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Trading Account: Definition, How To Open, Margin Requirements

What Does a Trading Account Mean?

A trading account is an investment account that holds various securities, money, or other investment vehicles, allowing investors to trade financial instruments. It is commonly associated with day traders who engage in frequent buying and selling activities within the same trading period. Trading accounts are subject to specific regulations and are commonly separate from durable buy and hold strategies.

Explaining a Trading Account

A trading account functions similarly to a regular brokerage account, enabling investors to hold securities, money, and other assets. Nonetheless, what sets it apart is the activeness level, goal, and risk involved. Day trading is the primary activity associated with trading accounts. A day trade refers to the buying and selling of a security within the same day in a margin account. In the Republic of South Africa, there are no specific criteria set by the government or regulatory authorities exclusively for pattern day traders. However, there are general factors and considerations that individuals interested in day trading should keep in mind. Brokerage companies may classify clients as pattern day traders based on preceding business or other acceptable conclusions. 

What Are the Types of Trading Accounts?

There are several types of trading accounts that cater to different investment needs and strategies. Let's explore them:

Cash Account: A cash account is the most basic form of trading account. In a cash account, traders can only use the funds accessible in the account to purchase securities. Margin trading is not allowed in cash accounts, meaning traders cannot borrow assets from brokers to make trades. Cash accounts are suitable for investors who prefer a straightforward approach and do not wish to engage in margin trading.

Margin Account: A margin account is a form of trading account that allows traders to borrow assets from brokers to purchase securities. By leveraging their capital, traders can advance their buying skill and potentially amplify their profits. Though, it's crucial to mention that margin trading additionally brings more risks, as losses can be magnified. 

Retirement Account: A retirement account, like an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or a 401(k) plan, is specifically designed for saving money for retirement over a long period of time. These accounts provide tax benefits, allowing individuals to contribute funds on a pre-tax or post-tax basis, depending on the account type. Retirement accounts typically have restrictions on withdrawals before a certain age to encourage long-term savings and provide tax benefits. Investors can choose from various investment options within retirement accounts, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.

Forex Trading Account: Forex trading accounts are specialised accounts designed for trading in the forex market. The forex market involves buying and selling currencies. There are different types of forex trading accounts, such as standard accounts, mini accounts, and managed accounts. Standard accounts allow traders to trade standard lots of currency. Mini accounts have smaller lot sizes, making them suitable for beginners or traders with limited funds. Managed accounts involve having a professional portfolio manager make trades on behalf of the account holder.

How to Open a Trading Account?

To open a trading account, definite minimum personal info is required, such as a social security number and contact details. The specific demands can vary, depending on the jurisdiction and the brokerage company’s policies. Generally, the process involves the following steps:

a) Research and choose a reputable brokerage firm that offers trading accounts.

b) Visit the brokerage company’s website or contact their customer service to initiate the account opening process.

c) Provide the required personal information and complete any necessary documentation.

d) Comply with any additional demands specified by the brokerage company, such as minimum initial deposit or identification verification.

e) Review and agree to the terms and conditions, including margin demands if opting for a margin account.

f) Fund the trading account with the required minimum deposit.

g) Once the account is successfully opened and funded, you can start trading and executing investment transactions.

The Margin Demands for a Trading Account

In the Republic of South Africa, margin requirements apply to non-centrally cleared OTC (over-the-counter) derivative transactions. These requirements are applicable to authorised OTC derivative providers when entering into such transactions with counterparties or foreign counterparties. A provider is a person who engages in the regular business of originating, issuing, selling, or making a market in OTC derivatives.

The counterparties include authorised users, banks, financial services providers, insurers, investment funds, and other entities declared by the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) to be a counterparty. Foreign counterparties are persons outside South Africa who are authorised by a supervisory authority or registered, licensed, recognized, approved, or authorised to conduct banking or insurance business.

Margin requirements do not apply to sovereigns, central banks, multilateral development banks, and the Bank for International Settlements. Also, indirectly cleared OTC derivative transactions intermediated through a clearing member on behalf of a non-member client may be exempt if the non-member client is subject to margin requirements of the relevant clearing house or provides margin consistent with the requirements of the corresponding clearing house.

Bottom Line and Key Takeaways

A trading account serves as an essential tool for investors, particularly day traders, to engage in buying and selling securities and other financial instruments. It offers flexibility and liquidity, but it also carries additional risks. Cash, margin, retirement, and forex trading accounts are some of the common types of trading accounts available to investors. When opening a trading account, it is crucial to research reputable brokerage firms, understand the margin requirements and regulations, and ensure compliance with the necessary documentation. Maintaining the minimum equity levels and being aware of margin calls is important to avoid potential issues and maximise trading opportunities within the account.


1. Are there any risks associated with margin trading?

Yes, margin trading involves risks. If investments decline in value, investors may incur losses greater than the funds deposited in the account. It is crucial to have a thorough understanding of the additional investment risks associated with margin trading and ensure suitability for one's financial situation.

2. Are there different margin limits for different collateral types?

Yes, lenders typically have different limits on the amount borrowers can obtain based on the collateral type. For example, in Singapore, the industry practice commonly includes 3.5x leverage for cash deposits and 2.5x leverage for shares used as collateral.

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