The Minimum Capital Required to Start Day Trading Forex

Different currencies
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It's easy to start day trading currencies because the foreign exchange (forex) market is the most accessible financial market: Many forex brokers require only $100 as a minimum initial amount to invest, and some go as low as $50.

And unlike the stock market, for which the Securities and Exchange Commission requires day traders to maintain an account with $25,000 in assets, there is no legal minimum amount required for forex day trading.

But just because you could start with only $50 or $100 doesn't mean that's the amount you should start with. You may want to consider some scenarios involving the potential risks and rewards of various investment amounts before determining how much money to put in your forex trading account.

Risk Management

Day traders shouldn't risk more than 1% of their forex account on a single trade. You should make that a hard and fast rule. That means, if your account contains $1,000, then the most you'll want to risk on a trade is $10. If your account contains $10,000, you shouldn't risk more than $100 per trade.

Even great traders have strings of losses; if you keep the risk on each trade small, a losing streak can't significantly deplete your capital. Risk is determined by the difference between your entry price and the price at which your stop-loss order goes into effect, multiplied by the position size and the pip value.

Melissa Ling. © Jacara 2019

Pip Values and Trading Lots

The forex market moves in pips. Let's say the euro-U.S. dollar (EUR/USD) currency pair is priced at 1.3025. That means the value of one euro, the first currency in the pair, which is known as the base currency, is $1.3025.

For most currency pairs, a pip is 0.0001, which is equivalent to 1/100th of a percent. If the EUR/USD price changes to 1.3026, that's a one pip move. If it changes to 1.3125, that's a 100 pip move. (The exception to the pip value rule is the Japanese yen: A pip for currency pairs in which is the yen is the second currency—called the quote currency—is 0.01, which is equivalent to 1 percent.)

Forex pairs trade in units of 1,000, 10,000 or 100,000, called micro, mini, and standard lots. (Some brokers also permit trading in nano lots, which consist of a single currency unit.)

When USD is listed second in the pair, as in EUR/USD or AUD/USD (Australian dollar-U.S. dollar), and your account is funded with U.S. dollars, the value of the pip per type of lot is fixed. If you hold a micro lot of 1,000 units, each pip movement is worth $0.10. If you hold a mini lot of 10,000, then each pip move is $1. If you hold a standard lot of 100,000, then each pip move is $10. Pip values can vary by price and pair, so knowing the pip value of the pair you're trading is critical in determining position size and risk.

Stop-Loss Orders

When trading currencies, it's important to enter a stop-loss order in case the value of the base currency goes in the opposite direction of your bet. A simple stop-loss order would be 10 pips below the current price when you expect the price to rise or 10 pips above the current price when you expect the price to fall.

Capital Scenarios

$100 in the Account 

Assume you open an account for $100. You will want to limit your risk on each trade to $1 (1% of $100).

If you place a trade in EUR/USD, buying or selling one micro lot, your stop-loss order must be within 10 pips of your entry price. Since each pip is worth $0.10, if your stop loss were 11 pips away, your risk would be $1.10 (11 x $0.10), which is more risk than you want.

You can see how opening an account with only $100 severely limits how you can trade. Also, if you are risking a very small dollar amount on each trade, by extension you're going to be making only small gains when you bet correctly. To make bigger gains—and possibly derive a reasonable amount of income from your trading activity—you will require more capital.

$500 in the Account

Now assume you open an account with $500. You can risk up to $5 per trade and buy multiple lots. For example, you can set a stop loss 10 pips away from your entry price and buy five micro lots and still be within your risk limit (because 10 pips x $0.10 x 5 micro lots = $5 at risk).

Or if you choose to place a stop loss 25 pips away from the entry price, you can buy two micro lots to keep the risk on the trade below 1% of the account. You would buy only two micro lots because 25 pips x $0.10 x 2 micro lots = $5.

Starting with $500 will provide greater trading flexibility and produce more daily income than starting with $100. But most day traders will still be able to make only $5 to $15 per day off this amount with any regularity.

$5,000 in the Account

If you start with $5,000, you have even more flexibility and can trade mini lots as well as micro lots. If you buy the EUR/USD at 1.3025 and place a stop loss at 1.3017 (eight pips of risk), you could buy 6 mini lots and 2 micro lots.

Your maximum risk is $50 (1% of $5,000), and you can trade in mini lots because each pip is worth $1 and you've chosen an 8 pip stop-loss. Divide the risk ($50) by (8 pips x $1) to get 6.25 for the number of mini lots you could buy without exceeding your risk. You would break up 6.25 mini lots into 6 mini lots (6 x $1 x 8 pips = $48) and 2 micro lots (2 x $0.10 x 8 pips = $1.60), which puts a total of only $49.60 at risk.

With this amount of capital and the ability to risk $50 on each trade, the income potential moves up, and traders can potentially make $50 to $150 a day, or more, depending on their forex strategy.

Recommended Capital

Starting out with at least $500 gives you flexibility in how you can trade that an account with only $100 in it does not have. Starting with $5,000 or more is even better because it can help you produce a reasonable amount of income that will compensate you for the time you're spending on trading.