Choosing a broker is an important step when starting to invest. There are many different options available, so picking the right one for you is challenging. We take a closer look at Trade Republic, the popular German broker. We'll look at the pros and cons, the fees, convenience of setting up an account and safety. By the end, you'll be able to decide if Trade Republic is a right broker for you to invest your savings, or if another broker suits you better.
Pros and cons of Trade Republic
The story of Trade Republic
Trade Republic was founded in 2015 in Munich under its original name Neon Trading. It was incubated by Comdirect Bank and is now headquartered in Berlin, Germany.
Trade Republic is a "neo-broker" meaning it's modern and fresh in comparison to older brokers. They are very much like the Robinhood app but built for Europeans. They are backed by some of largest venture capital firms in the world including Sequoia. In total they have raised over €1.1bn in order to become the leading trading app in Europe and have launched in 17 countries. Trade Republic claim to have over two million customers, spread across the countries they've launched in.
You can use their service either through a mobile app or via their desktop version. Through Trade Republic you can buy over 9,500 stocks and ETFs as well as different cryptocurrencies.
Trade Republic have some of the lowest fees in Europe.
It's free to create an account. Also, there's no membership fee. So in most cases, you'll only pay a transaction fee for whenever you buy or sell something. If you just want to buy some shares or ETFs, a transaction fee of €1 is applied. This competitive pricing makes it an attractive choice for investors looking to build a diversified portfolio of ETFs without breaking the bank.
Following Robinhood's model in the US, the transaction fees are low:
Currency conversion costs
If you receive a dividend in US dollars (or in another currency) for one of your ETFs or stocks, Trade Republic will automatically charge a currency conversion fee. This is because they will always convert the dividend into euros.
You can buy through only one exchange
When you place an order with Trade Republic, it is always executed on the same exchange: the Lang & Schwarz Exchange which is part of the Hamburg Stock Exchange. Trade Republic receives a fee from this exchange for every order they send to it. It's unclear how much Trade Republic earns for each of your trades. This revenue model is called payment for order flow (more on that below).
They don't offer options, futures or CFD
Thankfully Trade Republic does not offer any of these options, contrary to similar apps like eToro. For instance, a CFD (or "contract for difference"), is a risky type of financial derivative that allows you to speculate on the price movements of underlying stocks or currencies, without actually owning the underlying asset.
Fees for ETFs
Trade Republic really 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 €1. This makes it an attractive proposition for putting your savings to work.
Convenience of Trade Republic
Automated savings plans
Trade Republic offers a service free of transaction fees for buying ETFs through their savings plans, where you buy a fixed amount every month. It works very smoothly and you can choose the date of when the investments take place.
Interest on uninvested cash
At the time of writing, Trade Republic offers interest of 4% per year on your uninvested cash. You have a €50,000 limit but it's still useful if you're looking for a guaranteed return. It's a better rate than most savings accounts offer!
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. A big benefit of using Trade Republic is that you're able to buy fractions of shares. This means you can buy parts of an expensive ETF or stock. This is useful if you have lower amounts to invest periodically.
It's quite poor. There's no phone service and the best way to contact them is via email or the form on the website. There's also no live chat.
We've had mixed experiences when contacting them. They sent mostly templated responses to our specific queries, which doesn't inspire much confidence that a human is reading our questions. Also, as you can tell from the screenshot above, they don't even respond to queries the right way. Everything they do seems to be automated by bots.
🇮🇹 Declaratory regime
As an Italian investor, you'll receive an annual tax report from Trade Republic. 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 Trade Republic puts the burden on you.
🇧🇪 TOB ("beurstaks" / "taxe boursière")
There’s a tax on the transaction every time you buy or sell a security in Belgium. The rules concerning the tax rate are complicated, also for ETFs. Depending on the characteristics of the ETF, the transaction tax varies between 0.12% and 1.32%.
Unfortunately Trade Republic doesn't help you with this tax.
🇧🇪 Dividend tax
Trade Republic does not help you with the dividend tax. In Belgium, any dividend you perceive is taxed at 30%. Accumulating funds, which directly reinvest dividends, are a way around this tax. On the other hand, distributing funds distribute their dividends, which means they're taxable.
Unfortunately, Trade Republic doesn't withhold this tax for you. So be careful in your choice of funds if you want to avoid paying the dividend tax or even having to declaring it every year in your tax form.
🇧🇪 Reynders tax
For ETFs that consist of at least 10% bonds, there is a 30% tax on the profits made when selling. For example, if you bought a bond ETF at €100 and end up selling it later for €130, your net profit will only be €21. The other €9 will go to the Belgian state through this tax.
Unfortunately Trade Republic doesn't withhold this tax for you. You will have to calculate and declare it yourself.
🇧🇪 Does Trade Republic require declaring the account to the NBB?
Yes, as Trade Republic is a foreign broker, you have to declare your account to the National Bank of Belgium as well as on your yearly tax declaration.
Setting up an account
Let's dig into the details of setting up your Trade Republic account for the first-time.
Time to open an account
As they are already used by over two million Europeans, Trade Republic has one of the smoothest apps to create an account with. You'll need a valid ID or passport. You need to be tax resident for the country where you're signing up from. When we signed up, it took only a few hours to be approved and to start investing.
Create an account on the web and mobile
You can choose to create an account through either the web or mobile. Both options are well built and relatively easy to get set up. However, you have to own a smartphone to have an account with Trade Republic.
Ease of use: 3/5
Trade Republic is a really smooth app to use. It offers instant ways to send money towards your account using Apple Pay which is a benefit. According to Trustpilot, they have a rating of 4/5. Many complaints are linked to their poor customer service and recent app update which makes the design a bit harder to navigate within the app. Essentially Trade Republic is a trading app so it shows many details that aren't very relevant to most investors, especially for buy-and-hold index investors. That's why we've rated it a 3 out of 5!
Children accounts and joint accounts
You can't create a joint account, or an account for your child. You are only able to create an account for yourself, in your name.
Is Trade Republic safe?
Who is the regulator?
Trade Republic is headquartered in Berlin, Germany. They are supervised by BaFin, the German regulator.
Have they had any issues with the regulator?
Similarly to Robinhood in the US, Trade Republic was under a lot of scrutiny by the regulator with regards to the GameStop saga. A total of 4,426 complaints were filed to BaFin in January 2021 as the app restricted the purchase of six stocks for a few hours. However, BaFin had concluded that no market manipulation took place and they were exonerated of all blame.
How much of your assets are protected by the investor protection scheme?
Your assets are protected by the standard €20,000 European investor protection scheme as they are based in Germany.
Is your cash protected by the deposit guarantee scheme?
Yes, your money is protected by the German €100,000 deposit guarantee scheme.
Does Trade Republic do securities lending?
Fortunately Trade Republic does not lend your securities.
Does Trade Republic do payment for order flow?
Yes, Trade Republic makes money from selling your market orders. As written in their terms: “In connection with the execution of transactions in financial instruments, Trade Republic may receive payments from the operators of the execution venues or counterparties of the execution transactions” (see section 4.2. of their customer agreement).
This revenue model is called "payment for order flow" (or PFOF). It was first popularised by Robinhood in the US. And over the years, it has become controversial and scrutinised by regulators because it can work at the disadvantage of the investor in an opaque way. Traditional brokers send your orders to the market maker that offers the best price for you, meaning the lowest possible price when you buy a stock or ETF, and the highest price when selling. But a broker that does PFOF will send it to whichever market maker that pays them the highest fee for your order. And in the case of Trade Republic, there's really just one market maker that executes your orders.
So although Trade Republic charges very low transaction fees, you may end up paying through worse prices for your purchases and sales of securities. For instnace, the Dutch regulator AFM found out that PFOF led to worse prices for investors trading Dutch stocks:
The analyses found that the majority of retail client transactions on the two PFOF trading venues were executed at prices worse than transactions on the reference trading venues. On the non-PFOF trading venue, most of the retail client transactions have similar execution prices when compared to the reference trading venues.
The Spanish regulator, the CNMV, came to a similar conclusion for Spanish stocks:
It shows that for the trades executed on behalf of the PFOF broker’s clients through the PFOF TV on Spanish stocks during the first half of 2021, best execution was seldom achieved (only a 3.3% of the trades) and in most cases (86%) the prices obtained by clients were worse than the worse alternative in the group of comparable trading venues. The average price deterioration is estimated at €1.09 per €1,000 traded.
As a result, the EU proposed a ban on payment for order flow which will be implemented by 30 June 2026. However, some EU jurisdictions are exempt, including Germany where Trade Republic is based.
Trade Republic vs other brokers
We have also compared Trade Republic with other brokers if you want to dig deeper:
The easier way: Curvo
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 a broker like Trade Republic, 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.
Trade Republic is clearly one of the most cost-effective way of investing your savings in Europe. Due to the fact that Trade Republic has a frowned-upon business model with payment for order flow, you may seek a better option long-term for your savings. 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 and their help with taxes.
Questions you may have
Is Trade Republic reliable?
Yes it is. Trade Republic is regulated by the German regulator (BaFin) which means you are protected by the European Investor Protection Scheme up to €20,000.
What are the transaction fees on Trade Republic?
It's a standard €1 fee to purchase a security using Trade Republic. Discover all the costs when investing with Trade Republic.