In margin forex trading, there are two prices for each currency pair, a “bid” (or sell) price and an “ask” (or buy) price. The bid price is the rate at which traders can sell to the executing firm, while the ask price is the rate at which traders can buy from the executing firm.

For example, when you see the price quote of EUR/USD is 1.2881/1.2884 as in the above picture, the bid is 1.2881 whereas the ask is 1.2884. That means traders looking to sell must do so at 1.2881, those looking to buy must do so at 1.2884. The difference between the bid and ask price is the spread, which constitutes the cost of the trade.

In fact, all traded instruments – stocks, futures, currencies, bonds etc. – have spread. If a trader buys at 1.2884 and then sells immediately, there is a 3-point loss incurred. The trader will need to wait for the market to move 3 points in favour of his/her position in order to break even. If the market moves 4 points in your favour, he/she starts to profit.

1.2800BID 1.2800 ASK
Spread : 3 pips

Many online trading firms like to promote margin forex trading as an almost cost-free instrument – commission free, no service charge, no hidden cost etc. Traders should know that spread is the cost of trading, and in fact, it also represents the main source of revenue for the market maker, i.e. the forex trading company. The spread may appear to be a minuscule expense, but once you add up the cost of all of the trades, you will find it can eat away quite a portion of your account or your profit.

If you check the price tag of a T-shirt before you buy it, do the same thing when you trade forex, look into the spread before you decide to trade. Your trade needs to surmount the spread (the cost) before it profits.