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How to buy international shares in Australia (2024)

Trade beyond the ASX: what you need to know to invest globally from Australia.

Investing in the global share market is pretty straightforward these days. This guide explains what to look for in an international share trading account, how to open one and what to do with the account once you've opened it.

Then, the global share market will be open to you to start trading.

It's important to be aware of the fees and risks when you invest in new shares and markets, so make sure to learn about the basics of trading if it's new to you.

Summary: 4 steps to buying international shares from Australia

Read the rest of the guide below for an in-depth breakdown of each step.

  1. Compare brokers with access to global stocks.
  2. Open your account by providing an ID.
  3. Fund your account by transferring money from your bank account.
  4. Search and select the shares you want to invest in and start trading.

How to access global markets

There are 3 main ways that you can access global shares from Australia.

You can invest directly in shares listed overseas, such as Meta and Apple, by using a broker with an international share trading platform.

Alternatively, investors can purchase a global-themed exchange traded fund (ETF) or managed fund.

The third way Australians can gain international exposure is through contracts for difference (CFDs) that track global shares. (Note: This isn't the same as buying shares directly but instead you are tracking price movements. Investing in CFDs comes with more risk.)

Step 1: Compare brokers with access to global stocks

If you want to buy international shares, you'll need to find the right broker that allows you access to foreign markets.

But before you sign up, it is worth comparing brokers on the following:

Brokerage fees

How much commission does the account charge for the execution of a trade? There may be a flat rate, a percentage rate or even no brokerage fee at all.

Access to markets

Make sure when you are buying international shares that your broker aligns with where you want to buy. This sounds obvious but signing up to a foreign broker won't automatically gain you access to all international markets. The big ones are the US markets like the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations (Nasdaq), which most providers will allow you to access, but not every account will let you trade everywhere in Europe and Asia.

Speed

How long does it take for a transaction to be executed? Timeliness can be important when buying international shares.

The buffer

How big is the buffer? Most international share trade orders will have a "buffer" applied to them by the share trading platform provider. The buffer is a percentage of the order value that is added to the cost of the order to protect the provider from currency fluctuations while the trade clears, ensuring that they don't lose money on routine trades.

Exchange rates

How much of a cut does your provider take? When converting currencies, the provider may take a cut in the form of a percentage fee on currency converted. Often brokers that charge $0 commission will charge a higher foreign exchange (FX) fee.

Sign-up fees

Does the provider charge any fees for opening an account? The benefits it offers may not always be worth it.

Research tools

What investment research tools are available? Are you seeing real-time market information or is there a delay? Are the research tools free to use or do they cost extra? It's a lot easier to buy low and sell high when you've done your research, rather than relying on luck alone.

Customer service and access

Does your provider have a share trading mobile app or desktop access only? Can you contact the provider outside of business hours? What are your options for getting in touch? Is it known for being helpful or not so much? When you open an international share trading account, you're using a service and you should expect a certain level of customer assistance.

Limits

Do you have to spend more than you want or not as much as you want? One of the main restrictions to look out for when choosing an account is the presence of limits, which may be minimums or maximums that apply. You may not be able to make trades above or below a certain dollar value.

Finder survey: Have Australians of different ages bought overseas stocks?

Response
Australia83.23%
US29.94%
UK5.39%
China/Hong Kong4.79%
Other4.79%
Canada3.59%
Europe (EU)3.59%
Japan3.59%
NZ2.99%
Singapore2.4%
India1.5%
Africa & Middle East0.3%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1145 Australians, December 2023

Step 2: Open your account by providing ID

Once you've decided on an online broker, you can open your share trading account. If you already have a bank account with that provider, then you can usually sign in via its online banking portal. If not, you will have to open a new account.

To open an international share trading account, you'll generally need to meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Be 18 or over
  • Have an Australian residential address
  • Have a mobile number

As part of the application process, you will typically need to provide the following:

  • Personal photographic identification (such as your driver's licence, passport and/or proof of age card)
  • An Australian business number (ABN) and/or tax file number (TFN) if applicable

When opening the account, you'll be asked to choose whether you'll be trading as an individual, with a joint account (for example, with your partner), as a company or organisation or on behalf of a trust, like a self-managed super fund (SMSF). Because share trading has income and tax implications, you must provide details of your income and occupation. Along with your personal information, you may be required to disclose the source of your income and the origin of your financial position.

After you've provided your personal details, you're up to the account set-up stage. This involves providing the details of your linked bank account, setting up financing options if applicable and choosing from the various options that may be available. Once you've confirmed everything and double-checked your details, you're ready to load your cash management account and start trading.

Already have a share trading account?

Sometimes, providers will require that you open an account for local shares and a separate account for international shares. Since you're already signed up to the broker, most of your information will already be saved, meaning buying international shares should be a simpler process.

Did you know: Recent Finder research found that the average share trader could save approximately $1,048 in brokerage fees a year by switching to a more suitable online broker (calculated on 7 trades per month of $1,000). You might even save money by having more than 1 platform, especially if you are investing in Australia as well as internationally.

Step 3: Fund your account by transferring money from your bank account

If you want to start trading right away, you'll need to make sure you have enough funds in your linked account to execute the trades, plus any broker fees that will apply. Remember that when you transfer funds into your linked foreign currency account, you'll usually have to pay a currency conversion fee. It can take a few days for your funds to be loaded into the cash account, so keep this in mind when you decide you'd like to make a trade.

Step 4: Search and select the shares you want to invest in and start trading

Once you've set everything up, you can trade online through your new international share trading account. Expect to see a dashboard with features such as current share prices and changes over time and options to buy, sell or research. With the big banks and other trading accounts geared towards beginners, you may find tutorials and introductory material to help acquaint you with the available features.

Trade international shares with one of these brokers

Name Product Standard brokerage for US shares Currency conversion fee Asset class
eToro
Finder AwardExclusive
eToro
US$0
50-150 pips
ASX shares, Global shares, US shares, ETFs
Finder exclusive: Get 12 months of investment tracking app Delta PRO for free when you fund your eToro account (T&Cs apply).
CFD service. Capital at risk.
Join the world's biggest social trading network when you trade stocks, commodities and currencies from the one account.
Moomoo Share Trading
US$0.99
55 pips or 0.0055 AUD/USD
ASX shares, Global shares, US shares, ETFs
Finder exclusive: Get 30 days of brokerage-free trading for new accounts + 6.8% on your uninvested cash. T&Cs apply.
Trade shares on the ASX, the US markets and buy ETFs with Moomoo. Plus join a community over 20 million investors.
Tiger Brokers
Exclusive
Tiger Brokers
US$2
37 pips
ASX shares, Global shares, US shares, ETFs
Finder exclusive: 10 no-brokerage US or ASX market trades in the first 180 days + 7% p.a. on uninvested cash with first deposit of any amount, plus US$30 TSLA + US$30 NVDA shares with deposits up to AU$2000. T&Cs apply.
Trade Australian, US and Asian stocks with no minimum deposit on Tiger Broker’s feature-packed platform.
CMC Invest
Finder Award
CMC Invest
US$0
0.60%
ASX shares, Global shares, Options trading, US shares, ETFs
$0 brokerage on US, UK, Canadian and Japanese markets (FX spreads apply).
Trade over 45,000 shares and ETFs from Australia and 15 major global markets. Plus, buy Aussie shares or ETFs for $0 brokerage up to $1,000 (First buy order of each security, each day - excludes margin loan settled trades).
Webull
US$0.25
0.50% (50 pips)
ASX shares, Global shares, Options trading, US shares, ETFs
Get 30 days of $0 brokerage fees when you open your account. Receive $50 of TSLA shares and a $50 trading voucher when you deposit $200. T&Cs apply.
Trade ASX and US stocks and US options, plus gain access to inbuilt news platforms and educational resources. You can also start trading for less with fractional shares.
Saxo Invested
Saxo Invested
US$1
0.25%
ASX shares, Global shares, Options trading, US shares, ETFs
Access 22,000+ stocks on 50+ exchanges worldwide
Low fees for Australian and global share trading, no inactivity fees, low currency conversion fee and optimised for mobile.
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Important: Share trading can be financially risky and the value of your investment can go down as well as up. “Standard brokerage” fee is the cost to trade $1,000 or less of ASX-listed shares and ETFs without any qualifications or special eligibility. If ASX shares aren’t available, the fee shown is for US shares. Where both CHESS sponsored and custodian shares are offered, we display the cheapest option.

Disclaimer: General information only. All forms of investments (and in particular, trading CFDs, commodities and forex) carry significant risk, including the risk of losing more than the invested amounts, market volatility and liquidity risks. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Such activities are not suitable for most investors.
Name Product Minimum Opening Deposit Minimum Opening Deposit Commission - ASX 200 Shares Available CFD markets Platforms
Pepperstone CFD
Finder Award
Pepperstone CFD
$0
$0
$5 or 0.07%
Australian Stocks, Commodities, Cryptocurrencies, ETFs, Forex, Global Stocks, Indices (CFDs only)
MetaTrader 4
MetaTrader 5
cTrader
TradingView
Pepperstone Trading Platform
Disclaimer: CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Get access to more than 60+ forex and CFD markets when you sign up with this award-winning Australian broker. Plus, access the new advanced TradingView charts platform.
Vantage CFD
$50
$50
No commission
Commodities, Cryptocurrencies, ETFs, Forex, Global Stocks, Indices (CFDs only)
MetaTrader 4
MetaTrader 5
TradingView
Disclaimer: CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Vantage has some of the lowest CFD trading fees in Australia including $0 commissions on all Gold trades. Plus you can find global trends and place trades through the new TradingView charts platform.
Plus500 CFD
$100
$100
No commission
Commodities, Cryptocurrencies, ETFs, Forex, Global Stocks, Indices, Options (CFDs only)
Plus500 Trading Platform
Disclaimer: CFD service. Your capital is at risk.
Trade CFDs on Australian and International shares, indices, cryptocurrencies, commodities and more.
IC Markets CFD (True ECN Account)
US$200
US$200
0.1% per side
Australian Stocks, Global Stocks, Indices, Commodities, Forex, Cryptocurrencies (CFDs only)
MetaTrader 4
MetaTrader 5
cTrader
Disclaimer: CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Trade 230+ different products with fast execution under 40 milliseconds on average.
Saxo Invested CFD
0
0
0.08% with $3 minimum
Bonds, Commodities, Cryptocurrencies, ETFs, Forex, Global Stocks, Indices, Options, (CFDs only)
SaxoTraderGO
SaxoTraderPRO
Disclaimer: CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Award-winning trading platfrom with extensive charting tools and reliable execution.
Blueberry Markets CFD Trading
US$100
US$100
$20 per month subscription plus 2% of trade size
Australian Stocks, Commodities, Cryptocurrencies, Indices (CFDs only)
MetaTrader 5
Disclaimer: CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Bottom of the market fees on forex, CFDs and commodities with 24/7 quality customer service.
ACY Securities CFD
$50
$50
No commission
Australian Stocks, Bonds, Commodities, Cryptocurrencies, ETFs, Forex, Global Stocks, Indices, Metals (CFDs only)
MetaTrader 4
MetaTrader 5
Disclaimer: CFD Service. Your capital is at risk. Trade over 2,000 products across CFDs, forex, indices, metals, shares, commodities and cryptocurrency, starting from as low as $50 a trade.
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Trading CFDs and forex on leverage is high-risk and you could lose more than your initial investment. It may not be suitable for every investor. Refer to the provider’s PDS and consider the risks before trading.

Why buy international shares?

Investors are being urged to think globally as some of the largest opportunities are listed abroad.

Many of the household names that you would be familiar with, such as Google, Apple, Tesla, McDonald's, Ford, Unilever and Pfizer, are all foreign-owned and listed overseas despite their prevalence in Australia. All of these businesses are listed on either the S&P 500, the Nasdaq Composite or the Dow Jones.

International shares go beyond just America and can represent any country outside of Australia.

And while there's no denying the Australian market offers opportunities to investors, it is less than 2% of global trade.

As a smaller market, if you exclusively focus on buying Australian shares, you could increase your exposure to Australian economic factors. For example, if Australia goes into a recession that does not impact the rest of the world, your exposure will be negatively impacted compared to an investor who buys shares in both Australia and in overseas markets.

Despite the massive opportunities overseas, there is still a myth that investing overseas from Australia is more time-consuming and expensive. In fact, it is the complete opposite, with the cheapest brokerage and smaller minimums often being on foreign brokers.

The rest of this guide will help dispel some of these myths and help you buy international shares from Australia.

What's the difference between Australian and international share trading?

When trading shares, you can choose to do it domestically or internationally.

Domestic

The Australian share market is made up of businesses listed on either the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), the National Stock Exchange (NSX) or the Chi-X.

While not every business has to operate in Australia to list here, the majority do. Investors on the ASX trade between 10am and 4pm (Sydney time), Monday to Friday, with Australian investment options overall making up around 2% of the global trade.

International

You can trade shares from global markets around the world 24 hours a day, subject to local market hours. You'll gain access to more options, but you'll also experience new risks and challenges.

International stock exchanges include the London Stock Exchange (LSE), the NYSE, Nasdaq and many others.

Compared to domestic trading, there are both advantages and disadvantages to trading shares internationally.

Pros of buying international shares

  • Gain access to a wider variety of investment options.
  • Most of the largest companies in the world trade on foreign markets.
  • Gain exposure to different economic forces and protect yourself against downturns in the Australian market.
  • You can trade 24 hours a day rather than only within set business hours in your country.
  • When trading internationally, there may be a larger pool of investors, so you might find it easier to find a buyer for your shares.

Cons of buying international shares

  • Exchange rates can fluctuate and can significantly hurt (or help) your return on investment.
  • Foreign policy can affect your returns. It's possible that changes to another country's foreign policies, local instability or other issues can impact the value of your investment in ways beyond your control. This is a largely uncontrollable risk.
  • Taxation and related issues may be more complicated when trading international shares.
  • Added costs including foreign exchange fees and levies.
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Some extra tips

Making big trades? Look for lower exchange rates, research tools that allow you to make more reliable investments and flat broker fees rather than percentage rates. Where applicable, it may be worth accepting higher flat fees in exchange for lower percentage rates. Avoid low maximum limits that might constrain your trading.

Making a lot of small trades? You may want to avoid flat fees that take a big chunk out of the potential profits of each trade and stick to percentage rates that will cost you less. Low maximums are less of an issue, but high minimums might be a problem.

How will you diversify your portfolio? Not all accounts will give you the same options. Plan what kind of trades you want to make and consider whether a given account will let you trade CFDs, whether you can trade ETFs and if you are able to do forex trading through the same platform.

How stocks work in 60 seconds

Important information: Powered by Finder.com.au. This information is general in nature and is no substitute for professional advice. It does not take into account your personal situation. This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of futures, stocks, ETFs, CFDs, options or any specific provider, service or offering. It should not be relied upon as investment advice or construed as providing recommendations of any kind. Futures, stocks, ETFs and options trading involves substantial risk of loss and therefore are not appropriate for most investors. You do not own or have any interest in the underlying asset. Capital is at risk, including the risk of losing more than the amount originally put in, market volatility and liquidity risks. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Tax on profits may apply. Consider the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determination for the product on the provider's website. Consider your own circumstances, including whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money and possess the relevant experience and knowledge. We recommend that you obtain independent advice from a suitably licensed financial advisor before making any trades.

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