Welcome to the Learn2.Trade platform. If you’re just starting out in the world of online trading, you’ve certainly come to the right place. Our website will arm you with all of the required tools to get your trading career off on the right foot.
We provide comprehensive guides on all-things trading – such as how the multi-trillion pound forex industry works, what CFDs are and why they are crucial for your long-term investment goals, leverage, the spread, market orders, and anything else that we think you should know before you start risking your own funds.
Crucially, upon spending the necessary time browsing through our many educational tools, you’ll leave our platform with the required skills and knowledge to make a success of your online trading endeavours.
Trading for Beginners: How Does Online Trading Work?
If you’ve never placed a single trade in your life, it’s fundamental that you know what you are doing before parting with your money. After all, online trading comes with a plethora of risks – many of which can hinder your ability to make consistent profits. As such, let’s start by getting a 360-degree overview of how the end-to-end trading process.
Choosing an Online Broker
In order to trade online, you will need to use a broker. Long gone are the days where you need to place buy and sell orders over the phone with a traditional stockbroker.
On the contrary, everything is now executed online. In fact, not only can you trade from the comfort of your own home, but most online brokers now offer fully-fledged trading apps. As such, you can now trade while on the move.
With that being said, there are literally thousands of online brokers that service everyday retail clients. On the one hand, this is highly beneficial from the perspective of you as a trader, as an over-saturation of platforms means that brokers must up the ante to fend off the competition.
This might come in the form of reduced trading fees and tighter spreads, or innovative features such as ‘Copy Trading’. On the other hand, this makes it extremely difficult to know which online trading platform to sign up with.
How do you Choose an Online Trading Platform?
To help you along the way, we’ve listed some of the most important factors that you need to consider when choosing an online broker.
In order to offer online trading services to retail clients based in the UK, brokers must be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). As such, this is a non-negotiable requirement when it comes to choosing a new platform.
In most cases, the online broker will list its FCA registration number, which you can then cross-reference via the regulator’s website. If it doesn’t, you can search for the broker’s name online via the FCA register. Ultimately, if the broker isn’t in receipt of an FCA license, you should avoid the platform at all costs.
You also need to consider what payment method you prefer to use when it comes to depositing and withdrawing funds. The easiest way to do this is via a debit or credit card, as deposits are typically instant.
Moreover, some brokers allow you to use an e-wallet like PayPal or Skrill, although this isn’t always the case. Additionally, most brokers support bank transfers. Although this usually permits highers limits, bank transfers are the slowest payment option.
🥇 Fees and Spreads
You will need to pay a fee of some sort to use an online trading platform, as brokers are in the business of making money. You might need to pay a variable commission, which is a percentage of the amount that you trade. For example, if you place a trade worth £4,000, and the broker charges 0.2% in commission, then you’ll end up paying £8 in fees.
On top of commission, you also need to consider the spread. This is the difference between the ‘buy’ price and ‘sell’ price. If the spread is too high, then it will have a direct impact on your ability to make consistent profits. For example, if the spread amounts to a real-world percentage of 1%, you’ll need to make at least 1% just to break even.
🥇 Financial Instruments
You also need to make some considerations regarding the number, and type of, financial instruments hosted by the broker. In the vast majority of cases, online trading platforms will cover forex and CFDs. Regarding the former, this is where you buy and sell currencies, with the view of profiting off of small pricing movements.
In the case of CFDs (contract-for-differences), this allows you to speculate on virtually any asset class, without needing to own the underlying asset. For example, CFDs allows you to trade anything from stocks and shares, gold, oil, natural gas, stock market indices, interest rates, futures, and even cryptocurrencies.
🥇 Trading Tools
You are best off using a broker that places a strong emphasis on technical indicators. Such tools allow you to analyze historical pricing trends in an advanced matter. In doing so, you stand the best chance possible of evaluating where the future direction of your chosen asset will go.
Well-known technical indicators include stochastic oscillators, moving averages (MA), relative strength index (RSI), and bollinger bands. Ultimately, you should choose online trading platforms that offer dozens of technical indicators.
Access to research tools is also an important factor that you need to look out for when choosing a new trading platform. This should include real-time news updates that are likely to impact a particular asset or industry.
Moreover, it’s also useful when brokers have a dedicated analysis section. This is where expert traders publish their viewpoints on where a certain asset is likely to move in the markets in the short-term.
Open an Account With an Online Trading Platform
Once you have chosen an online broker that meets your needs, you will then need to open an account. The registration process usually takes no more than 5-10 minutes. Essentially, the broker needs to know who you are, and whether or not you have the required experience to trade online. This is to ensure that the platform remains compliant with the regulations outlined by the FCA.
Here’s what information you will need to enter when opening an account with a trading site.
✔️ Personal Information
You’ll need to enter your personal information. This will include your full name, home address, date of birth, national insurance number, and contact details.
✔️ Employment Information
The broker will need to know your employment status and your annual income after tax.
✔️ Financial Standing
You will need to let the broker know what your estimated net worth is, and whether you are a retail or institutional client.
✔️ Previous Trading Experience
The broker will ask you questions pertaining to your prior trading experience. This will include the type of assets you’ve traded in the past, and the average trade size.
In order to remain compliant with anti-money laundering laws, all FCA regulated trading platforms will need to verify your identity. The process is relatively straightforward and simply requires you to upload a copy of your government-issued ID, as well as a proof of address.
Although some brokers allow you to deposit funds before the verification process is complete, you won’t be able to make a withdrawal until your documents have been confirmed. As such, it’s best to get the KYC (Know Your Customer) process out of the way as soon as you open the account.
Deposits and Withdrawals
When it comes to funding your brokerage account, you should be offered a number of different payment methods. Although this will vary from broker-to-broker, we’ve listed the most common deposit and withdrawal methods below.
🥇 Debit and Credit Cards
Depositing money via a debit/credit card usually results in the funds being credited instantly. Keep an eye on fees – especially if using a credit card. While the broker might not charge you any fees per-say, the credit card issuer might class the deposit as a cash advance. If it does, this can attract a fee of 3%, with the interest being applied instantly.
🥇 Bank Transfer
The vast majority of online trading platforms will accept a bank transfer. The process is much slower than a debit/credit card payment, although limits are usually higher. If the deposit is made via UK Faster Payments, the funds might be credited on a same-day basis.
Although less common than a debit/credit card or bank transfer, a number of new-age brokers now accept e-wallets. This includes the likes of PayPal, Skrill, and Neteller. E-Wallet deposits are not only free of charge, but in most cases, they allow you to withdraw your funds in the fastest timeframe.
Learn to Trade Forex
If you’re interested in profiting from the multi-trillion pound forex space, then you’ll be buying and selling currencies. The overarching concept is to make a profit as and when currency exchange rates move.
As such, you will be trading a forex ‘pair’, which consists of two different currencies. For example, if you wanted to trade pound sterling against the euro, then you would need to trade GBP/EUR.
With that being said, some brokers will list over 100 different currency pairs. These currency pairs are broken down into three main categories – majors, minors, and exotics.
As the name suggests, major pairs consist of two ‘major’ currencies. This will include currencies from the largest economies in the world, such as the US dollar, British pound, the euro, Japanese yen, and Swiss franc.
If you’re just starting out in the world of forex trading, it would be advisable to stick with major pairs. This is because the majors encounter low volatility levels, tighter spreads, and heaps of liquidity.
Minor pairs will consist of one major currency and one less liquid currency. AUD/USD is a prime example of a minor pair. The US dollar represents the major currency of the pair, while the Australian dollar is the less demanded currency.
Although minors still benefit from significant amounts of liquidity, spreads are often much wider than the majors. This means that trading minors are more expensive in the long-run. With that said, volatility is slightly higher in the minor pairs, so there are more opportunities to make bigger gains.
Exotic currency pairs will consist of an emerging currency and a major currency. This could include the US dollar and Vietnamese dong, or pound sterling against the Turkish lira.
Either way, exotic pairs can be extremely volatile, and spreads are often very wide. This is why you are best off avoiding the exotics until you learn to trade forex at an advanced level.
How Does a Forex Trade Work?
Once you have chosen a currency pair that takes your fancy, you then need to determine which way the market will go. Before we delve into the fundamentals, it is important to clarify the difference between a ‘buy’ order and ‘sell’ order in the context of forex trading.
🥇 If you believe that the currency positioned on the left-hand side of the pair is going to increase in value, then you need to place a buy order.
🥇 If you believe that the currency positioned on the right-hand side of the pair is going to increase in value, then you need to place a sell order.
For example, let’s say that you are trading GBP/USD. If you felt that GBP was likely to increase in value against the USD, then we would place a buy order. Similarly, if you felt that the USD will increase against GBP, you would place a sell order.
Example of a ‘Buy’ Order in Forex Trading
Sticking with the GBP/USD theme, let’ say that you placed a £500 ‘buy’ order. This means that you believe that GBP will increase in price against the USD.
- The price of GBP/USD is currently 1.32
- You placed a £500 buy order
- GBP/USD increases to 1.34, meaning that GBP is getting stronger against the USD
- This represents an increase of 1.51%
- Your profit would amount to £7.55 (£500 x 1.51%)
Example of a ‘Sell’ Order in Forex Trading
In this example, we are also going to stick with GBP/USD. Only this time, we are going to place a ‘sell’ order. This means that you believe the USD will outperform GBP.
- The price of GBP/USD is currently 1.32
- You placed a £1,500 sell order
- GBP/USD decreases to 1.29, meaning that the USD is getting stronger against GBP
- This represents a decrease of 2.27%
- Your profit would amount to £34.05 (£1,500 x 2.27%)
Learn to Trade CFDs
The second major segment of the online trading space is that of CFDs. As we briefly mentioned earlier, CFDs allow you to buy and sell practically every asset class imaginable. This is because you are not required to own or store the underlying asset to invest in it.
Instead, CFDs merely track the real-world price of the asset in question. As such, CFDs are highly conducive for accessing marketplaces that would other be difficult to reach.
Below we have listed the main asset classes that CFDs cover.
✔️ Stocks and Shares
✔️ Interest Rates
✔️ Hard Metals
How Does a CFD Trade Work?
In terms of how a CFD trade actually works, this is very similar to buying and selling forex pairs. The key difference that you need to be made aware of at this stage is the terminology. While in forex we typically determine trades as a buy or sell order, in the CFD space we use the terms ‘long’ and ‘short’.
Moreover, CFDs do not come in pairs like forex. Instead, you are trading an asset against the real-world value of the dominate currency, which is usually the US dollar. For example, whether you’re trading CFDs in the form of stocks, oil, natural gas, or gold – assets are commonly priced against USD.
🥇 If you believe that the asset is going to increase in value, then you need to place a long order.
🥇 If you believe that the asset is going to decrease in value, then you need to place a short order.
This is one of the most attractive aspects of trading CFDs, as you will always have the option of short-selling. This is where you are speculating on the asset losing value. This is something that would otherwise be difficult to replicate in the traditional investment space as a retail client.
Learn to Trade Stocks
If you’re looking to trade stocks on a long-term basis, then you will be best off buying your chosen equities from a conventional stockbroker. This is because you will own the stocks outright, meaning that you will be accustomed to a range of investor protections.
Crucially, this includes a legal right to any dividend payments that are distributed by the company in question – proportionate to the number of shares you are holding.
However, if you want to learn to trade stocks on a short-term basis, you will need to use a CFD platform. This is because the fees associated with buying and selling stocks in the traditional sense are much higher than CFDs. Moreover – as a retail client you will have little, if any, chance of being able to short-sell your chosen equity. Once again, this is something offered by virtually all CFD platforms.
Nevertheless, if you do want to access the global stock markets online, you will have two options – buying and selling individual shares, or investing in an index.
✔️ Trading Individual Shares
If you have the required skills to invest in individual companies, you’ll have access to thousands of CFD equities. This includes blue-chip companies listed on popular markets such as the NASDAQ and London Stock Exchange, as well as small-to-mid cap companies.
If opting for the CFD route, the value of your chosen shares will mirror that of the asset’s real-world price. For example, if the price of British American Tobacco shares goes up by 2.3% in a 24 hour period, its respective CFD will also increase by 2.3%.
✔️ Trading a Stock Market Index
If you’re keen to trade stocks and shares, but you don’t have the required knowledge to choose individual companies, it might be worth considering a stock market index.
Also referred to as ‘indices’, stock market indexes allow you to speculate on hundreds of companies in a single trade – subsequently diversifying your position across multiple industries.
For example, by investing in the S&P 500, you can purchase shares from 500 of the largest US-listed companies. Similarly, the FTSE 100 index allows you to invest in the 100 largest companies listed on the London Stock Exchange.
Once again, if opting for a stock market index in the form of a CFD, you will have the option of going long or short. As such, you would still have the opportunity to make a profit even when the wider stock markets are down.
What is the Spread?
Irrespective of whether you are trading forex or CFDs – you need to have a firm understanding of the spread. In its most basic form, this is the difference between the ‘buy’ price and the ‘sell’ price. On top of trading commissions, the spread ensures that online brokers make money.
The size of the spread is important for you as a trader, as it indicates what fees you are indirectly paying. For example, if there is a 0.5% gap in the spread when trading stocks, this means that you need to make at least 0.5% in gains just to break even.
Example of the Spread in CFDs
The easiest way to calculate the spread when trading CFDs is to simply work out the percentage difference between the buy and sell price.
- You are looking to go ‘long’ on oil
- Your broker offers a ‘buy’ price of $71
- The ‘sell’ price is $69
- This means that the spread is the difference between $69 and $71
- In percentage terms, this is a spread of 2.89%
Regardless of whether you decide to go long or short on oil, you will pay a spread of 2.89%. This means you will need to make at least 2.89% in gains just to break even.
🥇 If you go long on oil, you will need to pay $71. If you immediately exit your position, you would do so at a sell price of $69. As such, you need the price of oil to increase by 2.89% just to break even.
🥇 If you go short on oil, you will need to pay $69. If you immediately exit your position, you would do so at a buy price $71. As such, you need the price of oil to decrease by 2.89% just to break even.
What is Leverage?
Leverage is both an exciting and highly risky tool that you will find at most online trading sites. In a nutshell, leverage allows you to trade at higher levels than what you have in your brokerage account. The specific amount is determined by a factor, such as 2:1, 5:1, or 30:1. The higher the factor, the more you are trading with and thus – the higher your profits or losses will be.
For example, let’s say that you only have £300 in your account. You want to go long on natural gas, as you feel that the asset is heavily undervalued. As such, you apply leverage of 10:1, meaning that you are actually trading with £3,000.
In this example, your £300 is now the margin. If the value of your trade went down by a factor of 10:1 (100/10 = 10%), you would lose your entire margin. This is known as being ‘liquidated’. Similarly, if your margin was £300 and you were trading at 25:1, you would be liquidated if the asset went down by a factor of 25:1 (100/25 = 4%).
If you’re a retail trader based in the UK (or any European member state for that matter), you will be capped by the leverage limits installed by the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA).
ESMA Leverage Limits
🥇30:1 for major forex pairs
🥇20:1 for non-major forex pairs, gold, and major indices
🥇10:1 for commodities other than gold and non-major equity indices
🥇5:1 for individual stocks
🥇2:1 for cryptocurrencies
Market Orders: What are They and how do They Work?
If you want to learn to trade online, it’s absolutely crucial that you know how market orders work. Essentially, this will allow you to automatically close trades when certain price points are hit.
For example, if a trade goes in your favour, you can guarantee a profit by closing the trade automatically. Simiaillly, if a trade goes against you, a market order can exit the trade and thus – reduce your losses.
Below we have listed some of the most important market orders that you need to be made aware of.
✔️ Stop-Loss Order
As the name suggests, a stop-loss order will mitigate your overall exposure to a losing trade. For example, let’s say that you are speculating on Bitcoin, and you open a trade worth £2,000 at a buy price of $9,500.
As such, you hope that the price of Bitcoin increases. However, you also place a stop-loss order just in case things go against you. As you don’t want to lose more than 5% of your trade value, you place a stop-loss order at $9,025.
Just a few days later, Bitcoin is tanking and loses 20% in value. Originally, you would have lost £400 (20% of your £2,000 trade). However, as you installed a sensible stop-loss at $9,025, you reduced your loss to just £100 (5% of £2,000).
✔️ Guaranteed Stop-Loss Order
As effective as a stop-loss order can be, there is never any guarantee that your order will be filled. For example, if you placed a stop-loss order on GBP/USD during the Brexit referendum result, it’s unlikely that the order would have found a buyer. This is because GBP/USD went through a period of extreme volatility.
On the contrary, a ‘guaranteed’ stop-loss order will always be matched, as it’s effectively an agreement between you and the broker. Take note, you will need to pay a higher fee to execute a guaranteed stop-loss order, albeit, it might just be worth paying.
✔️ Take -Profit Order
While it is crucial to protect your trade from being overexposed to large losses, you also need to set up an order to automatically close a trade when you make a profit. Otherwise, you might miss the opportunity to lock-in gains if you’re not at your desktop device. As such, take-profit orders will close a trade at a pre-defined price.
For example, if you’re trading silver at $18.24, and you wish to lock-in a profit when the asset increases by 10%, you could place a take-profit order at $20.06. If the price does hit $20.06, the trade will close automatically with a profit of 10%.