Nutty

Best self-select ISAs (self-investment ISA)

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Fact checked.
Updated
May 19, 2024

In a nutshell

Self-select ISAs are investment accounts where you make the investment decisions. The best self-select ISAs are Trading 212 and InvestEngine. They’re both super low cost, and have a great range of investment options.

Keen to make your own investments within your ISA? Here’s the best self-select ISAs:

Best self-select Stocks and Shares ISAs

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Best ISA
Trading 212 rated 5 stars

Trading 212

Trading 212 is a platform built for everyone in mind – there's over 2,000,000 customers! It’s great for beginners to get started, and perfect for experienced investors too with a huge range of investment options.

It’s also the cheapest platform out there, completely commission free, and the lowest fees when buying foreign stocks.

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Not investment advice. Investments can rise and fall, and your capital is at risk.

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Welcome bonus up to £50 & up to £2,500 bonus for transferring an ISA.

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Cheapest (ETFs only)
InvestEngine rated 5 stars

InvestEngine

InvestEngine is great for investing in exchange-traded funds (ETFs). That’s all they do – and they're very good at it.

It's so low cost, there's in fact no InvestEngine fees at all (to make your own investments).

And for the experts to manage your investments, it's only 0.25% per year.

There's a great range of ETFs (over 550), and the app is pretty great too.

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Capital at risk. (T&Cs apply.)

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Best traditional
AJ Bell rated 5 stars

AJ Bell

AJ Bell is well established, with a good reputation.

It's one of the cheapest traditional stock brokers out there (charging a low annual fee).

There's a huge range of investment options – pretty much every investment out there (including both funds and shares).

The customer service is great too.

Overall, it's one of the best options.

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Get a free share worth up to £100

Sign up to Trading 212 with the promo code NUTS to claim yours.

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Best self-select ISAs (expert-managed range)

Get a free share worth up to £100

Sign up to Trading 212 with the promo code NUTS to claim yours.

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Expert advice
Moneyfarm rated 5 stars

Moneyfarm

Moneyfarm is a great option for saving and investing (both ISAs and pensions). It's easy to use and their experts can help you with any questions or guidance you need.

They have one of the top performing investment records, and great socially responsible investing options too. Plus, you can save cash and get a high interest rate.

The fees are low, and reduce as you save more. Plus, the customer service is outstanding.

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Pros

  • Great for beginners and hands-off investors
  • Easy to use
  • ISA
  • Pension
  • Free personal investment advisor
  • Great track record for growing money
  • Socially responsible options
  • Invest cash for a high return

Cons

  • Have to invest at least £500
  • Not much else!

Capital at risk.

Our criteria for the best self-select ISAs

We’ve reviewed almost every self-select ISA out there to determine the best, and even the best managed Stocks and Shares ISAs (we’ll cover those below).

Best self-select ISAs (self-investment ISA)

Here’s the criteria we used:

  • Range of investments
  • Fees
  • Investment platform experience
  • Customer support
  • Customer reviews

There’s loads of options out there, but we’re only recommending the very best self-select ISAs – one’s that we recommend to our friends and family (and readers of course). Our team also uses them here at Nuts About Money!

So, whichever ISA you choose from the ones above, you can be sure you’re using one of the best out there, with the lowest fees and a great range of investment options.

What is a self-select ISA?

Self-select ISAs can have quite a few names, a self-select ISA, self Investment ISA, a self-managed Stocks and Shares ISA, an investment ISA, trading ISA – the list goes on…

However, what they officially are is a Stock and Shares ISA, and one where you make the investments yourself, you self-select them. So, you’ll be choosing which investments to buy, which to sell, and when to buy and sell – everything is up to you. 

Self-select ISA

And hopefully with the intention of building a well diversified portfolio for long-term growth (your total investments). If you're not, you probably should be!

Typically, the ISA is with an investment platform (a place to buy and sell investments), often also called a stock broker.

With an ISA you’ll benefit from tax-free investing, so you’ll save on Capital Gains Tax, Income Tax and Dividend Tax – forever! This can be a massive saving over the years as your total investments grow (providing you’re using a sensible long-term investment strategy).

Stocks and Shares ISA

You can invest as much as £20,000 per year into your ISA, which is called your annual ISA allowance. And this is shared across all the different types of ISAs (if you have more), such as a Cash ISA (for cash savings), or Lifetime ISA (for buying your first home). 

The alternative to a self-select ISA, and a great option, is an expert-managed Stocks and Shares ISA, where the experts handle the investments…

Note: ‘ISA’ simply stands for Individual Savings Account, a government scheme to help you save more – and tax-free.

What is an expert-managed ISA?

Expert-managed Stocks and Shares ISAs are amazing. You don’t have to do much, simply add your money, and the experts will take care of the investments – they’ll aim to grow your money over time in a safe and sensible way. And they’re typically very good at it.

Expert-managed Stocks and Shares ISA

We highly recommend them here at Nuts About Money. Enjoy your life, while the experts build a well diversified investment portfolio for long-term growth.

If you’re new to investing, check out the best Stocks and Shares ISAs for beginners, you’ll find the right expert-managed investment options for you, or simply check out the best investment platforms for all your options.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you only have to use the experts to manage all of your investments, you can make your own investments alongside an expert-managed ISA with a regular investment account, called a General Investment Account (GIA), or even a self-invested personal pension – let’s dive into those.

Other types of investment accounts

General Investment Account (GIA)

A General Investment Account is your standard account that you’ll be able to get with almost every investment platform and stock broker. There’s no tax-free benefits, but there’s also no contribution limits and you can have as many as you like, across all different investment platforms.

General Investment Account

Often, you’ll pay Capital Gains Tax on your profits if they’re over £3,000 (when you sell), within a tax year (April 6th to April 5th the following year). And this is 10% if you’re earning less than £50,270 in income per year (e.g. your salary), and 20% if you earn more than that (e.g. a higher rate taxpayer).

Capital Gains Tax

They’re a great addition to an expert-managed investment ISA, which could hold the majority of your savings, so in the safe hands of the experts. And then make your own investments with a GIA, where you might not end up paying tax anyway.

Two of the best options for GIAs are Trading 212¹ (get a free share worth up to £100. Use code NUTS) and eToro¹ – both are commission-free and have a great range of investment options. 

And for expert-managed ISAs, we recommend Moneyfarm¹ – they have a great investment performance and low fees. (Learn more with the best performing Stocks and Shares ISAs.)

Personal pension

You’ve also got the option to invest within a personal pension, and if you’re making your own investments, a self-invested personal pension (SIPP).

Self-invested personal pension (SIPP)

These are great, and the best option for long-term saving and building a big pension pot ready for retirement. Often used in addition to the State Pension (government pension) and a workplace pension (if you have one), which is a pension your employer sets up for you if you’re employed.

Types of pensions

When you contribute to a personal pension, you’ll get a massive 25% bonus added automatically by the government. We’re not joking! And if you’re a higher rate taxpayer (40%) or additional rate taxpayer (45%), you can claim back some tax that you’ve paid at those rates too – which is done on your Self Assessment tax return.

Personal pension

Your money will also grow tax-free too, just like an ISA. However, you will have to pay tax when you start withdrawing it later down the line, and you can only withdraw once you're 55, although ideally you’d keep saving until you officially retire (or need the money).

The first 25% of your pension is completely tax-free, and you can take this as a tax-free lump sum if you like. The remaining 75% counts as income, and you’ll pay Income Tax on it – although how much you pay depends on how much your income actually is at the time. 

Nuts About Money tip: Confused? It’s often a good idea to chat to a financial advisor. Check out Unbiased¹ to find a great one for you.

If you think a personal pension sounds like a good idea to you (and we agree), check out PensionBee¹ – their experts will handle everything and grow your money over time. Plus, they’ve got a great track record of growing money over time,, the fees are low too, and it’s super easy to use.

Or, if you want to make your own investments within a SIPP, check out AJ Bell¹ – they’re one of the cheapest traditional stock brokers with a great range of investments.

You could also check out all your options for both expert-managed and self-managed pensions with our comparison table of the best pension providers.

Stocks and Shares Lifetime ISA

If you’re saving for your first home, you’ve also got the option of saving within a Stocks and Shares Lifetime ISA.

This is where you can save up to £4,000 per year, and get a 25% bonus on your contributions!

Stocks and Shares Lifetime ISA

You can either choose to let the experts handle things (with Nutmeg¹), or make your own investments with a self-select platform such as AJ Bell¹.

You’ll only be able to use it to buy your first home however, otherwise you’ll have to wait until you’re 60 to withdraw the cash without facing a large fee – 25% of your total (which works out as more than the free contributions you get, not fair right?!)

Junior ISA

If you’ve got kids, you can also save for them tax-free, all in their name, and build a nice big savings pot for when they turn 18 – at which point they’ll be able to access it.

You can save and invest up to £9,000 per year (per child), which is separate to your own annual ISA allowance.

Junior ISA

If you’re using an expert-managed ISA for your own Stocks and Shares ISA, you can often use the same investment platform for your children. We recommend Moneyfarm¹ – their investment performance is great, and the fees are low. You can always switch your ISAs to Moneyfarm too.

Which are the lowest cost self-investment ISAs?

Trading 212¹ and InvestEngine¹ have the lowest fees. In fact, there’s almost no fees at all. There’s no annual management fee (a fee to hold investments, also called a platform fee) or any share dealing fees (fees to buy investments). Plus you can get a free share worth up to £100 with Trading 212¹. Use code NUTS.

InvestEngine is completely free. However, you can only buy ETFs (exchange-traded funds) – more on those below. 

And with Trading 212, you’ll only pay a currency conversion fee, which is a fee to buy foreign stocks, such as in US Dollars (e.g. Amazon shares). And even then, it’s only 0.15% (very low).

You’ll still pay fees on investment funds if you buy them, which is a fee that goes to the fund manager (the experts managing the fund), also called a fund management fee. The exact amount will depend on which investments you buy. (We’ll cover investment funds below.)

Types of investments

With a self-select ISA, you’ve got a wide range of investment options to choose from, the main types are:

Stocks and shares (equities)

These are where you own part of a company, a ‘share’ of a company. Shares are bought and sold on stock exchanges (stock markets) all across the world, for instance the London Stock Exchange (LSE) in the UK.

Stocks and shares

All the shares combined add up to the total value of a company (it’s market capitalisation), and this can change over time depending on how the business performs, and the stock market in general.

Investment funds

Investment funds, often known as mutual funds, are a collection of lots of different investments all pooled together into a single investment. For instance, the top 100 companies in the UK (the FTSE 100), or companies in the clean energy industry, or financial technology.

Investment fund

Lots of investment funds can also be bought and sold on stock exchanges too, just like shares, and these are called exchange-traded funds, or ETFs. And they’re super popular! 

They make building an investment portfolio much cheaper and easier, as you only need to buy an ETF, or investment fund, rather than all the individual shares themselves.

Bonds

Bonds are where you loan your money to governments or large corporations (corporate bonds), in exchange for interest payments. They’re typically seen as lower risk than stocks and shares.

Property

Property can also feature in investment funds, and typically commercial property, such as offices and shops. This normally generates income from rent.

Are self investment ISAs safe?

Yep. All ISAs are perfectly safe to save and invest. ISA providers are regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). they’re the people who make sure your money is well looked after by the ISA providers.

Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)

If you’re not sure if a financial firm is authorised by the FCA, check the FCA register.

This also means that your money is protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). And gives you protection up to £85,000 should anything happen to the ISA provider (such as going out of business).

Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS)

However, your investments are typically held with separate large banks, all in your name, and can only be returned to you.

This doesn’t mean you can’t lose money if your investments go down in value. Although using a sensible long-term investment strategy should typically work out well over time.

Let’s recap self-select ISAs

Hopefully this all makes sense with self-select ISAs. They’re Stocks and Shares ISAs where you make all the investments – so you decide which investments to make and which investment strategy to use.

We only recommend them for experienced investors. Often, it’s simply better to let the experts handle things with an expert-managed ISA – they’ll grow your money using sensible, tried and tested investment strategies for long-term growth. It couldn’t be easier!

Investing long-term performance

If that sounds like a good idea to you, check out Moneyfarm¹, and the best Stocks and Shares ISAs.

If you want to make your own investments, here’s a recap of the best self-select ISAs:

  • Trading 212
  • InvestEngine
  • AJ Bell

They’re all low cost (some lower than others, e.g. Trading 212¹), and have a great range of investment options.

And that’s all there is to it – we hope this has helped!

Get a free share worth up to £100

Sign up to Trading 212 with the promo code NUTS to claim yours.

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