Spread bets and CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 70% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading spread bets and 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.
Spread bets and CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage.

How to buy international and foreign shares in the UK

Some of the biggest stocks in the world are listed overseas, but that doesn’t mean that they’re out of the reach of the average UK investor. Read on to find out how to buy international shares and stocks from the UK.

Choose how you want to buy international and foreign stocks

There are two ways to buy international stocks – by investing or trading derivatives.

When you are investing in foreign stocks, you are buying shares outright at their full value with the intention of holding onto these shares for a period of time. Trading international shares involves the use of derivative products such as spread bets and contracts for difference (CFDs). These products are traded using leverage, which means you only need a percentage of the value of the position to get started. However, your profits and losses will be calculated on the full position size, so you can lose much more than your initial deposit. Be sure to have an appropriate risk management strategy in place before opening position.

Why would I invest?

  • You could receive dividends or income from your interest
  • You want to diversify your investment portfolio
  • You want to access investment opportunities in another market
  • You plan to invest over a fixed period of time (eg 20 years)
  • You want to own shares outright in a particular company
  • You want voting rights in the companies you invest in

Why would I trade?

  • You can open a position with a small initial deposit, called margin
  • You’ll use leverage – which can magnify both profits and losses
  • You could make a profit against the stock value, whether it goes up or down
  • You generally don’t pay tax on spread bets
  • CFD profits can be offset against losses as a tax deduction

Understand the charges to buy international shares

Many of the international shares we offer can be bought and traded with no commission fees. However, some standard costs may be applied when you trade derivatives, and a small commission may be paid on CFDs. There may be other charges, like custody fees, to consider.

All US stocks must be paid for in US dollars. We charge a 0.5% forex conversion fee on US dollar transactions.

View the full range of fees and commission charges on foreign stocks

Open an account

You can choose between opening a share dealing account or a trading account (or both). You can apply for an account on our website or via the IG app.

You’ll be asked a few questions to see whether you qualify for the account you’re applying for. If approved, you’ll have access to a wide range of trading tools, as well as our award-winning web platform.1

Choose the international shares you want to buy

Choosing your international share portfolio is similar to how you would choose your UK stocks and shares portfolio.

You could choose a diversified mix of companies from different sectors and with different objectives. Or, you may simply want to trade the stocks of a specific company that is based overseas.

Some of the largest companies and most exciting start-ups are listed on foreign markets. The famous FAANG stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google – which trades as Alphabet) are all listed in the US, while high-growth companies such as Shopify are listed in Canada.

Europe is home to major global brands such as Germany’s Volkswagen, the Netherlands’ Royal Dutch Shell, and French oil and gas giant Total.

Meanwhile, Asia-based companies such as HSBC, Singapore Airlines, and Sony can be accessed via the Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo stock exchanges, respectively.

Buy international stocks

The process of buying international shares may vary slightly depending on which market you are interested in. Discover the details of buying foreign stocks below.

Buying US shares: what you need to know

Before buying US shares, you have to fill out a W-8BEN form to confirm that you are not a resident of the US. This can all be completed on our online platform.

Once you have opened and funded your account, you can search the name of the US shares you want to buy. Some of the most popular US shares include:

Buying Hong Kong shares: what you need to know

Hong Kong is a major global hub that offers access to a huge range of gaming, technology and fintech stocks, among others.

Some companies – like the BAT stocks (Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent Holdings) are dual listed, which means that they can easily be traded on our platform. It is also possible to trade dual-listed Chinese stocks and shares, however, due to stringent regulations in China, some state-backed companies are still out of reach for international investors, at least for now.

Buying European shares: what you need to know

Europe is home to many well-known brands, including:

  • German software multinational SAP
  • French international healthcare provider Sanofi
  • Dutch consumer goods business Unilever

You can access all of these markets via our platform, by trading and investing shares listed on European exchanges such as the Frankfurt Stock Exchange (Xetra), the Euronext Paris, and the Euronext Amsterdam stock exchange. When you have opened and funded your account, you can choose your shares and start trading.

Buying Canadian shares: what you need to know

If Canadian shares have a dual listing on a US stock exchange, you can invest in them directly via our platform. Alternatively, you can speculate on the prices of a wide variety of Canadian shares with CFDs and spread bets.

There are a lot of blue chips that are listed on both the Toronto Stock Exchange and the NYSE, such as:

Buying international and foreign shares summed up

  • International shares can help add diversity to your portfolio
  • Many foreign markets can be accessed via our platform
  • You can choose to either trade or invest in foreign shares
  • Some of the larger international companies are dual-listed, which makes it easier to trade and invest
  • However, Chinese regulation means that not all of China’s blue chips can be accessed by overseas investors
  • You can open an account with us to start trading and investing in international shares

Footnotes:

1 As awarded at the ADVFN International Financial Awards 2020 and Professional Trader Awards 2019.

Publication date : 2021-06-16T14:35:14+0100


This information has been prepared by IG, a trading name of IG Markets Limited. In addition to the disclaimer below, the material on this page does not contain a record of our trading prices, or an offer of, or solicitation for, a transaction in any financial instrument. IG accepts no responsibility for any use that may be made of these comments and for any consequences that result. No representation or warranty is given as to the accuracy or completeness of this information. Consequently any person acting on it does so entirely at their own risk. Any research provided does not have regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation and needs of any specific person who may receive it. It has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and as such is considered to be a marketing communication. Although we are not specifically constrained from dealing ahead of our recommendations we do not seek to take advantage of them before they are provided to our clients. See full non-independent research disclaimer and quarterly summary.

Explore the markets with our free course

Learn how shares work – and discover the wide range of markets you can spread bet on – with IG Academy's free ’introducing the financial markets’ course.

Put learning into action

Try out what you’ve learned in this shares strategy article risk-free in your demo account.

Ready to trade shares?

Put the lessons in this article to use in a live account – upgrading is quick and easy.

  • Trade on over 16,000 popular global stocks
  • Protect your capital with risk management tools
  • React to breaking news with out-of-hours trading on 70 key US stocks

Inspired to trade?

Put your new knowledge into practice. Log in to your account now.

What is the number one mistake traders make?

We reveal the top potential pitfall and how to avoid it. Discover how to increase your chances of trading success, with data gleaned from over 100,00 IG accounts.


For more info on how we might use your data, see our privacy notice and access policy and privacy webpage.

You might be interested in…

Find out what charges your trades could incur with our transparent fee structure.

Discover why so many clients choose us, and what makes us a world-leading provider of spread betting and CFDs.

Stay on top of upcoming market-moving events with our customisable economic calendar.