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What is micro-investing?

If you're looking to get into the market but haven't got a large deposit, micro-investing could help you out.

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Micro-investing is where you invest small amounts of money on a regular basis with the hope that over time, every little bit you invest adds up to a lot.

Today, there are dozens of micro-investment apps in the global market, a clear indication that it's a popular option among the next generation of investors. But how does micro-investing work and what options are there in Australia?

The terminology is somewhat vague, but micro-investment apps let you invest very small amounts of money over time to build up a profitable fund. The premise is that if you frequently make small contributions over time into an investment portfolio, you have the potential to earn more than you would if you saved it up as cash in a savings account.

Who may be suited to micro-investing?

Micro-investing is a suitable option for anyone looking for a cheap and convenient way to start building an investment portfolio. However, because micro-investing requires a long time frame in order to build up any significant wealth, they may be more suited to a younger demographic.

It's also important to be aware that there are costs to micro-investing which may eat into what you're saving or getting back in returns. It's important to double check fees with the performance of the app's chosen investment portfolio. For example, if you're only investing $5 per month, the total fees are $2.50 per month and the returns are less than 1% per month, you might be better off sticking to a savings account.

The fees. There are any number of fees that a micro-investment app may charge. Some of the most common include:

  • Brokerage fees. The cost each time you make a transaction or invest.
  • Subscription or management fees. An ongoing monthly or yearly fee to keep the account open.
  • Other fees. Additional costs may include cancellation fees, withdrawal fees, transaction fees and account opening fees.

That said, you don’t need to be a millennial to take advantage of the benefits of micro-investing. In short, anyone who thinks they might benefit from the convenience of an automatic investment plan should consider the benefits of this approach.

Which providers offer micro-investing in Australia?

Micro-investing is still a relatively new sector on the Australian financial scene. At the time of writing, there are really just 2 micro-investment platforms available here – Raiz and Spaceship Voyager. Both apps work by allowing you to invest a few dollars at a time into an investment fund on a day-to-day or monthly basis, although Raiz is the only spare-change round-up app.

However, there are a few non-traditional investment apps appearing now that allow you to invest small amounts directly into stocks or ETFs. While not exactly micro-investing, they do allow you to work on a similar premise. For the sake of interest, we've also included some of these below.

Picture not described

Raiz Invest

Raiz is a mobile app that rounds up the spare change from your daily purchases and invests the excess into a diversified portfolio of ETFs. There are 6 different portfolios to choose from based on your appetite for risk and you can also set up recurring payments or make lump sum instalments.

There are no minimum account balances, and deposits and withdrawals are free. All you need to do to get started is provide your bank account number, BSB number and online banking login details.

Account balances of less than $15,000 attract a monthly maintenance fee of $3.50. Balances of $15,000 and above attract a monthly fee equal to 0.275% of your balance.

Spaceship VoyagerSpaceship

Spaceship Voyager is a robo-advice platform that lets you transfer small amounts into an investment portfolio without the need to pay for a financial adviser.

There are 3 portfolios to choose from – Spaceship Earth, Universe and Origin - with all three investing your funds into a mix of Australian shares, global shares and cash.

Plus, you can set up regular top-ups each week, fortnight or month, and there are no contribution fees, brokerage fees, withdrawal fees or exit fees charged for either portfolio. However, there are management costs (0.5–0.10%) which are taken as a percentage of your portfolio's value once it hits higher than $5,000.

CommSec PocketPicture not described

CommSec Pocket isn't a traditional micro-investment app, but it does let you invest smaller amounts into the stock market than you'd normally be allowed. Usually when you invest in Australian ETFs or stocks, there's a $500 minimum initial trade requirement and brokerage fees upwards of $10–$30.

However, with the CBA's CommSec Pocket, you can invest as little as $50 at a time into an ETF of your choice with a brokerage fee of just $2.

There are 7 investment themes to choose from – and each of these are individual listed ETFs. This means it lets you directly invest in an ETF of your picking.

Like the others, you can either set it to make regular monthly or fortnightly payments, or you can make one-off payments as you like.

SharesiesPicture not described

Sharesies says it aims to democratise investing by allowing you to start from as little as 1 cent.

Through its app, you can invest in a variety of stocks and ETFs on the Australian Securities Exchanges (ASX), New Zealand Exchange (NZX), New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), the Nasdaq and Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE).

However, Sharesies is not like its rivals as it doesn't have pre-set portfolios and won't charge you a monthly fee. Instead it charges brokerage fees based on your trades.

PearlerPicture not described

One of the relatively new players to the market, Pearler is now going beyond traditional share trading and into micro-investing.

With the aim of "boring, long-term investing", Pearler allows you to invest in 8 pre-determined ETFs.

Pearler charges its customers $1.70 per month if they select 1 fund, or $2.30 should they have multiple funds after balances reach $100.

Micro-investment app comparison

PlatformFeesMinimum investmentInvestment options
Raiz Invest
  • Brokerage. $0
  • Subscription. $3.50 per month for a balance of <$15,000 or 0.275% per year for a balance >$15,000
$5Choose from 6 portfolios containing a mix of ETFs based on risk level.
CommSec Pocket
  • Brokerage. $2 per trade <$1,000 or 0.2% of trade value >$1,000
  • Subscription. $0
$50Invest directly in a selection of 7 ETFs.
Spaceship Voyager
  • Brokerage. $0
  • Subscription. Balance <$5,000: $0. Spaceship Index Portfolio balance > $5,000: 0.05% per year. Spaceship Universe Portfolio balance > $5,000: 0.10% per year.
$0Choose from 2 portfolios: The Spaceship Index Portfolio (index fund) or the Spaceship Universe Portfolio (managed fund). These invest funds into hundreds of Aussie and global shares, and cash, rather than ETFs.
  • Brokerage. 0.5% on amount up to $3,000, 0.1% on amount above $3,000
Buy shares in over 2,300 companies and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).
  • Brokerage. $6.50 AUD flat fee per transaction to buy or sell AUD and US shares
  • Subscription to Pearler micro - $1.70 a month to invest in one fund, $2.30 if you invest in multiple.
$0Invest directly in over 2,000 ASX and 5,000 US shares. For its micro invest product, choose between 8 different ETFs.

Fractional share trading apps

Fractional share trading apps don't fall under the traditional banner of "micro-investment", but they do allow you to invest as little as a few dollars at a time into stocks (depending on the platform you use).

Fractional share trading is where you invest in fractions of shares rather than whole shares. For instance, instead of a buying a single Facebook stock for $260, you could buy one-tenth of a stock for $26 or even one-hundredth of a stock for $2.60.

While it's a popular trading feature in the US, only a few share trading apps offer the service in Australia. And, so far, you can only trade US stocks in fractions – we don't yet have this option for Australian stocks.

Among online brokers that offer fractional share trading are eToro (minimum $200), Stake (minimum $10), Interactive Brokers (No minimum) and Goodments ($1 minimum).

1 - 2 of 2
Name Product Standard brokerage for US shares Currency conversion fee Markets
eToro (global stocks)
50 pips (US$0.50 for every AU$100 exchanged)
Global shares, US shares, ETFs
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.
Superhero share trading
50 pips (US$0.50 for every AU$100 exchanged)
ASX shares, US shares, ETFs
Sign up & fund your account with A$100 or more and receive US$10 of Tesla stocks on Superhero. T&Cs apply.
Enjoy $0 brokerage on US stocks and buying ETFs as well as a flat $5 fee to trade Australian shares.

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” 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.

Benefits of micro-investing

There are many potential benefits of micro-investing, including:

It’s easy

  • It’s quick and simple to set up an account with a micro-investing platform and link it to your bank accounts. It then acts like a sort of electronic piggy bank for your spare change.

It’s convenient

  • Micro-investing requires minimal input on your part. Because the entire process is automated, you can start building an investment balance without even realising it.

You can start a savings habit

  • By getting into micro-investing from a young age, you can create positive saving habits that will last a lifetime. It’s a very effective way for Australians who have never invested their money before to make a start.

Minimal investment required

  • You don’t need a huge bank balance to take advantage of a micro-investing platform. You can start by investing your small change and then watch your balance grow.

Choose from diversified portfolios

  • The money in your investment fund can be balanced in a diversified ETF portfolio based on your financial goals and your appetite for risk. You don’t need to be an investment expert or have specialised financial knowledge.

What are the risks of micro-investing?

No guarantee of returns

  • Like any investment strategy there's no guarantee that the investment portfolio that you choose will perform as you hope. In fact, you could lose money. As such, you should choose a portfolio that matches your risk tolerance.

Fee for service

  • It's worth noting that these platforms aren't free. You'll pay a management fee. This will either be a flat fee or calculated based on the percentage in your account. These fees may also differ depending on your account balance, so it’s important to monitor your account regularly to make sure the fee structure continues to work in your favour.

Easy to set and forget your account

  • Many investors choose to micro-invest because it's easy to set and forget. While in a bull market this can be a good thing, as it stops you trying to over manage and gets rid of the temptation to overtrade, it also runs the risk that the investor doesn't regularly review the performance of the fund. As such, you could underperform your own expectations, while still paying for a service that isn't living up to your expectations.

Important notice: The original article previously mentioned FirstStep. However, the app is no longer functioning as a micro-investor.

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