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International share trading: nabtrade vs CommSec

Is CommSec or nabtrade the better choice for global share trading?

When it comes to Australian online share trading, both nabtrade and CommSec are market leading brokers. We know how difficult it can be to find Australian brokers who offer affordable and convenient ways to trade international shares, so we've published this guide to help you find the account that works best for you.

Keep reading and you'll discover that we've compared the account features of both nabtrade and CommSec. If you want more specific details on either account, you can always click through to the our individual broker review pages.

Example 1: Buying Apple shares

Say you want to buy Apple Inc shares with either nabtrade or CommSec to the value of $1,100, the fees for the trade would be as shown in the table below:

nabtradeCommSec
Apple share priceUS$220US$220
Total cost of share parcel (5 shares)US$1,100US$1,100
Brokerage feeAUD$14.95US$19.95
Foreign currency conversion feeAUD$7.15 (0.65% of trade value*)US$6.60 (0.6% of trade value)
Total feesAUD$22.10 (approx US$14.90)US$26.55

*Nabtrade expresses its foreign currency conversion fee as a spread ranging from 0.50% to 0.80% of trade value.

In dollar terms, this ranges from AUD$4.97 to AUD$7.94 in the above example. The actual amount charged to your nabtrade account depends on the time of the transaction.

Rates accurate at 31 August 2021.

As you can see, the comparison is far from straightforward due to a couple of key factors. The first cost that needs to be considered is the brokerage fee. CommSec’s fee is the higher of the 2 and is also charged in US dollars instead of Australian dollars.

However, nabtrade also charges a foreign exchange conversion fee of between 0.50% and 0.80% of the transaction value. So not only will the cost of your transaction vary depending on the percentage amount of the fee, but it will also depend on the value of your transaction and the exchange rate market at the time.

Taking current exchange rates into account at the time of writing, in the above example nabtrade offers the most cost-effective solution. However, as you will see in the example below, that may not always be the case with larger transactions.

Example 2: Buying Pfizer shares

Say you want to buy $5,000 worth of Pfizer shares on the NYSE, the brokerage fees for CommSec and nabtrade are shown in the table below:

nabtradeCommSec
Pfizer share priceUS$36.78US$36.78
Total cost of share parcel (136 shares)US$5,002.08US$5,002.08
Brokerage feeAUD$19.95US$29.95
Foreign currency conversion feeAUD$32.50 (0.65% of trade value*)US$30.01 (0.6% of trade value)
Total feesAUD$39 (USD$29.38)US$29.95

In this example, CommSec's brokerage fee is now just above nabtrade's. This is what has impacted the broker fees:

  • nabtrade’s brokerage fee for trades over AUD$5,000 (and below $20,000) rises to AUD $19.95.
  • CommSec’s fee for trades over US$5,000 (and below $10,000) rises to US$29.95.
  • As this is a much larger transaction than the first example, the foreign currency conversion fee charged by nabtrade rises substantially.

So if you're wondering whether nabtrade or CommSec is the more affordable option when you need to trade shares on a US stock exchange, the answer is that it depends on the size of your transaction. For smaller trades, nabtrade will usually be the more cost-effective option, but if you need to place a large trade then CommSec will probably come out on top, although this also depends on which global exchange the stocks are listed.


Foreign exchange conversion fees

Both nabtrade and CommSec charge a foreign exchange conversion fee. This is sometimes called the FX fee, conversion rate, foreign exchange rate or FX spread. Regardless, it's the fee you're charged to convert Australian dollars into foreign currency.

Whenever you execute an international share trade with nabtrade, a foreign exchange transaction occurs where you need to convert the Australian dollars in your trading account into US dollars in order to buy shares on a US stock exchange. nabtrade charges an FX spread of between 0.50% and 0.80% of the value of your trade depending on the time of trade.

Meanwhile, CommSec charges a flat FX fee of 0.6% per trade, regardless of currency exchange required or time of trade.

International brokerage fees

It's worth pointing out that the brokerage fees charged by nabtrade and CommSec vary depending on the size of your international trade. This can obviously have a huge bearing on the total cost of your transaction, so it's worth examining the tiered fee structure of each provider when comparing nabtrade vs CommSec.

Nabtrade brokerage fees for international shares

All figures in AUD

Trade typeTransaction sizeBrokerage
Online trading (all global markets)Up to and including $5,000$14.95
$5,000.01 - $20,000$19.95
Over $20,0000.11% of trade value
Over the phoneAll$59.95 or 0.55% of trade value (whichever is greater)

CommSec brokerage fees for international shares

All figures in USD

MarketBrokerage fee
USA$19.95 for trades up to $5,000
$29.95 for trades up to $10,000
0.31% of transaction value for trades above $10,000
Canada$65 or 0.75% of transaction value (whichever is greater) + 0.15% execution fee
Asia Pacific$39.95 or 0.40% of transaction value (whichever is greater)
Europe and Middle East$39.95 or 0.40% of transaction value (whichever is greater)

Other factors to consider when comparing online share trading platforms

Although the fees that apply to international share trading are undoubtedly an important factor when comparing share trading platforms, there are several other features to consider before you choose a platform. These include:

  • Inactivity fees. Both CommSec and nabtrade charge inactivity fees on international trading accounts. CommSec's inactivity fee is $25 annually, nabtrade's inactivity fee is 0.50% of the average daily international holding balance monthly.
  • Market data. How can you access market data through each platform? Are prices delayed or can you access live or dynamic data? Are there any additional costs attached?
  • Research and analysis. Compare the analysis and insights you can access through the platform to help you make better trading decisions. This could include market news, in-depth analysis of individual stocks and buy and sell recommendations.
  • Ongoing fees. Some share trading platforms trade an ongoing monthly or annual membership free, others are offered free of charge and fees only apply when you place a trade.
  • Accessible markets. Compare the international stock exchanges and shares you can access through each trading platform. Can you also access other international investments, for example exchange traded funds (ETFs) or exchange traded options (ETOs)?
  • Trading options. Check to see what sort of flexible trading options are available to help you take advantage of changing market conditions, for example stop loss orders and limit orders.
  • Customer support. If you ever have a question about a trade or need assistance, how will you be able to access customer support? Does the provider have a good reputation for responding to enquiries quickly and helpfully?

Compare International share trading accounts

If neither CommSec or nabtrade look right for you, why not compare some of the other brokers in the table below or head to our international share trading page to find out more.

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.
Webull
Exclusive
Webull
US$0.25
0.50% (50 pips)
ASX shares, Global shares, Options trading, US shares, ETFs
Finder exclusive: Get an additional 30 days of $0 brokerage. Get advanced research and trading tools with $0 brokerage and free lvl 2 NASDAQ stock data for 30 days. 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.
Moomoo Share Trading
US$0.99
55 pips or 0.0055 AUD/USD
ASX shares, Global shares, US shares, ETFs
Get 10 free shares + earn 6.8% p.a. on idle cash upon deposit. 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).
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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.

To make sure you get accurate and helpful information, this guide has been edited by Joelle Grubb as part of our fact-checking process.
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Tim Falk is a writer for Finder, writing across a diverse range of topics. Over the course of his 15-year writing career, Tim has reported on everything from travel and personal finance to pets and TV soap operas. When he’s not staring at his computer, you can usually find him exploring the great outdoors. See full bio

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2 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    AlanSeptember 8, 2016

    Hi There
    Keen to progressively invest in global equities, not trade.
    I see live market depth is available. Any charge for this?

    Are the fees for conditional orders only charged on execution?

    What is your minimum investment transaction?

    Many Thanks, Alan

      AvatarFinder
      ClarizzaSeptember 9, 2016Finder

      Hi Alan,

      Thanks for your question.

      Just to confirm, we are a comparison website and provide general advice only. Which broker are you referring to? If you would like to find out more, the following pages may help:

      Regards
      Clarizza

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