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 Trading 212, a Cyprus-based 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 Trading 212 is a right broker for you to invest your savings, or if another broker suits you better.
Pros and cons of using Trading 212
The story of Trading 212
Trading 212 was founded in 2004 by Ivan Ashminov and Borislav Nedialkov. It has grown to be one of the leading brokers in Europe as it offers "commission free investing" which we'll dig into the details later in the review.
They have grown to roughly 2.5m users around Europe and they grew significantly during COVID as they began to offer commission-free trading. They hold over €4bn in customer assets.
Essentially they offer two options for investors. Either you sign up to the "Invest Account" which offers commission-free investing in stocks and ETFs or the "CFD Account" which is targeted for more advanced traders. We'll focus on the Trading 212 Invest account for this review.
It's free to use Trading 212. There's no commission when you're buying or selling stocks. They also don't charge any custody or inactivity fees.
It's free to create an account and also, there's no membership fee. If it's all free, how do they make money?
Currency conversion fees
Even though you're most likely going to use Trading 212 from the EU if you're reading this, if you choose to buy an ETF or a stock in USD, you'll pay a 0.15% fee. The conversions between € and USD seems to play an important role in their business model.
They encourage CFDs (which are very risky)
Although we're focused on just reviewing Trading 212 Invest, it's important to take a look at their CFD proposal which is the bulk of Trading 212's revenue as a company. 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 Trading 212, 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.
Fees for ETFs
Trading 212 is the cheapest broker on the market for European investors. For instance, it costs nothing to buy €1,000 of the iShares Core S&P 500 ETF (IE00B5BMR087).
Convenience of Trading 212
Targeted for traders
They offer all sorts of options for investors. Considering it's been developed with traders in mind, it's no surprise that it's full of options for you to invest.
Automated savings plans
Yes. Trading 212 offers a feature they call "AutoInvest" which allows you to build a diversified portfolio and customise it to your unique circumstances.
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. Fortunately Trading 212 offers fractional shares. This gives you the flexibility of investing from €1.
Trading 212 has a really solid customer support. They answer queries quickly through their chat and email support.
🇮🇹 Declarative regime
As an Italian investor, you'll receive a yearly report from Trading 212. 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 Trading 212 puts the burden on you as an investor and they have previously made errors in their tax reports.
🇧🇪 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 Trading 212 provides no support for this.
🇧🇪 Dividend tax
Trading 212 doesn't 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.
🇧🇪 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 Trading 212 doesn't withhold this tax for you. You will have to calculate and declare it yourself.
🇧🇪 Does Trading 212 require declaring the account to the NBB?
Yes, as Trading 212 is a foreign account so you have to declare to the National Bank of Belgium as well as on your tax returns every year.
Setting up an account
Let's dig into the details of setting up your Trading 212 account for the first-time.
You can't create an account if you're resident in Belgium
The reasons aren't particularly clear but you're not able to sign up to a Trading 212 account if you're a resident in Belgium. This seems to be the only country which is blocked in the EU to register an account.
Time to open an account
Setting up an account through the app is possible. As you need to run through a series of questions concerning security, profile, education, experience, product knowledge, etc… which are easier to answer from a computer rather than on your mobile phone. The opening time of an account on Trading 212 is usually one business day.
Create an account on the web and mobile
It's quite easy to register an account using Trading 212. Do make sure you choose the right account type when registering for the first time. You fill in your details, upload your documents stating who you are and then you're account will be reviewed and checked. To open an account, you'll need your IBAN plus a copy of our passport or ID.
The minimum deposit required is €10 so it's one of the most accessible apps for European investors.
Ease of use: 3/5
As it's purely a trading app, Trading 212 shows too many details that aren't very relevant to most investors, especially for buy-and-hold index investors. The app is quite nicely designed though and easy to use. On the web version, there are a lot of options investors don't need to see. It remains complicated for beginner investors. That's why we've rated it a 3 out of 5!
Children accounts and joint accounts
No, you're unable to open children accounts or joint accounts on Trading 212.
Moving assets is not easy with Trading 212
Unfortunately you're unable to move your assets from Trading 212 to another broker. You're limited to withdrawing all your assets before you can start investing elsewhere through another broker.
Is Trading 212 safe?
Who is the regulator?
Trading 212 is a regulated entity in the European Union and is authorised by the Cyprus Securities Exchange Commission (CySEC).
Have they had any issues with the regulator?
No, it doesn't seem like they had any known issues with the regulator.
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 Cyprus.
Is your cash protected by the deposit guarantee scheme?
Interestingly enough and quite rare for European brokers, your cash isn't protected by the European Bank deposit scheme (up to €100,000). However, they have a separate insurance protection by Lloyds Bank up to €1m for your assets. This provides you with some sense of comfort for your assets.
Does Trading 212 do securities lending?
Yes, they do. They lend your shares to "reputable" borrowers. In return, you receive daily interest and collateral. Note that you receive 50% of the interest earned each day that your shares are lent out. Do watch out as this option is enabled by default. They have plans to allow you the choice directly but this has not been implemented yet by Trading 212. This is how Trading 212 makes the bulk of their revenues: through CFDs and the interest rates. Learn more abut the process here.
Does Trading 212 do payment for order flow?
It doesn't seem like Trading 212 does payment for order flow (PFOF). It is an important source of revenue for many new brokers, including another German provider Trade Republic. This practice involves routing your orders to certain market makers, who then pay the broker for the right of executing these orders. PFOF can work at your detriment, as brokers may prioritise payment over executing the best possible trade for you.
Specifically for Belgians, we also compared Trading 212 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 Trading 212, 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.
Trading 212 is a really accessible broker for Europeans. Although it's better suited to more experienced traders as it has a variety of options and can get a bit confusing at first. It feels a bit daunting to a first-time investor. The pros of Trading 212 is that it handles fractional shares and it's the cheapest option on the market. Unfortunately it doesn't help you with your taxes and this can be burdensome for first-time investors. Therefore we can't recommend it as a broker if you're just starting your journey in investing.
Questions you may have
How does Trading 212 make money?
It makes money through currency conversion and 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 Trading 212, in which you agree to exchange the difference in the price of the underlying asset between the opening and closing of the contract.
Do I need to declare my Trading 212 account to the Belgian authorities?
Yes. Since your Trading 212 account is foreign, you need to declare it to the Belgian National Bank and the tax authorities. Read our guide on declaring your foreign account.
Is Trading 212 trustworthy?
Yes. It hasn't had any issues with the regulators and your assets are protected up to €1m by Lloyds.