Best online stock brokers in the UK

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Fact Checked.
Updated on
September 16, 2022

In a nutshell

The best online stock brokers in the UK are InvestEngine, AJ Bell and Interactive Investor. They’re low cost and offer a great range of investment options. However there’s also great trading specific platforms such as eToro and IG, depending on what you’re looking for.

Nutty

New to stock trading or a professional? We've got you covered. Here's the best online stock brokers based on our own research and experience (criteria below).

Best online stock brokers (UK)

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Cheapest (ETFs only)

InvestEngine

InvestEngine is great for investing in exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and that’s all they do. It’s a cheap way to invest your money, in fact the only cost you’ll pay is the fund fee. There’s no InvestEngine fees!

The app is great to track your investments too.

Rating:

InvestEngine rated 5 stars

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Best traditional

AJ Bell Youinvest

One of the cheapest traditional brokers out there, with a good reputation and established history. The customer service is great and there’s a huge range of investment options.

Rating:

AJ Bell Youinvest rated 5 stars

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Large investments

Interactive Investor

Interactive Investor is a popular investment platform with a flat fee, making it a cheap option if you have over £30,000 of investments. There’s a huge range to choose from, their website and apps are great and their customer service is excellent.

Rating

Interactive Investor rated 5 stars

Best trading platforms

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Best trading app

eToro

eToro is a hugely popular trading platform. Not just because of it’s awesome trading features and being completely commission free, but because you can join a community of traders from all over the world, to trade, chat and learn together.

It’s also got the largest range of assets to trade, including stocks, ETFs, crypto, CFDs, currencies and commodities (such as gold).

Rating

eToro rated 5 stars

68% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading.

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Well established

IG

IG is a serious trading platform, and very well established. They literally invented spread betting. If you’re looking for one of the best platforms in the UK to trade you’ve found it. The investment options are huge and the costs are reasonable.

Rating

IG rated 5 stars

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Rating

Best platform for financial news and analysis

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Education

Finimize

Move over financial advisors, Finimize is in town. Easy to understand news, expert analysis and guides on finance, business and investing all in one app, updated daily. All for just a small monthly fee. It’s hugely popular and a must-have for every investor.

Rating

Finimize rated 5 stars

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Best online stock broker UK

Our criteria for comparing the best online stock brokers

To work out which online stock broker is the best, here’s the 5 key criteria we looked at:

  • Costs
  • Range of investments (assets)
  • Account options (e.g. ISA)
  • Customer reviews
  • The platform experience

There’s a fair few stock brokers out there, and we’ve tried pretty much every single one over the years! 

The ones we’re showing you here are what we believe to be the best – ones we recommend to our friends and family. You can be confident that whichever broker you choose, you’ll have a great experience.

We recommend you use a couple to see which one you prefer – you don’t just need to use one. Just remember you can only pay into one Stocks and Shares ISA per year (more on ISAs later), but you can have as many General Investment Accounts as you like.

What about stock trading apps?

Stock trading apps are great too, and they are technically stock brokers. However, we haven’t included them within our recommendations for online stock brokers if they are just an app. 

Why? Because we believe the best all round experience is using the platform on a website too, so on your laptop or computer. It’s often much easier to research and make trades on a larger screen. Or, at least have the option to do it on a computer if you want to.

However if you would prefer to use an app, we’ve reviewed the best investment apps here.

The best online broker for beginners

If you’re brand new to investing, first, you’ve made a great decision. You could potentially massively improve your financial situation over time (i.e. get richer!), if you invest sensibly and responsibly.

There can be a lot to learn, but don’t let that put you off! The more you learn, the more comfortable you’ll be making investments and growing your money over time. Stick with it!

Now, all of the stock brokers we recommend have a great website experience and are great for beginners. However, when using a stock broker, it’s up to you to make the decisions about what investments you want to buy (the broker just does the buying and selling for you). This can be a big problem, as you wouldn’t expect to be a professional investor from day one would you?

Therefore, while you’re just getting started, and actually throughout your whole life, we recommend letting the experts manage some, or all of your investments. That way, you can benefit from their experience and skills in investing, and be confident your money will grow over time.

You can do this using an expert-managed investment platform.

Expert-managed platforms

And then once you've learnt a bit more, you can begin making your own investments, or begin making larger investments if you are already investing yourself. And you do this by using a self-managed investment platform (or stock broker).

Self-managed platforms

So, with that in mind we recommend an expert-managed investment platform to begin with. They’re super easy to use and get started, and often low cost too.

InvestEngine¹ has an option to let the experts manage things for you, along with AJ Bell¹ too (called a ready-made portfolio), but it’s a bit more expensive.

Check out the best investment platforms for the whole range of expert managed and self-managed options.

What assets can you buy with stock brokers?

With an investment platform, or more commonly a stock broker, you can buy pretty much every traditional investment out there. There are some exceptions, but let’s run through the typical investments brokers can provide.

Stocks & Shares

Stocks and shares, the classic investment. These are the tiny portions of ownership of a company, so if you own a share, you own part of the company. They are often traded (bought and sold) on stock exchanges, via a stock broker.

Typically the value of the share grows in-line with the growth of the business, and the opposite if the business is struggling.

By owning shares you can sometimes be paid out dividends, which are the profits of the business being passed onto the owners (the shareholders, people who own the shares). This normally happens with bigger more established companies that consistently make large profits.

Fractional shares

With some stock brokers and investing platforms, you can buy fractional shares. These are tiny portions of a whole share (a fraction). 

They are great because you can invest however little you like and still buy the shares you want – such as pretty expensive shares like Netflix, which has been around $600 per share. You could buy ⅙ of a Netflix share for $100 instead.

Fractional shares

A popular and easy to use platform for fractional shares is Freetrade. Here’s our Freetrade review. It’s just an app on your phone at the moment, not website based.

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs)

Exchange-traded funds, ETFs for short, are hugely popular. They are groups of individual shares from different companies, all packaged together into a single investment – making them much easier to build a portfolio than buying all the individual stocks separately, and it’s cheaper too. (A portfolio is your total investments, normally following a strategy). 

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs)

ETFs trade on stock exchanges too, just like shares, making them easy to buy and sell (trade).

They can come in many forms. They can represent a stock exchange itself, or a section of a stock exchange, such as the top 100 companies in the UK, technically called an index fund.

ETFs can also represent a theme, such as an industry, like electric vehicle manufacturers, AI, or green energy producers. These are sometimes called thematic funds.

There’s lot’s of choice out there, and these often make up the majority of an investors portfolio.

Investment trusts

Investment trusts are companies listed on stock exchanges, so you can buy part of the trust, but instead of operating like a business (called trading), they themselves invest in other companies. 

These other businesses don’t have to be listed on a stock exchange (called a public company), they can also be privately owned companies, and even brand new companies (start ups).

Real-estate investment trusts (REITs)

A real-estate investment trust is a company that only invests in real-estate – and often it’s just commercial real estate. That’s things like offices, hotels, shops and warehouses. 

These trusts would generate rent from their properties (income), and this is often passed back to investors at specific times of the year.

Open-ended investment companies (OEICs)

These are investment funds specific to the UK – they are groups of investments. The difference with these is if you want to invest in them, a new share is issued to you, rather than having a fixed number of shares like other investments. 

They are still run by experts (fund managers), and suited to hands-off investors.

Initial public offerings (IPOs)

These are the more ‘fun’ type of investment, but can be seriously lucrative.

An IPO is when a private company lists on a stock exchange, and so becomes a public company. 

This means anyone can now buy shares in the company, and their shares can be traded (bought and sold) regularly. Depending on who the company is, these can be super popular.

Special purchase acquisition companies (SPACs)

Similar to IPOs, these are converting a private company into a public company, however the public company technically exists already, and is already listed on a stock exchange. 

The intention is the SPAC raises money from investors first on the stock exchange, and then uses this money to effectively buy a private company and merge with it, making it public.

It’s much easier for private companies to go public with a SPAC, and they are pretty popular with investors, but seen as controversial due to effectively being money-driven by investors.

What you can’t typically buy with brokers

Cryptocurrencies: you normally can’t buy crypto through a stock broker. It’s far too modern! You’ll have to use a crypto exchange. However, if you would like to trade the price of coins (another name for crypto currencies), rather than buy the coins directly, you could use eToro¹ – which provides the option to trade the price of the coin, not the coin itself.

No cryptocurrency trading

Foreign exchange (FX): with a stock broker, you often won’t be able to trade foreign currencies or FX for short. This is super popular however, and you may want to do this. 

No foreign exchange (FX)

A stock broker normally handles more traditional investments, and you should opt for a trading platform for foreign exchange, such as IG¹ or eToro¹ – learn more about trading platforms here.

Residential property: you normally won’t be able to invest in residential property, such as via a fund. There are some platforms that offer this, but often it’s best to buy property directly via a buy-to-let mortgage if that’s something you are interested in.

Stamp Duty and shares

When you buy UK shares – so with an online stock broker, that’s shares in companies listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE), you’ll have to pay Stamp Duty Reserve Tax (SDRT). This is 0.5% of the price of your shares.

This is often handled automatically for you by the stock broker. They’ll just let you know how much you are paying.

There’s some investments you don’t pay Stamp Duty on, which are IPOs, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and shares on the AIM market, which is part of the London Stock Exchange, but for smaller companies.

You also won’t pay any tax on foreign shares, so if you’re buying shares on a US stock exchange, such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), you won’t pay any tax.

Stocks & Shares ISAs

A Stocks and Shares ISA is an account where you don’t pay any tax at all on your investments. Whoop! These are the preferred option for almost all investors in the UK.

So that's no Capital Gains Tax, no Income Tax and no Dividend Tax. Pretty great right?

You can invest up to £20,000 per tax year, which runs from April 6th to April 5th the following year, which is your ISA allowance

ISA allowance

This is actually your allowance across all your ISAs, so you could also have a Cash ISA and a Lifetime ISA, which you can split your £20,000 across (that’s if you’re able to save as much as £20,000 per year of course!).

Lifetime ISA

By the way, you can get a Stocks & Shares Lifetime ISA, which means you can invest your money in stocks and shares (or other investments), and also get the 25% bonus of everything you put in!

Lifetime ISA (LISA)

There’s a limit of £4,000 per year however, and you can only use the funds to purchase your first home, otherwise you’ll have to wait until you’re 60 before you can access the money.

Here’s where to find the best Lifetime ISAs.

Self-invested personal pensions (SIPPs)

You can also invest with a personal pension, which is a type of private pension (a pension in your name, rather than the pension provided by the government, the State Pension).

With a personal pension, everything within the account is tax-free in terms of investment growth, so very similar to an ISA (you may pay Income Tax when you retire however).

However, there’s a major benefit that an ISA doesn’t have, you get a massive bonus of 25% of all the money you put in. This is because saving in a pension is intended to be tax-free, however you would have already paid Income Tax on the money you pay in (i.e. paid tax on your salary).

Self-invested personal pensions tax relief

It’s all added to your account automatically too. Pretty great right?

So, you effectively get your tax refunded back into your pension. And if you’re a higher rate taxpayer, or additional rate taxpayer, you can also get what you’ve paid at those rates back too as well, so 40% or 45%. You’ll need to claim this via a Self-Assessment tax return however, it’s not automatic.

You can invest as much as your income each tax year (across all your pensions), or up to £40,000, whichever is lower. Not bad right?

Pension annual allowance

There’s one drawback, which is that you can’t access the money until you are 55 (57 from 2028). But remember, a pension is for long-term investing and retirement, so it’s worth it. After all, you don’t want to be working longer after your friends retire due to lack of money!

Managing your own pension, rather than leaving it to the experts, is called a self-invested personal pension (SIPP), although confusingly, you can now get SIPPs which are managed by the experts!

With these, you technically still manage your pension, but there’s limited options to choose from, making it a lot easier, and perfect for beginners. PensionBee¹ and Penfold¹ are both very good options.

Traditionally, a self-invested personal pension meant you were buying and selling investments yourself – and you still can do this, you just need to open a pension with your stock broker of choice.

If you’re interested in an SIPP, here’s the best private pensions in the UK.

General Investment Accounts (GIA)

A General Investment Account, GIA for short, is an investing account with unfortunately, no tax-free benefits!

General Investment Accounts (GIA)

There’s no tax free benefits at all, and no government bonuses. That means you could have to pay Capital Gains Tax, Income Tax and Dividend Tax. Although that’s only if you go above the allowances for each.

With Capital Gains Tax, you’re allowed to make £12,300 in profit each tax year, before you have to start paying tax. And that’s on your profits, so only if you sell investments (for more than you bought them for).

Capital Gains Tax

The amount you’ll pay will either be 10% or 20% depending on which Income Tax bracket you’re in. If you’re a basic rate taxpayer, you’ll pay 10%, and if you’re a higher rate or additional rate taxpayer, you’ll pay 20% Capital Gains Tax.

And with Income Tax, you have a Personal Allowance of £12,570 before you have to start paying tax. This is for your total income, so includes your salary or self-employed income as well.

With Dividend Tax, you get an allowance of £2,000 per year before you have to start paying tax.

However, having said that about General Investment Accounts, they do have their uses! 

One big draw is that you can have as many as you like.

As you can only pay into one Stocks & Shares ISA each tax year. You might want to keep that with an investment platform managed by experts, so your money is well looked after, and then open a GIA with a stock broker to make your own investments, such as buying individual stocks you think might perform well.

And also with an ISA, you can only invest up to £20,000 per year, so if you wanted to invest more than this, you’d have to use a GIA.

You might also want to test out an investment platform first, whether expert-managed or self-managed, before moving your Stocks & Shares ISA over. A GIA is perfect for that.

Here’s where to learn more about General Investment Accounts, and we’ve also got General Investment Account vs ISA.

Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS)

When you open an account with any of our recommended stock brokers (not trading platforms but they have their own protection schemes), you’ll be covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

The FSCS is a scheme that protects you should something happen to the broker itself, such as going out of business. And if it does, you’ll get up to £85,000 back on any of your money held by the broker.

However your money would actually be in the investments themselves, which are held in your own name, and the broker would not be able to access these themselves, they can only be returned to you. So, overall you have lots of protection when investing.

Having said that, if your investments go down in value, this is not covered. It is just if something happens out of your control.

Stock brokers must also be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) too, which means they will be reviewed and given permission to look after your money, and must stick to very strict rules.

And, that’s it for online stock brokers

So there we have it for online stock brokers. We hope you’ve learnt a bit more than you knew before!

The best online brokers are low cost, have a great range of investment options and a great platform to trade on – plus good customer service!

To recap, the best online brokers we recommend are:

And for regular trading, the best platforms are:

  • eToro¹ – great for social trading
  • IG¹ – great for advanced traders

Some points to remember, if you’re not too familiar with investing and using a broker. You can only pay into one Stocks & Shares ISA per year – so pick wisely!

And if you’re just starting out, you might want the experts to manage your ISA, in which case check out the best investment platforms to find the best one.

You can then use a General Investment Account to buy investments yourself with a stock broker – and don’t forget you can have as many GIAs as you like, with multiple stock brokers! So try them all and see which one you like best.

You could also consider using a personal pension for long-term investing and saving for retirement. You’ll also get a massive bonus of 25% of everything you pay in! Check out our personal pension recommendations to find the best for you too.

Good luck investing!

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