Winner: Interactive Brokers
Interactive Brokers packs an extensive variety of trading tools and resources for active traders of all kinds, with more features on offer than nearly any other broker. You can opt for either the simpler web-based platforms or utilise advanced features in its flagship Trader Workstation desktop platform. Research and related news analysis tools for analyzing global markets are extensive, and Trading Central is integrated into the web platform. IBKR’s Pro account will appeal to professional and very active traders.
Runner-up: Saxo Markets
Saxo caters exceptionally well to professional and active traders in the U.K. with its flagship platform suite for mobile, web, and desktop, consisting of the SaxoTraderPRO platform for desktop and the SaxoTraderGO platform for web and mobile. Saxo stands out for its insightful research team and in-house content, in addition to providing global market news headlines and actionable trading signals from within its platforms. These features coupled with its trading volume discounts make it a great choice for active traders in 2024.
Podium finisher: IG
IG is another excellent choice for active share dealing in the U.K., thanks in part to its robust trading platform suite, which includes an array of innovative features and integrated trading tools for web and mobile. One of my favorite features on IG’s web platform is trading from the charts and being able to drag and drop to modify your existing orders, which can be crucial when trading actively on small time frames, such as day trading. IG also delivers powerful research and integrated content from TipRanks, along with integrated trading signals to help you find trading opportunities throughout the trading day. IG also has a strong community network and resources for traders, including on its DailyFX news portal.
Other trading platforms tested
In addition to our top picks, we tested and analysed 11 more brokers in the U.K. Here are our high-level takeaways for each.
AJ Bell - Charges are on the high side for those with large portfolios in mutual funds and those looking to execute one-off share deals; but AJ Bell’s new app, called Dodl, offers much lower fees and also offers a more slim-lined and user-friendly service. Educational and research materials are strong, too.
Barclays Smart Investor - Barclays Smart Investor offers a wide range of investments and accounts and is a good value for those with a midsize portolio who like flat fees. On the downside, it can be complicated to open an account as a non-Barclays bank customer, and you can’t buy or sell investments through the app if you don’t have a Barclays bank account.
Capital.com - Capital.com is a U.K. broker primarily known for CFDs (contracts for difference) and spread betting. While it previously offered the chance to buy and sell shares commission-free, you can no longer buy shares directly through Capital.com. Trading is limited to an unleveraged CFD account.
CMC Invest - CMC Invest offers commission-free trading of U.K.-listed shares and U.S. equities via a mobile app only. Though a newer entrant to the U.K. share dealing market and currently somewhat limited, it’s powered by global contender CMC Markets, making it likely that its offerings will expand.
Fidelity International - Fidelity offers thousands of investments to choose from and also offers financial advice for those wanting more direction. It's best suited to traditional investors who hold a range of accounts through the platform, enjoy the great research material available and who may also use Fidelity for financial advice. The platform can be expensive for those with portfolios of less than £20,000 and those with portfolios above £40,000.
Freetrade - Overall Freetrade is a great platform to help you get to grips with investing. Costs are low, and its user-friendly mobile app offers great investment inspiration. Sophisticated investors, however, may find that other platforms offer a wider range of investment options and tools.
Halifax - Charges at Halifax are in line with some other brokers, but more expensive than others. If you have a large investment portfolio you may benefit from the low annual management fee of £36. If you are new to Halifax, there may be a better platform for you that is cheaper and easier to open.
Hargreaves Lansdown - As the U.K.’s biggest investment platform for individual investors, Hargreaves Lansdown offers a wide range of investment choices for either beginners or seasoned investors. However, its fees are generally more expensive than rival brokers, which can become an issue for large investment pots.
Interactive Investor - The standout feature at Interactive Investor (ii) is its low flat-rate fees. Other investment platforms typically favour percentage fees for fund investing, although more brokers are now opting for flat fees. Our view is that Interactive Investor is a great platform for any investor, offering a wide range of investments for cheap prices on the whole.
Lloyds Bank - It's easy for current Lloyds Bank customers to open a Lloyds Bank Share Dealing investment account. But there are other platforms that are easier, more comprehensive and cheaper to use, including Halifax, which is also owned by Lloyds Banking Group.
Vanguard UK Investor - Vanguard U.K. Investor, part of one of the world's largest fund managers, is cheap and easy to use and will appeal to investors looking for inexpensive index funds for long-term investing. Its platform, however, reveals many shortcomings compared to leading brokers, particularly relating to the narrow investment selection and lack of mobile app.
Trading vs. investing: what’s the difference?
Short answer: Trading is more short-term and market-timing oriented, while investing focuses on the long term. Both trading and investing involve the purchase (buying and selling) of financial securities such as stocks, bonds, commodities, derivatives, forex, funds, or other financial instruments that represent major asset classes. Here’s some more detail:
- Investing mentality: You are building and holding assets through all the potential ups and downs of the market, with the goal of long-term capital appreciation. You’re committing to a long-term strategy, rather than focusing on what your holdings did yesterday, last quarter, and so on. This type of investing, often referred to as passive investing, can follow simple rules-based approaches, such as putting a certain amount of money into an index fund.
- Trading mentality: An active trader may be more focused on maximizing returns utilising a trading strategy, scanning the markets for opportunities within various asset classes and thinking of getting in and out relatively quickly. Trading can be much more challenging to master than passive investing, with the key differences being your anticipated time horizon, risk tolerance, and market expectations. In reality, few investors outperform the market.
How do you choose a share dealing platform?
Below are six basic steps that every investor should verify when choosing a share dealing platform and associated broker.
- Regulation: It’s always appropriate to first verify that the broker is properly regulated to reduce your risk of potential scam brokers. All the brokers we review on UK.StockBrokers.com are properly regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, or FCA.
- Investment choices: Compare the broker’s offering of investments (the shares available to trade) and the list of supported trading platforms for share dealing.
- Platforms: Make note of the available trading tools within the platform that you can use, which is partcularly important for an active trader.
- Trading costs: It can be prudent to check the broker’s fee structure for share dealing, even if your strategy is not cost-sensitive, as trading fees can add up quickly compared to longer-term investing.
- Research and education: Look at the quality and variety of market research and analysis tools for identifying trading opportunities, along with the quality and scope of educational content that can aid in your development as you refine your trading strategy.
- Account opening: Once you have found a share dealing platform that meets your needs, setting up an account is typically a 5-10 minute process and can be done online via your broker’s official website.
What is the best free trading platform in the UK?
Among the top brokers in 2024, Interactive Brokers is my top pick for a free trading platform suite for active traders. It offers several options for web and mobile, along with the broker’s flagship Trader Workstation Desktop platform, which comes fully loaded.
What UK stockbroker offers the lowest fees?
From among the top brokers that we reviewed for 2024 in the U.K., here are the top five share dealing brokers with the lowest fees, with Trading212 leading the category:
What is the best platform for day trading in the UK?
Interactive Brokers is my top choice for active day traders in the U.K. in 2024. With a plethora of trading tools, platforms and research, and more access to global markets, IBKR should have you covered as an active day trader. That said, it’s worth adding that Saxo Markets and IG are also excellent choices.
What are the best UK stock trading apps?
Our picks for the best U.K. stock trading apps for 2022:
- Saxo Markets - Best overall stock app
- Interactive Brokers - Best stock app for usability
- AJ Bell - Best for range of accounts
- Hargreaves Lansdown - Best app for everyday investors
- eToro - Best for simplicity
- IG - Best app for traders
How can I trade forex in the UK?
The first step in trading forex in the U.K. is to choose a broker that is regulated and authorized by the Financial Conduct Authority, or FCA, and open a trading account. Note that it's important to read the full terms and conditions of your account agreement, which governs the relationship you have with your broker.
Next, to execute trades, you must fund your account with a small amount of capital that you can afford to risk. Here are three steps to take after opening an account:
Learn the platform. Before trading, learn how your broker's trading software works. Some brokers offer virtual, or "paper," trading, which allows you to practice without risking real money. Explore any free educational content that's available about the platform.
Develop a strategy. Once you feel fluent with your broker's trading platforms, outline a basic strategy for yourself that includes risk management. The next step will be to identify entry points and exits (the price you plan to enter and exit the market) for a given currency pair.
Trade your plan. Once you identify a price and direction you would like to enter, a market order or limit order can help you establish an open position; you can also attach a stop-loss order and take-profit limit order to manage the risk/reward of your investment.
How do I choose a forex broker in the UK?
The broker you choose should be regulated and authorized by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and highly trusted, meaning the broker has many years in operation and holds numerous regulatory licenses.
Ideally, the broker will rank highly in all the categories that are important to you. For example, you should choose an FCA-regulated broker that can give you access to the markets you want to trade, from within excellent online trading platforms (web-based or desktop-based software) and mobile trading apps. The best forex brokers in the U.K. also offer comprehensive educational content and a rich offering of research tools in various media formats, such as articles, news headlines, videos and webinars.
For more insight, see our top picks among U.K. forex brokers on sister site ForexBrokers.com.
Who is the best forex broker in the UK?
IG holds the title of best forex broker in the U.K. in 2024. U.K. residents can access spread betting, share trading, ETFs, and investment trusts, as well as forex and CFDs. See a full review of IG's forex offerings on our sister site, ForexBrokers.com. See a full review of IG's forex offerings on our sister site, ForexBrokers.com.
What is the best crypto trading platform UK?
EToro wins the best cryptocurrency ribband in our extensive review. In addition to offering share trading and other asset classes, eToro offers a plethora of cryptocurrencies and coins to trade, including familiar names such as bitcoin and ether, but also all the less well-known cryptocurrencies and altcoins.
In addition, eToro allows you to invest in cryptocurrency portfolios and use its cryptocurrency copy trading feature, as well as the ability to hold cryptocurrency in the eToro wallet.
Which trading platform is best for beginners in the UK?
What is options trading?
Options trading is a form of active trading using options contracts as part of a trading strategy or portfolio. Options are a type of financial instrument classified as a derivative that conveys the right to buy or sell a specific underlying security, such as a stock, at a designated price at a designated date in the future.
What are swaptions?
When you trade options on a swap, they can be referred to as a swaption. A swap is an agreement between a buyer and seller, similar to a futures contract, where there is an agreed-upon exchange of assets and obligations (such as forex or interest rates) at a future date. These are primarily traded over-the-counter (OTC) or off-exchange. Swaptions are typically thought of as an institutional product, and not usually available to retail traders, unless on a cash-settled basis.
What are fractional shares?
As the name suggests, fractional shares allow you to buy or sell fractions of a whole stock or ETF security. Fractional shares allow investors of nearly any budget to invest as little as a few dollars in a security. For example, if a stock is trading at £200 per share — and your broker offers fractional shares — you could put £20 into that stock and purchase 10% of it, or 0.1 shares.
Fractional share investing isn’t just for the lower budget investors; it can also be used for constructing custom portfolios or baskets of stock with the precision you would usually find in an ETF or fund. For instance, you might want to create a trading strategy that maintains a 1% allocation to BP but due to the size of your target trade setup, a full share of BP would push you above that 1% threshold. Thus, you can use fractional shares of BP to stay within the target allocation.
Popular Stock Broker Reviews
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.
About the Editorial Team