The best US international stock brokers

 

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This is an overview of the leading online stock brokers in the US that are able to buy international shares. If you’d prefer to browse it as a comparison table, see the table of US international stock brokers. To compare fees for investing in US shares only, see this comparison of US online discount stock brokers. American citizens and residents who want to know about opening stock broker accounts abroad should read this article about the problems they face.

Who’s who

The US is surprisingly low on stock brokers that will buy foreign shares for retail investors. E*Trade is probably the best-known name, offering a limited selection of major markets online. The low minimum account size is probably its strongest selling point. If you have US$10,000 to invest, Interactive Brokers has a wider range and is probably cheaper once you factor in FX conversion charges.

Fidelity used to offer a reasonable amount of markets online, but with a ridiculous minimum account size that made it completely uncompetitive compared with its peers. This approach has now changed and clients of all sizes are eligible for the international trading service. The fees for many of these aren’t too excessive, although Interactive Brokers remains far cheaper.

EverTrade formerly offered a wide range of markets for online dealing only, but has recently introduced an online service. Its scope is roughly comparable to Fidelity, but will probably work out slightly more expensive for the average online user (broker-assisted trades may be more competitive).

Lastly, the Charles Schwab One Account offers an exceptional range of markets for telephone dealing, but the fees are high. However, it seems to be your only option if you want to invest in markets such as Argentina and Turkey through a US broker. The newer Charles Schwab Global Account online service covers 12 major markets at more reasonable fees than before, but doesn’t compare well to Interactive Brokers or Fidelity.Be aware that US stock brokers have a tendency to claim that they “can access stocks from 80 countries” or something similar, based on the ability to buy foreign shares listed in the US or that deal in the US over-the-counter market.

This is not the same as being able to buy international shares directly in a foreign market – the selection of stocks will be limited and over-the-counter listings are often highly illiquid and not authorised by the company or properly overseen by a regulator. This claim is largely worthless for anyone who really wants to invest abroad – you need a stock broker that has full access to international markets.

What they trade

Canada, the major European markets, Hong Kong and Japan are standard.

Company
Markets available
Charles Schwab Global AccountOnline: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, UK, USA
Charles Schwab One AccountOnline: USA

Broker-assisted: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, UK
E*TradeOnline: Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, UK, USA
EverTradeOnline: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA
FidelityOnline: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA
Interactive BrokersOnline: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India (for NRIs only), Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA

For full details of fees and other services, click to see the detailed US international online stock broker comparison chart.

What they charge

Fee structures vary greatly, perhaps because there’s little direct competition on this particular niche. Interactive Brokers leads the field with minimums around US$1-13 on most of the markets it trades. Around US$30-40 is competitive for many other markets. Account fees are uncommon except for Interactive Brokers’ monthly minimum commission.

Watch out for currency conversion margins of around 1% charged by most firms and check if you can fund accounts in foreign currency using a cheaper third-party currency transfer specialist to do the transfer.

In my view

If you don’t mind the US$10,000 minimum, Interactive Brokers looks the best for a range of markets. Fidelity and EverTrade offer some interesting markets at a fair commission. Charles Schwab’s telephone dealing service may be the only choice for certain countries, but you’ll pay a high price. E*Trade may suit smaller accounts looking to invest in a handful of major markets, while Fidelity is now a reasonable option if you want to invest more widely.

Client restrictions

Many US stock brokers will accept non-resident retail clients, although some discount online stock brokers may not consider it worth their while. Interactive Brokers, Charles Schwab and EverTrade have all confirmed that they will, although in the case of Charles Schwab this does not currently apply to the Global Account. Interactive Brokers has registered offices in several countries and may choose to accept foreign clients through those instead of the US office.

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