What Are Good Faith Violations in Stock Trading?

Good faith violation in swing trading.

Good faith violations are a common problem that many stock traders encounter, especially when dealing with cash accounts. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll dive deep into what good faith violations are, how they can impact your trading, and strategies you can use to avoid them while still managing risk effectively.

The Basics of Good Faith Violations

A good faith violation occurs when you buy a security with unsettled funds in your cash account and then sell that same security before the initial purchase has settled. In most cases, the settlement period for stocks is two trading days (T+2).

Here’s a simple example:

  • Day 1: You buy $1,000 worth of Stock A using unsettled funds
  • Day 2: You sell Stock A for $1,100 before the initial purchase settles
  • This is considered a good faith violation because you sold the stock before paying for it with settled funds

The Consequences of Good Faith Violations

If you incur a good faith violation, your broker may restrict your account activity. The penalties for good faith violations can vary depending on the broker and the number of violations you’ve had:

  • First & Second Violation: You’ll receive a warning and be required to settle the trade within the designated settlement period
  • Third Violation: Your account may be subject to a 90-day cash-only restriction, meaning you can’t purchase securities with unsettled funds

Why Good Faith Violations Happen

Good faith violations often happen when traders are trying to maximize their buying power or are unaware of the settlement rules. Some common reasons include:

  1. Trying to day trade with a cash account
  2. Selling a position before the funds from the initial purchase have settled
  3. Misunderstanding the settlement period for different types of securities

How to Avoid Good Faith Violations

Use a Margin Account

One of the most effective ways to avoid good faith violations is to use a margin account instead of a cash account. With a margin account, you can trade with borrowed funds provided by your broker, which means you don’t have to wait for trades to settle before entering new positions.

However, it’s crucial to understand the risks involved with margin trading, such as increased leverage and the potential for margin calls if your positions move against you.

Manage Your Trades Carefully

If you prefer to use a cash account, you need to be diligent about tracking your settled and unsettled funds. Some strategies include:

  1. Only trade with settled funds to avoid potential violations
  2. Keep a portion of your account in cash to ensure you have enough settled funds for new trades
  3. Avoid selling positions until the initial purchase has settled

That means that incredible bull flag pattern that is starting to breakout

Understand Settlement Periods

Different types of securities have different settlement periods. For example:

  • Stocks: T+2 (trade date plus two business days)
  • Options: T+1 (trade date plus one business day)
  • Mutual Funds: Varies depending on the fund, but often T+1 or T+2

By understanding these settlement periods, you can plan your trades accordingly and avoid good faith violations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I avoid good faith violations by using a margin account?

Yes, using a margin account can help you avoid good faith violations because you can trade with borrowed funds while waiting for trades to settle. However, margin trading comes with its own risks, such as increased leverage and the potential for margin calls.

What happens if I incur multiple good faith violations?

If you incur multiple good faith violations within a 12-month period, your broker may restrict your account activity or even close your account. It’s crucial to understand and follow the settlement rules to avoid these penalties.

Can I use unsettled funds to buy and sell different securities?

Yes, you can use unsettled funds to buy and sell different securities as long as you don’t sell the newly purchased securities before the initial purchase settles. This is known as “free-riding” and is allowed as long as you don’t violate the good faith rule.


Good faith violations can be a frustrating and costly issue for stock traders, but by understanding the rules and implementing effective risk management strategies, you can avoid them and focus on making profitable trades. Whether you choose to use a cash account or a margin account, always prioritize risk management and continuous education to adapt to the ever-changing market conditions.

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