Everything is getting more expensive, but your salary hasn’t changed in years? It’s not a good idea to simply park your money in the bank. Inflation and negative interest rates practically melt it away like the spring sun melting the last snow. But there is a simple way to make more out of your money: trading apps are the easy and affordable way to trade stocks and ETFs. We introduce 5 neobrokers.
Saving money used to be easier: even if you didn’t care and let the money lie on your current account, it would grow – at least to a small extent. Fixed deposit accounts yielded slightly more. Those who thought long-term had a building society contract, and hip business students invested their student loans in stocks. Times have changed: leaving money in a current account is not recommended, especially with negative interest rates. If you’re smart, you invest: the return possibilities are simply better with stocks and ETFs (Exchange-Traded Funds). And while in the past you needed a decent budget and know-how for trading, anyone can do it today. Technology helps.
Trading Stocks and ETFs with Apps
With easy-to-use trading apps, anyone can now buy and sell stocks and funds at low cost. You don’t need to be a financial expert or follow stock market news day and night. Of course, you can also use a brokerage account with your bank, but that is comparably expensive. We present 5 trading apps that aim to make stock market trading almost commission-free as so-called neobrokers.
1. Bitpanda: Focus on Cryptocurrency Trading
Bitpanda (provider) has been on the market for 8 years and is based in Vienna. However, stock trading with the app has only been possible for about a year. The focus has been and remains on investments in cryptocurrencies. Bitpanda now cleverly combines this with precious metals, stocks, and ETFs. So if you’re considering investing your money in different areas, Bitpanda might be something for you.
- App and Getting Started: The app is easy to use and getting started is straightforward. First, create an account, then set up security questions and go through the verification process. The app offers a video identification procedure. After that, you can deposit money and start trading stocks or investing in cryptocurrencies. Deposits can be made via SEPA transfer, but credit card, Giropay, or instant bank transfer are also available, albeit with fees.
- Offer and Prices: Bitpanda offers a wide range of options for cryptocurrencies, with over 100 currencies available. You can also choose from gold, silver, palladium, and platinum for precious metals. Compared to other providers, stocks and ETFs are still in the early stages, but there are about 850 stocks and 150 ETFs available, and it is also possible to set up stock and ETF savings plans. There are no depot or trading fees, and you don’t have to worry about negative interest rates. You can start investing with as little as 1 euro, but for savings plans, the minimum is 25 euros per month. The spread during trading hours is 0.5%, but it can go up to 3% outside regular trading hours.
- Special Features and Extras: Cryptocurrencies are in the DNA of Bitpanda, but the combination with precious metals and stocks as well as ETFs offers an interesting mix. Bitpanda particularly highlights the possibility of investing in fractional shares, allowing you to secure a small piece of Tesla or Apple for as little as 1 euro, even with a tiny budget. This is done through so-called derivative contracts. You do not purchase the shares yourself; Bitpanda takes care of that. This article explains the idea in more detail.
Conclusion: Stocks and ETFs are still relatively new at Bitpanda, so the selection is not as extensive as with competitors. However, you can start with as little as 1 euro, but you don’t buy real shares, instead you are involved through derivative contracts. ETF savings plans are possible starting from 25 euros per month, and a cost document (PDF) is available for the calculated spreads.
2. Finanzen.net Zero: App for Minimalists
The “Zero” in the name already indicates that there won’t be many fees involved. Trading with Finanzen.net Zero (Provider) is not completely free, but the costs are manageable.
- App and Getting Started: Getting started works smoothly with all neobrokers, but the Finanzen.net Zero app does not have a multitude of features. On the contrary, it has a minimalist design. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing; the focus is on buying and selling, although more experienced investors may miss some features.
- Offer and Prices: The offering is absolutely sufficient for regular users. There are around 6,000 stocks, as well as approximately 1,800 ETFs and managed funds. You can also choose from over 400 ETF savings plans. There is no annual fee, and orders are executed free of charge. However, there is an important detail: if you make a purchase below 500 euros, a fee of 1 euro will be charged, but that should be acceptable. ETF savings plans are executed free of charge. Negative interest rates or custody fees do not apply.
- Special Features and Extras: In addition to stocks and ETFs, you can also trade cryptocurrencies.
Conclusion: Finanzen.net Zero is a good choice for beginners who prefer a clear and streamlined app.
3. Justtrade: Wide Selection with Hurdles
With Justtrade (Provider), you can choose from a wide range of options, no other provider currently offers as many possibilities. They claim to have over half a million assets, but you have to count all certificates and warrants individually. There are around 8,000 tradable stocks, and recently, ETF savings plans have also been added. However, the minimum order size and negative interest rates affect the trading experience.
- App and Getting Started: Justtrade is designed to be as simple as possible, like any neobroker. Download the app, create a customer account, verify it through the video identification process, and link your account. To buy stocks, you now have to transfer money to the linked account, which can only be done via SEPA transfer.
- Offer and Prices: The offering is very extensive. Justtrade offers three stock exchanges to choose from: LS Exchange, Quotrix, and Tradegate Exchange. This is useful for price comparison. There are no order commissions, depot fees, foreign costs, or trading venue fees. But there is a minimum order volume of 500 euros. So if you want to invest “only” 100 euros, you can’t do that with Justtrade. ETF savings plans are relatively new, but they can already be used starting at a monthly amount of 25 euros. Be careful, under certain circumstances, negative interest rates can be charged on the linked settlement account. If there are more than 5,000 euros in the account, 0.5% will be charged.
- Special Features and Extras: Due to the minimum order volume, small retail investors are excluded at Justtrade. ETF savings plans are new, and the offering is expected to expand further in the future.
Conclusion: Justtrade offers a wide selection, various stock exchanges, and reasonable fees. However, you need to be able to handle a minimum order of 500 euros, and you need to be careful not to have too much money in the settlement account, otherwise negative interest rates may apply.
4. Scalable Capital Free Broker: With Xetra Connectivity
Scalable Capital (see offer) was founded in 2014 but has only been active as a broker since 2020. Nevertheless, the company, headquartered in Munich, has ambitious goals: to become Europe’s leading digital investment platform.
- App and Getting Started: The app combines stocks, ETFs, derivatives, funds, and cryptocurrencies under one roof. Getting started is very easy after downloading the app. Simply sign up, verify your identity through video identification, and then link a SEPA-enabled account. You can deposit money via bank transfer, which you can use for trading.
- Offer and Prices: Scalable Capital operates as a financial service provider in several areas. For starting out, a Free Broker account is sufficient. However, it’s good to know that experienced users can opt for the alternative Prime Broker, which offers a flat rate for trading. However, this costs 35.88 euros per year in depot fees. Free Broker, on the other hand, is free. There are no negative interest rates, and ETF savings plans can be used free of charge starting at 1 euro. The order fees are a bit more complex. While there is no minimum order size, to avoid transaction costs, orders must be at least 250 euros for Gettex; otherwise, it’s 99 cents per trade. On the other hand, Xetra orders cost 3.50 euros plus 0.01% of the order volume.
- Special Features and Extras: Scalable Capital is the only smartphone broker among the ones mentioned that also offers trading on Xetra. The app is really well-made.
Conclusion: If you want Xetra, you have to choose Scalable Capital; trading via Gettex is cheaper. Users have the choice of two trading locations.
5. Trade Republic: 1 Euro per Trade
Trade Republic (see offer) is very popular and has over a million customers in different countries, which can’t all be wrong. Nevertheless, the provider wants to continue to grow and expand into more countries.
- App and Getting Started: One reason why Trade Republic has so many users is its user-friendly interface. You can install the app and create an account in just a few minutes. You still need to verify your identity through video identification, and then you can deposit money via SEPA transfer. Alternatively, you can deposit money via credit card or, depending on your mobile operating system, Apple Pay or Google Pay.
- Offer and Prices: Trade Republic offers a good selection of around 7,500 stocks and 1,500 ETFs. There are no depot fees, and you pay 1 euro per trade. You can also choose from a wide range of free ETF savings plans, and there is no minimum order requirement. Even with a small budget, you can start investing.
- Special Features and Extras: The app is impressive; for example, it offers regular news for those who want to dive deeper into the stock market. However, this is not mandatory. Cryptocurrencies are also available, and the offering was recently expanded from 7 to 30 currencies.
Conclusion: Limited budget? Not a problem with Trade Republic. The selection of stocks and ETFs is large, the trade fee of 1 euro is manageable, and ETF savings plans are free. Unfortunately, there is only one trading location, but experienced users can use it as a secondary account.
Getting Started with Trading Apps
It has never been easier to trade on the stock market. Trading apps with their low costs make the stock market accessible even to very small investors. All you have to do is download one of the apps and open an account. This requires some personal information, then proceed to a video identification, which is required by law.
All of this can be done on your mobile phone, and once you have managed to hold your ID somewhat steady in front of the camera, you are almost done. Before you can start buying stocks and funds, you still need to deposit money, which is usually done via SEPA transfer, and for savings plans, a standing order is suitable. Once the transfer has been received, usually within one to three days, you can get started.
Trading Apps in Practice
The apps work with fixed trading platforms, such as Gettex, LS Exchange, or Xetra. Some apps, like Bitpanda, Trade Republic, and Finanzen.net, do not offer a choice, meaning there is only one trading location. Others integrate multiple trading platforms, but this may not be particularly important for beginners in stock trading.
You should buy well-known stocks and popular ETFs during regular trading hours, Monday to Friday, from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm. This way, you’re protected from excessive price ranges.
Beware of Price Ranges, Understand Spreads
How is it possible to trade stocks completely for free? Firstly, “completely free” is not correct because even with neobrokers, there are often small costs involved. These can be order fees if a certain volume is not reached or negative interest rates on the linked settlement accounts. Nevertheless, the overall costs are very low.
But when you invest in stocks, you will also be charged elsewhere, namely through the so-called spread, which is the difference between the buying and selling prices of the stocks. This is how the exchange partners make
money in the background, and they provide kickbacks to the neobrokers. What you should know is that this business model is being closely monitored by the BaFin.
Advantages of Trading Apps
- Quick Start: Have you always wanted to invest but never had more than five minutes to do so? That’s enough to get the apps up and running, including signing up and verification. Then there is just one more hurdle: depositing money into a settlement account.
- Easy to Use: Trading apps are easy to use even after the setup process. You can usually track stock prices and buy and sell with just a few taps.
- Low Costs: None of the new providers charge depot fees, as that seems to be a red flag for investors. Rarely are there any fees for security purchases or savings plans, and if so, they are usually minimal. However, trading is not completely free (see disadvantages).
- 24/7 Access: Neobrokers allow you to trade outside of regular stock market hours. However, proceed with caution here (see disadvantages).
Disadvantages of Trading Apps
- Limited Trading Locations: Neobrokers often offer only one trading platform. This means that users cannot compare prices and have to deal with the spreads offered.
- Restricted Order Types: Not all order types are available for every trading platform, which can limit more advanced investors. Those who want to use limit, stop-loss, or stop-loss limit orders should check if the neobrokers allow them.
- Hidden Costs: While no major scandals have occurred with the presented apps yet, users can still encounter hidden costs with neobrokers. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to the spread in order to avoid high trading fees. Trading outside regular hours also carries the risk of high price spreads.
Trading Apps Demo
The providers know that once users have gone through the verification process, they are hooked. That is why verification usually comes first. Of course, this is also required by law, but one thing that could be done is to offer a demo mode for the apps, preferably with virtual money. For example, Bison does this for cryptocurrencies. Then you could immediately try out if everything works as you imagine. Unfortunately, none of the introduced neobrokers put in the effort to offer this.
Are Trading Apps Really Completely Free?
No. Even though you often read “0 euros” and “free” in app descriptions and on websites, stock market trading is not completely free, and it can’t be. Developing a trading app is complex; it must be secure, fast, comply with high legal requirements, and be easy to use. Depot fees are waived, and order fees are often 0 or 1 euro, and you can invest in ETF savings plans even with small monthly amounts without additional charges.
However, you still have to pay the spread, the so-called trading span, which is the difference between the buying and selling prices of stocks. This is customary in stock trading, and it refers to the difference between the bid and ask price. This is how the exchange partners in the background make money, and they, in turn, give rebates to the neobrokers. What you should know is that this is a business model that the BaFin is monitoring.
Can I Trade Cryptocurrencies with Trading Apps?
Yes, that is possible, although there are differences here as well. We recently looked at cryptocurrency trading apps, but the neobrokers presented here also allow you to invest in Bitcoin & Co. While you can do that, there is a significant difference between investing in an ETF and cryptocurrencies.
For a few months now, we have been conducting a small test with 50,000 euros in virtual money, which we have invested in various cryptocurrencies. Currently, our crypto funds have a value of around 30,000 euros, so we are deep in the red. However, with virtual money, we can easily tolerate that.
Trading Apps – Winner?
Even Stiftung Warentest has started looking into neobrokers, but they have not yet declared a winner. The reason is that the existing testing process is tailored to online brokers that usually offer many trading platforms. Neobrokers don’t fit into that, as they often integrate only one trading platform. So there is currently no winner among the neobrokers.
Trading Apps – Taxes?
The government also wants to earn money from stock transactions. The so-called capital gains tax is due. Most neobrokers or the bank that manages the settlement account automatically deduct this tax and transfer it to the tax authorities. This is the case with the presented trading apps based in Germany, except for Bitpanda, where you have to take care of the correct taxation yourself.
Trading Apps – Stocks or ETFs
We do not provide investment advice, but there is a fundamental difference between investing in stocks or ETFs. Of course, as iPhone fans, you can buy expensive Apple stocks, and if they continue to bring exciting products to the market in the future, the prices will rise. However, those who invest in individual stocks naturally face greater risks.
This risk decreases when you diversify, for example, by holding 15 or 20 different stocks, which is time-consuming and requires more capital investment. This quickly leads to funds, and ETFs are based on various stock indices. So with a single investment, you invest in many companies. Some stocks go down while others go up, but overall, there is growth that you can benefit from.
Trading Apps – Data Privacy
Of course, security and data privacy are crucial for neobrokers, as your money is involved. The BaFin regulates German providers, and Bitpanda is supervised by the Austrian Financial Market Authority. All user accounts must be verified with an ID card. Passwords and SMS access codes are the common security measures.
There is room for improvement here; however, withdrawals are always tied to the linked account. Justtrade stands out in terms of data privacy.
The app does not integrate any well-known trackers, whereas Bitpanda integrates eight. Similarly to other apps, there are numerous Google interfaces featured in Bitpanda as well. However, Bitpanda stands out negatively when it comes to permissions, as the app requests up to 23 permissions, while Finanzen.net Zero only requires nine.
5 Survival Tips for Stock Trading with Neobrokers
At this point, we will not recommend any specific stocks or ETFs. The decisions regarding where to invest your money must be made by you. Firstly, there are experts who are much better suited for providing such recommendations, and secondly, there is always a risk associated with investing. However, we would like to offer a few tips if you are new to stock trading and are considering one of the neobrokers:
- Avoid false expectations: Comparisons are always unproductive and lead to frustration. Who wouldn’t have liked to invest their savings in Bitcoin at the very beginning, or to invest in Apple stocks when everyone claimed that the Apple company was doomed? The fact is, hindsight is always 20/20. Yes, one can become extremely wealthy through stock market investments, but investing €25 per month in an ETF savings plan will not make you rich.
- Start with an ETF savings plan: The apps introduced here offer ETF savings plans, which allow you to regularly invest small amounts, such as €25 or €50 per month, in an ETF. The risk is spread here, which is good for beginners. If you do this for 20 years, you will likely end up with a substantial sum.
- Stay realistic: If you believe in the Bitcoin myth, you can also buy Bitcoin, but avoid doing so with your life savings. The same applies to stocks. Invest only what you can afford to lose. If you can’t sleep at night because you’re afraid of losing all your money, you’ve invested too much.
- Pay attention to the spread: Even though trading fees are waived, you still have to pay the spread. This should not be more than 0.5% and should be in a good trading range.
- Keep calm: Don’t let yourself be influenced by volatility. We are living in politically uncertain times. At the moment, prices are rising steadily, but sooner or later, a bear market will follow. If you’re young and invest regularly, you can sit this out and invest in the market for the long term. If you’re in your 60s, the situation is different, but then again, you should have invested in retirement funds years ago.
The neobrokers presented here offer low-cost access to the stock market. While stocks and ETFs can be traded for almost free, the spread should not be underestimated. This is where the trading partners earn money, and they in turn give rebates to the neobrokers. The question remains: can trading really be completely free? The answer is no, because even though you may read “0 euros” and “free” in app descriptions and on websites, stock market trading is not completely free, and it can’t be. Despite the spread, stock market trading via apps remains an affordable and accessible way to invest in stocks and ETFs.