By Jeffrey Cammack Author Information Updated: June 30, 2020

CFD trading is trading an asset without ever taking ownership of it. The value of a CFD is based on a real-life asset, such as equities like Vodacom shares, indices like the JSE, precious metals like gold and silver, or currency pairs such as the USD/ZAR. CFDs can even be based on commodities like oil, gas, or corn prices.

Every time you trade a CFD you are speculating on the future price of these assets without ever owning the asset itself.

To trade CFDs, you will need a CFD broker. While all brokers offer the same basic services – like a CFD trading platform and a connection to the markets – they can be quite different in other ways.

From our research, we have created a shortlist of what we consider to be the best brokers. Because each trader is different and will value various characteristics of a broker differently, our shortlist includes brokers that excel overall, but also in individual categories. 

The characteristics that stand out most are financial regulation which we call trusttrading conditions which represent the cost of trading, and the variety of platform choice. Since most traders reading this are beginners, the quality of the educational material and markets analysis are both scored. 

This is our shortlist of the best CFD brokers for 2020.

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  • Broker
    XM

    XM  - Most Trusted Broker

    REGULATED BY
    CySEC CySEC
    ASIC ASIC
    IFSC IFSC
    Trading Desk Type
    Trading Conditions
    11110.5
    Minimum Deposit
    GBP 5
    Customer Support
    • Website Language: English
    • Support Language: English
    Trading Platforms

    XM Group has achieved substantial growth since opening in 2009, earning 1.5 million clients in 196 countries. XM’s operational philosophy is aimed at client satisfaction and low client turnover; they earn client loyalty through award-winning 24/5 personal customer service, varied account types and competitive trading conditions.

    Regulated the FCA, CySEC and ASIC and the recipient of many industry awards, XM Group stands out from a crowded field of market maker brokers for their customer service and educational support.

    Pros

    • Well regulated
    • Excellent education
    • Wide range of assets
    • Fast and free withdrawals

    Cons

    • Dealing desk
    AccountSpread FromCommissionExecutionMin. Deposit
    Micro1.0 pipsNoneInstantUSD 5 Account Details
    Standard1.0 pipsNoneInstantUSD 5 Account Details
    XM Ultra Low0.6 pipsNoneInstantUSD 50 Account Details
    XM Zero0.6 pips$7.00InstantUSD 100 Account Details
  • Broker
    AvaTrade

    AvaTrade  - Best Trading Conditions

    REGULATED BY
    ASIC ASIC
    FSCA FSCA
    B.V.I FSC B.V.I FSC
    FSA FSA
    Trading Desk Type
    Trading Conditions
    11111
    Minimum Deposit
    GBP 100
    Customer Support
    • Website Language: English
    • Support Language: English
    Trading Platforms

    Good value, beginner-friendly and hugely respected all over the world, AvaTrade is one of the most reputable brokers in the industry. With support for the leading trading platforms and top-quality multilingual support, AvaTrade has built a brand on a solid reputation and continues to add to that reputation with the recent addition of AvaProtect - an automated loss-protection tool - to its product lineup.

    AvaTrade offers trading in Forex, commodities, cryptocurrencies, exchange-traded funds, options, bonds, and equities and is a good choice for any type of forex trader ranging from beginners to scalpers and intraday traders to long-term traders.

    Pros

    • Good for beginners
    • Well regulated
    • Low minimum deposit

    Cons

    • Dealing desk
    • Limited education
    AccountSpread FromCommissionExecutionMin. Deposit
    Islamic1.2 pipsNoneInstantUSD 100 Account Details
    Professional0.9 pipsNoneInstantUSD 100 Account Details
    Retail0.9 pipsNoneInstantUSD 100 Account Details
  • Broker
    Pepperstone

    Pepperstone  - Best Overall Broker

    REGULATED BY
    FCA FCA
    ASIC ASIC
    DFSA DFSA
    Trading Desk Type
    Trading Conditions
    11110.5
    Minimum Deposit
    GBP 200
    Customer Support
    • Website Language: English
    • Support Language: English
    Trading Platforms

    Founded in 2010, Pepperstone is an Australian ECN broker known for tight spreads, ultra-fast trade execution and broad platform support. Pepperstone's award-winning, 24-hour support provides the foundation for its excellent customer service, where personalised assistance is available via several methods.

    As our highest rated pure ECN broker, if you want to pay a small commission for tighter spreads, you won't find a better broker than Pepperstone.

    Pros

    • Well regulated
    • Tight spreads
    • Great platform choice
    • Wide range of assets

    Cons

    • High minimum deposit
    • Limited market analysis
    AccountSpread FromCommissionExecutionMin. Deposit
    Razor0.0 pipsAUD$ 7ECNUSD 200 Account Details
    Standard1.0 pipsNoneECNUSD 200 Account Details
    Swap-free1.0 pipsNoneECNUSD 200 Account Details
  • Broker
    FxPro

    FxPro  - Best Trading Platforms

    REGULATED BY
    FCA FCA
    CySEC CySEC
    FSCA FSCA
    DFSA DFSA
    SCB SCB
    Trading Desk Type
    Trading Conditions
    11110.5
    Minimum Deposit
    GBP 100
    Customer Support
    • Website Language: English
    • Support Language: English
    Trading Platforms

    One of the most respected Forex brokers in the industry, well regulated by the FCA and CySEC, and with over 870,000 client accounts in 173 countries. FxPro is a powerhouse in the industry and very well respected among traditional brokers.

    With MT4, MT5, cTrader and a browser-based platform, a reasonable 100 USD opening deposit and outstanding customer service, FxPro also offers competitive spreads - often as low as 0.6 pips - to match profitability with security.

    Pros

    • Well regulated
    • Great platform choice
    • Tight spreads

    Cons

    • Limited education
    AccountSpread FromCommissionExecutionMin. Deposit
    FxPro cTrader0.45 pips$4.50MarketUSD 100 Account Details
    FxPro MT41.2 pipsNoneMarketUSD 100 Account Details
    FxPro MT51.52 pipsNoneMarketUSD 100 Account Details
    Islamic1.2 pipsVariableMarketUSD 100 Account Details
  • Broker
    Plus500

    Plus500  - Best Education

    REGULATED BY
    FCA FCA
    CySEC CySEC
    ASIC ASIC
    MAS MAS
    Trading Desk Type
    Trading Conditions
    11100
    Minimum Deposit
    GBP 100
    Customer Support
    • Website Language: English
    • Support Language: English
    Trading Platforms
    • Plus500

    With 50+ Forex pairs available, tight spreads and fast execution, Plus500 is a popular broker with both its new and long-standing customers. Award-winning customer service is available 24/7 and the Plus500 platform is web-based with no need for any downloads or setup, making this a good provider for those starting out who want to keep it simple. 

    Plus500 has one account with a 100 USD minimum deposit requirement and keeps simplicity at the core of its business.

    Pros

    • Well regulated
    • Wide range of assets

    Cons

    • Limited education
    • Limited account options
    AccountSpread FromCommissionExecutionMin. Deposit
    Standard0.7 pipsNoneInstantUSD 100 Account Details
  • Broker
    CM trading

    CM trading  - Best Research

    REGULATED BY
    FSCA FSCA
    Trading Desk Type
    Trading Conditions
    110.500
    Minimum Deposit
    GBP 250
    Customer Support
    • Website Language: English
    • Support Language: English
    Trading Platforms

    CM Trading is a market-maker with competitive spreads, great educational material and an interesting selection of trading tools; these include the Guardian Angel system, which provides automated feedback on your trading style, and the CopyKat copy-trading system. Maximum leverage is 200:1 outside of Europe, and support for both MetaTrader 4 and Sirix Webtrader platforms are available, allowing for some flexibility.

    Customer service is generally excellent customer accounts are kept segregated, ensuring the safety of client funds.

    Pros

    • Good for beginners
    • Great customer support
    • Copy trading accounts

    Cons

    • Expensive withdrawals
    • Local regulation only
    AccountSpread FromCommissionExecutionMin. Deposit
    Bronze1.5 pipsNoneInstantUSD 250 Account Details
    Silver1.2 pipsNoneInstantUSD 1000 Account Details
    Gold0.9 pipsNoneInstantUSD 10000 Account Details
    PremiumNot Published pipsNoneInstantUSD 25000 Account Details
  • REGULATED BY
    CySEC CySEC
    ASIC ASIC
    FSCA FSCA
    Trading Desk Type
    Trading Conditions
    11110.5
    Minimum Deposit
    GBP 250
    Customer Support
    • Website Language: English
    • Support Language: English
    Trading Platforms

    Marketsx is a premium trading platform. It’s operated by Markets.com and offers traders fast, low-cost trading on over 2,200 financial instruments. Marketsx provides CFD trading on global stock, forex, commodity, indices, cryptocurrency, ETF and bond markets. Clients in the UK can also use spread bets on applicable instruments.

    The proprietary Marketx trading platform is packed full of features and trading tools and is optimised for lightning execution. As well as in-depth charting and asset comparison tools, Marketsx also gives traders a wealth of decision-supporting data with sentiment tools, tutorials, and regular live-streamed, expert analysis.

    Pros

    • Well regulated
    • Tight spreads
    • Wide range of assets
    • Fast and free withdrawals

    Cons

    • High minimum deposit
    AccountSpread FromCommissionExecutionMin. Deposit
    Live0.9 pipsNoneInstantGBP 250 Account Details
  • REGULATED BY
    FCA FCA
    ASIC ASIC
    MAS MAS
    Trading Desk Type
    Trading Conditions
    11111
    Minimum Deposit
    GBP 50
    Customer Support
    • Website Language: English
    • Support Language: English
    Trading Platforms

    Founded in 1983, City Index is a traditional market maker now owned by the NYSE listed financial group, GAIN Capital. It has tight spreads and a varied platform choice, including MT4 and AT Pro; an advanced automated trading platform allowing for full customisation with powerful back-testing.

    City Index' education section is perfect at beginners who want to get up to speed quickly and customer service is open 24/5. Overall, a good market maker and competitive with traditional brokers of its size and type.

    Pros

    • Well regulated
    • Wide range of assets
    • Excellent market analysis

    Cons

    • Slow withdrawals
    • Limited demo account
    • Limited education
    AccountSpread FromCommissionExecutionMin. Deposit
    Standard0.5 pipsNoneInstantUSD 200 Account Details
    Premium0.5 pipsNoneInstantUSD 10000 Account Details
    Professional0.5 pipsNoneInstantUSD 500000+ Account Details
  • REGULATED BY
    ASIC ASIC
    CySEC CySEC
    Trading Desk Type
    Trading Conditions
    11110.5
    Minimum Deposit
    GBP 100
    Customer Support
    • Website Language: English
    • Support Language: English
    Trading Platforms

    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.

    Both the MT4 and MT5 platforms are supported and trader education and market analysis are well-presented, 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
    AccountSpread FromCommissionExecutionMin. Deposit
    Standard IRESSN/A pips$10 AUD min, then 0.1%STPUSD 1,000 Account Details
    Platinum IRESSN/A pips$9 AUD min, then 0.09%STPUSD 25,000 Account Details
    Premier IRESSN/A pipsNo min, then 0.08%STPUSD 50,000 Account Details
    RAW0.0 pips$3.50STPUSD 100 Account Details
    Standard1.0 pipsNoneSTPUSD 100 Account Details
  • REGULATED BY
    ASIC ASIC
    FCA FCA
    MAS MAS
    FMA FMA
    Trading Desk Type
    Trading Conditions
    11111
    Minimum Deposit
    GBP 5
    Customer Support
    • Website Language: English
    • Support Language: English
    Trading Platforms

    CMC Markets is a large, well-respected and well-regulated market maker broker operating globally from headquarters in London. Spreads and leverage are better than most other market makers and the proprietary New Generation trading platform is well-crafted and recommended for experienced and beginner traders alike. A wide asset choice and responsive customer support are complemented by an excellent education section and deep and insightful market analysis.

    If you are a new trader and want a large, respectable broker with an intuitive platform and a large education section, you will do much worse than CMC Markets.

    Pros

    • Well regulated
    • Tight spreads
    • Good for beginners
    • Excellent education
    • Excellent market analysis

    Cons

    • No swap-free account option
    AccountSpread FromCommissionExecutionMin. Deposit
    CFD Account0.7 pipsNoneInstantUSD 5 Account Details
  • Broker
    REGULATED BY
    CySEC CySEC
    FCA FCA
    IFSC IFSC
    Trading Desk Type
    Trading Conditions
    11110.5
    Minimum Deposit
    GBP 5
    Customer Support
    • Website Language: English
    • Support Language: English
    Trading Platforms

    Well-regulated, safe and award-winning, XTB is a true leader in the Forex trading industry.

    Joining other leading ECN/STP brokers with unbeatable trading conditions, excellent trader education and rock-solid analysis, XTB has also developed an award-winning proprietary trading platform that goes beyond MT4 to offer clients easy-to-use functionality with fast execution speeds.

    Pros

    • Well regulated
    • Tight spreads
    • Low minimum deposit
    • Good for beginners

    Cons

    • Limited platform choice
    AccountSpread FromCommissionExecutionMin. Deposit
    Islamic0.28 pips$10.00InstantUSD 5 Account Details
    Pro0.28 pips$7.00InstantUSD 5 Account Details
    Standard0.35 pipsNoneInstantUSD 5 Account Details

See All Brokers

We pride ourselves on giving good advice, and we always put our readers first. When choosing partners, we do our research according to our review process which covers areas such as regulation, trading conditions, and the product offering.

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Our business model never influences our opinion of any partner, and the partner selection and review processes are separate. The compensation we receive from partners may affect how our lists are arranged, but the reviews are genuine, and the data is accurate. Our opinion can not be bought, and we always put our readers and their financial livelihoods first.

Open

What is CFD Trading?

CFD trading, or a Contract for Difference, is where investors don’t take ownership of the asset they are trading. CFDs are derivative products; their value is derived from the underlying asset. The underlying asset can be anything that is commonly traded on a market – be this commodities such as crude oil, corn and gold or equities such as Spotify or Boeing shares or currencies such as Forex and crypto pairs, or even entire indices such as the NASDAQ, JSE or FTSE. So, rather than trading the asset itself, traders instead speculate on the future price of the asset with what is known as a futures contract.

Leverage

The second important thing to understand about CFDs is the leverage involved. CFDs are leveraged products where traders only put up a small percentage of the amount required for the trade, and a third-party liquidity provider will lend the trader the rest. The money in the trader’s account will then be used as collateral against the loss, but in exchange, the profits for the trader can be much larger. For instance, if you buy 100 USD of a crude oil CFD at 100 USD a barrel and the price of crude goes up by 2 USD you will make 2 USD in profit. But if you borrow 900 USD (to make an even 1000 USD when added to your 100 USD – a 10% margin or 10x leverage) and you buy 1000 USD of crude oil you would make 20 USD – all without spending more than your original 100 USD, a fairly incredible 20% profit in real terms.

Leverage Iceberg

The problem with this is that you can also lose money incredibly quickly. Take the same example above, but this time the price of crude oil falls by 5 USD. Because of your leveraged position (10x in this case), you would lose 50 USD, half of your original investment. In a volatile market (such as Crypto or certain commodities) it is very easy to lose your entire investment.

Additionally, losses apply not just to your investment but to your whole account and, if you are not careful, you can lose large amounts of the trading capital in your account through something called a margin call – this is explained in detail in the FAQs below.

Due to the risk involved in using leverage, retail CFDs are banned or very tightly regulated in much or the world. Since this trading is speculation on the price of an asset or instrument, traders can make money when the price is both rising or falling.  CFD traders will take long positions when the market is bullish, and short positions when the market is bearish.

How to trade CFDs

To start trading CFDs, you will need to find a reputable broker and open an account – check out our list above. Because it is a financial trading account, the broker will require that you submit copies of your government issues identification documents and proof of residence such as a utility bill issued in the past six months. Once your account is set up, you will be able to make a deposit and open your first trade.

Is CFD trading gambling?

It can be gambling if you treat it as such, but if you do your research and treat it like any other investment in the financial markets, it is not gambling. It’s important to remember the risk of leverage as your deposit is only a small part of your overall exposure and you can lose substantially more than your deposit if the trade goes against you.

However, it is possible to reduce your potential losses by using a stop order. This means that the trade will automatically be closed if it goes against you by an amount you specify. Higher spreads can be another pitfall as it can ruin any potential profits. So pick which instruments you trade very carefully.

What is short selling with CFDs?

Short selling is when you believe the price of an instrument is going to decrease rather than increase. Instead of buying low and selling high, you sell high and buy low – profiting on the decrease in the underlying instrument’s value. See our article on short-selling for a more detailed breakdown of how this can work and it’s uses in trading.

What is a Margin Call?

Brokers will apply a required margin on any position taken by a trader – this is often 50% of the original margin or 50% of your original investment, but it varies from broker to broker and instrument to instrument. If the total funds available in your trading account falls below this value the broker will make a margin call – requiring you to add funds to your trading account or close your position, covering any losses from your trading account. Needless to say, this is a very bad thing, and if you are planning on holding a long-term position in a volatile market you should have the required margin foremost in your mind when calculating the funds to hold in your trading account.

Commissions on Trades

In addition to your deposit to open or close a CFD trade, you might have to pay a small commission, which can be as low as 0.1%. That said, most brokers make money through the spread and will charge no commission. You may also have to calculate interest adjustments that are added or subtracted from your trade if you hold the trade overnight.

Is Trading Profits Taxed?

Profits are taxable as income, even the case if the broker is located outside your country of residence. 

Is CFD Trading Allowed in Islam?

Traders can open Halal accounts, which the industry has named Swap Free accounts. Swap Free accounts will stop any interest payments being made either from the broker to you, or you to the broker.

Swap Free accounts are more common than you may think and are widely available with CFD brokers. The usual way to get a swap-free trading account is to complete the regular registration process and ask your account manager to make the changes in your account.

Summary

CFDs are designed to mirror the price of underlying assets so traders can take advantage of the price fluctuation without owning the underlying instrument. Technically a CFD is a financial contract between the trader and broker that allows speculation on price.

CFDs are a flexible and attractive alternative to other financial vehicles and they allow you to take advantage of the fluctuations in the value of a huge range of instruments.

Importantly, CFD trading allows traders to make money both when the market is rising or falling. Furthermore, you don’t have to put up the full cost of exposure to the market, and there is no fixed period for your trade. With CFDs, you’re able to trade a multiple of your capital using leverage, but this can be a double-edged sword so make sure you’ve done your research and that you keep a close eye on your trades.

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.

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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