The United States of America has the world’s largest economy by nominal GDP and net wealth and is home to the biggest stock exchanges, the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq. Forex traders based in the United States, however, would probably find it difficult to register an online trading account since only a few brokers accept US clients. Forex trading is often considered to be illegal in the country. This is not true, though – it is simply far more regulated than in other jurisdictions.
Looking at the Forex market in the US, we need to know that this is one of the largest countries in the world, with the most diverse population and workforce. It has the most powerful, technologically advanced economy, producing computers, pharmaceuticals, and medical, aerospace, and military equipment. Top sectors contributing to the GDP are trade, manufacturing, oil and gas production, transportation, and many more. Moreover, the US dollar is the most traded currency in the world and is the most preferred reserve currency.
The strict regulations on the financial industry in the US have driven off many brokerages in the past decade. As a result, only a handful of firms are now working with US-based clients. Of course, the foreign exchange market remains just as attractive to traders as always – more than $5 trillion are traded on average every single day.
US Forex Legislation
Many less experienced, nonprofessional traders today believe that trading on the foreign exchange market is banned in the United States of America. But this could not be farther from the truth – access to the Forex market is not prohibited in any way. On the contrary, traders can easily buy and sell foreign currencies without having to comply with any restrictions, except for the regular taxation rules that apply to practically everyone in the country. However, the operations of Forex brokers are heavily monitored and strictly regulated by US authorities.
In order to provide trading services to US-based clients, Forex brokers need to be properly registered and licensed in the country. This may sound quite reasonable – after all, all brokers in Europe, for instance, also apply for licenses from their respective regulatory or licensing authorities. In the US, however, the capital requirements are so high that only a handful of firms can afford to operate legally. These rules were introduced in 2010 with the Dodd-Frank Act, which targets practically the entire financial services industry in the country.
Proposed by the President Obama administration in 2009, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was enacted as a US federal law by the U.S. Congress in 2010. It aimed at reforming the financial regulatory system in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2007–2008. The law is considered to be the largest and most comprehensive overhaul of the financial regulatory system since the reforms that followed the Great Depression in the 1930s. It is a complex piece of legislation and includes 16 major areas of reform, one of which is the trade of foreign currencies.
The Dodd-Frank Act lists the main body of rules governing Forex trading. Some of the limits and restrictions include the cap on leverage – it is 50:1 for major Forex pairs and 20:1 when trading exotic pairs. The current rules also restrict hedging – a trading strategy, with which traders open two trades on the same currency pair simultaneously to help reduce the losses from a losing trade. Instead, the so-called First-in-First-out (FIFO) model is applied.
Another requirement, quite unique for the US, is that residents need to file tax returns – 60% of the profits are deemed capital gains and taxed at 15%. The other 40% of the profits may be taxed, depending on the trader’s income bracket.
Last, but not least, the capital requirements for Forex brokers have scared off most firms following the enactment of the Dodd-Frank Act. According to them, brokers need to obtain an operating license and have a security deposit in the amount of $20 million. In comparison, brokers in Europe are required to own capital of $100,000 to $500,000. Clearly, the difference is huge and as a result of the tough requirements, most brokers simply chose to exit the US market after 2010.
US Financial Regulators
The Dodd-Frank Act introduced several new regulatory bodies, each having jurisdiction over a specific sector in the financial services industry. There are two main institutions responsible for the supervision and regulation of the foreign exchange market in the US right now, namely the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the National Futures Association (NFA).
All brokers who intend to offer Forex trading to US-based clients are required to register with the CFTC and become Members of NFA. The CFTC is an independent agency of the US government established in 1974. It regulates the US derivatives markets, including futures, swaps, and certain kinds of options. The NFA, on the other hand, is a self-regulatory organization under the CFTC and it monitors the trade of Forex pairs, among others.
Another influential agency, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), does not have authority over the forex market, however, because Forex pairs are not considered securities. Additionally, some brokers in the US are regulated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (FINRA), which is a private corporation that acts as a self-regulatory organization.
US Forex Payment Methods
Forex traders in the US can benefit greatly from the fact that they can register their online trading accounts in their national currency, i.e. the US dollar (USD or $) without having to pay additional currency conversion fees. Practically all Forex brokers in the US, as well as most brokers around the world, process payments in USD.
In addition, all brokerages operating in the country accept credit cards, which are the single most popular payment method in the US. According to statistical data for the past few years, around 78% of all online payments in the country have been made via a credit card, followed by e-wallets at 18%, prepaid cards (2%), mobile payment services (1%), and bank transfer (1%). The most widely used credit card brands are Visa, Mastercard, American Express (Amex), Discover, and Diners Club International.
Of course, all reputable Forex brokers on the web would offer at least one or two types of credit cards – usually, Mastercard and Visa. Deposits through these cards are straightforward, almost instant, and very secure. They rarely come with any fees. Withdrawing profits to a credit or debit card, however, may cost you some percentage of the transferred amount (up to 4%-5%). These transactions may take up to 3 or 4 business days to complete.
Many traders prefer alternative payment methods such as digital wallets and the most popular e-wallet in the United States is PayPal. It can be used for deposits and withdrawals on the websites of most Forex brokers – transactions are instant, perfectly secure and affordable. Another e-wallet that can be used in the US is Skrill, London-based e-commerce and money-transfer business. In addition, US-based traders can also opt for more traditional payment methods such as ACH electronic transfers, wire transfer, and checks.
Popular Trading Software in the USA
US-based Forex traders should consider more than a few things when choosing a suitable online broker. First of all, the firm should offer Forex trading, low spreads and good pricing overall, convenient payment options, as well as a fast, reliable software platform. The choice of software is essential since the software platform is what facilitates the actual trading on the foreign exchange market. After all, Forex is decentralized and trading does not occur on one specific exchange – rather, it occurs on a global, interconnected network of computers and trading platforms.
Some of the largest Forex brokers right now offer their clients access to proprietary software. Such platforms were designed for the specific types of trading offered by a particular broker. They often come with state-of-the-art features and complex trading tools for professional traders. Additionally, some proprietary platforms offer access to professional analysis of the markets, predictions, etc.
However, all online brokers also offer their clients to use third-party software solutions. Such platforms can be used by traders for free as long as they register an account with a broker. Probably the most popular one is MetaTrader 4/MetaTrader 5, a type of software developed by the Russian company MetaQuotes Software. Its first platform, MT4, was released in 2005 as a dedicated Forex retail trading system for traders of varied nationalities, knowledge and experience levels. Just a few years later, the developer released MT4, a system that focused on CFD, futures, and stocks trading.
While the two platforms are similar in appearance, they have very different functions – MT5 is considered to be a multi-asset trading platform that is faster and more efficient than MT4. Also, while MT4 is suitable for Forex trading only, MT5 offers access to both centralized and non-centralized financial markets. Other quite popular software platforms are cTrader, NinjaTrader, TradingView, and more.
Mobile Trading the USA
Mobile phones are rising in popularity among US consumers who are now shopping, playing games, and accessing entertainment content from their smartphones. In fact, people now prefer to do anything from their phone or tablet rather than from their desktop or laptop computer. More than 80% of Americans own a smartphone and roughly one in five adults are “smartphone-only” internet users.
Compared to most of Asia, for instance, the US is not as dependent on smartphones and smartphone technology – mobile payments are not particularly popular among American mobile users, whereas in China and India, for example, they have exploded in the past few years. Still, mobile penetration in the US is incredibly high, with iOS devices ranking first in popularity, followed closely by Android phones and tablets.
Mobile devices are now preferred for Forex trading, too, as traders can instantly open their accounts and manage their open positions based on fluctuating prices, trends, and economic news they receive directly on their phones. Deposits and withdrawals of funds are also available on mobiles, which makes the trading experience even better.
In order to make the most of a mobile trending platform, however, traders need to make sure they use a stable Wi-Fi/4G connection. Once they choose a broker to register with, they can download the firm’s app on their device – trading apps are usually available for free at Apple’s App Store or Google Play. Then, they simply need to sign up for a live account, make a real-money deposit and start trading.