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How to invest in US stocks from Ireland (2021)
Find the cheapest brokerage fees when you trade US stocks from Ireland.
Looking to buy shares from US companies like GameStop, Facebook or Tesla? Luckily, it’s now inexpensive and easy to invest in US companies from Ireland, once you know what to do.
As of 2021, there are at least a dozen online trading platforms in Ireland with access to Wall Street’s New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ, but there are some big differences when it comes to costs and features. Read on to find out more.
Buy US shares in 4 steps
- Compare brokers in Ireland with access to US stocks
- Open your account by providing your ID
- Fund your account by transferring money from your bank account
- Search and select the shares you want to invest in and start trading
Compare US stock trading platforms
Why invest in US stocks?
There are many reasons for Irish investors to own stocks listed in the US. In the last decade, Wall Street’s S&P500 index has delivered returns of around 400%, while Ireland’s equivalent the S&P ISEQ returned around 250% for the same period.
US stock markets also offer a greater diversity of companies than is available in Ireland. The New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ are the two largest stock exchanges in the world in terms of market capitalisation. Many of the world’s biggest global growth companies, such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google (FAANG) are listed in the US.
The US stock market is also a lot more liquid compared to the Euronext Dublin, which makes buying and selling shares at the price you want much easier. Profit aside, holding a diversified stock portfolio is also safer. This means investing in companies from a range of sectors as well as countries. So if Ireland’s economy were to slow, stocks listed in another country such as the US can act as a buffer.
What are the costs?
A couple of decades ago, investing in global companies from Ireland was fairly costly. Today, many online trading platforms allow Irish investors to buy and sell shares in Ireland, the US and other international markets for less than $10 a trade in brokerage fees. There are even a few that scrap the brokerage fee altogether.
However, not all trading apps in Ireland offer US stocks. Some trading platforms only offer Irish/UK shares or they may charge additional fees for the service. Before signing up for a new trading account, it’s important to check which countries are on the books and what the associated fees are.
While each platform works differently, the same general rules apply as with buying Irish shares – with a few additional considerations. For example, you’ll be charged a brokerage fee for each trade and a foreign exchange (FX) fee if your funds are not held in USD. Additional costs like inactivity fees may apply too.
Alternatively, you can invest in a low-cost portfolio of US stocks via exchange traded funds (ETFs).Back to top
Which trading platforms offer US shares?
There are a growing number of online share trading platforms in Ireland that offer access to international stock exchanges. Here are some platforms to consider:
Zero-commission trading accounts
The commission fee is what you’re usually charged by your broker every time you place a trade and can range anywhere from €0 to €60 per transaction. Thanks to the growing competition, some brokers have removed this fee altogether, charging a larger currency conversion fee instead. Right now, only eToro offers zero-commission trading as Passfolio and Revolut, the other zero-commission brokerages, have seen their operations disrupted by Brexit.
It’s important to note that although you don’t pay commissions to trade using these platforms, it doesn’t mean they’re free. You’ll still need to pay a currency conversion fee to exchange EUR to USD, which is typically charged as a percentage of your deposit. You may also have to pay ongoing account fees and a “custody” fee, which is sometimes waived if you meet a minimum number of trades per year.
Irish apps must use a US-based custodian to hold your US shares. An annual custody fee is typically charged as a percentage of your holdings.
How do I compare trading platforms?
Make sure that you take the following features and questions into consideration when comparing the benefits of US share trading sites:
- How much are commissions? Compare the fee each company charges every time you place a trade on US stocks. Be aware that this will be different from the broker fees for ISE-listed stocks.
- What’s the exchange rate? Exchange rates vary from platform to platform and this will partly be used to offset low broker fees. Check what these are first.
- Will you need to pay a monthly fee? Some platforms require you to pay a monthly fee for your account or certain premium features.
- How is market data displayed? Check how up-to-date the market data offered by each platform is — being able to make trades based on current information is critical.
- How many international markets can you access? Some platforms offer access to a few key international markets while others let you trade shares listed on a much larger number of exchanges.
- How easy is the platform to use? Is it fast, simple and convenient to execute a trade and monitor market performance?
- What trading options are available? Is the platform just web-based or can you also place trades on a mobile app? Can you put in customised orders like limits and stop-losses?
- Are education and research resources available? Trading shares is complex, so does the platform offer the necessary tools to increase your investment knowledge?
- Is customer support available if you need it? How can it be accessed and when?
What are the pros and cons of investing in US shares?
- Access different investment opportunities. Trading via US stock exchanges enables you to access investment opportunities that are not available in Ireland.
- Increasingly more affordable. As a growing number of online share trading platforms compete for market share, brokerage fees are becoming more affordable.
- Diversify your portfolio. If all your investments depend on the performance of one national economy – i.e. Ireland’s – is your portfolio really as diverse as you think? Buying international shares protects you against having all your eggs in one basket.
- Brokerage fees. You’ll need to contend with potentially higher brokerage fees whenever you place a trade on an international share market.
- Exchange rates. The EUR-USD rate fluctuates frequently which might negatively impact your investment.
- Additional fees. International trading accounts are sometimes subject to fees that Ireland-only platforms are not, such as inactivity fees and exchange fees.
What are some of the risks?
One of the key risks to be aware of when trading US shares is that you may not have the same level of knowledge and expertise as you have when trading ISE shares. Investing in an area, industry or country which you know little about is always risky, so it always pays to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.
Another factor worth considering is the tax implications of international trading. You don’t want to make any mistakes when declaring your income and find yourself on the wrong side of the Revenue, so familiarise yourself with the tax treatment of your investments as soon as possible.
Frequently asked questions
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