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How to buy shares online in South Africa

Learn how to buy shares online without a full service stock broker by following our 7 step guide.

Choose an online share trading platform Buy shares online

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Thanks to online share trading platforms, buying and selling shares online is easier for the average Joe than ever before. This step-by-step guide explains how you can start buying and selling stocks on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) and exchanges around the world, and also has plenty of tips to help you get the most out of your online trades.

Let’s get started.

Step 1: Choose an online share trading platform

Choosing an online share trading platform can be one of the most difficult parts of the process. There are dozens of platforms available to South African investors – some of them are offered by major banks, while others are provided by specialist share brokers.

While it might be more convenient to stick with your current bank, you could lose out in terms of brokerage fees. Instead, compare the features and fees of a number of platforms before choosing the right one for you.

Name Product Number of Stocks CFDs Shares Available Markets
eToro
2,000+
Yes
Yes
Worldwide with exception.
CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Get commission-free US stock trading plus access to forex, cryptocurrencies, ETFs, and commodities with the world’s leading social trading and investment platform.
Plus500
2,000+
Yes
No
Worldwide with exception.
CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Trade over 2,500 financial instruments with one of the largest CFD providers in the world.
Prime XBT
Access to global markets
No
Yes
US, IN, ES, JP, AU, UK, CN, DE, CA, CH, MX, NZ, CH, HK, FR
CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Trade cryptocurrencies and traditional financial instruments such as commodities, indices, and forex across 50+ markets.
Zacks Trade
Zacks Trade
Access to global markets
No
Yes
US, CA, MX, AUT, BEL, FR, DE, IT, NL, ES, NO, SE, UK, CH, HK, JP, SG, RU, AU
CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Trade stocks, bonds, ETFs, options, and more on 90+ international exchanges. Offers customizable trading platforms with over 120 technical indicators for your charting needs.
Eightcap
Access to global markets
Yes
No
UK, DE, AU
CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Trade a wide variety of instruments on the award-winning MT4/5 platforms with this Australia-based CFD and forex broker.
Firstrade
Access to US stocks
No
Yes
US
CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Enjoy $0 commission trading for stocks, options, funds, and more with this internationally-acclaimed discount broker.
CM Trading
N/A
Yes
No
US, FR, DE, UK, AU, ZA, CH. HK, JP, ES, NL, IT
CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Licensed international brokerage and CFD provider that offers advanced trading solutions designed for both new and experienced traders alike.
Exness
N/A
Yes
No
CH, VN, TH, PH, SG, ID, IN, UAE, ZA, SA, EG, BR, CR, MX
CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Enjoy fast trade executions at competitive fees with this award-winning retail forex broker.
Interactive Brokers
Access to global markets
No
Yes
US, MX, RU, ES, UK, DE, IL, HK, SG, IN, KR, AU, CH, HU, CA
CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Take advantage of low trading fees, multiple platform support, and an extensive list of asset classes across global markets, including stocks, options, futures, forex, bonds, and funds.
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Compare up to 4 providers

What you need to consider when picking a broker:

  • Brokerage fees. This is the fee that applies to each buy or sell transaction. Depending on the platform you choose and the size of your transaction, this could be a flat fee or a percentage of the total transaction cost.
  • Other fees. Brokers can charge all kinds of additional fees to use their platform. Some of the most common include an inactivity fee, subscription fee and foreign exchange fee.
  • What you can trade. Some platforms offer access to the JSE only, while others also allow you to trade on stock exchanges all around the world.
  • Ease of use. Consider how easy each platform is for the type of trading you want to do. Most providers give you the option of a free demo account for a short period so you can trial the features they offer.
  • Who the platform is suited for. Some share trading platforms are designed with casual investors in mind, others are more suited to active and experienced traders.
  • Customer support. How easy is it to get in touch with the provider if you ever have any issues? Is their customer service team based locally in South Africa?

There are plenty of other factors you’ll need to take into account, so check out our guide to choosing an online share trading platform for more details.

Step 2: Sign up for an account

Once you’ve chosen a platform you’ll need to register for an account. This step is usually free, but keep in mind that some providers may charge subscription fees or ongoing fees for features such as market research.

The registration process takes place online and if you’re a new customer you’ll need to provide:

  • Your name, address, date of birth and contact details
  • FICA requirements
  • Proof of ID
  • Linked bank account details

You’ll usually be asked to deposit a specified minimum amount in order to open an account. Once your application has been assessed and approved, it’s time to start trading.

Step 3: Choose the shares you want to buy

You may have already decided what shares you want to buy but if not, now’s the time to start researching stocks that match your investment goals. You’ll often be able to access a wide range of market research, analysis and even trading recommendations through your platform, so use this info to help make an informed decision.

You’ll also need to consider the number of shares you want to buy. This will obviously be down to your budget and your investment goals, but keep in mind that the minimum amount of shares you can buy may differ between different shares and asset classes. Some platforms also have minimum trading amounts.

It’s also worth pointing out that larger purchases may incur higher fees or involve different fee structures depending on the trade. For example, your platform may charge you around R100 as a brokerage fee to buy a smaller number of shares, but will change the fee structure to 0.1% of the trade value when larger amounts are purchased.

Step 4: Place your order

This is where things can get a little confusing for novice share traders. You have two main options when placing a trade to buy shares: you can place the trade “at market” or “at limit”.

  • Market orders. You place a market order when you want to buy a share immediately at the best price currently available.
  • Limit orders. Placing a limit order allows you to set a maximum purchase price for your buy order. If that price becomes available within your specified time period, your trade will be executed.

Depending on the platform you choose, you may also be able to take advantage of a range of conditional orders that allow you to take advantage of market opportunities. For example, by placing a rising buy order, you can instruct your online trading platform to buy shares in a particular company once its stock price reaches a certain level.

Once you’ve entered all the specifics of your transaction, you’ll then get a chance to review all those details before placing your buy order.

Step 5: Pay for the transaction

You’ll need to have sufficient funds in your online share trading account to cover the cost of the transaction, including the brokerage fees that apply.

Step 6: Monitor the performance of your shares

Now you’ll need to monitor the performance of your shares in regard to your investment plan. However, the frequency with which you monitor them will depend on your strategy. For example, if you have a long-term investment strategy, you may only check in and see how your shares are performing every month. If you have a medium-term strategy, it may be a good idea to check each night or each week.

Whichever option you choose, you can review the performance of your investments by logging into your trading account.

Step 7: Sell your shares (if you want to)

When you decide to sell your shares, the process is very similar to the method of buying shares described in Step 4. Once again, you can choose whether you want to sell them via a market order or a limit order. A market order means the shares will be sold immediately at the best available price, while a limit order allows you to set the minimum sale price you’re willing to accept.

How to start investing in the share market

Tips when buying shares in South Africa

If you want to get more out of your online share trading, try to keep the following tips in mind:

  • Do your homework. Making informed trading decisions is crucial to the success of your investments. Research the financial health and growth prospects of companies by poring over annual reports, keeping an eye out for company alerts, reading share prospectuses and accessing research reports.
  • Stay up to date with the South African economy. Keep an eye on the health of the South African economy, Reserve Bank interest rate decisions, government policy changes, levels of investor confidence, exchange rates, and the performance of share markets in SA and overseas. All of these can influence when is and is not a good time for you to invest.
  • Start with blue chip companies. One of the safest options for anyone starting out in the share market is to invest in blue chip companies. These are South Africa’s top companies, and are typically well-established companies. They usually offer the best chance for minimising your risk and providing steady returns. You can also look at the JSE Top 40 companies and Top 100 JSE listed companies.
  • What about speculative shares? Speculative companies are not in the top 100 South African companies and have a shorter history doing business. Some investors are attracted to buying shares in these companies because they offer the potential for large returns, but be aware that they also have the potential to suffer large losses.
  • Buy what you know. Rather than diving in at the deep end and investing in a company which operates in a field you have little or no understanding of, start with industries and businesses you have some sort of background knowledge of.
  • Diversify. If you want to minimise your exposure to risk, diversify your portfolio across a range of different industries. If you buy shares across five or six industries instead of just one or two, you can be better protected against losses if one particular industry experiences a sharp downturn.

Risks of online share trading

Before you start buying and selling stocks like you’re Gordon Gekko, make sure you’re aware of all the risks involved, including:

  • Financial losses. A company’s share prices can fall dramatically and even drop as far as zero. This can mean significant financial losses for investors.
  • Last in line. Shareholders are usually the last in line to be paid when a company goes broke. When this happens, there’s a definite chance that you won’t get your money back.
  • Stress. The share market fluctuates on a daily basis, which can cause plenty of stress for investors. If you can’t handle the ups and downs you may be better off looking for a safer and steadier investment option.
  • Unexpected problems. Even if you do an enormous amount of thorough research into a particular company, it’s simply not possible to predict the future. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, bad company news and even changes in government policy can all occur unexpectedly and adversely affect the price of shares.
  • Lack of expertise. While investing in the share market sounds quite easy in theory, it can get quite complicated if you don’t know what you’re doing. First-time investors should be wary of getting ahead of themselves.
  • Getting in over your head. A final word of warning if you’re thinking of investing in shares: don’t bite off more than you can chew. Make sure to use your common sense and take a cautious approach – good advice no matter whether you’re planning on investing in shares, property or anything else.

Frequently asked questions about buying shares online in South Africa

Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of futures, stocks, ETFs, CFDs, options or any specific provider, service or offering. It should not be relied upon as investment advice or construed as providing recommendations of any kind. Futures, stocks, ETFs and options trading involves substantial risk of loss and therefore are not appropriate for all investors. Trading CFDs and forex on leverage comes with a higher risk of losing money rapidly. Past performance is not an indication of future results. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before making any trades.

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