CMC Markets – Best Overall
CMC was an early innovator in online investing. It wins for offering a wide array of investment products, bargain low-dollar pricing and a great browser platform. The platform is a little more awkward as regards navigation than IG’s platform (see below). CMC does have a fascinating widget that shows performance of popular chart patterns for any given asset.
CMC Markets pricing
Standard pricing includes the web platform and real-time quotes. One buy order for $1,000 or less per Australian stock per day is free. All other orders (grouped by day and listing) are the greater of A$11 or 0.1% of the trade value.
U.S., U.K., Canada and Japan markets are $0 commission but incur foreign currency exchange spreads of 0.6%. There is an inactivity fee if there is no activity in the account over the prior 12 months. A premium tier offers additional platform features, streaming quotes and discounted commissions.
Interactive Brokers – Best for Professionals and Global Investors
If you are focused on investing globally instead of primarily Australia, Interactive Brokers is my top pick. I cover Interactive Brokers’s offerings in several countries. IBKR, as it’s known, does three things very well: it’s not exy, it has a broad array of tools, and it covers 33 countries.
Trade how you like. There’s the professional-level Trader Workstation; a browser portal; and two beginner-friendly mobile apps, Global Trader and ESG-focused Impact. The tradeoffs for IBKR’s rich feature set and low costs are its USD focus and its complexity, which can be mostly avoided using the Global Trader and Impact apps.
Interactive Brokers pricing
Shares are 0.088% of trade value with a minimum ticket size of $6.60 (including GST). Tiered pricing is available, but most of us aren’t trading $3 million in a month. There are no deposit minimums and inactivity fees, but there is a $500 minimum for streaming data and some research.
IG - Best Trading Platform
IG’s browser-based trading platform is one of the most intuitive advanced platforms I’ve used. Within a few minutes of booting up, I created a multiasset workspace that gave us a solid bird’s eye view of the global markets. Widget windows are crisp and charts can be customized with popular indicators and drawing tools. Unlike other trading platforms, a quick right-click on a market can pull up a complete window with charts, news and order entry. I love it. Interactive Brokers’ Trader Workstation might offer more tools. Other platforms are easier because they have fewer features. IG balances depth and ease of use beautifully.
Aussie share traders with 0-2 trades the prior month pay a commission of the greater of 0.1% of the trade value or $8, whichever is higher. The commission drops to $5 or 0.7% of the trade value if the prior month had three or more trades. The ProRealTime charting and trade automation package, which offers advanced charting features and backtesting strategies, is $40 per month, but will be rebated with four or more trades in a month. An inactivity fee of $18 per month kicks in after 24 months without activity.
U.S., German, U.K.. and Irish shares are $0 commission, provided instant currency conversion is enabled at a 0.7% currency conversion spread.
CommSec - Best Bank Share Broker
CommSec is the share trading arm of Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The web platform is simple to use and offers Goldman Sachs research, a very nice feature. The charts are sufficient for most, but not for an experienced trader.
Investor education is very well organized and confidence inspiring, specifically CommSec Stock’d tab. That area shares investors’ stories, answers common investing questions and gives step-by-step instruction in small chunks.
The Pocket mobile app keeps it simple for novices by limiting choices to seven stock ETFs. With global interest rates on the high side, Pocket would be even better if it included a fixed-income ETF or two to help its customers build more diversified portfolios.
CommSec’s default setting is CHESS sponsored ownership, which allows you to directly own shares instead of the broker acting on your behalf as a custodian of your shares.
CommSec Pocket pricing
Trading on the Pocket app costs $2 per trade for amounts $1,000 and below. Anything above is 0.2% of the trade value. The ETFs charge annual management fees ranging from a negligible 0.05% to a hefty (for an ETF) 0.68%. The account minimum is $50 and there are no fees for the account.
Mathematicians and astrophysicists will find CommSec’s pricing fascinating. Anyone else – me included – will find the structure fair dinkum annoying.
Online Aussie trades of $1,000 or less that settle in your CommSec account or a margin loan are charged a flat $10 commission, while trades above $1,000 and up to $10,000 are charged $19.95. Trades above $10,000 and less than $25,000 pay $29.95, and above that is a flat 0.12%. This quirky pricing can lead to paying close to 4% round trip on a $1,001 position, which could be very challenging to overcome if you trade frequently.
CommSec offers trading in 13 countries and the fee structures vary. One positive is that the foreign exchange spread of 0.6% is charged on deposits and withdrawals, not for every trade. That savings can add up quick. Another positive: Like Pocket, there aren’t account fees, but there is a $500 minimum.
If you have big bikkies and want to trade at CommBank, check for eligibility for CommSec One, which provides a dedicated service team and access to a feature-rich trading program, IRESS ViewPoint.
Westpac Share Trading – Strong Research Presentation
Westpac is a CHESS participant and allows investing in 25 exchanges. Morningstar premium subscriptions are a low $20/month and there’s ESG information through Sustainalytics. Westpac puts heaps of company information, news, and Morningstar research opinions at your fingertips. Chart watchers will appreciate explanations of indicators and value watchers will likey the company peer comparisons.
Westpac has an account minimum of $500 and a minimum trade fee of $19.95 or 0.11%, whichever is greater. Buy one stock with $500 and sell it at the same price and you’ll be down by close to 8%.
Other Brokers Explored
Pearler’s noteworthy strength is its ability to help you systematically invest for the long term, even with very little money. Trades are a flat $6.50 and currency conversion is 0.5%. There is a list of commission-free ETFs (provided you hold for at least a year). Pearler is a CHESS participant. The minimum initial investment is $500.
Superhero charges $0 to buy ETFs on the ASX and a flat $5 for all other ASX trades. The minimum trade size is $100. US shares are $0. The minimum trade size is $10 and currency conversion is 0.7%. There’s no account minimum.
Online Trading Differences: Australia versus the United States
Share trading online in Australia is similar in many ways to trading as a U.S. resident in the United States. Australian investors fund an account, make a deposit, then place trades through a web or desktop platform, manage a watch list, and conduct research, just as U.S. investors do.
However, there are several important considerations of which Australian investors should be aware before selecting an online broker in Australia, considerations that are not a concern in the U.S.
- Commission ranges – In the states, it is rare to see an online broker offering varying commission structures, whereas in Australia most brokers have variable rates that depend on the total value of the trade. IG, SelfWealth, and Westpac are three that have fixed rates. Westpac’s is much higher than the other two.
- CHESS - Some brokers participate in ASX CHESS, a share registry that keeps ownership in your name. That removes any question about who owns the shares in the highly unlikely event a broker carks it.
- Paying for research – In the U.S., most brokers offer premium research from providers like Morningstar for free. In Australia, brokers are more inclined to pass the cost onto traders and offer premium research on a monthly subscription basis.
- Order types – Market orders, limit hours, and stop orders are standard across the industry. However, trading U.S. stocks from Australia can vary from broker to broker in terms of what is available. This includes after-hours trading. Advanced order types, such as conditional orders, will also vary from broker to broker.
How to Choose an Online Broker
Australian brokers work hard to stand out against one another beyond branding and marketing. What really matters, though, is the trading experience you receive once you are a client with a funded account.
Here’s a list of tips to keep in mind to help you select the right online broker the first time:
- Read the trading costs' fine print. And budget enough time, too. Share trading fees can vary by trade amount, security type, quantity and exchange, among other factors. Before selecting a broker, view the full commissions structure and see how it fits into your portfolio size and trading frequency.
- Make sure your broker offers the asset class you want to trade. If you only trade Australian stocks, then no problem; any broker will service you. However, if you want to trade international stocks, options, forex, or futures, you will need to do some research and select a broker that supports those offerings.
- For active traders, read the fine print to compare potential service benefits. Discounted trades are just one perk of being an active trader. Some brokers will increase the quality of the market data being streamed into the account. Others will grant access to better research tools or offer dedicated customer support.
- Customer service. When contacting a brokerage for account-related inquiries, all investors look for fast connection times and helpful representatives to assist them. Like all businesses, support quality and timeliness can vary. For a quick gauge, once you narrow down to two brokers, call both on the phone and ask them several questions. This speedy exercise may reveal a lot about what to expect as a client.
How do you trade stocks in Australia?
To trade stocks online in Australia, you must first open a brokerage account with an online stockbroker. Once your account is opened and funded, conduct research to determine which company's shares you want to buy. Then, use the trade ticket to place your trade and buy shares.
Are online stock brokers safe?
When buying and selling shares of stocks as an Australian citizen, it is crucial to use a regulated online broker. The major regulator in Australia is the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC). Using an Australian broker that is fully regulated protects investors in the case of fraud or bankruptcy. You can protect yourself even further by using a CHESS participating broker, which registers shares directly in your name.
Which trading platform is best in Australia?
Here are our picks for the best share trading platforms in Australia:
- CMC Markets - Best Overall
- Interactive Brokers - Best for Professionals and Global Investors
- IG - Best Trading Platform
- CommSec - Best Bank for Share Trading
- Westpac - Strong Research Presentation
What is the best trading platform for beginners in Australia?
The best trading platform for beginners in Australia is IG. Its web platform is intuitive to use, logically laid out, and easy to customize for personal needs. Traders may pay as little as $5 a trade and, with only four trades a month, get an advanced real time charting package.
Who is the cheapest stockbroker in Australia?
There is a crop of newcomer brokers on the Australian scene that compete heavily on price. Budget-minded investors should check out Pearler, Superhero, and CMC Markets.
What is the cheapest way to buy stocks in Australia?
To keep trading costs low for buying and selling shares of stock in Australia, use a discount broker and avoid rapid trading. Australian banks are more expensive than stand-alone online brokerages. That is why our top finishers in our Best Online Brokers Australia 2023 list are not banks.
Do any Australian stockbrokers offer forex trading?
All the brokers reviewed here offer forex trading of varying depth to Australians. For a full list of regulated forex brokers, read our guide to the Best Australian Forex Brokers on on our sister site, ForexBrokers.com.
Best Online Trading Platforms Australia (Summary)
- Best Overall
- Best for Professionals and Global Investors
- Best Trading Platform
- Best Bank for Share Trading
- Strong Research Presentation
||Cost ($10,000 trade) *As of 3/22/23
||Best for Professionals
||Best Trading Platform
||Best Bank for Share Trading
||Strong Research Presentation
Explore our other online trading guides:
About the Editorial Team