Alternatives to CommSec: 7 trading platforms to consider
You've heard of CommSec, but how does it compare to others on the market? Here are some other trading platforms you should know about.
There are plenty of trusted and reliable online share trading platforms offered by banks and specialist brokers in Australia and around the world, so it's a good idea to compare your options before deciding on the trading platform that meets all your investment requirements and offers the best value for money.
Below we've listed some online trading platforms for you to consider, based on what you'd like to trade, how much you're investing and how often you'd like to trade per month. Although brokerage fees are a big consideration, you'll find that there are other factors you should take into account.
Standard brokerage - Australian shares
Share Trading Account Offer
Competitive broker fees on Australian shares, international shares, forex and CFD trading.
- Brokerage - AU shares: From AUD 5 or 0.05%
- Brokerage - US shares: USD 0
- Sign-up process: Instant
- Support - After hours: Yes
Important: Share trading carries risk of capital loss.
1. IG Markets
An IG share trading account offers competitive brokerage fees and 24-hour support when you trade both Australian and international shares.
If low brokerage is the most important factor in deciding on an alternative to CommSec, then IG may be for you. Along with low fees, it also offers a reliable online mobile share trading platform with a wide range of markets to choose from.
- Brokerage fee: AUD 8 or
- Inactivity fee: $50 per quarter
- Products: Australian and International shares, forex, CFDs
- Access: Online only, share trading app
2. CMC Markets
Trade shares, forex and CFDs on your desktop or mobile app and easily track your investments.
CMC Markets services ANZ Bank's share investment platform and offers the cheapest brokerage fee among the Big Four banks at $9.90 (depending on membership level). The platform offers membership options to suit beginner and advanced traders, providing access to local and international stocks, CFDs, forex, commodities and managed funds.
- Brokerage fee: AUD 11 or
- Inactivity fee: 0
- Products: Australian and global shares, managed funds, CFDs, forex
- Access: Desktop or mobile app
With a SelfWealth share trading account, you're able to trade small or large amounts with a flat brokerage fee.
SelfWealth has one of the lowest brokerage fees on the market but it stands out from the rest because it boasts a flat fee of AUD 9.5 per trade. It means that whether you're a big or small trader, you'll never be charged any broker commissions on top.
- Brokerage fee: AUD 9.5
- Inactivity fee: No
- Products: Australian ASX-listed shares
- Access: Easy-to-use mobile app
Access more than 18,000 stocks from around the world, including Australia, the United States, China and Japan.
Saxo Capital Markets offers easy access to more than 18,000 global stocks on 36 of the world's major stock exchanges, such as the ASX, NYSE, Shanghai Stock Exchange and London Stock Exchange. With investment opportunities the world over, you have the opportunity to achieve a truly diversified portfolio.
- Brokerage fee: AUD 6.99 for
issuer sponsored or AUD 14.90 CHESS
- Inactivity fee: $0
- Products: ASX-listed stocks, global stocks, forex, CFDs
- Access: Full-service broker with online platform
5. Bell Direct
Bell Direct has attempted to position itself as the leader in stock trading execution speeds.
Bell Direct offers a one-second placement guarantee, promising to place eligible market-to-limit orders onto the ASX in under a second or you pay no brokerage fee for the trade. This allows you to jump on trading opportunities quickly and at the price you want.
- Brokerage fee: AUD 15 or
- Inactivity fee: No
- Products: Australian shares, ETFs, managed funds
- Access: Online only
National Australia Bank's online trading platform aims to make it as simple as possible for you to manage your investments.
nabtrade customers can take advantage of dynamic market data, advanced charting and investment insights to help them make informed trading decisions. Other features include an integrated cash account and the ability to trade Australian and international shares.
- Brokerage fees: 14.95
- Inactivity fee: No fee with one trade or more a year
- Products: ASX stocks, over 10,000 global securities, LICs, warrants, managed funds
- Access: Available on PC, tablet or smartphone
Optimise your investment strategy with free live data and customisable layouts and alerts using Westpac's trading platform.
The Westpac Online Investing platform is designed to simplify the trading process for casual investors. It offers access to Australian and international shares, managed funds, commodities, options and more.
- Brokerage fees: $19.95 or 0.11%
- Inactivity fee: $63.50 per year on the global markets account
- Products: All ASX-listed securities, international shares, managed funds
- Access: Trading conducted via mobile app or over the phone
How do these trading apps compare to CommSec in terms of fees?
As you can see from the profiles above, brokerage fees range from as little as $6.99 to around $20 per trade, but there are almost always caveats. As a comparison, CommSec's brokerage fees start at $10 per Internet trade, but that's only on trades of up to $1,000. Here's a rundown of what CommSec charges for Australian shares (as of June 2019):
- $10 (up to and including $1,000)
- $19.95 (over $1,000 up to $10,000 [inclusive])
- $29.95 (over $10,000 up to $25,000 [inclusive])
- 0.12% (over $25,000)
- No inactivity fee (on Australian shares platform)
You'll find most trading platforms have some kind of tiered system, usually based on the amount you're trading and how often. For example, using CMC Markets' classic account, you'll be charged $11 or 0.1% (whichever is higher), though this fee falls to $9.90 or 0.08% for the 11th to 30th trade and $9.90 or 0.075% on the 31st+ trade. Saxo Capital Markets charges a brokerage fee of $6.99 per trade for Australian stocks, however the commission rate drops to 0.07% after you invest in $50,000 and 0.05% after you invest $1,000,000.
Brokerage and commission fees aside, you should also consider whether the platform charges an inactivity fee. Although IG charges just $8 per trade, its inactivity fee of $50 per quarter won't suit everyone. Similarly, CMC Markets will charge a monthly fee of $15 if no trades have been conducted.
SelfWealth stands out from the crowd thanks to its flat brokerage fee system. This means you can trade as much or as little as you like and you'll get charged the same amount every time and you won't have to worry about an inactivity fee.
How do the international fees compare?
If you plan on trading international stocks you should be aware that not every platform offers this service and the fees also vary depending on which country the stock is listed on. You may also need to open a separate account for international trading, as with CommSec, and this may incur new monthly or inactivity fees.
CommSec offers an International Securities Trading Account which gives access to over 25 markets, including the New York Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange. Here's a basic breakdown of CommSec's fees:
- USA: $US19.95 for trades up to $US5,000, $US29.95 for trades up to $US10,000, 0.31% for trades above $US10,000
- Canada: $US39.95 or 0.40%
- Asia Pacific, EU and Middle East: $US39.95 or 0.40%
- Inactivity fee: $25 after 12 months
Along with CommSec, Westpac, IG, nabtrade, Saxo Capital Markets and CMC Markets all offer global share trading options. Among these, Saxo Capital Markets offers some of the lowest fees on the market and a broad range of exchanges, charging $US 9.9 for US stocks, £8 or 0.1% for the London Stock Exchange and 40CNY or 0.15% for China's listed stocks, among many other markets.
IG offers similar brokerage fees at $US 0 for US stocks, £10 or 0.1% for UK and €10 or 0.1% for Germany. Other platforms, SelfWealth and Bell Direct do not offer access to global shares.
- Currency exchange fees: It's also worth noting that when you trade international shares, your trading platform will need to perform a currency exchange for you. For example, nabtrade's foreign exchange transaction services are provided by NAB, so when you place an order for international shares you will be quoted an estimated exchange rate that includes fees and margins to protect NAB against exchange rate fluctuations. Once your trade is executed, NAB then books a foreign exchange transaction on your behalf.
Which trading accounts are the most reliable?
Like CommSec, all of the trading platforms listed on this page can offer secure and reliable trading solutions. Some people prefer the peace of mind of dealing with an institution they know and trust. The financial services royal commission not withstanding, a trading platform provided by one of the Big Four banks makes for a convincing argument. However, IG Markets, SelfWealth and Saxo Capital Markets are also well-established and regulated names in the Australian share trading industry.
Each trading platform has a raft of security measures in place to ensure the safety of your funds and your security details. For example, IG Markets and Saxo Capital Markets both keep all client funds fully segregated with top-tier Australian banks as required by the Australian regulator. Westpac Online Investing also offers 128-bit encryption when trading.
Which trading accounts offer CFDs?
In addition to trading Australian share market indices such as the ASX200, many of these platforms (including CommSec) offer CFD investing. A CFD is a type of derivative investment where a contractual agreement is based on an underlying asset or financial instrument such as a share, commodity or currency pair. You can find out more in our comprehensive guide to CFDs.
CommSec offers CFD trading through its CommSec CFDs Account which needs to be opened separately to its regular share trading account. Its fees vary depending on the underlying asset, though an Australian share market CFD is $10 or 0.1% brokerage while US market CFDs are US$15 or 2.5 cents per share. Alongside share market and stock index CFDs, it also offers the ability for clients to trade commodities such gold and oil.
Alternatively, IG Markets, Saxo Capital Markets and CMC Markets all offer CFD trading accounts. Of these, IG has positioned itself as the world's largest retail CFD provider and offers commission-free CFD trading, aside from shares CFDs which vary. The commission charged on Australian shares CFDs is 0.08% ($7 minimum) for online trades.
Which trading accounts offer forex trading?
If you're looking for a broker that allows you to trade forex markets, IG Markets, Saxo Capital Markets and CMC Markets are worth looking into. Along with CommSec, they all offer forex trading in the form of CFDs on a broad range of currency pairs. You can read more about forex trading in our beginner's guide.
Minimum spreads start from 0.6 pips and some accounts require a minimum trade size. Other platforms that provide forex trading not listed above include Pepperstone, Plus500, City Index and VantageFX. Commissions are typically zero (as with CommSec) but this is not always the case.
Final considerations when looking for alternatives to CommSec
When it comes to making your final share trading account decision make sure you know what's most important to you. Do you most value low brokerage costs, a wide range of international share markets or in-depth broker market analysis?
It's also essential you go through all of the fine print located in the broker's financial services guide (FSG). Note any asterisks that might lead to some type of fee that might affect your trading size or style.
If you still have questions about share trading, use our main guide to compare online share trading accounts in further detail.
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