Our trading platform winner for beginners: Interactive Investor
Interactive Investor (ii) is our top pick for the best investment platform in the U.K. for beginners. Interactive Investor offers every asset a new investor is likely to need, has extensive educational material and is very competitive on price too. Interactive Investor charges £3.99 per trade — lower than most other traditional platforms — and this is reduced to zero if trading at least £25 regularly every month. It also has flat fee annual management fees, making Interactive Investor a particularly good value if you have a portfolio above £25,000. Read our full review.
Runner-up: Trading 212, best for low fees
In second place, Trading 212 is ideal for investors who want to pay in small amounts or who are new to share trading. There are no trading charges or management fees. You can invest from as little as £1 and can buy fractional shares, which means you don’t have to own a share in full. For example, you can invest a few pounds in Apple without having to pay the full share price (currently around $200). Through the Trading 212 Invest or ISA accounts, you can invest in thousands of global stocks and ETFs. Read our full review.
Podium finisher: eToro, best for ease of use
Like Trading 212, eToro does not charge anything to buy or sell stocks and does not have annual management fees. eToro is an easy-to-use platform that also offers a copy trading option, which allows you to replicate other people’s portfolios (this should be considered with caution). Research is more limited than other platforms and an eToro ISA is still in development. It offers a good demo account to help you learn about trading without losing any real money. Read our full review.
AJ Bell: Best for choice
AJ Bell offers everything from shares and investment trusts to mutual funds and bonds. Charges are £9.95 per stock trade, reduced to £1.50 for regular trading, with share custody charges capped at £3.50 per month. Mutual fund trades are free. Annual management charges for funds are 0.25% of your portfolio (£2.50 per £1,000), so a percentage-based fee model works out well for those with smaller holdings. We particularly like AJ Bell’s new mobile app, Dodl, which comes with cheaper charges. Read our full review.
Hargreaves Lansdown: Best for accessibility
Hargreaves Lansdown is the U.K.’s biggest investment platform for everyday investors. As you’d expect from an industry leader, it offers very good investment options and is rated highly by users who like its ease of use. Hargreaves Lansdown can be a great place to start if you are looking to invest in mutual funds, or one of its managed funds, through a general dealing account, ISA or SIPP. Mutual fund trades are free, with annual management charges of 0.45%. Stocks are £11.95 per trade, which works out very expensive if you are investing a small amount (perhaps under £100). Read our full review.
Interactive Brokers - Best for research
Interactive Brokers is a great choice for those looking to access a wide range of global markets. You have access to 48,000 funds worldwide and more than 90 stock markets. Shares and ETFs are priced at a fixed £3 per trade up to the value of £6,000. Transaction fees on around 8,000 funds are free, and there are also no custody charges. This could make Interactive Brokers a good choice if you plan to invest solely in funds. Read our full review.
What type of trader are you?
Our guides can help you choose the right broker for you and the way you trade: whether you consider yourself an investing beginner, a more experienced active trader, or a mobile-first trading enthusiast.
Other trading platforms we tested
In addition to our top picks, we fully analysed 11 additional regulated brokers in the U.K.
Barclays: Barclays Smart Investor offers a wide range of investments and accounts. The platform is good value for those with a midsize portfolio who like flat fees, but the mobile app is limited if you don’t have a Barclays current account.
Capital.com: Capital.com no longer offers direct share ownership, so you’ll have to trade through CFDs.
CMC Invest: One to watch, CMC Invest is relatively new and still in development. It offers low fees and you can interest on uninvested cash.
Fidelity: Fidelity offers thousands of investments to choose from and great research material. It is also one of few investment platforms to offer financial advice.
Freetrade: Freetrade is another good option for new investors, as it offers commission-free stock trading. The ISA option costs £4.99 a month, which can work out quite expensive if you have less than £10,000 to invest.
Halifax: If you are already a Halifax bank customer, it may be worth signing up to Halifax’s online share dealing service for simplicity. But fees can work out high for infrequent or low trades.
IG: The IG platform is more aimed at experienced investors looking to make frequent trades. It may not be the best option for beginners.
Lloyds Bank: Trading fees are among the highest of any broker, at £11 to buy and sell U.K. shares. The broker is most likely to be of use if you are already a Lloyds Bank customer.
Saxo Markets: Saxo Markets’ trading platform is highly sophisticated and used by private and professional investors. The biggest downside is the cost, as its charges are significantly higher than its U.K. competitors.
Vanguard: Vanguard’s U.K. platform does not offer access to share dealing. You can only invest in Vanguard ETFs and funds. But the platform is popular among those looking for low fees and who don’t want to be overwhelmed by choice.
XTB: XTB is relatively new to share dealing and is a strong competitor to the likes of Trading 212 and Freetrade. However, it does not yet offer an ISA or SIPP.
What is a trading platform?
A trading platform, also called an investment platform or broker, is where you buy and sell investments such as shares, funds and bonds. You may also be able to trade alternative assets such as currencies, oil, gold and crypto. Beginners may want to consider sticking to traditional investments — shares, funds and bonds — to begin with, as alternative assets can be more volatile.
How do I choose a UK trading platform?
You’ll want to consider factors including fees, whether they offer an ISA or SIPP, and the investment options available. There is nothing to stop you opening separate accounts with different platforms, if you like aspects of different brokers and want to try out several. Some platforms offer commission-free trading but may have more limited investment options or accounts. And you can read our reviews of top U.K. brokers for further details to help you decide which suits you best.
How do I open a UK trading account?
Choose your platform and select the ‘open account’ option. Most platforms will allow you to sign up and fund your account within minutes. You’ll need to provide ID such as a photo of your driving licence or passport, along with providing your National Insurance number and proof of address. You can then pay money into your account through a bank transfer or using your debit card.
How do I buy shares online in the UK?
To buy shares online, follow these steps.
- Select a U.K. broker, then open and fund the account.
- Research the stocks you want to buy using the trading tools and market research provided.
- Once you choose a stock to buy, fill out the order ticket with the number of shares you want to purchase.
- Place your trade.
You now own shares of stock! For more educational resources before you start trading, we recommend reading investor.com's 10 great ways to learn stock trading.
How does regular investing work?
Regular investing is where you invest a fixed amount on a monthly basis, to be paid directly into your investment or investments of choice. You benefit from saving little and often, which feels more achievable for some, and you can benefit from pound cost averaging to help smooth out fluctuations in the stock market. Most U.K. investment platforms offer discounted fees — or charge nothing at all — for regular investing.
Are online trading platforms safe?
All the U.K. trading platforms we review are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, which means they comply with stringent regulatory requirements. Your money is protected up to the value of £85,000 should a platform go out of business. However, be aware that all investing comes with an element of risk and your returns will depend on your own investment decisions.
What is the best crypto trading platform for beginners in the UK?
If you are just becoming familiar with investing, we recommend starting out with traditional investing in instruments such as stocks and funds. Cryptocurrency is a complex product, and, moreover, the cryptocurrency market tends toward the volatile, carrying a high risk of loss. If you do want to try your hand at trading crypto, use a regulated broker. eToro is one of our top recommendations; other reputable brokers that offer crypto in the U.K. include Saxo Markets, Interactive Brokers and XTB.
What is an ISA?
An Individual Savings Account is a means of tax-free saving and investing. For the current tax year, an individual can save up to a maximum of £20,000, which can be held in a stocks and shares ISA, a cash ISA, a Junior ISA, an innovative finance ISA, a Lifetime ISA, or in a "Mix and Match" combination of these.
What is a SIPP?
A Self-Invested Personal Pension, or SIPP, is a tax-efficient means of saving funds for retirement in the U.K. SIPPs are government approved, and enable individuals to make their own investment decisions. Unlike more traditional pension models where investment choice is often restricted to a limited number of funds, a SIPP offers investors the ability to self-direct their investments.
For the UK.StockBrokers.com Annual Review, we assessed, rated, and ranked 17 U.K. share dealing platforms over a 10-week time period. Each broker’s platforms and features were exhaustively tested by hand and graded on 53 different variables. In total, over 25,000 words of research were produced.
We thoroughly tested and compared features of prime interest to everyday investors, including but not limited to:
- Investment choices, such as whether the broker offers trading of shares, ETFs, funds, bonds, and CFDs; and offers SIPP and ISA accounts.
- The broker’s charges and fees for investing.
- Functionality and design of mobile apps and website platform, and a fluid experience moving between app and web.
- Usability of tools such as charting and watch lists.
- Market research, such as screening, news and analysis.
- Educational resources including tutorials, online courses, videos, webinars and articles.
Our rigorous data validation process yields an error rate of less than .001% each year, providing site visitors with quality data they can trust. Our lead researcher and writer, Elizabeth Anderson, has more than a decade’s experience as a financial journalist and market researcher. Elizabeth’s expertise is backed by a team of veteran fellow traders, data auditors, editors and project managers who work to ensure that UK.StockBrokers.com reviews and guides are the most unbiased and complete in the industry. Read more about our team.
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