What Is Forex Spread Betting?

We cover forex spread betting from top to bottom.

Updated: May 18, 2024
Matt Crabtree

Written By

Matt Crabtree

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Maybe winning isn’t everything. One just needs to hedge the bet and minimize the risk.

Doug Cooper, Outside In

Spread betting is a kind of derivative trading in which the better does not have to own the stock or commodity on which the bet is placed.

Spread betters place wagers on whether or not the asset's price will rise or fall based on the prices supplied by their broker.

Like stock market trading, spread bets have a buy price (bid price) and a sale price (ask price) that are listed separately.

The spread is the price difference between both. In contrast to traditional securities transactions, spread betting does not need commissions, since the broker earns money from the spread itself.


If you're interested in financial spread betting, here is a fast “full” tutorial.

Key Things to Know about Spread Betting 

  • Spread betting allows investors to speculate on market movement without taking physical delivery of the underlying instruments.
  • Because of the use of leverage, it is prohibited in the United States despite claims that it is tax-free, and commission-free, and allows participants to speculate in both bull and bear markets.
  • Risk management in spread betting may be accomplished in a manner similar to stock trading via stop loss and take profit orders.

Spread Betting Agencies UK

When it comes to trading derivatives, financial spread betting may be as simple or complex as you choose. Quite simply, you may use this method to speculate on whether or not the value of an investment will rise in the future.

But with spread betting, you don't have to have the underlying asset in your possession. Profits from financial spread betting are also often exempt from Stamp Duty and other forms of taxes. Investors may be interested in this strategy due to the considerable gains that may be made without incurring any tax liability.

It has been shown that many retail investor accounts have a negative return, so your money might be in danger if you're not careful. This means that thorough market research is required before making any spread bets.

Key Things to Know about Forex

  • It’s a decentralised, electronic, worldwide network for exchanging currencies.
  • Individuals have access to the foreign exchange market hitherto reserved for governments and financial entities.
  • A trader's gain or loss in the foreign exchange market is determined by the spread between the buy-sell prices of a given currency pair.
  • Typically, foreign exchange dealers do not deal in physical currency. At the close of trading each day, most brokers will roll over their open positions.

The forex market is the biggest and most liquid in the world by volume, with trillions traded daily despite having no central physical presence. Banks, brokers, and other financial institutions facilitate most trades.

With the exception of major holidays, the foreign exchange market is open around the clock, five days a week. The foreign exchange market is open on holidays when other markets are closed, albeit trade activity may be low.

Forex is an abbreviation for “foreign exchange”, a combination of the two words that describe what it is. Sometimes shortened to fx.

What is Forex Spread Betting? — Overview

  • Spread betting in the foreign exchange market, or forex, is a way to speculate on the value of a particular currency without actually purchasing or selling that currency.
  • A forex spread bet consists of the trade direction, the quantity of the bet, and the spread of the underlying asset.
  • Trading with leverage is one of the main features of forex spread betting.

You wouldn't be completely off base if you imagined that spread betting was done at a sports betting shop. 

McNeil, formerly a mathematics teacher became a securities analyst and, subsequently, a bookie in Chicago, and has been credited by some with coming up with the concept of spread betting. About 30 years later, across the Atlantic, it emerged as an industry-specific niche for highly trained experts. 

Investment banker Stuart Wheeler of London's City founded IG Index in 1974 so that people could spread bet on gold. People who otherwise wouldn't have had the chance to participate in gold market speculation can now do so with the help of spread betting.

Originating in the United States, spread betting is now illegal in the country. However, in the United Kingdom, it is quite acceptable.

Forex Spread Betting Mechanisms

In financial spread betting, bets are placed on hypothetical trades rather than actual ones. Stocks in Company X are purchased with the expectation that their value will increase, and then they are sold at a profit.

A spread bet on if shares in Company X will grow may provide such a reward. If this value keeps rising as you expect, your prospective profits will increase in kind.

That means you may make money in a rising or falling market if you can accurately forecast the future movement of share prices and invest appropriately. However, if the underlying market turns against you, your financial losses will also grow accordingly.

Bet Initiation and Termination

How do I know when to enter and withdraw a spread bet?

Investing in two markets at once with your spare cash is possible with spread bets, although it is no different to gambling for non-professionals. Each market has two different prices: the “buy”/“bid” price and the “sell” price. After that, you may determine whether you want to go long or short.

Select “buy” if you believe the value of the asset you've chosen will rise in the future. Choose the sell option if you think prices will go down.

To “close” a spread bet, one must make transactions in the opposite direction as the initial wager. Buying anything is the first step in trading while selling something is the last step.

Spread Betting vs. Spread Trading

Spread betting is not the same as spread trading, which is something else to keep in mind. A trader engages in spread trading when he or she buys one asset and concurrently sells another security in the same market. By calculating the difference between the asking and asking prices, spread traders and investors aim to create a net position with a positive value (spread).

Spread trading typically involves the purchase and sale of options and futures contracts, however, other assets may be employed.

Understanding Forex Spread Betting

Speculating on the fluctuations in currency prices on the foreign exchange market is what “Forex spread betting” refers to. It's a kind of trading in which one makes a wager on whether the value of one currency in a pair will rise or fall in relation to the other currency. To be clear, the trader does not and cannot own any of the underlying currencies.

Traders use spread betting on foreign exchange on brokerage platforms run by brokers that provide the bid and ask price. The spread in foreign exchange is the difference between the bid and ask price.

A trader who anticipates a gain in the value of a currency pair will enter a buy/long position, whereas a trader who expects a decrease in value would open a sell/short position. The bid price is used as a benchmark if they anticipate a price decline. The asking price is often used as a benchmark if an upward price trend is expected.

Forex spread betting, in a nutshell, is concerned with three main factors. Some of these factors include the gap between the two currencies, the amount wagered, and the direction in which you think the price will go.

The trader often has complete control over the amount of capital risked in an effort to maximise possible profit or minimise loss. Spread betting in foreign exchange uses leverage in the same way.

A trader with a 100:1 leverage ratio, for instance, would need to deposit just £100 to have enlarged exposure to a bet worth £10,000. Trading using leverage increases the potential for both greater gains and greater losses.

What is Forex Spread Betting? An Example

Being able to be repeated controllably is one key element in risk management.

Toba Beta, Master of Stupidity (Source)

Trader A has a trading account with a brokerage house that has quoted 1.3705/1.3708 for the British pound to US dollar currency pair. The current bid price is 1.3705, while the current ask price is 1.3708. The difference between the ask and bid prices, known as the spread, is also three pip.

If A believes that the British pound will rise in value relative to the US dollar, they may wager five pounds on each pip that the bid price is higher than the asking price (1.3708).

In the event that the price of A's stock increases to 1.3719, the brokerage company would deposit £55 (£5 times 11 pips) into A's trading account. If they had leveraged their wager by the standard 50:1 ratio, they would have won £2,750. The loss for A would be £55 (if unleveraged) or £2,750 (if leveraged) if the value decreases to 1.3697. (if leveraged).

In contrast, a trader may wager £5 for every pip below the bid price if they believe the pound's value would fall against the dollar (1.3705). If the value were to fall by 12 pips, A would make £60 (if not leveraged) or £6,000 (if leveraged) (with a 100:1 leverage ratio). A, meanwhile, stands to lose £60 without leverage and £6,000 with it if the value rises by 12 pips over the offer price.

What is Forex Spread Betting? Strategies… 

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

Goethe (Source)

Following price trends, whether they be up or down, is a key part of the trading method known as trend following. With forex trend indicators, traders may assess the trend without relying only on their intuition. Here are some indications to be mindful of:

1. Using Scalping Techniques in the Foreign Exchange Market

This method seeks to benefit from even the most minute of price shifts. Scalpers in the foreign exchange market acquire currency and then quickly sell it for a profit, which may take only a few minutes. It uses the cyclical price changes that occur throughout a trading day.

2. Hedging

Hedging in the foreign exchange market entails using numerous holdings to spread the risk. Acting as an insurance policy against the risks posed by price swings in the foreign exchange market, it helps dealers limit their potential losses. As we saw with the Swiss National Bank's announcement, this market is vulnerable to various negative factors.

3. Using Momentum

For those unfamiliar, “momentum trading” in the foreign exchange market is purchasing currency pairings whose prices are currently rising. After they reach what seems to be their peak, they are sold.

4. Trading on a Breakout

A breakthrough is exploited in the breakout trading method. Essentially, a breakout occurs when the price of an asset breaks through a resistance level. To that end, a breakout trader will purchase a currency pair whose price has been stuck at a certain level. If it goes above or below that price, they will sell.

When engaging in forex spread betting, the trader will wager on whether or not the price will rise above or fall below the specified level.

5. Market Activity Due to Breaking News 📰

A lot of things affect how much one currency is worth in relation to another. Some examples of these include the current interest rates, the current inflation rates, and the current policies and statements of the government.

Therefore, the goal of the news trading strategy is to profit from the widespread price shifts that are widely reported in the media. A forex trader using the news trading method simply keeps an eye on the headlines for clues about how one or more currency pairs can be affected by the news.

Limiting Your Exposure While Spread Trading Forex

Spread trading in foreign exchange may both make and lose money, as explained. To add insult to injury, a trader's gain or loss is magnified more when they use leverage. However, the risk associated with the position may go above the trader's original measured risk potential if prices suddenly fluctuate as a consequence of unanticipated government statements, as in the Swiss case.

That's why it's crucial to employ different tactics for mitigating risk to lower the probability of incurring losses. Here are some of them:

  • ★ Limit orders to prevent further loss
  • ★ Trading in foreign currency at a discount (arbitrage
  • ★ Using stop-losses 

This strategy for reducing risk involves closing a losing bet as prices reach a certain threshold. If you're betting against a currency whose price rises by 5 pips, for instance, you'll terminate your trade. The opposite is true if you're betting on a currency's decline by 5 pips. That way, if you wager £10 each pip and lose, you'll just be down £50.

Arbitrage in Foreign Exchange Markets

Forex arbitrage is used by traders to make money off of price or interest rate discrepancies. This examination, however, will concentrate on the latter (price fluctuations). Here, you may divide the risk by placing bets with two different brokers: A and B. Because each broker gives a slightly different quotation, you may hedge against potential losses. It's likely that one broker's spread will be lower than the other.

On top of this, it’s possible to get dividend payments from your spread betting provider.

To Sum Up

Spread betting isn’t the same as spread trading, which can be part of a long-term investment plan. Still, profiting on foreign exchange (FX) market movements via spread betting is possible even if you don't own any currency pairs. It's a speculative method that may be used with other Forex trading tactics to boost profitability. 

Keep in mind, however, that there is inherent risk in forex spread betting. It's as possible to lose money as it is to make it. It is crucial to protect oneself from the danger by using risk avoidance measures.

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