CommSec review: CommSec share trading account
We look at the fees, features and pros and cons of one of Australia's largest share trading platforms.
Finder's rating: 4.5/5
Standard brokerage fee
ASX, NASDAQ, NYSE, LSE, Euronext
|Type of broker||
Company issued options
CommSec is Australia’s largest and most well known broker for good reason. It remains the benchmark, with its ease of use, educational resources, technical analysis tools and broker recommendations making it suitable for just about any investor.
With over 20 years of share trading experience, it's one of the most widely used platforms in Australia.
While it is one of the better brokers around, investors are paying for the service with CommSec having higher fees, especially on trading in the United States compared with some of the low cost options.
- No inactivity fee (ASX account only)
- News and research
- Data and monitoring tools
Not so great for
- Not price competitive on global stocks
- WebIRESS charting isn't free
- No live chat support
Launched in 1995, CommSec is one of Australia's oldest share trading platforms for the retail market.
You don't need to be a banking customer of Commonwealth Bank to open a CommSec share trading account, but it does allow you to easily view and move between banking and trading accounts with a single login.
If you've experienced the confusing mess that flicking between multiple accounts and logins can serve up, you'll know how handy this type of integration can be.
Looking for something different? Find the best online share trading platforms.
What are the key features of a CommSec share trading account?
The CommSec share trading account offers useful features for both novice and advanced investors. However, the platform is simple enough to use that new investors won't be too overwhelmed.
While its brokerage fees aren't the lowest on the market for trades of more than $1,000, there's no minimum trade requirement on your standard Australian shares account. This means you won't be charged an inactivity fee or any other monthly fee.
Plus, one of the platform's biggest drawcards is the free high-quality data feeds and research on all listed securities.
|Brokerage fees are low for small trade sizes but increases the higher the trade. On the plus side there is no inactivity fee.|
|CommSec offers a long list of conditional orders, plus margin trading and charting tools.|
|Research and education||
|CommSec offers broker analysis on stocks, company announcements, plus regular markets updates.|
|CommSec offers shares, ETFs, warrants and options.|
|There is no live chat but you can phone or email from 8am to 7pm, Monday to Friday.|
Single Commonwealth Bank login
Current clients of Commonwealth Bank can use a single login to easily switch between both CommSec and NetBank, which helps to keep all finances in one place. If you choose to go down this path, it pays to set up a Commonwealth direct investment account (CDIA). A CDIA is the same as a regular transaction account. However, it can also be used as a trade settlement account which is viewable right next to your current bank balances within NetBank. Plus it gives you the option of having a debit Mastercard attached to the account.
Clearing House Electronic Subregister System (CHESS) is a management system used by the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).
CHESS sponsorship is automatically applied to all newly opened CommSec share trading accounts. If your account is CHESS-sponsored, it will have a unique holder identification number (HIN).
For example, if you own shares in company X, Y and Z, all 3 of these companies would be under a single HIN due to having a CHESS broker. This allows investors to update key details such as registration name, address or tax file number in a single update rather than having to update every individual share.
It also acts as an insurance policy should the broker cease trading.
Real-time prices, news and research
All CommSec share trading accounts provide clients with up-to-date market prices and data. With a CommSec share trading account, you're able to stay up-to-date with the latest news and releases as they happen. You can access reports, videos and analysis from CommSec analysts directly within the platform.
Create personalised watch lists
One of the key benefits with CommSec is it allows investors to create personalised lists that view live pricing, research and data points.
The company has diversified into an app called CommSec Pocket which allows investors to start trading from as little as $50.
With CommSec, investors need to have a minimum of $500 before they can begin trading.
While the trades are limited to 7 themed ETFs, investors can now gain access to the market through CommSec for a tenth of the usual trading costs for $2 per trade.
Trade international shares and ETFs
CommSec allows you to invest in overseas markets by opening a CommSec international securities trading account. Within a single account, clients have the ability to buy shares in US companies such as Apple and Google along with global stocks and ETFs listed in over 25 overseas markets.
Browser and app account access
CommSec share trading account holders can log in and place trades through a number of portals. Trades can be placed online via a web browser, through the CommSec mobile app for iPhone and Android or simply by calling up and placing an order over the phone. Even without Internet access, you have the peace of mind that comes with having phone access to the CommSec office.
What markets can I trade in with a CommSec share trading account?
Depending on which CommSec trading account you choose, you'll be able to trade in a number of different markets:
- Australian shares. Buy shares in Australian companies listed on the ASX.
- International shares. Buy shares in international companies listed on more than 25 of the biggest global stock exchanges by opening an international account. Exchanges include the NYSE, NASDAQ, LSE and the TYO.
- Options trading. Trade options that allow you to buy more shares in a company at a specific price level.
- ETFs. Buy and sell listed funds such as ETFs and other exchange traded products traded on the ASX.
What account types are available with a CommSec share trading account?
Through CommSec you can open an Australian share trading account and an international share trading account.
In terms of trade settlement, you can use either a CommSec CDIA, your own account or you can trade through margin loans. This is what you can expect:
Trade with the CommSec CDIA
If you choose to conduct trades using the CDIA, you'll benefit from lower brokerage fees and no account keeping fees. Plus, you can earn tiered interest on funds in your account and have access to all free live trading tools and market research.
- Trade shares from $10.
- No account keeping fees.
- Earn interest on funds over $10,000.
Trade using your own cash account
If you choose to trade with CommSec using your own cash account you'll still have access to all the same tools. However, you'll be charged a higher brokerage fee (starting at $29.95).
- Trade shares from $29.95.
- Access free live trading tools.
If you choose to trade using a margin loan, you get access to the same benefits such as free trading tools and live market data. However, you'll also get access to risk management tools and portfolio monitoring.
- Trade shares from $10.
- Trade shares and invest in managed funds using borrowed funds.
- Access risk management and portfolio monitoring tools.
What types of customer support are available from CommSec?
A broker the size of CommSec is naturally expected to have a high level of customer support access. If you have queries or problems, there are a number of choices:
- Frequently asked questions (FAQ). The CommSec FAQ page is fairly in-depth. You can also download product disclosure statements and information guides throughout the site.
- Phone support. CommSec has 2 English-speaking numbers for clients located both within Australia and overseas. It also has a Cantonese/Mandarin number for use within Australia.
- Email support. The support email address allows clients to articulate their problems via text. Questions are usually answered within 1 business day.
- Questionnaire form. Unfortunately this form doesn't lead to a live chat session. The questionnaire form on its support page feels a little redundant, especially because attaching any supporting screenshots or documentation will open up an email window anyway.
- Twitter support. CommSec has now opened a @CommSecSupport Twitter handle and it goes some way to supplementing the broker's lack of live chat feature.
Overall, CommSec customers can expect a reasonably high level of customer support for an online broker. The only disappointing feature about CommSec's customer service is the fact that it doesn't have a live chat option. The live form on its website isn't actually live and it can take 1-2 days for a response to come through via email. That's frustrating for clients who have short questions that could easily be answered on the spot by a live chat representative.
What are the fees I can expect from a CommSec share trading account?
There are a few basic fees and brokerage charges you need to be aware of when using CommSec:
- Brokerage fees. These vary depending on the amount you're trading and the cash settlement method you choose:
- Trades placed through a CDIA cash settlement account. If you're a CHESS-sponsored customer and settle through either your CDIA or a CommSec margin loan account, you'll pay $10 brokerage for trades of Australian shares up to $1,000. For trades between $1,000 and $10,000, you'll incur a $19.95 brokerage fee. This fee rises to $29.95 for trades between $10,000 and $25,000 and to 0.12% for trades over $25,000.
- Trades placed through a non-CDIA cash settlement account. If you choose to settle your trades through a different cash settlement account then trades up to $10,000 will incur a $29.95 brokerage fee. This fee rises to 0.31% for trades over $10,000, and $59.95 for trades over $10,000 that are placed over the phone.
- International fees. Brokerage fees vary depending on which country the shares you want to buy are listed. Fees for US shares are US$19.95 while shares listed on the London Stock Exchange are US$39.95 or 0.40%, whichever is greater.
- Phone fees. Trades settled over the phone charge much higher brokerage fees. Transactions up to and including $10,000 charge $59.95.
- Ongoing account fees. You pay nothing when you first open a CommSec share trading account. There are also no monthly account-keeping or inactivity fees for your Australian account. However, there is an annual $25 fee for international accounts if you don't conduct at least 1 trade during the year.
How do I pay for shares on a CommSec share trading account?
You have a few options when paying for your share trades through CommSec. When you buy shares, settlement must occur within 2 business days – this is called "T+2". This means your funds will need to be available by this date or you'll incur a fee. Options include the following:
- Automatic direct debit. CommSec can automatically direct debit funds from your nominated bank account. This is the simplest and most common way to pay for your share trades.
- BPAY. The alternative to automatic direct debit for Australians is through BPAY. Your BPAY details can be found within your CommSec share trading account profile page and can be used as an alternative.
How do I open a CommSec share trading account?
When you're ready to open a CommSec share trading account, click the Open Account button on the CommSec website. You'll be faced with the following screen asking whether you'd like to trade with a CommSec cash account or your own cash account:
Selecting the first option to trade using CommSec's cash account will give you a new CDIA, which essentially means you get cheaper brokerage fees. You can choose to trade from an account outside of CommBank, but you'll be hit with higher fees. You can read more about what these options mean in our CDIA guide. Once you've selected which account you'd prefer to use, follow the 4-step process:
- Residency and ID check
- Provide personal details
- Register interest
- Download trading platform and mobile app
To complete the account opening process, you must be 18 years or older and have the following documentation handy:
- Address and contact details
- Valid email address
- Mobile phone number
- Tax file number