Many people have a stock trading account. But since currency trading/investing is so new to the investing public, let's talk about how to open up one of these accounts and where you can do this. After all, many don't even know where to locate one of the companies and know who's trustworthy.
How to "weed out" the unregulated and the undercapitalized firms
For starters, before you "sign up" for an account at one of these firms, make sure they are regulated in a place that takes regulation seriously (United States, Canada, U.K., Hong Kong offer the best regulation).
Also, more importantly than you being "well funded" in your account, make sure they are "well funded" as a firm. Any of these firms right now should have at least 40 million dollars set aside in "excess net capital".
You don't have to take their word for itand I wouldn't. This stuff is public information and I've made it just a click away. Check out the list of market makers here:
Then just click on the most recent report which will be at the top. In this case, that's January 2008's report. Note only the market makers (which some refer to as brokers) that have $40 million dollars or over. Since you can be this picky, I would be. There are several firms that meet these requirements and then some.
Your two biggest "defenses" to your account are how tightly your firm is regulated and how well capitalized they are. Once you've resolved this, you're ready to open up an account.
These are examples of firms that meet the requirements:
Here are the types of accounts you can have
So now that we're ready to open up an account, what the heck is required to open up one of these?
First, you'll want to decide what type of account you want to open up which will have two parts. Let's discuss the first part.
You'll want to decide whether you want an individual, joint, corporate, partnership, trust or LLC account. Of course the most common choices are individual and joint accounts. So that step is pretty easy.
The second step is to decide what type of currency you want to hold your account in and what "size" of account you want it to trade in. This will be our second selection. Let's look at our options now.
The "size" part is easy. There are two choices: mini account and standard account. 90% of people should choose the mini account due to the smaller size that you can trade in. (Note: a mini account has 10 times smaller lot sizes than a standard account or 10k vs. 100k lot sizes).
Unless an account holder is going to have 100,000 dollars (or the equivalent in another currency), then they'd for sure want to have a mini account. Many firms would let you have a mini account no matter what your account balance is. FXCM is one of those firms. While others may make you choose a standard account if your account is very large.
The second part to this process is deciding what you want your account to be held in: dollars, yen, euros, pounds, Aussie or Canadian dollars, etc. Some firms will have all of these selections. Others may only have two or three of these choices.
Many typically keep their money in their "home currency" when possible because this saves them conversion fees.
However, there are those that have a long held belief that one currency will be superior to another in the long run (5 to 10 years) and will start an account based off of that currency and not worry about the conversion fee from their home currency that they'd incur.
Probably the most common account is the mini account that's denominated in U.S. dollars. However, you can see how wide of a choice you'll have at many of these larger firms.
So if I were in the U.K., I'd probably just keep my account denominated in pounds since I was familiar with my home currency and not incur a conversion fee. So you can see that this may have a lot to do with where in the world you're located.
What a firm needs to know about you
Because of terrorism and money launders, regulators require that a firm "know their customer". How do they do this? By obtaining the proper documentation.
Most firms will require the following from you: a photo copy of a government issued I.D. such as a Driver's License, Passport, etc. This proves to them "who you are".
Then regulators require them to know where you live. They find this out by obtaining a "proof of residence". This can be in the form of an official bill that comes to your physical residence (no P.O. boxes are allowed). These can be an electric bill, gas bill, telephone bill, bank statement, credit card statement, mortgage bill, current lease agreement, etc.
The third way they the regulators force them to "know their customer" is to know how someone gets their income. This weeds out the money launderers, terrorists and those that are in restricted countries due to that country's governmental laws.
If one is a retiree, they'll usually send you a disclosure that says that you shouldn't risk any money that you'd need to live off of (and this really applies to anyone). They'll also need to know that someone doesn't gain their income from an illegal source. That's all their really needing to find out.
How can I get money to my account?
This will vary "firm to firm". However, some of these larger firms will allow you to fund via bank wire, credit/debit card, online check or paper check. Find out what your firm allows because these will all vary. Also, the amounts of money you can send through each venue will vary. Find that out too because this many narrow your choices down for you.
Find out what "free perks" you may qualify for.
Before you fund your account, ask them if they have any programs that give you any benefits if you deposit certain amounts. While many firms don't advertise this widely, they may offer things like free charting packages to you that would normally cost $40 to $120 a month.
Some also offer certain perks like free research to you or free online trading courses. Here's just one example. If someone opens up an account with FXCM for $25,000 or more they can get a free day trading course that sells for $999 as well as free Pro Real Time charts which are a great "pay" charting package that you'd get for free. Now that's a huge perk. (Note: By the way, they call this a "Gold account".)
Very large account holders that have $100,000 to $1 million dollars (or your home currency's equivalent) may get "tighter spreads" which means your cost per trade would be lower. Many firms don't widely advertise things like thisfor obvious reasons. However, it's to your benefit to know that they are out there. So put yourself at the best advantage that you can by asking a few of these questions to each of your prospective firms. Then decide on which to go with.
So once you've found the firm you want to go with, picked out the currency it will be held in and the account size (mini or standard) and funded your account, you're ready to trade.
That's all it takes and now you're up and running and ready to "take on the currency trading world" and become the next George Soros.