Most retail investors should spend time investigating a forex dealer to find out whether it is regulated in the U.S. or the U.K. (dealers in the U.S. and U.K. have more oversight) or in a country with lax rules and oversight. It is also a good idea to find out what kind of account protections are available in case of a market crisis, or if a dealer becomes insolvent.
Forex (FX) is the marketplace where various national currencies are traded. The forex market is the largest, most liquid market in the world, with trillions of dollars changing hands every day. There is no centralized location, rather the forex market is an electronic network of banks, brokers, institutions, and individual traders (mostly trading through brokers or banks).
A forex or currency futures contract is an agreement between two parties to deliver a set amount of currency at a set date, called the expiry, in the future. Futures contracts are traded on an exchange for set values of currency and with set expiry dates. Unlike a forward, the terms of a futures contract are non-negotiable. A profit is made on the difference between the prices the contract was bought and sold at. Most speculators don't hold futures contracts until expiration, as that would require they deliver/settle the currency the contract represents. Instead, speculators buy and sell the contracts prior to expiration, realizing their profits or losses on their transactions.
One of the best ways to learn about forex is to see how prices move in real time and place some fake trades with an account called a paper trading account (so there is no actual financial risk to you). Several brokerages offer online or mobile phone app-based paper trading accounts that work exactly the same as live trading accounts, but without your own capital at risk. There are several online simulators for practicing day trading and honing your forex trading strategy and skills.
Unlike stock markets, which can trace their roots back centuries, the forex market as we understand it today is a truly new market. Of course, in its most basic sense—that of people converting one currency to another for financial advantage—forex has been around since nations began minting currencies. But the modern forex markets are a modern invention. After the accord at Bretton Woods in 1971, more major currencies were allowed to float freely against one another. The values of individual currencies vary, which has given rise to the need for foreign exchange services and trading.