With many individuals moving towards managing their own portfolios, the rise of online brokerage accounts in Singapore becomes saturated and competitive.
But before you begin investing, do you know what you need and what you should take note of before looking for one? We wrote this guide on how you can select a brokerage account that’s suited for you so that you don’t have to pay excessive fees.
What is a brokerage account?
A brokerage account is an investment account you can use to manage your investments. A brokerage account is also known as a trading account. This is where you buy and sell shares, bonds, mutual funds, and other assets. You may also be able to add cash to your brokerage account and then invest that money in other investments.
The next thing you need to know is a CDP account.
What is a CDP account?
A Central Depository Account (CDP) is an account that stores all your stocks and investments in one centralised location account. With a CDP account, you can buy and sell your assets through various brokerage accounts and store them in the CDP.
The CDP is controlled and operated by the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX), so your assets are safely stored and managed by them. However, since you are free to make purchases from various brokerage accounts, some online brokerages offer the ability to keep your assets in a custodian account.
What is a custodian account?
Custodian accounts are special accounts maintained by brokerages themselves, with your assets being held in the brokerage’s name. The assets you purchased are still technically owned by you; just know that the brokerage is acting as a custodian and is required to look after the stocks as such.
You cannot buy and sell using different brokerage accounts if you’re using a custodian account, as your assets are stored under a specified broker.
However, the brokerages charge lower custodian fees if you use a custodian account instead of a CDP account. This is because these brokerages want you to continue using their platform and not their competitors.
Types of Products Offered by Online Brokerages
Online brokerages typically allow you to buy and sell investment products like stocks, bonds, mutual funds, options, commodities, futures, and ETFs.
Other typical online brokerage account services include:
- Online and mobile trading platforms
- Mobile trading apps
- Market data
- Trading analytics
- Research and financial planning tools
- Access to financial professionals
Some offer additional services, such as financial planning, while others are more focused on trading and/or investing.
The best online brokerage accounts in Singapore will offer various investment products, advanced trading tools, and helpful educational content. You should easily open an account online, and it should be available at a low cost.
It’s crucial to take note that some brokerages offer a fixed fee for any buys and sells you make, while others might charge differently depending on the assets you’re purchasing. There might also be other levels of brokerage fees that you should take note of.
Fees Involved When Using Online Brokerages
Platform Fees (Brokerage Commissions & Maintenance Fees)
First of all, there are platform fees. You may be charged either a fixed fee for every transaction you make or a percentage of the trade, whichever is higher.
There might also be different fees for buy and sell transactions. For example, buying a financial instrument using their platform might be cheaper than selling one.
Lastly, some brokers impose a monthly maintenance fee if you don’t meet the minimum trading requirements.
As different brokerages have different fees, so you should compare the prices across various providers.
Depending on the assets you purchase, online brokerages may charge differently. This is a crucial point to consider as you might not be interested in buying all asset types. So if you’re looking to trade in only ETFs, make sure the ETFs rates are the lowest.
Likewise, if you’re looking to trade in only stocks, then ensure that the rates for stocks are the lowest.
Take time to consider what you would like to include in your investment portfolio and investment objectives before choosing an investment brokerage firm.
Currency Exchange Fees
If you’re investing in foreign markets, expect to incur currency exchange fees. The brokerages might not charge you based on FOREX rates and will probably add in their processing fees as well.
Do take note that with all overseas investments, there are risks involved. The most significant risk you have to take note of is the risk of exchange rate fluctuations, as these will eat into your returns.
Clearing Fees and SGX Trading Fees
Constant throughout all online brokers in Singapore, these fees are unavoidable for all retail investors. Clearing fees of 0.0325% and SGX trading fees of 0.0075% will be levied on your transactions.
Choosing a brokerage account that suits you
As you can tell, there are quite a few things you need to consider before deciding on the best brokerage account for your needs. Firstly, determine if you’re okay with a custodian account or you would prefer a CDP-linked account.
As mentioned, custodian accounts usually carry lesser fees as you’re kinda “forced” to use their platforms. CDP-linked accounts are generally pricier as it’s centralised and you can use different brokers for your investing needs.
Think about it this way, with CDP-linked accounts, you can make buys on platforms with lower fees and sell them on another platform at lower prices as well. To incentivise you to stay with them, custodian accounts are “cheaper” than CDP-linked accounts.
Next, you’ll need to figure out whether the broker has the securities and access to the financial market you’re interested in. It doesn’t matter if they charge low rates but don’t have market access to what you need!
If you’re looking to invest or trade in the US or Hong Kong markets, then make sure the broker you choose has access to them.
From time to time, brokers might run promotions as well, something you’d want to look into.
Lastly, you need to think of the brokerage fees and the asset fees. Figure out what type of investor you are and what kinds of assets you’d like to purchase. That way, you can make an informed decision on which brokerage account is the best for you.
Brokerage Accounts in Singapore
For stocks and assets in Singapore, these are the rates of local brokers.
|Broker||Min. commission fee||Trading commissions|
|Lim & Tan Securities||$18||0.18%|
|Maybank Kim Eng Securities||$10||0.12%|
|Phillip Securities (POEMS)||No minimum||0.12%|
|SAXO Capital Markets||No minimum||0.08%|
|Standard Chartered Online Trading||$10||0.20%|
|Tiger Brokers||No minimum||0.08%|
|UOB Kay Hian||$10||0.12%|
If you’re looking for U.S-based stocks, the only broker worth mentioning is Phillip Securities (POEMS). Their minimum fee is US$8.80 and has trading commissions of 0.08% – probably the lowest rate amongst local brokers.
However, overseas brokers charge better rates for overseas stocks.
|Broker||Min. Fees||Trading Commissions||Maintenance Fees|
|Firstrade||US$0.00||Starts at US$0||N/A|
|TD Ameritrade||US$0.00||Starts at US$0||N/A|
|US$1.00||US$0.005 per share, up to a maximum of 1% of trade value||Up to US$10 per month, based on activity|
|Tiger Brokers||US$1.99||US$0.01 per share||N/A|
|moomoo||$0.99||0.03% (SG Stocks)
US$0.0049 per share (US Stocks)
Minimum US$1 or US$0.005 per share
Best Brokerage Accounts in Singapore
There are no exact best brokerage accounts as each online broker has its unique selling points. However, there are best online brokerages best on your specific needs.
Best Broker for Overseas Stocks: Interactive Brokers
Interactive Brokers (IBKR) is well known for their low fees and broad access to overseas markets in different countries. With an account, you can invest in 135 other markets in 33 countries. Interactive brokers offer 2 pricing plans, the IBKR Lite and IBKR Pro.
Their commissions begin at US$0.005 per share with a minimum of US$1 per trade and a maximum of 1% of your trading fees.
However, you’ll need to take note that even though their commissions are low, they charge you a maintenance fee of US$10 monthly if you do not meet the minimum trading requirements (At least US$100,000 in net liquidation value or US$10 in commissions a month).
Best Broker for U.S Stocks: TD Ameritrade
TD Ameritrade is one of the largest online brokerage firms in the U.S and has $0 commission fees for U.S-based assets. They also do not have any inactivity fees, minimum deposits, and maintenance fees, making it an attractive option if you’re keen on the U.S market.
Best Broker with Low Fees: Tiger Brokers or moomoo
If you’re looking for the lowest fees in the market, Tiger Brokers is a newcomer and currently boasts the lowest among its competitors. For local securities, they only charge you 0.08% trading fees. For U.S markets, there’s a minimum commission fee of US$1.99 per trade and US$0.01 per share.
Yes, they’re not the cheapest for U.S markets, but if you’re looking for the convenience of having only one account to manage all your assets, we believe Tiger Brokers is your best bet.
It’s also worth mentioning that Tiger Brokers are backed by Interactive Brokers, just in case you need peace of mind.
Next up, the newest player in the market – moomoo. Moomoo is an online brokerage launched by FUTU holdings. They’re currently charging the lowest amongst all brokers as they are new.
However, moomoo only has access to the following markets and financial products:
- US Market: Stocks, ETFs, ADRs, etc
- HK Market: Stocks, ETFs, REITs, etc
So if you’re looking for Singapore or other markets, moomoo does not have them just yet.
Although we’ve selectively mentioned the best brokers based on their unique selling points, it’s always best to understand what you’re looking for before and do your own research. This way, you make an informed decision and choose what’s best for your own needs.
If you are unsure of what to do at any point in time, it’s always best to talk to a financial advisor. A licensed professional will be able to fully understand your needs and guide you to the best solution.