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This guide answers all your questions about trading international shares and allows you to compare international share trading accounts so you can find a broker to trade easily, cheaply and quickly.
Standard brokerage - US shares
Share Trading Account Offer
Get $0 brokerage on US stocks with trades as little as $50 when you join the world's biggest social trading network.
- $0 brokerage for US stocks
- Trades starting from $50
- Fractional shares
- Copy top traders
Important: Share trading carries risk of capital loss.
Compare international share trading accounts
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.
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.
What is international share trading?
International share trading is the process of buying and selling shares in companies listed on global stock exchanges. This allows Australians to trade shares in global companies instead of being limited to companies listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). For example, Facebook is listed on the American stock exchange, Nasdaq. So if Australians wish to buy Facebook shares, they’ll need to do this via an international share trading account.
International share trading brokerage fees
Trading international shares can incur different fees and commissions to what you would pay when trading Australian shares. Here's an idea of the fees that you can expect to pay when trading shares on the New York Stock Exchange or the London Stock Exchange.
|Provider||New York Stock Exchange Brokerage Fee||London Stock Exchange Brokerage Fee|
|IG Share Trading||USD$0||£0|
|Saxo Capital Markets Share Trading||USD$9.90||£8|
|CommSec International Trading Account||USD$19.95||USD $39.95 or 0.40%, whichever is greater|
How to buy international shares from Australia
You can trade international shares from Australia with an online share trading account, such as the platforms listed in the comparison table above. These brokers provide an online platform you can use to conduct trades 24/7. Most providers even have smartphone applications for when you’re on the go.
Which global stock exchanges can I access?
The global markets available will vary between providers so it’s best to check if a provider can access the particular stock exchange you’re looking for before you open an account. However, most international share trading platforms will provide traders access to the following major global exchanges, plus more:
- Australia: The Australian Securities Exchange (ASX)
- United States: The New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq
- United Kingdom: London Stock Exchange
- Europe: Euronext
- Asia: Japan Exchange Group, Shanghai Stock Exchange, Hong Kong Stock Exchange
What are the benefits of international share trading?
Some of the major benefits of international share trading include, but are not limited to:
- Access more shares. The Australian share market only represents around 2% of the world’s shares. International share trading allows you to access thousands of global shares that you wouldn’t have access to if you were trading on the ASX alone.
- Invest in major global brands. You can invest in shares of major global companies such as Facebook, Tesla, Amazon, PayPal, Google and Apple.
- Diversification. Investing in global stocks as well as local Australian shares will ensure your portfolio is more diversified. An internationally diversified portfolio will help protect you from any major dips in the Australian market.
- 24/7 trading. You can trade 24 hours a day rather than being restricted to trade within set hours.
What are the risks of international share trading?
International stock exchanges give you access to many more investment options than those listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), however, it can carry a few more risks than the domestic market. This includes foreign exchange rate risk, liquidity risk and risk from changes in foreign governments. Here are some things to be aware of:
Exchange rate volatility. You will need to convert Australian dollars into a foreign currency to buy shares listed on an international stock exchange. When you convert the money back to Australian dollars, there’s a risk the exchange rate will be worse than when you purchased the foreign currency.
Liquidity. Capital gains (or losses) are only realised once a sell order is settled. Overseas stock exchanges can have fewer participants and a lower trading volume, so if you’re trading on a small international stock exchange, there’s a chance you may not be able to find a buyer for your shares and will have to sell at a significant discount.
Foreign policy. Just as the Australian Government’s policies can impact your bottom line, overseas governments can introduce policies and restrictions that can reduce your return on international investment. Many companies also have operations running in politically unstable regions. Political turmoil such as a military coup or civil war can derail foreign investment. Do your homework carefully before investing.
Tax legislation. The capital gains and other tax implications of trading international shares are more complex than if you were only trading Australian shares, and you may need to pay for professional tax advice.
Different time zones. You’ll need to manage opposite time zones when buying or selling shares in major international markets such as America and Europe.
What fees and charges are involved with international share trading?
- Admin fee. Some providers charge a registration or ongoing membership/admin fee to use their brokerage services.
- Brokerage fee. The brokerage fee is a flat fee or a percentage of trade, whichever is greater. You may be able to find a deal on brokerage fees as a new customer.
- Foreign exchange commission. The international share trading account provider will take a margin when funds are exchanged from Australian dollars to a foreign currency.
- Market fees. A charge or fee for trading in a particular market. For example, sell trades in the US are subject to pay SEC fees and trades in the UK attract a stamp duty charge. Local exchange fees can also apply.
Invest in global exchange traded funds (ETFs) and exchange traded options (ETOs)?
An ETF is a fund traded on an exchange the same way as a share. An ETF is made up of many different types of assets, for example stock ETFs can be made up of hundreds of shares from a certain industry such as energy or mining. ETFs mirror the movements and return of a particular market and there are many global market ETFs that are listed in Australia, including:
- BetaShares FTSE 100 ETF
- iShares S&P Europe ETF
- iShares MSCI Japan ETF
- Vanguard US Total Market Shares Index ETF
- SPDR S&P World ex Australian Fund
Options contracts (ETOs) give you the “option” to buy a security in the future for an agreed price. For example, equities options let you trade now on the future performance of a company.
Invest in international shares through managed funds
It’s possible to invest in international shares through managed funds. Some global-themed managed funds are available through select online share trading platforms thanks to the ASX Mfund settlement service.
When you buy and sell units in an mFund, you can track your units along with other investments such as shares and ETFs in the one place online.
How to find the best international share trading platform
When you’re comparing international share trading accounts, make sure to consider the following features:
- Brokerage fees. This is a commission for executing a trade and is a flat fee or a percentage charge, whichever is greater. Brokerage fees are charged per trade. Some providers can offer free brokerage deals.
- Available markets. Where can you trade? Almost every provider can give you access to the US, but not all platforms let you trade in some areas of Asia and Europe.
- If you can trade options. Can you trade ETOs and ETFs as well as shares, and in which markets? Only some international share trading accounts let you trade options.
- Execution speed. Check how long it takes for funds to clear and to execute the trade.
- The buffer. The account provider will take a couple of percentage points extra as a buffer against international currency fluctuations in the time it takes for the trade to clear.
- Exchange rate margin. The account provider will often charge a bit extra on top of the real currency exchange rate in order to make a profit when converting Australian dollars to a foreign currency and vice versa.
- Trading platform. Is smartphone compatibility in the form of a mobile app an important feature or are you happy with a browser-based platform? Either way, the trading platform should be easy to use. You should also be able to access account services such as tax, profit and loss, and dividend reporting tools quickly and easily.
- Registration fees. Are you required to pay a registration or membership fee to open the international share trading account?
- Education and research tools. Check which market tools and resources you can access to educate yourself about different companies and foreign markets are on offer. Fundamental analysis and charting tools are key to making better trades.
- Customer support. Can you contact the provider outside business hours? Do they provide a dedicated account manager for clients?
Big Four banks international share trading account comparison
We’ve compared the Big Four Banks international share trading platforms in the table below. The brokerage fees listed in the table apply to share trading. Options transactions attract an additional fee per contract.
Brokerage fee (USD shares)
LLC (Pershing) - [Bank of New York Mellon]
LLC (Pershing) - [Bank of New York Mellon]
Citigroup Global Markets Australia Pty Limited
|Online + phone||Online + phone||Online||Online|
How do I open an international share trading account?
You can apply for an international share trading account online in less than 15 minutes. You can compare accounts in the table above and click through to the site to begin your application.
Application requirements can vary between different international share trading account providers. Generally, eligibility requirements for personal applicants will include:
- Be over the age of 18
- Have an Australian residential address
- Have a valid contact number
Documentation and ID needed
If you’re a new customer to the share trading platform, you’ll need to verify your identity before you can begin to make trades. Have the following information on hand when you start your application for a share trading account.
- Photographic identification such as your passport, driver’s licence or proof of age card
- Your tax file number (TFN) or exemption code (optional)
Companies, organisations and trusts must be registered in Australia and lodge a US Withholding Tax Treaty Statement to trade in the United States. If you’re opening the account in the name of a trust or company you’ll also need to supply:
- Australian Company Number (ACN)
- Australian Business Number (ABN)
Pros and cons of international share trading
- Access more markets
- Access major global brands
- Portfolio diversification
- 24/7 trading
- More fees and costs involved
- Complex tax rules
- Foreign currency exchange rates will affect your returns
- Competing time zones
Tips for people when trading international shares
International share trading accounts can give you access to some of the biggest names in the world. However, there are risks and issues to consider, for example foreign regulatory considerations, time zone differences and lack of overseas market knowledge. Keep the following tips in mind if you’re just starting out:
- Always have a phone number for your broker
- Check the deposit requirements before signing up
- Trading frequently? You might be eligible for discounts
- Always be aware of the fees involved
- Ensure you have access to the international markets you want
- Ensure the site security – 128 bit encryption is a must
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