Choosing a broker is an important step when investing. Yet there are many different options available in Belgium, so picking the right one for you can be challenging. We compare investing in ETFs through MEXEM and DEGIRO, two brokers available to European 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 table shows an overview of how MEXEM compares to DEGIRO for different criteria. Read on to get the full details!
Story of MEXEM 🇨🇾
MEXEM was launched in 2018 and grew across Europe quite rapidly as a fast growing broker. They formed an initial and crucial partnership with Interactive Brokers which allows them to offer a variety of investment choices. The broker LYNX also benefits from a partnership like this.
Fees for ETFs
MEXEM is one of the cheapest options for European investors. For instance, buying €1,000 of the popular ETF IWDA by iShares, that tracks the MSCI World index, would cost only €2.40. This makes it an attractive proposition for putting your savings to work.
MEXEM targets experienced traders, offers a range of complex order types but allows for fractional shares for euro-cost averaging strategies. While it excels in customer support, including WhatsApp, it requires investors to manually handle tax reports and declarations. MEXEM manages the stock exchange transaction tax (TOB) but does not assist with the dividend tax or Reynders tax, and requires investors to declare their accounts to the National Bank of Belgium annually.
Setting up an account
MEXEM offer fast account openings and you should have your account set up within a day. A major drawback is that MEXEM doesn't use itsme. This means you'll have to get your ID card or passport out for identification. They don't support children accounts but you can create a joint account with your partner.
Although MEXEM does participate in securities lending, it's entirely up to you whether you opt-in for the service. We found that MEXEM is quite transparent as a broker when it comes to this. Note that MEXEM is under the supervision of the CySEC which is the Cypriot regulator.
The full review
Discover all the pros and cons in our review of MEXEM.
Story of DEGIRO 🇳🇱🇩🇪
The founders of DEGIRO were former employees of BinckBank. They founded the company originally in 2008 and originally focused on professional investors. However, they started to reach success once they launched their online trading platform in 2013. They quickly grew across the European Union and now serve more than 2.5 million customers which makes it one of the largest brokers.
DEGIRO 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. Like many brokers, they started with stocks, but you can now also trade commodities and make margin calls.
Fees for ETFs
Essentially, DEGIRO charges two types of fees:
- transaction fees
- connectivity fees
The transaction fee depends on the inclusion of the ETF in their core selection. For those ETFs, the transaction fee consists only of a €1.00 handling fee, instead of €3.00 for ETFs not in the core selection. There's a caveat though: you need to buy the ETF on the right exchange. ETFs are traded on stock exchanges. Famous ones are the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or Nasdaq, or Xetra and Euronext Amsterdam in Europe.
As an example, buying €1,000 of the popular iShares MSCI World Accumulating ETF (known as its ticker IWDA) when using the Dutch DEGIRO will cost just a €1 transaction fee when buying it Euronext Amsterdam.
A peculiarity of DEGIRO in comparison to other brokers is that they charge a connectivity fee of €2.50 per stock exchange per year. This means that you need to pay €2.50 in a given year for each stock exchange where you've purchased or sold anything.
As an investor, you have to choose which exchange to use in order to reduce the fees. DEGIRO waives the connectivity cost for the home exchanges:
- 🇳🇱 DEGIRO.nl: no fee for Euronext Amsterdam and Euronext Brussels
- 🇫🇷 DEGIRO.fr: no fee for Euronext Paris and Euronext Brussels
- 🇮🇹 DEGIRO.it: no fee for the MTA Italian exchange
DEGIRO's fee structure varies per country which can make it confusing.
For Italian investors, you'll receive an annual tax report from DEGIRO. You'll have to manually take that date and input it into your tax reports. You'll have to declare your income, capital gains as well as the IVAFE (wealth tax). Note that you'll have to complete this manually as DEGIRO puts the burden on you as an investor and they have previously made errors in their tax reports.
For Belgian investors, the handling of the stock exchange transaction tax (TOB) is what DEGIRO sets apart from the other foreign brokers. However, you're still responsible for declaring any dividends yourself, as well as the Reynders tax. On top, you have to declare your DEGIRO account to the Belgian National Bank.
Setting up an account
Account openings for DEGIRO are quick and usually only take a day. A drawback is that DEGIRO does not use itsme, meaning that you'll have to get out your ID card or passport for identification. They also don't support children accounts nor joint accounts.
DEGIRO is one of the few brokers that have had past issues with regulators, namely the Dutch regulator (AFM). They also lend out your securities, as well as receive payment for order flow, a controversial revenue model for brokers.
The full review
Learn about all the pros and cons of investing with DEGIRO in our in-depth review.
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 LYNX or DEGIRO, 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).
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.
In this article we highlighted the key differences between MEXEM and DEGIRO, two foreign brokers accessible to Belgians. DEGIRO is slightly more cost-effective than MEXEM 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 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.
Questions you may have
What is the best investment platform?
The answer is: it depends on what's important to you and your investment goals! Apps all vary in terms of convenience, returns, safety and price. We suggest you go through our list of best investment apps in Belgium for a more complete comparison.
Can I trust MEXEM?
We think you most likely can. Although they are headquartered in Cyprus (which frankly doesn't provide that much confidence), it helps that they are powered by Interactive Brokers and have an office in Belgium. And as far as we know, they haven't had any issues with the regulators, unlike DEGIRO.
What is an alternative to DEGIRO in Europe?
There are a few alternatives available for European investors. These include:
- Trade Republic
- Saxo Bank
We suggest you go through our list of best brokers for in-depth comparison of the options.
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 MEXEM or DEGIRO suits you better based on the pros and cons we highlighted. Or explore one of the many other brokers available to Belgians.
- But if you want to spend the least amount of time managing your investments, Curvo may be a solution!