In a nutshell
The cheapest traditional investment broker out there, with a good reputation and established history. The customer service is great and there’s a huge range of investment options. The fees are reasonable, but there are cheaper options. Overall, 4 stars from us.
cracked open 🥥
AJ Bell is a very established 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 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.
So 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 the website and get started.
However, saying that, as AJ Bell is a broker, they expect their customers to know the basics of investing. 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 but you still have to manage them, which can get complicated, and these portfolios aren’t the cheapest.
If you’re new to investing it’s probably best to let the experts handle everything for you. Check out Moneyfarm¹, their service is easy to use, has great customer service and they’re cheaper than AJ Bell, here’s our Moneyfarm review.
Investment account options
- Dealing account: this is their standard account, technically called a general investment account (GIA), where there’s no tax free benefits, it’s your bog-standard account that you’ll pay Capital Gains Tax on if you make profits of over £12,300 per year (across all your investments not inside an ISA).
- Stocks & Shares ISA: everyone's favourite account. Invest up to £20,000 each year, and all your profit is tax-free, forever.
- Stocks & Shares Lifetime ISA: if under 40 and saving for your first home, a LISA is 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.
- Junior ISA: if you’ve got kids, you can invest up to £9,000 per child every year, all in their name, and all tax-free.
- Pension (SIPP): you can open a personal pension and have full control over where your money is invested. You’ll also get 20-45% government bonus too as an incentive to save for your retirement (the amount depends on how much tax you’ve paid). If you’re looking to boost your retirement income, but prefer the experts to handle it, check out PensionBee (here’s our PensionBee review).
- 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?
Investments not available with AJ Bell
CFDs (‘contract for differences’) are suited for advanced 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.
How much is AJ Bell?
It’s one of the cheapest traditional brokers out there. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the cheapest overall, some of the modern brokers are cheaper, such as Freetrade, and easy to use! (Here’s our Freetrade review).
Setting up an account is free, and there’s no charge for holding cash in your account. However, there are other fees which do add up.
You’ll pay a fee of 0.25% on the total of your investments within your account (and reduces with the more money you have). This is for all account types, such as a Stocks & Shares ISA or pension (SIPP). More on this fee and investment types below.
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).
For shares, you’ll pay the fee of 0.25% of the value of the shares within your account, but only up to a maximum of £3.50 per month.
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, such as eToro¹, trades are free (commission free). If you’re a frequent trader, check out the best trading platforms (UK).
Investment fund fees
You’ll pay a fee to hold investment funds within your account (a group of investments packaged together), such as exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Which is:
You’ll also pay fees to the investment funds themselves, often called a management fee, this isn’t a fee AJ Bell charges, unless it’s their own fund. And 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).
Another common hidden fee when you buy and sell investments is a ‘spread fee’. This is the difference between the price you pay for an investment and the value of it immediately after you purchase (the price you’ll get if you immediately sold it). This is around 0.07% for investment funds. You’ll pay this wherever you buy investments, not just with AJ Bell.
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.
What do the people say about it?
It’s very popular, and on Trustpilot, the reviews website, it has a rating of 4.5 / 5, which is excellent – especially for a company in financial services, these 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? In 2022.Good work!
We like AJ Bell, it’s super trustworthy and has a great history of serving customers well.
However it is a traditional broker, charging fees that do add up, and you could say the technology is a bit outdated too.
Modern brokers (often just called trading apps or trading platforms) have easy to use phone apps to track your trades and portfolio, alongside options to research companies on the app. AJ Bell can do this, but their website is a bit less user friendly.
Most modern brokers are also commission-free, in terms of fees per trade, and they can have a flat monthly fee for an account. With AJ Bell you’ll pay a percentage of your investments to hold investments and pay fees to make trades, which can add up over time. However, it is the cheapest traditional broker (by quite a bit), and our top choice if you prefer a traditional option.
Fees aside, there’s a huge range of investments available, and the full range of account options – from a general account to a pension, and there’s pretty much everything you’d want from a broker.
So, overall, we think it’s pretty great. If it was commission-free, we’d have to think about giving it 5 stars, but until then, it’s a solid 4 stars from us.
Learn more, or get started on the AJ Bell website.