Difference Between Leverage and Margin

Leverage and Margin: Both terms are crucial for any Forex trader to fully understand. The values determine your buying power and potential profit (or loss) on the currency exchange. Hence, without further ado, here is how the concepts compare. Make sure you understand both ideas before venturing into live trading.

What Is Leverage?

It is commonly said that leverage is a “two-way street” as it may maximize losses as well as returns. Attractive leverage is also a major competitive advantage for a broker. A trader who uses leverage gains control over a sizeable amount of money using little or none of their own funds. Thus, they essentially borrow a portion of capital from the intermediary to trade larger volumes.

For instance, it may be possible to trade $100,000 with only $1,000 of your own money. In this example, the leverage is measured as 100:1. This translates into a 100% profit. If that $100,000 sum was actually your own, the profit would constitute a mere 1%.

If the same position brought $1,000 loss, the calculations would follow the same logic. The leverage is still 100:1 and the negative return is 100%. On the other hand, the owner of $100,000 would only have a -1% return. This shows the double-edged nature of leverage. With larger volumes come larger potential risks.

Key Takeaways

Leverage is when you use debt (borrowed money) to make an investment or project pay off more.
Investors use leverage to increase the amount of money they can buy on the market.
Companies use leverage to pay for their assets. Instead of selling stock to raise money, they can use debt to invest in their business operations and try to boost the value of their shares.

There are many different financial leverage ratios that can be used to figure out how risky a company is. The most common ones are debt-to-assets and debt-to-equity.

Misuse of leverage may have serious consequences such as loss of funds.

Calculating Leverage

There is a whole set of leverage financial ratios that can be used to figure out how much debt a company is using to try to make the most money. Here are some of the most common leverage ratios.

Benefits of trading with Leverage

Leverage can be used in short-term situations with low risk and a need for a lot of capital. For example, a growth company may have a short-term need for capital during acquisitions or buyouts, which will lead to a strong mid- to long-term growth opportunity.

Instead of using more money to gamble on risky projects, leverage lets smart companies take advantage of opportunities at the right time, with the goal of getting out of their leveraged position quickly.

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Investors and traders mostly use leverage to make more money. Winners can pay off a lot more when your initial investment is multiplied by more money you put up front.

Using leverage also lets you invest in more expensive options that you wouldn’t have been able to invest in with a smaller amount of money up front.

Leverage Pros & Cons



Winning investments are multiplied, which could lead to huge profits.

It gives investors more chances to get into more expensive trading opportunities (reduces barriers to entry).

Can be used as a strategy for companies that need short-term financing for things like buyouts or acquisitions.

Losing investments are made worse, which could lead to big losses.

Costs more than other ways to trade.

No matter how well the trade goes, it will result in fees, margin rates, and contract premiums.

More complicated way to trade that may need more money and time depending on what your portfolio needs.

What Is Financial Leverage?

Financial leverage is borrowing money to invest in assets. The goal is for the return on these assets to be more than what it cost to borrow the money to buy them. The goal of financial leverage is to help investors make more money without them having to spend more of their own money.

Margin vs Leverage

Margin is similar to leverage in which cash or securities are used as collateral to increase a person’s buying power in the financial markets.

With margin, you can borrow money from a broker at a fixed interest rate to buy stocks, options, or futures contracts in the hopes of getting a very high return.

You can use margin to increase your buying power by the marginal amount. For example, if the collateral needed to buy $20,000 worth of securities is $2,000, you would have a 1:10 margin (and 10x leverage).

What Is Margin?

The two concepts are interrelated. Margin may be illustrated by the same example of a $100,000 trade including $1,000 of the trader’s own funds. This portion of the client’s money they have to use is termed “margin requirement”.

In essence, this is the amount necessary for securing the leverage and opening the position. The broker will merge margins from all traders. This collective deposit is later used for placing trades on the interbank network. The margin requirement still technically belongs to you, but you will only be able to use it once your position is closed or a margin call is received.

As regards measurement, your margin is calculated as the percentage of the overall size of every position. You may be required to provide .25%, .50%, 1%, 2%, or 5% margin. This also determines the maximum leverage you can expect.

A 5% margin requirement corresponds to 20:1 leverage, while a 0.25% margin means the leverage is 400:1. There is a number of other margin-related terms that determine your trading power. Here are the differences between them.

  • The account balance is the total amount of money available in your trading account.
  • Used margin is the amount “locked up” by the broker to maintain your current positions as open.
  • Usable margin is the amount in your account that may be used for opening new positions.
  • A margin call happens when your account balance is insufficient for covering the possible loss.

In case of a margin call, some or all open positions are immediately closed at the market price. This situation may occur if your used margin exceeds your equity.

How to Understand Margin and Trading on Margin
Margin is the amount of money that an investor has in his or her brokerage account. To “margin” or “buy on margin” means to buy stocks with money borrowed from a broker. To do this, you need a margin account instead of a regular brokerage account. A margin account is a brokerage account in which the investor borrows money from the broker to buy more securities than they could buy with the money in their account alone.

Using margin to buy securities is a lot like getting a loan and using the cash or securities you already have in your account as collateral. The collateralized loan has a rate of interest that must be paid every month. Since the investor is using borrowed money, both the gains and losses will be bigger than they would be otherwise. When the investor thinks that the return on the investment will be higher than the interest they are paying on the loan, margin investing can be a good idea.

For example, if the initial margin requirement for your margin account is 40% and you want to buy $10,000 worth of securities, your margin would be $4,000 and you could borrow the rest from your broker.

Key Takeaways

Margin trading is the act of trading a financial asset with money borrowed from a broker. The asset is used as collateral for the loan from the broker.
A margin account is a standard brokerage account that lets an investor use the cash or securities in the account as collateral for a loan.

Margin is the money you borrow from a broker to buy an investment. It is the difference between how much an investment is worth and how much you borrowed to buy it.

When margin gives you leverage, it tends to make both gains and losses bigger. In case of a loss, a margin call could force your broker to sell securities without your permission.

Trading on Margin

How does trading on margin work?
When you trade on margin, you borrow money from a brokerage firm so you can make trades. When trading on margin, investors first put down cash that is used as security for the loan.

They then pay interest on the money they borrow on a regular basis. Investors can buy more securities with this loan because it gives them more money to spend.

The securities that were bought are automatically used as security for the margin loan.

What Is a Margin Call?

A margin call is when a broker who gave an investor a margin loan sends that investor a notice asking them to increase the amount of collateral in their margin account.

When investors get a margin call, they usually have to put more money into their account, sometimes by selling other investments.

If the investor doesn’t want to do this, the broker can sell the investor’s positions to get the money they need. Many investors are afraid of margin calls because they can force them to sell at bad prices.

Margin Trading Pros & Cons



Boosts your ability to buy assets.

Margin Trading usually gives you more freedom than other types of loans.

There may be a self-fulfilling cycle of opportunities, where an increase in the value of collateral leads to more opportunities to use leverage.

Thanks to leverage, Margin Trading may lead to bigger gains.


Due to leverage, Margin Trading could lead to bigger losses.

costs fees and interest on the account

Margin Trading could lead to margin calls that require more equity investments

Margin Trading could lead to forced liquidations that lead to the sale of securities (often at a loss)




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