit
  • Excellent education
  • Excellent market analysis
Cons
  • Limited range of assets
  • Extreme leverage
Read More About FBS

What is an ECN Broker?

ECN Network

An ECN broker connects traders to a network of liquidity providers, unlike a Market Maker broker which takes trades on to its own books.

ECN stands for Electronic Communication Network. An ECN broker sits at the centre of this communication network, like a spider in a web. The other members of the network are liquidity providers (like banks, hedge funds and other brokers).

ECN stands for Electronic Communication Network

Every time a client places a trade with an ECN broker it collects prices from the members of this network and presents the trader with the tightest spread it could find.

Because the liquidity providers in this network are competing for your trade, ECN brokers have very tight spreads – often down to 0 pips at times of high volatility.

ECN Brokers have very tight spreads

Traditional brokers (Market Makers) have wider spreads because they charge a fee in the spread. But ECN brokers do not make any money from the spread. Instead, they will charge a commission, this is their fee for playing matchmaker and finding a counterparty to your trade.

ECN brokers charge a commission per trade

Some traders prefer to trade with ECN brokers because they have no conflict of interest. Most market maker brokers will trade against their clients, which means that they make money when their traders lose.

Because ECN brokers only act as an intermediary for a trade, they do not make money when traders lose. In fact, the reverse is true. Over time, a successful trader pays more in commission to an ECN broker, so ECN brokers want their clients to be profitable.

Happy Trader

ECN brokers make more money when traders profit

AND

Market Maker brokers make more money when traders lose

One common issue with ECN brokers is slippage and requotes. Because ECN brokers rely on external liquidity to match client’s trades, they are not always posted instantly. This can be a problem at times of high volatility – usually after a large event or data release – or at times of low liquidity – such as when most of the markets are closed.  This also means that the market can move past your stop-loss orders, and your losses may exceed your expectations.

ECN Brokers have a higher risk of slippage and requotes

The last thing to be aware of with ECN brokers is that they generally require a larger minimum deposit – setting up and maintaining an ECN brokerage is an expensive business and traders will be charged more as a result.

ECN Brokers require higher minimum deposits

Which is the Best ECN Broker?

Axi is the best ECN broker. With competitive pricing on raw spreads, high liquidity, and fast execution Axi won our Award for Best ECN Broker of 2020

Axi ECN

Other highlights include a detailed and well-structured course for beginners and leading market analysis for all clients. Axi combines exceptional ECN trading conditions with world-class regulatory oversight. Read our full Axi review here.

What is the difference between an ECN Broker and a Market Maker Broker?

When you place a trade with an ECN broker, the counterparty to your trade will be a liquidity provider from the broker’s network. When you place a trade with a market maker broker, the broker themselves will be the counterparty to your trade. Market Makers create an artificial market for their clients – hence the name.

Market Makers always act as counterparty to your trade

Market Makers are also known as dealing desk brokers, as all trades will be filled at the rates set by the broker’s internal dealing desk.  This business model, which means a market maker will always profit from their clients’ losses, generates an inherent conflict of interest which many traders are cautious of.

Currently, most well-regulated market makers are well regarded in the industry, despite the conflict of interest, and they go to great lengths to ensure their clients are not being unfairly treated.

But, Market Maker brokers are not a common choice for experienced Forex traders. Traders are limited to trading with one counterparty who is always trading against you and never on the open market with dynamic spreads.

That said, if you do want instant execution of your trades and you don’t want to pay a commission, a trusted market maker is a good idea.

How to Identify an ECN Broker?

There are a few ways to check: ECN brokers will describe their execution model in their legal documents, ECN brokers will always have variable spreads, ECN brokers will not have any trading restrictions (trade size, stop-loss limits, scalping or hedging bans), and traders with an ECN broker will experience both negative and positive slippage.

Read the Broker Agreement

All regulated brokers are required by law to publish a Client Agreement and Order Execution Policy stipulating their execution methods. Some ECN brokers will also act as Market Maker in certain circumstances, so this is not an always foolproof method of determining a broker type. See below for an extract from Pepperstone’s execution policy showing that they are an ECN broker.

Pepperstone Order Execution

Check that Spreads are Variable

ECN’s offer tight spreads and charge a commission per trade, and the spreads will also be variable. Fixed spreads are only offered by Market Makers, as they are not taken from a live and dynamic market. Below you can see that Axi publishes its live spreads on its website, these are variable and are taken from their network of liquidity providers.

Axi Spreads

Look for Trading Restrictions

ECN brokers will never restrict your trading methods or trade size. This means that all automated trading, scalping, hedging and large order sizes (anything of 5 lots or over) will all be allowed. If a broker restricts any of these then it is not an ECN broker.

A good example of a broker with these restrictions is Plus500, a well-known market maker:

Plus500 Restrictions

Slippage will be Positive and Negative

Slippage is the difference between the execution price and the order price at the time the order is submitted for execution. Slippage is a normal aspect of trading with ECN brokers, particularly for orders of a larger size and during times of thin liquidity and/or volatile market conditions.

Slippage can both positively and negatively impact your trading position. If you find that you are only experiencing negative slippage, then your broker is not using an ECN execution method. Another well known ECN broker is FxPro, which is dedicated to full transparency and always publishes its slippage statistics, see below for its 2019 figures:

FxPro Slippage

Summary

So, while ECN brokers do not have the inherent conflict of interest present with market makers, commission will always be charged on your trades. ECN accounts will also require a higher minimum deposit – putting them out of reach for many beginner traders.

Are ECN brokers objectively better than market maker? This is not necessarily the case. All brokers we work with are trustworthy and well-regulated and broker choice is always down to personal preference. Whether you go with an ECN broker or a market maker, if you choose one from our list of the best in South Africa you will be in good hands. Interested in knowing more – here is our article on how to compare Forex brokers overall

FAQs

What is the difference between an ECN Account and a Standard Account?

ECN Accounts will have tighter spreads than a Standard Account, but you will have to pay a commission per trade. Standard Accounts will not have any commission, but spreads will be wider.

How do ECN Brokers Make Money?

ECN Brokers make money by charging traders a commission per trade. Because they pass pricing on directly from their liquidity providers, they do not charge a fee in the spread.

Which is better, ECN Brokers or ECN/STP Brokers?

ECN/STP brokers are better because they will have less slippage and a faster execution speed than a pure ECN broker.

STP (Straight Through Processing) is the method of the transaction – 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.

The STP protocol can be used by market-maker brokers as well as ECN brokers, and some brokers use a hybrid formula, where they will sometimes be the counterparty, and other times use an external liquidity provider. While this does lead to less slippage, it does mean that some trades will have a conflict of interest.

In most cases choosing a hybrid broker is the best way to go, as they will give you the most options.

Forex Risk Disclaimer

Trading Forex and CFDs is not suitable for all investors as it carries a high degree of risk to your capital: 75-90% of retail investors lose money trading these products. 

Forex and CFD transactions involve high risk due to the following factors: Over-leveraging, unpredictable market volatility, slippage arising from a lack of liquidity, inadequate trading knowledge or experience, and a lack of regulatory protection for clients.

Traders should not deposit any money that is not disposable. Regardless of how much research you have done, or how confident you are in your trade, there is always a substantial risk of loss. (Learn more from the FCA or from ASIC)

Our Methodology

Our State of the Market Report and Broker Directory are the result of extensive research on over 100 Forex brokers. The explicit goal of these resources is to help traders find the best Forex brokers – and steer them away from the worst ones – with the benefit of accurate and up-to-date information.

With over 150 data points on each broker and over 3000 hours of research and review writing, we believe we have succeeded in our goal. 

In a world where trading conditions and customer support can vary based on where you live, our broker reviews focus on the local trader and give you information about these brokers from your perspective.

All research has been conducted by our in-house team of researchers and writers, gathering information from various company representatives, websites and by sifting through the fine print. Learn more about how we rank brokers

References

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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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