Margin Account vs Cash Account – Which one should you choose?

Margin and cash accounts are two options online brokers give you once you sign up for a brokerage account.

Even though both have their goods and downsides, it is necessary to identify the difference between them to make the right choice for you.

It is an important decision because your selection affects your process of investing.

Therefore in this article, we will explain the following:

  • What are margin and cash accounts
  • Margin account vs cash account comparison
  • Everything you need to know to choose wisely
  • Alternatives for investing.

What is a Margin Account?

A margin account is one form of brokerage account where you borrow money from the brokerage firm.

Uniting your money with the money you lent enables you to buy more investments than you could without borrowed money.

An easy way to show how a margin account works are by analogy with credit cards.

Margin accounts offer you to spend more money on investments than you already have, potentially a lot more. You are indebted to the brokerage firm, and you are paying them back over time – just like a credit card.

On the one hand, margin accounts give you extra flexibility to build a portfolio, but on the other hand, it takes much more significant potential risk. The risk relates to the possibility that the investment losses include borrowed money – often called margin loans – in addition to your own money.

Given the loan, they are charging you interest on a margin account. Thus, margin trading is very much like gambling. You wager that the stocks you buy will grow faster than your margin interest costs.

Minimum Margin

The minimum margin represents a minimum cash deposit that investors need to have before buying on margin.

Minimum cash deposit is different from organization to organization. For example, FINRA requires 100% of the purchase price of the investment you want to buy or a minimum cash deposit of $2000.

Initial Margin

Even when you start trading on margin, you are still limited to borrowing a maximum of 50% of the purchase price of the securities you wish to buy.

Securities and Exchange Commission Regulation T (Reg T) is in charge of the initial margin.

Maintenance Margin

After you start buying securities on margin, you must maintain a minimum capital an investor must keep in the margin account. You’ll have to hold a particular margin balance for a maintenance margin.

In case your account falls underneath the maintenance margin, you’ll probably get a margin call.

Margin Call

A margin call is a demand from brokerage to raise the profit of your margin account. When your account falls, brokers are in danger as well. Broker lends money to you, but the stocks you bought now can have a lower value than what you owe on the margin loan. They will call you to deposit more cash or more securities for your marginal account to regain its minimum capital.

When you end up in this situation, you need to track the value of your investments if you have a margin loan so you can act.

Use Your Margin Account Wisely

The fascinating thing about margin accounts is the privilege of investing in more ways than other accounts offer. It makes it much easier to improve your portfolio.

Margin loans generally have no set repayment schedule. It’s incredible because you can take as long as you need to refund your loan.

On the other hand, it should be considered twice due to the high risk of these types of brokerage accounts.

Although the gain is potentially much higher, it’s the same as the loss. If you start losing money on your investments, additionally, you have to pay interest on the borrowed money.

If you want to choose the brokerage account that’s the right suit for you, be sure to estimate the ratio between pros and cons.

Pros and Cons of a Margin Account

We will first discuss why margin accounts are so attractive to investors.

By borrowing money, you develop the number of your investment, and thus there is a potentially higher profit than with a cash account. Consequently, margin accounts authorize you to grow your portfolio much faster.

These types of brokerage accounts do not charge additional fees for account maintenance. This feature is convenient when it comes to short-term cash flow needs.

With a margin account, you can immediately approach cash, which you can pay back whenever it’s a good time for you. As long as you pay the margin loan in a short period, the amount of interest is minimal capital requirements.

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Let’s brief pros of margin account:

  • Borrowed money allows you to buy a more significant number of investments.
  • More investments mean more potential gain.
  • You don’t need to pay additional fees for account maintenance.
  • Instant access to your cash.

Sounds good? Sure it is, but it also cut both ways.

The most significant risk of trading on margin is major losses. It happens most often that the value of the investment bought on credit will decrease.

We already explained margin call, but that is one of the disadvantages.

When margin calls happen, you have to pay off the stocks because it means that market losses have lowered the value of your investment. Usually, it gets pricey.

If you fail to meet margin calls, your brokerage can close out your account – it’s called a forced sale or liquidation. The account value would be the valuation of all positions if they were to be liquidated at a particular point in time.

Because of many complex trading strategies used in margin trading, a margin account is not beginner-friendly.

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Let’s summarize the cons of margin account:

  • The potential of excessive risks.
  • Margin accounts are more appropriate for experienced investors than beginners.

We should consider second brokerage account options.

What Is a Cash Account?

Unlike a margin account, with a cash brokerage account, you can’t lose the money you don’t have. You are not able to borrow money. You can only make transactions with money that is already on your account.

If we say a margin account is like a credit card, then a cash account is like a debit card.

Cash accounts are a great alternative to savings and checking accounts. You manage to invest and always have your money in hand.

In contrast to checking accounts, the cash account intends to insert your money toward the stock market.

Cash account support you to buy securities, for instance: stocks, bonds, mutual funds, index funds, cryptocurrencies, and so on.

Even though you won’t be capable of purchasing all the securities that remain, options are more than solid for novice investors.

However, if you are an advanced investor, you probably won’t be satisfied with this list of possible securities.

How Does a Cash Account Work?

A cash account works just like a debit card. If you deposited $2000, you could buy up to $2000 in securities. You can deposit additional funds or sell securities to buy even more securities.

You know exactly how much potential losses can be – they are always the same as an initial investment.

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Pros and Cons of Cash account

The decisive advantage is lower risks involved in this type of investment account. You always have an insight into how much you can lose.

Cash accounts are very accessible. You can use entry to your money immediately.

Nevertheless, if your ambition is a more diversified portfolio, a cash brokerage account will reduce your chances.

Primarily, this is an excellent option for the vast majority of beginners in investing and ones who do not want to handle more risk than average.

Margin Account vs. Cash Account

Now we will compare margin accounts and cash accounts.

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Key Differences Between Margin and Cash Account

The main difference between these two accounts is that a margin account lets you borrow money. Money borrowed from your brokerage can amplify returns and potential loss in trading on margin.

In contrast, you can mainly make transactions with available funds on your account with a cash account.

Both accounts make financing more smooth and investments less terrifying. It would be best if you chose a better way to purchase securities for yourself.

If you dare to try trading on margin, you will get a chance to sell stock short, also called short selling.

Short selling appears when an investor rents security and sells it on the open market. This investment strategy aims to repurchase security later for less than the purchase price.

Thus, cash brokerage accounts are better for experienced investors who want to sell stocks short.

On the other hand, if you are a more average investor, a cash account might be a safer option with a request for lower deposit cash than the margin account.


If you choose a cash account, you will be dealing with ordinary risks that come with purchasing securities.

Margin account has essentially higher downside risk. Here is an illustration: if on a $5000 stock investment stock price drop down by 20%, your investment will have lost $1000 in value.

Margin account comes with expanded losses, but also your gains.

If you don’t have enough money for a $10000 investment, you can invest $5000 and borrow another $5000. In case the stock price falls 20%, your investment will decrease by $2000. Margin account has essentially higher downside risk.

The biggest problem is that all investments are subject to unexpected and significant price changes.

Can we prevent it?


Unfortunately, we can’t inhibit and predict all price swings, but we can try.

Leverage refers to using borrowed funds to augment returns from an investment. Leverage is equipment that investors operate to expand their buying power in the market.

We can understand meaning analogously to the sense of leverage in physics. A properly placed metal pole helps us move a rock that we could not carry on our own. It is the same in financing – we use the principle of leverage to achieve a goal we couldn’t get on our own.

The most important difference between futures trading and other financial products is the use of leverage.


Maybe the most significant disadvantage of these accounts is brokerage’s rules, especially ones that control trading on margin.

Previously mentioned minimum margin, initial, and maintenance margin are not only applications financial institution requires.

They are only minimum capital requirements. For additional requirements, you must see the rules of your brokerage house.

Margin Account vs. Cash Account: Which one Is For You?

The choice is not easy at all. Whatever you choose, you need to take the bad with the good.

A margin account brings too many risks with a high probability of borrowing a lot of money and losing.

If we choose a safer option, a cash account, the expected profit is not severe.

Why would we invest in something that will not bring us significant profits or be in constant stress and fear of the price changing when we don’t have to?

There are plenty of other options.

Money Market Fund

Money market funds are types of mutual funds that invest in high-quality, short-term debt instruments, cash, and cash equivalents.

You can consider them because they are incredibly low-risk on the investment scope. They are a great option if you don’t want long-term investments.

Another great way for becoming personal finance is through your Whole Life policies.

What if we tell you that you can invest without brokerage services?

Gain Financial Freedom

Almost all the disadvantages of different investment vehicles come from the individual’s dependence on the bank, the lender, or the personal loans.

Unlike margin accounts, the Infinite Banking concept supports money stored in a safe space without concern about ups and downs in the stock market.

Unlike cash accounts, this concept offers you more return gain. If you earn $5000, you don’t have to pay any taxes (they’re usually about 20%), and you will have $5000 on hand.

The only thing you need to start this process is whole life insurance policy.

Let’s see how it works.

Infinite Banking Concept

Infinite Banking is a strategic approach for engaging your life insurance to start an endless banking system. You are capable of being your own banker, just without the high expense and insane interest.

Borrowing from a bank replaces borrowing from yourself – you turn into a creditor and a lender. In the meantime, your whole life policy earns dividends despite your expenses.

Final Thoughts

Looking for the right way to invest is pretty challenging. You need to set your financial goals and realize what suits you the best.

We wish that this article helped you better understand the distinction between cash and margin accounts. Likewise, any other investment strategy they have its advantages and disadvantages.

Every investment vehicle has its pros and cons, and it’s up to you to calculate them in your particular situation.

Whichever way you choose, it must serve you to achieve your goal.