Pearler Review; a complete review of the Pearler investment platform from an experienced and long term investor on the path to Financial Independence. Reviewed, updated and republished 28th September 2022, originally published March 2019.
- CHESS sponsored Australian share market trading
- $5.50 Flat fee trades* and brokerage free ETFs
- US share market trading (including fractional shares)
- Auto invest for investing Automation
- Culture of long-term investing, not gambling
- No investing experience is necessary – portfolio example templates and educational materials
- Automated US tax form (W8-BEN) lodging
- Over 65,000 users
- Not for active traders / day trading
- No live data or research reports
- High FX fees (but lower than other brokers)
- Microinvesting (Pearler Micro) expensive at low balances
- Can take up to 4 days to set up
*$5.50 Flat fee trades if pre-purchasing Brokerage credits using Pearler Cash, otherwise $6.50 flat free trades with ‘Pay as you go’
Verdict: Pearler has been built specifically for the FI community – long term investing with Pearler is simple and can be automated. Pearler is the share trading platform I use for my ETF portfolio, but you should consider whether it is right for you.
Pearler investment platform
This article is general information that reviews where Pearler is currently at, discusses my use of the platform, and ultimately aims to help you answer for yourself whether it might be a good brokerage option for investing to build wealth on the path to Financial Independence.
Pearler is a share trading (stock brokerage) platform specifically built for those on the path to reaching Financial Independence. With $5.50 CHESS sponsored trades (pre purchased in pearler credit, otherwise $6.50) and free trades on some ETFs, access to global markets, microinvesting, round ups and automatic investing features (auto invest), it is specifically designed for those on the path to Financial Independence and wanting to passively grow wealth.
“Pearler: Informal, mainly Australian – something impressive: “That landing was a real Pearler, mate!”
Pearler’s crowning ‘Pearl’ is its Autoinvest feature which lets someone automatically invest so they can put investing on auto pilot and cruise toward FI hassle free. Read on for my full breakdown of the Pearler brokerage platform and my experience using it.
If you would rather listen, make sure to check out the Interview with Kurt Walkom, one of the founders of Pearler, on the CaptainFI Podcast.
Introduction to the Pearler investment platform
The Pearler investment platform has a heap of great features that are specifically tailored to the FI community that help you invest in shares, as well as CHESS backed $5.50 trades (pre-purchased Pearler credit, otherwise $6.50). Actually, the founders designed Pearler to be the clear choice for those on the path to FI out of all brokerage platforms, wanting to help you make better financial decisions and build wealth through long term investing.
The Team behind Pearler have big plans to eventually create a ‘Financial Marketplace’ where you can access a heap of free peer reviewed information and access to industry award winning and low cost products for investments, bank accounts, loans, insurance and more – perhaps similar to affiliate review companies like Canstar, Finder or ProductReview, but then going one step further and actually being trusted to provide or broker the product themselves.
“A world without chronic financial stress”Kurt Walkom, Pearler
For now though, they have entered the marketplace as a tailor built investing platform for those on the path to FI. With competitively low brokerage costs, no fees and awesome FI features, Pearler’s aim is to help you reach Financial Independence rather than profit off you.
Management and team behind Pearler – Founded by 3 friends.
Founded by 3 friends: Pearler was co-founded in 2018 by three University of New South Wales alumni: Kurt Walkom, Nick Nicolaides and Hayden Smith – you can read more about them on the UNSW Founders page here.
“We are building a secure place where you find the right financial products to suit your situation and goals, empowering you with the skill and confidence to use them. Investments, savings, loans and insurance from multiple providers, all in the one place. Starting with investing for all Australians.”Kurt WalKom, CEO and co-founder Pearler
Features of Pearler
Pearler offers a range of features and tools which would be valuable to anyone on the path to Financial Independence. Straight up, I think their automated investing tools are the most useful; specifically their Autoinvest feature to put your investing on autopilot, and their Autodeposit to build your cash account.
Pearler also offers a way to help track your progress with Goal Tracking, You can track your progress to Financial Independence, compare your portfolio to Financial Independence community leaders with Finfluencer Portfolios, and an awesome way to help keep yourself accountable is with Shareable Portfolios.
Pearler also offers an information packed blog, a moderated forum (under their AFSL) called the Pearler Exchange, and a myriad of tools such as a Compound interest calculator, Investing duration calculator, Investing amount calculator, Investing frequency calculator and Franking credit calculator. They also have Sharesight integration as standard which is handy!
Comparing Pearler to other Australian brokerage platforms below shows how Pearler is a great choice for long term investors on the path to FIRE.
Automation is hands down the most important behaviour to reach Financial Independence; Set and Forget and Collect! Did you know some of the worlds best investors are either people who forgot about their investments, or who had actually died? Check out this article on Business Insider based on information from US investing giant Fidelity. Although this article has been disputed by popular finance blogger Saverocity, everyone agrees that automatic investing and stretching out your portfolio re-balancing intervals as long as possible (such as yearly) is the best way to ’emotion proof’ your portfolio and protect it from yourself!
If I am honest – The reason I switched to Pearler is because when I reviewed my investing decisions over the past three years, I almost never stuck to my regular investment plan. Sure – I ‘roughly followed it’ but it wasn’t perfect – and as a result I did myself a disservice. Previously I had used online brokers to manually lodge my trade (purchase)
Pearler Auto invest feature
Automated investing using auto invest is a game changer for passively building wealth. Not only will Pearlers Autoinvest to automatically invest in the following four ways to meet your target allocation, but the Auto deposit tool will allow a direct debit from your bank account into your Pearler CTA account.
- Single share furthest below target weight
- Single share of my choice from my portfolio
- Rebalance to target weights
- Equally across target weights
Investing options through pearler?
On your Pearler brokerage account you can invest in all Australian listed stocks, as well as all US listed stocks. With the availability of global stocks through Australian and US domiciled funds such as ETFs and index funds, you can get exposure to the global stock market, as well as things like bonds, REITs and listed investment companies.
Pearler recently launched Pearler Micro, which is a microinvesting tool to help investors get started
Pearler have Sharesight integration using an API – which is great because it means its automatic and you don’t have to do anything! To link your pearler brokerage account to sharesight, follow the guide below under ‘how to use pearler’.
The Pearler Exchange (pearler forums)
Pearler have created an online forum called the Pearler Exchange. You can access this through your normal Pearler investor log in. The Pearler Exchange is great because it is a moderated forum that is covered by Pearlers AFSL – meaning they have a vested interest (ehhem legal requirement from ASIC) to keep bullshit out of their website. This means each thread has passed quality control, making it a safe environment to both ask questions, and to provide information if you have experience and the knowledge to do so.
The Pearler Blog
Pearler have an online blog packed with helpful articles regarding investing and financial independence. I have even published a few articles there which you can check out here
Pearler online calculators
Pearler have a heap of online finance and investing calculators.
My favourite one is the Financial Independence Calculator, which is pretty comprehensive. It is inspired by the Aussie Firebug‘s original design, but has been simplified into a neat online tool. You input data such as your date of birth, annual income (pre-tax or after tax), annual spending, super balance, brokerage balance, expected market growth and inflation rates, and then based on your expected passive income and annual investment contributions it will spit out a figure when you can retire using the two step (brokerage draw down + dividends, and then superannuation) retirement strategy, as well as some handy charts to visualise potential growth.
Other useful calculators found free on pearlers website (under Learning -> tools) include;
- Compound Interest calculator: Standard compound interest calculator for expected investment growth
- Investment duration calculator: A ‘reversed’ compound interest calculator to plan how long it would take to reach a long term goal by investing
- Investment amount calculator: A ‘reversed’ compound interest calculator to plan how much you need to regularly invest to reach a long term goal by investing
- Shares investment frequency calculator: A calculator which works out how often you should invest to maximise your efficiency due to the effect of brokerage versus investment growth. This is a really useful tool!
- Franking credit calculator: Tells you how much your franking credits are worth, useful for understanding your after-tax dividend worth and planning your tax refund.
Pearler allows shareable profiles, where you can see exactly how other people invest. This includes some of the most popular online writers, bloggers and content producers including Tash invests, Aussie Firebug, Aleks from brokegirlwealth, Dave from Strong money Australia and of course myself – you can check out my profile and how I am investing right now. But its not just these larger accounts, actually everyone can share their profile publicly if they choose to.
Pearler have a shareable portfolio feature where you can opt to publicly share your profile. This will only show the percentages you invest in – and not the total amount.
Pearler features request board
Pearler even have a feature request board where you can ask them to do stuff and add new features. You can submit as many as you like, and see how other feature requests are polling.
You can also look through the list of Planned, Open, Under Review, In Progress and Completed requests to get an idea of how quickly Pearler are responding to the communities requests, which I think shows great transparency and a real genuine commitment to serving the community. One of my absolute favourite completed requests is shown below!
Pearler fees and brokerage
Pearler has a very simple fee structure when compared to other online brokers. They don’t really charge fees (with a couple exceptions), and brokerage for share trades (Aus or US) is a flat $6.50, or for the brokerage free ETFs it is free (as the fund providers will pay the brokerage for you to entice you into buying the ETF).
You can also prepay and save on brokerage – by buying $55 in Pearler Credit for brokerage, you can get an additional $10 worth of brokerage for free, making your total cost only $5.50 per investment, which is a pretty cool perk.
To put it in perspective, most of the big four banks charge sliding scale brokerage which can end up costing hundreds (or even thousands of dollars on a huge transaction!). Realistically though, if you are on the path to FI, you would know the benefit of Dollar Cost Averaging into the market as soon as you earn your money – so your trade size will usually not be ridiculous so we need a fair comparison. Most of us regular folk will be more in the vicinity of under $5,000 per month, so $5.50 is a very fair price IMO.
For a share parcel of $2,000, Pearler provide the following table for brokerage, including US conversion costs – showing how you still get ahead investing through pearler in the majority of cases, with Stake providing the cheapest alternative for current Australian CHESS sponsored share trading (but lacking an Auto invest feature).
All Australian-based platforms that offer US trading charge foreign currency exchange (FX). Pearler charges 50bps or 0.50% for transactions, meaning it costs you $5 for every $1000 you move across to your US share portfolio cash funding account (and vice versa – the fee applies when you withdraw from your US share portfolio cash funding account). This is pretty expensive but still cheaper than most other Australian Brokers.
US shares transfers attract fees depending on which system is used.
Transferring US shares into Pearler from another broker;
- Automated Customer Account Transfer Service (ACATS) is free
- Depository Trust Company (DTC) costs $15 per holding
- Direct Registration System (DRS) costs $130 per holding
Transferring US shares out of Pearler into another broker
- ACATs and DTC both cost $200 per account (with a max of four holdings, additional holdings charged at $50 each)
- DRS costs $140 per holding
Pearler fee for Non Australian residents
Non Australian residents will have to pay a $200 account opening fee to ANZ for the cash account that is linked to your Pearler brokerage account.
Brokerage Free ETFs with Pearler
Pearler offer Brokerage Free ETFs (ETF securities) when you buy and hold, as a way to encourage long term investing. Pearler are able to achieve this because they have partnered with like minded ETF managers at eInvest, ETF Securities and VanEck, and the ETF managers absorb the cost. This is because the ETF managers actually really want long term investors in their ETF securities as it greatly helps their business model. They pay the brokerage on your behalf to Pearler (so Pearler get paid!), the ETF manager gets a long term client, and you get brokerage free ETFs – everyone wins!
You can now invest into over 43 brokerage free ETFs, which means you can invest more regularly (benefitting from compound interest), and your investments work harder as you don’t lose any money to transaction costs. This is especially important for investors who are wanting to regularly invest with small amounts, as previously brokerage costs would have eaten away at your returns since they are such a high percentage of investing small amounts.
So what’s the catch on brokerage free ETFs? Well you just have to hold the ETF securities for more than a year. If you decide to sell before the year is up, you will get charged the standard $6.50 or $5.50 (prepaid) brokerage on each transaction (buy and sell).
Are Pearler CHESS Sponsored?
Yes – your Pearler account is CHESS sponsored. This is important, as CHESS (Clearing House Electronic Sub-register System) sponsorship ensures you are the legal owner of your investments, and the ASX tracks your personal name and ownership using your Holder Identification Number (HIN) against that individual share holding.
Not all investing or brokerage platforms are CHESS sponsored (for example many MicroInvesting platforms are not CHESS sponsored) and this could create a headache if they ever collapse – it is unclear how you will get your shares back and basically you might have to rely on the ‘goodwill’ of the company to get your holdings.
Not being CHESS sponsored also means that the company that holds your shares in custodianship could potentially make money using your share holdings in unscrupulous ways – for example they might retain your dividends, profit by ‘lending out’ your shares to short sellers, or use the collective voting rights of its customers holdings for their own interest. Pearler doesn’t do any of this nonsense, and your shares are securely held by you.
It is worth noting that Pearlers micro investing tool, Pearler Micro, is not CHESS sponsored because it uses a managed fund style custodian account to hold the underlying ETFs, so its just the main Pearler Shares platform which is CHESS sponsored.
Funding and Margin lending with Pearler
Pearler allows you to fund your trades using an inbuilt Client Trust Account (CTA) arranged through a Macquarie Bank (Macquarie Bank Client Trust Account) and do not offer Margin lending.
The Macquarie Bank Client Trust Account contains a sub-holding for each Pearler account, and this is where your direct debits for the Autoinvest feature is billed. You can top up your Macquarie Bank Client Trust Account using Pearler’s Autodeposit feature which supports a regular direct debit (which you can conveniently line up with your pay day).
Because this is a client trust account it is not held in your name individually. This means you do not get an account name, number and BSB, and you do not control the funds or receive interest on your balance like you would with a Cash Management Account (CMA) which some other brokers use.
Personally, I would prefer a CMA however this currently does not integrate with their Autoinvest feature. Ultimately, you shouldn’t really bother keeping much money in these accounts anyway, and your best off leaving it in an Online High Interest Savings Account until you need to use it. I quite like having the funds direct debited from my outside bank account into the CTA and then invested through the auto invest tool.
Joint investing with Pearler
Pearler offers digital joint accounts, which mean you can complete a joint application step (even if you already have an individual account). You just need to complete your co-holders details and you can then hold individual and a joint accounts simultaneously. To switch between them use the ‘accounts’ tab under ‘settings’ – this way you can track your progress to FI using both individual and joint accounts.
Trust investing with Pearler
Pearler as of 2022 now offers the option to invest via a trust. This is useful if you have a family or discretionary trust and use this as an investment vehicle, as you can now open a Pearler trust account.
Investing for kids – Pearler Minor Trading Account
Pearler now offer Minor trading accounts which means you can invest in your child name. This can have some tax saving implications however it is best to do some research and consult a financial advisor and tax accountant before investing for your kids, as there can be some interesting little quirks and complications under Australian tax law when it comes to investing for kids.
Pearler recently expanded to provide US share trading. All you need to do is follow the prompts on your Pearler account to open an OFX account (the company which contracts the foreign exchange side of the house). You simple place orders as you would for AUS shares, and OFX takes care of the US funding side of the house.
US market (NYSE/NASDAQ) opens at 1:30am – 8am Sydney time during the wintertime (First Sunday in November to the second Sunday in March) or at 11.30pm – 6am Sydney time during the summertime (First Sunday in April to the first Sunday in October).US market Opening times, Pearler
- US share trading costs $6.50 per trade.
- US order brokerage will always be deducted in AUD from your primary AU cash account (Not Pearler Primary cash USD).
- Pearler only supports individual or joint accounts for us share trading
- You can buy and sell fractional units of US shares
- W8-BEN tax form is automatically completed and filed by Pearler for free when you open your Pearler US share trading account
- US Dividends are credited to your Primary Cash (USD) account
- Foreign exchange fees are 50 basis points – 0.5%, or $5 per every $1000 transferred between USD and AUD – which is fairly high, but cheaper than many other brokers.
- US shares are custodially held under your name by Pearlers brokerage partner Drive Wealth. DriveWealth is a member of the SIPC and according to the Pearler website, investors are insured for cash and securities up to $500,000.
DriveWealth custodies Securities and Other Assets held in your Account at approved Depository Trust Company Custodians (“DTC Custodians”). DriveWealth holds all positions in nominee name with the DTC Custodians; DriveWealth maintains all records related to the holdings in your Account.
Pearler mobile app
Pearler now has a mobile app now for both Android and iOS (apple) users available on both the Apple app store and Google Play store.
I downloaded it and had a play around – it works fine and you can do everything. But then I deleted it.
Why – because I don’t want easy access to Pearler on my phone. The whole point was to automate my investing using the Pearler Auto invest feature and then let it tick away in the background. Having the app on my phone is just a distraction and potential temptation to log in and hawk eye my shares (this may be tempting and fun with a little dopamine rush, but it is bad from a long term investor behavioural mindset point of view).
Pearler Micro – Microinvesting with Pearler
On Monday, 21st March 2022 Pearler launched their Microinvesting option, Pearler Micro. Pearler Micro was created to help you start investing, and features 8 diversified portfolios to choose from and no minimum transaction size.
- Choice of 8 different ETF funds
- No fees if your balance is below $100
- All-in-one, Ethical and thematic investment options
- No brokerage costs
- Round up and Auto invest features.
- Not CHESS sponsored
- Does have a monthly fee which erodes your balance
- Transferring from Pearler Micro to Pearler Shares is a capital gains event for taxation purposes
- Not linked to Sharesight yet.
You can make investments via once off financial transactions, by using the round-up or with automated investing using the auto investing feature.
Pearler micro doesn’t have a brokerage fee, but instead has a small monthly fee depending on the number of funds you hold. Pearler Micro is all about helping you master the passive investing learning curve
However, there is a monthly fee, which puts Pearler Micro in a similar category as Raiz Invest and Spaceship Voyager, but making it the cheapest of these three. It is important to realise that monthly fees can eat away at small balances – on a two fund $1000 portfolio, the Pearler Micro fees would be $2.30 a month or $27.6 per year, or 2.8% of the portfolio’s value – which is pretty high when we consider investing in a general sense we want to keep it well below half a percent! If we look at a 10% theoretical long term average return on this hypothetical portfolio being $100 per year, we can see the fees actually gobble up one quarter of our return, or 27.6%!
We must realise though, that micro investing is not a sensible long term investing strategy, it is purely an educational tool for those at the start of their investing journey. I personally would not keep more than a few thousand invested in micro-investing platforms due to this fee drag, and it makes sense to move them over to conventional brokerage platforms such as the main pearler platform. You will have to work out what thresholds are appropriate for you.
How to use Pearler
My suggestion to you is that you only sign up to make a pearler account under the proviso that you have read this review properly and understand the service enough to make sense of the Product Disclosure Statment (PDS) and the terms of service. You always need to do your own research.
Make sure you read these and that it suits your personal circumstance – noting that I am not a financial advisor and this information is for general information only. What might be appropriate for me, may not be appropriate for you.
I contacted Pearler and went through this early access request application to create a pearler account, and after a few weeks was granted access. The process to sign up overall took about an hour or so, and you will need your phone for two factor authentication.
I found it a bit frustrating having to manually type codes across and there were a few bugs which I reported to the development team, but thankfully these were looked into straight away.
Once I got in, I set up my pearler account, FI goals and my target portfolio. Whilst it isn’t perfect, I roughly chucked in my details and it gave me some pretty cool information about time to FIRE. They also have some neat calculators on the site.
Setting up your target portfolio is pretty straightforward – you can either search individual ticker codes, or you can do what I did which was to just select from the ‘Popular ETFs’ tab. Once I had added my target holdings, there is simply a sliding scale (or a percentage you can type in) to adjust what your target is – when its what I roughly wanted I clicked ‘lock’ (padlock icon) – and this is what it came out with. Of course, these are just the ETF index funds, setting an equal weight 1/3 split of A200, VTS and VEU to passively build wealth. You need to do this to use the auto invest feature which I will explain next
How to Invest with Pearler
To start buying my stocks, I transferred $1000 from my linked bank account into my Pearler share trading account. I didn’t have to do this in my bank at all, and this was all requested and authorized through the Pearler platform with two factor authentication. The money took a few days to clear into my account.
After my first $1000 transfer settled, I logged into Pearler and manually purchased some Betashares A200 ETF. I told Pearler I wanted to spend up to $1000, and clicked ‘Buy’ – they neatly figured out this would get me 9 shares, charged me my $9.50 brokerage fee, and then settled the trade – NB the brokerage price has now been lowered to $6.50 ($5.50 with prepaid).
This then neatly replicated on my Sharesight account.
How I use AutoInvest to invest in ETFs
Because I wanted to regularly invest in shares (and let compound interest do its thing), I have set up my auto invest automation by selecting an automated direct debit from my bank account and a ‘re-balance to lowest share’. This means when my pay is deposited into my bank account, a chunk of it will automatically be sent to my Pearler brokerage account. The auto invest will then be automatically trigger an investment straight away into which ever ETF makes up my lowest target split.
I actually wanted to trial the auto invest, so I switched to Pearler purely to start investing using the AutoInvest feature. This is awesome and I use it to purchase $2000 of shares every fortnight, against my target allocation. My allocation strategy is simply to buy the lowest share out of an equal one third split of A200, VTS and VEU. Nothing super exciting or crazy here, just simple, auto invest investing into three ETFs which give me access to nearly every single stock in the world (market cap weighted index).
It worked so well, I haven’t disabled it and will let it just do its thing for the foreseeable future. You need to do your own research on financial decisions to figure out if this is going to work for you, but auto investing has been a massive game changer for me in terms of my investing anxiety. Knowing it is on auto pilot to invest regularly just one less thing to worry about – I just set and forget and let Pearler and my ETFs do the heavy lifting.
CaptainFI’s Pearler account in 2022
After a few years auto investing with Pearler, the account is doing pretty well. I have been updating this every month in my Net Wealth reviews, but this is what its looking like in 2022. I basically set up my auto invest and just let it do its thing, chucking any windfalls and extra cash I had into whatever my lowest split was.
I received my Letter from the ASX in the mail giving me my new Pearler sponsored HIN, and was then able to link Pearler to my Sharesight account. It is OK to have as many HINs as you like, as they can all be tracked by the same share registries and by Sharesight for portfolio tracking,
It is not an issue having multiple HINs and having investments across multiple brokers, especially since I use ShareSight to manage all of my portfolio tracking.
Pearler also offer an option to automatically directly link to ShareSight for portfolio tracking too, so there is no need to manually import trades. This is SUPER simple and for me was literally one click of a button – since when you sign up and verify your identity, everything is on their systems backend and Pearler and ShareSight are integrated through an API.
This means if I make Automatic trades using Pearler’s ‘AutoInvest’ feature that it will be immediately linked to my ShareSight portfolio, alongside any other trades I have made from other brokerage platforms.
The linking process worked well, but it looked a little glitch-y from the Pearler user log in side (as if it had not been linked even though it was) – I reported the issue to the Pearler team and they got into fixing it that same day.
Pearler provides a share trading brokerage platform for those on the path to Financial Independence – and it’s industry leading prices and FI investing features make it stand out from the competition. Notwithstanding, Pearler’s crowning ‘Pearl’ is the Autoinvest feature. This lets you put your investing on auto pilot and cruise toward Financial Independence stress free! I love the auto invest feature, and use it to invest every fortnight using the ‘rebalance by least split’ mechanic.
Pearler has over 50,000 investors and a rapidly growing user base, and I think everyone interested in FI should at least create a Pearler account and set a goal within pearler to check it out – for those at the very start of their journey check out Pearler Micro, and for those more experienced have a go investing using the auto invest feature I can almost guarantee you will never go back.
Automated investing with Pearler has been a game changer for letting me invest regularly stress free, and was the main reason I switched to the Pearler investment platform. Make sure you do your own research on financial decisions though – I read everything I could about Pearler before I started investing using auto investing. Ideally having a bit of investing experience will help you maximise what you get out of Pearler, but no investing experience is necessary.
I have enjoyed learning about Pearler and chatting to Kurt Walkom and the team. I have found the platform easy to use, and I think the company is destined for great things. I actually have so much faith in them that not only have I started investing in ETFs through the platform, entrusting them with over $400,000 worth of my life savings, but I am actually helping them to build the company too, by providing feedback, contracting, and with a small angel investment in the company early on. I have found Kurt Walkom and the team to be hard working, genuine and transparent people and can’t wait to see them succeed. It is not just ‘another broker’ and I think it is probably the easiest way to invest in ETFs – Pearler is heading for some amazing things!
Do you use Pearler or have you been researching it for shares trading? Let us know your experience in the comments below!
Other brokers to choose from
Big 4 banks
- CommSec Share trading [this is who I started out investing with]
- NAB Trade
- ANZ Trade
- Westpac Trade
Fintechs and smaller banks
- Stake US Share Trading
- CMC Markets
- IG MarketsGroup
Pearler Sign up code
Pearler has provided a generic Community sign-up code (“COMMUNITY”) that will give you all of the benefits of a previous sign up code ($10 pearler credit for brokerage), however, this is not an affiliate link as there is no affiliate-based commission per sign-up (to be clear, I am not paid by Pearler for anyone who signs up using this link). Due to ASIC guidance on ‘Dealing by Arranging’, I can’t provide an affiliate link (i.e. be paid for sign ups) for Australian investing-based services, groups or companies as this is likely to be dealing by arranging and thus providing a financial service – which I do not do and am not licenced to do.
Check out my monthly Net Worth Updates as well as my Personal Resources page where I share all of the tools I use to reach Financial Independence.
Financial Disclaimer: CaptainFI is NOT a financial advisor and does not hold an AFSL. This is not financial Advice!
I am not a financial adviser and I do not hold an Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL). In this article, I am giving you factual, balanced information without judgment or bias, to the best of my ability. I do not know your personal circumstance or financial situation. I am not giving you any general or personal financial advice about what you should do with your investments. Just because I do something with my money (or use a particular service or platform) doesn’t mean it is automatically appropriate for your personal circumstances. I do not recommend nor endorse any financial or investment product, and my usage or opinion of any product should not be interpreted as an endorsement, advertisement, or intent to influence.
I can only provide factual information based on my journey to Financial Independence, and that is provided for general informational and entertainment purposes only. I make no guarantee about the performance of any product, and although I strive to keep the information accurate and updated as it changes, I make no guarantee about the correctness of reviews or information posted. When it comes to investments, past performance is no indicator of future performance as returns can be volatile, reflecting rises and falls of the underlying investments.
Remember – you always need to do your own independent research and due diligence before making any transaction. This includes reading and analysing Product Disclosure Statements, Terms and Conditions, Service Arrangement and Fee Structures. It is always smart to compare products and discuss them, but ultimately you need to take responsibility for your use of any particular product and make sure it suits your personal circumstances. If you need help and would like to obtain personal financial advice about which investment options or platforms may be right for you, please talk to a licensed financial adviser or AFSL holder – you can take the first steps to find a financial advisor by reading this interview, or by visiting the ASIC financial adviser register and searching in your area.
Captain FI is a Retired Pilot who lives in Adelaide, South Australia. He is passionate about Financial Independence and writes about Personal Finance and his journey to reach FI at 29, allowing him to retire at 30.
42 thoughts on “Pearler Review: Auto-Investing & Brokerage-Free Investing”
Interesting platform. Please keep us posted on when you get off the waitlist.
Waiting for Kurt to bump me up the que 😉
Hi Captain, if my transactions size is under $1000 every fortnight – am i better off using Commsec Pocket then for $2 brokage fees wise?
Hey Jenny, great question. There are actually a number of brokerage free ETFs you can access within Pearler, so you won’t even have to pay anything. Personally I go with VTS / VEU / A200 and these funds do still have brokerage applied, however I am usually investing $2000 at a time. At the end of the day though, you should focus on the actual investment and not the brokerage as its actually only such a small factor. I have probably been guilty in the past over emphasising brokerage costs, but in reality its more about the quality of the underlying investment, and with ETFs, the management expense ratio they charge.
Do you pay a brokerage fee of 9.5 to invest $2000 in your 3 etfs? Or do you just pay $9.5 multiply by 3 equaling $28.5?. Thanks.
Hi mate, I only ever make one trade per fortnight which is a buy, so its $9.50. Pearler actually has a thing where you can pre purchase brokerage and get a discount, and also you get free brokerage from referring people, I have a few, so I don’t always end up having to pay
Hey Jordan. All into the system now, transferring my first bunch of $$$ so will see how I go!
Hi Captain, are you using Pearler now and if so – would you provide any insights/opinions on its use?
G’day Trev – Yep I have just sorted out my Pearler account. I started it with a new HIN and haven’t transferred over my other holdings just yet – I am still learning and getting more comfortable with the system and how it works, but will be shortly purchasing my first parcel of index funds through it. Cheers
Very interested in this platform and would make a newcomer to investing a lot easier especially as I have decided to go down a 4 ETF route so will assist with rebalancing.
Quick question I can’t find on their website or here is whether there is a minimum purchase amount like the $500 minimum on Selfwealth?
Hey Matt. Funny you commented about this now – I actually am just working on the podcast recording episode that Kurt and I did recently about Pearler. Yes I think there is still a $500 minimum I believe, but just check the PDS to be sure.
Thanks for your reply. Using Pearler and Selfwealth, which would you recommend? The auto balance of Pearler sounds like a winner for a beginner like me but worried about being a new platform and potential risk . Selfwealth being around for longer might gives me more confidence but more work for rebalancing
Hey mate, what’s more important is how regularly you are investing. You are right – selfwealth has been around a bit longer and has a proven track record, but both platforms are CHESS sponsored so it doesn’t actually matter. If Pearler goes bust, you just quote your HIN to selfwealth (or any other broker ie ComSec) and your shares get transferred across. The only thing might be any cash you had in your brokerage account could take a while to get paid out or transferred, which is why I never keep any cash in my brokerage account – I transfer in and then buy as soon as it’s available
Just found your page and have been fully invested in reading..great work!
Thanks for answering this question as well……was wondering what happenis if say one of them or both of them go belly up.
No worries mate, and thanks for the feedback! Are you into index funds yet? 😛
Hey Cpt Fl….I have a lot of individual stocks and am a late starter to index/etf’s.
Recently started looking into ETF’s and went a bit different on ETHI.
Adding another one tomorrow.
So CaptainFI do you only use Pearler now? Have you moved everything from SelfWealth across? If not why not?
G’day Peter, I am still splitting my investments between Pearler and Selfwealth, however I will most likely be slowly transitioning to Pearler this year. I just had seriously like thousands of free trades on Selfwealth because I shared an affiliate link for Selfwealth on this blog about a year ago, so it was kind of hard to walk away from that haha. I have made my first few trades on Pearler and building up my experience with their platform buying new shares before transferring my entire portfolio over. Eventually I want them all on the same HIN just due to simplicity for accounting, but having two HINs isn’t a deal breaker, just a bit extra paperwork as dividends are tracked separately across the HINs. As far as I know, transferring my portfolio via a HIN transfer doesn’t attract a CGT event so it shouldn’t be an issue.
Does transfer of shares/ETFs from one broker to another broker attracts any charges? If yes, then how much we are talking about?
G’day Sandeep. For a HIN transfer on the CHESS registry I am fairly sure it does not, and I did not get any charges when I transferred from ComSec to Selfwealth, or from Selfwealth to Pearler. I am unsure if your shares are custodian sponsored or if it is a managed fund like Raiz or Spaceship
Thanks Captain FI!!
My shares would be Chess sponsored. At the moment i will use commsec as the frequency wont be much but in future i will look for pearler for automation.
Thanks for replying!
Another question if you can answer. What are your thoughts on investing in US markets through VTS considering it will be under US tax obligations as its US domiciled. And why not opt for IVV (ishares s&p 500) which has almost same fees but australian fees ?
Hey mate it is a good question re VTS or IVV, and at one point I actually had both. My choice was because VTS was a bigger index, and it was also cheaper by 1 basis point. I don’t mind submitting the w8BENE form every 3 years, and I will always be generally on a taxable income rate above 15%
Heya! Hi! I can’t find a PDS for Pearler anywhere! I emailed them about it and they said they don’t have one because they don’t need one for their product. Apparently a Financial Services Guide is covers it. Does it? You’ve mentioned their PDS in your article so I’m a bit confused!
Hey Gabrielle, this is totally my bad. I usually use the terms PDS and FSG interchangeably but should probably refer to these things as a ‘Terms and conditions’ . It is the financial services guide that you want to read
Thanks for the information on Pearler. I too like the auto-invest option and am keen. I have 2 queries please. What about the safety of the money I leave in the Pearler Client Trust ac? What if I have left some money lying in it while I decide where to invest and if Pearler due to any unforeseen event has to close permanently. How do I retrieve the money. Is there any specific amount that is guaranteed by the government that is protected?
Also with the 0.055% brokerage for trades over 17500. – is it per trade? I plan on making many trades of 5000 each over the year? So will I pay 0.055% of 5000 per trade after my total holding in Pearler goes over 17500? Or is it 0.055% if per trade value is above 17500?
How does one open an account with Pearler? Is it instant or there’s a wait period?
Hey there Kay, actually Pearler just removed the sliding scale so it is now just a flat $9.50 trade and I will update the article soon. You should be able to open an account with Pearler straight away and there is an affiliate link in the article if you want a free trade when you do. As for the safety of your client trust account I can’t really comment as I am not a pearler employee however I am sure Kurt, Nic or Hayden would be more than happy to explain if you give them a call. I always have small amounts in my pearler CTA because I use the auto invest mechanic and tbh I am not that worried about it, but thats just me personally.
I’m a newbie to investing and have been doing my own research for quite a while without taking the plunge. After reading this article though Pearler looks like a great way to get into it, the AutoInvest feature especially. Im planning to invest in a much similar set up to yourself (VTS / VEU / A200 ) but on a much smaller scale, $50-$100 weekly investment. I was hoping for some advice/clarification on the brokerage fees for these funds. Am I best off looking into other EFT’s with no brokerage fees with such a small on going investment?
Hi Jake, I personally save up until I have enough to keep my brokerage fee below 1% of the transation, i.e. a minimum size of $950. I invest in $2000 lots or more usually. There are brokerage free ETFs you could look into but I dont know anything about them really. If you have $100 a week then thats $400 per month, so maybe you could aim for a bi-monthly investment of $1000 or so.
Hi. Having trouble finding out how to fill in a W8-BEN when using Pearler! Been looking for about 30 mins ‘-.- If you or anyone has an idea please help. I’ve never filled a W8-BEN form in before but from some quick googling it seems other rockers have how to sections specific to their platform but not Pearler. This is applicable to my VTS and VEU holdings btw.
G’day Candice, you will do this through your share registry after you buy the share. Just chillax, after you buy your ETF parcels you will get contacted by the registry asking for more information, and once you have an account (its either computershare or link market services) you can fill out the W8 form on there
Thanks Captain Fi, I used your code to sign up to Pearler and I’m loving the new App and in the process of setting up a minor account for my son, Andy. Need to look into the tax implications of the minor account though, once I have invested.
Great content Captain Fi! What’s your thoughts on VDGH instead of VTS / VEU / A200? I understand the higher management fees for VDGH but it saves on the amount of brokerage paid for investing in 3 ETFS individually. I know VDGH has a set allocation and 10% bonds. Are there any other cons of VDGH or highly diversified etfs? (I understand this is not financial advice, just curious about your opinion on things)
Hi there, I am a complete novice to investing and have recently downsized for retirement. I have no knowledge of this type of investment as I have been in real estate all my life. After selling up we have no superannuation so need to feel safe for future. Can you safely invest all your savings in Pearler, and is it easy to use!
Hi Manfred, If you are approaching retirement and not feeling confident, hit up centrelink to speak to a financial advisor / coach for free. Even if you have to pay to talk to a good one, have a look around on this site for resources and leads to good quality, fee for service advisors (hint, check the FPA and AFA websites). Pearler so far has been great for me, CHESS sponsored so just as safe as any of the other big bank brokers as far as I know. If I were you I wouldnt be making any rash decisions too quickly though!
Incredible blog that has taken someone with zero knowledge about money and investing and helped them turn their life around. Thanks mate! Quick question, with Pearler and reinvesting dividends, how on earth do you set that up? Currently holding VAS shares, but for the life of me can’t work out how to set up the reinvestment of dividends. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Keep up the great work mate!
Thanks mate. With your Dividends, you will need to select DRP with the share registry. I can never remember if its Computershare or Link market services, its one or the other. You will need to log in to that ( they will be the ones sending you paper letters on behalf of the ASX) online to your member services area and then you can select DRP. Personally I do not use DRP anymore as I find it more psychologically thrilling to have fat dividend cheques deposited into my bank account, and then I can use them to buy whatever I want (which is usually more shares – thus allowing me to rebalance a bit more effectively). The pros of a DRP is usually you get a slight discount to the shares and its brokerage free.
I have opened up a Pearler account, thanks for the info and education!
I have four young grandkids (7, 6, 2 and 7 months) and plan on setting up a trustee account for each one and they will be beneficiaries and I’ll pass the accounts over when they’re each 18 (or when I deem wise enough to receive lol).
Anyhow, I keep tossing around between choosing the ‘all in set and forget’ VDHG OR two or three ETFs that I’ll have to keep an eye on i.e. VAS (or A200) and VGS (or maybe similar to your mix or VTS, VEU and A200).
The current market volatility makes me nervous, but I also have around $20,000 to make a start.
Your thoughts would be appreciated, thank you!
Thanks for the kind words! Re: your grandkids, it sounds like you have a pretty long term focus which is at least 11 years, but on average probably sounding like it may be 15-20. Personally I agree with the sentiment not to invest anything I need within 3-5 years, and this is well beyond that timeframe. Since the funds aren’t for you, and you probably don’t want to spend time mucking around with them, and in all probability, the kids will be selling the whole thing once they get access to it, I wouldn’t bother with the three or two fund splits – just set it up with the all in one fund like VDHG or DHHF and letting the market do its work could be a good idea.
Really appreciate your reply, thank you!
Hi, thanks so much for all the information in your blogs – amazing! Very helpful indeed for all of us starting out on the road to investing. Could you please let me know the best way of transferring ETFs from one broker to another, as I believe you moved some of your investments from CommSec to Pearler. Did you have to sell and then transfer the money, or can you do it through the Share Registry? Many thanks,
Hi Shirley, Yes it was a fairly straightforward process, I filled out the broker transfer form that Pearler supplied (on their website), then printed, signed and uploaded. They then contact the registry and the previous broker, it took about 10 days or so untill the holdings were showing in my Pearler account. Whatever you do, don’t sell the shares and rebuy them as that is a capital gains event and youll also be up for brokerage fees on both sides. Cheers