Best Brokers in Europe for Commission-Free Stock Trading

A big fat zero. That’s how much commission you’ll pay when trading stocks on these European and UK online brokerages.

Zero-commission stock trading has become increasingly popular in Europe over the past few years. But we need to look beyond the commission-free lure to understand the issues of investor protection, order processing, and other elements that are important when selecting a broker you can trust in the long term.

This round-up includes brokers that are available to residents in different European countries. Some of them are only available in specific jurisdictions, while others are accessible worldwide but offer commission-free trading in a limited number of places. For an overview of where each broker is available, consult the table below.

Best brokers in Europe for commission-free stock trading

Here’s a summary of the best online brokers and trading platforms in Europe offering free stock trading:

  • DEGIRO – Best overall
  • XTB – Free stock trading, eligible countries only
  • Trade Republic – Free stock and ETF investing, eligible countries only
  • Scalable Capital – Free stock and ETF investing, eligible countries only
  • Trading 212 – Free trading, globally available
  • Bux Zero – Free trading, good for beginners

Whether it’s single stocks or ETFs that are part of your investment strategy, make sure you compare the features and costs of commission-free trading platforms before deciding on the best broker for you.

best Overall

DEGIRO

  • Zero-commission US stocks & European ETFs
  • Largest execution-only broker in Europe
  • Cash deposit insurance up to €100,000

Your capital is at risk

Runner-up

XTB

  • Zero-commission US stocks & European ETFs
  • Founded in 2002, $409 market capitalization 
  • Publicly traded, regulated worldwide

Your capital is at risk

*Real stocks and ETFs are only available on XTB to customers in select European jurisdictions. Confirm eligibility before signing up.

best in Germany

Trade Republic

  • €0 commissions on ETF and stock savings plans
  • Regulated German securities bank, €100K cash protection
  • Over 9,000 stocks and ETFs

Your capital is at risk

Scalable Capital

  • €0 commission on select ETFs
  • Based in Germany, €6bn under management
  • Savings plans starting from €1

Your capital is at risk

Trading 212

  • €0 commission on ETFs and stocks
  • €3.5b in client assets, 1.5m users
  • €1m insurance per account

Your capital is at risk

Bux Zero

  • €0 commission on select ETFs
  • Regulated in the Netherlands, €100k cash insurance
  • Fractional shares from €10

Your capital is at risk

Trading fees: Comparison

Here’s a comparison of costs and features from the online brokers in Europe that offer commission-free stock and ETF trading.

FeatureDEGIROXTBTrade RepublicScalable CapitalTrading 212Bux Zero
Founding year 200820022015201420172013
US Stock Trades€0€0N/AN/A€0€0
EU Stock Trades€ 3.90€0€1€0.99€0€0
ETF Trades€0€0€0€0€0€0
FX Fee0.25%0.50%N/AN/A0.15%0.25%
Deposit Fee€0€0€0€0€0€0
Withdrawal Fee€0€0€0€0€0€0
Inactivity Fee€0€10 (after 1 year)€0€0€0€0
Custody Fee€0€0€0€0€0€0
Stocks10,000+3,000+7,5006,000+6,000+2,800+
ETFs5,000+280+1,5001,900+500+140+
Fractional SharesNoNoYesYesYesYes

Available countries: Overview

Here’s an overview of the countries each broker offers commission-free real stock trading.

CountryDEGIROXTBTrade RepublicScalable CapitalTrading 212Bux Zero
AN
AT
BE
BG
CH
CY
CZ
DE
DK
EE
EL
ES
FI
FR
HR
HU
IE
IS
IT
LI
LT
LU
LV
MT
NL
NO
PL
PT
RO
SE
SI
SK
UK

What’s the catch with zero commissions?

Most brokerages now provide free trading for investors. When something is given away for free, many people are naturally suspicious. They don’t believe there is such a thing as a free lunch. So, if brokerages are eliminating fees, how can they make money? Here’s an overview of the three most common revenue streams for brokerages:

  • Payment for order flow: Some European zero-commission brokers receive payments from market centres for sending orders to them. Payment for order flow (PFOF) is common in the U.S. and is increasingly prevalent in Europe. There is a potential for PFOF to create a conflict of interest as it relates to numerous important MiFID II rules regarding ensuring that they act in their client’s best interests when executing orders.
  • High-risk products: A broker can’t force you to trade high-risk products, but they can try to tempt you with their wide selection of exotic options, CFDs, and cryptocurrency derivatives. A broker that offers both real stock trading and CFD trading can use the commission-free lure to get you to trade CFDs, which have higher profit potential for the broker but also come with a higher risk.
  • The ‘free’ incentivizer: In moderation is a good rule to live by, and it also applies to free stock trading. If something is free, we tend to use it more. This is also true for trading stocks, where free can be abused to justify active trading. Trading frequently will statistically lead to losses over time, so you should be careful not to get caught up in the excitement of free trading.
  • Currency exchange fees: When you deposit money to your broker, they will usually convert it into the account’s base currency. This is convenient, but most brokerages add a mark-up to this conversion. For example, there is no fee if you deposit €1,000 in your brokerage account and the base currency is Euro (EUR). However, use those euros to trade U.S. stocks, and the broker will convert the euros to U.S. dollars (USD) at the current rate, plus a commission of typically 0.15-0.50%.
  • Securities lending: This is the practice of lending out your securities to another party (private or corporate trader) in return for a fee. The most common type of security loan is the short sale, in which the lender sells a borrowed security and hopes to repurchase it at a lower price so they can repay the loan and keep the difference. A short-seller borrows your shares from you. In that situation, the broker gets a fee and interest payments from the borrower. However, you didn’t get any money back for taking on the additional risk of loaning out your stocks.
  • Inferior order execution: A critical difference between commission-free and commission-based brokerages is how they execute your orders. Commission-free brokerages typically use a single market center to fill your orders. In contrast, commission-based ones use a smart order routing system to get the best price from multiple vendors. Reliance on single centers can lead to inferior order execution and worse trade prices, as the market maker has an incentive to fill your order at the best possible price for themselves.

What is order execution, and why does it matter?

When you hit “enter” to buy 10 Tesla (TSLA) shares, your broker routes your order to the market center (exchange, market maker, ECN) that can fill it quickest and at the best available price. This is what’s called “order execution”, and the entire process takes less than a second.

Many factors go into order execution, but the most important one is price. Your broker has a legal obligation to always get you the best price available when filling your orders. To do so, your online broker has relationships with various market centers. Most of these market centers are external to the broker, but many brokers also have internal order systems.

In cases where zero commissions are offered, the order execution quality (and price improvement) may not be as good as other brokers. This is because zero-commission brokers only partner with a single market center. In many cases, this market center pays the commission-free broker a fee for sending orders to it. This is known as payment for order flow (PFOF) and can create a conflict of interest: On the one hand, the broker wants to give you the best possible price; on the other, it may have an incentive to send your order to its partner that pays slightly more.

Why free stock trading isn’t that bad

News outlets sometimes tend to dramatize new developments in the investment industry. It’s understandable; publications like this one also use big headlines to catch our readers’ attention. But the gross simplifications we’re seeing can lead investors to believe that free stock trading is always a bad idea. But this isn’t necessarily the case. There are benefits to commission-free trading, and the complete picture of this new trend isn’t as black and white as it may seem at first glance.

  • It lowers the barriers to entry for new investors: One of the most significant benefits of commission-free trading is that it reduces the barriers to entry for new investors. With no commission fees to worry about, anyone can start trading stocks without investing a lot of money. This makes it easier for people who would have otherwise been intimidated by the thought of investing to get started.
  • Order execution quality may not be that relevant. Investors who put a fixed sum of money into the stock market every month may not be particularly affected by the quality with which their orders are carried out. We discussed how relying on single execution venues, and market centers can lead zero commission brokers to offer worse order execution. But because retail investors will generally not be trading in large quantities or frequently (most trades a below 100 shares), the rebates that a smart routing system would provide are negligent.
  • It makes mistakes cheaper. Almost all investors have burned their fingers at some point by making a mistake with their investments. Commission-free trading makes mistakes more affordable since you’re not losing any money on the commission fees. This can help investors learn from their mistakes more quickly and hopefully make more informed investment decisions.

Do the pros outweigh the cons of using a zero-commission broker?

We haven’t seen proper data studies yet on the long-term effects of commission-free trading. So far, it’s been mostly raised fingers from ESMA and other regulators without much statistical backup. So it’s hard to say for sure whether or not the pros outweigh the cons.

From what we can tell, commission-free trading seems beneficial to investors if the price improvements a smart order routing systems give are lower than the commissions and fees saved. However, this could change if investors start trading in large quantities or become more complex market conditions. And as long as you’re aware of the potential downsides, using a zero commission broker may be just as good as a more traditional brokerage.

It would be a step in the right direction if comparing per order, and total price savings against international standards and broker commission rates were more accessible. This way, we could say whether those saved commissions provided overall lower costs for investors or equal costs just wrapped in a different package of names.

What is commission-free stock trading?

Commission-free trading means that you can buy and sell a stock or ETF without having to pay a commission fee. Pay attention to other expenses, such as currency exchange, account maintenance or inactivity fees that may apply. Payment for order flow is the way that some online brokers make money. This entails selling your trade orders to market makers or high-frequency traders.

Can you trade ETFs for free?

Yes, most European brokers that offer commission-free stock trading also offer commission-free ETF trades. This usually includes popular ETFs from fund managers like Vanguard, iShares, Xtrackers, Amundi, and Lyxor. Many brokers have an ETF savings plan that automatically invests a certain amount of money from your balance every month into a commission-free ETF.

What are the best commission-free stock trading apps in Europe?

More European online brokers are starting to offer commission-free stock trading. Here is a list of some of the best commission-free stock trading apps in Europe:

  • DEGIRO
  • XTB
  • Trade Republic
  • Scalable Capital
  • Trading 212
  • Bux Zero

What are the best commission-free trading platforms in the UK?

UK investors have the same range of low-cost stock and share trading platforms available to them as their continental counterparts. The best commission-free trading platforms and share dealing accounts in the UK are:

  • DEGIRO
  • Freetrade
  • Trading 212
  • Stake
  • Revolut

How do commission-free brokers make money?

Many start-up brokers offering free stock trades are not profitable at all. For example, Robinhood posted a net loss of $423.3 million in its most Q4 report for 2021. The business segments that generate revenue for most of these companies are payments for clients’ order flow, securities lending, margin lending, and premium accounts. Many new online brokers live off equity capital injections and hope to turn a profit when they have reached a more extensive user base.

When did commission-free trading start?

Commission-free trading started in the US. Robinhood was the first zero-commission trading app to launch in the world back in 2013. Vlad Tenev and Baiju Bhatt, co-founders of Robinhood, raised millions from A16z, Rothenberg Ventures, and other VC firms to launch their venture. In October 2019, Charles Schwab announced that stock and ETF trades would no longer incur fees. The same month, E-Trade and TD Ameritrade announced that they would eliminate commission fees.