What is Forex? A Beginner's Guide to Forex Trading

What is Forex trading and how does it work in South Africa?

More and more people are interested in Forex opportunities as they try to supplement their income and take advantage of exchange rate fluctuations. However, many beginners still ask “What is Forex?” and want to better understand how forex trading works before getting started.

This comprehensive forex trading guide covers everything investors need to know to trade currencies successfully as a beginner.

What does Forex mean?

It is also known as FX or foreign exchange. It is the global decentralized market where individuals and businesses convert one currency into another currency.

For example, a South Africa trader wanting to exchange rand for U.S. dollars would use the fx market. This market sets currency exchange rates at which pairs are traded 5 days a week.

FX trading involves speculating on these exchange rate movements by buying and selling pairs of currency through a broker. The primary goal is to profit from the rise and fall of currencies.

Forex trading is accessible to everyone
Forex trading is accessible to everyone

This market is considered an over-the-counter (OTC) market, meaning trading takes place directly between two parties rather than through centralized exchanges like the stock market.

Over $6.6 trillion is traded daily on the fx market, making it the most liquid market globally. This extreme liquidity is a major benefit we'll discuss later. Now that we've covered the basics of what forex and fx trading entails, let's look at how trading actually works in more detail.

How it works?

While trading mechanisms vary between brokerages, fx trading essentially works like this:

  1. You open a trading account with a brokerage.
  2. Analyze the market to determine which currency pair you think will increase or decrease in value.
  3. Execute a buy or sell trade for that currency pair through your broker’s trading platform.
  4. If your analysis is correct, you make a profit. If incorrect, you take a loss.

For example, if you think the U.S. Dollar will strengthen relative to the Euro, you would execute a buy trade for the currency pair EUR/USD. You are essentially buying the USD and selling the EUR.

If the USD does strengthen versus the EUR, the EUR/USD exchange rate will decline and your trade makes a profit. If the USD weakens, the exchange rate rises and your trade loses money.

The IQ Option trading platform allows you to easily buy and sell currency pairs with the click of a button. Your profit or loss is determined by the exchange rate at which you entered and exited the trade.

Modern platform for forex trading
Modern platform for forex trading

Now let's break down the key components that enable you to trade forex:

Currency Pairs

As we mentioned earlier, trading involves exchanging one currency for another. These currency combinations are represented in pairs like EUR/USD, GBP/JPY, AUD/CAD etc.

The first listed currency is called the base currency, while the second is called the quote or counter currency. The exchange rate reflects how much of the quoted currency is needed to buy one unit of the base currency.


The smallest increment that a currency pair can change by is called a pip. A pip is typically the fourth decimal place in a currency rate. For example, if the EUR/USD rate changes from 1.1200 to 1.1201, that is a movement of one pip.

Pip movements determine your profit or loss on each trade. A 10-pip movement in your favour on a 100,000-unit position would equal a $100 profit.


Leverage allows open much larger positions than their account balance. Leverage is expressed as a ratio like 1:50, 1:100, or 1:200. At a 1:100 leverage, for every $1 you have in your account, you can open trades worth $100. This maximizes your earning potential on small exchange rate movements. However, leverage also amplifies potential losses, so risk management is crucial.

Lot Sizes 

Forex trades are placed on standardized lot sizes. A standard lot is 100,000 units of currency. Brokers also offer mini (10,000) and micro (1,000) lots for smaller traders.

So if you buy 1 standard lot of EUR/USD at 1.1200, you are buying 100,000 Euros and selling 112,000 U.S. dollars.


It  is the small difference between the bid and ask price quoted for a currency pair. This spread is pocketed by your broker on every trade as compensation. Typical spreads range from 1-5 pips on major pairs.


The margin is the amount of money you need in your account to open a trade on margin. At a leverage of 1:100 and a 1% margin, you can open a $10,000 position with only a $100 account balance. Margin helps determine your required trading capital.

Now that you know how forex works on a mechanical level, let's look at the inherent benefits it offers traders.

Learn Forex Basics
Learn Forex Basics

What are the Benefits of FX Trading?

While forex trading carries risks like any market, it offers unique advantages not seen in other markets like stocks or futures. Here are some of the main benefits:

Extreme Liquidity

With over $6.6 trillion in daily trading volume, this market is the largest market in the world. This makes getting in and out of trades seamless, allowing forex traders to react to news events in real time. Such robust liquidity also prevents manipulation.

Trading Opportunities 24/5

Forex platforms operate 24 hours a day from Monday to Friday, spanning trading sessions in Sydney, Tokyo, London, and New York. This allows traders to respond to news and events whenever they happen rather than waiting for exchanges to open like in other markets.

Leverage Provides Opportunities 

As we covered earlier, brokers offer leverage that lets you open much larger positions than permitted in other markets like stocks. Leverage allows small traders to profit from the full range of forex price movements. However, risk management is vital when using leverage.

Profit from Rising or Falling Markets 

You can profit whether a currency is rising or falling relative to another currency. You simply buy or sell depending on the direction you anticipate. This versatility allows profits in both bull and bear markets.

Low Barriers to Entry 

Anyone with some starting capital, usually a few hundred dollars, can open a forex account and start trading. No previous trading experience is required. This makes forex more accessible than other markets like options or futures that require substantial upfront capital.

The unique advantages and opportunities in the forex market make it appealing to new traders. However, forex trading does come with inherent risks that must be understood and mitigated.

Make money on Forex
Make money on Forex

What are the Risks?

While the benefits are numerous, forex trading also carries significant risks if proper precautions are not taken. Here are some of the notable risks to be aware of:

Leverage Can Lead to Bigger Losses

The same leverage that provides opportunities can also magnify losses beyond your account balance if used recklessly. At 50:1 leverage, a 2% adverse move against your position would wipe out your entire capital. Manage risk prudently.

Volatility Can Cause Rapid Changes

Currency rates can fluctuate rapidly leading to "stop hunting" where protective stops are triggered before reversing again. Use wider stops and proper position sizing to avoid being stopped out prematurely.

Unregulated Brokers Have More Risks

Unlike regulated brokers, unlicensed offshore brokers are not answerable to any regulatory body if they act unethically. Ensure your broker is licensed to operate in your region.

Requires Understanding of Macroeconomics

Unlike technical traders, fundamental forex traders must keep up with economic factors like interest rates and GDP that drive currency valuations. Stay updated on news impacting the countries of traded currencies.

Technical Issues Like Slippage

Fast-moving markets can lead to slippage where your trade executes at a worse price than intended due to underlying volatility. Use limit orders rather than market orders to control slippage. While risks exist, they can be effectively reduced with the right precautions discussed next.

How to Manage Risks and Start Safe Forex Trading in South Africa?

Here are some tips all beginners should follow to minimize risks when starting forex trading in South Africa:

Choose a reliable broker

IQ Option has been available worldwide since 2013 and has proven its reliability and safety.

Start with a demo account

Open a free demo account with IQ Option and try out the platform using $10,000 of virtual funds. Switch between the demo version and the real account while trading.

Develop a Sound Trading Plan

Create a detailed trading plan that outlines your risk management rules, capital allocation, strategies, and profit goals before trading real money.

Use Prudent Leverage

While brokers offer up to 500:1 leverage, limit yours to a maximum of 10:1 to minimize risk as a beginner. Slowly increase leverage as you gain experience.

Practice Good Money Management

Risk only 1-2% of your account per trade. For a $10,000 account balance, don't risk over $100-$200 on a single trade using proper position sizing.

Use Protective Stop Losses

Use stop losses on every trade to automatically exit losing positions before incurring huge losses. Optimal stop loss placement is beyond a key support/resistance.

Manage risk
Manage risk

Avoid Overtrading

Don't fall into the rookie trap of overtrading out of boredom or overconfidence. Be patient for quality setups aligning with your strategy. 

Following these tips will help beginners start forex trading safely while avoiding costly mistakes from undisciplined trading. Let's now go over the process of actually getting started trading forex profitably step-by-step.

Step-by-Step Process to Start Forex Trading in South Africa

Follow this step-by-step process to start forex trading properly as a beginner:

Step 1: Find a Licensed Broker That Fits Your Needs

Compare brokers using key criteria like regulation, trading platforms, spreads, account minimums and customer support. Shortlist 2-3 brokers fitting your requirements.

Step 2: Open a Demo Account and Test Different Platforms

Try the trading platforms of your shortlisted brokers using virtual demo funds. Get a feel for their order execution, available tools and overall UI before committing real capital.

Try Risk-Free Trades
Try Risk-Free Trades

Step 3: Develop a Written Trading Plan

Create a structured trading plan detailing your risk management rules, capital allocation, profit targets, strategies, ideal trading times etc. This promotes discipline.

Step 4: Fund your real account and start small.

The minimum deposit you can make to open a real account at IQ Option is just $10. This amount will help you start your career without much risk. Stick with micro lots and risk only 1-2% per trade.

Step 5: Analyze Performance and Refine Your Strategy

Track and review your performance metrics each week/month like risk-reward ratio, win rate etc. Identify strengths to maintain and flaws to improve.

By following these steps and using proper risk management, beginners can minimize common mistakes and develop into consistently profitable forex traders with experience over time.

Common Forex Trading Strategies for Beginners

While advanced algorithmic trading exists, most beginners should start with simple easy-to-use strategies. Here are some of the most popular trading strategies suitable for novices:

Price Action 

This strategy involves analyzing raw price charts and technical indicators like moving averages to identify trading opportunities. Focuses on candlestick patterns, support resistance, trends and chart patterns.

Over 100 indicators and other technical tools for your strategies
Over 100 indicators and other technical tools for your strategies

News Trading

In this fundamental strategy, traders open positions right before or after important economic news events like interest rate decisions, and profit from resulting volatility. Requires keeping up with financial news.

The latest news and economic calendar are always available on the IQ Option platform.

Economic calendar on the platform
Economic calendar on the platform

Breakout Trading 

Trades are taken when the price breaks out of identified support and resistance levels which often act as barriers. Breakouts signal major new trends are starting.

Trend Following

In this method, trades are taken in the overall direction of the trend rather than trying to predict reversals. Trading with the dominant trend improves win rates.

These strategies represent a starting point. As you gain experience, incorporate elements from multiple strategies into a unique approach best suiting your trading personality.

Learn different moving average strategies
Learn different moving average strategies

Key Currency Pairs for Forex Trading Beginners

Over 100 currency pairs are available for trading, but it's better to start with major and minor pairs where technical levels and data are readily available before venturing into exotics.

Here are some of the most popular majors and minors to begin with:


  • EUR/USD (Euro/U.S. Dollar)
  • USD/JPY (U.S. Dollar/Japanese Yen)
  • GBP/USD (British Pound/U.S. Dollar)
  • USD/CHF (U.S. Dollar/Swiss Franc)


  • EUR/GBP (Euro/British Pound)
  • EUR/AUD (Euro/Australian Dollar)
  • AUD/USD (Australian Dollar/U.S. Dollar)
  • USD/CAD (U.S. Dollar/Canadian Dollar)

Stick to these liquid pairs offering stable trends and smaller spreads. Once you achieve consistency, add other pairs into the mix.

Choose from the most liquid pairs
Choose from the most liquid pairs

In Conclusion: Forex Presents Major Opportunities for Traders of South Africa

While forex trading carries risk, the opportunities are plentiful for investors willing to gain the proper education and follow disciplined trading rules. Use the insights in this forex beginner’s guide to understand what forex is, how it works, the benefits it offers, potential risks and how to trade it successfully. Start applying your trading plan on a demo training account before moving to live trading. Build your skills and experience over time. Stay up to date on factors driving currency valuations. This will put you on the path toward forex trading mastery.

So research your brokerage options, refine your strategies, practice prudent risk management, and get ready to profit from the world’s largest financial market - forex!


What is forex and how does it work in South Africa?

Forex, short for foreign exchange, refers to the global decentralized marketplace where individuals, banks, and businesses convert one currency into another currency at determined exchange rates. It is the largest and most liquid market in the world with over $6.6 trillion traded daily.Forex works like this: you speculate on exchange rate movements between currency pairs like EUR/USD. If the Euro strengthens relative to the US Dollar based on your analysis, you would buy EUR/USD, and profit if the rate does increase. The opposite is true if you expect the Euro to weaken. Trades are executed through brokers’ trading platforms and profits/losses depend on the price change.

While $100 is enough to open a live micro forex account with small position sizes, it is recommended to start with at least $300-$500 minimum. This allows you to properly implement risk management rules like limiting risk to 1-2% per trade. With $100, just a few losing trades can wipe out the account. Start small but with enough trading capital.

Forex is short for “foreign exchange” and it refers to the decentralized global market where all currencies are traded. It determines the exchange rates for currency pairs based on supply and demand. The term forex is often used synonymously with currency trading and foreign exchange trading.

Some ways to learn forex trading properly include reading forex trading books for beginners, taking an online forex trading course to understand fundamentals, opening a forex demo account to practice strategies risk-free, following forex analysts and educators on YouTube, joining forums and communities to discuss with other traders, and starting live trading with small amounts as a beginner.

Forex trading for beginners includes learning market fundamentals such as how currency pairs work, pip spreads, leverage and lot sizes, understanding technical and fundamental analysis, opening a practice account on a trading platform to test different strategies, implementing management best practices risks and getting started. Trade lives with small amounts of capital and basic strategies. IQ Option is suitable for beginners and offers low deposits, training and a demo account.

You can make money from Forex trading by buying and selling currency pairs through a broker, correctly analyzing the direction of the market using technical or fundamental methods, executing trades based on your analysis, using smart techniques such as using stop losses and appropriate leverage, as well as receiving stable trading profits.

Yes, you can learn Forex trading. First, look at forex e-books, online courses, and YouTube tutorials aimed at beginners. Then open a demo account to practice applying what you've learned in a safe virtual environment. Start trading live in small amounts and continue to learn strategies, risk management and market analysis as you gain experience.

No, Forex is definitely not an easy way to make money or get rich quickly. While profits are possible if you develop your skills, Forex trading comes with significant risks and loss of money if done recklessly. Like any endeavor, success requires developing expertise through ongoing education, adopting best practices, and avoiding emotional decisions. Patience and discipline are vital.

Forex trading has a steep learning curve for most beginners. Even experienced traders face difficulties. However, with constant practice and education, and starting small and simple, Forex trading can become easier over time. Use tools like demo accounts, forex signals, and copy trading in the beginning. Maintain discipline in your approach.

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