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 eToro and DEGIRO, two brokers available to Europeans. We also look at the difficulties of investing through a broker, and see how Curvo solves them. By the end, you'll be able to determine which option suits you best to invest your savings.
Why you shouldn't invest through your bank
For many making their first steps into the world of investing, their bank is the one-stop shop for anything related to finance. Unfortunately, they are likely not your best partner when it comes to investing.
First, they try to sell their expensive actively managed funds to you. In an active fund, the fund managers try to outsmart other investors in search for a higher return. But the European finance regulators found out that the majority of them don't succeed. On top of that, the bank charges hefty fees to invest in the fund. Good for the bank, bad for you. You're better off investing through another means.
Why a broker
Through a broker, you gain access to the financial markets, where you can buy stocks, ETFs, bonds and even some more complex products like derivatives. It's cheaper than investing in an active fund offered by a bank. Alternatively, most banks offer brokerage services. Yet again, it's the most expensive option. Specialised brokers offer a better experience at a cheaper cost.
So let's compare two such brokers available to Europeans: eToro and DEGIRO. We are going to see how they differ on important criteria like cost, trust, and ease of use.
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. They've been at the forefront of the movement to make investing more "mainstream", as with 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 started with stocks, but you can now also trade commodities and cryptocurrencies on the platform.
"Commission free" trading
eToro was one of the first brokers to offer "commission free" trading. However, things are never really free and you'll end up paying in other ways: through currency conversions, withdrawal fees, inactivity fees, spreads...
Inactivity fee encourages trading, likely at your detriment
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.
CFDs are very risky
eToro is popular for trading CFDs. A CFD, or contract for difference, is a risky type of derivative that allows you to speculate on the price movements of underlying stocks or currencies, without actually owning the underlying asset. Instead, a CFD is a contract between you and eToro, in which you agree to exchange the difference in the price of the underlying asset between the opening and closing of the contract.
One of the main risks is their high leverage, which means that you can control a large position with a relatively small amount of capital. While leverage can amplify gains, it can also amplify losses, and investors can quickly lose more than their initial investment. Additionally, CFDs can be complex and difficult to understand, particularly if you're new to investing. Before trading in CFDs, you should carefully consider the terms of the CFD contract, including fees, margin requirements, and the potential risks and rewards.
Because of these reasons, most investors lose money when trading CFDs. As eToro says themselves on their website, 77% of eToro customers lose money when trading CFDs.
Social trading with CopyTrader
eToro is unique in the brokerage world as it offers social trading features. Essentially you can replicate in a couple of clicks some of the best performers on eToro who openly share their portfolios. Some of these include ETFs and have had significant historical returns. For example, there's one popular portfolio which is modeled around Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and the SEC's public information on the market positions. The minimum deposit to use the "Copy a portfolio" feature is $500, a bit more than the $200 minimum deposit to start with eToro.
eToro allows you to buy slices of your favourite companies. So instead of having to buy whole units of shares, you can buy fractions. This is useful for stocks that trade at high prices, like Chipotle that trades at around $1,500. Another benefit is that all your money is working for you as you don't leave cash on the side doing nothing.
Handling of taxes
eToro does not take care of the taxes you're due, wherever you're located. They only provide you with statements and documents to help you figure this out for yourself.
For Belgian investors 🇧🇪
As for the other countries, eToro provides little comfort to Belgian investors.
Belgian transaction tax
You have to handle the Belgian transaction tax (also known as the TOB or “beurstaks” or “taxe boursière”). Every time you buy or sell anything, you have to pay this tax which ranges from 0.12% to 1.32%. You have to make the calculations yourself and then declare and pay it. Failure to do so may result in a hefty fine from the taxman.
Tax on dividends
As well as not declaring the Belgian transaction tax, you'll also have to declare and pay the tax on dividends (“roerende voorheffing” or “précompte mobilier”). You need to pay a 30% tax on any dividend you perceive through the stocks or ETFs that you should. You need to make sure that you calculate and declare them in your yearly tax declaration.
Tax on capital gains on bond funds (Reynders tax)
There’s a 30% tax on the profits you make when you choose to sell the bonds in your portfolio. Again, eToro pushes the responsibility to you for declaring the right amounts in your tax declaration.
Declaration of your eToro account to the Belgian authorities
As eToro is a foreign broker, you’ll also need to declare your foreign account to the Belgian National Bank. It’s a simple enough process that you only need to do once, and it takes a couple of minutes. You'll also need to mention it every year in your tax declaration.
Learn more about all the taxes applicable to Belgian investors.
👍 Pros of eToro
As you can tell, we're not big fans of the product. It encourages trading that will be detrimental to your investment returns, and they put you in charge of all the administration and taxation around investing.
- Social trading: the CopyTrader option is quite neat if you want to follow a strategy that works.
- "Free" trading: no transaction fee sounds great, except that you'll end up paying through one of the many other fees they charge.
- Fractional shares: this is a big benefit as you get to buy slices of shares. Helpful if you wish to buy an expensive stock like Apple.
👎 Downsides of eToro
- Only trade in US dollars: revenue from conversions between € and USD seems core to their business model.
- Complicated fees: eToro does not charge transaction fees, but there are many other fees to be aware of: spreads, currency conversion fees, withdrawal fees, inactivity fee, spread fees.. The complexity makes it hard to predict how much you'll end up paying for the type and frequency of investing you do.
- Minimum deposit is $100 or $200, depending on where you live. Yes, you read that right, it's in USD!
- Inactivity fees: if you stop using eToro or aren't actively trading, they start charging you $10 per month. This isn't counter-productive when adopting a "buy and hold" investment strategy.
- Not many ETFs available: with only 263 ETFs available, eToro has a small selection in comparison to other brokers.
- You have to figure out the taxes yourself: they don't help you with paying or declaring the taxes you're due. This can be an administrative timesink, as well as a potential risk for a fine if you're not careful.
- Not suited for the buy-and-hold investor: their app really focuses on traders. You can not only trade stocks and ETFs, but also crypto-currencies and CFDs... Beyond being intimidating to beginners, these are risky instruments that you need to understand well before investing with them.
- Not headquartered in the EU: although they're based in Cyprus for their EU operations, they are originally from Israel.
The founders of DEGIRO were former employees of BinckBank and launched their online trading platform in 2013. It is now part of the German Flatex bank. It has thousands of ETFs and stocks to choose from and it’s one of the brokers on the market that offers the best value.
DEGIRO is available in a wide range of European countries:
DEGIRO charges some of the lowest fees on the market. They even have a large selection of ETFs as part of their core selection that cost only €1 for each trade. IWDA, a popular ETF offered by iShares, is one of those. Every month, the first transaction of IWDA on the Euronext Amsterdam stock exchange will cost just €1. Subsequent transactions for IWDA that same month will also cost just €1 provided:
- the transaction is in the same direction (i.e. buy/sell) as the first transaction
- the value of the transaction is at least €1,000
For ETFs that are not part of the free selection, DEGIRO charges a €3 fee. Read more about the costs of investing with DEGIRO.
Handling of taxes
DEGIRO will provide you with an annual report to help you file your taxes. It's usually provided by the end of February or early March. They will also withhold tax for you automatically depending on where you are registered with an account.
For Belgian investors 🇧🇪
DEGIRO provides some comfort to Belgian investors as they handle the Belgian transaction tax (also known as the TOB or “beurstaks” or “taxe boursière”). Every time you buy or sell anything, you have to pay this tax which ranges from 0.12% to 1.32%. DEGIRO makes sure the tax is paid and declared for you.
However, they do not handle the following:
- Tax on dividends (“roerende voorheffing” or “précompte mobilier”). A 30% tax on the dividends you perceive through the shares that you hold. You need to make sure that you calculate and declare them in your yearly tax declaration.
- Tax on capital gains on bond funds (also known as the Reynders tax). There’s a 30% tax on the profits you make when you choose to sell the bonds in your portfolio. Again, DEGIRO pushes the responsibility to you for declaring the right amounts in your tax declaration.
You also have to declare your DEGIRO account to the Belgian National Bank as DEGIRO is a foreign broker.
Depending on the makeup of your portfolio, taxes are an important consideration to take in mind when choosing a broker. They're an administrative burden that take time and effort. Failing to pay or declare a tax can also lead to a costly fine. We’ve written extensively about taxes Belgian investors should know if you wish to dig deeper into the topic.
Issues with the Dutch regulator
Throughout its existence, DEGIRO has had numerous run-ins with the AFM, the Dutch regulator for the finance industry. For example, they were fined in 2018 because they did not implement an adequate policy for conducting their business with integrity. As we’re dealing with our long-term savings, safety and trust is vital.
You can only buy whole shares
A popular investment strategy is euro-cost averaging, where you invest periodically instead of investing large lump sums in one go. You invest at fixed times, for instance every month, regardless of how the markets are performing. Most people are paid monthly, so it makes sense for their investments to follow the same pattern.
Unfortunately you can’t buy fractional shares with DEGIRO. This means you need to buy whole units. Following a euro-cost averaging strategy can then become tedious and expensive.
Let’s take the IWDA ETF as an example again. At the time of writing, it’s sold at €71.12. If you contribute €200 towards your savings, you’re only able to buy 2 whole units for €142.24. The rest of the money is sitting on a cash account not working for you. Due to this, many investors have lots of cash sitting around waiting to be invested.
👍 Pros of DEGIRO
- Cheap: they have some of the lowest fees of almost all brokers available to us in Europe especially if you choose ETFs which are part of their "free selection".
- Large selection of ETFs: they have such a large variety of options available for European investors.
- They help with withholding taxes: this can be a significant time saver for you so you don't have to calculate everything yourself.
👎 Downsides of DEGIRO
- Confusing interface of the app: the app is intimidating to use if you're new to investing as you’ll encounter some technical terminology and features. DEGIRO offers many types of securities: turbos, warrants, stocks, ETFs… And when you place an order, you also have to choose between a market order, a limit order, a stop-loss order, amongst others.
- Issues with the regulator: they've regularly had problems with the Dutch financial authorities (AFM) over the years which doesn’t give much confidence.
- No fractional shares: this can be frustrating as you have to purchase whole units of shares. Essentially, we’re leaving money on the side not doing anything.
- Transfer fees: transferring your assets away from DEGIRO to another brokerage costs €10 per position and “external costs” that are unclear.
The easier way: Curvo
When you choose a broker, you then have to figure out what to buy, when to buy, understand the tax implications of your decisions, rebalance your investments and make sure they stay in line with your goals and risk tolerance.
We realised the difficulties of investing through brokers like eToro and DEGIRO. That's why we created Curvo: the right investment decisions are made for you so you don't have to worry, relying on NNEK, a Dutch investment firm supervised by the Dutch AFM.
Based on index investing
We are convinced index investing through ETFs are the best way for most people to invest and grow their savings. 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.
There are many benefits to index investing:
- Low-cost. ETFs and index funds are inexpensive to run and are therefore cheap for investors.
- Diversified. One of the goals of index investing is to diversify as much as possible. By diversifying across many countries and sectors, you eliminate unnecessary risk.
- Rooted in the real economy. Most index funds and ETFs invest either in stocks or bonds. Those are backed by real companies, with real factories, employees, intellectual property, and so on. This is unlike, for example, the crypto industry, where the value of a currency or token is mostly determined by its potential rather than by concrete applications.
- Start investing with low amounts. You don't need a large sum upfront to start investing in ETFs, making it accessible to anyone (for instance for young people).
The challenges of investing through a broker
You can invest in ETFs through a broker. But that comes with challenges:
- The allocation of your portfolio is in your hands: you need to figure out how to build the right allocation that meets your long-term goals.
- You need to do your own homework: figuring out how to start and understanding the intricacies of investing in ETFs takes an effort. Yet it's important, because in investing the devil is often in the details.
- It takes time: send money to your broker monthly and then make the purchases.
- Costly for monthly contributions: if you wish to invest on a monthly basis, you’ll have to pay a lot in broker fees. Also, as you buy units and can’t buy fractions, you’ll always be left with cash on your account.
- Learn how to rebalance: if you have multiple funds in your portfolio, how will you rebalance? Quarterly or yearly? How do you decide?
- Keep track of your portfolio: you may have to set up a spreadsheet to stay on top of things!
- Understand taxes: this can be complicated and they also often change.
- Discipline: it requires self-confidence and discipline to stay the course.
- Brokers want you to trade: the majority of brokers make money on you trading. So as a buy-and-holders, you are not a good customer to them.
Curvo solves all the complexities of good investing
Rather than having to pick the right stocks or ETFs among the thousands available through these brokers, through Curvo 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 are managed by NNEK, a Dutch investment firm licensed by the Dutch regulator (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.
👍 Pros of Curvo
- Diversified portfolio set up for you: the best portfolio for you is built based on your time horizon and financial goals. Simply answer a short questionnaire and you’ll get everything set up for you. The point is that you don't need to decide which ETFs to buy. Each portfolio is managed by NNEK, a Dutch investment firm supervised by the Dutch regulator (AFM).
- 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 everything on autopilot.
- Fractional shares: all the money you send towards your portfolio is fully invested. No need to leave the cash on the side, everything is invested for you.
- 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.
- Withdraw at any time: there’s no long-term contract or exit fees if you wish to stop investing.
- 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”.
- Business model aligned with your goals: brokers want you to trade, yet buy-and-hold works best for most people.
👎 Downsides of Curvo
- Price: It’s more expensive than investing yourself through a broker. As you pay a yearly fee on your assets, it’s more expensive in the long run than managing the investments yourself.
- You can’t choose what to invest in: Each portfolio is tailored to you and invests in over 7,500 companies. But you can’t select the stocks or particular ETFs that you want to invest in.
We have successfully launched the app in Belgium and are now expanding across the EU. Download the app to be added to the waitlist for your country and be notified when we're available.
Comparison of eToro vs DEGIRO vs Curvo
In this article we highlighted the key differences between eToro and DEGIRO, two foreign brokers accessible to Europeans. 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. DEGIRO is more cost-effective than eToro if you invest in ETFs from their core selection of free ETFs. 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 the ease of use of the app, or the difficulty of investing your savings on a monthly basis.
We also highlighted the challenges of investing yourself through a broker. We built Curvo to make good investing easy and accessible to all Europeans, and we explained its benefits. Feel free to explore Curvo's app if you wish to learn more.
Which bank is behind DEGIRO?
The German bank Flatex is behind the DEGIRO trading platform.
How much does DEGIRO charge in Belgium?
DEGIRO has some of the lowest fees available for European investors. Some ETFs that are in their core selection are even free of transaction costs. Learn all about the costs of ETF investing with DEGIRO.
What's the best broker in Belgium?
The answer is: it depends on what's important to you! Brokers vary in terms of convenience, safety and price. We suggest you go through our list of best brokers in Belgium for a complete comparison.
Can you use DEGIRO in Belgium?
A first frustration of DEGIRO appears when trying to sign up: they don't have a local degiro.be website. You have to choose either the Netherlands (degiro.nl) or France (degiro.fr) to set up your account.
What you should do now
- Determine if you're more of an active or passive investor. Our comparison can help you decide.
- Consider if a broker is the right way for you to invest.
- If you want to manage your investments through a broker, assess if eToro or DEGIRO suits you better based on the pros and cons we highlighted. Or explore one of the many other brokers available for Europeans.
- But if you want to spend the least amount of time managing your investments, Curvo may be a solution!