How Margin Trading Works: Its Benefits, Risks, and Tips

Margin trading is a practice in the financial markets where you use borrowed funds (known as “margin”) from a brokerage or exchange to buy securities. The practice allows you to trade larger positions than you could with your own capital alone. However, you will be responsible for repaying the loan, plus interest, even if the value of your investment declines. In this article, we will look at how margin trading works.

How Margin Trading Works

Margin trading is a very common method that is used by many Wall Street traders. Retail traders too use the strategy to maximize their returns. The process works in a very simple way.

The best way to explain margin trading is to use an example. Assume that you had $10,000, and you want to invest in Amazon stock that is trading at $1,800. In this situation, you can use your $10,000 to buy 5.5 shares. As such, if the price reaches $2,000, your account will reach $11,000. Your profit will be $1,000.

Alternatively, you can go to a bank and borrow another $10,000 and invest in the stock. In this case, you will buy 11 shares. If the stock price rises to $2,000, you will make $22,000. If you return the $10,000 to the lender, you will have a profit of $2,000.

This is a good example of how margin trading works. The loan that you take is known as a margin loan and is offered by most brokers. You can use margin to trade forex, stocks, ETFs, bonds, and commodities. You cannot use it to buy CDs and money market funds because they are used to buying more volatile assets.

To trade on margin, you need to select a broker that offers margin trading accounts. Margins are highly regulated in the United States. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) have developed a number of regulations related to margin. For example, FINRA requires that you can only use margin if you have a minimum amount of $2,000. The minimum amount increases for a person who is classified as a “pattern day trader.” In this case, the amount increases to $25,000.

This amount is known as the minimum margin. Another margin regulation is known as Regulation T of the Fed. This states that you may borrow up to 50% of the purchase price of equity securities. This amount of money is known as initial margin.

The rules of margin trading do not end there. According to FINRA, you need to have a maintenance requirement. This means that you must have some money set aside after you open a trade. This amount should be at least 25% of the total securities you have purchased on margin.

The best way to explain this is to use an example. You buy $20,000 worth of stocks by borrowing $10,000. If the stock declines to $14,000, the equity in your account will be $7000. As such, if the firm has a maintenance requirement of 25%, it means that the trade will be stopped when the price reaches $4,0000.

Benefits of Margin Trading

Margin trading can offer a number of benefits, including:

  • Increased buying power: Margin trading allows you to control a larger position with a smaller amount of capital. This can be helpful if you want to invest in a particular stock or security that is expensive.
  • Leverage: Margin trading can magnify your profits if the market moves in your favor.
  • Flexibility: Margin trading gives you more flexibility to manage your portfolio. For example, you can use margin to sell short or to hedge your risk.

Risks of Margin Trading

It is possible to make some good money when using a margin. However, margin trading is also risky, which is the main reason why regulators have made it a bit difficult. Here are the main risks of using margin trading:

  • Losses: Margin trading can lead to large losses if the market moves against you.
  • Broker action: The brokerage may sell some of your open positions without notifying you. Also, the broker may increase its margin requirements at any time.
  • Margin calls: If the value of your securities declines by more than the margin requirement, you may be forced to deposit more cash or sell some of your securities.
  • Interest: You will be charged interest on the money you borrow from your brokerage firm.
  • Time factor: The broker will close the trade automatically, and you will not be given an extension.
  • Regulation: Margin trading in the US is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). You must meet certain requirements in order to open a margin account and trade on margin.

Margin Trading Tips

If you’re contemplating margin trading, there are several considerations to keep in mind:

  • Understanding Risks: Margin trading involves substantial risk, and it should only be pursued if you’re comfortable with the potential of losing your invested capital.
  • Conduct Research: Prior to purchasing any securities on margin, ensure you have a solid understanding of the company and the industry it operates in.
  • Implement Stop-losses: Use stop-loss orders to automatically sell your securities if they drop to a specified price. This precaution can help mitigate losses in case the market moves against your position.
  • Prudent Margin Use: Reserve margin trading for short-term investments you’re confident will appreciate in value.

Margin Trading Strategies

Various margin trading strategies are available for your consideration. Some of the most prevalent strategies include:

  • Day Trading: A high-risk approach involving buying and selling securities within the same day. Margin can amplify your buying power, facilitating more trades.
  • Swing Trading: A medium-risk strategy where you purchase securities and hold them for a few days or weeks. Margin can boost your buying power for increased trading activity.
  • Position Trading: A low-risk strategy where you acquire securities for long-term holding. Margin usage can enhance your buying power and trade frequency.

Online Brokers that Accept Margin Trading in the USA

There are many brokers in the United States. Not all of them allow you to margin trade. Here are the best traders to margin trade in the United States.

There are several things that you need to remember when selecting a good online broker. First, look at the commissions that they charge. These days, Robinhood, for instance, does not charge commissions. Second, you need to look at the terms of margin trading. This is important because brokers have different terms for margin accounts. Third, you need to look at the user interface of the company.

Is Margin Trading a Good Idea?

In short, margin trading is a good way to maximize your returns in the market. It allows you to amplify your potential gains and engage in a variety of trading strategies that may not be possible with your own capital alone.

However, margin trading is also a risky method of making money. You need to understand the risks and make an informed decision. You can protect yourself by taking time to conduct a thorough research on the subject and make sure to read the terms and conditions of the broker of your choice before you start trading. Also, you need to understand the interest rate your broker charges you to borrow the margin. Finally, you need to understand that not all assets can be traded on margin.

Margin Trading FAQs

Is margin trading a good idea?

Margin trading can potentially offer opportunities for increased returns, but it also comes with significant risks that you need to carefully consider before deciding whether it's a good idea for you.

What is margin trading facility?

Margin trading facility refers to the ability provided by a brokerage or financial institution that allows you to borrow funds to trade or invest in financial markets.

What is margin call in trading?

A margin call in trading occurs when the value of the securities or assets held in a margin account falls below a certain threshold set by the broker. It indicates that the account's equity (the value of the securities minus the borrowed funds) has fallen to a level where it no longer meets the minimum maintenance margin requirement specified by the broker or the exchange.

Is margin trading halal?

Margin trading is considered haram (not permissible) under Islamic law. This is because it involves borrowing money from a brokerage firm, who charges interest on the loan. It is forbidden to charge or pay interest on loans in Islam.

What is margin trading in crypto?

Margin trading is a type of trading where you borrow money from a broker to buy more cryptocurrency than you could afford with your own capital.

Crispus (BSc and MBA) is a finance professional with more than a decade experience as a financial analyst, writer, researcher, and trader. Crispus has written in-depth articles on leading platforms like CCN, Marketwatch, Investing Cube and Seeking Alpha. He also runs a forex education firm. Follow him on Twitter: @crispusnyaga and read more about us.