Margin Trading vs Futures: Compared and Explained


The world of finance is rife with opportunities and investors as well as traders do speculate on the price movements of various assets. Margin trading and futures trading are two separate trading methods that allow individuals to enhance their profit potential and increase their return. While they share similarities, they also have distinct differences. In this article, we will try to look into the world of margin trading, and futures, comparing them to explaining methods that can help you make informed decisions.

Unlocking Leverage: Margin Trading

Margin trading is a trading strategy that enables investors to borrow funds and buy large amounts of funds to buy a larger position than they could with their own capital alone. Essentially, it involves borrowing funds from a broker to increase the size of the trades. The borrowed funds act as leverage, magnifying profits, and losses.

Mechanics of Margin Trading

Initial Margin

To start margin trade, traders must deposit an initial margin with the broker or exchange. This margin is a percentage of total traded value, typically ranging from 10 to 50%, depending on the broker’s and exchange’s policies and the asset being traded.


Use of leverage is the essence of margin trading. Once the initial margin is deposited, traders can control a much larger position than the amount of money they put in. For example, with 10x leverage, a trader can control a $10,000 position having just $1000 in their account. 

Maintaining Margin

In addition to the initial margin, traders must maintain a certain level of equity in their account called the maintenance margin. If their account falls below the threshold due to losses, they must receive a margin call, requiring them to either deposit more funds or close their position to limit further losses.

Advantages of Margin Trading


A primary advantage of margin trading is the ability to amplify profits. With a relatively small amount of capital, traders can control larger positions and potentially gains in a short amount of time.


Margin trading allows for diversification by enabling traders to enter multiple positions across various assets with limited capital. 


Margin trading also facilitates short selling, which means profiting from falling asset prices. Traditional investing often requires owning an asset before selling it, but with margin trading, you can sell first and buy later if you expect an asset’s price to decline.

Risks of Margin Trading

Leverage Works Both Ways

As leverage can amplify gains, it can also magnify losses. If a trade goes against you, it can quickly deplete the account balance and even owe your broker more than you initially invested.

Margin Calls

The risk of receiving a margin call is a significant concern in margin trading. If your account falls below the required maintenance margin, you might be forced to deposit more funds or close a position at an unfavorable price.

Interest Costs

Borrowed funds to trade on margin typically involves paying interest, which can eat up your profits.

Emotional Stress

The pressure of managing highly leveraged positions can be emotionally taxing. Decisions driven by fear or greed can lead to poor trading outcomes.

Futures Trading: Contracts for Future

Futures trading is the buying and selling of standardized contracts that obligate the buyer to purchase and sell a specific asset at a predetermined price and date in future. These contracts are traded on organized exchanges for various assets, including commodities, stocks, and cryptocurrencies.

How Future Trading Works?

Contracts Details

In future contracts, specific details include the assets, contract sizes, expiry dates and contract price.

Long and Short Positions

Traders can take long and short positions (buying with expected prices and appreciation) or short positions (selling contracts with the expectation of price depreciation).

Margin Requirements

Like margin trading, futures trading also requires an initial margin to open a position. However, the maintenance margin and margin calls are not typically part of futures trading landscape.


Most futures contracts are settled in cash, meaning that no physical delivery of the underlying asset occurs. The difference between contract price and market price is at the time of expiration is settled in cash.

Advantages of Future Trading


Futures markets are highly liquid, with many participants. This makes It easier to enter and exit positions without impacting the overall market.

Risk Management

Futures contracts are widely used for hedging purposes, allowing businesses and investors to protect against price abruptions, underlying risks, and assets.

No Margin Calls

Futures traders do not face margin calls, as the initial margin is all that is needed. This eliminates the stress associated with margin calls in margin trading.


Futures contracts are available for a wide array of assets, offering diverse trading opportunities.

Risks of Futures Trading


In futures trading, leverage is also involved just like margin trading. Hence it can also amplify gains as well as losses.

Time Constraints

Futures contracts have a set expiry date, that means traders can be mindful of timing and rolling over of contracts if they wish to maintain the positions beyond the expiry date.

Market Risk

The futures market is influenced by multiple factors such as interest rates, geopolitical events, and market sentiment. Unexpected events can lead to substantial losses.

Level of Complexity

Understanding the mechanics of futures contracts and the factors that affect their prices can be quite challenging for beginners.

Which One is Right for You?

Choice between margin trading and futures trading depends on risk tolerance, trading experience as well as investment goals. Here are some considerations to help you decide based on your choice.

Risk Tolerance

If you are risk averse, and want to avoid margin calls, futures trading is a more suitable option. However, if you are comfortable with the concept of margin and can manage it effectively, margin trading can offer more flexibility.

Market Knowledge

If you have a strong understanding of a specific asset class, you may opt in for futures trading in that asset class. But if you are looking for a more straightforward approach for assets contracts trading, margin trading is a more accessible approach.

Time Horizon

Think about the investment horizon. If you prefer longer-term positions, futures contracts with specific expiration dates may not be suitable, whereas margin trading can be used against short- and long-term strategies.

Regulation and Risk Management

Consider the regulatory environment and the region you are operating in. Margin trading is subject to different regulations compared to futures trading. Make sure you understand the intricacies and rules and regulations of the chosen method.


In conclusion, both margin trading and futures trading offer opportunities to leverage the capital and potentially amplify the profits. However, they come with distinct advantages and risks. The choice between two depends strongly on your risk tolerance, market knowledge and investment goals. Whether you opt for margin trading or futures trading, it is necessary to have a vivid plan in place. 

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