In a nutshell
IG is a serious trading platform, and very well established. They literally invented spread betting (details in the review). 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. 5 stars from us.
cracked open 🥥
When it comes to trading, IG are the one of the oldest out there. They actually invented spread betting way back in 1974. Spread betting is where you make a ‘bet’ on the price of an asset (like a stock), rather than buying the stock itself. It’s super popular because you don’t pay tax on profits when you bet (think of sports betting).
However, that’s not all they do, they’re now a well-rounded investment trading platform, where you can buy and sell stocks and shares, funds, and a huge range of investments. All within a Stocks and Shares ISA too (if you want to), so everything you make is tax free.
IG is also very popular for CFDs (similar to spread betting, more on that later). Plus, you can trade forex, futures, options, commodities, crypto… pretty much anything you’d want, IG has it all (more of all of these later).
If you’re new to trading, or want to learn more, there’s a huge online academy to learn about trading, and even a demo account. Everyone has to start somewhere right?!
And if trading isn’t for you, or you want the best of both worlds, IG offer a fully managed service, where their experts will handle everything and aim to grow your money over time, in a way that’s tailored to you.
IG is available through their website and their apps (Apple and Android), it's highly rated on both – 4.6 on Apple and 4.4 on Google Play store.
Let’s dive in a bit more, and see if it’s right for you.
Is IG good for beginners?
IG is good for beginners – but be warned, it can get pretty overwhelming, pretty quickly. If you’re new to trading, check out eToro¹ too, it’s a bit simpler to get started.
There’s a lot to learn when it comes to trading, and IG is one of the best trading platforms out there. They offer pretty much everything under the sun when it comes to trading, in terms of types of trading, investment range and account options.
So, it’s best to take it very slowly, and learn things bit by bit. Start with their academy and learn about stocks and shares, and then progress onto something else, such as spread betting.
Most importantly, learn about risk management, which is how to preserve your money while trading – otherwise, you could be out of money pretty quickly. Trading is not about winning every trade, it’s about not losing all of your money when you lose a trade.
But don’t let that put you off! It’s a great skill to learn, and knowledge in finance can add huge benefits to your life and finances in general, even if you decide trading isn’t for you.
Tip: you can start with a demo account to try out trading first, before depositing real cash.
If you’re already raring to go, here’s the IG website¹.
IG trading types
You can’t beat IG when it comes to spread betting – they literally invented it!
Spread betting is making a bet on what the price of an asset will be in the future, which can be an increase in price, or a decrease in price. An asset can be something like a company’s stock. With IG there are 18,000 assets to trade, that’s a lot!
It’s popular in the UK and and Ireland, because you don’t pay tax on gambling winnings (it’s technically gambling), and as you’re not buying the underlying asset (such as the stock), you don’t pay Stamp Duty either.
And, what people really like is that you can trade with leverage (also called margin trading). That means, you can trade with borrowed funds (money) from the broker, which will multiply your gains (and losses). Effectively you can make a trade with more money than you actually have.
It’s a pretty complicated type of trading, so let’s run through an example. Let’s say you think a stock is going to go up in price, and you want to use 5x leverage (which is using your own cash for just 20% of the position (bet), and the broker’s cash for the remaining 80%).
The stock price started at 100p and after a while the stock increased in price by 10%, so it’s now at 110p. A spread bet works by betting a sum of money per point increase, so a 1p increase in this example, wins you that sum of money. And in this case you win it 10 times as it’s gone up 10p.
Now if you had bought just the stock, let’s say £50 worth, not via a spread bet, you would have earned £5 in profit, which is 10%.
But you made it via a spread bet, and with 5x leverage. So you risked £50, to make a bet of £250 instead, and it increased by 10%, to £275, so you actually made a profit of 50% (£25), instead of 10%. Not bad.
However! It also amplifies your losses too (when you trade on margin). Say the stock actually went down in price by 10%, so the value of the £250 has reduced by £25, that £25 is 50% of your own initial £50, so you are now down 50%, rather than 10% if you had not used leverage.
It can be very dangerous so be careful! Remember, most people do lose money. Spread betting needs to form part of a responsible trading strategy.
If you want to learn more, there’s more info and examples on the IG website¹.
Contract for Differences (CFDs), are similar to spread betting, except you don’t bet per point increase, you buy a CFD share of a stock. Which is a contract with the broker (IG in this case) to settle the difference in price now vs the price in the future, rather than buying the actual share.
So if the stock price rises, the broker pays you the difference in price, and if the stock price is lower in the future, you pay the broker the difference. It’s very similar to owning the actual share, except you don’t actually own it.
There’s no actual time-limit, you can hold them for as long as you like. With spread bets you will have an expiration date, which is a date when the bet will end.
Trading CFDs isn’t betting, so profits aren’t tax free, however you can offset losses against profits if you do make a loss. You don’t pay Stamp Duty either.
They are popular because you can ‘go short’, which is making a trade the price will go down rather than up, and you can trade with leverage, just like a spread bet.
Shares and funds
On IG, you can also simply just buy stocks and shares, and investment funds like ETFs, which are Exchange-Traded Funds, meaning they trade on a stock exchange (a place to buy and sell investments). A fund is a collection of investments, such as a group of stocks and shares), for instance the top 100 companies in the UK.
Buying shares with IG is actually very low cost, and commission free for US shares, and £3 for UK shares. We’ll cover fees in a bit below.
Options and futures
You can also trade options (and futures) with IG. That’s instead of trading an asset itself (such as a stock), you trade the right to buy or sell the asset at a certain price in the future, but within a set timeframe, such as daily, weekly or monthly.
Futures are contracts that lock in the current price, but not settled until a date in the future.
You trade options and futures via spread bets or CFDs with IG. They can be quite complicated, so it’s worth learning more on the IG website¹.
You can also trade crypto, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, using spread betting and CFDs – so you trade the price only. If you want to own the actual coins, check out the best crypto exchanges in the UK.
Range of investment options
There’s over 18,000 markets (a market is an asset) to trade on IG. That covers:
- 13,000+ stocks and shares, including UK, US and international companies
- Over 80 indices – which are common groups of shares, such as the FTSE100 (the top 100 companies in the UK).
- There’s also thematic fund options, which means groups of shares, traded as ETFs, but have a theme – such as electric vehicle companies, or robotics
- Foreign exchange (Forex). You can trade pretty much every single currency pair, for instance GBP/USD (trading British Pounds (GBP) to USD (Dollars))
- 35 commodities – that’s physical things like oil, iron, gold, and agricultural products
- You can also trade bonds (loans from businesses and governments), interest rates and IPOs (initial public offerings – when a company lists on a stock exchange)
That’s a lot of things to trade! IG has one of the biggest investment ranges out there. That’s because they offer spread betting and CFDs, so they don’t always have to arrange the buying and selling of an asset – they only need to know the price, and then you can trade it.
Weekend and out-of-hours trading
IG is the only provider in the UK to offer trading on the weekend on certain assets, such as indices and foreign exchange.
You can also trade certain assets out-of-hours, which means trading as late as 1am Monday to Thursday and 10pm on Fridays. Pretty cool.
IG actually has the most hours open for when you can trade, with 158 hours out of a total 168 hours in the week. If we compare with eToro¹, another popular trading platform, they’re only open 70 hours per week.
Trading platform features
The range of trading features on the platform (that’s their website) is huge. Plus you can trade on your mobile, and the app is great!
The features include:
- Direct market access (DMA)
- Algorithmic trading
- Connect your own software via an API
- Connect with ProRealTime
- Connect with MetaTrader 4
We won’t cover exactly what all these things are, as this is just an IG review. But if you’re after something specific, then the above would have gotten you excited. Learn more on the IG website¹.
IG Smart Portfolios
Smart Portfolios with IG are where you leave it to the experts to manage your investments – it’s considered more wealth management than trading, but it’s often a good idea. You might even be doing this already with another company.
Effectively you just add money and leave the experts to it. This kind of investing can be within a tax-free ISA.
The experts at IG follow recommendations by BlackRock, the large, successful asset manager, with over $6 trillion under management, and they know how to make money.
The fees are fairly low, the total cost is 0.72% per year, and part of that is the management fee of 0.50%. If you have savings of over £50,000 then it’s free past that amount, so the most you’ll pay in management fees is £250 per year.
IG Smart Portfolio’s are a great option, and come in slightly cheaper than other popular platforms like Moneyfarm¹ and Nutmeg¹, where management fees on both start at 0.75% and reduce when you have more invested.
If you want to compare all the best investment platforms, check out our best investment platforms UK.
How much is IG?
First of all, there’s no account charges – so it’s £0 to open and keep money in your account (with Hargreaves Lansdown, you’d pay 0.45% of the value of your investments in your account).
What you will pay is trading costs, and this comes in the form of a spread fee.
This is the difference between the price you’ll pay to buy an asset, and the price you’ll pay to sell an asset, and effectively IG pocket the difference between them.
It’s a common fee structure for trading platforms, and it’s exactly the same as eToro¹.
The spread changes depending on what asset you are trading, and it’s 0.6 points for foreign exchange, 0.8 points for indices and 0.1 points on commodities. Not bad at all.
A point is the smallest number on the left side of a decimal point when pricing an asset, so if an asset is £10.00, 1 point is £1 (to compare, one point of $10.00 is $1).
Learn more about the exact spread fees on the IG website¹.
There are more than just spread fees, you’ll also pay:
- Overnight fees: if you want to keep your position (trade) open overnight (past 10pm)
- Margin fees: you might pay more if you are trading with leverage
- Borrow fees: you’ll pay a bit more if you want to trade the price going down (as you are borrowing the stock to sell)
- Fees for advanced trading features: if you want advanced features, such as advanced charting, you might have to pay more
All the fees are clear when you make a trade, so you’ll know exactly what you’re paying.
If you want to buy the actual stock or fund, perhaps in an ISA, it’s relatively cheap too.
You’ll pay £8 per trade on UK shares, which reduces to £3 after you’ve made 3 trades in the previous month. For US shares, this starts at £10 but then reduces to £0 after 3 trades in the previous month. Not bad at all.
It’s actually a lot cheaper than stockbrokers. Here’s a comparison:
You can also deal by phone, although this is quite expensive, you’re looking at costs between £40-50 depending on what you’re buying.
Swapping currencies, such as buying US stocks in Dollars, is also the lowest out of all the main brokers at 0.50%.
Although there’s no account fees, if you don’t make at least 3 trades per quarter, you’ll be charged a £24 custody fee per quarter. Which is actually pretty cheap if you have a fair bit of cash in shares – with stockbrokers, like Hargreaves Lansdown, you’d expect to pay 0.45% per year.
The customer support is excellent.
It’s available 24 hours per day every day, except Friday evenings, when they clock off at 10pm, and then back on at 8am Saturday. I guess not many people in the UK are trading late on a Friday!
Support is based over the phone and email. There’s no live chat, but there is a forum for questions which can be answered by the community. And there’s an excellent help centre on their website which has got pretty much every answer to any question you might have. You can’t really get better support.
Is IG safe?
Yep! You’re in safe hands. It’s authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which means they’re approved and are trusted to manage your trades and look after your money.
Your money and assets are also held in a completely separate bank, under your name, and IG cannot use these funds for anything. In the very unlikely case IG were to go out of business, you would get your money and assets returned to you.
IG customer reviews
Customers love IG. On the popular reviews website Trustpilot, it has a score of 4.1 out of 5, from over 5,500 reviews. That’s pretty great for a company in financial services, where often scores are very low – as the customer service is normally very bad.
Most of the reviews are 5 stars, mentioning the excellent customer service.
We like IG, a lot. It’s definitely one of the best places in the UK to trade.
It’s got so many options and investment choices that it can be a bit much for beginners, but there’s a great academy to learn everything – however learning to trade takes time. If you’re a beginner, you could start with eToro¹ first (or both), which can make things a bit easier to understand.
The fees are reasonable overall, and the fact you can buy shares within an tax-free ISA is a great addition to trading with spread betting and CFDs. Alongside the expert-managed, smart-portfolio options, which are low cost, and a good idea to complement your trading.
Plus it’s got the best trading hours, so if you’re a late night or weekend trader, this is the place for you.
Overall, if you want to trade it's worth checking out IG. 5 stars from us. Here’s the IG website¹ to get started and learn more.
Some legal stuff from IG
Spread bets and CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 70% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading spread bets and CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how spread bets and CFDs work, and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.