Different Types of Forex Brokers

Richard Montana | November 2, 2022

If you are thinking about trading forex online, one of the most important decisions that you will make is what forex broker to choose. With so many types of forex brokers to choose from, it can seem overwhelming at first. Whilst the jargon may sound complicated at first, it really isn’t when you break down each type of broker into a few categories.

That is what we will do for you here, explaining everything in layman’s terms. Once you have made your way through this guide, you should have a clear understanding on the different types of forex broker so that you can make an informed decision as to which is best for you.

What are the types of forex brokers?

To keep things simple, it is first a good idea to understand that retail forex brokers come in two types: dealing desk (DD) brokers and no dealing desk (NDD) brokers. These can be further categorised into STP/ECN brokers who come under non-dealing desk brokers and market makers who fall into the dealing desk category. Now let’s take a closer look at each type of FX broker.

ECN forex broker

An ECN broker is a type of foreign exchange brokerage that uses an Electronic Communications Network (ECN) to match buy and sell orders in the currency exchange trading market. The ECN is essentially a computerized trading system that automatically matches various orders between buyers and sellers in the forex (foreign exchange) market.

An ECN forex broker offers a true matching order execution system where the brokerage charges a small commission fee on each trade. It’s different from conventional trading, where the raw spreads are inflated artificially to cover broker costs. If you are looking to trade forex with tight spreads, then ECN forex brokers have spreads from 0.0 pips without any mark-ups.

STP forex broker

STP (Straight Through Processing) is a forex brokerage model that involves sending client orders directly to the market without passing them through a dealing desk. An STP forex broker is similar to an ECN broker, where all client positions are passed directly to the market through interbank exchange houses or liquidity providers such as banks.

ECN brokers are considered to be more transparent. ECN brokers only route orders to the interbank market, whereas STP forex brokers can route orders to any of their liquidity providers such as banks or interbank exchanges. ECN brokers always charge a commission on trades, whereas STP brokers can charge commissions and gain from the spreads.

Market maker forex broker

Unlike ECN and STP brokers, a forex market maker is a broker that doesn’t cover positions on liquidity providers and is obliged to pay for client’s beneficial trades with its own money. Therefore, any client earnings can equal broker losses which many believe creates a conflict of interest. The general term for them is B-book brokers.

Market makers earn money by adding a spread mark-up. This means that they can often have spreads that are higher than NDD brokers, which may be an issue if you are a forex scalper. On the other hand, they do not usually charge a commission fee. They can also offer fixed spread accounts, mini/micro lots and have smaller minimum deposit requirements.

DMA forex broker

Another type of forex broker that you will come across is the DMA broker. Without trying to complicate things further, DMA, or Direct Market Access, is a type of trade execution where traders are offered direct access to the interbank, enabling them to place trading orders with liquidity providers (LPs).

Usually only available to institutional traders, DMA forex brokers give you access to multiple levels of liquidity displayed in real time. You’re able to trade on prices sourced from global banks and top tier liquidity providers with no additional mark up.

You can view pricing available on either side of the order book and have the ability to place orders within the top of book spreads. Keep in mind, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the top-of-book prices will always be better than a brokers standard pricing as factors such as size of trade and time of day can impact the tightness of the bid/ask spread.

There’s usually no spread mark-up to pay, rather just a standard commission. It is quite common for some of the larger brokers to give you discounted commissions based on your trading volume. Generally speaking, the more volume that you trade, the more you can save on trading costs.

Which type of forex broker is best?

The DMA forex broker is ideal for serious traders looking for maximum transparency and control. Full market depth exposes traders to multiple levels of liquidity that allows them greater insights into the market and control to trade on the best bids and offers sourced directly from the brokers liquidity providers.

However, DMA accounts can have high entry requirements and not all brokers provide them. This is where an ECN forex broker can be a great solution. You sort of get the best of both worlds as they are easily accessible yet still have very favourable trading conditions including deep liuqidity pools and no dealing desk interference. This means you can trade forex with tight spreads, minimal slippage and full transparency.

Who are the best forex brokers?

There are literally thousands of forex brokers that you can trade currencies online with. The majority of them will have a generous selection of major, minor and exotic currency pairs which you can buy and sell in your own time. Below you can see a selection of our best forex brokers.

Broker
Rating
Regulated
Min. Deposit
Founded
Max. Leverage
1.
AvaTrade Review

ADGM FRSA, ASIC, BVIFSC, CBI, FFAJ, FSCA, IIROC, JFSA

$100

2006

1:400

Between 74-89% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider.
2.
IG Review

ASIC, BaFin, CFTC, DFSA, FCA, FINMA, FMA, FSA, FSCA, JFSA, MAFF, MAS, METI, NFA

$250

1974

1:200

Between 74-89% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider.
3.
Pepperstone Review

ASIC, BaFin, CMA, CySEC, DFSA, FCA, SCB

$200

2010

1:400

Between 74-89% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider.
4.
IC Markets Review

ASIC, CySEC, FSA, SCB

$200

2007

1:500

Between 74-89% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider.
5.
XM Group Review

ASIC, CySEC, DFSA, IFSC

$5

2009

1:888

Between 74-89% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider.
6.
City Index Review

ASIC, FCA, MAS

$100

1983

1:200

Between 74-89% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider.
7.
Oanda Review

CFTC, NFA

$0

1996

1:200

Leveraged trading in foreign currency contracts or other off-exchange products on margin carries a high level of risk and may not be suitable for everyone.
8.
Markets.com Review

ASIC, BVIFSC, CySEC, FCA, FSCA

$/£/€100

2008

1:300

79.90% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider.
9.
eToro Review

ASIC, CySEC, FCA

$200

2006

1:30

68% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider.
10.
Plus500 Review

ASIC, CySEC, FCA, FSA, FSCA, FMA, ISA, MAS

$100

2008

1:30

79% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

Conclusion: what type of forex broker should I use?

By now you should have a clear understanding on the different types of forex broker available to you. The broker that you choose is going to depend on your forex trading strategy and investment size. If you want access to the lowest possible spreads, then you might want to consider an ECN broker. If you are not fussed about spreads but do not want to pay a commission fee, a market maker could suffice. For professional traders, a broker that provides direct market access would certainly be worth a look.

About the Author

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Richard Montana
Richard has many years of experience in broker research, testing, analysis and reviews. He knows what to look for through years of trading himself with different brokers and listening to the feedback of others.

Review Methodology

For all of our broker reviews, we research, validate, analyse and compare what we deem to be the most important factors to consider when choosing a broker. This includes pros, cons and an overall rating based on our findings. We aim to help you find the best broker according to your own needs. You can read more about our review process.


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