An overview of Trading 212

Trading 212 is a popular “zero-fee” broker available to investors across Europe. This is an overview of what you should consider if you plan using it.

I often see the following questions about any broker:

  • “Is this broker good for long-term investing?”
  • “Is this broker good for me?”
  • “Can I trust this broker?”

The answer unfortunately is: it depends. There are multiple aspects that you need to consider when choosing a broker. Some aspects are more important to some people than others. People give different importance to aspects like fees, tax handling, investors compensation scheme, reputation and features. 

Given you can’t have a simple answer to those questions. What you need is a solid decision-making process to understand if the broker is good for you. I’ve shared my process earlier. I’ve shown how that process looks in practice when applied to Interactive Brokers and DEGIRO. This post will show how the process applies to Trading 212.

Disclaimer: I am not a Trading 212 customer. This is not an endorsement of Trading 212. This article is not supported by Trading 212 in any shape or form.

Fees

Trading 212 charges zero (!) fees for trading ETFs. No maintenance, custody, transaction, currency conversion, withdrawal/deposit funds, dividend processing fees.You can find information about the fees in their “Trading terms” page.
The zero fee policy only applies to what Trading 212 considers their Target Client:

“A Target Client is a client who makes no more than 100 orders for up to the aggregate amount of GBP (EUR,USD) 100 000 per month and may not be considered as a Day Trader.”
“A Day Trader is any client, who has placed buy and sell orders, for the same security on the same day, for two or more consecutive days.”

You can find the details around target clients in article 14.3 of the client agreement. I consider most passive investors target clients.

According to Trading 212’s conflict of interest policy, it does not sell clients’ order routings. Selling client order routing means sending clients’ orders through a market maker and being paid for it. This leads to settling some orders outside exchanges. Robinhood – a popular US zero-fee broker – sparked controversy for selling client order routings. This practice is controversial because it may lead to customers getting a worse price than the stock exchange price.

However, Trading 212 settles some orders over-the-counter through an entity it controls. That allows Trading 212 to reduce costs and pass those savings to customers. You can read more about over-the-counter trading in the section below on fractional shares.

Legal structure and Account Safety

Trading 212 is a trademark of Trading 212 UK Ltd. and Trading 212 Ltd. Trading 212 UK Ltd. is registered in the UK and is authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Trading 212 Ltd. is registered in Bulgaria and is authorized and regulated by the Financial Supervision Commission.

I couldn’t understand the role of each entity while reading all the legal documents. I don’t know if they assign each entity to a different set of customers. Or if they assign each entity to a different set of products.

The investors compensation scheme in the event of a bankruptcy varies depending on where your investment account is registered. In case your account is registered to Trading 212 UK Ltd, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (UK) will cover up to £85,000. In case your account is registered to Trading 212 Ltd., the Investors Compensation Fund (Bulgaria) will cover up to €20,000.

Trading 212 segregates client money and securities into accounts separate from the Trading 212 business accounts. This allows the customer’s assets to not be affected in the event of default or bankruptcy of the broker. This is standard practice in the industry for regulated brokers.

Trading 212 holds your assets in a nominee account. Another standard practice of regulated brokers. You can find more details about the safety of your account in the money protection page and the company overview page. 

Tax handling

Trading 212 won’t take care of any specific tax related paperwork for your specific country, unlike what a local broker would do. It won’t withhold any taxes. You will have to declare them and settle them with your tax authority yourself.

It is important to understand which kind of tax bureaucracy you will have to deal with and assess if it is worth the low fees. In some countries the paperwork will be simple, in others it will be more complex. Tax laws vary from country to country so you will have to do your own research.

Account types and Limits

Trading 212 has 3 products: Invest, CFD and ISA.  Invest and ISA are the product types more relevant for passive investors. Both have zero fees.

The ISA product is an investment account with tax benefits for UK tax residents. UK tax authorities determine the subscription limit of these accounts.

The Invest product is a normal taxable account suitable to any European resident. 

Available ETFs and Stock Exchanges

Trading 212 only provides access to two European stock exchanges: London Stock Exchange (LSE) and Deutsche Börse Xetra. You can find all ETFs they have available in their trading instruments page. 

I noticed that some of my preferred ETFs can’t be traded in EUR (e.g. Vanguard FTSE All World Distributing ETF – IE00B3RBWM25). I’ve read reports that you can ask customer support to add missing ETFs and that they are quick to respond.

My upcoming book demystifies many aspects around brokers. With it you will learn how to choose and use a broker.

For the book, I have prepared a handy spreadsheet which will help you compare different brokers. It has information on Trading 212, Interactive Brokers and Degiro. Subscribe to my newsletter below to download it.

Fractional shares

Trading 212 allows you to buy fractional shares of companies and ETFs. This means  you can own less than 1 unit of shares. Fractional shares allow you to invest a full cash amount.  Here is an example of how this works in practice:

Scenario 1 – fractional shares 

  • Share price: €23
  • Investment amount: €500
  • Number of shares bought: 21.7391304 shares
  • Final Cash account balance: €0

Scenario 2 – whole shares

  • share price: €23
  • Investment amount: €500
  • Number of shares bought: 21. 
  • Final Cash Account balance: €17. This is the remainder which couldn’t buy a whole share. 

Most brokers don’t allow buying fractional shares. Buying fractional shares is very popular in Germany/Austria where banks offer monthly investment plans where customers invest a fixed amount every month. 

Fractional shares aren’t supported for all ETFs. The ETF needs to have enough liquidity. You can find the supported ETFs in the trading instruments page. The “min traded quantity” column shows whether you can buy the ETF in units smaller than 1. Shares may be rounded up to 8 decimal places. 

Note that there is a limitation regarding cash dividends. Trading 212 will try to give you the relevant fraction of a dividend. But they can’t credit your account with a fraction of a cent. The cent is the lowest unit of most currencies (except Bitcoin!). Here is the relevant excerpt from the Client Agreement

“For example, if you own 0.00000001 shares of stock that pays a one cent dividend per-share, we will not credit your cash balance a fraction of a cent. In carrying out rounding, we will use reasonable endeavours to get as close as possible to your Order…”

Fractional shares cannot be transferred to another broker. You have to liquidate them for a cash balance. 

Trading 212 routes (most) transactions for full shares to stock exchanges. But transactions involving fractional shares are not routed to a stock exchange. We call this trading “over-the-counter”. Here, the shares are bought/sold through an entity controlled by Trading 212.

According to the conflict of interest policy, Trading 212 ensures that the price you get is like what you would get if they had routed these orders to an exchange. Technically, they are saying the “bid/ask” spread is acceptable. The bid/ask spread is important because it is a form of hidden cost: you are paying an invisible fee whenever you cannot buy/sell shares at a fair value, even if you don’t see it. 

Holding client money

Trading 212 can hold client money. It holds it in segregated bank accounts. ]

Foreign currency support

You can open an account in GBP, EUR, USD. They automatically convert your funds when you make transactions on a currency different from your account’s currency.

Trading 212 does not charge currency conversion fees. I’ve read reports that their exchange rates are fair but I could not verify. 

Service level

Trading 212 is an “execution only” broker. It does not offer advice or managed accounts.

Customer support

Trading 212’s website is clear and comprehensive. You can find most relevant information by checking their pricing, FAQ, legal documents, and product pages.

Trading 212’s support replies to queries by email quickly.

They also have an active community forum where you can learn of new features and ask questions.

Countries

Trading 212 is available in all countries in Europe.

Transferring shares

Trading 212 does not support transferring shares to/from other brokers. You will have to liquidate your shares, if you want to change brokers. This may lead to tax liabilities. 

Other

Trading 212 allows you to fund your account using a bank card besides bank transfers.

Trading 212 has smartphone apps besides the web client.

The team at Trading 212 has published their roadmap so you can see what is coming.