What to look for in an online share trading platform

What investors should look for in an online share trading platform all depends on how much and how often they want to trade. We break down the features you should look for.

Buying and selling shares online remains popular, with the ASX’s Australian Share Ownership Study finding that in 2014, 36% of Australians owned shares through listed investments such as managed funds. 4.68 million Aussies (26% or more than a quarter of the country) owned shares directly. Of those, a 58% majority traded through an online broker.

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.

In 2016, CANSTAR researched 42 online share trading platforms from 17 providers in Australia and given them 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.


Compare Online Share Trading Platforms for your investor profile

Who are you?

Average number of transactions Average transaction value Securities traded Requirements
Casual Investor 8/year $15,000 Shares
The Casual Investor buys and sells shares occasionally and using a long-term strategy to review their investment portfolio.
Active Investor 40/year $15,000 Shares, managed funds
The Active Investor buys and sells shares and derivatives more frequently than the Casual Investor, using the latest market information, data analysis and reports to determine portfolio holding.
Trader 360/year $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.

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

Casual Investor

The comprehensiveness of investment tools are not the most important factor in selecting the best broker for the Casual Investor.

Casual Investors need a high level of client services and support to be available, as well as excellent education 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 sharemarket. Of the investors surveyed by the ASX in 2014 who owned shares directly, 51% said they were “not very knowledgeable” or “not at all knowledgeable” about the sharemarket.

Cost also makes a big difference for Casual Investors, because the fee is a higher percentage of the investment amount compared to investors trading in higher amounts or more frequently.

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, cost is also important.


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.

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

Other things we look for

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 and application processes
  • 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 chartings available
  • Education 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
  • Ability to trade in local and international securities or markets
  • 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.


Compare Online Share Trading Platforms for your investor profile

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