How to trade CFDs

CFD trading enables you to speculate on the future movements in a market’s price – going ‘long’ if you think it will rise or ‘short’ if you think it will fall. This guide shows you how to trade CFDs step-by-step, from opening an account to closing a position, and illustrates the process with example CFD trades.

CFD trading steps

When you trade CFDs (contracts for difference), you buy a certain number of contracts on a market if you expect its price to rise, and sell them if you expect it to fall. But the finer details can often be a little more complicated – especially since platforms and functionality vary from provider to provider.

Here are the six steps you’ll need to follow to start CFD trading:

  1. Learn how CFDs work
  2. Create and fund an account
  3. Build a trading plan
  4. Find an opportunity
  5. Choose your CFD trading platform
  6. Open, monitor and close your first position

1. Learn how CFDs work

The first step towards trading CFDs is to learn how they work. There are a number of differences between CFDs and other forms of trading, and understanding these nuances can help you trade more effectively.

To get started, you can take a free online course through IG Academy or read our one-page introduction: what is CFD trading and how does it work?

2. Create and fund an account

Applying for a CFD trading account is a straightforward process, and usually takes just a few minutes to complete.

Once the details you provide have been verified, you’ll need to fund your account. You can add funds via credit card or debit card, BPAY or PayPal.

If you’d prefer to build your market confidence in a completely risk-free environment, you can open a demo account and practise with AUD$20,000 of virtual funds.

3. Build a trading plan

The next step is to build a trading plan – a comprehensive blueprint for your trading activity. Among other things, this should include your motivation, time commitment, goals, attitude to risk, available capital, markets to trade and preferred strategies.

A trading plan can help you make better decisions under pressure because it defines your ideal trade, desired profit, acceptable loss, and risk management strategies.

Learn how to build a trading plan

4. Find an opportunity

Once you’ve opened and funded your account, it’s time to find your first trade. With IG, you’ll be able to go long and short on over 15,000 markets, including:

With so many markets to choose from, identifying your first trade can often seem daunting. That’s why we offer a range of tools and resources to help you decide on the deal that’s right for you:

  • Spot market moves at a glance with our essential charts, and interpret what they mean using our range of technical analysis tools
  • Upgrade to our advanced ProRealTime charting package and gain access to automated dealing, as well as even more indicators. It’s free to use if you transact at least four times in a given month, otherwise there’s a AUD$40 per month fee*
  • Respond instantly to key market moves with alerts, which can be set to trigger when the market hits a certain level or moves by a set amount
  • Learn from our team of market experts with up-to-the-minute analysis as they explore emerging patterns and trends worth watching
  • Access a real-time Reuters feed in the platform, and filter the latest news stories by market, article type and more
  • Be alerted to key trends and potential opportunities and explore concise, actionable analysis with third-party signals
  • View our economic calendar and gain a full overview of macro and microeconomic events with the potential to move markets
  • Review dedicated market data for a breakdown of trader sentiment, the latest company figures and real-time streaming prices

Learn more about our trading platforms and their features

5. Choose your CFD trading platform

With IG, you’ll have access to several trading platforms:

  • Web-based platform
  • Mobile trading apps
  • MetaTrader 4
  • Advanced platforms

These can all be tailored to suit your trading style and preferences, with personalised alerts, interactive charts and risk management tools.

Find out more about our trading platforms

6. Open, monitor and close your first position

When you’ve decided which market you want to trade, you’re ready to place a deal. The first thing to decide is whether you want to go long or short. Say, for example, that you want to trade the FTSE 100. If you think its value will fall, you sell (‘go short’); if you think it will climb, you buy (‘go long’). Having the option to do either is one of the main benefits of CFD trading.

Once you’ve taken your position, your profit or loss will move in line with the underlying market price. You can monitor all your open positions on the trading platform, and close them by clicking the ‘close’ button. You can also do this manually by placing the same trade you originally placed, but in the opposite direction (unless you force open the new position). So if you opened your position by buying, you could close by selling the same number of contracts at the sell price – and vice versa.

Your profit or loss is calculated by multiplying the amount the market moved by the size of your trade in pounds per point. Here’s an illustrated example of how this works:

When placing a trade, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Buy and sell prices

You’re always offered two prices based on the value of the underlying instrument you are trading: the buy price (the bid) and the sell price (the offer).

The price to buy will always be higher than the current underlying value and the price to sell will always be lower. The difference between the two prices is called the spread. Most CFD trades with IG are charged via the spread, with the exception of share trades, which incur commission.

Number of contracts

When trading CFDs, you need to decide how many contracts you want to trade. Each market has its own minimum number of contracts: the FTSE 100's, for instance, is one contract.

In this case, one contract is equivalent to $10 per point, but this also varies from market to market. $10 per point means you’ll make or lose $10 for every point of movement in the value of the index. We also offer mini contracts on key markets, giving you more flexibility over the sizes you trade in.

Keep in mind that as CFDs are leveraged products, you only ever need to put down a small deposit to gain exposure to the full value of the trade. This means your capital goes further, but also means that you could lose more than your initial outlay.

Stops and limits

To help restrict your potential losses, you might choose to add a stop. Stops automatically close your position when the market moves against you by a specified amount. You can choose from a number of different types of stop, including:

  • Basic: Closes you out as near as possible to the price level you choose. A basic stop may be affected by ‘gapping’ overnight or in times of high volatility
  • Guaranteed: Closes you out at the level you requested, regardless of whether the market gaps. This will incur a small premium, but only if the stop is triggered
  • Trailing: Moves with your position when the market moves in your favour, but locks in as soon as the market starts to move against you

Limits, meanwhile, do the opposite, closing your position when the market moves a specified distance in your favour. Limits are a great way to secure profits in volatile markets.

CFD trading examples

At first glance, CFD trades can seem more confusing than traditional trades – so here are some examples to guide you through opening and closing positions.

Example: buying a share CFD

BHP has a sell price of $27.59, and a buy price of $27.60.

BHP’s next earnings announcement is fast approaching, and you expect it to be good news. You think the company’s share price will go up, so you buy 2000 share CFDs at $27.60. This is the equivalent of buying 2000 BHP shares.

Because CFD trading is a leveraged product, you don’t need to put up the full value of these shares. Instead, you only need to cover the margin, which is calculated by multiplying your exposure with the margin factor for the market you are trading.

So if BHP has a margin factor of 5%, then your margin would be 5% of the total exposure of your trade (2000 share CFDs x $27.6 = $55,200), which is $2760.

Buying a share example

If your prediction is correct

When BHP announces its results, it’s clear the company has had a successful quarter – and as you predicted, its share price climbs. You decide to close your position when it reaches $29.60, with a buy price of $29.61 and a sell price of $29.60

You reverse your trade to close a position, so you sell your 2000 CFDs at a price of $29.60.

To calculate your profit, you multiply the difference between the closing price and the opening price of your position by its size. $29.60 – $27.60 = $2, which you multiply by 2000 CFDs to get a profit of $4000.

Just remember that you’ll also need to pay a commission fee and any overnight funding charges. Please refer to your tax adviser for tax matters.

Calculating profit from your share CFD

If your prediction is wrong

BHP’s results are worse than expected, and its share price immediately falls. You decide to cut your losses and sell your 2000 CFDs at $26.60.

Your position has moved $1 against you, meaning you make a loss of $2000 (in addition to your commission fee, and any overnight charges).

Calculating loss from your share CFD

Buying BHP: example share CFD trade
Sell / buy price $27.59 / $27.60
Deal Buy at 27.60
Deal size 2000 share CFDs
Margin $2760
Commission $55.20 (2000 x 27.60 = $55,200 x 0.08% = $44.16)
Closing price Sell at 29.60 Sell at 26.60
Calculation

29.60 – 27.60 = 2

2000 share CFDs * 2 = $4000

$4000 - $44.16 commission = $3955.04

26.60 – 27.60 = -1

2000 share CFDs * -1 = -$2000

-$2000 – $55.20 = -$2055.20

Profit / loss $3955.04 profit $2055.20 loss


Learn more about the differences between CFD trading and share trading

Example: selling the Australia 200

Our Australia 200 price is 5400 to sell or 5401 to buy.

You anticipate that an upcoming interest rate announcement from the RBA will negatively impact the index, so you decide to sell five contracts (the equivalent of $125) at 5400.

The Australia 200 has a margin factor of 0.50%, so you need to deposit (($125 x 5400) x 0.50%) $3375 as margin.

Selling an index example

If your prediction is correct

The announcement is a disappointing one, and the Australia drops with a buy price of 5354 and a sell price of 5353. You’re ready to secure your profit, so you buy five contracts at 5354.

Because this is a short position, you minus the closing price (5354) from the opening price (5400) of your position to calculate profit, before multiplying by its size (5 contracts x $25 per contract = $125).

5400 - 5354 = 46 points, which you multiply by $125 to give you a profit of $5750. You don’t need to pay commission on indices CFD trades, as our costs are included in the spread – but you will still have to pay any overnight funding charges and may be subject to tax consideration.

Calculating profit

If your prediction is wrong

The announcement proves positive, and it gives the index a boost. You decide to cut your losses when the buy price hits 5430.

The price has moved 30 points against you. This gives you a loss of $3750, as well as any overnight funding charges.

Calculating your loss

Selling Australia 200: example trade
Sell / buy price 5400 / 5401
Deal Sell at 5400
Deal size 5 contracts (at $25/contract)
Margin $3375
Commission $0
Other potential charges Overnight funding charge if your position is open over more than a single trading day. You may be liable on tax.
Closing price Sell at 5354 Buy at 5430
Calculation

5400 – 5354 = 46

125 * 46 = $5750

5400 - 5430 = -30

125 * -30 = -$3750

Profit / loss $5750 profit $3750 loss

Discover CFD trading with IG

Learn about the benefits of CFD trading and see how you get started with IG.

FAQs

What markets can I trade with CFDs?

With IG, you can trade CFDs on over 15,000 markets, including indices, shares, forex, commodities and cryptocurrencies.

You can even trade CFDs out of hours on certain markets, enabling you to make the most out of company announcements after the market closes.

Who can trade CFDs?

Whether you’re new to trading or have previous experience, CFD trading can provide a wide range of benefits – including the opportunity to deal on thousands of markets without the need for large amounts of capital.

However, it is important to be aware that CFD trading is not for everyone. As it is a leveraged product, losses can exceed deposits. This means it is especially important to understand the risks involved and take steps to prepare yourself to trade CFDs.

How much does it cost to trade CFDs?

The costs of CFDs themselves depend on the market you choose, changing according to factors such as the liquidity of the market in question. You generally only pay a commission charge for share CFDs, and a spread (the difference between the buy and sell prices) for all other markets. Plus, every market comes with its own minimum number of contracts you will need to buy or sell to open your position.

There is also a small charge to fund positions overnight and for guaranteed stops (if triggered), and there may be additional fees for specialist tools.

See our full charges and fees

What platforms can I use to trade CFDs?

With IG, you can trade CFDs on our online trading platform and on the go with our mobile trading apps. You can also use our services with specialist third-party platforms such as L2 dealer, ProRealTime and Metatrader4.

Discover our range of award-winning platforms

I already have a CFD account with a different provider, but I’m thinking about opening a new account with IG. What do I need to be aware of?

To open a new CFD trading account with IG, you just need to fill in a simple form so that we can establish your previous experience and available funds. This way we can ensure that you get the best trading experience possible.

Our mobile trading apps, state-of-the-art technology and free educational tools make the process of switching your account to us an effortless experience. So, you can be signed up and ready to trade within minutes.

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* We reserve the right to charge you for the service if your qualifying trades are of an extremely low value.

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