13 May 2024 - 13min Read

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Spread betting

Spread betting vs Share dealing

There are a couple of ways you could trade shares in the market. The first is through traditional investing, where you buy and sell publicly traded company shares directly over an exchange.

You could also trade shares through derivative products such as spread betting.

With traditional investing, you are buying and taking ownership of publicly traded company shares with the hopes of making a profit. Meanwhile, with spread betting, you are speculating on the price movements in the hopes of making a profit without taking ownership of any shares.

This is only a brief explanation, as there are a few other differences between spread betting and share dealing.

We will be covering some of those differences throughout this article to give you a better understanding of these two forms of trading.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Key takeaways

  • Share dealing has a longer-term approach while taking ownership of the shares, whereas spread betting has a shorter-term approach and speculates on price movements without taking ownership of shares.
  • In share dealing, a trader has to pay the total amount for the share/s upfront.
  • Spread betting is traded through leverage, where a trader only has to deposit a small amount of capital called margin.
  • Spread betting is tax-free, with a trader not having to pay stamp duty or capital gains tax on profits earned.
  • In share dealing, a trader has to pay stamp duty because they take ownership of the share while also having to pay capital gains tax on profits earned.
  • In spread betting, a trader can go short and long in the market, while in share dealing, a trader can only go long.
  • Spread betting offers access to various financial markets such as forex, indices, stocks, and more, whereas share dealing traders are limited to stocks and ETFs.

Marc Aucamp

Content Writer

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What is the difference between spread betting vs share dealing?

Spread betting and share dealing involve taking a position in the financial market to profit from future price movements.

As mentioned above, one of the key differences is that with share dealing, you’re taking ownership of the stock, and with spread betting, you don’t. Instead, you’re only speculating on the price movements of said stock.

Let’s take a look at both spread betting and share dealing in more detail below.

Spread betting

Spread betting is a derivative product which involves placing a trade on the future price movements of an underlying asset without taking ownership of the asset. You are able to place a trade on both rising and falling market conditions.

Spread betting also allows traders to participate in the market through leverage. It enables them to open a larger position by only depositing a small amount of capital, known as margin. You’d place a bet, known as a stake, through an amount per point of price movement.

And whichever way the market moves, you’ll either make a profit or a loss. The profit or loss is calculated by the number of points the market moved multiplied by your initial stake.

Another factor regarding leverage is that the profits and losses you could obtain are based on the entire size of the position and not just your margin amount.

With that in mind, it might be essential to have a solid risk management plan in place.

Spread betting is more popular among short to medium-term traders looking to profit from short-term price movements. 

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use spread betting for a longer-term approach.

Something to remember if you decide to take a longer-term approach with spread betting is the costs involved, and the fact that spread bets have a fixed expiration date. The costs are overnight fees, meaning if you keep your trades open for longer than a day, you’d be subject to paying such fees.

There are various strategies which traders could choose to use when spread betting, and if you’d like to learn more about these strategies, you can click here.

As previously mentioned, you don’t own the underlying asset when spread betting, so you don’t have to pay stamp duty or capital gains tax on any profits earned. This makes spread betting tax-free.

Investing

Share dealing, also known as traditional investing, is used by traders with a long-term approach to the market. Share dealing involves buying shares from publicly traded companies with the hopes of the share price increasing to sell it later to make a profit.

Share dealing doesn’t use leverage like spread betting, so you’ll need to pay the entire share value upfront if you want to buy shares. Unlike spread betting, where you could lose more than your margin deposit, with share dealing, you won’t lose more than what you had invested.

Some costs need to be considered, such as stamp duty tax because you own the share/s, as well as capital gains tax on any profits earned.

On the other hand, you get shareholder rights, such as dividend payouts, if a company agrees to such payouts.

Spread betting vs share dealing in detail

Feature

Spread betting

Share dealing

What is the difference?

Placing a trade on an underlying asset's price in rising or falling markets without taking ownership of the asset.

Buy and sell shares in a publicly traded company or fund.

When does it expire?

Yes, it does have fixed expiry dates.

No

What are the tax implications?

You don’t have to pay stamp duty or capital gains tax.

Yes, you do have to pay stamp duty because you take ownership of the stock. You’ll be subject to capital gains tax on any profits made.

What are the market hours?

You can trade major indices and forex 24 hours a day, five days a week. However, shares can only be traded during the opening hours of related stock exchanges.

You can only trade during the operating hours of major stock exchanges.

Are there any costs to keeping a position open overnight?

Yes, overnight fees will come into effect if a trade is open for longer than a day. This is excluded in futures and forwards, which will be rolled over.

No, there are no overnight fees payable on open trades.

What kind of trading strategy is best fitting?

Short to medium-term trading

Long-term trading/investing

Do you receive dividend payouts?

No, your trading account is adjusted to reflect any dividends.

Yes, if the company provides it.

Is hedging available?

Yes, you will be able to hedge positions with spread betting.

Yes, however, it’s more common in spread betting.

What markets are available to trade?

You can trade various markets, including forex, commodities, ETFs, options, futures, and shares.

You’re only able to trade shares and ETFs.

What are the charges?

The charges for spread betting are calculated in the spread with no commission fees.

There are commission fees that need to be paid for all trades. The commission starts at £0 for US shares and £3 for UK shares.

Is direct market access available?

No, there is no direct market access available for spread betting. However, other derivative products, such as CFDs, have direct market access available.

Yes, your deal is directly entered into the exchange order books.

Is short selling available?

You can take a short (sell) trade if you predict the market will fall or take a long (buy) trade if you think the market will rise.

No, you are only able to take long (buy) positions.

Spread betting on shares vs share dealing

If you want to focus on trading shares mainly, there are two ways to go about this. The first is share dealing. 

As we’ve mentioned, share dealing is the buying of shares from publicly traded companies with the hopes that the value of those companies will rise so you could sell your shares for a profit. 

With share dealing, you take full ownership of the amount of shares you may want to buy.

You could also benefit from shareholder rights such as dividend payouts if such payouts are agreed upon. This trading style is more for those with a longer-term approach to the market who want to buy and hold the share/s for months to years.

Now, onto spread betting. This is for those with a shorter to medium-term market approach who want to profit from short-term price movements. In spread betting, you don’t take ownership of any shares; you’re just speculating on the market value of the share/s.

Spread betting also allows you to trade markets that are both rising and falling, which means you could trade shares from companies that are seeing a growth in market value as well as those that are seeing a decline in market value.

It might be good to remember that both spread betting and share dealing involve a level of risk, so trade with caution while having a good risk management strategy behind you.

Share dealing vs spread betting in practice?

We’ve covered some essential differences between spread betting and share dealing. Now, let’s take a look at share dealing and spread betting in practice. We will examine four key aspects: margin, cost, shorting, and what you can trade.

Margin

When you use margin to spread bet shares, you won’t need to invest the entire value of a share upfront. This is due to leverage, where you only need to deposit a small amount of capital to open a position at full value.

Let’s say you are looking to open a trade on Vodafone worth £2000, and your broker has a margin requirement of 20%. Now, because of the margin, you won’t need the full £2000 in your account; you’ll only need £400 in your account to open the position.

Now, with share dealing, if you want to open the same position on Vodafone, you’d need the full amount of £2000, plus commission and other costs, as you are taking ownership of the stock.

In both cases, the profits or losses that can occur will be calculated based on the total value of £2000. 

As you can see, with spread betting, your potential profits can be magnified with margin, but so can your losses.

Spread betting vs share dealing

Cost

Now, let’s look at the costs involved in spread betting and share dealing when you open a trade. With spread betting, you won’t have to pay commissions to open a trade. That cost is already calculated into the spread. 

The spread is the difference between an asset's buy and sell price. That is one of the ways a broker makes its money.

That’s not all, though; if you decide to keep a trade open overnight, you’ll have to pay overnight fees.

Now, share dealing has a much tighter spread on trades, but you’ll need to pay a commission. The commission is an amount that a broker charges in order to open the position on your behalf. There are two ways a broker structures their commission; it can either be an amount per trade or as a percentage of your entire trade.

Shorting

When it comes to shorting a stock, it means that you sell the underlying asset to potentially earn a profit. This is useful if you think a bear market might be occurring soon. 

You could short (sell) the stock when the price starts falling, which could lead to a profit; however, if the market starts rising, you’ll make a loss.

This is particularly useful in spread betting because it's a derivative product, and you're just speculating on the price movements of an asset.

With share dealing, shorting a market is a bit more complicated because it involves having to go through a process of borrowing the share/s. But not just that, you could end up experiencing a short squeeze. 

This means that when there’s a lot of selling pressure on a particular share, instead of the price falling, it shoots up, which could result in big losses. This means that when a particular share starts seeing increased selling pressure rather than continuing to fall, it shoots up, which can result in big losses.

What you can trade

Apart from what we mentioned at the beginning, this is another big difference regarding spread betting vs share dealing.

With spread betting, you have a variety of financial markets to trade, including forex, commodities, indices, bonds, ETFs, shares, and more. 

Whereas in share dealing, you can only trade the stock market and ETFs. And while that still gives you access to hundreds of different stocks and funds, you’re limited to only those two markets.

You can access all those available markets in spread betting with a single account. The same is true with share dealing; you only need a single account to access all the stocks and ETFs available to trade.

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Share dealing vs spread betting: Which is best for me?

The choice between spread betting or share dealing will ultimately come down to personal preferences such as your trading goals, trading style, and risk management plan, to name a few. However, to give you a better overview, let’s recap everything we've covered in the article.

Why you should spread bet

Spread betting is for traders with short- to medium-term trading styles. Spread betting is a derivative product which allows traders to trade various financial markets such as forex, indices, commodities, and more.

It also allows traders the ability to go long and short in the markets with access to trade with leverage.

Why you should Invest

For traders looking to buy and hold shares in the longer term, share dealing might be for them. They won’t have all the different financial markets that spread betting has available, but they can choose from various stocks and ETFs.

Traders won’t have access to leverage when share dealing because they'll need to pay the full value for the shares upfront. However, it could be a way to build a portfolio for the long term while earning dividends if the listed company agreed to such payouts.


People also asked

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Yes, it is possible to spread bet on shares; however, you only speculate on the price movements of shares and don’t take ownership. You can also trade other financial markets, including forex, indices, commodities, and more.

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Considering that spread betting uses leverage, it might be cheaper than share dealing. This is because you only need to deposit a small amount of capital, known as margin, to open a bigger position size.
There is, however, a downside to trading with leverage, such as the overnight fees that are payable when you might want to keep a trade open overnight. There is also the possibility of losing more than your initial margin deposit because leverage magnifies profits and losses.

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You don’t take ownership of shares with spread betting because it’s a derivative product. Meaning you are only speculating on the price movements of the underlying share/s. If you want to take ownership of a share/s, you could look into share dealing.

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CFDs and spread betting are both derivative products. You don’t take ownership of any shares; instead, you speculate on the price movements of the share's value.
You also open a position using leverage by depositing a small amount of margin capital. Meanwhile, when buying shares outright, you’ll need to pay the total value of the share/s upfront.
With CFDs, you also don’t have to pay stamp duty. However, you'll need to pay capital gains tax like when buying shares.

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The settlement period is the time it takes for money to reflect in your account either as shares when buying or payouts when selling shares. With share dealing, it normally takes two to three business days for the funds to be transferred in or out of your account.
In spread betting, profits or losses are immediately calculated when your trade is closed. So, no settlement period can be seen in spread betting.
This also makes it easier for traders to enter and exit the market swiftly.

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