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What is the best broker in Switzerland in 2020?

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What is the best broker in Switzerland in 2020?

I have talked about several brokers on this blog. But I have not yet answered the question of which one is the best broker in Switzerland!

It is now time to answer this important question. There are several Swiss brokers, and most Swiss banks have their broker service. But some international brokers are also available in Switzerland.

If you want to invest in the stock market, you will need a broker account. So, before you can invest, you will need to choose a broker account. You need to choose carefully since changing brokers is neither easy nor free. Therefore, it is essential to pick the best broker possible.

Investing involves risks of losses. Make sure you are aware of that before you start investing.

How to choose a broker?

Choosing a broker is not very difficult, but it is a very important decision.

You are likely to use it for many years. You can always switch to a new broker. But this is not free and not straightforward to do. So, it is better to start with the right decision directly. Ideally, you want to start with the best broker for your needs.

The first thing you need to ensure is that you only trade with a reputable broker. You will entrust your investments with this broker. So you want a broker with a good reputation and excellent security.

Mainly, you need to make sure that your assets will be held separately from the broker legal entity. That way, if the broker defaults, you will still be able to reclaim your assets through the secondary entity. It is something that most brokers do.

The second thing that you should check is whether the broker gives you access to the exchanges you need. For instance, if you want to trade in Swiss stocks, you will need access to the Swiss Stock Exchange (SWX).

Due to a bad set of laws, it is currently challenging to access Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) from the U.S. Indeed, European investors cannot currently invest in these funds. And only Interactive Brokers will offer Swiss investors access to these U.S. ETFs. So, if you want to invest in these funds, your choice is overly limited.

Finally, you need to look at the prices. High Brokerage Fees is the main issue with most Swiss brokers. They are very expensive. As we will see later, there can be a huge difference in fees between different brokers. Most people do not realize this! When you compare brokers, you will see that the difference is too big to ignore!

Out of these three criteria, the third one is the one that requires the most research. Finding reputable and safe brokers is not very difficult. But finding a cheap broker giving you access to the stock exchanges you need is not always easy. If you do your research properly, you will directly start using the best broker for your needs.

The best brokers in Switzerland

As I said before, there are many options. You can probably trade directly with your bank. But Swiss banks are costly for trading. It would be very practical to trade directly with your bank. Unfortunately, they are simply too expensive. So, you should not trade with your bank.

There are a few other options with Swiss online brokers:

  • Corner Trader
  • Saxo Bank
  • Swissquote

These are already much more interesting than trading with your bank. But they are not cheap either.

Finally, there are several international brokers available in Switzerland:

  • DEGIRO
  • Interactive Brokers

These two brokers are the best options available for Switzerland. They are significantly cheaper than all the other options available in Switzerland. They may not be Swiss, but they offer all their services to Swiss people. This makes them the two best brokers in Switzerland.

To see that it is the case, we are going to compare the fees of the different brokers. We can also take into account the fact that with them, you do not have to pay Swiss Stamp Tax.

Comparison of the brokerage fees

We can quickly compare the fees of some of these brokers for some operations.

I cannot make a comparison of all the brokers available because there are too many. So I picked the most popular brokers in Switzerland. I included two bank brokers, two online Swiss Brokers, and two International Brokers. This should give a good set of brokers for comparison. This should definitely help showing what are the best brokers in Switzerland.

Here are the fees for these 6 brokers for a few examples of operations on Swiss and American stock exchanges. The share prices of April 16th were used for the comparison. Here are all the data I have collected:

Action Postfinance Migros CornerTrader Swissquote DEGIRO Interactive Brokers
Custody Fees 90 CHF / year 0.23% / year
Min 50 CHF
35 CHF / quarter
If inactive
0.025% / quarter
Min 15 CHF
Max 50 CHF
0 CHF 120 CHF / year
0 CHF if more than 100K
Buy 10 CHSPI shares 25 CHF 40 CHF 2.3 CHF 9 CHF 2.35 EUR 5 CHF
Buy 100 CHSPI shares 50 CHF 40 CHF 23 CHF 9 CHF 5.55 EUR 5 CHF
Buy 10 NOVN shares 15 CHF 40 CHF 1.68 CHF 20 CHF 5.42 CHF 5 CHF
Buy 100 NOVN shares 35 CHF 40 CHF 16.80 CHF 30 CHF 9.23 CHF 5 CHF
Buy 10 MSFT shares 35 USD 40 CHF 0.40 CHF 25 USD 0.54 EUR 0.35 USD
Buy 100 MSFT shares 70 USD 40 CHF 4.0 CHF 80 USD 0.90 EUR 0.36 USD
Or, if you prefer, here is the data on graphical form:

As we can expect, the Swiss traditional brokers are in a really bad position. Swiss online brokers are slightly better Corder Trader can be really cheap for small transactions. But it can quickly become expensive for transactions with a large number of shares.

In most cases, Interactive Brokers is the cheapest broker. It is followed by DEGIRO. So our two online foreign brokers are significantly cheaper than the others. In the worst case, IB is 222 times cheaper than Swissquote!

On average, if you are doing big enough transactions, both DEGIRO and IB will be much cheaper than the other brokers. They are always among the cheapest and are the never in the most expensive options. For me, this shows that DEGIRO and IB are the best brokers available in Switzerland.

If you would like to have more brokers included in this comparison, let me know, I can extend the list if many people are interested.

Swiss Broker Transaction Fees

Swiss Broker Transaction Fees

Comparison of brokerage fees for the best brokers in Switzerland - Click to enlarge

Swiss Stamp Tax

In Switzerland, there is a tax called the Swiss Stamp Tax  (or Swiss Stamp Duty). This is also called the Swiss Securities Transfer Tax. This is a federal tax.

This levies a tax on each transfer of securities when a Swiss securities dealer is involved in. By Swiss securities dealer, the tax means Swiss banks and Swiss brokers.

The amount of the tax depends on the exchange:

  • Swiss securities: 0.075% fee
  • Foreign securities: 0.15% fee

This means that by choosing an non-Swiss broker, you will save on the Swiss Stamp Tax! Since this is something that is levied on both directions (buy and sell), by using a Swiss Broker, you are effectively losing 0.30% of your transactions! Over the years, this can quickly add up to a large amount!

I understand the need for taxes. But this tax effectively moves people away from Swiss brokers. This law officially makes foreign brokers the best brokers for Switzerland.

For more information, you can read about it on the official Switzerland confederation website.

The two best brokers in Switzerland

As we could see from the comparison, the choice is fairly easy. From a fee point of view, only DEGIRO and Interactive Brokers are good choices. All the others are simply too expensive. Interactive Brokers is generally the cheapest of the two.

Now, I honestly cannot say which of these two is the best broker. They both have advantages and disadvantages that you need to consider.

There is one big difference currently between these two brokers. Only Interactive Brokers currently offers access to U.S. ETF. So, if you want to invest in U.S. ETF, you will need to use IB. This is only the case for ETFs, both brokers are giving access to all other U.S. securities.

The second, smaller, difference is that IB has a custody fee for a portfolio smaller than 100K USD. If you have less than that on your account, you will have to pay 10 CHF each month in custody fee. If you are serious about investing, it should not take you too long to reach that level. But if you do not plan to reach that level, DEGIRO may be a better option.

Aside from these two differences, they are both really good brokers. DEGIRO is a bit more expensive for currency exchange. This makes it a bit more expensive for a Swiss investor. On the other hand, DEGIROis cheaper for European securities. So it makes DEGIRO very interesting for European investors.

However, DEGIRO is much simpler to use than Interactive Brokers. IB is a bit cheaper and offers very good foreign exchange trading. And it offers tons of features and analysis tools. This comes at the price of complexity. At first sight, Interactive Brokers is quite intimidating. But it has become better and better over the years. And, as a simple investor, you will only need a small portion of all the features of IB.

For investors that want to try to invest a little money, DEGIRO is the best broker. For investors that have serious financial goals and are ready to spend some time understanding a more complex system, Interactive Brokers is the best broker.

DEGIRO – The simplest broker

For me, DEGIRO is the simplest broker I have tried. It is very straightforward to use, especially compared with Interactive Brokers. This makes it the best broker for starting investor or for investors that do not plan to invest a large amount of money.

DEGIRO is a broker from The Netherlands that is available to most countries in Europe. They started in 2008 already and they have been growing really fast since that time. Now, they are one of the major brokers in Europe.

One big advantage compared to Interactive Brokers is that they do not have any custody fees. This can save significant money, especially if you are starting out.

One disadvantage of DEGIRO is that they do not offer proper FOREX trading. You cannot hold different currencies in your account. This means that your cash is converted automatically when you make a trade in another currency.

And you will have to pay fees on these transactions. This is what makes it a bit more expensive than IB when your base currency is not the currency of your main ETF.

On some transactions, it can a bit more expensive than Interactive Brokers. But unless you are a doing very large transactions, this should not be a  big difference.

Also, a big limitation of DEGIRO is to not let Swiss investors invest in U.S. ETF. For starting investors and people that do not plan to invest a large amount of money, this is probably fine. But with a large portfolio, you can save a significant amount of money investing in these U.S. ETFs.

Finally, you need to be aware that, by default, DEGIRO will lend your shares to other investors. You can avoid this by opting for the Custody account, but then you will pay some significant fees on dividends.

If you are interested, I have a tutorial on how to open an account with DEGIRO.

Interactive Brokers – The broker for U.S. ETF

As mentioned before, Interactive Brokers is the only one of the two best brokers to give you access to U.S. ETFs. So, if you plan to invest in them, IB should be your choice.

Interactive Brokers is a broker from the United States. But if you are in Europe, you will use its United Kingdom subsidiary. But this remains the same broker. It is a very established broker, funded in 1978. It has many customers all over the world.

Although it is a low-cost broker, it offers many features. They offer access to almost all instruments available in many stock exchanges. You can trade in stocks, contracts, options, and other derivatives. And they have a great platform for FOREX trading.

The biggest disadvantage of IB is that it is sometimes a bit obscure to use. IB has many different user interfaces, and at the beginning, it is not very clear which one should be used. And they also have some special things like virtual positions for the cash you have converted that can be disconcerting at first.

Another disadvantage is the custody fees for small accounts. If you have less than a 100’000 USD on your account, you will pay 10 USD each month for management. As soon as you reach the limit, the fee is waived. This may make it inconvenient for small investors.

If you are interested, I have a guide on opening an account at Interactive Brokers.

Conclusion

DEGIRO and Interactive Brokers are the best brokers available in Switzerland. They are both reputable and safe brokers. And they are the cheapest brokers available in Switzerland. Moreover, you will save on the Swiss Stamp Duty that you only have to pay with Swiss brokers

Swiss brokers are working and there is nothing fundamentally wrong with them. But they are much more expensive than online foreign brokers. And when you add the Swiss Stamp Duty on top of that, the difference is quite large. When you invest, you do not want to waste your returns on fees. So, you need to minimize the fees. And for that, you need to choose the best brokers.

I have started with DEGIRO, and I am now using Interactive Brokers. The reason I changed is that DEGIRO stopped offering access to U.S. ETF. If it was not for that, I would still be using their platform. I think that they are both great options.

I think that the choice boils down to a few factors:

  • If you want a simple broker to start investing, use DEGIRO
  • If you never want to invest more than 100’000 USD, use DEGIRO
  • If you want to invest in U.S. ETFs, use Interactive Brokers
  • If you are really serious about investing and want to minimize your fees, use Interactive Brokers

If you want even more detail about the best brokers in Switzerland, read the full comparison of Interactive Brokers and DEGIRO! You may be surprised by the results!

What about you? What is the best broker for you?

Full story here
Mr. The Poor Swiss
Mr. The Poor Swiss is the author behind thepoorswiss.com. In 2017, he realized that he was falling into the trap of lifestyle inflation. He decided to cut on his expenses and increase his income. This blog is relating his story and findings. In 2019, he is saving more than 50% of his income. He made it a goal to reach Financial Independence. You can send Mr. The Poor Swiss a message here.
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