In a nutshell
AJ Bell is 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. Overall, 5 stars from us.
cracked open 🥥
AJ Bell is a very established stock broker (someone who buys and sells investments on your behalf). They’ve been around since 1995 and known for being low-cost – but are they really? We’ll find out.
They’re hugely popular, with over 400,000 customers totalling over £75 billion worth of investments. That’s a lot!
The range of investments is huge (that’s things like stocks and shares and investment funds). And they offer the whole range of investment accounts, from a General Investment Account (GIA) to a pension (more on these later).
They also offer ready-made portfolios (a group of investments packaged together), for those people who just want to invest their money, without any of the hard work. We’ll look at these too.
If you’ve heard enough already, here’s the AJ Bell website¹ to get started.
If not, let’s dive in.
Is AJ Bell good for beginners?
Kind of. It’s not the easiest to use, and you’ll need to understand a little bit about investing to navigate their website and app to get started, but you can soon pick it up.
If you do know a little bit about investing, you should be fine with their website. And just a reminder, they are a broker, so they are there to buy and sell investments for you, not to choose or advise which investments you should buy.
There are ready-made portfolios to choose from however, which you can find on the AJ Bell website¹ – which means you don’t have to do much! But you should still manage these and check-in when you can, and they’re not necessarily the cheapest.
There’s also a great education centre, with loads of information about investing, and in-depth guides on specific topics – including a guide dedicated to first time investors.
Investment account options
This is AJ Bell’s standard account, technically a General Investment Account (GIA). There’s no tax free benefits, it’s your bog-standard account that you’ll pay Capital Gains Tax (among other taxes) on if you make profits of over £6,000 per year (across all your investments not inside an ISA).
Stocks & Shares ISA
Stocks & Shares Lifetime ISA
If you're under 40 and saving for your first home, a LISA could be for you. It’s tax-free, and you’ll get a 25% bonus from the government on whatever you put in, up to £4,000 per year. Learn more about Lifetime ISAs.
If you’ve got kids, you can invest up to £9,000 per child every year, all in their name, and all tax-free. Learn more about Junior ISAs.
You can open a self-invested personal pension (SIPP) and have full control over where your money is invested. You’ll automatically get a 25% bonus on your contributions, and if you’re a higher rate (40%) or additional rate (45%), you can claim some tax back paid at those rates too (on your Self Assessment tax return).
AJ Bell is one of the cheapest SIPP options out there – here’s our full range of best SIPP providers to compare.
Cash savings account
You can also just save cash and get interest in return. They’ll scan the market to find the best interest rates out there. Pretty clever right? There’s also no fees either.
This isn’t cash in investing accounts (uninvested cash), you’ll need to open a cash savings account.
They’re typically fixed rate savings options, so you’ll lock your money away for a period of time (typically 1 to 5 years). There’s not usually any easy access savings accounts (where you can get your money back instantly).
Your money will remain within your AJ Bell account, and you’ll still get FSCS protection (more on that later, but you're money is protected up to £85,000).
Nuts About Money tip: if you’re only looking to save cash, check out the best savings accounts.
Interest on uninvested cash
While we’re on the topic of cash, let’s run through uninvested cash too. With AJ Bell, you’ll earn interest on your cash when it’s not invested (e.g. by holding shares).
The rate you get varies over time, but it’s generally pretty good, and applies to all of your investment accounts (e.g. cash inside a pension) – but varies across accounts. It’s typically a higher rate within a pension account.
And overall, it’s typically a bit lower interest rate on cash under £10,000, and higher above £10,000.
Types of Investments
Stocks and shares
There’s a huge range of shares with AJ Bell – from across the world (US, Canada, most of Europe and even Asia and Australia). There’s 24 exchanges in total, and 14,000 shares.
If a share exists, AJ Bell likely has it. And not just big companies, there’s lots of smaller companies, for instance, those listed on the AIM (Alternative Investment Market – a UK exchange for smaller companies).
Shares are where you own part of a company, a ‘share’ of a company. They’re traded on stock exchanges all over the world, for instance the London Stock Exchange (LSE) in the UK.
All the shares of a company combined, equal the total value of a company, and typically when the company does well, so does its value, and therefore the share price too.
With AJ Bell, you’ll also be able to participate in some IPOs (Initial Public Offering), which is where private companies are listed on stock exchanges (so the first time their shares become available).
Exchange-traded funds (ETFs)
An investment fund is a group of companies all packaged together in an easy to buy investment, and normally managed by an expert. They can represent all sorts of things, such as companies within an industry, for instance electric car manufacturers, or green energy.
Lots of investment funds can be bought and sold easily on stock exchanges, just like shares, and these are called ETFs, or exchange-traded funds.
On AJ Bell, there’s a huge range of ETFs, over 3,500 – and pretty much everything you’d want to invest in, with investments from a range of countries around the world.
Traditional investment funds
There’s also a huge range of traditional funds (so not traded on an exchange, but directly via a broker). There’s over 3,700. Traditional funds typically focus on the expertise of the fund manager, rather than focusing on themes (such as a specific industry), like ETFs (although not always).
A lot of modern stock trading apps won’t have traditional investment funds – so if you’re looking to invest in funds, a traditional broker such as AJ Bell, is one of your best options.
Investment trusts are similar to investment funds, except they’re actually companies themselves, which own the shares of other companies (confusing right?). So, you simply buy the share of the investment trust company.
They’re run by expert investors and offer a range of different options, very similar to funds.
There’s nearly 500 investment trusts on AJ Bell, from a wide range of options.
Bonds and gilts
Bonds are where you effectively lend your money to a large company, or a government, in exchange for interest payments (just as if you were taking out a loan). You can buy and sell bonds whenever you like.
If it’s a bond issued by the Government (in the UK), it’s called a gilt.
With AJ Bell, there’s a wide range of bonds available – and is one of only a few investment platforms that offer bonds.
Investments not available with AJ Bell
CFDs (‘contract for differences’) are suited for advanced traders (often day traders), and AJ Bell doesn't offer CFD trading.
It’s a type of trading where you don’t purchase the asset itself (such as a stock), but you enter into an agreement with a broker about the direction of the price, so the price going up or going down in the future, and then you settle the difference between the price when you want to sell and todays price.
AJ Bell are very traditional, and so don’t offer crypto (cryptocurrencies) either. Crypto has been a very good investment for some people, and could be for you, however it’s very volatile (meaning the price can change drastically over a short period of time), and so can result in losing money too.
AJ Bell fees
AJ Bell is one of the cheapest traditional brokers out there. As with most brokers, you’ll pay an account fee, and then fees when you make a trade (buy and sell an investment). Let’s run through the details.
Setting up an account is free, and there’s no charge for holding cash in your account. However, there are other fees which can add up.
You’ll have a monthly fee to hold investments within your account, and this depends on which investments you hold, and which account (e.g. ISA or SIPP).
It’s typically 0.25% on the total of your investments within your account (and 0.10% above £250,000), which is pretty low. For comparison, the biggest traditional broker, Hargreaves Lansdown, has fees starting at 0.45% (and decrease) as an account fee (of the total value of your investments).
And, depending on which investments you have, there can be a limit to how much you pay. We’ll cover these below (shares and investment funds).
Shares and ETFs fees
For shares and ETFs, you’ll pay the account fee of 0.25% of the value of the shares within your account, but only up to a maximum of £3.50 per month (so a maximum charge of £42 per year) for a GIA and ISA, and £10 per month for an SIPP (so £120 per year).
And when you buy shares, you’ll also pay a fee for each trade (trade means buying or selling). It starts at £9.95 per trade, and reduces to £4.95 when you make trades per month (this is based on the previous month's usage).
It’s typical for more traditional brokers, like AJ Bell, to charge a fee for each trade, often called a ‘share dealing fee’. However, with more modern brokers that focus on regular trading, such as eToro¹, investing can be lower cost.
Investment fund fees
This is more traditional investment funds (a group of investments packaged together), rather than exchange-traded funds (ETFs), which are grouped with shares (above).
You’ll pay a fee to hold investment funds within your account, which is:
And to buy a fund, it’s simply a £1.50 dealing fee.
You’ll also pay fees to the investment funds themselves (including ETFs), often called a management fee, this isn’t a fee AJ Bell charges, unless it’s their own fund. So the cost varies across the different funds, but expect to pay around 0.20% per year, but can be much higher. It’s taken from the money you invested within the fund automatically, so you often won’t notice (it’s a hidden fee).
Currency conversion fees
If you want to buy investments in another currency, for instance US stocks, you’ll need to convert your Pounds to Dollars first. AJ Bell will do this for you, all automatically when you purchase the stock, but they’ll charge a fee. This is the same with all brokers, but the fee does vary.
With AJ Bell, it’s fairly reasonable, and is structured so that it’s cheaper with bigger investments. Here’s what you’ll pay (per investment):
It’s slightly on the higher end if you’re investing under £10,000 (compared to modern investment platforms, such as Trading 212, which is 0.15%), however for a traditional broker, it’s reasonable – for instance Interactive Investor charges a 1.5% fee.
AJ Bell also offers telephone trading, and to make a trade on the phone, it’s expensive, £29.95.
AJ Bell customer support
The customer support is great. They have a phone line where you can speak to someone. Pretty rare for any investment business these days!
There’s also live-chat, where you can speak to someone on their website too. And, if you’ve got a bit more time to wait, you can email.
Is AJ Bell safe?
Yep! Completely safe.
As it’s a broker, it’s regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). That means it’s trusted and has been approved to look after your money.
Money held with AJ Bell is also protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FCSC). Which means if something should happen to AJ Bell (highly unlikely), such as going out of business, you’ll get up to £85,000 back.
And on top of that, your money is actually held in a separate bank account that AJ Bell cannot access, it can only be returned to you.
AJ Bell customer reviews
AJ Bell is popular. On Trustpilot, the popular reviews website, it has a rating of 4.7 out of 5, from over 4,000 reviews. Which is excellent – especially for a company in financial services. Financial companies tend to get very low scores, mostly because they treat their customers very poorly. But AJ Bell is bucking the trend, with great customer service.
It’s won a lot of awards too – and quite a few over the last few years. Mostly notably, ‘Recommended provider’ for investment platforms, by Which? Every year, from 2019 to 2023. Good work!
AJ Bell pros and cons
Here’s a run through of the pros and cons of AJ Bell:
- Well established
- Cheapest traditional broker
- Huge range of investment options
- Self-invested personal pension (SIPP)
- Great customer service
- Although it’s low cost, it can be more expensive than modern platforms
- Not much else!
We like AJ Bell, it’s super trustworthy and has a great history of serving customers well.
It’s one of the cheapest traditional brokers out there, but there are cheaper options with more modern trading apps and platforms that are commission-free (such as eToro¹), however you’ll only really benefit if you trade a lot.
AJ Bell also has a good website and phone app to make trades, track your trades and portfolio. Alongside options to research companies and get more investing information.
There’s a huge range of investments available, which makes it really stand out from the new investment platforms, and the full range of account options – from a General Investment Account to a pension (SIPP) – an account not offered by many.
So, overall, we think it’s pretty great. It’s a big 5 stars from us. Learn more and get started on the AJ Bell website¹.