Stake review; is it really brokerage free share trading?

Stake review from an experienced and long term globally diversified investor. Learn about Stake fees, Stake Black and is Stake legit?

Stake review

Stake is an online share trading platform that over 100,000 investors use to gain access to the US financial markets with $0 brokerage fees. Stake often gets thought of as a microinvesting platform because they allow fractional share investing and don’t have conventional minimum investment requirements like most trading platforms, but they are actually a full ‘execution only’ style broker. Stake has launched CHESS-sponsored ASX share trading with some of the lowest fees in the industry at only $3 per trade, with good design and user experience.

Stake is for anyone who wants simple access to something better and knows you don’t need to overpay for it. We’re amazed by the feedback from people who have been waiting for something like this for a long time – it’s been a great start.

CEO Matt Leibowitz

The Good

  • Trade over 3500 US stocks and ETFs Brokerage free
  • Simple to use and great mobile app
  • Fractional investing mechanic
  • Automatic W8BENE IRS Tax filing
  • AUS share trading with the lowest brokerage @$3/trade

The Bad

  • Currency conversion fee – 70bps (0.7%) each way when depositing or withdrawing funds
  • Need to pay for Stake Black subscription if you want to set limit orders
  • Transfers take several days to clear, can be frustrating using the free account

Verdict: Stake is a good way to buy US shares, but watch the currency conversion and other fees which can add up. It can also be tedious with the free account taking many days. AUS share trading is quick and easy, and is currently the cheapest brokerage at $3 per trade.

Stake currently has both a website and a mobile trading app where you can access over 3500 US stocks such as Apple and Microsoft through a custodianship type investment structure for US shares, and a similar system which is CHESS sponsored system for AUS shares. A Basic membership with Stake is free, however for added features and live data, investors can subscribe to a Stake Black (premium) account for $9 per month.

This article will review Stake as an investing platform to gain access to US equities for those on the path to Financial Independence, and explore whether I will begin using it personally. This is not financial or investment advice so as always do your own research. So is it really have brokerage free share trading…? Lets find out!

CaptainFI is not a Financial Advisor and the information below is not financial advice. This website is reader-supported, which means we may be paid when you visit links to partner or featured sites, or by advertising on the site. For more information please read my Privacy PolicyTerms of Use, and Financial Disclaimer.

Stake review
Is share trading through Stake really brokerage free? Read on to find out…

Stake review: US share trading

Co-founded by Aussies Matt Leibowitz, John Abitz and Dan Silver and headquartered in Sydney, Stake is an Aussie Fintech developed in 2017 which began beta testing in 2018. It is now a well established trading platform that gives investors access to the US stock market. Stake is particularly targeted at first time or novice investors, however it now has over 100,000 individual investors with a range of experience levels.

In terms of the investor types, we’ve got lots of first time investors who really appreciate how intuitive Stake is and how painless we’ve made it to access the capital markets. More experienced investors (like me) can now simply buy and sell US listed shares without all the costs and complexity attached to their existing platform.

CEO Matt Leibowitz
Stake review
Dan Silver, Matt Leibowitz, and John Abitz

As a Fintech, Stake are doing share trading a little differently to the status quo;

Stake doesn’t hold any customer funds itself but rather has packaged together the local account provider, foreign exchange merchant and the US trading platform to allow a customer access to all three in one place — to make starting up and transactions easier.”

Tony Yoo, Australian Business Insider, 2017

Stake is partnered with the following companies to provide their services;

Features of Stake US share trading platform

Stake allows you access to over 3,800 US listed individual shares (i.e. Apple or Amazon) or Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) parcels of shares brokerage free. You can do this with their no frills Basic account, or upgrade to their premium subscription service called a Stake Black account (currently free until Jan 2021 and then $9 per month).

The Stake Black account provides you with the ability to trade unsettled funds – when you make a trade, the trade will normally take T+2 days to ‘settle’ into your name . Although be careful because if you do more than 3 ‘day trades’ on unsettled funds in any 5 day rolling period with less than a $25,000 portfolio, the US regulators recognize and flag this as ‘day trading patterns’ and can ban your account. You do get a warning though, with a first time 90 day account freeze. Personally I have no idea why having a $25K portfolio alleviates this issue, but there you go (probably something to do with solvency?).

Further, Stake Black also gives you access to a range of trading information such as company fundamentals, individual analyst ratings and buy/sell/hold price ratings (like from Wells Fargo – similar to that provided by Goldman Sachs or Morningstar through CommSec). This kind of stuff is probably best suited for a ‘Trader’ rather than an ‘Investor’, so isn’t really necessary.

Support from Stake US share trading platform

Stake currently provide email support only, and they do not provide phone support, live chat or 24/7 support. From what I can read online, they are unfortunately a bit ‘hit and miss’ when it comes to customer support, but I got an average response time of under an hour.

Is Stake CHESS sponsored?

Australian share trading on Stake is CHESS sponsored through the ASX, and you will receive your own unique Holder Identification Number (HIN).

US share trading on Stake is not CHESS sponsored. Stake works on a custodian shareholding model as a representative of Sanlam Private wealth, and is partnered with US Broker DriveWeath LLC to provide access to the US financial markets. Stake does not offer a unique Holder Identification number (HIN) or Security Reference Number (SRN) for your US shares. This means your US investments are pooled with all other Stake users (which is how they provide fractional share purchases) and you as an individual are a beneficiary of your shares rather than the conventional legal owner (which you would be with a HIN or SRN).

Is US share trading with Stake safe?

This discussion relates to US share trading, not the CHESS sponsored Australian share trading aspect of Stake.

A big question people want answered is are their investments and money safe with Stake? The CHESS vs Custodian holding structure is a big part of this discussion – and as we discussed above, Stake is not CHESS sponsored and operates on a custodian share holding model with you as the beneficiary rather than the legal owner of the share.

Stake does need to comply with many tiers of government regulation though. Partnered with Sanlam Private Wealth here in Australia means they are subject to regulation by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC).

Further, since they offer US trading through their US partner DriveWealth (administrator) and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) Financial services (a very large bank headquartered in New York where the shares themselves are actually held in custody) they are also regulated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the US Financial Industry Regulatory Authority FINRA.

Stake also offers services in New Zealand where it is regulated by the NZ Financial Markets Authority.

Lastly, with expansion into the United Kingdom, Stake is also subject to regulations from the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Stake claim that their US securities are insured for up to $500,000 per user, which is done through US Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) insurance – a company which claims it has recovered billions of dollars worth of cash and securities for investors when their stock broker has gone bankrupt. This however only covers up to $250,000 of cash.

It is important to realise that Stake itself is not a stock broker, and is not run by a parent bank so they dont have a banking licence. Stake is a Fintech which enables share trading by partnering with other stock brokers and banks (DriveWealth and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) Financial services). Stake provides the website, digital platform, networking, clients (you) and the marketing, and outsources the ‘actual’ financial stuff to its partners. So when deciding whether Stake is a safe platform to use, you really should be looking closely at its partners which are providing the actual financial services.

A final note is as far as I can see, Stake is not a publicly listed company, i.e. it hasn’t had an IPO and it is privately owned. One main benefits of listing and being publicly traded is that a company can generate significant capital to ensure the business thrives over the long term, but there is a significant secondary benefit to a companies customers. Publicly listed companies MUST provide financial and company reporting and get audited by regulators for the benefit of its shareholders – this means any customer using the platform can gain access to these reports. This would be a great way to monitor the companies health and know if it was going downhill, which could be a sign that its time to move out of the platform. Because Stake does not do this, it is more difficult to monitor the health of the company.

In terms of security on the platform itself, Stake does allow two-factor authentication log in (which you will need to configure in your Account security settings), as well as pass-code or face recognition settings for trading on the mobile app.

Funding your Stake US share trading account

You can fund your Stake account through a couple of ways, but the cheapest is through a PoLi bank transfer. The minimum transfer is $50 which is significantly lower than a lot of competing platforms. Your transfer will be subject to the FX (foreign exchange) spot rate, plus an additional 70 point spread (.7% transfer fee), or if transferring USD into your stake account from a multi currency bank account like HSBC, there is a flat $5 fee. Currently Stake do not offer Margin lending or leverage within the platform, which in my mind is a very sensible thing.

Stake fees – US share trading

Stake charge a number of fees in the process of US share trading. These are mostly in the form of foreign exchange rate and transfer fees. The information below is based off their current fee schedule – but you should check their website for their product disclosure statement and financial services guide to confirm. You can view comprehensive portfolio fee reports for your account (log in -> Account -> Reports and Activity).

stake review
Stake Fees

Trading Fees: $0 – Brokerage is Free on Stake.

Foreign exchange fee: 70 bps points on the FX transfer fee (.7% commission?) on transfers in and out of your Stake account between Australian and US dollars.

Stake Black: $9 monthly fee for Stake Black (premium) subscription

Express fee: 50 points (.5%) express deposit fee for next day fund clearing

Card fee: 200 points (2%) if funding your Stake account using Credit or Debit card

US Tax form fee: $5 flat fee when submitting

Non-stake USD transfers: $5 fee applies to all transfers of USD into your account that are not initiated by Stake’s Foreign exchange system on the Stake platform

Bank processing fee: $2 is charged (on top of FX fee) when you withdraw money from your Stake account.

Share transfer fees: Stake charge some significant fees for transferring your US stocks into or out of your Stake account. ACATS transferrs into stake are free, but DTC transfers are $15 per position. Transferring out of Stake to another broker is where this gets expensive, with ACATS transfers costing $100 and DTC transfers at $15 per position.

Misc fees: There are some small holding fees that Stake charge which are passed on directly from US regulatory bodies (such as SEC and TAF fees).

The SEC Fee is $0.221 per US$10,000 of sale proceeds for the costs involved in their regulation of equity dealers and the equities market. The TAF fee is $0.000119 per share with a per-transaction cap of $5.95 a fee to support FINRA (a US regulatory body) fee to support them operate on a cash-flow neutral basis

Stake

Stake Fees – AUS share trading

Currently, Stake is offering the lowest brokerage costs in Australia for AUS share trading at $3 per trade for CHESS sponsored trading. They also have gamified the brokerage process through referrals – the more people you refer to stake, the lower your brokerage costs go, to the point where if you refer enough you pay $0 brokerage!

Tax on investments through Stake share trading

Alas, there are two certainties in life – death, and taxes! To make sure you are not getting ‘double tapped’ on taxes on your investment earnings through Stake, Stake will automatically file a W8-BEN tax form to the IRS on your behalf. There is an unavoidable $5 fee charged for this service, but it is in your best interest.

Filing the W8-BEN form means Uncle Sam (the IRS) will only withhold 15% of your dividends as tax (this is their company tax rate) instead of the full 30%. Because Australia and the US have a reciprocal tax arrangement, the Australian Tax Office will then acknowledge you have already paid 15% tax, and will therefore give you a ‘credit’ for this 15% rather than taxiing you at your full marginal rate. Stake will not take any Capital Gains Tax and you wont have to pay this to the US unless you are a US taxpayer (but you will be liable for tax in your country of residency).

I’m not a tax accountant or lawyer by any stretch of the imagination, but if you are on an effective taxation rate lower than 15% I would suggest its probably not in your interests to be investing overseas, because I highly doubt the Aus Government would ever repay you for taxes the IRS took. I don’t think it works in the same way as the franking credit refund scheme – but maybe a more educated reader can leave a comment about how this works?

How does Stake make money?

Stake makes money with three main ways;

  1. The additional 70 point spread (.7%) they tack onto the foreign exchange rate when you add funds into your Stake trading account (because trades on Stake are made in USD),
  2. They keep the interest earned on any of the cash you have deposited with them that is not invested.
  3. Through the monthly fee for their premium trading account Stake Black.
  4. A Deposit fee if you use express or credit card funded deposits.

Stake do charge a number of other little fees here and there, although they don’t really make much money off of these and they are really just intended to cover the cost of providing the service (such as banking and transfer fees).

It is conjectured that Stake also make a profit through the custodian holding structure of your shares; that is to say they might have the power to lend out your shares to short sellers or use the collective bargaining rights of all of the shares under its control to influence companies. Personally I find this hard to believe, because ultimately your shares aren’t held by Stake – it looks like they are held under custody at the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) Financial services

However I personally have no idea what the ICBC can do with your shares – it all starts to get a bit murky and complicated, and hard to keep track of. This information is not readily available and is hard to find – I personally find this lack of transparency a bit suss – so hopefully any experts on Stake or US custodian share trading structures could chime in here in the comments and educate me.

How to use Stake for US share trading

Signing up for Stake is quick and easy. You can create an online account with Stake and have it funded in under an hour; in most cases the funds should settle that day allowing you to make your first trade on the same day as signing up.

Simply go to Stake’s website (or find an affiliate sign up link) and follow the bouncing ball. To create an account you will need to select a Username and password and follow the prompts to verify your Identify (i.e. using a Drivers licence)

Once you have registered, verified and funded your account, you can begin browsing US listed stocks and ETFs through their search function which you can chuck in ticker codes, company names and even just keywords – like ‘technology’.

You can view your portfolio on your Dashboard, add stocks to your Watch list and view your Account details, fees and activity reports.

When you are ready to trade, you can execute Market, Limit and Stop orders. Limit orders will automatically expire at the end of the US trading day, and stop orders will expire after 90 days.

Stake review
Stake share trading web trading platform interface

Stake review – is it really brokerage free?

Don’t let the tag line of $0 brokerage trades fool you, there are some fees associated with trading through the Stake platform which can add up and make it comparable to other brokerage platforms. This stems from the fact that they operate only in a base currency of USD, and hence investors can face hefty Foreign exchange rates and currency conversion fees.

So how do these conversion fees compare to traditional brokerage costs? Canstar did a broad market study across 100 brokerage providers to assess the brokerage costs for Aussie, US and UK shares purchases.

“The average cost from these 100 test cases for $15,000 trades in Australia was $21.92, whereas the average cost for a trade of the same value was $45.10 in the US and $48.35 in the UK.”

Sydney Morning Herald, on discussing Canstars research of Shares trading brokerage in Australia

To transfer AUD $15,000 into your Stake account, the spread which you pay over the FX spot rate (70 basis points) is $105, or $180 if you want a same day transfer. It is worth noting that this is just Stake’s fee, and there could be additional fees – one reviewer noted their AUD $15,000 deposit was charged $135 (which was an additional $30 over stakes fee). This means that conducting a $15,000 trade on stake could actually cost you over four times the price of what it does for the ‘market average’ for US stock trading brokerage.

If you decided to break this up into multiple smaller trades, then the ‘per trade’ or effective brokerage cost of Stake obviously decreases. At the time of writing with the current exchange rate (AUD to USD is about .70) your AUD $15,000 would be worth around $10,500 after fees. If you instead wanted to make 10 trades, the effective brokerage would thus be around $10.5 per trade. However, using the fractional investments, you could break this sum up into 210 x $50 trades and thus pay an effective brokerage of $0.85 per trade. Which is great if you wanted to make lots of little transactions. As I actually found out, there is no minimum trade size so you can do pretty much as many as you like.

Honestly though, who would have the time to be bothered doing this, when you could just buy an ETF – and hint hint, you can buy ETFs for complete US stock market exposure that are listed on the ASX, for $9.50 with either SelfWealth or Pearler (CHESS sponsored), or for $5 with Superhero (under a custodian structure). If you dead set wanted to buy individual US stocks, you will find that many other brokers also claim to have $0 brokerage trades on international shares but charge similar (or even higher) foreign exchange spreads and fees – making Stake ultimately not a bad choice if you are comfortable and trust them.

Am I signing up to Stake?

The team from Stake got in touch to talk to me a bit more about the platform and their side of the story, which made me realise perhaps I had been a bit critical of the platform – so I actually decided to give it a go myself, and report back on my findings. They were actually also generous enough to offer to drop an additional $50 USD in my account once I was all set up, so I could play around with the platform more. Since I figured I could get it done in less than an hour, it seemed like easy money, right?

I should point out that the custodian type structure is pretty much the norm for US share trading, since in the US they do not have anything like our Australian CHESS sponsorship system. With this in mind, as an Aussie, if you want to invest directly in US shares you will have to do it through a custodian style structure. This means there is no choice other than to basically just find one and give it a go.

Secondly, some of the bigger and more notable banks and other share trading platforms or brokers here will let you buy US shares through them, but they can have hefty brokerage and Fx fees so you are really paying a premium for their name – essentially trusting them to partner with a reputable US custodian. Keeping in mind, they are only partnering with the US based financial institutions which are the custodians – these Australian brokers don’t actually hold the shares for you themselves at all.

Thirdly, it turns out the FX spread of 70 basis points (.7%) that Stake charges is also pretty normal for this kind of service. This is also what SelfWealth are charging for FX on US share trading, in addition to a flat $9.50 brokerage, which actually makes Stake a much cheaper option than SelfWealth. Comparing Stake to something like a review of CommSec, you can see that CommSec actually charge a .6% FX spread, plus hefty brokerage ($19.95, to $5000, $29.95 to $10,000 and then .31% above that). So you can see that Stake is the cheapest of them all for US share trading.

In Australia, we are used to paying some pretty competitive brokerage rates on Australian shares, and for me personally anything under 1% I think is generally pretty good. This is why I usually wait until I have at least a few thousand dollars before making a shares purchase – I want to keep my brokerage % as low as possible. So maybe I should stop complaining about their .7% Forex fee – however if you are reading this Stake, I think you should knock down this fee a bit please.

Anyway, without anymore adue, this has been my experience with using Stake so far…

Stake review – my experience

After steering to their website via a Sign up Bonus Code I found online, I created my own account. I timed the entire process, which took under 15 minutes – and this was mostly because I couldn’t find my wallet with my drivers licence in it (which is how I verified my identity with them). I literally just followed the bouncing ball and got my account set up with no trouble at all.

The next step was funding my account, which was a requirement to obviously buy something, but also because with the sign up bonus, if I did it within 24 hours of signing up I would get a Bonus Free Stock. Because this is all still new to me, and because Stake’s minimum funding amount is $50 I decided to only send across $50. I figured this was pretty low amount to risk. Before clicking ‘Confirm’ I was taken to this screen which let me know exactly what I would be charged before funding my account (Noting that if you did a card transfer, there would be an additional $1 fee (2%).

stake review

Whilst Stake usually only charge .7% on FX, the minimum is $2 – so I have essentially paid 4% FX fee on this transaction – $286 would be the break-even amount (.7% of $286 is $2 in fees). After clicking ‘Confirm’, I was told that my funds are in flight and to just chill for a bit until they land. Being a pilot, I know the feeling about being stuck in the air and so figured I would just leave it be and come back to it tomorrow.

Stake review

To pass the time, I decided to claim my free bonus stock and spun their roulette wheel – currently there is a chance at winning either a Nike, Drop Box or GoPro stock as a bonus sign up feature. I was of course Hoping for Nike since this was trading at about $130 USD per share, with a second being Drop Box at about $18 USD a share. Of course, with my luck I won the crappest one which was GoPro trading at $7 USD per share. LOL!

stake review

I also realised I transferred $50 AUD, which only is going to give me $29.61 USD in the end thanks to the exchange rate, but thankfully as I said Stake were pretty generous to gift me an additional $50 USD into my account for giving the platform a go, so I am hoping to check back in a couple of days. To get more money I decided to sell the GoPro stock (LOL Byeeeeeee Felicia!)

Stake review
Placing a Sell order for GoPro on Stake using a market order

Selling shares was super easy, but due to the time difference between Aus and the USA, it usually means having to check back in the next day or so (or getting up early or staying up late!). I was in no hurry, so just let the sell order sit in the background at market rate, and then checked back in the next day.

In terms of which stock I am going to buy, when I was a new investor I always thought that when I had direct access to US shares it would be Apple, Amazon, Facebook or one of those giant tech stocks. However, I decided I would just buy ‘VTI’, which is pretty much the American equivalent of ASX:VTS – a total stock market index fund ETF. Although maybe I should have gambled this on some speculative marijuana crypto penny stock? Haha!

Stake review
Placing a buy order on Stake for VTI at market rate. This gives me .4571 of an entire share, thanks to fractional ownership

I am happy buying NYSE:VTI because this gets me over 3500 individual companies, including all the large tech stocks I wanted back in the day. Thanks to Stake’s fractional share purchasing mechanic, my (USD) $85.42 got me .4571 of a share – almost a half of a share of VTI. Because I am doing this during gentlemen’s hours in Australia, the trade didn’t execute immediately, but it will do when the US market opens next.

Stake review
Pending order screen on Stake

So how does this work long term, including things like receiving dividends? The answer is I don’t know because I only signed in up November. I will report back with my experiences with dividends, however my assumption is they will get taxed by Uncle Sam at 15%, and then the money should get deposited into your Stake account. You will need to declare this as income and pay the relevent income tax (less the 15% you paid the American IRS).

Stake sign up code

You can find a sign-up code for Stake by Googling it, asking a friend who uses it for theirs, or potentially asking for one on most personal finance groups on social media. Due to ASIC guidance on ‘Dealing by Arranging’, I can’t provide an affiliate link for my readers anymore for any Australian investing-based services, groups or companies. However, you should still be able to get a code from another personal user somewhere.

Anyway, if you want to give it a go too, find a code online. Let me know in the comments below which bonus stock you got, and whether you are ‘insta-selling’ it to switch it over to something else or not. If I am honest, I am not too sure about holding any of these stocks long, so I’m probably thinking I will ‘insta-sell’ them and buy ETFs.

Tracking Stake trades and tax using Sharesight

sharesight
sharesight

Of course, no review would be complete without discussing the tax implications of using Stake. If you buy, hold or sell on the platform your gonna eventually have to deal with tax. This is a huge pain in the behind, and why I outsource this crappy job to Sharesight who automatically track all of my portfolio holdings, dividends, capital gains and tax liabilities.

Setting up your Sharesight Stake integration is really easy – just like with other share trading platforms, you can import your holdings either manually, or via a CSV sheet (you download the CSV spreadsheet from your Stake account). Better yet, set up automatic email forwarding to your Sharesight trade confirmation email address – and it will always automatically appear in your Sharesight account whenever you make a trade.

Dividends in Stake

Stake automatically withholds your 15% tax on dividends, which is pretty convenient and organised through the WBEN form they file for you when you sign up. But! Remember if you are an Australian resident for tax purposes you are still liable for the difference to the Australian Tax Office. Depending on your marginal rate of tax you may have to pay more tax when you file your tax return (if you are below the tax free threshold, I am fairly sure that 15% you just had automatically deducted by stake to send to Uncle Sam is just gone… so this may influence whether you use the platform to hold dividend paying stocks or not)

Using sharesight means its bloody simple to track all of this – simply import your current holdings (manually or use the CSV spreadsheet option) and set up your email forwarding to your sharesight trade import email. Sharesight will then spit out your tax liability for the dividends you have received through Stake (and obviously it is less 15% already paid to Uncle Sam thanks to the tax reciprocity arrangements between Australia and the USA).

Capital Gains Tax in Stake

Through Stake, you do not pay CGT to the US Government (IRS). Sharesight will track your Capital gains tax liability to the ATO, and then you simply declare this in your tax return. Like with other investments, holding for over 12 months gets you a 50% CGT liability deduction, which I think is fantastic.

sharesight
sharesight

Frequently asked questions

Naturally, you are going to have some questions about Stake before giving it a go. I have collated some of the most common frequently asked questions here

What is stake trading?

Stake is an online share trading platform that allows investors use to gain access to the US financial markets with $0 brokerage fees, and fractional investing mechanics.

Is Stake a good broker?

Whilst currency conversion fees are expensive, Stake is good way to get access to over 3500 US listed stocks and ETFs brokerage free. The Stake trading tools are also pretty good.

Do you own shares with stake?

Stake does not offer a unique Holder Identification number (HIN) or Security Reference Number (SRN) for your shares. This means your investments are pooled with all other Stake users (which is how they provide fractional share purchases) and you as an individual are a beneficiary of your shares rather than the conventional legal owner (which you would be with a HIN or SRN).

Is stake good for investing?

Stake is great for microinvesting, or direct access to individual shares in the US markets. However for larger investments you are better off using an Australian CHESS sponsored broker to hold ETFs that have US exposure through total index diversification

Is Stake legit?

Yes. Stake is a legitimate Australian company. Rather weirdly this company name is STAKESHOP PTY LTD (ACN 610 105 505, ABN 99 610 105 505) Registered to Sydney, NSW 2000. They are Authorised Representative No. 1241398 of Sanlam Private Wealth Pty Ltd (Australian Financial Services Licence No. 337927).

Is stake safe?

Stake is regulated by both the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) as well as the US FINRA and SEC. Client assets are protected up to $500K under the Securities and Investment Protection Corporation’s (SIPC) insurance, which includes cash amounts up to $250,000.

What about a Stake app review?

Stake provide both website and app, which is compatible for both iOS and android devices. As far as I can tell, both have the same functionality, and I prefer using the mobile app due to convenience. check out some of the screenshots above for an idea about the feel of the app. The account opening process through the app is streamlined and easy.

Is stake chess sponsored?

Australian share trading on Stake is CHESS sponsored, whereas US share trading on Stake is not CHESS sponsored. Stake works on a custodian share holding model as a representative of Sanlam Private wealth, and is partnered with US Broker DriveWeath LLC to provide access to the US financial markets.

Stake vs Commsec

Stake provides more freedom and investment choice than Commsec pocket, as in the Stake app you can do share trading on all us stocks and etfs wheras on commsec pocket you can only choose from 7 exchange traded funds. Commsec pocket also charge brokerage, wheras Stake is brokerage free (however you pay a currency conversion fee on bank transfers on traded funds).

When Stake operates

Stake operates 24/7 and you can lodge trades, however trades will only execute during US market hours – due to time differences this is not the same hours as the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) is open.

How much does Stake charge for bank transfers?

When depositing funds Stake charges a currency exchange fee of 70 basis points (.7%) on top of the exchange rate on bank transfers when you add funds. There is no brokerage charged on traded funds once in your account (your buying power).

Can I use Stake to trade Australian shares?

Yes, Stake now offers CHESS sponsored Australian share trading. Currently, they charge $3 per trade making them the cheapest CHESS sponsored broker in Australia.

Conclusion

Stake is an easy-to-use and popular online share trading platform which you can use to get exposure to the US share market (over 3800 individual shares or ETFs) and Australian share market.

Although they advertise $0 brokerage, as we saw with the case study there is actually foreign exchange and transfer fees which can make trading on Stake more expensive than it seems at first glance, however, this is still typically cheaper than a conventional broker like Commsec. It is important that you thoroughly review their PDS, terms and conditions and fee structures, and compare this to other brokers when making a decision to use Stake or not.

Having said that, the FX fees which Stake charge are comparable to a number of other online share trading platforms like eToro, IG and CMC markets which also all spruik having $0 brokerage on international share trading but then hit you with the Forex fees – it just seems par for the course for US share trading.

Finally, and this one is massive, with Stake US shade trading (and all US share trading platforms for that matter) you do not legally own the underlying assets. At the time of writing, with Stake, ‘your’ shares are actually held under a custodian structure in the US by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) Financial services with you as the beneficiary. Whilst subject to both Australian and US regulators, there is lots of complexity behind this product. I would suggest you need to research and feel comfortable with each of Stakes business partners and how this works before deciding to start investing through Stake.

In terms of usage, Stake is an easy-to-use platform that is well suited as an educational tool for newer investors looking at microinvesting but wanting a better deal. The ability to invest such little amounts of money, and play around brokerage free once the money is in your Stake account, means you could potentially learn about investing and play around with much lower fees (not that I think share trading is a great idea but you get the point). The benefit of Stake now having integrated Australian CHESS sponsored share trading means that once you graduate from that, you could potentially use it as your ‘serious’ investing platform.

However, don’t take my word for it. Again, you should read the PDS, terms and conditions and fee structures carefully, so you can make an educated decision about whether it’s right for you or not. If you want to do some further reading on Stake or fund further details, you might find the Stake Whirlpool forum mildy entertaining reading (looks like it was kicked off with some fake reviews but has now evolved into a fairly funny discussion and provides some historical insights into the platform).

As always, if you get stuck, consider speaking to licensed finance professional such as an independent financial advisor. They are actually not that hard to find and some are happy to engage in Q and As in online forums, but do consider any potential vested interests or conflicts of interest when obtaining advice (i.e. many are hardly going to make money recommending you to trade on some online platform not associated with them).

Other brokers to choose from

Be sure to check out the following reviews on brokers that offer online trading to buy Australian and international shares. As always, make sure you are fully educated before making a choice on any particular one.

Big 4 banks

Fintechs and smaller banks

Microinvesting platforms

Financial Disclaimer

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 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.

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.

For more information please read my Privacy PolicyTerms of Use, and Financial Disclaimer.

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7 thoughts on “Stake review; is it really brokerage free share trading?

  1. Can we get an update about your further experiences with this?
    Also I have been using it for a while and it doesn’t look like the US take the 15% – instead you can pull all the money have in to Australia and pay the tax here.

    1. Hey David, Sure I will chuck in an update. I’ve actually enjoying playing with it, I’ve sold my free stock and used it to buy VTI, when I got paid a dividend, Stake automatically withheld 15% which is the US tax portion. I’ll upload screenshots when I can get around to it

  2. Hi
    Can you run an update on how you can pull funds from sold shares into your Australia bank account, please?
    I just recently signed up and I GoPro free stock too… why do I get the feeling that the spin wheel is programmed to point to GoPro? haha

    1. Hey Omalicha, I haven’t withdrawn any money yet but I might just withdraw it all to test it, but I did use Stake to buy Tesla shares and they have gone down since buying so I was kinda waiting for them to go back up at least so its not a loss haha. I’ve got a few free spins and mine always seem to land on Go Pro but I did get a drop box one too!

  3. Hi CaptainFI,
    Will you be testing and updating your review on Stake, given they are now CHESS sponsored with $3 from Jan 2022?

  4. The custodian structure , is what is bothering me when it comes to US stocks. It’s looks like they have changed their custodian to DTC Custodians but I still I am unsure about the ownership structure , will I be the owner or only have right to the shares.

    But the way this review is a class apart ! Thanks

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