Beginner's guide: What is share trading and how does it work? | Finder

What is share trading and how does it work?

A dummies guide to investing in the stock market.

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When you trade shares, you’re buying and selling a portion of a company with other traders. These trades occur over a digital marketplace known as the stock market or stock exchange. In Australia, we have the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), and in the United States, there’s the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the NASDAQ.

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.

Share Trading Account Offer

eToro Share Trading (US stocks)

USD 0

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
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Important: Share trading carries risk of capital loss.

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Disclaimer: Trading CFDs and forex on leverage is high-risk and losses could exceed your deposits.

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 updated regularly
Name Product Standard brokerage fee Inactivity fee Markets International
eToro Share Trading (US stocks)
US$0
US$10 per month if there’s been no login for 12 months
US shares
Yes
Zero brokerage share trading on US stocks with trades as low as $50.
Join the world’s biggest social trading network when you trade stocks, commodities and currencies from the one account.
Superhero share trading
$5
No
ASX shares, ETFs
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.
Bell Direct Share Trading
$15
No
ASX shares, mFunds, ETFs
No
Exclusive: New customers who open an account with Bell Direct through Finder will pay no brokerage fees on the first five stock or ETF trades until April 30, 2021 (T&Cs apply).
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.
IG Share Trading
Finder Award
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, ETFs
No
Limited offer: Get 5 free ASX trades when you open a new account with ThinkMarkets before June 30, 2021 (T&Cs apply).
Buy and sell CHESS sponsored ASX shares with $0 brokerage on your first 5 trades. Only $8 flat fee brokerage thereafter, plus enjoy free live stock price data on an easy to use mobile app.
CMC Markets Stockbroking
$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.
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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.

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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