This is a hack I came up with the other day for people who want to trade spot currencies without a futures account, without alerting their compliance department, and/or without the gains being reported to the IRS. You might consider it if you think you know the direction of the dollar and you want to get a little more bang for your savings buck than the .2% you're currently earning in the bank.
I use PayPal for all my online transactions and, since I live in France, I get paid in both dollars and Euros. Since dollars are my native currency, PayPal reports my total balance in USD. However, I usually sweep my USD into my bank account, and only leave the Euros on deposit in my PayPal account. As you can probably imagine, I've been watching my USD account balance rise every day the dollar has fallen over the past couple weeks, and it got me to thinking.
PayPal supports 21 different currencies, from the Australian Dollar to the Thai Baht. If stability is your thing, the Swiss Franc is available. Convert to Mexican Pesos for a virtual trip south of the border. British Pounds, Canadian Loonies, even the Polish Zloty are represented. All you have to do is open a PayPal account (most of you probably already have one), make a deposit, and then transfer the money to your currency of choice.
Obviously, the first time you do this you're essentially shorting the USD, so make sure you're comfortable with that. If the dollar rises against your chosen currency, you'll see your account balance drop. But the opposite is also true, as I've watched my balance climb while the Euro kicks the dollar's ass.
Near as I can tell, you convert at the spot rate minus 2.5%, which is steep but less than you'd pay at a currency kiosk at the airport. The dollar has fallen 10% against the Euro over the past couple weeks, so you make it up pretty quickly when you're right.
- Any fool can have a PayPal account. You don't have to worry about qualifying for a futures account.
- Since there is no leverage, there are no margin requirements. You buy as much or as little as you want and it works like a savings account in another currency.
- Your Compliance Department never has to know. There are no compliance reporting requirements on a PayPal account, so you can trade without pre-approval from Compliance and they'll never know. Also no duplicate confirmations.
- Gains aren't reported to the IRS. Not that I would encourage tax evasion, I'm just giving you a heads up that you'll need to be extra honest at tax time and report the gains yourself, BECAUSE THEY'LL NEVER FIND OUT OTHERWISE. PayPal only reports interest income from the money market account they offer, and they don't keep track of currency gains or losses.
Hope this helps anyone looking to dabble in currencies.