How to invest in the S&P 500 from Australia

Here are the quickest and easiest ways to invest in one of the world's most popular stock indices.

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The S&P 500 is the largest and most popular stock indices in the world.

Here are the S&P 500 basics, plus steps for how to invest from Australia.

Standard & Poor's 500, best known as the S&P 500, is a stock market index that tracks the performance of the 500 largest US companies listed on the stock exchange.

It's a key indicator because it's used as a benchmark for the performance of the broader US stock market.

So if you see the S&P 500 index rise or drop significantly on any given day, you'll know it's probably because of a major event that's impacting thousands of US corporations. It might even affect the economy.


How to invest in the S&P 500 from Australia

There are a number of ways you can invest in the S&P 500 from Australia.

As it's a collection of 500 companies, you can either buy stocks in these companies or you can invest in an S&P 500 index fund.

Another approach is to trade the S&P 500 via contracts for difference (CFDs), a derivatives product that allows you to speculate on index price movements.

This is very different to index fund investing, as it's much riskier, and you're using leverage to amplify profits and losses.

It's all a little vague, but when you hear of someone "trading the S&P 500" in Australia, they're most likely referring to CFD trading. "Investing in the S&P 500 index", on the other hand, is associated more with index funds.

It's important to understand that all of these approaches vary significantly in terms of risk.

As a general rule, investing in a single company is riskier than investing in an index fund, while index CFD trading is much riskier still and should only be attempted by experienced traders.

Steps to trading in the US from Australia

Investors have 2 options when investing with the S&P 500: buying individual shares or buying ETFs (we will get into the latter option later).

You could choose to buy shares in select companies or all 500 of them if you wanted to.

Opening up a trading account can be done in as little as 6 steps:

  1. Choose a broker
  2. Select your membership level
  3. Provide ID
  4. Link bank account
  5. Submit application
  6. Start trading

What stocks are in the S&P 500?

The S&P 500 comprises 500 of the largest US companies by market capitalisation, which means it includes some of the most recognisable and popular stocks in the world. These include the following:

Compare S&P 500 trading platforms

Name Product Standard brokerage fee Inactivity fee Markets International
eToro (global stocks)
US$0
US$10 per month if there’s been no login for 12 months
Global shares, US shares, ETFs
Yes
Zero brokerage share trading on US, Hong Kong and European stocks with trades as low as $50.
Note: This broker offers CFDs which are volatile investment products and most clients lose money trading CFDs with this provider.
Join the world’s biggest social trading network when you trade stocks, commodities and currencies from the one account.
IG Share Trading
$8
$50 per quarter if you make fewer than three trades in that period
ASX shares, Global shares
Yes
$0 brokerage for US and global shares plus get an active trader discount of $5 commission on Australian shares.
Enjoy some of the lowest brokerage fees on the market when trading Australian shares, international shares, plus get access to 24-hour customer support.
ThinkMarkets Share Trading
$8
No
ASX shares
No
$8 flat fee brokerage for CHESS Sponsored ASX stocks (HIN ownership), plus free live stock price data on an easy to use mobile app.
Superhero share trading
$5
No
ASX shares, US shares, ETFs
Yes
Earn up to 15,000 Qantas frequent flyer points when you transfer an exisiting balance or trade. Offer valid for all new and existing Superhero members until 28 February.
Pay zero brokerage on US stocks and all ETFs and just $5 (flat fee) to trade Australian shares from your mobile or desktop.
GO Markets Share Trading
$7.70
No
ASX shares, Forex, CFDs, ETFs
No
Pay zero brokerage on your first 20 trades and $7.70 after that on over 2,500 ASX listed shares from either your desktop or mobile.
Opentrader Share Trading
$5
No
ASX shares, Options trading, ETFs, Warrants
No
Gain access to chess sponsored shares for as little as $5 per trade.
Get free live data, advanced charting and even gain experience before trading through fantasy portfolios when you sign up with OpenTrader.
CMC Markets Invest
$11
No
ASX shares, Global shares, mFunds, ETFs
Yes
$0 brokerage on global shares including US, UK and Japan markets.
Trade up to 9,000 products, including shares, ETFs and managed funds, plus access up to 15 major global and Australian stock exchanges.
Saxo Capital Markets (Classic account)
$5
No
ASX shares, Global shares, ETFs
Yes
Access 19,000+ stocks on 40+ exchanges worldwide
Low fees for Australian and global share trading, no inactivity fees, low currency conversion fee and optimised for mobile.
HSBC Online Share Trading
$19.95
No
ASX shares, mFunds, ETFs, Bonds
No
Limited-time offer: Join HSBC’s online trading account before 28 February 2022 and HSBC will reimburse you up to $100 on your first 5 trades. Also traders who transfer $50k+ will get a $200 bonus(T&Cs apply).
Make trades online with brokerage fees starting from just $19.95 with an HSBC Online Share Trading account. Plus gain access to complimentary expert research, trading ideas and tools.
SelfWealth (Basic account)
$9.5
No
ASX shares, US shares
Yes
Trade ASX and US shares for a flat fee of $9.50, regardless of the trade size.
New customers receive free access to Community Insights with SelfWealth Premium for the first 90 days. Follow other investors and benchmark your portfolio performance.
Bell Direct Share Trading
$15
No
ASX shares, mFunds, ETFs
No
Invest in Australian shares, options and managed funds from the one account with no inactivity fee.
Bell Direct offers a one-second placement guarantee on market-to-limit ASX orders or your trade is free, plus enjoy extensive free research reports from top financial experts.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Important: Share trading can be financially risky and the value of your investment can go down as well as up. Standard brokerage is the cost to purchase $1,000 or less of equities without any qualifications or special eligibility. Where both CHESS sponsored and custodian shares are offered, we display the cheapest option.

Name Product Minimum Opening Deposit Minimum Opening Deposit Commission - ASX 200 Shares Available markets Platforms
Vantage CFD
$200
$200
$8 AUD or 0.08%
Forex, CFD shares, Indices, Cryptocurrencies, Commodities
MetaTrader 4
MetaTrader 5
TradingView
Disclaimer: CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Vantage FX has some of the lowest CFD trading fees in Australia, plus you can place trades and find global trends through the new TradingView charts platform.
eToro CFD
US$200
US$200
No commission
Forex, Shares, Indices, Cryptocurrencies, Commodities, ETFs
eToro Trading Platform
Note: This broker offers CFDs which are volatile investment products and most clients lose money trading CFDs with this provider.
Join the largest social trading network in the world.
Plus500 CFD
$200
$200
No commission
CFD on Forex, Commodities, Cryptocurrency, Indices, Shares, Options and ETF's
Plus500 Trading Platform
Disclaimer: CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Trade CFDs on Australian and International shares, indices, cryptocurrencies, commodities and more.
Capital.com CFD
$0
$0
$0
Forex, Shares, Indices, Commodities, Crypto, ETFs
Mobile Trading Platform
Disclaimer: Volatile investment product. Most clients lose money trading with this provider.
Trade with an award winning platform that allows access to over 4,000 markets, across CFDs with leverage across the world’s most popular indices, commodities, cryptocurrencies, shares and currency pairs.
ThinkMarkets CFD
$0
$0
$0 for standard account
Forex, indices, commodities, metals, share CFDs, ETF CFDs, futures
MetaTrader4, MetaTrader5, ThinkTrader
Disclaimer: Trading CFDs and forex on leverage is high-risk and losses could exceed your deposits.
Trade forex, commodities and CFDs using MetaTrader4/MetaTrader5 platforms or access advanced analysis tools through ThinkTrader.
IG CFD broker
$0
$0
0.08% with $7 minimum
Indices, FX, Shares, Commodities, Cryptocurrency, ETPs, Options, Interest Rates, Bonds
MetaTrader 4
ProReal Time
IG Trading Platform and Apps
L2
Disclaimer: CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Trade from over 15,000 markets with Australia's leading service for CFD trading and forex.
AvaTrade CFD
$100
$100
No commission
ASX shares, global shares, indices, metals, cryptocurrencies, commodities, ETFs, options, forex
AvaTradeGO
MetaTrader 4
MetaTrader 5
Disclaimer: Trading CFDs and forex on leverage is high-risk and losses could exceed your deposits.
Trade from an extensive selection of forex and CFD products, while getting access to extensive education resources, all for as little as $100.
IC Markets CFD (True ECN Account)
US$200
US$200
0.1% per side
ASX shares, global shares, indices, commodities, forex, cryptocurrencies
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.
Go Markets CFD
$200
$200
$0
Stocks, Indices, Commodities, Crypto
MetaTrader 4
MetaTrader 5
WebTrader
Mobile Trading Platforms
Disclaimer: CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Trade over 600 products across CFDs, forex, indices, metals and commodities with award winning education and customer service provided.
Saxo Capital Markets CFD
3,000
3,000
0.10% with $6 minimum
Indices, FX, Shares & ETFs, Commodities, Cryptocurrencies, Options, Bonds
SaxoTraderGO
SaxoTraderPRO
Disclaimer: CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Award-winning trading platfrom with extensive charting tools and reliable execution.
City Index CFD
$0
$0
0.08% with $5 minimum
ASX shares, 4,500 global shares, indices
MetaTrader 4
At Pro
Advantage Web
Disclaimer: CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Trade CFDs on indices, FX, global & Australian shares and commodities, plus access other markets such as metals, bonds and interest rates.
Blueberry Markets CFD Trading
US$100
US$100
$20 per month subscription plus 2% of trade size
Indices, ASX200 Shares, Commodities, Cryptocurrency
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.
CMC Markets
$0
$0
0.09% with a $7 minimum
Forex, Indices, Commodities, Cryptocurrencies, Global shares, ASX shares, Bonds
CMC Next Generation CFD, MetaTrader 4
Disclaimer: CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Share CFD and forex ideas with other traders and take your strategy to the next level with over 100 technical indicators and charts on CMC’s mobile-friendly Next Generation platform.
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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.

How to invest in an S&P 500 ETF

  1. Find an S&P 500 index fund. Some index funds track the performance of all 500 S&P stocks, whereas others only track a certain number of stocks or are weighted more towards specific stocks. Some are actively managed while others do little more than track the index. Do your research before deciding which is best for you.
  2. Open a share trading account. In order to invest in an S&P 500 ETF, you'll need to open a trading account with a broker or platform.
  3. Deposit funds. You'll need to deposit funds into your account to begin trading.
  4. Buy the index fund. Once your money has been deposited, you can then buy units in the S&P 500 index fund, the same as you would buy stocks. You'll generally pay a small annual fee (called the MER fee) to the ETF fund manager taken out of your returns.

List of S&P 500 index funds in Australia

As mentioned earlier, index funds can be either listed on a stock exchange as exchange traded funds (ETFs) or as unlisted funds. There are very few differences between unlisted funds and ETFs, and many fund managers such as Vanguard and BlackRock offer investors both options.

If you're new to investing, ETFs can be easier to access because you can invest in them through any regular share trading platform. ETFs also have a lower minimal investment requirement of a few hundred dollars rather than a few thousand dollars for unlisted funds.

To help get you started, here's a list of S&P 500 ETFs in Australia to date:

  • iShares S&P 500 AUD Hedged ETF: (IHVV)
  • iShares S&P 500 ETF:L (IVV)
  • BetaShares FTSE RAFI US 1000 ETF SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust: (QUS)
  • SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust: (SPY)
  • BetaShares S&P 500 Yield Maximiser Fund (Managed Fund) : (UMAX)
  • ETFS S&P 500 High Yield Low Volatility ETF: (ZYUS)

Should you choose an index fund or buy individual shares?

This really depends on your overall goals, the time you want to commit and the money you have to invest.

Investors who are purchasing individual shares are trying to "beat the market".

According to global investment bank Goldman Sachs, 10-year stock market returns have averaged 9.2% over the past 140 years. Recently, the S&P 500 has done slightly better than the historic 10-year average, with an annual average return of 13.6%.

As such, an investor in individual shares should be aiming to find a basket of companies that have a greater return.

Investing in individual stock is time consuming and it can be riskier, depending on what the investor purchases. Investors will have to understand the ins and outs of every company they have purchased.

However, if an investor simply wants a passive, lower involvement option, they could take an ETF approach.

An ETF approach also allows an investor to lower their overall costs.

Some of the stocks in the S&P 500 are also valued in the hundreds of dollars, so you'd need to invest thousands of dollars in order to get exposure to all companies in the index.

If you're looking to diversify your portfolio by investing in the companies in the S&P 500, it's likely going to be a lot cheaper and more efficient to buy an S&P 500 ETF or index fund.

However, the downside of an ETF is investors get market returns, meaning they can't outperform the market. It also means the investor could own shares in some poor performing company's if they are part of the index the ETF tracks.

Why should I invest in the S&P 500?

The S&P 500 features some of the largest and most successful companies in the world and has historically given investors a decent return on their investment.

If you only invest in stocks available on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), you'll be limited in the number of stocks you can buy. Investing in an S&P 500 index fund or opening a trading account that gives you access to the US stock market will let you diversify your portfolio and open up the potential gains offered by US stocks.

While past performance does not guarantee future success, investor history suggests investors could increase their returns by investing in the S&P 500 over the ASX 200.

Taking the last 10-year average of the 2 markets, the S&P 500 has returned 13.9%, compared with the ASX 200 which has returned 9.3%.

Disclaimer: 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 all investors. Trading CFDs and forex on leverage comes with a higher risk of losing money rapidly. Past performance is not an indication of future results. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before making any trades.

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