ETC vs. ETF: Understanding the Difference—Where to Invest?

Exploring investment options ETFs and Exchange Traded Commodities (ETCs) can be a smart move. Let's take a look at this ETC vs ETF

Prasanna Peshkar

Prasanna Peshkar

January 23, 2024 3:06 PM

ETC vs. ETF: Understanding the Difference—Where to Invest?

Exploring investment options like exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and Exchange Traded Commodities (ETCs) can be a smart move for diversifying your investment portfolio. These products allow you to include various types of assets in your portfolio and are traded on the stock exchange, each with its unique characteristics. This article is all about the ETC vs. ETF difference.

So, what exactly are ETFs and ETCs? What sets them apart, and what risks do they carry? In this guide, we will try to cover the details of ETFs and investment in raw materials and precious metals through ETCs. We outline the distinctions between the two to help you make well-informed decisions and minimize potential risks associated with each. Let’s take a look at this ETC vs ETF article in more detail.

Exchange-traded commodities (ETCs) refer to commodities that are bought and sold on a stock exchange. These investment instruments provide the opportunity to invest in individual commodities and precious metals. The performance of an ETC is influenced by one of two sources. It can either be tied to the spot commodity price (the immediate delivery price) or linked to the futures price (a contract specifying delivery at a future date).

ETCs function as debt instruments, where the commodities they represent serve as collateral for the investment. In other words, when you invest in an ETC, you are essentially holding a financial product backed by the value of specific commodities.

ETC vs. ETF: What are the types of Exchanged Traded Commodities(ETCs)?

Exchange-Traded Commodities (ETCs) are like tickets that let investors join the commodities market. They are bought and sold on stock exchanges and can follow one commodity or a mix of them. ETCs can be like IOUs, where the commodities they follow to act as a guarantee. There are various types of ETCs:

1. Physically-backed ETCs: These are backed by the real commodity they track, like gold or silver. The issuer keeps the actual commodity as a guarantee, lowering the risk for investors.

2. Completely collateralized ETCs (Swap-based): These ETCs are supported by collateral, not the actual commodity. The collateral is usually cash or highly-rated securities, reducing risks for investors.

3. Commodity ETCs on futures: These ETCs represent the performance of futures markets for commodities like oil or natural gas. They might involve gains or losses based on how well the futures market does.

Each type of ETC offers different ways for investors to get involved in commodities, each with its own level of risk and potential rewards.

What are Exchange-traded funds (ETFs)?

An exchange-traded fund (ETF) is a type of investment security that operates similarly to a mutual fund. Its primary goal is to either replicate or surpass the performance of a specific index, sector, commodity, or other asset. What sets ETFs apart from mutual funds is their ability to facilitate buying or selling throughout the trading day, providing investors with flexibility. This means that investors can place orders with their brokers during market hours, and these orders will be promptly executed. In contrast, mutual fund orders are executed after the market closes, regardless of when they were initially placed during the day.

The versatility of ETFs is noteworthy, as they can be structured to track various entities, from the price movements of individual commodities to a diverse assortment of securities. Additionally, ETFs can follow specific investment strategies, adding another layer of flexibility and customization for investors.

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) can encompass a range of assets, including stocks, bonds, or a blend of various asset classes. These investment funds are actively traded on stock exchanges and typically mirror a diversified portfolio of assets. In essence, ETFs provide investors with the opportunity to gain exposure to a mix of financial instruments, allowing for diversification within a single investment vehicle.

What are the types of Exchange-traded funds ETFs?

Different types of ETFs are available for investors, offering ways to generate income, speculate on prices, and manage risks in a portfolio. Let’s take a closer look at some of the ETFs found in today’s market.

1. Passive and Active ETFs: Passive ETFs aim to mimic the performance of an index, like the S&P 500, offering a broad view of the market. Active ETFs are managed by professionals who decide which securities to include, providing potential advantages but usually at a higher cost.

2. Bond ETFs: Bond ETFs generate regular income for investors based on the performance of underlying bonds, which can include government, corporate, and municipal bonds.

3. Stock ETFs: Stock (equity) ETFs consist of a mix of stocks that follow a particular industry or sector, aiming to provide diversified exposure with lower fees compared to stock mutual funds.

4. Industry/Sector ETFs: Industry or sector ETFs focus on specific sectors or industries, like technology, helping investors gain exposure to the performance of companies within that sector.

5. Commodity ETFs: Commodity ETFs invest in commodities such as crude oil or gold, providing a way to diversify a portfolio and potentially offset market downturns.

6. Currency ETFs: Currency ETFs track currency pairs and can be used for speculation, diversification, or as a hedge against currency market volatility.

7. Bitcoin ETFs: Bitcoin ETFs come in two forms – spot and futures. Spot Bitcoin ETFs allow investors to buy shares tied to the actual cryptocurrency, while futures Bitcoin ETFs use contracts to mimic price movements.

8. Inverse ETFs: Inverse ETFs aim to profit from stock declines by betting against the market. Investors should note that some are exchange-traded notes (ETNs), not true ETFs.

9. Leveraged ETFs: Leveraged ETFs seek returns that are multiples of the underlying investments, using debt and derivatives. This can amplify gains or losses, offering higher risk and potential reward.

ETC vs. ETF: Fundamental Differences

Underlying Assets:

ETCs are designed to specifically monitor and reflect the performance of commodities like precious metals, energy resources, or agricultural products. In contrast, ETFs have the flexibility to include a diverse range of assets in their portfolio, such as stocks, bonds, or a combination of different asset classes.


ETFs function as investment funds traded on stock exchanges, typically representing a diversified portfolio of assets. On the flip side, ETCs operate as debt instruments, with the commodities serving as collateral for the associated note.


In Europe, ETCs don’t follow the regulations under UCITS, making their compliance rules a bit more flexible compared to ETFs.


Liquidity in ETFs is tied to the liquidity of the assets they represent, while the trading volume is influenced by investor activity. The underlying securities’ liquidity directly impacts an ETF’s liquidity, while the trading volume reflects the level of investor engagement.

ETC vs. ETF: How do ETCs differ from ETFs in terms of Risk Management?

ETCs and ETFs have differences in how they manage risk because of what they’re made of, how they’re built, and the rules they follow. ETCs are commodities like precious metals traded on a stock market. They work like IOUs, where the commodities act as a guarantee for the investment. On the flip side, ETFs can include various things like stocks, bonds, or a mix of different assets. They are investment funds traded on the stock market and usually represent a mix of assets.

ETCs don’t have as many rules to follow in Europe, which makes them a bit more flexible compared to ETFs. ETCs can be riskier than ETFs because of the potential for issues with the party involved in the investment. There’s also a tax advantage with ETNs, a type of ETC, as they don’t pay taxable dividends and interest. However, when you sell them, they might be subject to long-term capital gains tax. Traditional ETFs may face capital gains tax each year.

In short, ETCs and ETFs have differences in what they’re made of, how they’re set up, the rules they follow, how they’re taxed, and how easy it is to buy or sell them. These differences matter when investors are deciding which one is right for them.

ETC vs. ETF: How do ETCs and ETFs differ in terms of expense ratios?

ETCs and ETFs have different costs associated with owning them, known as expense ratios. Here’s a breakdown:

ETC Expense Ratio:

  • – ETCs are managed by an investment manager who charges a fee to cover various costs.
  • – The total expense ratio (TER) for ETCs includes expenses like insurance premiums, storage costs, and additional management fees.

ETF Expense Ratio:

  • – ETFs are popular because they usually have lower operating expenses compared to actively managed mutual funds.
  • – The ETF expense ratio is an annual rate the fund charges on its total assets to cover portfolio management, administration, and other costs.
  • – This ratio is often expressed as a percentage of the fund’s average net assets and includes various operational costs and annual fees.

In short, both ETCs and ETFs have expense ratios that cover management and operational costs, but the specific expenses included may vary. ETCs’ ratios typically encompass insurance and storage costs, while ETFs’ ratios cover portfolio management, administration, and other operational expenses.

ETCvs ETFs: What are Some Real-World Examples?

Examples of ETCs

As of today, Exchange-Traded Commodities (ETCs) are available on numerous global stock exchanges, offering investors access to a wide range of commodities. Here’s a list of some of the exchange-traded commodities accessible to investors:

1. Precious Metals:

   – Gold

   – Silver

2. Base Metals:

   – Zinc

   – Copper

   – Aluminium

   – Lead

   – Brass

3. Energy Sources:

   – Natural Gas

   – Oil

Examples of ETFs

Here are examples of well-known ETFs available in the market today. Some of these ETFs follow a stock index, offering a diverse portfolio, while others focus on particular industries.

  • Ark 21Shares Bitcoin ETF (ARKB)
  • ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITO)
  • Simplify Bitcoin Strategy PLUS Inc ETF (MAXI)

ETC vs. ETF: Final Thoughts

Despite the differences outlined, both ETFs and ETCs can be judiciously complemented in a broadly diversified portfolio. The choice between them depends on the specific product, investment strategy, and investment horizon. Regardless of the type of ETF, or ETC you select, it is important to maintain a clear overview of your investments.

Prasanna Peshkar
Article By

Prasanna Peshkar

Prasanna Peshkar is a seasoned writer and analyst specializing in cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. With a focus on delivering insightful commentary and analysis, Prasanna serves as a writer and analyst at CryptoTicker, assisting readers in navigating the complexities of the cryptocurrency market.

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