USA Binary Options Brokers, Rules and Regulations
Background to Trading Binary Options in the USA
There have been tremendous changes in the binary options trading sphere in the United States. The United States has remained a global standard when it comes to regulation of activities in the financial markets, and the binary options market is no different. Where laxities and loopholes have existed in other climes, these are virtually non-existent in the United States.
The binary options market has been a tightly regulated industry in the US even when this market still did not receive the appropriate classification in Europe and several other climes to enable an appropriate regulatory framework for the market. The Commodities and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has been the regulatory body handling the regulation of the binary options market in the United States, after the original framework for take-off of the market was developed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). A portion of the regulation of the binary options market is still handled by the SEC.
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How are Binary Options Regulated in the US?
The CFTC had come up with specific laws that have made “off-exchange” binary options trading an offence in the United States, and the two regulatory agencies overseeing binary options in the US (the Commodities and Futures Trading Commission as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission) have taken steps to dissuade American citizens from participating in this sort of trading. In other words, binary options trading as practiced in other climes is considered a form of gambling, and online gambling is currently illegal in the United States.
Operating in the binary options market in the US comes with a lot of stringent requirements. The first company to operate a US binary options brokerage business was IG Group, owners of the North American Derivatives Exchange (NADEX). NADEX operates not strictly as a brokerage, but as an exchange, providing market participants the opportunity to trade binary options assets among themselves, rather than trading against the market makers as is the case with European-style binary options trading.
NADEX has operated for a long time as the sole company offering binary options on a retail basis. Coming on board a few years after the Patriot Act was enacted by the US Congres, NADEX operated with system where only holders of US passports and US green cards were allowed to open accounts on the exchange, effectively locking out many international parties that would have liked to participate in US-style binary options. Apart from NADEX, binary options in the US had also been offered on the American Exchange (AMEX), but this had mostly been done using ETF assets. Asset base on which trading could be conducted was highly restricted and contract specifications were not very easy for retail traders to comprehend and utilize.
Recognizing the closed nature of business offered by NADEX, other companies have come into the market space to offer American-style binary options to international clients as well as local clients. These companies include Cantor Exchange LP and Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc.
Specific Regulations Regarding US Binary Options Brokers
There are certain regulations which guide the conduct of any brokerage that is to offer binary options trading services to US clients. These regulations are provided by both the CFTC and the SEC.
- CFTC Registration/Regulatory Requirements
A US binary options broker registered with the CFTC must:
- solicit, accept offers, offer to or enter into commodity options transactions (for example, foreign currencies, metals such as gold and silver, and agricultural products such as wheat or corn) with U.S. citizens ONLY on a a designated contract market, an exempt board of trade, or a bona fide foreign board of trade,
- conducted with U.S. customers who have a net worth that exceeds $5 million.
- SEC Registration/Regulatory Requirements
Due to the fact that some binary options are listed as stocks, a US binary options broker is not permitted to offer or sell securities unless the offer and sale has been registered with the SEC, as provided for by existing US federal laws.
In addition, any entity which engages in the business of effecting securities transactions for the accounts of others in the U.S. must be register with the SEC as a broker-dealer. If a binary options trading platform is offering to buy or sell securities, effecting transactions in securities, and/or receiving transaction-based compensation (such as commissions), it likely should be registered with the SEC.
By this definition, a US binary options broker must be registered with the SEC as a securities broker-dealer.
Offshore US Binary Options Brokers
If you want to trade binary options with an offshore binary options broker, you can choose any from the top of this page. The only disadvantage is that you will be unable to trade stocks
US-Based Binary Options Brokers
Only three companies are licensed to operate as US binary options brokers. These are NADEX, Cantor Exchange LP and Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. Traders can trade American-style binary options on these platforms. It is possible to close trades before expiry times without incurring extra charges.
1. Trading on NADEX
Nadex started operations in 2004 after it was founded by John Nafeh as HedgeStreet. It was setup as an internet-based electronic exchange to permit the trading of financial derivatives. By 2008, it included binary options as part of its derivative instruments with the launch of the Germany 30 binary contract. This contract is based on the Xetra DAX Index, which is the German stock market index that measures the performance of the top 30 companies in Germany. The company was renamed NADEX when it was acquired by the IG Group in 2007. IG Group also owns the IG Index, a UK based binary options brokerage.
Opening an account on NADEX requires the following:
- An initial deposit of $100
- Must be a citizen of the US, US territories, Canada or Mexico. You must have a permanent address.
Transaction fees are capped at $0.90 per lot, for trades that involve 1-10 lots. Additional lots are not charged.
Traders are given a 2-week access to a $25,000 demo account to practice trading techniques on the NADEX platform without risking real money. Trading on NADEX is conducted on the following assets:
- Commodities: silver, gold, copper, soybean, corn, natural gas crude oil.
- Stock Indices: CBOT E-mini Dow, ICE Mini Russell, EUREX DAX Index, KOSPI 200, LIFFE FTSE100, NGX NIFTY Index, SGX Nikkei 225 Index, CME E-mini S&P500 Index Futures.
- Currencies: EURUSD, GBPUSD, USDJPY, EURJPY, USDCAD, USDCHF and AUDUSD.
- Special Contracts: EURsystem Main Refi Rate, FOMC Targeted Fed Funds Rate, Jobless Claims, Non-farm Payroll.
Trades are done on the basis of either BUY or SELL. Traders who want to benefit from falling prices sell an asset on the bid price, and traders who want to gain from rising prices will buy the asset on the offer price. Trades are settled at either 0 or 100. Contracts on which the trader has entered a SELL will have the cost of the contract subtracted from 100; this is the maximum profit. Contracts on which the trader has entered a BUY will have the cost of the asset added to 0; this is the maximum profit. The rest of the pricing between the asset price and either 0 (for sell) or 100 (for buy) is the maximum allowable loss. Final profits will depend on the number of contracts that the trader will purchase.
2. Trading on the Cantor Exchange
Cantor Exchange LP attends to US and non-US clients. Canto Exchange refers to its traders as “market participants”. US clients submit an online application in other to open an account, and are required to fulfill the same requirements as US clients would do on NADEX. Non-US participants do not fill an online application. Rather, the application forms must be downloaded, filled by hand and submitted along with copies of a government-issued ID and a utility bill (certified copies) by email. Trading conditions are as is obtainable with NADEX.
3. Trading on Chicago Mercantile Exchange
The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Group offers binary options based on the weather. This is the CME Group Hurricane Index binary options in which traders can place bets on hurricane events during the hurricane season that lasts from April to November in the Pacific ocean. These are offered strictly as “Call” options. The contract size is pretty large: $10,000. There are seasonal binary options, seasonal cat-in-the-box binary options, seasonal maximum binary options, etc.
With three brokers now recognized as US binary options brokers, traders now have greater choice in trading American-style binary options. Or you can choose an unregulated offshore binary options broker that accepts US customers.