What to Look for in an Online Share Trading Platform

Content Producer · 13 July 2021
Looking to get started investing but not sure which exchange to go with? The features an investor will look for in an online share trading platform generally depends on the type of investor you are. In this article, we break down the features you may want to consider based on your investor profile.

A recent Canstar Pulse Survey conducted in June 2021 found that 28% of Canstar users are investing, and a further 13% are considering investing in the next 6 months. A further 65% of people believed the stock market was likely to go up in the next 6 months. Whether you’re considering investing or considering topping up your portfolio, one of the most important factors is having the best online share trading platform for you.

Although every trader may have different goals and may be at different stages in their investment journey, an online share trading platform’s fees, features and functionality may define your experience as an investor. So, what do investors need to consider when choosing an online share trading platform?

To a large extent, the importance of various features will differ depending on your investor profile in terms of how much and how often you trade. Canstar researches online share trading platforms in Australia and gives star ratings according to how much value they provide to different investor profiles. Take a look at our comparison tables to see which platforms would provide 5-star rated outstanding value for your investment needs.

Who are you?

Average number of transactions Average transaction value Securities traded Requirements
Casual Investor 1/month $15,000 Shares
The Casual Investor buys and sells shares occasionally and using a long-term strategy to review their investment portfolio.
Active Investor 4/month $15,000 Shares, managed funds
The Active Investor buys and sells shares more frequently than the Casual Investor, using the latest market information, data analysis and reports to determine portfolio holding.
Trader 30/month $15,000 Shares, derivatives Dynamic trading platform
The Trader buys and sells shares very frequently, and the latest market information is used to determine their portfolio holding.

Compare Online Share Trading Accounts with Canstar

If you’re comparing online share trading companies, the comparison table below displays some of the companies available on Canstar’s database with links to providers’ websites. The information displayed is based on an average of six trades per month. Please note the table is sorted by Star Rating (highest to lowest), followed by provider name (alphabetical). Use Canstar’s Online Share Trading comparison selector to view a wider range of online share trading companies. Canstar may earn a fee for referrals.

What should you look for in an online share trading platform?

Are you a Casual Investor?

The comprehensiveness of investment tools isn’t always the most important factor in selecting the best broker for the Casual Investor.

Casual Investors typically require a high level of client services and support to be available, as well as excellent educational material and a trading platform that is easy to use.

There is certainly a great need for easy-to-use and easy-to-understand education around the share market. Of the investors surveyed by the ASX in 2020, only a third claimed to understand the trade-off between risk and return, and even fewer understood the benefits of diversification.

If you are new to investing or just want to keep up-to-date with the latest news and investment trends, check out Canstar Investor Hub

Cost also makes a big difference for Casual Investors. This is because typically fees are set at a higher percentage of the investment amount compared to investors trading in higher amounts or more frequently.

Are you an Active Investor?

The comprehensiveness of research tools is an important factor in selecting the best broker for the Active Investor.

Active investors may need access to detailed company and market information and may need margin loan availability. They will likely require a dynamic trading platform, meaning you have a live data stream that updates without the need to hit the refresh button.

Due to their higher trading frequency, the cost of brokerage and fees is also important.

Are you a Trader?

Cost is an important factor for the Trader due to their high trading frequency.

The availability of trading in the derivatives market is also an important option for Traders.

dynamic trading platform and access to superior charting tools is often a must for Traders.

How to set up an investment account

You can set up an investment account through any of the providers websites. Be sure to look for the other features before signing up. Apart from the features already mentioned, Canstar captures and assesses over 200 pieces of information in our Online Share Trading star ratings report, including:

  • Account services
  • Reporting methods for dividends and interest earned, year-to-date profit/loss statements, and tax reporting tools
  • Client services and support, availability of after-hours helpline, and platform training for the customer online or over the phone
  • Margin loans available
  • Company and market information available
  • Research tools, alerts, and other technical trading information available
  • Basic and advanced charting available
  • Educational and technical help available
  • Online security provided to a high level
  • Flexibility of or restrictions on settlement of account
  • Trading platform functionality, dynamic data stream
  • Accessibility of the channel via multiple methods
  • Fees charged

There is a lot to think about – which is why we’ve taken the stress out of it by comparing online share trading platforms for you. You can make a shortlist using our website and narrow down your search to just the platforms that will meet your profile and your trading needs.

Image source: Gypty/Shutterstock.com

This is an update of an article originally published by TJ Ryan

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Marissa is the Content Producer for the Wealth team at Canstar, and specialises in investment content. Her previous experience has seen her create content for wide range of industries from travel to the legal sector. Follow Marissa on LinkedIn, and Canstar Investor Hub on Facebook.

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