Spread bets and CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 76% of retail investor accounts lose money when spread betting and/or trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how spread bets and CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

Difference between spread betting vs share dealing

A popular image of the active spread better is of someone glued to their trading screens for hours a day watching every price move. But you can of course take a more relaxed and longer-term approach if you want. Read on to learn more about the differences between spread betting​ and share dealing, including spread betting costs and examples of both spread betting and share dealing.

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Spread betting vs share dealing

Spread betting shares​ differs from the traditional investment approach of buying and owning shares. One difference is that when spread betting on shares, you can utilise leverage​, which means you only need to put up a percentage of the full value of the trade. This means any profit or loss you make is magnified, relative to a share’s price fluctuations.

Given the interest many spread betters have in individual shares in stock markets, is there any reason why we shouldn’t use spread betting to take positions on shares over weeks and even months? Taking this one step further, why would you buy individual shares when you can spread bet on them?

Spread betting costs versus share dealing costs

Let’s look at the numbers and see how the costs of spread betting in the longer-term compare with buying company shares.

Buying physical shares example

Let’s take a fictional, medium-sized company called 'ABC', which is currently trading on the stock market at 299.5p to sell and 300p to buy.

Our investor has around £1,500 to invest so they decide to buy 500 shares. This means they have invested £1,500 in ABC, but on top of this there are some trading charges​ of course. First of all there is commission to pay, and this amount can vary from very little to quite a lot, depending on your stockbroker and the services offered. Let’s assume our investor’s stockbroker charges a rate of £10 for commission on this trade. But we are not done with charges, there is also the government’s slice, or stamp duty, which at the time of writing was 0.5% on shares, so that’s another £7.50 in charges on this transaction.

Now, let’s fast forward a month into the future.

Our investor is delighted that ABC's share price have risen by 10% and so they decide to sell. The market price for ABC has risen to 329.5p/330p and they sell 500 shares at 329.5p per share, receiving £1,647.50. There is usually a charge for selling through your stockbroker, so let's assume this transaction costs £10 again. Now that our investor has concluded the sale of their shares, let's look at what their total profit is.

To buy the shares, including stamp duty and commission, they had to spend £1,517.50. When selling, after paying commission again on the sale, they received £1637.50, so the profit on this deal was £120 – an excellent return after just one month, but was there a more cost-effective way of doing this?

Spread betting shares

Now let’s look at taking on a similar position by spread betting shares​​. The spread betting price quote on ABC is slightly wider than the market, so we will use 298.5p to sell, 301p to buy. To have the same exposure as buying 500 shares our investor needs to buy £5 per point. If you look at the maths here, it makes perfect sense: £5 x 301= £1505. So the position value of the shares using a spread bet is equivalent to £1505 worth of shares. If the value of the shares increases or decreases then the spread bet will follow suit.

There's no commission or stamp duty to pay when spread betting shares and, because spread bets trade on margin​, our investor does not need to tie up all their capital. It is important to remember however that the loss you could make on a bet may exceed the amount of margin that you used to enter into that bet. This is a feature of leverage (margin trading) and it means that your losses are magnified and you can lose more than your deposit. Let’s assume the margin deposit for this particular share is 10% of the value of the position. This means that, in this case, £150.50 would be allocated from the investor's spread betting account to open a spread bet worth £1,505 on company ABC.

There would of course have been some charges incurred along the way as well when spread betting shares. If a trader holds their position overnight, they will be charged a spread betting holding cost​. This rate is usually based on Libor (London Interbank Offered Rate) plus a percentage, which will vary from broker to broker. Let’s assume our investor’s broker charges Libor + 2.5% and Libor is currently 0.45%. This means their financing will cost 2.95% if held for a year, but this is broken down to a daily rate so the daily cost for this spread bet is around 0.0081%. On a position value of £1,505, that equates to about 12p per day. Over the month that would mean financing charges of around £3.65 would have been deducted from our investor's account, leaving them with an overall profit of £133.85. That’s still more than they would have made buying the shares through a traditional stockbroker, plus our investor did not have all of their £1,500 tied up in the shares – they had ample funds left over to take advantage of other opportunities if they wanted to.

What about long-term share positions?

It's not always more competitive to trade on shares using spread bets. If you were going to hold for many months, or even years, of course the cost of those financing charges would outweigh any savings in stamp duty or commissions. But for short- to medium-term trades, spread betting on shares can be a viable and much more cost-effective option than buying through more traditional means.

When share trading via spread betting or CFD trading you have the option to trade both sides of the market. Learn how to short stocks​ here.

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CMC Markets is an execution-only service provider. The material (whether or not it states any opinions) is for general information purposes only, and does not take into account your personal circumstances or objectives. Nothing in this material is (or should be considered to be) financial, investment or other advice on which reliance should be placed. No opinion given in the material constitutes a recommendation by CMC Markets or the author that any particular investment, security, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. The material has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research. Although we are not specifically prevented from dealing before providing this material, we do not seek to take advantage of the material prior to its dissemination.

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