Choosing a broker is an important step when investing. There are many different options available, so picking the right one for you is challenging. We compare investing in ETFs through Bolero and eToro, two brokers available to Belgian investors. The goal of this article is to help you find out which broker is best for you for investing in ETFs. We’ll compare the brokers based on their fees, convenience, the ease of setting up an account and importantly the safety of your assets.

The overview

The table shows an overview of how Bolero compares to eToro for different criteria. Read on to get the full details!

Bolero

✅ Pros of Bolero ❌ Cons of Bolero
Handles all taxes for you High fees
Integration with itsme No fractional shares
Cheaper fees for the ETF playlist Confusing interface
Not suited for monthly investing
No savings plans

Story of Bolero 🇧🇪

Bolero's website is fairly traditional for a bank!

Bolero is one of the first online brokers in Belgium and launched in 1999. The name Bolero stands for Belgian OnLine Exchange Realtime Operated. It's owned and run by KBC Bank and allows Belgians to invest in many different types of assets. Note that you don't have to be a KBC customer to use Bolero. Bolero has a wide range of ETFs to choose from and continues to be one of the most popular brokers in Belgium although it also charges some of the highest fees.

Fees for ETFs

Although Bolero recently reduced their pricing, unfortunately it's still one of the most expensive brokers in Belgium. As part of their new pricing, they launched the Bolero ETF playlist. Essentially, it reduces the price for a specific list of ETFs. They inspired themselves from DEGIRO's core selection in order to be competitive for more Belgians. For example, buying €1,000 of the IWDA ETF will cost you €5.00 in transaction fees.

Convenience

Savings plan ❌ No
Fractional shares ❌ No
Customer Support ✅ FAQ, phone, email
❌ No chat
TOB ✅ Bolero handles it
Dividend tax ✅ Bolero handles it
Reynders tax ✅ Bolero handles it
Declare account to the NBB ✅ No need

Bolero handles the transaction tax (TOB). They also automatically withhold and declare the 30% dividend tax on shares and distributing funds, as well as the Reynders tax on ETF profits. However, Bolero does not offer automated savings plans or fractional shares, which, combined with high fees, makes regular investing less practical, potentially necessitating larger, less frequent investments.

Setting up an account

🕰️ Time to open an account ❌ Process can take a few days
🙋 itsme ✅ Yes
📱 Mobile app ✅ Yes
💻 Web app ✅ Yes
🙂 Ease of use ⭐ 3/5
🧒 Children accounts ❌ No
💑 Joint accounts ✅ Yes

Creating a new account with Bolero is easy with itsme, but requires a Belgian phone number, and offers both individual and joint account options, with joint accounts only creatable via computer. Account approval can take a few days, but for KBC customers, this process is faster and allows easy linking of KBC current accounts for transactions. Bolero does not provide accounts for children.

Safety

Regulator FSMA
Past issues with the regulator ✅ None
Protection of financial assets €20,000
Cash safeguarded by deposit guarantee €100,000
Securities lending ✅ No
Payment for order flow ✅ No

Bolero, owned by Belgium's largest bank KBC, is regulated by the FSMA and has not had any known regulatory issues, providing a sense of safety for investors' assets. Bolero does not engage in securities lending or payment for order flow (PFOF).

The full review

Learn more about the pros and cons of Bolero in our review.

eToro

✅ Pros of eToro ❌ Cons of eToro
Fractional shares Only trade in USD
Social trading CFDs are very risky
No transaction fee Hidden fees
Inactivity fee
Banned in some countries
No help with Belgian taxes

Story of eToro 🇮🇱

Alec Baldwin was the face of eToro at one point in time!

eToro was founded in 2007 in Tel Aviv. They've grown to 30 million users around the world by giving their customers easy access the stock market. Do note that there's "only" 2.6 million users with money in their account so the number is quite inflated. eToro has been at the forefront of the movement to make investing more "mainstream", as shown through their adverts featuring Alec Baldwin. One of the unique features of eToro is its CopyTrader function, which allows users to automatically replicate the trades of successful traders on the platform. This feature is particularly useful for novice investors who may not have the experience or knowledge to make their own investment decisions. Additionally, eToro offers a social feed where you can interact with your friends, share ideas, and discuss investment strategies. They were one of the first brokers to pioneer "social investing".

Fees for ETFs

eToro has a limited selection in comparison with other brokers. They only offer 263 ETFs to purchase. Buying €1,000 of the popular IWDA ETF will cost €0 in transaction fees. However, keep note of the currency exchange fee you'll be paying. Note that you can't actually purchase IWDA but you get the same fund with an alternative ticker SWDA. Even though you're most likely going to use eToro from the Belgium (or in the EU) if you're reading this, their entire app is in USD. This is where eToro makes the bulk of their revenue from! The conversions between € and USD are core to their business model. For example, if you deposit via a bank transfer, you'll pay 0.5% exchange rate costs. If you deposit via Paypal or Sofort, you'll end up paying a 1.5% exchange rate cost.

Convenience

Savings plan ❌ No
Fractional shares ✅ Yes
Minimum deposit ❌ $100 to $500
Customer support ✅ FAQ, chat, email
❌ No phone
🇧🇪 TOB ❌ eToro doesn't handle it
🇧🇪 Dividend tax ❌ eToro doesn't handle it
🇧🇪 Reynders tax ❌ eToro doesn't handle it
🇧🇪 Declare your account to the NBB ❌ You have to do it yourself

eToro allows setting up recurring deposits, but investments must be made manually. They offer the ability to purchase fractional shares, facilitating euro-cost averaging strategies, particularly beneficial for investing smaller amounts periodically. However, eToro requires users to handle their own tax obligations irrespective of which European country you're using the app from. For example, in Italy, it's a declarative regime. For Belgian investors, you have to handle the Belgian transaction tax yourself, dividend tax, and Reynders tax on ETF profits, as well as declaring the account to the National Bank of Belgium annually, as eToro does not provide assistance in these areas.

Setting up an account

🕰️ Time to open an account ✅ Within hours
🙋 itsme ❌ No
📱 Mobile app ✅ Yes
💻 Web app ✅ Yes
🙂 Ease of use ⭐ 3/5
🧒 Children accounts ❌ No
💑 Joint accounts ❌ No

Setting up an eToro account is fast and user-friendly, requiring only an email for initial access, with full account creation necessitating ID and proof of address, typically approved within a few hours. eToro offers the convenience of signing up through both web and mobile platforms including the option to use Facebook or Google for registration. However, the app's design feels somewhat outdated, and its interface can be overwhelming with information, especially for buy-and-hold ETF investors. eToro does not offer children or joint accounts, though joint configurations for deposits are possible.

Safety

Regulator CySEC (Cyprus)
Past issues with the regulator ❌ Yes
Protection of financial assets €20,000
Cash safeguarded by deposit guarantee ❌ No
Securities lending ❌ Yes
Payment for order flow 🤷 Not clear

eToro is regulated by multiple entities including the Cyprus Securities Exchange Commission (CySEC), the FCA in the UK, and the SEC in the United States, with its headquarters in Israel. They have faced regulatory issues, including being banned in India, fined €1.3 million in Italy for misleading advertising, and fined in Canada for operating without registration. While eToro's EU operations based in Cyprus offer €20,000 protection under the European investor protection scheme, cash is not protected by the €100,000 deposit guarantee scheme. Additionally, eToro participates in securities lending and engages in payment for order flow (PFOF) in the United States, with unclear practices for European clients.

The full review

We wrote an extensive review of eToro if you wish to dig deeper on their offer.

Curvo: easier than a broker

Brokers push you to trade and to pick individual companies to invest in. Rather than picking individual stocks such as Amazon or Tesla, index funds are a way to buy the whole market, across all sectors and regions of the world. Essentially, you own a small portion of thousands of companies throughout the world. Instead of betting on a particular company, you are placing a bet on the global economy.

Rather than having to pick the right stocks or ETFs among the thousands available through Bolero or eToro, you invest in a portfolio that is tailored to you and your goals. These portfolios are composed of globally diversified index funds, meaning you earn a piece of the growth of the global economy, and they're best suited to make the most of your savings long term. And they're secure, as they're managed by NNEK, a Dutch investment firm under supervision of the regulator in the Netherlands (AFM).

How Curvo works
Investing through Curvo is an easy way to invest well in Belgium. All portfolios are managed by NNEK, a Dutch investment firm licensed with the AFM.

We believe that investing is an important tool for our generation to improve our financial well-being and to prepare for our future. We are building Curvo to fulfil that vision, by making good investing easy and accessible to all:

  • Diversified portfolio set up for you: The best portfolio for you is built by NNEK based on your time horizon and financial goals. Simply answer a short questionnaire and you’ll get everything set up for you.
  • Automated savings plans: Through Curvo’s app you can set up a monthly contribution from €50. That means that money is automatically invested for you in your portfolio. Put your savings on autopilot!
  • Fractional shares: All the money you send towards your portfolio is fully invested by NNEK. No cash is left on the side.
  • No TOB 🇧🇪 : Significant savings as the portfolios aren’t liable for the Belgian transaction tax (or "TOB"). This saves you between 0.12% and 1.32% for every time you buy or sell!
  • Sustainable investments: Your investments focus on one guiding principle: don’t invest in companies that are considered destructive to the planet. This means that sectors like non-renewable energy, vice products, weapons and controversial companies are all excluded.
  • Project yourself into the future: Through Curvo you can see how much your portfolio is expected to be worth in the future. You can answer questions like “how will increasing my monthly contribution by €50, €100 or €200 affect my long-term savings?” to give a concrete idea for the “future you”.

Learn more on how it compares to investing through a broker.

Summary

In this article we highlighted the key differences between Bolero and eToro, two brokers accessible to Belgians. Due to the fact that eToro has a limited number of ETFs and trades solely in US dollars with hidden fees, it's not a brokerage platform we can recommend. Bolero costs more but cost is not the only factor to take in consideration when you’re putting your savings to work. For instance, you should also take into account trust and safety. As Bolero is backed by Belgium's largest bank, it provides a sense of safety for our assets.

Questions you may have

Is eToro good for beginners?

Not particularly as eToro charges an inactivity fee of $10 per month if your account has been inactive for longer than 12 months. The goal is to encourage trading activity on the platform by motivating you to log in and use the platform more frequently. Through increased trading activity, eToro generates more revenue from spreads and other fees.

But for you, it will likely lead to poorer investment returns. Research has shown that frequent trading can actually reduce investment returns over the long term due to transaction costs, taxes, and market volatility. Additionally, it leads to taking investment decisions based on emotions, as well as reacting to short-term market fluctuations rather than taking a long-term investment approach.