Share spread betting involves speculating on whether a stock will rise or fall without actually buying the share. A spread betting broker sets the price offered and is popular in the UK as it’s tax free compared to share trading.
We look at all the different Spread Bet markets that are available to trade, including currencies, commodities, stocks and stock indexes such as the FTSE 100.
Versatility is the name of the game with Spread Betting, and so the brokers offer an incredibly large range of global markets to speculate on. As pointed out before, all of these can be traded via one account.
With most of the larger and more liquid markets such as Stock Indexes, big-name shares (UK and foreign) and, of course, Foreign Exchange, there are normally 2 different markets offered –
- Daily cash bets and
- Quarterly bets
Both of these are discussed in more detail on this page – an introduction to spread betting.
But for other markets, perhaps a smaller UK share or a commodity such as Sugar or Coffee, then quarterly bets will be offered.
Which markets to trade
Many traders tend to specialise in certain markets, ones of which they have some experience. So if starting with Spread Bets, I’d advise you to consider trading the stock indexes such as FTSE or Wall Street as well as some of the individual shares, as most people have an understanding of the stock markets.
Also, leave out some of the more complex markets, or at least those of which you have little or no experience. The chances are you want your spread betting career to last as long as possible and obviously be as profitable as possible, so take your time. Get comfortable with what you know before branching out to some of the other markets.
See Secret 9 – Try to specialise in just a few markets – which is one of our 10 Secrets to Successful Spread Betting
1. Spread Bet Markets
Stock indexes are the most actively traded spread bets. They include all the global indices such as the FTSE 100, German Dax, Japanese Nikkei and the three big US indexes, Dow Jones, S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100. This article explains more.
Spread bets on the stock indexes are the most active bets traded alongside individual shares. The indices are split into separate groups –
How to use Spread Betting to trade Stock market indexes such as the FTSE 100 or Dow Jones
- UK – FTSE 100, FTSE 250 and Techmark (technology stocks)
- US – Wall Street, S&P 500, Tech 100, Russell 2000 and others
- European – Austria 20, Belgium 20, EuroStoxx, DAX, Italian MIB, Netherlands, Spain, Swiss
- Asian – Japanese Nikkei, Hang Seng, India 50, Korea 200, Singapore
- Australia – Australian 200
- African – South Africa 40
The bid-offer spreads obviously differ from market to market, depending on how popular they are. So they’ll be a lot tighter, and therefore cheaper, for markets like the FTSE or Wall Street but wider and more expensive for smaller markets like the Norwegian stock market.
2. Spread Bet Types
Most of the larger stock market indices have 3 different types of tradable spread bets –
- Daily Cash bets – the spread bet market is priced off the associated cash market, such as the FTSE 100 index
- Daily future bet – the spread bet market is priced off the futures such as the FTSE 100 future
- Quarterly bet – the spread bet market is priced off the relevant futures contract; for example, the June quarterly is priced off the June future
Which spread bets to trade, the Daily Bets or the Quarterlies
As usual, it’s the same answer for most spread bet markets –
- If holding a position for under 7 days, then trade the Daily Cash bets
- If holding a position over 7 days, then the quarterly bets are usually cheaper
The spreads are tighter on the Daily markets, but a small financing charge will have to be paid every night if you hold an open position, whereas the bid-offer is wider for the quarterlies because the financing charge is built in, ie there’s no overnight fee.
As for the daily future spread bet, most customers don’t bother with this, preferring the daily cash bet.
Other Stockmarket related spread bets
Some spread betting brokers will also offer some hybrid stockmarket bets –
A. Differential Markets
These trade the differential between similar markets such as FTSE and Wall Street. Both markets will generally move higher and lower together but at different amplitudes. Perhaps you feel that whichever way stocks move, the FTSE will outperform Wall Street. – See differential spread bets.
B. Sector Bets
These are spread bets on different market sectors, for example, Banks, Mining or Food. These add some flexibility to the trader’s arsenal and can be an interesting way to trade.
For example, some traders will buy a sector bet, perhaps Food, and then sell short the FTSE index against it. Their view will be that whatever the overall market does, as represented by the FTSE 100, the Food sector will outperform it. For example –
- If the FTSE rallies by 5%, the food sector rallies by 9%
- If the FTSE falls by 7%, the food sector falls by only 1%
In both cases above, the trade will be profitable.
24 Hour trading is offered with Indices
Most of the larger stock indexes are quoted 24 hours a day. So, whereas the FTSE 100 cash market opens at 8.00 am and closes at 4.30 pm the spread betters will offer a dealing price at all times.
This can be both good and bad news. The good news is that it adds to your flexibility; traders can take profits or losses even when the cash market is closed, etc. But a couple of negatives are –
- Some traders can become obsessed with the markets, following and trading them at all times of the day and night and
- Liquidity drops, and the bid-offer spread will widen after 9 p.m., so trading gets more expensive. plus if a stop loss is activated, there’s a good chance of excess slippage
So how to handle 24-hour trading?
One of the best ways, if trading a European market, is to use 5 pm-6 pm as a cut-off time, i.e. don’t follow or trade the market until the official opening the following day.
2. Spread Bet Markets: Shares/Equities
We look at how to use spread betting to trade individual shares. There’s an incredible range offered from all the major stock markets as well as minor ones such as Greece and Ireland.
Also, the spread bets can easily be shorted, offering total flexibility to the trader.
Spread betting on individual shares works in the same way as a spread market on any financial product.
The spread better is offered a two-way price, the bid-offer spread, and then can go long or short with an associated pound per point. For example –
- Vodafone is quoted at 123.5 – 124
- You buy £10 a point at 124 and then sell out at 130
- Profit = 130 – 124 = 6 x £10 a point = £60
Available markets to trade
There are too many to list. Of course, there are the main shares on the UK market, Wall Street and the big European bourses such as Germany. But then most spread betters offer shares in markets such as Finland, Greece, Ireland and Hong Kong.
Mostly only the larger capitalised stocks are quoted, so, of course, they’ll be a quote on all the major companies but perhaps not on a smaller company with, say, a market capitalisation of £ 4 million.
An example – Next shares
- The market for Next shares is 1398 – 1402
- You buy £2 a point at 1402
- Then sell the position at 1527
- Profit = 125 points (1527 – 1402) x £2 a point = £250
Note, the price of the Next shares above will actually be around £14.00 and not 1400, but the spread betters normally quote without a decimal point, so there’s no confusion about what a point is.
1. Daily Bets and quarterlies are offered on shares
With most shares, both the traditional daily Cash bet and Quarterlies are offered. As usual, if short-term trading, the Daily Bets are usually cheaper to trade (tighter bid-offer spreads), but there will be an overnight financing charge (if held overnight).
The quarterlies are more suited for medium to longer-term trades in excess of a week. For example, trade the quarterly if you’re bullish on Vodafone or Barclays for the next several weeks or months.
Most spread bet brokers will quote 3 separate quarterly bets. For example, if the date is now January, they’ll offer a March, June and September bet. Tailor these to your trading view. If bullish for the next month or so use the March; if bullish heading into the summer, trade the June, etc.
2. Bets can be ‘rolled over’
A rollover is where a position from one month is rolled into the next. For example, if it is now the first week in March and you are long, the March Abbey National spread bet will expire on the 3rd Friday of the month (most financial and share bets expire on the 3rd Friday of their relevant month).
Assume the market has been moving higher, but you feel the shares can go even higher, so you want to continue to keep the bet open. You’ll need to place a rollover bet, which will simultaneously sell the March contract and buy the June contract. This will mean your long trade will have been rolled over into the next month and is still open. Two points to note –
- There is a small charge for rolling over a bet, and
- If a quarterly bet isn’t rolled over, it will automatically be closed when the spread bet expires, and any profit or loss will be debited from your account
Summary on spread betting with equities
There’s an incredible range of equity spread bets available but do watch some of the bid-offer spreads because they can be expensive, especially when short-term trading. But this depends on which market and how popular the share is.
Spread-betting shares is a great training ground for the new trader as he or she is already likely to have experience in how the stock market works and operates.
What is a ‘Grey Market’
A grey market is an unofficial market on a share before it has been listed on the London Stock Exchange. Here’s an example –
- The government wants to sell one of its utility companies
- Investment banks will be appointed to sell shares to the public, and in turn, they will set a price and date for the first day of trading, for example
- 2nd March and £2.50 per share
- And around 1-2 months before the official listing date, a grey market will develop where traders can buy or sell the shares before they’re actually listed
1. Spread Bets are well suited to grey markets
When you trade a share using spread bets, you’re not buying or selling the physical shares. Instead, you’re betting on a number (the share price) rising or falling.
Therefore, spread bets are perfect vehicles for trading grey markets because the trader doesn’t have any interest in actually owning the shares, just profiting from their movement.
Summary grey markets
Grey market trading used to be much more common than it is today, mainly due to the government’s policy of privatising many of its assets in the 1980s and 90s. But most, if not all, the large assets have now been sold.
Still, if there’s interest in the market for a certain new issue, the spread bet brokers are sure to offer their clients a 2-way dealing price. Also, note that Grey markets can be traded on any share that is about to be listed, and not just government privatisations.
Which Spread Betting Brokers Should You Choose For Stocks?
Our team reviewed the top spread betting brokers for stocks in 2023 and found that Pepperstone offers the best combination of tradable assets and platform features. Because most spread bettors also trade forex, we shortlisted other UK brokers offering an exceptional spread betting experience.
1. Pepperstone: Best Share Spread Betting Platform
When testing spread betting brokers for stocks, we took into consideration a number of factors. Beyond the basics – account types, trading costs, leverage, spreads, and platforms – we also looked at features that impact the overall trading experience. Excellent customer service, comprehensive learning materials, and licenses from multiple Tier-1 regulators also impacted a broker’s final score.
Pepperstone not only offers customers excellent value for money when it comes to trading costs and assets, but it also provides exceptional support and excellent learning resources suitable for traders of all experience levels. I have ample forex experience but don’t do a lot of spread betting, so I can safely say their educational materials are top-notch from personal experience. The broker also snagged the top spot as Best Spread Betting Broker Overall in 2023 according to our testing, so it’s no surprise it also performed well for stocks.
We awarded Pepperstone Best Spread Betting Broker for Stocks because:
- It’s easy to use. Pepperstone has the most straightforward interface of any broker I’ve personally used and an intuitive UX that’s great for a beginner.
- Execution speed. No dealing desk and a 99% fill rate put Pepperstone at the top of the charts for execution speed.
- Variety of instruments. Not only does Pepperstone have the most stocks available for spread betting – it has the most instruments, period.
- Flexibility. Pepperstone allows you to choose a single currency for all your bets, limiting your risk exposure.
- Tier-1 regulation. Spread betting carries enough risk on its own without worrying about the credibility of your broker. Pepperstone has not one, not two, but three licenses from Tier-1 regulators.
Pepperstone Spread Betting Account
As a no-dealing-desk broker with straight-through processing, Pepperstone also offers a number of benefits that I consider important for anyone attempting spread betting. Specifically, spread betting account holders have access to all the same trading advantages as standard and commission account holders, including:
- Extensive selection of assets (commodities, indices such as ftse, forex)
- Over 60 currency pairs
- Scalping techniques
- Sharp pricing
Spread betting with Pepperstone has no commissions regardless of your choice of financial spread betting instrument and bets use market execution.
Pepperstone Spread Betting Platform
Execution speed is important for spread betting as it can help avoid slippage. While not quite the same as with stocks, we did test the execution speed when using Forex products and found Pepperstone to have the fastest execution speed of the spread betting brokers.
|Brokers / Execution Speed||Limit Orders||Market Orders||Rank|
With a speed of 77 ms for Limit Orders and 100 ms for Market Orders, Pepperstone finished 3rd of the 20 CFD brokers we tested for execution speed and 1st for spread betting brokers.
Spread betting account holders can choose between MetaTrader 4, MetaTrader 5, and cTrader. In my view, MT5 is the best platform choice for spread betting stocks since MT4 is not built to connect with centralised exchanges like NYSE, NASDAQ and LSE that are so essential for stock trading.
Our Verdict on Pepperstone
Between the speedy execution and the exceptional charting, Pepperstone has everything an experienced trader could want. I also can’t say enough good things about the account opening and funding process (more on that below). That said, it’s not the cheapest of brokers and spreads could be tighter. We covered spread betting with Pepperstone in a previous review page including an in-depth look at the Pepperstone account opening process for which we gave the broker 15/15/
2. Spreadex: Best Share And Sports Spread Platform
As the name implies, Spreadex focuses first and foremost on spread betting. While the broker has been around since 1999, it only recently expanded its offering to include financial spread betting. Prior to 2006, the broker specialised in sports betting only.
Since adding financial spread betting to its portfolio, Spreadex has made quite the name for itself in the UK. It won Best Spread Betting Provider at the City of London Wealth
Management Awards in 2016, 2018, and 2020.
Spreadex’s Spread Betting Account
With no minimum deposit, funding, or withdrawal fees, and a slightly tighter minimum spread – 0.6 pips – Spreadex helps keep trading costs down. We would’ve liked the opportunity to trial the broker with a demo account especially since spread betting is not the same as CFD trading, but if it’s a choice between a dummy account and low-cost trading with a guaranteed stop-loss to help save my capital, I’ll take the latter.
Spreadex’s Spread Betting Platform
While testers did appreciate the advanced order types Spreadex offers, we found the technical trading tools solid, but unremarkable. Compared to similar brokers and spread betting platforms, Spreadex isn’t bringing much to the table.
On the other hand, I did have fun trialling the social investing feature. Spreadex is the only spread betting broker for stocks we reviewed to offer this feature, and it led to some interesting insights into how successful bettors read the market.
Our Verdict on Spreadex
I enjoyed exploring a broker experience specifically designed to combine spread betting and CFD trading but would’ve appreciated more advanced trading tools. Customer support also left something to be desired, so I wouldn’t recommend this broker to beginner traders.
3. IG Group: Best Range Of Markets To Spread Bet
IG Provides Access To A Wide Variety Of Trading Products
IG Markets is one of the largest, best-known and widely-regulated online brokers on the planet and consistently tops our list of best brokerages. In keeping with its stellar reputation, the spread betting offering doesn’t disappoint. In addition to stocks, we were able to spread bet commodities, indices, forex, and ETFs. We independently confirmed IG’s claim that UK customers have access to over 17,000 markets – more than any other spread betting broker we reviewed.
IG Markets’ In-house Trading Platform
You could place spread bets using MT4 – but why would you when you have access to an award-winning platform developed based on decades of experience? Our team rated the mobile app experience as among the top ten for 2023, but the desktop and web app are nothing to sniff at.
More advanced traders and spread betting enthusiasts can appreciate the extensive range of technical indicators and drawing tools, while novices will benefit from the easy-to-navigate interface, risk management limit orders, and extensive educational library.
Our Verdict on IG Markets
I appreciated the wide range of markets available on IG and its impressive proprietary platform. At the end of the day, however, I’m not sold on IG as a spread betting broker so much as a CFD and forex broker with a spread betting option. That the broker offers lower-than-average leverage supports my skepticism.
4. CMC Markets: Best Software To Spread Bet
CMC Markets’ Next Generation Platform Has The Most Features
For beginners just starting out in spread betting, CMC Markets hits the sweet spot between powerful trading tools and comprehensive educational resources. Features like the pattern scanner and economic calendar make it easy for new traders to get their feet wet and learn the markets, along with market analysis from Reuters and CMC’s own analysts.
- Excellent trading platform that has a range of trading tools
- A large selection of stocks to spread bet
- Offers Reuters news within the platform
Our only gripe? Execution speeds left something to be desired. Our testing found that most other brokers outperformed CMC by several milliseconds when executing a market order.
CMC Markets’ Proprietary Next-Generation Platform
While CMC Markets does offer MetaTrader 4 as a platform option, it is not available for spread betting.
CMC clearly put some thought into the UX – navigating the platform on desktop and mobile proved equally straightforward. Switching between formats can sometimes lead to a less satisfying trade experience, especially on mobile, but Next Generation feels admirably consistent.
We also like the range of trading tools available. In addition to the usual technical indicators and drawing tools, we enjoyed experimenting with the pattern recognition scanner and price projection box. The former is especially useful if you’re new to trading, according to our novice team members.
But the most beginner-friendly feature? The guaranteed stop loss order. This is a must for new traders, in my opinion, and not always available with all brokers. Combine this risk management tool with a solid education, and you have a great spread betting broker for beginners.
Our Verdict on CMC Markets
Don’t let the extensive array of technical trading tools fool you – CMC Markets has a lot to offer newer traders. Of all the brokers I reviewed, CMC had the most extensive library of resources devoted exclusively to spread betting and the best risk management tools.
5. City Index: Best Risk Management Tools For Stock Spread Betting
City Index has the tools to manage your risk and analyse your performance
City Index provides some excellent tools that allow you to control your maximum losses and analyse your performances on its web platform. This is helpful if you are a beginner trader, so you can utilise these tools to protect your capital without worrying about any potential slippage.
- Has over 4,700 shares to spread bet on
- Offers spread betting on IPOs
- Has top risk management and performance analysis tools
Tools to Manage Your Risk and Performance
City Index has a few neat features that you can use that are helpful for risk management. The first uses guaranteed stop losses, and the other takes advantage of their Performance Analysis tool. We like it when brokers offer guaranteed stop-loss orders, which can help you limit your losses against a volatile market.
For an extreme example, if you had a standard stop loss on Vodafone (VOD) at 70.50 and the market was volatile, it is possible for the broker to slip you if there was no price at 70.50, but the next best price was at 70.45. Therefore, your stop loss would execute at the 70.45 price, costing you an extra 5p per share more than you were willing to risk (making the loss even greater).
Whereas in the same example, the guaranteed stop loss would have been taken out at 70.50 no matter what. So you wouldn’t have suffered the slippage from the previous example, and it gives you greater peace of mind during volatile markets.
The Performance Analysis tool we also like on City Index automatically analyses your trading performance after every closed position. It can give you data on your trading that you may be unaware of, such as average win rate and average risk:reward, so it can show you the information you can work on to improve as a trader.
Our Verdict on City Index
City Index is a good broker if you want more control over your risk management and a deeper understanding of your trading performances.
*Your capital is at risk ‘71% of retail CFD accounts lose money’
How do I open a spread betting broker account?
We’ll use Pepperstone as an example of how to set up your spread betting broker account. (Full disclosure – I use Pepperstone for my own trading.)
1. Create a Profile
Like most licensed and regulated brokers, Pepperstone requires new customers to undergo KYC and anti-money laundering checks and pass a fitness test in order to open an account.
To get started, you’ll need to enter some basic biographical information and specify the type of account you’re requesting: individual or institutional.
2. Upload an Identity Document
While you don’t have to upload a copy of an identity document at this point, I strongly suggest you do so. Skipping this step just means you’ll end up having to provide them later on in order to complete the process.
I’m pretty cagey about sharing personal information, so I emailed Pepperstone to ask what happens to copies of documents once the broker finishes with AML and KYC checks. Pepperstone assured me they don’t store them, and that their system uses bank-level encryption.
You’ll also need to enter information about your employment and income, but no supporting documents are needed.
3. Select Your Account Type and Platform
Next, the system will prompt you to select your account type and trading platform. Obviously, you’ll want to choose ‘spread betting’ for your account, but you’ll have a number of options when it comes to platforms.
Note that you’ll also have to agree to special terms and conditions to open a spread betting account. (I strongly suggest you read them, but I’m a fine-print kind of person.)
4. Fitness Test
Calling this a ‘test’ is a bit of a misnomer. We asked a first-time trader on our team to open an account and even a string of ‘never’ responses didn’t stop Pepperstone from allowing her to move forward. It did, however, prompt Pepperstone to question her preference for a low-spread, commission-based account vs the standard option.
You’ll also need to answer a series of ten basic questions about trading. And by basic, I really do mean basic. Our first-timer ran through the educational materials available with a demo account and did just fine.
5. Final Verification
Provided you pass the quiz – you will pass the quiz – you’ll be taken to the final verification screen. If you haven’t uploaded an identity document, this is when you’ll need to bite the bullet.
After you’ve passed the fitness test and provided all the necessary information, you’ll wait around 24 hours for final approval from Pepperstone. Once you receive the email confirmation, just add funds to your account and you’re good to go.
6. Fund Your Account
Before you start trading, you’ll need to add money to your account. Pepperstone makes this admirably simple in my experience. Bank drafts can take a few days, but debit card and PayPal deposits process almost instantaneously.
How To Choose A Spread Betting Platform
Choosing the best spread betting broker for you will depend on a number of factors, including your experience level, trading goals, and your betting strategy.
In general, I suggest starting by narrowing your choices to the licensed and regulated brokers available in your jurisdiction. (My team only reviews Tier-1 brokers, so you can feel confident with any of the options I profiled above.)
I also recommend that you be honest with yourself about your trading abilities and your risk tolerance. If you’re not an expert yet, that’s fine. Choosing a broker with wider spreads and better risk management to protect yourself is a smart move. You can always take the training wheels off as your skills improve.
Is spread betting stocks the same as stock trading?
No. Trading stocks involves actually purchasing shares traded on a central exchange. When you spread bet stocks, you predict whether a given stock will rise or fall in price and by how much. Stock traders only make money if the price increases, while spread bettors can profit regardless of whether a stock goes up or down, so long as they correctly foresee how the market will move.
What is the difference between financial and forex spread betting?
Financial spread betting – which includes spread betting stocks – is when a trader places a bet on how the financial markets will move. Forex spread betting is a type of financial spread betting, which a trader places bets on how specific currency pairs will behave.
What is the difference between forex trading and forex spread betting?
Forex trading and forex spread betting both involve speculating on the price movements of currency pairs. The difference lies primarily in the nature of the transactions.
Forex trading refers to the buying and selling of currency pairs with the intention of profiting from the fluctuations in their exchange rates. Forex spread betting, on the other hand, is a form of financial spread betting that specifically focuses on currency pairs in the forex market.
What are the pros and cons of spread betting?
In my opinion, spread betting offers day traders a number of advantages, including:
- Tax benefits. If you’re in the UK or Australia, you won’t pay capital gains tax or stamp duty tax on your spread betting profits.
- Diversification. Spread betting on stocks can add diversity and flexibility to your trading, allowing you to explore a wider variety of stocks and sectors than CFD trading.
- Leverage. Top spread betting brokers for stocks will usually offer account holders the option to trade on margin – up to 500:1 for professionals – which can amplify your profits significantly.
That said, I’ve also experienced some of the downsides of spread betting, like:
- High risk. There’s a reason the British and Australian taxmen treat spread betting profits like gambling winnings. It can take time to hone your strategy and work out how much leverage you can safely use.
- No ownership rights. While you can make significant profits from spread betting stocks, you won’t enjoy the perks of actually owning shares in a company. Perks like quarterly dividend payments.
- Market volatility. I know, I know. Isn’t market volatility a good thing for spread bettors? While big moves in stock markets can translate into big wins if you’ve read the charts correctly, those big swings can work against you when you’re trying to spot patterns or build an algorithm.
Is spread betting legal and safe?
Yes, if you’re a British or Irish citizen living in the UK. Australians can also open spread betting accounts with qualifying brokers.
Trade only with a regulated forex broker or spread betting company licensed by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) or the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
Day trading carries a high degree of inherent risk, whether you engage in spread betting, forex trading, sport spread betting, CFD trading or any combination thereof. While trading and spread betting with a licensed and regulated brokerage won’t protect you from financial loss, it does ensure that your broker follows certain best practices designed to prevent fraud and unethical market manipulation.