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What is share trading and how does it work?

A dummies guide to investing in the stock market.

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Everyone knows that share trading is used to build wealth, but few truly understand how it works. When you trade shares, you’re buying and selling a portion of a company on a share market (or a stock exchange).

Each share has a price. The price of a share is determined by the supply and demand of a company's shares in the market and the company’s present or predicted future performance.

Usually, when a company is performing well, more investors will want to buy its shares and its share price goes up. Conversely, if a company is underperforming and failing to deliver good profits, shareholders may decide to sell their shares.

You can make money from share trading by selling shares for a higher price than you purchased them for or when a company pays dividends.

Share Trading Account Offer

IG Share Trading Offer

AUD 8

Standard brokerage - Australian shares

Share Trading Account Offer

Competitive broker fees on Australian shares, international shares, forex and CFD trading.

  • Brokerage - AU shares: From AUD 5 or 0.05%
  • Brokerage - US shares: USD 0
  • Sign-up process: Instant
  • Support - After hours: Yes
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Important: Share trading carries risk of capital loss.

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What is the stock market?

Also called a stock exchange, a stock market is where investors trade shares in companies. Australia is home to a number of exchanges. Stocks in the biggest companies in Australia are traded on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) however there are two smaller exchanges known as the CHI-X and the National Stock Exchange of Australia (NSX).

Some of the biggest overseas exchanges include the London Stock Exchange, the NASDAQ, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), the Japan Exchange Group and the Shanghai Stock Exchange. These can be accessed from Australia by using an international stock broker.

How does online share trading work?

Although there are physical stock exchanges, shares are purchased and sold online. To trade shares, you need a stock broker to act as an intermediary to the stock exchange.

A broker can be a full-service broker or an online broker. As well as place trades on your behalf, a full-service broker can give you advice about which shares to trade. An online broker is an online software platform which lets you execute trades yourself.

Online brokers are a low-cost option compared to full-service brokers. If you don’t want to go down the path of using a full-service broker, you can use share trading software to help you learn about which shares to trade, in addition to an online share trading platform to make trades.

Compare share trading accounts below

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Standard brokerage fee Inactivity fee Markets International
IG Share Trading
Finder Award
IG Share Trading
AUD 8
AUD 50 per quarter if you make fewer than three trades in that period
ASX shares, Global shares, Forex, CFDs, Margin trading
Yes
Brokerage discount: $5 on Australian shares for active traders & $0 commission on US and global shares
Enjoy some of the lowest brokerage fees on the market when trading Australian shares, international shares, forex and CFDs, plus get access to 24-hour customer support.
eToro Share Trading (US stocks)
USD 0
USD 10 per month if there’s been no login for 12 months
Forex, CFDs, US shares
Yes
Zero brokerage share trading on US 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 forex from the one account.
Superhero share trading
AUD 5
No
ASX shares
No
Pay zero brokerage on all Australian ETFs.
Trade ASX stocks with a flat $5 commission fee and a low minimum investment of just $100.
CMC Markets Stockbroking
AUD 11
No
ASX shares, Global shares, Forex, CFDs, Margin trading, Options trading, mFunds
Yes
$0 brokerage on global shares including US, UK and Japan markets.
Trade up to 9,000 products, including shares, managed funds, forex, commodities and cryptocurrencies, plus access up to 15 major global and Australian stock exchanges.
ANZ Share Investing
AUD 19.95
No
ASX shares, Global shares, Margin trading, Options trading
Yes
Earn 1 Qantas Point per AU$3 spent on brokerage fees on certain instruments.
Access Morningstar reports, company announcements and and live pricing via ANZ’s share investing platform. Available for desktop and mobile.
Westpac Online Investing Account
AUD 19.95
AUD 63.50 per year on the global markets account
ASX shares, Global shares, Options trading, US shares
Yes
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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.

How can you make a profit from share trading?

There are three ways to make money from share trading: capital growth, dividends and tax concessions.

Capital growth

This is the most common way to make money from share trading. This is simply where you sell shares for more than you paid and get a profit.

Dividends

This is when the directors of a company chooses to pay company profits to shareholders. Dividend payments are based on the number of shares you own. These types of shares are called income shares. Not all companies pay dividends, and directors can reinvest profits to grow the company rather than pay a dividend. These types of shares are called growth shares.

Tax benefits

A share can be fully franked. This is a term to describe when a company has already paid tax on your dividends. You can use franking credits to reduce the tax you pay on other income.

What are the different types of shares?

You can trade these types of investments using online share trading platforms or through a broker.

Australian securities

This type of stock is publicly listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) or the National Stock Exchange of Australia (NSX). Shares in the top 200 Australian companies are traded on the S&P ASX 200.

International securities

You can also trade on overseas markets. You can trade shares in some of the biggest companies in the world from Europe, Asia, the U.S and London.

Managed funds

Managed funds and exchange traded funds (funds that are listed on a stock exchange) are investment tools you can use to access multiple assets, including shares, property, commodities and derivatives.

What are the benefits of share trading?

Share trading can make you money in the short term and the long term, plus they present tax benefits for investors.

    • Liquidity. Shares are a liquid investment. You get your money two days after you make a trade.
    • Capital growth. Shares have proven to be a solid investment for long-term capital growth.
    • Tax. You may be eligible to receive a discount on any capital gains tax if you’ve held the shares for more than 12 months.
    • Shareholder rights. When you become a shareholder, you can vote on company decisions and attend annual general meetings (AGMs).

Compare share trading accounts

What are the risks of share trading?

Share trading is a way to make money. Generally speaking, the greater the potential gains, the greater the risk – share prices can rise and fall quickly.

  • Volatility risk. Shares can be a volatile asset. The price can rise and fall quickly depending on a number of things such as good or bad company performance, company announcements and performance of the market.
  • Timing risk. The share market moves in cycles. Buying shares in a bull market is no guarantee of future performance.
  • Government risk. Laws can change and this can impact your share price and investment strategy.
  • Overseas risk. Investing in international shares exposes you to risk from currency fluctuations and foreign governments.

Share trading jargon lookup

  • Blue chip. Companies that have a proven record of growth, for example Commonwealth Bank, BHP Billiton and Telstra, are blue-chip shares.
  • IPO. An initial public Offering is when a company floats on the stock exchange and sells shares to the public for the first time.
  • Income shares. Companies that pay a dividend to shareholders.
  • Growth shares. Companies that reinvest profits for long-term growth.
  • Capital growth. When an asset increases in value over time.
  • Rights issues. When a company makes shares available to existing shareholders at a discounted rate. Existing shareholders are not obligated to purchase shares under a rights issue and can sell the right to purchase discounted shares.
  • Settlement date. The date when the person who has made a trade purchasing shares must make a payment.
  • Sectors. A sector is a group of similar companies. For example, the resources sector is made up of mining and commodities shares.
  • Bull market. When the entire stock market is growing.
  • Bear market. When the value of the stock market is falling.
  • Day trading. A share-trading strategy where shares are purchased and sold in the same day for short-term capital gains.
  • Market capitalisation. The number of shares a company has issued multiplied by the price. This is a way of calculating the size of a publicly-listed company.

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