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Spread Betting vs CFD Trading – Which is Best?

Spread betting and CFD trading are very similar, insofar that your primary goal is to speculate on the future value of an asset like stocks, gold, oil, or forex. However, there are some key differences, particularly when it comes to how your earnings are taxed.

In this Spread Betting vs CFD Trading Guide – we explore the key differences between the two so that you can make an informed decision as to which is best for your financial goals. We’ll also reveal the best spread betting platforms and top CFD brokers so you can try them out for yourself today.

Spread Betting vs CFD Trading Main Differences

If you’re strapped for time and are simply looking for the main Spread Betting vs CFD Trading differences – check out the quickfire bullet points below.

  • CFD profits are subjected to capital gains tax. As spread betting is defined as ‘gambling’ – all profits are tax-exempt.
  • When accessing a financial spread betting market – the instrument will always come with an expiry date. CFDs don’t, so you can hold on to your position for as long as you wish.
  • Spread betting profits and losses are calculated on a ‘stake-per-point’ basis. CFD profits and losses are based on the difference between the price you enter and exit the underlying market at.

Don’t worry – we explain the ins and outs of the above key differences in much more detail later on in this guide.

Spread Betting vs CFD Trading Comparison

For a more comprehensive Spread Betting vs CFD Trading comparison – check out the table below.

Spread Betting CFD Trading
All profits are exempt from capital gains tax (CGT).
Your CFD trading profits are taxed the same as any other investment gains
You can apply leverage within the remit of FCA regulations.
You can apply leverage within the remit of FCA regulations.
You can go long or short on your chosen market
You can go long or short on your chosen market
Stakes are based on a monetary value per point – e.g. £1 per point price movement
Stakes are a flat – e.g. £100 buy order
No stamp duty applicable No stamp duty applicable
Prices track the underlying asset like-for-like
Prices track the underlying asset like-for-like
Commissions are usually built into the spread
Commissions are usually built into the spread

Once again, we’ll explain the core benefits and drawbacks of both spread betting and CFD trading in the sections below.

CFD vs Spread Betting – How They Work

Let’s be clear – both spread betting and CFDs (Contracts for Difference) are suited for those that wish to trade on a short-term basis. You won’t own the underlying asset and thus – neither trading instrument should be viewed as a long-term investment.

Instead, you’ll be looking to enter and exit the market over the course of a few days, hours, or even minutes. By speculating on the future direction of the spread betting or CFD instrument correctly – you will make a profit.

cfds vs spread betting

Let’s unravel the key fundamentals of CFD vs Spread Betting in greater detail:

Ownership and Pricing

To reiterate – when you trade at a spread betting or CFD platform – you are not buying or investing in the asset. Instead, you are simply looking to speculate whether the price of the asset will rise or fall. The CFD instrument, therefore, will track the real-time market price of the financial asset.

For example:

  • Let’s say that Brent Crude Oil is priced at $54.50 per barrel
  • At your chosen spread betting or CFD trading platform – oil is also priced at $54.50 per barrel
  • Three hours later, the Brent Crude Oil benchmark is quoting $56.20 per barrel in the open market
  • Naturally, your spread betting or CFD trading platform is also quoting $56.20 per barrel

As you can see, if the real market price of the asset increases, as will your spread betting or CFD instrument. Crucially, this allows you to gain access to your chosen market without needing to take ownership. In particular, both trading instruments are great for speculating on difficult-to-reach assets – such as oil, gold, silver, indices, or agricultural products.

Stakes, Profits, and Losses

Perhaps one of the main differences that our Spread Betting vs CFD Trading Guide found, is the way in which profits and losses are calculated. This is an important element to understand – as you will be risking your hard-earned money.

CFD Trading

CFD profits and losses are a lot easier to quantify if you’re just getting started in the world of online trading. This is because you simply need to enter a stake when placing your required order. Then, your profits and losses will be determined by the percentage figure that you were right or wrong by – multiplied against your stake.

For example:

  • Let’s say that you stake £500 on a gold CFD
  • When you place your CFD trade – gold is priced at $1,500 per ounce
  • A few days later – gold is now priced at $1,650
  • This represents an increase of 10%
  • You staked £500 – so on gains of 10% you make a total profit of £50

Take note – and as we discuss in more detail shortly, keeping a CFD trading or spread betting position open overnight will result in additional fees.

Spread Betting

When it comes to calculating stakes, profits and losses in the spread betting arena – things are slightly more complex. This is because unlike CFD trading – you won’t specify an ‘all-in’ stake. Instead, you need to specify how much you wish to stake ‘per point’.

Before we get to that – it’s crucial that we explain how the point system works when using a spread betting platform.

  • When an asset moves up and down in value, spread betting brokers illustrate this movement in points
  • The specific unit of points will depend on the market in question
  • For simplicity, let’s say that you are trading Tesla stocks – which are priced at $700 each
  • On this market, we will say that 1 point equates to 1 cent
  • So, if Tesla stocks go from $700 to $700.50 – that’s 50 cents or 50 points
  • Similarly, if Tesla stocks then move down to $700.20 – that’s 30 points

It’s always important to check the unit of each point movement for the market you are trading. Nevertheless, when you set up a spread betting trade, you’ll need to enter the amount you wish to risk for each point movement.

To clear the mist, let’s expand on the example above:

  • You are confident that Tesla stocks are overvalued and thus – you place a sell order with your chosen spread betting platform
  • You want to risk £1 per point in this trade
  • To recap – 1 point equates to 1 cent
  • You place a sell order at $700 per Tesla stock
  • A few hours later, Tesla stocks are being quoted at $698
  • This means that the stocks have dropped in value by 200 points
  • You staked £1 per point – so your profit amounts to £200

In the above example, you can cash out your profits by placing a buy order. If, however, you entered the trade with a buy order, you would need to cash out with a sell order.

Long or Short Positions

When you buy shares at a traditional online stock broker, you do so because you think the asset will rise in value. This is no different from buying cryptocurrencies, ETFs, mutual funds, gold, and any other asset for that matter. However, for short-term traders – this doesn’t offer enough flexibility.

spread betting vs cfds tax

75.26% of retail investor accounts lose money when spread betting and/or trading CFDs with this provider.

67% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider.

As such,  this is why seasoned traders will often opt for spread betting or CFD platforms – as you will always have the option of going long or short. In other words, you can profit from both rising and falling markets.


An additional benefit that our Spread Betting vs CFD Trading Guide identified is that both mediums allow you to apply leverage. This means that you can boost the value of your trade. In the UK, leveraged products are now governed by the FCA – which mirrors the previous guidelines provided by the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA).

For those unaware – leverage limits that both spread betting and CFD trading platforms must implement are as follows:

  • Major forex pairs – 1:30
  • Minor forex pairs, gold, and major indices – 1:20
  • Non-gold commodities and minor indices – 1:10
  • Stocks – 1:5

You might notice that cryptocurrencies are missing from the above list. Previously, you could trade cryptocurrency via both spread betting and CFD platforms at leverage of 1:2. However, as of January 1st, 2021 – UK retail clients can no longer access cryptocurrency derivative products – which includes both spread betting and CFD instruments.

Nevertheless, if you’ve never applied leverage to an online trade – see the below example.

  • You are looking to trade HSBC stocks – which are currently priced at £4.30 per share
  • You think the stocks will rise to place a buy order at a stake of £2 per point
  • Each point on this market is represented by a movement of 1p
  • You are extra confident on this trade – so apply leverage of 1:5
  • A few hours later, HSBC stocks have risen to £4.50 – so that’s an increase of 20 points
  • On a stake of £2 per point – you are looking at gains of £40
  • However, you applied leverage of 1:5 – so your £40 profit is amplified to £200

When applying leverage to a CFD trade, the fundamentals are exactly the same as the example above. That is to say, your profits and losses are multiplied by the amount of leverage you apply – which in this case, was a factor of 5x.

Spread Betting vs CFD – Tax

Before you enter the online trading scene it is crucial that you have a firm understanding of what tax laws you might be subjected to. Of course, you are best advised to seek guidance from a qualified tax professional. But, if you’re looking for a brief overview of how Spread Betting vs CFD trading works in terms of taxation – check out the sections below.

Spread Betting is Tax-Free

Without a doubt, the overarching benefit of choosing spread betting over CFD trading is that all profits are tax-free. As we briefly mentioned earlier, this is because spread betting falls within the remit of gambling. As you might know, all gambling winnings in the UK have been exempt from tax since 2010. This means that all gains made from your spread betting endeavors are yours to keep.

CFD Trading is Liable for Capital Gains Tax

Unfortunately, CFD traders do not benefit from the same tax advantages as spread bettors. Put simply, any profits that you make from your CFD trading endeavors are liable for capital gains tax. This works exactly the same as when you invest in traditional assets like stocks or ETFs.

That is to say, the tax is calculated on the profit you make from the trade and not the amount you invest.

For example:

  • Let’s say you make 10% gains on a £500 CFD trade
  • The capital gains amount to £50
  • At the end of the tax year, you would need to calculate your total profit (or loss)
  • If you ended the year in profit, this will be liable for capital gains tax

It is important to note that all UK residents are given a tax-free allowance each year when it comes to capital gains. In the 2020/21 tax year, this amounts to £12,300.

In other words, as long as you do not make capital gains of more than £12,300 in the respective tax year – you won’t owe anything to HMRC (across all investments and assets). Once again, spreak with a qualified accountant when attempting to assess your tax liabilities.

No Stamp Duty

Irrespective of whether you opt for spread betting or CFD trading – you will not be liable for stamp duty tax. Ordinarilly, UK investors are required to pay stamp duty of 0.5% when buying securities that are listed on the London Stock Exchange. However, when trading CFDs or spread betting instruments – you don’t own the underlying asset. As such, stamp duty tax is not applicable.

Spread Betting vs CFD – Fees

This part of our Spread Betting vs CFD Trading Guide is of the utmost importance – as fees and commissions can be a bit more complex than traditional investing.

To ensure you have a firm grasp of what fees you will be required to pay – check out the sections below.


We should note that the vast majority of CFD trading and spread betting platforms allow you to trade on a commission-free basis. The respective platform will instead make money from the ‘spread’ – which we cover next.

However, commission-free trading is offered by all online platforms. For example, UK-based platform IG – which offers both spread betting and CFD trading, charges a variable commission on stock derivatives.

cfds vs spread betting

The fee will vary, but when trading UK-listed stock derivatives, the fee amounts to 0.10%. Although this sounds minute, IG has installed a £10 minimum commission. This makes the platform highly unviable for those looking to stake small amounts.


Of course – commission-free trading platforms are in the business of making money. As such, they typically achieve this goal via the spread.

Not to be confusing with ‘spread betting, the spread is the difference between the buy (bid) and sell (ask) price of an asset. This gap in pricing is best calculated in percentage terms. With that said, CFD trading platforms often display the spread in ‘pips’ while at spread betting brokers it’s shown in ‘points’.

Either way, assessing the spread in percentage terms is much easier – as per the below example.

  • Let’s suppose that you are trading Royal Mail stocks
  • Your spread betting/ CFD trading platform is quoting a ‘buy’ price of £4.52
  • The platform is quoting a ‘sell’ price of £4.50
  • In percentage terms, this amounts to a spread of 0.44%

In simple terms, this means that – irrespective of whether you go long or short on Royal Mail stocks, you will enter the trade at a loss of 0.44%. Put another way – you need to see your position make gains of 0.44% to break even on the trade. Anything above 0.44% will amount to actual profit.

Overnight Funding

This particular fee is arguably the most important to be aware of – as it relates to a charge that kicks in for each day you keep your position open. This is the case across both CFD trading and spread betting.

In a nutshell, overnight funding is a small interest fee that you pay when your position is kept open past a certain time. The specific time will depend on which platform you have signed up with.

  • For example, your chosen broker might have a cut-off point of 11 pm.
  • This means that any positions that haven’t been closed after 11 pm will attract an overnight funding fee.
  • This will be the case for each subsequent day that the position remains open past 11 pm.

The key problem is that the underlying overnight funding fee calculation is super complex. There are many variables that this is based on – such as current BOE interest rates, the asset or market you are trading, whether or not you apply leverage, and whether you are long or short.

Facebook stocks eToro

75.26% of retail investor accounts lose money when spread betting and/or trading CFDs with this provider.

67% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider.

With that said, our Spread Betting vs CFD Trading Guide found that eToro is one of the very few brokers that displays the daily overnight funding fee in monetary terms.

For example:

  • At the time of writing, eToro is telling us that a $500 sell order on Facebook stock CFDs at leverage of 1:5 will attract an overnight funding fee of $0.21 per day, and $0.63 across the weekend.
  • If we were to change any of the aforementioned variables – such as the stake or amount leverage, the overnight funding fee would update.
  • This at the very gives us an idea of what fees we need to pay.

Either way, the fact that overnight funding cannot be avoided highlights that neither CFD trading nor spread betting is suitable for long-term investing. Instead, this industry is best reserved for those looking to take a day trading or swing trading strategy.


Spread Betting vs CFD – Expiry Dates

When attempting to understand the difference between spread betting and CFD trading – you also need to have a firm grasp of asset expiry dates.

First and foremost, when trading CFDs, there is no expiry date attached to the instrument you are trading. In theory, this means that you can hold on to your position for as long as you wish – whether that’s in terms of hours, days, weeks, or months. However – as we explained in the section above – each subsequent day your position is kept open, an overnight funding fee will kick in.

  • In the case of spread betting, markets will always come with an expiry date.
  • The timeframe will clearly be displayed by your chosen spread betting broker, albeit, this might be on a daily, weekly, or quarterly basis.
  • If you’re a day trader – then the fact that spread betting instruments expire will be irrelevant to your trading strategy.
  • However, if you are more of a swing trader that likes the flexibility of keeping positions open for slightly longer – do bear this in mind.

For those unaware, if you are holding a spread betting position that does expire – this simply means that the trade will be closed by your chosen broker. If you wish to stay in the market – you would need to open a new trade.

Spread Betting vs CFD – Regulation

On the one hand, spread betting profits are classified as gambling winnings. However, the wider spread betting industry is not regulated by the UK Gambling Commission. On the contrary – and much like CFD trading, spread betting is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

This means that your chosen CFD or spread betting platform must follow a wide range of regulatory demands – such as:

  • Limiting retail investors to leverage caps (see above for a breakdown of asset-by-asset limits)
  • All spread betting and CFD brokers must verify your identity when you first open a trading account
  • Platforms must be transparent on fees and commissions
  • Your capital must be ringfenced in segregated bank accounts

Although not a rule of thumb – the vast majority of UK-based CFD trading and spread betting platforms will also be covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). This means that if a worst-case scenario occurred – whereby the broker went bankrupt – your funds would be protected up to the first £85,000.

Pros & Cons of Spread Betting and CFD Trading

Still not sure whether you should opt for a CFD or spread betting platform? If so, below we recap on the pros and cons of each.

Benefits of Spread Betting

  • All spread betting profits are 100% tax-free in the UK and Ireland
  • Trade thousands of markets – from stocks and indices to forex and commodities
  • Leverage available on all spread betting markets
  • Ability to go long or short
  • Most platforms are commission-free

Drawbacks of Spread Betting

  • Stake-per-point system a bit more complex than CFD trading
  • No cryptocurrencies when spread betting
  • Overnight funding fees

Benefits of CFD Trading

  • Trade thousands of markets – from stocks and indices to forex and commodities
  • Leverage available on all CFD trading markets
  • Ability to go long or short
  • Most platforms are commission-free
  • Stakes, profits, and losses much easier to understand than spread betting

Drawbacks of CFD Trading

  • Profits are liable for capital gains tax
  • Overnight funding fees

Best Spread Betting Platforms

If you’ve read our Spread Betting vs CFD Trading Guide up to this point and you know which financial instrument is best suited for your objectives – you will now need to choose a trusted broker.

Irrespective of which option you prefer – you need to look at a variety of metrics before joining a trading platform. This includes supported markets, fees, spreads, commissions, leverage, payments, customer support, and regulation.

We have done the hard work for you by reviewing the best spread betting and CFD trading platforms below – starting with the former.

1. Pepperstone – Best Spread Betting Platform for Advanced Traders

peppERSTONE SPREAD BETTINGWhile is best suited for spread betting beginners – Pepperstone is a great option if you have a bit of experience in this industry. In particular, Pepperstone allows you to facilitate your spread betting trades via third-party platforms MT4 and MT5.

As you likely know, both of these platforms come packed with advanced order types, technical indicators, and chart drawing tools. This is ideal for those of you that wish to perform in-depth analytical research. Much like, Pepperstone offers leverage in line with the previously discussed FCA limits.

spread betting at Peppertstone

If, however, you are classed a professional trader – you’ll be offered leverage of up to 1:500. When it comes to tradable markets, Pepperstone offers a great range of spread betting assets. This is inclusive of stocks, forex, commodities, and indices. In terms of fees, everything is built into the spread – meaning that there are no commissions to pay.

An additional benefit of using Pepperstone is that the platform is a ‘no dealer execution’ broker. In simple terms, this means that there is no conflict of interest between Pepperstone and its clients – as the broker does not trade against open positions. Finally, Pepperstone is authorized and regulated by the FCA – so your capital is safe.


  • Spread betting – no capital gains tax
  • Compatible with numerous platforms
  • 0% commission accounts
  • Raw accounts for zero spreads
  • FCA licensed
  • Accepts PayPal


  • No proprietary platform
  • Doesn’t offer ETFs

Your capital is at risk.

2. – Overall Best Spread Betting Platform UK

new logo

If you’re looking to make some tax-free spread betting profits from the comfort of your home – look no further than This top-rated broker stands out for a number of key reasons. First and foremost, you only need to meet a minimum deposit of £20 to use the spread betting facility.

You can instantly meet this minimum by using a UK debit/credit card or e-wallet. Once you have signed up, you will then have access to thousands of spread betting markets. This includes UK and international spread betting shares, ETFs, investment trusts, forex spread betting, gold, oil, indices if you wan to explore FTSE 100 spread betting and more. Each and every spread betting market at can be traded commission-free, meaning all fees are built into the spread.

spread betting at

Like all spread betting platforms in the UK, allows you to go long and short on all markets as well as apply leverage. If this is your first time spread betting online – you’ll be pleased with how simple the platform is to use. Not only is this the case in terms of finding a market – but the actual process of placing buy and sell orders. We also like the fact that offers a number of risk-management tools when you set up spread betting positions.

This includes both take-profit and stop-loss orders – which allows you to set clear entry and exit targets on each trade. If you are also planning to engage in spread betting via your mobile phone – offers an Android and iOS app. This top-rate. Finally – and perhaps most importantly, is both authorized and regulated by the FCA.


  • Over 3,000 stock CFDs to trade
  • No inactivity fee
  • Discovery panel helps spot high volatility stocks
  • Integrates with MetaTrader 4 and TradingView
  • Highly responsive 24/7 support
  • Spread betting facility


  • Web Trader doesn’t support price alerts

75.26% of retail investor accounts lose money when spread betting and/or trading CFDs with this provider.

Best CFD Trading Platforms

So now that we have reviewed the best spread betting brokers in the UK – we are now going to discuss which CFD trading platforms you might want to consider.

1. eToro – Overall Best CFD Trading Platform with 0% Commission

After reviewing dozens of CFD trading platforms – we found that no provider gets close to eToro. Firstly, the provider is authorized and regulated not only by the FCA – but with licensing bodies in Australia and Cyprus. Furthermore, your capital at eToro is covered by the FSCS scheme – so safety is top-notch at this broker.

In terms of tradable markets, eToro offers CFDs on over 2,4000 stocks from 17 marketplaces. You can also access CFD instruments on hard metals, energies, agricultural products (like sugar and wheat), forex, indices, US Treasuries, and more. All of the assets supported by eToro can be traded commission-free and with super-tight spreads.

eToro copy trading

There are no ongoing platform fees either. If you were to delve into traditional stocks or ETFs listed on the London Stock Exchange – stamp duty is waived by eToro. Like all of the platforms discussed on this page, eToro offers leverage and the ability to go short via a CFD sell order. You can access any instrument of your choosing via the eToro web trading platform or through a dedicated investment app. The latter is accessible on both iOS and Android devices.

Perhaps the stand-out feature offered by eToro is its Copy Trading tool. This essentially allows you to engage in a full-time trading strategy without lifting a finger. In other words, once you select a top-rated trader you like the look of – all ongoing positions will be mirrored in your own account. In terms of payments, eToro accepts debit/credit cards, e-wallets, and UK bank transfers. You can get started with an account in just a few minutes and the KYC process is automated.


  • Super user-friendly online trading platform
  • Buy stocks without paying any commission or share dealing charges
  • Trade CFDs in the form of stocks, indices, commodities, forex, and more
  • 2,400+ stocks listed on the UK and international markets
  • 250+ ETFs
  • Deposit funds with a debit/credit card, e-wallet, or UK bank account
  • Ability to copy the trades of other users
  • FCA and FSCS protections


  • Not suitable for advanced traders that like to perform technical analysis
  • No ISAs or SIPPs

67% of retail investors lose money trading CFDs at this site


2. Libertex – Trade CFDs with ZERO Spreads

Earlier in this guide on Spread Betting vs CFD Trading – we noted that all platforms in this space charge a spread. However, the one exception to this rule is Libertex – which is a ZERO spread broker. This means that all its supported markets come with the same bid and ask price – so it’s only a small commission that you need to factor in. 

On many markets, Libertex actually waivers commissions. If a commission is charged, this is typically well below 0.1%. Libertex is also a great CFD trading platform if you are planning to use MT4, where you can download MT4 for Mac or MT5. Both third-party platforms are supported via an online web-trader, desktop software, or a mobile app. 

CFDs at Libertex

You won’t be short of CFD trading markets when using Libertex – with the platform offering heaps of stocks, energies, ETFs, hard metals, currencies, and more. All markets are inclusive of leverage and a choice between a buy and sell order. The minimum deposit at Libertex is a reasonable £100. With that said, all subsequent deposits are reduced to a minimum of just £10. You can use a debit/credit card, e-wallet, or UK bank account to get trading funds into Libertex.

We also like Libertex for its commitment to education. You will find a wide variety of guides and user-friendly explainers that aim to make you a better all-round trader. If you haven’t heard of Libertex and are wondering whether or not the CFD trading platform is safe – you shouldn’t be. The provider has been operational in the online trading scene since the late 1990s and is fully authorized to serve UK traders.m


  • Zero spread CFD trading
  • Very competitive commissions
  • Good educational resources
  • Long established broker
  • Trade stocks and indices like the Dow Jones
  • Compatible with MT4 / MT5
  • Great choice of markets


  • Only offers CFDs

Risk warning: CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 83% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.



This comprehensive guide has explained the key difference between spread betting and CFD trading. As such, you should now know which trading instrument is best suited for your financial goals and objectives.

If you prefer the tax-free lure of spread betting – then is the best platform in the UK for this purpose. – Best Spread Betting Broker in the UK

new logo

75.26% of retail investor accounts lose money when spread betting and/or trading CFDs with this provider.


If, however, you want to actively trade CFDs – eToro is a great option. Not only will you benefit from 0% trades and a strong regulatory standing – but eToro allows you to copy other traders like-for-like!

eToro – Best CFD Trading Platform in the UK with 0% Commission


67% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider.



What is the difference between CFD and spread betting?

What is better CFD or spread betting?

Is CFD or spread betting better for beginners?

Is spread betting tax-free?

What is the minimum spread bet UK?

Is CFD tax-free?

Kane Pepi author check sign Pro Investor

Kane Pepi is a British researcher and writer that specializes in finance, financial crime, and blockchain technology. Now based in Malta, Kane writes for a number of platforms in the online domain. In particular, Kane is skilled at explaining complex financial subjects in a user-friendly manner. Academically, Kane holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance, a Master’s Degree in Financial Crime, and he is currently engaged in a Doctorate Degree researching the money laundering threats of the blockchain economy. Kane is also behind peer-reviewed publications - which includes an in-depth study into the relationship between money laundering and UK bookmakers. You will also find Kane’s material at websites such as MoneyCheck, the Motley Fool, InsideBitcoins, Blockonomi, Learnbonds, and the Malta Association of Compliance Officers.

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