What Is Excess Margin & How Do You Use It?

By Mike Zaccardi, CMT, CFA · March 29, 2022 · 5 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

What Is Excess Margin & How Do You Use It?

The excess margin in a trading account indicates how much available funds it contains above the required minimum amounts. Knowing your excess margin helps determine how many securities you can trade on margin, as well as how much you can withdraw from your account to use for other purposes.

What Is Excess Margin?

Excess margin is a trading account‘s equity above the legal minimum required for a margin account, or the amount of equity above the broker’s maintenance margin requirement.

Excess margin is generated from cash or securities a trader deposits in a margin account above required levels. Excess margin can be used as collateral for margin loans, or it may be withdrawn from the account. It is important to monitor your excess margin ratio so you can keep your account in good standing.

Special Memorandum Account

A special memorandum account (SMA) is where excess margin generated from a margin trading account is held. Trading margin is also called free margin, usable margin, or available margin. Excess margin, on the other hand, is only the margin above the required minimum.

Understanding Trading Margin Excess

Trading margin excess tells you how much buying power you have, but no trader should feel compelled to use all of it just because it is there. Excess cash margin can be thought of as funds left over after you have taken positions during the trading day. You can use excess margin to buy new positions or add to an existing holding.

Understanding how to trade excess margin requires a grasp of how margin accounts work. A margin account allows you to borrow from a broker if you meet initial margin requirements. You will need the greater of either the $2k minimum margin requirement or 50% of the security’s purchase price in your account to buy on margin. For example, if you were to purchase 10 shares of a stock trading at $30, 50% is $1,500. Since that is less than $2,000, you’ll need to deposit $2,000 in order to purchase the 10 shares on margin. On the other hand, if you wanted to purchase 10 shares of a stock selling for $50, 50% is $2,500 — and you would need to deposit $2,500, not $2,000, in order to make your purchase on margin.

In the United States, Regulation T set by the Federal Reserve states that a trader with a margin account can borrow up to 50% of the purchase price of a stock (assuming the stock is fully marginable). There are also maintenance margin requirements set at 25% by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) — your equity relative to your account value must not fall below that threshold. Finally, a broker might set stricter margin requirements than the governing authorities.

The value of assets in a margin account that exceeds these requirements is the excess margin deposit. Since you are trading with leverage, the maintenance margin excess amount indicates how much is left that you can borrow against — it is not actual cash remaining in your account. According to FINRA , maintenance margin excess is the amount by which the equity in the margin account exceeds the required margin.

Risks and Benefits of Excess Margin

An account is in good standing as long as it has margin levels above those set by regulators and the broker. There are dangers with trading excess margin securities, though. Since you trade with leverage in a margin account, there is the risk that your account value could drop dramatically if the market goes against you. Your account can be in good standing one day, but then face a margin call the next day.

If your account violates margin requirements, you will be faced with a margin call. To meet the call, you must deposit cash, deposit marginable securities, or liquidate securities you own. If you do not meet the call, your broker can perform a forced sale. In extreme cases, your account’s trading privileges can be suspended. Silver Thursday is an extreme example of when margin works against traders.

On the upside, there is potential to make larger profits by trading on margin. Returns are amplified by leverage. You can also benefit from declining share prices by short selling (it’s worth noting that margin requirements are different for short selling — 30% in most cases). There are other benefits when trading on margin so long as you maintain excess margin. You can use your margin account for loans by borrowing against your assets, often at a competitive interest rate. Margin trading also lets you diversify a concentrated portfolio.

Excess Margin Risks vs Benefits



Trading with leverage can amplify losses Trading with leverage can amplify returns
A broker can perform a forced sale if you face a margin call Excess margin tells you how much money you can use for new purchases or to withdraw from the account
You can lose more than what you put in during extreme events You can hold a diversified portfolio and short positions

What Is an Excess Margin Deposit?

An excess margin deposit is the collateral held in a margin account that is above required margin levels. When the value of your excess margin deposit drops under the required margin amount, you might face a margin call. An excess margin deposit is calculated as the difference between an account’s value and its minimum maintenance requirement. Required margin levels are often higher for equity and options trading accounts versus futures trading accounts.

Managing excess margin securities is important when trading. If you trade positions without understanding risk, then you are more likely to eventually get hit with a margin call. A way to manage excess margin is to trade securities and positions sizes that fit your risk and return preferences.

Excess Margin Deposit Example

An example helps illustrate what excess margin is. Let’s say your margin trading account has $50,000 of unmargined securities. The Reg T requirement dictates that your initial margin is $25,000 (a 50% margin requirement), so excess initial margin is $25,000. Assuming a 25% maintenance margin requirement, $12,500 of equity must be kept after opening the account.

With $25,000 of equity, there is $12,500 of excess margin above the 25% maintenance margin requirement. You can buy more securities with that amount or withdraw it to use for other purposes.

If the account value drops to $45,000, then your equity has fallen to $20,000 ($45,000 of stocks minus the $25,000 loan). Assuming the account has a 25% maintenance requirement, the account would need to have equity of at least $11,250 (25% of $45,000). With $20,000 of equity, the account meets the requirements and is in good standing.

The Takeaway

Excess margin is your margin trading account’s equity above all margin requirements. It is a balance that tells you how much more securities you can buy on margin. The excess cash margin also indicates how much you can pull from the account to use for other purposes.

Interested in trading? You can get started today with SoFi Invest®. With SoFi active investing, you can buy and sell stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and IPOs.

Find out how to get started with SoFi Invest.


What happens if you go over margin?

If you go over margin, you might be faced with a margin call. A margin call happens when your excess margin deposit falls below zero. Satisfying a margin call involves depositing more cash or securities or liquidating existing holdings to bring the account’s excess margin ratio back within proper limits.

What is excess intraday margin?

Excess intraday margin is the amount of funds in a margin trading account above the intraday margin requirement. It is a balance that tells you how much money is in the account above an intraday margin requirement. Intraday margin is also referred to as day trading margin if you engage in pattern day trading. Note: There are different requirements for a pattern day trader.

Can margin trading put you in debt?

In extreme circumstances, trading excess margin securities can put you in debt due to positions losing value and margin interest being owed. Margin calls issued by brokers help to reduce this risk since the calls require the trader to deposit more funds into the account or liquidate existing holdings. If the trader does not act, the broker might automatically sell securities. If the trader has borrowed too much and market movements are drastically against the trader, equity can turn negative.

SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal. Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
*Borrow at 2.5% through 5/31/22 and 5% starting 6/1/22. Utilizing a margin loan is generally considered more appropriate for experienced investors as there are additional costs and risks associated. It is possible to lose more than your initial investment when using margin. Please see SoFi.com/wealth/assets/documents/brokerage-margin-disclosure-statement.pdf for detailed disclosure information.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Options involve risks, including substantial risk of loss and the possibility an investor may lose the entire amount invested in a short period of time. Before an investor begins trading options they should familiarize themselves with the Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options . Tax considerations with options transactions are unique, investors should consult with their tax advisor to understand the impact to their taxes.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Photo credit: iStock/Geber86

All your finances.
All in one app.

SoFi QR code, Download now, scan this with your phone’s camera

All your finances.
All in one app.

App Store rating

SoFi iOS App, Download on the App Store
SoFi Android App, Get it on Google Play

TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender