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What most equities apps won’t tell you
Community Coordinator
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A new generation of mobile platforms allows South Africans to invest in offshore equities, cheaply and conveniently. But some are cheaper and more convenient than others. Here are the red flags to look out for when you’re investing in overseas shares through mobile apps – and how to tell the best from the rest.




Let’s say you want to buy shares in Tesla today. Not tomorrow, not after the weekend; today. Tesla is a U.S. stock, so on most South African equities apps that won’t be possible unless you already have enough U.S. dollars sitting in your USD wallet. Instead of getting instant gratification (or, more to the point, buying the stock at exactly the right moment), you’ll have to wait until your rands have been converted to U.S. currency. That process often takes a day or two. You don’t want that. Be sure to use an app that spares you the frustrating time lag by letting you execute instant FX trades at live, competitive rates… and one where your FX reflects when you need it: immediately.




Speaking of FX… You know the “official” exchange you see listed on news sites or online currency convertors? Those are seldom (if ever) the rates you end up paying to buy foreign currency. Your bank or financial provider will add on a brokerage cost which pushes that rate up, and that cost varies from bank to bank and app to app. This creates a real-life situation where you might pay R14.58 through one app, and R14.95 through another. Same day, same currency pair, radically different exchange amounts. Make sure your app has the cheapest brokerage, and that you’re getting the cheapest FX rates in order to execute your trade.  




Fees are among the best-kept, worst-kept secrets in the equities business. Confused? Let us explain. Investing involves fees. Everybody knows that, and everybody accepts that. (It’s why your financial advisor often talks about your “expected returns after fees”, with special emphasis on the last two words). But while everybody knows that those fees exist, remarkably few investors know how much they’re actually paying. Remember that the fees will vary depending on whom you invest through. One South African app, for example, charges a fixed rate per transaction of 2.64% to buy U.S.-listed shares via EFT, or – incredibly – 4.94% if you use a card. Consider that: you’re losing nearly 5% of the value of your investment to fees! Do yourself a favour and check how much you’re paying in fees. Some platforms can charge nearly double what others charge for transactions over USD1,500.




This point is so important, we’re listing it twice. Let’s use the Tesla shares example again. The cost to purchase 10 shares at USD688 per share (the share price at end-June 2021) varies dramatically in a six-way shootout between South Africa’s leading equities apps. You’re looking at brokerage fees ranging from USD10 to USD15, USD18 and USD28.80, all the way up to USD43.20 and USD50.40… and that’s before you add in the monthly fees. That’s a huge difference on the same trade.




Some international payments apps only offer outward payments. What if you want inward payments too? Some apps let you hold and store foreign currency, while others don’t. Why not? What if you want to make the most of favourable moves in the market? And so the questions and comparisons continue. Some apps charge telecommunications fees; some don’t. Some charge monthly fees; some don’t. What does (and doesn’t) your app offer? 




Apps should be all-in-one platforms, where you can do everything in one easy place. You’ll want to access investments, FX, multiple currency wallets, travel cards, virtual cards, cross-border payments, international transfers and peer-to-peer payments, all in one place with a once-off, digital sign-in. If the app you’re using doesn’t offer that level of simplicity and functionality, you’re using the wrong app.


Standard Banks’ Shyft mobile app allows you to purchase, store and manage both local and foreign currencies on the go, with easy – and cheap – trades on international equities. Shyft lets you execute FX trades at live, competitive rates with no delays, with the lowest fees in the market on international payments. 


Shyft Investments gives you access to multiple investment avenues on a single, easy-to-use platform. It also lets you invest offshore digitally, without any paperwork, in U.S. dollar-denominated shares using different global currencies. Visit to find out more. 

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