Meeting the requirements for margin trading

Trading on margin involves additional risk, so before placing any trades, be sure you understand the requirements and industry regulations that govern margin borrowing.

A margin account is essentially a loan made by a brokerage firm to an account owner. To add margin to your account, you'll need to first complete a margin agreementLog In Required that confirms your understanding of the risks involved.

Once margin has been added to your account, its subject to the rules of the Federal Reserve Board, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and securities exchanges such as the New York Stock Exchange, as well as your own brokerage firm's margin policies. In many cases, a brokerage firm's margin policies may be more stringent than those of the regulators.

To purchase securities on margin and continue to hold them in your margin account, you must meet specific margin requirements.

Initial margin requirement

For new purchases, the initial Regulation T margin requirement is 50% of the total purchase amount. So if you wanted to buy $10,000 of ABC stock on margin, you would first need to deposit $5,000 or have equity equal to $5,000 in your account. Margin accounts require a minimum of $2,000 in net worth to use the margin feature.

House margin requirement

FINRA Rule 4210 requires that you maintain a minimum of 25% equity in your margin account at all times. Most brokerage firms maintain margin requirements that meet or, in many cases, exceed those set forth by regulators. They do this to protect themselves from market risk and the risk that certain customers will incur a margin debt that they are unable to pay back.

Firms typically determine margin requirements by assessing risk at the security level or at the account level. Calculating requirements at the security level takes into account a security’s price, volatility, and number of outstanding shares, along with many other factors. This information is used to create a single margin requirement across the firm. The main benefit of this method is the simplicity in maintaining and communicating this information to customers.

Calculating margin requirements at the account level may provide a more accurate and true representation of risk. This method goes beyond the individual security level characteristics and analyzes risk and the corresponding margin requirements based on each customer's overall account structure. The criteria used to assess this risk may vary from broker to broker, but generally firms use factors such as account concentration, security liquidity, ownership concentration, industry concentration, and a security's volatility. Additional factors pertaining to certain securities, such as leveraged ETFs or those from distressed sectors and issuers, could increase the house requirements for these securities. These requirements can change at any time, so be sure you understand your firm's unique margin policies before you start trading on margin.

Margin requirements in action

Understanding the potential benefits, risks, and requirements of maintaining a margin account is just the first step in getting started with margin. Before you proceed, you also need to know what can happen when the market moves against your margin positions. For more on this topic, see Avoiding and managing margin calls.

Looking to add margin?

Complete an online agreement and agree to the terms and conditions of using margin.

More to explore

Margin trading entails greater risk, including, but not limited to, risk of loss and incurrence of margin interest debt, and is not suitable for all investors. Please assess your financial circumstances and risk tolerance before trading on margin. If the market value of the securities in your margin account declines, you may be required to deposit more money or securities in order to maintain your line of credit. If you are unable to do so, Fidelity may be required to sell all or a portion of your pledged assets. Margin credit is extended by National Financial Services, Member NYSE, SIPC.

In order to short sell at Fidelity, you must have a margin account. Short selling and margin trading entail greater risk, including, but not limited to, risk of unlimited losses and incurrence of margin interest debt, and are not suitable for all investors. Please assess your financial circumstances and risk tolerance before short selling or trading on margin. Margin trading is extended by National Financial Services, Member NYSE, SIPC, a Fidelity Investments company.