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Spread Betting vs CFD Trading UK – Which Is Best?

Tobi Opeyemi Amure
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Spread Betting vs CFD Trading

In the world of financial markets, spread betting and CFD (Contracts for Difference) trading are two popular methods that offer unique opportunities for traders.

My article aims to shed light on the distinctions between spread betting and CFD trading, exploring their characteristics, advantages, and key differences

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced trader, gaining clarity on these trading approaches will empower you to make informed decisions and choose the method that aligns best with your trading goals.

What is Spread Betting?

Spread betting is a financial derivative product that allows traders to speculate on the price movements of various financial instruments, including stocks, indices, currencies, and commodities.

It involves placing a bet on whether the price of an underlying asset will rise or fall.

The profit or loss in spread betting is determined by the accuracy of the trader’s prediction and the extent of the price movement.

The spread refers to the difference between the buying and selling prices quoted by the spread betting provider.

Unlike traditional trading, spread betting is considered a form of gambling in certain jurisdictions and is subject to specific tax regulations.

Number one tip for spread betting is risk management! Use risk management tools like stop losses, and start small, so look for a provider like Spreadex which allows small minimum stakes.

Tom Salmon, Managing Director at Spreadex. From our recent interview.

It offers flexibility, leverage, and the ability to profit in both rising and falling markets.

However, it’s important to note that spread betting carries risks, and losses can exceed the initial stake.

What is CFD Trading?

CFD trading, short for Contracts for Difference, is a popular form of derivative trading that allows investors to speculate on the price movements of various financial instruments, such as stocks, commodities, indices, and currencies, without owning the underlying assets.

When trading CFDs, you enter into a contract with a broker to exchange the difference in the price of the asset from the time the contract is opened to when it is closed.

CFDs offer the opportunity to profit from both rising and falling markets by taking long (buy) or short (sell) positions.

One of the key advantages of CFD trading is the ability to use leverage, which means you can control a larger position with a smaller initial investment.

However, it’s important to note that leverage can amplify both potential profits and losses.

CFD trading provides access to a wide range of markets, liquidity, and the flexibility to trade on margin.

Proper risk management and understanding the risks involved are essential when engaging in CFD trading.

Top pick
Plus500 - Overall best trading platform
4.5

One of the fastest-growing trading platforms in the UK for CFD trading. Comprehensive for all levels of experience.

Pros:
  • Intuitive, user-friendly platform
  • Demo trading account & learning academy
  • Fast and responsive customer service
  • Trading tools & charts
82% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

What Are the Similarities Between Spread Betting & CFD Trading?

Spread betting and CFD (Contracts for Difference) trading share several similarities, including:

  • Speculative Trading: Both spread betting and CFD trading are speculative trading methods that allow traders to speculate on the price movements of various financial instruments without owning the underlying assets.
  • Leveraged Trading: Both spread betting and CFD trading involve the use of leverage. This means traders can control larger positions with a smaller amount of capital, potentially amplifying both profits and losses.
  • Range of Tradable Instruments: Both spread betting and CFD trading provide access to a wide range of markets, including stocks, indices, currencies, commodities, and more. Traders can choose from various financial instruments to suit their trading strategies and preferences.
  • Flexibility in Market Direction: Both spread betting and CFD trading offer the flexibility to take positions on the price movement of an asset in either direction. Traders can go long (buy) if they anticipate the price will rise or go short (sell) if they expect it to fall, allowing for potential profit opportunities in both bullish and bearish markets.
  • Margin Trading: Both spread betting and CFD trading involve trading on margin, which means traders are only required to deposit a percentage of the total trade value as collateral. This allows for greater market exposure with a smaller initial investment.
  • Risk Management Tools: Both spread betting and CFD trading platforms typically offer risk management tools such as stop-loss orders and take-profit orders. These tools help traders manage and limit potential losses and protect profits by automatically closing positions at predetermined price levels.

What Are the Differences Between Spread Betting & CFD Trading?

Spread betting and CFD (Contracts for Difference) trading share some similarities but also have distinct differences.

Here are the key contrasts between the two:

  1. Tax Treatment: In the UK and some other jurisdictions, spread betting is generally exempt from capital gains tax and stamp duty, making it a tax-efficient trading method. On the other hand, CFD trading may be subject to capital gains tax.
  2. Ownership: In spread betting, you do not own the underlying asset; you are simply speculating on its price movement. In CFD trading, you also do not own the underlying asset, but you have a contract that mirrors the price movement of the asset.
  3. Regulatory Oversight: Spread betting is regulated as gambling in some jurisdictions, while CFD trading is typically regulated as a financial instrument. CFD trading is subject to more stringent financial regulations and oversight, providing certain investor protections.
  4. Market Range: Spread betting often focuses on financial markets, including stocks, indices, and currencies. CFD trading provides a broader range of markets, including stocks, commodities, indices, currencies, and more.
  5. Financing Costs: In spread betting, there are no overnight financing costs since it is considered a bet. In CFD trading, holding positions overnight may incur overnight financing charges based on the underlying asset’s interest rates.
  6. Trading Flexibility: Spread betting offers flexibility in terms of the bet size, which is usually specified as the amount bet per point movement. In CFD trading, you trade a specific quantity or lot size of the underlying asset.
  7. Execution & Transparency: Spread betting prices are determined by the provider, often derived from the underlying market prices. CFD prices, on the other hand, closely track the underlying market prices, providing greater transparency and accuracy.

Spread Betting vs CFD Trading: Which Is Best for Me?

The choice between spread betting and CFD (Contracts for Difference) trading depends on your individual preferences, trading objectives, and circumstances.

Here are some key factors to consider when deciding which method may be best for you:

Spread Betting:

  • Tax Efficiency: Spread betting is generally tax-free in the UK, making it attractive for those seeking tax advantages.
  • Simplicity: Spread betting is often viewed as more straightforward, as it involves placing bets on the price movements of assets.
  • Betting Mindset: If you are comfortable with the concept of placing bets and have a preference for the gambling aspect, spread betting may align well with your mindset.

CFD Trading:

  • Market Access: CFD trading offers a broader range of markets, including stocks, indices, commodities, and more, compared to the primarily financial market focus of spread betting.
  • Regulatory Oversight: CFD trading is subject to financial regulations and oversight, providing certain investor protections.
  • Tax Considerations: While CFD trading may be subject to capital gains tax, losses can be offset as a tax deduction.

It’s important to note that both spread betting and CFD trading involve risks, and losses can exceed the initial investment.

Consider your risk tolerance, trading experience, and the specific features offered by brokers.

Example of a Trade Using Both

Here’s an example of how to trade on the XYZ Company, a popular stock, using both spread betting and CFD trading methods.

The following information applies to both spread betting and CFD products:

Sell price = £50.20 Buy price = £50.30 Spread = £0.10 Margin rate = 10%

Let’s assume you believe that the price of XYZ Company’s stock will rise, so you open a buy (long) position to profit from its potential increase in value.

Spread betting: You decide to stake £5 per point. Your profit or loss will be multiplied by your stake amount for each point the stock moves up or down.

CFD trading: You buy 50 CFDs (or ‘units’) at the buy price. The difference between the opening and closing prices will determine your profit or loss at the end of the contract.

The XYZ Company has a margin rate of 10%, meaning you only need to deposit 10% of the total trade value as your position margin.

Spread betting: Position margin – (10% x (£5 x 50.30)) = £25.15

CFD trading: Position margin – (10% x (50 x £50.30)) = £251.50

The XYZ Company’s stock then moves to a new sell price of £52.40 and buy price of £52.50, indicating that your prediction was correct and the stock has increased in value. You decide to close your position by selling at the new sell price of £52.40.

Spread betting: As the XYZ Company’s stock has moved 200 points in your favor, you calculate your profit by multiplying this by your stake size (£5 x 200 = £1,000).

CFD trading: As the XYZ Company’s stock has moved 200 points in your favor, you calculate your profit by multiplying this by your position size (200 x 50 units = £10,000).

What about any additional charges?

Spread betting: No commission charges. However, holding costs may apply if you keep positions open overnight.

CFD trading: CFDs are subject to Capital Gains Tax and potentially other charges such as commissions and holding costs if positions are held overnight.

It’s essential to consider these factors and understand the specific charges, costs, and terms of your chosen trading platform before engaging in any trading activities. This example is for illustrative purposes only, and actual trading conditions may differ.

Top pick
Plus500 - Overall best trading platform
4.5

One of the fastest-growing trading platforms in the UK for CFD trading. Comprehensive for all levels of experience.

Pros:
  • Intuitive, user-friendly platform
  • Demo trading account & learning academy
  • Fast and responsive customer service
  • Trading tools & charts
82% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

FAQs

CFD or spread betting for forex?

Both CFD trading and spread betting are popular methods for trading forex. The choice between the two depends on personal preferences, tax considerations, and regulatory factors. CFD trading allows for more flexibility and access to a wider range of markets, while spread betting is often tax-efficient in certain jurisdictions. It’s important to consider your specific trading needs, risk appetite, and local regulations to determine which approach aligns best with your goals.

Does leverage work the same with spread betting and CFDs?

Leverage works similarly in both spread betting and CFD trading. Both methods allow traders to control larger positions with a smaller amount of capital, potentially amplifying both profits and losses. However, the specific leverage amounts may vary between providers and depend on the asset being traded. It’s important to use leverage responsibly and understand the risks involved before utilising it in your trading strategy.

Is spread betting taxed in the UK?

In the UK, spread betting is generally exempt from capital gains tax and stamp duty. It is considered a form of gambling rather than traditional investing. However, tax laws are subject to change, and individual circumstances can vary, so it’s always advisable to consult with a tax professional or financial advisor to understand the specific tax implications of spread betting in your situation.

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Will Fenton is the founder of Sterling Savvy. He is a personal finance expert and writes about trading, investing, budgeting, and other financial topics.

Along with his education in Economics & Finance, he has experience working in the financial services industry in London working for one of the UK’s leading financial companies, “a trustworthy and respected provider of news, education and market analysis for the everyday investor”.

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