Margin calls are mechanisms put in place by your Forex broker in order to keep your used margin secure. Remember, your used margin is allocated by your broker as the collateral for funds borrowed from your broker. A margin call happens when your free margin falls to zero, and all you have left in your trading account is your used, or required margin. When this happens, your broker will automatically close all open positions at current market rates.
Brokers use margin levels in an attempt to detect whether FX traders can take any new positions or not. Different brokers have varying limits for the margin level, but most will set this limit at 100%. This limit is called a margin call level. Technically, a 100% margin call level means that when your account margin level reaches 100%, you can still close your positions, but you cannot take any new positions.
Let's presume that the market keeps on going against you. In this case, the broker will simply have no choice but to shut down all your losing positions. This limit is referred to as a stop out level. For example, when the stop out level is established at 5% by a broker, the trading platform will start closing your losing positions automatically if your margin level reaches 5%. It is important to note that it starts closing from the biggest losing position.
The market then wants to trigger one of your pending orders but you may not have enough Forex free margin in your account. That pending order will either not be triggered or will be cancelled automatically. This can cause some traders to think that their broker failed to carry out their orders. Of course in this instance, this just isn't true. It's simply because the trader didn't have enough free margin in their trading account.
Trading on margin refers to trading on money borrowed from your broker in order to substantially increase your market exposure. When opening a margin trade, your broker lends you a certain sum of money depending on the leverage ratio used, and allocates a small portion of your trading account as the collateral, or margin for that trade. The remaining funds in your trading account will act as your free margin, which can be used to withstand negative price fluctuations from your existing leveraged positions, or to open new leveraged trades. The relation between your free margin and other important elements of your trading account, such as your balance and equity, will be explained later. For now, it’s important to understand the meaning of margin in Forex.