Online CFD Trading – Is it Just Gambling?

What You Need to Know About Online CFD Trading

One of the fastest growing financial products in the last decade has definitely been Online CFD Trading, or what people refer to as Contracts for Difference (CFDs).

Online CFD Trading

During 2004-2005, CFDs received incredible praise, as nearly all global markets were in the midst of a roaring bull market. As a result, traders were compounding their profits and the sky was the limit.

However, over the last handful of years, trading conditions have been a lot more choppy, especially when you consider the Australian share CFD market.

You can see in the monthly Aussie 200 index chart below just how choppy the market has been. Over the last couple of years, our market really hasn’t gained much ground.

online cfd trading asx200 chart

So is Online CFD Trading Really just Gambling?

As with any financial product, you have the ability to trade it in a risk-averse fashion. Or you can be reckless and trade it with no clear trading plan or strategy in place.

Unfortunately, with a product like CFDs, which can be highly leveraged, there is little room for error if you trade without a plan.

Gambling is quite a strong word. But when you combine a level of leverage that makes it hard to sleep at night, a volatile market and a ‘hide-your-head-in-the-sand’ approach, then the results are unlikely to be positive.

The ‘Pray and Hope’ approach to CFD Trading

Let’s just call this ‘pray and hope’ strategy as close to gambling as you can get.

Trading with excessive leverage is generally what we see time and time again as the number one culprit to blowing up an account (aka gambling).

Unfortunately, amateur traders will blame the product (CFDs) as the result of their large losses. Instead of their inability to control their emotions, trading without stop losses and trading with too much leverage.

Amateur traders rarely take full responsibility for their mistakes.

They would never blame:

  • their inability to control their emotions;
  • Relying on tips, punts and rumours;
  • trading without stop losses; and
  • trading with too much CFD Leverage.

Is it really CFDs that are the problem?

Sophisticated traders know that a product like Contracts for Difference (CFDs) are just like any other derivatives product, such as:

  • Futures
  • Options
  • Warrants
  • Binaries

and as such…

need to be treated with care and traded carefully.

You can click play on the video below to find out more about derivatives and whether CFDs are safe to trade.

As with trading any leveraged product, you must control your account and minimise your worst-case scenario. A huge part of this is being proactive to limit your drawdowns.

What we tend to find with online CFD trading is the worst case scenarios can be blown out of proportion and be a frenzy for media attention.

Journalist’s will jump on the band waggon, making calls to CFD Brokers and networking via the trading forum’s, to try and find those who have had a negative experience with the product.

It is their job to highlight the losses those irresponsible traders had during their time trading CFDs. This then flows on to give a product such as CFDs a bad name and the moniker, a ‘gambling’ product.

Successful Traders Know They Need To…

If you want to enjoy a long life as a trader, you need to minimise the downside.

When you are on a losing streak with any trading instrument, you need to:

  • Stay in the game by minimising your losses
  • Trade well within your limits
  • Use a position size which allows you to sleep comfortably at night
  • Know exactly what major economic releases are coming out each week
  • Never risk more than 1 to 2 percent of your overall capital on any one trade at any one time
  • Have a robust trading plan which has been backtested and proven to provide an edge over time
  • Use sensible position sizing models to help you achieve your financial objectives
  • Trade in an emotionally stable frame of mind
  • Be diligent about good record keeping and maintaining a trading journal

Suffering insurmountable losses or wiping out a small trading account is unlikely to happen if you have the character traits mentioned above.

But we see it time and time again where traders go-for-broke to make millions, trading CFDs with no thought about protecting the downside.

So is Online CFD Trading all that Bad?

The reality is trading CFDs give you the opportunity to leverage the cash you have in your account.

So with $5,000, you could trade total positions of $10,000, $20,000 or even $50,000, due to the leverage available with the product.

Just make sure you don’t get carried away.

If you are not sure what the real numbers of CFD leverage are, then head over to our page on leverage to see our thoughts or click play on the video below.

You will find these leverage levels are similar to both options and futures. But options and futures are considered more for the sophisticated trader.

We even wrote a post on CFDs vs Options to help provide some answers.

One of the biggest benefits of trading CFDs could also be its biggest downfall

Trading Share CFDs is simple to understand and many of the complexities of options and futures are completely removed.

The ease for which people understand the product also means more traders are likely to get involved. As such, newbie traders and leverage start to mix. This is where we start to see the wild results and we see it both on the gains and the losses.

You may like to play the video below to see what the biggest mistake CFD traders make.

Remember, leverage is a double-edged sword and amplifies your wins and magnifies your losses.

CFD Trading Big Wins

Ironically, the major advantage of CFDs is the ability to understand them quickly. But this leaves the door open to many newbie traders getting involved, when in all likelihood, they probably shouldn’t.

What Markets can you Access with Online CFD Trading?

Another of the key benefits of trading CFDs is the ability to trade many of the world’s markets. You can do this with little to no brokerage, all from the one trading account.

Markets you will have available at your fingertips include:

Online CFD Broker Access

  • Local share CFDs – up to 25 x leverage
  • International share CFDs – up to 25 x leverage
  • Global Indices – up to 200 x leverage
  • Foreign Exchange (Forex or FX) – up to 400 x leverage
  • Global Commodities – up to 200 x leverage
  • Bonds – up to 100 x leverage

It is this global access which makes the product so appealing. But with any financial product, you want to make sure you know what you are doing before you jump in with serious money on the line.

The reason I showed the amount of leverage available is so you can appreciate what you can access as a trader.

This doesn’t mean you should be trading anywhere near maximum leverage. Otherwise, it will only be a matter of time when you will be telling people of your hard luck story trading online CFDs.

Can I trade local shares and international share CFDs?

Very few traders jump straight into a leveraged product like CFDs to start with.

We find most traders have been trading or investing in shares for many years before making the transition to CFD Trading.

There are good reasons to consider CFD trading as part of your overall portfolio.

You can click play on the video below to see the top 5 benefits of trading CFDs versus trading shares.

Sometimes it can be handy to get clear on your own reasons to upgrade to trading CFDs.

  • Are you looking to trade CFDs because you can make more money?
  • Do you believe moving to CFDs will solve your money problems?
  • Perhaps your trading systems are working well and you want to introduce some leverage

We hope you are making the transition to CFDs for the right reasons. Reasons that are backed by statistics (ie your systems are working) and not by greed.

Another question we see in trading forums is ‘Is Online CFD trading a scam?’

Arrgh. This is a terrible question to ask.

CFDs are a financial product that provides access to many of the world’s markets from the one trading account.

You can click play on the video below to hear our thoughts directly.

So should you be trading CFDs?

The final call has to be made by you.

But if you understand you:

  • control the leverage;
  • must have a sensible trading plan;
  • need to use sensible risk management; and
  • aren’t out to triple your account in 3 weeks

then CFD trading might be a reasonable option for your portfolio.

If however, you are not willing to spend the time:

  • learning more about the product
  • understanding leverage
  • appreciating the risks involved
  • building a robust trading plan

then perhaps you should stick to trading shares without leverage.

Online CFD trading is not a basic financial product, but it is not the scary, sophisticated product some journalist’s make it out to be.

Do your research and you might find a place for trading CFDs in your sensibly managed portfolio.