This is a very good question and sadly not one that enough investors think to ask. After all, when anyone first enters into Forex trading there will always be a lot things that you don’t know and your broker would seem to be the logical source of great information—right? Even the very notion of Forex trades being “commission free” is not actually accurate and it is therefore in the broker’s best interest to convince any investor to trade because that is when the broker makes their money.
It is true that Forex brokers do not get paid the typical commissions found in securities or commodities transactions. Instead, these “middlers of the Forex, make their money from a host of activities relating to a trade, including: Buying/Selling currencies, Converting and holding currencies, Interest on deposited funds and Rollover fees.
In short, the Forex broker makes money from the difference between the bid and ask price. There was a time when only banks, major currency dealers, and other big players were the only ones who play in the Forex. However, brokers are often associated or somehow linked with an investment bank that guarantees the loans used to leverage a trade. These brokers buy a lot ($100,000) from a larger bank or investment vehicle and then sell it back to you—at the “ask” price.
The “bid” price is the amount that you can sell that position back to the broker for. If a position had an ask price of 1.1920 and a bid price of 1.1923 and you were to sell it immediately back to the broker, you would take a loss of .0003—or three pips. Those three pips are what the broker makes from the trade despite the fact that they technically have not charged a commission. Since the typical lot size on the Forex is $100,000, that means a trade costs $30 in the above scenario.
So, if the broker makes money from trades then it is likely they will advise you to trade often—maybe even advise setting really tight stops in order to prevent you from losing money while also creating more trades in the process. Trading too often on the Forex is not a great idea anyway because trends on the Forex tend to be towards long-term consistent price movements. Trading on news releases and increasing your number of trades puts you at greater risk of incurring loss.
Of course, just because a broker does make money from trades does not mean that they will provide you with bad information. Most brokers are very reputable and can provide you with sound investment advice. However, it is definitely better to understand the market and perhaps start out with “mini-lots” or even paper accounts before really jumping in with both feet. You will need a sound investment strategy, patience, and a lot of backtesting in order to be successful in Forex trading!