Trading on margin refers to trading on money borrowed from your broker in order to substantially increase your market exposure. When opening a margin trade, your broker lends you a certain sum of money depending on the leverage ratio used, and allocates a small portion of your trading account as the collateral, or margin for that trade.
The remaining funds in your trading account will act as your free margin, which can be used to withstand negative price fluctuations from your existing leveraged positions, or to open new leveraged trades.
The first time you open a trading account with a Forex broker, chances are that you’ll see the available leverage ratios which are offered by the broker. Many brokers use leverage ratios for marketing purposes, as higher leverage ratios allow you to open a much larger position size than your trading account would allow.
Relation between leverage and margin
Popular leverage ratios in Forex trading include 1:10, 1:50, 1:100, 1:200, or even higher. Simply put, the leverage ratio determines the position size you’re allowed to take based on the size of your trading account. For example, a 1:100 leverage allows you to open a position 10 times higher than your trading account size, i.e., if you have $1,000 in your account, you can open a position worth $10,000. Similarly, a leverage ratio of 1:100 allows you to open a position size 100 times larger than your trading account size. With $1,000 in your trading account, you could open a position worth $100,000!
What are margin calls and how to prevent them
Margin calls are mechanisms put in place by your Forex broker in order to keep your used margin secure. Remember, your used margin is allocated by your broker as the collateral for funds borrowed from your broker.
A margin call happens when your free margin falls to zero, and all you have left in your trading account is your used, or required margin. When this happens, your broker will automatically close all open positions at current market rates.
Trading on margin is extremely popular among retail Forex traders. It allows you to open a much larger position than your initial trading account would otherwise allow, by allocating only a small portion of your trading account as the margin, or collateral for the trade. Trading on margin also carries certain risks, as both your profits and losses are magnified.