If you want to buy and sell on the foreign exchange (“forex”) market, you’ll need to trade through a forex broker. However, as the world’s biggest financial market, the forex market has an overwhelming number of brokers for you to choose from. When your money’s at stake, how can you sort through the options and be sure you’re picking the right forex broker for you?
Choosing the best forex broker ultimately comes down to understanding your own trading style and doing your research. In this guide, we’ll talk you through the most important factors to consider when choosing a broker, and we’ll share our list of the top ten forex brokers in the UK.
Risk warning: Trading forex carries a high degree of risk, 70-90% of retail traders lose money. Please be sure to start off with a risk-free demo account and thereafter consult with a financial advisor and only risk what you can afford to lose.
5 factor to look for in a top UK forex broker
Let’s start with the golden rule…
Are they regulated by the FCA?
For every legit forex broker online, there’s a handful of scam artists hoping to take advantage of this largely unregulated global market. And in today’s volatile economic climate, even the most trustworthy broker can come crashing down – taking your money with them.
The only way to keep your investment safe is to trade with a forex broker that’s regulated by a recognised authority. Here in the UK, that’s the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
FCA regulation means that your forex broker has committed to high standards of fairness and transparency. They must:
- Show at least £1m in operating capital to show financial health and viability.
- Keep your investment funds separate from their operating funds.
- Process your withdrawal requests instantly.
- Submit annual audits and regular financial statements to the FCA.
- Clearly display their FCA registration number on their website.
Under FCA regulation, the broker must also join the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). This offers you a guaranteed amount of compensation if your broker becomes insolvent or goes into liquidation. The amount varies according to circumstances, but in many cases, you could receive up to 100% of funds lost.
If your broker isn’t FCA-regulated, there’s not much stopping them disappearing into the night with your investment. Whether they scam you or they go bust, you’ll still be out of pocket and there won’t be much you can do about it.
The single best and easiest way to prevent this is to trade with FCA-regulated forex brokers. If you only take away one thing from this article, let it be this!
How is their customer service?
The complex nature of forex trading means that even the most experienced traders will run into occasional problems. When you do, you want to be sure that your broker’s customer service is up to scratch.
Make sure you’re confident that you can get in touch quickly if you need to. Is it easy to find their contact information, or is it buried in the darkest corners of their website? Do they tell you how to get in touch directly, or do they make you jump through hoops? Do they give you lots of contact options, or is it just an email form?
The forex market runs 24/7, so ideally you want 24/7 support. If something goes wrong outside of office hours, you don’t want to be waiting hours for help, especially if you’re at risk of losing money.
Don’t just take them at their word. If you want to know what it’s really going to be like doing business with a forex broker, ask their customers. Look at online reviews to see:
- The ratio of complaints to positive reviews.
- If any particular issues seem to come up a lot.
- How quickly and efficiently issues have been resolved.
- Whether any issues have gone unresolved, why, and for how long.
- How the broker responds to positive and negative feedback.
Of course, customer service isn’t just about what happens when things go wrong. The best brokers know that your success is their success, so they’ll offer you lots of research and educational resources to help you become a better forex trader – articles, tutorials, webinars, and so on.
What fees do they charge?
Forex brokers earn money from spreads, commission and fees.
A spread is simply the difference between the rates a broker buys and sells the currency for. For example, if they buy at 1.5432 and sell for 1.5439, the spread, or their profit, is 0.0007 pips (sometimes just referred to as 0.7 pips). The smaller the spread, the better for you, although just how much better will depend on your individual trading style.
Most forex traders use a spread model, but some charge a commission instead (some charge both!). In this model, the trader relays your currency order to the interbank market, which matches the price. The broker then charges a commission on top, based on a percentage of your total trading volume.
We generally prefer spread-only models, but do you research and work out which one is best for you. Be sure to understand exactly what you’re committing to, and don’t forget to factor in other potential fees like interest rates, withdrawal fees or rollover (“overnight”) fees.
What trading platforms do they offer?
You’re going to be conducting all of your forex activity through your broker’s trading platform, so this is a big consideration.
The most popular platforms for UK forex traders are MetaTrader 4 or 5 (MT4 or MT5) and cTrader, as they’re good all-rounders for most types of traders. Some brokers offer you various platforms to choose from depending on your trading style, and many have a proprietary platform of their own. They’ll often give you better spreads or commission rates for using these platforms over others.
Choose a broker with a demo account option so you can set up a free account and get a feel for the software. You’re looking at key factors like:
- Is the software reliable?
- Does it seem glitchy or slow?
- Does it execute your trades quickly?
- Is it intuitive and easy to navigate?
- What’s the display quality of the charts?
- How interactive are they?
- Does it have a good range of technical indicators?
- Does it offer social trading or other features?
- Does it work well on mobile, if available?
You might also want to consider where it’s hosted. If you do all of your trading at home, a desktop or web app is fine. However, if you want to be able to trade anywhere, you’ll want a platform that’s available – and works well — on mobile too.
Does it fit your trading style?
How does the broker fit with your individual trading style?
As an example, if you’re a “scalper”, then large spreads can quickly eat into your profits. Your ideal forex broker will be one that offers smaller spreads with no minimum time between buying and selling.
If you prefer to carry your trades, then you can afford to deal with larger spreads, and you don’t have to worry about being able to make a quick exit. However, you’ll want a broker that doesn’t charge you high fees for rollovers and swaps.
Here are some other factors to consider:
- If you’re only interested in trading small amounts of currency, you’ll be better suited to a broker that offers mini or micro trading accounts.
- If you’re a beginner, most brokers will offer you a dummy account so you can learn the ropes without risking your money.
- Small-time traders and beginners may want to look for accounts with low or no minimum deposits.
- If you want to trade in exotic currencies, you’ll want to look for a broker with a larger range of currency pairs.
- If you’ll be relying on leverage, look for a broker with a higher leverage ratio.
You get the picture!
Now that we’ve covered the most important factors to look for in a forex broker, let’s look at our top ten forex brokers in the UK.
Remember that the ideal broker for you will depend on lots of individual factors, some of which may be more important to you than others. This is only intended as a guide to the brokers we feel are offering a great service, but you should do your research and make sure they’re right for your specific circumstances.
Of course, the one thing everyone should insist on is FCA regulation, so you can rest assured that every trader on this list is FCA-regulated.
Without further ado, let’s see who made our list of the top ten UK forex traders in 2020…
The top 10 best forex brokers in the UK
FXTM, also known as Forex Time, offers a number of account types with varying spreads. Some, like the standard account, lean towards the average-to-high end of the industry, but their ECN accounts are known to be very competitive.
FXTM charges quite a lot of fees for things like overnights, withdrawals and inactivity, but unlike many brokers, they’re very transparent about them upfront. In our eyes, that gives them points for trustworthiness. That said, if you don’t plan to trade often, or you want to make regular small withdrawals, you might want to look further into their fee structures before deciding if they’re the right fit for you.
For more experienced or professional traders, the loyalty programme is one of the best. On the other hand, if you’re new to trading, you’ll benefit from FXTM’s low minimum deposits, demo account capability, and small-lot “Cent Account”. You’ll also get access to an excellent library of educational resources.
Overall, FXTM is a great, reliable all-rounder for beginners and professionals alike. Just do your due diligence on those fees and make sure they fit with your trading style and budget before you sign up.
Although it hasn’t been around quite as long as some of the bigger names, FxPro has quickly become a trusted forex broker. It offers around 70 currency pairs across various account types, catering to most styles of trader.
One of FxPro’s key strengths is the diverse range of software options, including the full MetaTrader and cTrader suites, both available on web, desktop and mobile. Their proprietary web-based FxEdge software has limited mobile capability, but it’s well-liked among members for its responsive, customisable design and extensive features.
FxPro tends to get high marks for customer service, with most people able to get through in under a minute and receiving professional, knowledgeable support. They also offer decent research and educational resources in the members’ area.
Although they recommend depositing at least £500, you can start trading on FxPro with a minimum deposit of just £100. That said, this is probably not the best trader for newbies. The spreads and commissions tend to be at the higher end of the industry, and their very best features, like flawless large-order execution, only really benefit experienced, high-volume traders.
Still, if you’re not new to the game and you have an established, tried-and-tested trading style, FxPro is the place to bring it.
XTB offers 49 currency pairs and two main account types: standard and pro. The standard account is spread-only and offers industry-average rates, while the pro account offers smaller spreads, but with added commission. Both require a minimum deposit of £250, but they offer a very generous 200:1 leverage ratio.
XTB supports MetaTrader 4, but it’s best known for its industry-leading proprietary platform, xStation 5. The intuitive, user-friendly software performs brilliantly on web, desktop, mobile, and even smart watch, and it’s jam-packed with handy trading tools and charting features.
One example is the investment basket. This allows you to create a “basket” of related positions, both long and short, and execute them all in a single click, making light work of even the most sophisticated strategies.
Where XTB really shines, though, is customer service. It’s considered the best in the industry, with lightning-fast response times and unbeatable professionalism. For beginner and intermediate traders, it offers a Training Academy that covers forex trading in impressive — but accessible — detail. Whether you’re just getting started or looking to refine your skills, you’ll find lots of video and written material to help you along.
IG is one of the longest-running brokers we looked at, and it’s widely known as one of the most reliable and trustworthy. Thanks to its size, it can offer much more competitive spreads than most, across a wide range of 104 currency pairs.
You’re spoilt for choice in terms of software options, including MetaTrader 4, Forex Direct, DMA, and more. The real star, though, is the proprietary IG web platform, loved for its speed, reliability and user-friendly design. When it comes to charting features and trading tools, it feels like they’ve thought of absolutely everything you could need.
IG also excels in research. With its broad selection of news and market research tools and a personalised news feed, you always have the most relevant industry data and content in front of you. As you invest more and more, IG also gives you access to premium tools like Real Vision TV and research. And as you’d expect from such a content-savvy broker, its educational resources are second to none, too.
5. CMC Markets
CMC Markets was one of the first UK brokers to start offering online forex trading. Today, it’s known for its large range of currency pairs – 158 and counting – and its highly competitive spreads. In fact, its low-spread offering is considered one of the best in the industry, available to every trader and account type. It’s also one of the more accessible brokers, with no joining charge or minimum deposit.
CMC offers MetaTrader 4, but it pales in comparison to its own proprietary Next Generation platform. The award-winning platform is renowned for being the most user-friendly option on the market. Its charting function features an impressive 80 technical indicators, 40 drawing tools, 73 candlesticks, and an innovative tool that spots emerging patterns in your charting data.
If mobile trading is an important feature for you, CMC has you covered. Next Generation works just as flawlessly on mobile as it does on the web, with excellent consistency across the formats and lots of value-added features like research updates.
6. City Index
Overall, trusted broker City Index offers average spreads in 65 currency pairs, with a very reasonable £100 minimum deposit. As with most brokers, you can get access to better spreads by using their proprietary software.
City Index offers two proprietary platforms: AT Pro (desktop) and Web Trader (web-based). Both are responsive and user-friendly platforms, but AT Pro packs an extra-powerful set of features for more experienced traders.
Overall, City Index a good all-rounder that caters to traders of all budgets, styles and experience levels. It offers a good balance of everything, with proven reliability, affordable entry, competitive spreads, and a good mix of currencies.
Plus500 is an established favourite for serious and casual traders alike. It features 60 currency pairs with industry-average spreads and no commission, and the minimum deposit starts at just £100 for credit and debit cards.
Plus500 only offers its own proprietary platform, so if you’re attached to MetaTrader, cTrader or similar, this might not be the broker for you. However, their WebTrader offering is very easy to use and features all the most essential charting and risk management tools.
This broker is not too big on the bells and whistles, so you won’t find much in the way of fancy features or in-depth research. However, what it does offer, it does very well. Overall, it’s a winning option for those who want a simple, streamlined, but effective broker.
8. Saxo Bank
Boasting 170 currency pairs, Saxo Bank is one of the best brokers out there in almost every category.
Saxo Bank tends to cater more for the high rollers and super-active traders. If you were in the U.S., you’d have to put in a hefty $10,000 minimum deposit. While this is much lower for UK residents at £500, this is still at the higher end in terms of accessibility. That said, if you’re trading at a very (and we mean very) high volume, their award-winning VIP membership is absolutely worth it.
Saxo Bank doesn’t charge commission and the spreads are competitive, getting even better the higher up the VIP ladder you go. Their innovative, in-platform research offering is among the best in the market, delivered via in-house experts and industry heavyweights. And then there’s the software…
SaxoTraderGO and SaxoTraderPRO are their respective web and desktop offerings. These fantastic proprietary platforms leave nothing to be desired, with stacks upon stacks of innovative tools and algorithmic order types. Best of all, both platforms are seamlessly integrated with each other and the mobile app, which is also in a league of its own. You get the impression that every need has been anticipated across the systems, and the whole user experience feels completely effortless.
If you want to use MetaTrader instead, you’ll need to put in a hefty minimum deposit and meet monthly spending thresholds. However, both GO and PRO deliver such a solid experience that we can’t think of a single advantage to doing so.
Finally, we have to give a shout out to Saxo Bank’s commitment to the FX Global Code, an interbank standard promoting transparency and integrity in the forex industry. When a broker goes above and beyond their regulatory requirements in this way, it’s a sure sign of a reliable partner.
9. London Capital Group
LCG offers two types of account: standard and ECN. The standard account is free to open, but offers some of the highest spreads on the market. However, if you want more competitive spreads, the ECN will set you back a $10,000 minimum deposit. Note that LCG also charges commission.
If you can afford the minimum deposit, the spreads really are among the best. However, be sure to use LCGTrader, their white-labelled cTrader platform, as the spread and commission both increase dramatically if you use MetaTrader 4. If you trade at a high enough volume, you can also benefit from a generous active trader programme and significant rebates.
Pepperstone is a relative newcomer to the market with around 60 currency pairs. With no minimum deposit and an emphasis on copy trading, Pepperstone is a great option for beginner traders.
On their commission-free standard accounts, spreads are on the average-to-high side. Upgrade to their commission-based Razor account, though, and you can benefit from significantly lower spreads.
Unlike most forex brokers, Pepperstone doesn’t have its own proprietary platform. However, it offers a huge range of other options, including the popular MetaTrader and cTrader platforms, both of which are available on mobile too.
If you want to take advantage of their awesome social trading capabilities, Pepperstone also offers a number of copy-trading platforms like MirrorTrader and RoboX. Some require a minimum deposit, but there are still plenty of great options for those who don’t want to put down much money.
Wherever you are in your forex trading career, your broker is an essential partner that you need to choose wisely. Now that you know what to look for and you’ve read our recommendations, hopefully you’re on the way to finding the perfect forex broker for you.
Remember, this is just a guide, and the right broker will depend on lots of personal factors and circumstances. It’s important to do your due diligence before you invest, starting with checking for FCA regulation. Best of luck!