Nutty

The best SIPP providers (and cheapest)

Edward Savage
Personal Finance Editor
Updated
May 19, 2024

In a nutshell

The best SIPP providers are InvestEngine, AJ Bell and Interactive Investor – all low cost and a great range of investments. If you'd like the experts to handle things, the best is PensionBee – it’s easy to use, low cost, and has a great track record.

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Ready to get saving within a SIPP (self-invested personal pension)? Or perhaps you've already got a pension and want to transfer it to the best SIPP provider? We’ve got you covered. Here’s the best SIPP providers (companies that offer a SIPP).

Best SIPP providers - self-managed

The best low cost SIPP providers to manage your own investments.

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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, it's commission-free, and just 0.15% for the pension account, capped at £200 per year – making it one of the cheapest SIPPs out there (especially if you're just getting started building your pension).

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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Best SIPP
AJ Bell rated 5 stars

AJ Bell

AJ Bell is well established, with a good reputation.

It's one of the cheapest SIPPs 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 excellent too.

Overall, it's one of the best options for a SIPP.

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Cheapest
Interactive Investor rated 5 stars

Interactive Investor

Interactive Investor is a well established company, and very popular.

Instead of paying a percentage of the investments in your account (like other investment companies), you’ll instead pay a fixed fee per month – and it’s pretty low, starting at just £5.99 per month for a pension (SIPP).

This makes it one of the cheapest SIPP providers out there, especially if you have a fairly sizeable amount within your pension (e.g. over £30,000).

On top of that, there’s huge range of investment options (e.g. shares and funds) – one of the largest.

It's easy to use, and the website and app are great. The customer service is excellent too.

A great choice overall.

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Best managed SIPP providers

The best managed SIPPs – with easy and simple investment options, managed by experts.

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Best pension
PensionBee rated 5 stars

PensionBee

PensionBee is our recommended provider – they’ve thought of everything.

Their 5 star rated app (and website) makes it easy to set up and use. You can open a brand new pension, or transfer your existing pensions across (they’ll handle all the paperwork).

Simply pick from an easy to understand range of pension plans, and that’s it, the experts manage everything from there.

It’s low cost, with one simple annual fee. The customer service is excellent, and you’ll get a dedicated account manager for any questions you might have.

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And, when the time comes to retire, withdrawing from your pension is easy too.

You can also use them if you're self-employed or a company director.

Pros

  • Pensions made easy
  • Easy to understand pension plans
  • Find all your old pensions and move them over (consolidate)
  • Low fees
  • Great customer service
  • Great if you’re self-employed (or a company director)
  • Withdraw from your pension when you retire
  • Get £50 added to your pension

Cons

  • No financial advice, but can explain your options
  • Not much else!

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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!

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Local advice
Unbiased rated 5 stars

Unbiased

Unbiased is a great online service to help you find expert financial advisors who can help with your pension.

It’s very popular, with over 10 million customers, and pretty much the go-to-place to find pension advisors local to you.

All advisors are fully vetted, qualified and have years of experience.

You’ll be able to chat on the phone, video call, or visit in person (depending on the advisor).

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It’s free to use the service, you’ll pay the advisor directly if you choose to use them (fees vary per advisor and service you’d like).

Pros

  • Fast (all online)
  • Free to use
  • Very popular (over 10 million people have used it)
  • Expert financial advice local to you
  • Only qualified and vetted advisors recommended
  • Can help with the full range of financial advice
  • Includes pensions advice
  • Can get face-to-face advice

Cons

  • Getting advice is not instant (you’ll need to book in a call or visit)
  • You’ll pay for the financial advice
  • The cost of advice is different per advisor

£50 welcome bonus

Get up to £50 welcome bonus with InvestEngine – a great, low cost SIPP provider.

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Our criteria for determining the best SIPPs

Investing in a pension is highly recommended for saving for your future, there’s lots of benefits, which will cover below – but finding the right self-invested personal pension provider for you can be a bit of a challenge. Don’t worry though, we’ve reviewed almost all of them to narrow down to the best SIPP providers, making it nice and easy for you to pick the right one for you.

Best SIPP providers

Here’s the criteria we used to review pension providers:

  • Range of investments
  • Ease of use
  • Fees
  • Customer service

There’s a range of SIPP providers out there, but we’re just showing you the best pension providers. They’re ones we recommend to our friends and family (and readers of course), and use ourselves here at Nuts About Money. So, whichever one you choose, you can be confident, you’re using one of the best providers out there.

Which is the best SIPP provider for beginners?

If you’re new to investing and pensions in general, it’s often best to let the experts handle things. And even if you’re experienced, it’s often best to let the experts handle things too! They know what they’re doing and will grow your money over time in the right way, and you’ll benefit from all the lovely benefits of a personal pension.

With that in mind, we recommend using an expert-managed pension, such as PensionBee¹.

Best SIPP provider for beginners

If you do want to manage your own investments within a classic SIPP, check out AJ Bell¹. They’re one of the cheapest, and have a great range of investment options, plus some handy guides to help you along the way.

What’s the cheapest SIPP provider?

Good question! It all depends on a few things…

First, what do you want from your SIPP? (For instance lots of trading, or do you want to ‘set it and forget it’, with experts handling things?).

Second, how much is actually in your pension pot.

Nuts About Money tip: if you’re looking for the experts to handle everything for you, rather than making your own investments, check out PensionBee¹, it’s low cost, easy to use, and great service.

If you’re looking to make lots of investments within your pension, buying and selling quite often, it would typically work out cheaper to opt for a SIPP with low dealing charges (fees to buy and sell investments).

With AJ Bell, the dealing fee for investment funds (groups of investments), is just £1.50, and for shares (and exchange-traded funds (ETFs)) it’s £9.95 but drops to £4.95 if you’ve had 10 or more share deals in the previous month. 

You’ll also pay 0.25% per year to hold the investments within your account (0.10% after £250,000, and 0% after £500,000).

Cheapest SIPP provider

With Interactive Investor, you’ll pay £3.99 per deal for UK and US shares and funds, and £9.99 for any other international shares. The SIPP account itself is either £5.99 per month (under £50,000) or £12.99 per month (over £50,000).

Cheapest SIPP

After a quick bit of maths, that would mean AJ Bell is cheaper if you have a smaller pension pot (roughly under £30,000), as you are paying a much lower annual fee to hold investments (0.25% vs £5.99 per month with Interactive Investor). That's providing you don’t make too many investments per month – perhaps buying investment funds with a long-term view each month.

If you are making lots of investments each month (more than around 3), which aren’t investment funds (but shares or ETFs), then Interactive Investor would likely be cheaper, as the dealing fee is lower.

Interactive Investor would also be cheaper for larger pension pots of over £30,000.

Overall, they’re both great options, with a huge range of investment options, great service, and two of the cheapest SIPP providers out there – you can’t go wrong with either. Learn more on the AJ Bell website¹, and the Interactive Investor website¹.

What about Vanguard?

Vanguard also offers a low cost SIPP, and charges just 0.15% per year (capped at £375) as a management fee. However there are other costs too, such as trading fees and fund fees – ETFs typically cost £7.50 per trade, alongside one-off fees of 0.02% to 0.46% per trade.

Vanguard are pretty great, however we don’t recommend them for most people, as the range of investments is very limited (you can only buy Vanguard investments). However, they do offer some ready made portfolios.

And, you’ll need to start with at least £500 or contribute a minimum of £100 per month. Plus, you’ll only really benefit from the cap on the annual management fee (£375) if you have a very large pension balance (over £250,000).

What’s the best pension for self-employed people?

If you’re self-employed, you won’t be paying into a workplace pension, as they’re exclusively for employed people – which means a personal pension is even more important – they’re pretty much your only option to save for retirement.

Self-employed pension

We recommend saving with a modern SIPP provider, such as PensionBee¹, they’re super easy to use, have a great record of growing pensions over time, and have low fees. Plus, you can manage everything on an easy to use app on your phone, and the customer service is great.

Company director?

If you’re a company director, you can also save directly into your own personal pension using your company bank account. This means you could save a bit more cash, reduce your Corporation Tax, and increase the amount you can pay in (if you’re only paying yourself a small salary).

Learn more about this with our guide to the best pensions for limited company directors.

What is a personal pension?

A personal pension is a hidden gem that allows you to build a nice big retirement income for you later in life. It’s different to the pension you could get from the government when you retire (which is called the State Pension), and it’s different to a pension your employer sets up for you (if you’re employed), called a workplace pension.

Types of pensions

A personal pension is all yours, one that you look after, decide how much money to pay into it, and which provider to use. And ultimately when you’d like to withdraw from it – as long as you’re over 55 (57 from 2028).

It’s technically a type of private pension, which simply means it’s not the government pension, it’s a pension all in your name (private to you), which you manage (a workplace pension is also a private pension).

Private pension

There’s some great benefits with personal pensions too – you’ll automatically get a whopping 25% bonus from the government on everything you put in, and your retirement savings will grow completely tax-free – so your money will grow much more over time (compared to outside of a pension), and you won’t have to worry about any paperwork or any admin on any taxes either.

Personal pensions

There are some restrictions however, you can only pay in as much as your total income per tax year (e.g. your salary), or £60,000, whichever is lower. (A tax year runs from April 6th to April 5th the following year.)

Pension annual allowance

And, as we mentioned, you can only start withdrawing money from the age of 55 (57 from 2028).

25% Government bonus

As saving for retirement is intended to be tax-free, with a personal pension, you’ll actually get the tax you’ve paid on your income, refunded by the government straight into your pension pot, on your SIPP contributions.

Personal pension tax relief

That means you’ll get a massive 25% bonus from the government, on everything you pay into your personal pension. How great is that?!

This is a form of Income Tax relief, and the 25% is the basic rate tax relief, as it refunds tax you’ve paid at the basic rate (20%). If you’re a higher rate taxpayer (40%), or an additional rate taxpayer (45%), you can claim some tax back at these rates too – which you’ll need to do on a Self Assessment tax return.

Your money grows tax-free

As your money grows over time within your pension, you won’t have to worry about paying any tax, which you might have to pay if you were investing outside of a pension (or a Stocks and Shares ISA), such as within a General Investment Account (GIA).

The tax you might otherwise have to pay is Capital Gains Tax, Income Tax and Dividend Tax.

General Investment Account and tax

However, it’s not entirely tax-free. When you actually take your pension (withdraw money), the first 25% is completely tax-free, and you can take this as a tax-free lump sum if you like.

But with the remaining 75%, you might have to pay Income Tax, depending on what your total income is at the time – it would work just the same as your salary (income) now. Although you’ll still get a tax-free annual allowance on your income too, which is currently £12,570 per year.

Accessing your tax-free money from your pension

What is a SIPP?

Here’s where things get a bit more complicated, there’s two types of self-invested personal pensions (SIPPs), one is a managed SIPP (often referred to as simply a personal pension), where the experts manage things, and the other is a ‘self-invested personal pension’ (SIPP), where you make the investment choices.

Managed SIPP

Managed SIPPs, are often simply called ‘personal pensions’, and are the most common types of pensions – it technically is a self-investment personal pension (SIPP), but the experts handle the investments. 

You picked from a simple, easy to understand range of options – and they’ll aim to grow your money over time using sensible investment strategies.

These are also called modern SIPPs and are often preferred by people these days.

Pension long-term performance

Self-invested personal pension (SIPP)

A classic self-invested personal pension is where you decide which investments to make, typically from a wide range, and you’ll put together the right mix of investments to suit your investment strategy.

Best self-invested personal pensions (SIPPs)

There’s also modern SIPPs, which are a great option, and these are where the investments are managed by experts, just like a regular personal pension, but you’ll pick from a few simple options, such as how much risk you’d like to take with your money, or options such as if you’d prefer ethical investments (no fossil fuel companies etc.).

Best modern pension providers

Then, the experts take care of the rest, and aim to grow your money over time, ready for retirement. Two great options are PensionBee¹ and Moneyfarm¹.

Note: we’ve also got this comparison in more detail with our guide to a SIPP vs personal pension.

Why save into a personal pension

You might be thinking you’ll get the government pension (State Pension) when you retire (at 66), and maybe are also saving into a workplace pension with your employer, so why open a personal pension as well?

State pension age

Well, building up a pension pot that can pay for a good standard of living in retirement is becoming quite a challenge, and personal pensions are becoming essential.

The average pension pot in the UK, for those aged 35-44 is £30,000, and this is lower for those younger, and only a bit higher for those older, but unfortunately, it’s not enough to provide for a good standard of living in retirement.

The actual average retirement income is £361 per week, or £18,722 per year, including receiving the full State Pension. That’s actually less than minimum wage.

It’s just about enough to get by on in retirement (at today's prices), with no luxuries, no car, or holidays, but is below the current suggested income of £31,300 for a moderate level of living, and far below a comfortable level, of £43,100.

In order to boost your pension pot to provide those higher levels of income, the best idea is typically to save into a personal pension, and benefit from the government bonus and tax-free saving. You’ll really be surprised by how much your money can grow over time if you regularly save into one (and save as early as you can!).

Pension contributions

Types of investments

Within a self-invested personal pension, you can decide which investments you want to make, and these can include stocks and shares and investment funds (which can even include bonds and property).

Stocks and shares (equities)

Shares represent small parts of the ownership of a company, they’re a ‘share’ of the company. Shares are typically traded (bought and sold) on stock exchanges across the world, such as the London Stock Exchange (LSE) in the UK, and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), in the US.

Stocks and shares

All the shares of a company combined, equal the overall value of the company. The value of each share can go up and down depending on the performance of the business (such as sales), or the stock market in general.

Investment funds

Investment funds are a collection of lots of different investments, all pooled together into a single investment, and they’re super popular. They provide a great way to build a well diversified investment portfolio (your total investments), as you only need to buy a share of an investment fund, rather than lots of different investments – saving you a lot of time, and money in trading fees.

Investment fund

Investment funds can also be traded on stock exchanges, and these are called exchange-traded funds (ETFs). If you only want to buy ETFs, check out the best ETF platforms, and InvestEngine¹, they’re completely fee-free (however, they don't offer a pension).

There’s two types of investment funds, either passive, or actively managed funds. Passive funds typically track a stock market index, which is a set group of stocks, such as the S&P 500 (the largest 500 companies in the US), or the FTSE 100 (the largest 100 companies in the UK), for this reason they’re also often called index funds.

Actively managed funds are where a fund manager is making the investment decisions to achieve the goal of the fund (such as long-term growth or provide a regular income).

Bonds

Bonds are effectively loans to large corporations and governments in return for interest payments. They’re typically seen as safer than stocks and shares, but typically grow your money much less.

Property

This is typically commercial property, such as office buildings and shops, that pay rent regularly, and so provide an income. You’ll typically buy these through an investment fund.

SIPP fees

With self-invested personal pensions, you’ll pay a range of fees, depending on what type of investments you want to make.

Traditional SIPPs, where you make your own investments, can be cheaper than expert-managed pensions overall, as there’s less (no) work for the experts to do. But, it all depends on the investments you want to make, and of course, you’ll be spending time managing your investments.

Account fees (platform fees)

The pension provider itself will typically charge a fee to manage your pension account, which is often called an annual administration fee, or platform fee.

It’s normally a fee on the total amount of your investments and charged each year, and can range from 0.15% to 1%+ per year depending on the pension provider. It can sometimes be a flat fee too (e.g. £19.99 per month).

Investment fund fees

Most pension investments are within investment funds (pension funds), and these typically charge an annual fee too. The amount depends on the fund itself, and can range from 0.05% to 1.5%+. Passive funds are often lower cost than actively managed funds as there's less work to do by the fund managers. 

Some funds also have trading fees, which are fees when they buy and sell investments, these are normally around 0.07% per year.

Share dealing fees

If you’re buying and selling your own investments such as stocks and shares, and investment funds, you’ll normally pay a share dealing fee too.

This is a fee for the stock broker (the pension provider) to buy and sell investments for you, and you’ll pay it each time you buy or sell an investment. This can sometimes be free (commission-free), or range from £1.50 to £11.95, it all depends on the broker you choose. AJ Bell¹ is typically the lowest cost for this (for pensions).

Transfer fees

If you want to transfer an existing pension, and move all of your investments from one provider to another, there might be transfer fees. These are typically the same as the dealing costs, and apply per investment, but can vary, and sometimes there won’t be any fees at all.

Exit fees

On some very old pensions, there might be exit fees, which is a fee to the pension provider to transfer your whole pension from them to another provider (pension company). These fees aren’t allowed on modern pensions.

If you do have them, they can be fairly expensive, so if you’re not sure what to do, it can be a good idea to get independent financial advice by speaking to a financial advisor.

How does Inheritance Tax work with a SIPP?

One of the great things about SIPPs and pensions in general is that they don’t count towards your overall ‘estate’ when you pass away. They are entirely separate and count as their own thing.

That means when you pass away, your pension doesn’t count when it comes to any Inheritance Tax your family might pay, which is typically taxed at 40%, and you can decide who gets your pension, separate from your estate (if you want to).

Inheritance Tax

Instead, if you’re under the age of 75, your pension would pass directly to your family tax-free. If you’re over 75, it would count as income and be taxed at the same rate as Income Tax – which is the same as a salary. It doesn’t need to be taken all at once.

So, it could either be 20% (if their income is above £50,270 per year), 40% (if their income is above £50,270 per year), or 45% (if their income is above £125,140 per year).

Is investing within a SIPP safe?

Yep, it’s safe to save and invest within a SIPP with any of the best providers above.

SIPP providers have to be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), who are the people who make sure financial companies are looking after their customers and their money. That means pension providers are reviewed and approved, and are continually monitored.

Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)

This also means your money is protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). This gives you protection of up to £85,000 compensation if your SIPP provider were to go out of business.

Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS)

However, your money would actually be within the investments themselves, and these are held with large banks, such as HSBC or BlackRock, all in your name, and can only be returned to you.

This doesn’t mean the value of your investments can’t go down. But remember, saving for retirement is investing for the long-term.

Let’s recap

There we have it, the best SIPP providers, and a run through of why saving into a personal pension and building your pension savings overall is a great decision for your future.

You can save up to £60,000 per tax year (or as much as your total income), and benefit from a massive 25% bonus from the government on everything you pay in. Your money will also grow completely tax-free, so no Capital Gains Tax to worry about. (Although you might pay tax when you start withdrawing it.)

There’s two main types of SIPPs, a classic SIPP, where you make all the investment decisions, and when to buy and sell (suited for experienced investors). Or, a modern SIPP, where you pick from a small range of investment options, which are all managed by experts (recommended for most people).

As a recap, the best SIPP provider (and cheapest) for a classic SIPP is AJ Bell¹ and the best managed SIPP, where experts handle things, is PensionBee¹.

And that’s all there is to it. All the best saving for your future!

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