Choosing the right share dealing account is a critical decision for any UK investor. Since each UK trader has their own unique strategies, preferences, and needs, we have assessed the top 10 brokers currently available to open an account with.
Our UK.StockBrokers.com team spent seven months and hundreds of hours assessing ten different share dealing accounts for buying shares online in the UK. In total, 124 individual variables were assessed to find the best broker.
Best Share Dealing Accounts
Here's a breakdown of some of the share dealing accounts available for buying shares online in the UK.
Barclays - 4.5 Stars
Barclays is a great “one-stop shop” for share dealing and investments. It offers a strong fundamental company research area, a high-quality technical analysis/charting platform, and the backing of a secure and reliable parent group (Barclays Bank Group). Barclays is our #1 share dealing account for 2017. Read more...
IG Group - 4.5 Stars
Although IG is one of the “new kids on the block” among online stock traders in the UK, it brings a wealth of experience from the spread betting world. It is certainly a company to watch in this space, reaching 2nd place in our 2017 review. Read more...
Interactive Investor - 4.5 Stars
Interactive Investor provides a robust research and education offering, together with comprehensive services at a relatively low cost. A strong contender in the UK market.
Hargreaves Lansdown - 4.0 Stars
A rich offering of investments and services alongside strong customer service, but Hargreaves Lansdown lacks both a quality trading platform and education area to justify its high commissions and fees.
TD Direct Investing - 4.0 Stars
A wealth of in-house and third-party research, together with solid education and a strong mobile offering, place TD Direct Investing at the upper end of the UK online share-trading industry.
AJ Bell Youinvest - 4.0 Stars
AJ Bell Youinvest offers low-cost trading for frequent traders, quality in-house research, as well as impressive mobile trading applications; however, the downside is that the company offers an average trading platform and basic education resources. Read more...
Halifax - 3.5 Stars
Halifax Share Dealing provides clients quality customer service with a variety of tools for trading and research. And fees are low when using a regular investment plan. Read more...
Alliance Trust Savings - 3.5 Stars
Alliance Trust Savings will likely appeal to longer-term investors in search of discounted fees; however, this comes at the expense of a particularly poor overall client experience. Read more...
Fidelity International - 3.0 Stars
Fidelity International has an impressive in-house research offering as well as noteworthy educational articles; however, trading individual stocks is not currently supported. Read more...
Shares Trading Fees
The cost of trading is an important factor for many traders and investors when they decide to choose a broker. Just as paying £3.00 for a Starbucks every morning adds up, so does paying anywhere between £4.95 and £12.50 for each trade. Furthermore, you may also need to pay a monthly, quarterly or annual management fee, depending on the type and size of your holding.
Just like the coffee junkies who will not settle for anything less than a cup of Starbucks, traders and investors looking for a quality share dealing account will have to pay for that quality. So ultimately, the price you pay depends on your requirements and your tastes. This scenario is also true for online trading.
The best share dealing account for you will depend on whether you are a frequent trader or casual investor, and whether you have a small or large portfolio.
The best share dealing account for you will depend on whether you are a frequent trader or casual investor, and whether you have a small or large portfolio. Some brokers offer discounted rates for more frequent trading, whilst others charge flat fees. Similarly, some charge holding fees that depend on the size of the account, whilst others have a flat overall fee structure. In our assessment, we considered all possible scenarios.
The top pick in the category of Commissions & Fees is IG. Unlike most share dealing accounts, there are no management/administration/ custodial charges for their share-dealing account (or on their ISA). Furthermore, the standard commission rate of £8.00 per trade on UK shares is the lowest dealing charge in our review. For more frequent traders, this falls to just £5.00 per trade when 10 or more trades are placed in the prior calendar month. This superb value is beaten only by AJ Bell, which charges £4.95 for 10 or more monthly trades.
Halifax finished second. The trading fee of £12.50 per trade is at the high end charged by brokers in our UK review and may put off traders/investors who trade frequently. But again, as with IG, there is no administration charge for holding assets in the share-dealing account (and only a £12.50 per annum admin charge for the Stocks and Shares ISA).
Finally, in third place was Interactive Investor. Although Interactive Investor does levy a £20 quarterly charge, this covers the client’s first two trades in each quarter (or the value of £20 worth of trades) and can be used across Trading, ISA and SIPP accounts. The fee per trade is £10, which falls to £5 after the first 10 trades.
When considering any share dealing account on fees and commissions alone, first identify what type of trader or investor you are. Is your portfolio large enough for management charges to be an important consideration? On average, how many trades do you place each month? Do you invest primarily in stocks, funds or other asset classes?
Next, calculate the overall trading cost to you; crunch the numbers. To help, read our detailed commission notes for each broker. You can also compare brokers side by side using the comparison tool. Overall, there may be a tradeoff between price and quality of service that you are willing to make, or maybe not. That’s for you to decide.
For many traders and investors in the modern trading environment, the trading and charting platform is a key element in decision making. Whether traders are deciding which stocks or funds to invest in or trade, whether to go long or short in these markets, or the price at which to enter trades, they tend to rely significantly on their trading platform.
Practically all the trading platforms in our review are web based, but many are increasingly becoming mobile based as well. The UK market is generally behind the offerings provided by our US cousins; most UK online share dealing accounts offer rudimentary charting platforms. However, the top providers that head our list for platforms and tools are attempting to provide a more advanced service, akin to what is on offer in the USA.
Without question, the standard set offered by Barclays Stockbrokers and IG is what their competitors should be striving for.
Barclays Stockbrokers tops our review of platforms and tools. Only IG comes anywhere close to challenging Barclays Stockbrokers for the top spot in 2017.
The charting experience at Barclays Stockbrokers provides an impressive 152 different indicators, from simple moving averages to the rarer Elder Ray Bull Power. Furthermore, 15 drawing tools are accessible, from basic trend lines to Fibonacci Arcs. If traders are not keen on performing their own charting analysis, there is a handy technical analysis section on the summary page with third-party support and resistance levels, short-term and longer-term technical trading views, momentum indicator analysis, and automated bullish/bearish and overbought/oversold signals.
The IG trading platform and tools are a close second to Barclays Stockbrokers, with an impressive offering as IG has shifted its award-winning spread-betting platform across to its online stock-trading accounts.
The IG trading platform provides nine optional indicators for charting, including Fibonacci retracements and extensions and trend lines (which are customizable). Furthermore, you can access 21 technical indicators with adjustable parameters. Price alerts can be set on indicators and can be further customized, whilst economic calendar alerts are also available. The alerts can be displayed on the trading platform or can be received via mobile push or email. New orders can be executed from the chart, whilst open positions and working orders can also be viewed on the chart.
Without question, the standard set offered by Barclays Stockbrokers and IG is what their competitors should be striving for.
TD Direct Investing finished a distant third on our list in 2017. Clients can select between three different chart types as well as add display events (earnings, dividends, splits) and conduct multi-security comparisons. Charting also includes 11 different charting tools, but an absence of chart drawing tools is somewhat disappointing
Beyond its standard platform, TD Direct Investing does offer a more comprehensive Advanced Trading Platform as an extra paid-for service (free for clients that trade 10 or more times per month). This platform has built-in dashboards with heat maps, charts, stock information, portfolio panels and news, including the ability to customise your own layouts.
Offering of Investments
The world of share dealing and investing encompasses a wide variety of asset classes across the global markets. This broad-spectrum ranges from long-term investments in mutual funds and government bonds to share dealing and CFDs, among others. In our 2017 UK review, we have focused on the full range of offerings.
Hargreaves Landsdown offers a diverse investment offering, providing its clients with the ability to invest across the global markets, as well as receive optional paid professional advice.
Our top pick, Hargreaves Landsdown, shines for its extremely diverse offering of investments. Hargreaves Lansdown's clients have access to a variety of asset classes including individual stocks and shares, funds, investment trusts, government and corporate bonds, ETFs, CFDs, and spread betting services. Furthermore, both Junior ISA and SIPP accounts are available (alongside the standard ISA and SIPP offerings). Finally, Hargreaves Landsdown also offers an advisory service for clients who want to pay for access to professional guidance.
In second place, we placed Barclays Stockbrokers. A similar broad range of asset classes to Hargreaves Lansdown can be accessed at Barclays, although a Junior ISA is not currently offered. With respect to trading and investing in overseas markets, Barclays Stockbrokers provides access to trading in 18 different countries outside the UK, which is slightly higher than Hargreaves Lansdown’s offering of 16.
All data considered, Hargreaves Landsdown offers the most well-rounded offering. Considering the wide variety of assets that can be traded, the broad choice of investment vehicles, the scope of the investment possibilities outside of the UK, and the optional convenience of tailored financial advice, it is the best package available for UK residents.
Research is a key area for any online broker trying to differentiate itself from its competitors. With third parties providing much of the data for the research content, companies that offer comprehensive in-house research as well as a user-friendly interface are clearly way ahead of their peers who don’t.
The leading providers in this category offer both in-house and differentiated external content, which covers individual stocks, funds, ETFs, bond and even currency markets. Disappointingly, however, some providers simply deflect the user off to a third-party provider or offer little to no research at all.
Our No. 1 pick in 2017 for research is Barclays. We found the research area within the Barclays MarketMaster platform very impressive, with a depth of fundamental data on individual stocks, funds and bonds.
Our No. 1 pick in 2017 for research is Barclays. We found the research area within the Barclays MarketMaster platform very impressive, with a depth of fundamental data on individual stocks, funds and bonds. Barclays clients have access to Citywire Selection’s independent, award-winning fund research and analysis. Stockbrokers TV is an in-house video archive of exclusive interviews with prestigious fund managers, investment professionals and Barclays experts. The videos can be explored by topic or chronologically, with interview transcripts also available. The Barclays Blog has up-to-date articles on current market activity. Finally, the Barclays Gilts and Bonds Microsite gives a comprehensive overview on bond markets and encompasses a “fixed-income university”, an entry-level education to gilts and bond markets.
Interactive Investor took second place in the research category, providing both a high quality and quantity of news and research content. Breaking Market News has reports broken down into categories by chronological order, directors’ deals, broker views etc. There is a Features section, which provides in-depth articles and a downloadable PDF magazine, View from the Top. In-house researchers publish under pseudonyms, such as Share Sleuth, Trends & Targets and Stockwatch (with Share Sleuth having a model portfolio, which can be followed). Content is delivered by the Interactive Investor in-house team and by the sister companies, Moneywise and Money Observer, as well as from third-party providers.
Fidelity International’s research offering came third on our list and is far above the industry standard. We believe Fidelity International’s in-house research is among the best in the UK, providing a daily market review, daily investment insights and regular investment ideas. Separate research sections provide fund ideas, investment trust insights, the latest news and analysis and a newspaper roundup and portfolio ideas. This content is delivered in written format, but also via video, with interviews with equity, bond and commodity fund managers. There is also a MoneyTalk section, with videos offering broader, more generic investment research and advice. However, the absence of any significant research on individual stocks is disappointing and keeps Fidelity from attaining a higher position in our rankings.
In summary, the top share dealing accounts provide an excellent experience for traders and investors researching stocks, funds fixed income etc. However, it is the in-house research, together with unique features and functionality that represents real value added and differentiates the brokers.
In any evaluation of customer service, a single interaction is not enough to make a true assessment. To accurately assess the value of support, we carried out multiple tests across phone, email and live chat. We have weighted phone support the heaviest in our evaluation criteria, allowing it to account for over half of the total score, with email and live chat weighted relatively lower. If a broker did not have a live chat facility, then phone and email were both weighted proportionately higher.
The quality of customer service provided across the top five share dealing accounts in our review (Halifax, Hargreaves Lansdown, Alliance Trust Savings, Fidelity and TD Direct Investing) was impressive.
Halifax hit the overall top spot in our first review of customer support and service, just edging out Hargreaves Lansdown (second) and Alliance Trust Savings (third). The quality of customer service provided across the top five share dealing accounts in our review (Halifax, Hargreaves Lansdown, Alliance Trust Savings, Fidelity and TD Direct Investing) was impressive. For the top three, the difference in evaluation results was extremely tight.
For phone support, Halifax ranked best, with all calls answered within one minute (66% of phone tests connected to a rep within one minute). In our testing, only the reps at Halifax and Fidelity regularly asked for the caller’s name, personalizing the experience.
For email support, IG was a clear winner, consistently responding to requests within two to four hours, while several of the company’s competitors took from one to a few days to respond, on average. Furthermore, the information the IG support reps provided was thorough and clear, often exceeding our expectations.
Finally, of all the brokers included in our review, live chat was offered by IG, TD Direct Investing and Halifax. We found both the TD Direct Investing and Halifax services very positive, thanks to quick response times, free-flowing conversations and ensuring all our questions were answered. TD Direct Investing was a standout, offering extra information to assist us with our inquiries. Winner aside, we were disappointed with the IG chat service as we were never able to get connected successfully, and thus no tests were filed.
Halifax was a worthy winner as it placed highest overall for phone support, fourth for email, and it provided a very good live chat service. We found the connection time to be quick and the support team to be highly knowledgeable and efficient. They were also very friendly, which was most welcome in an industry characterized by risky decisions and potential losses.
The increase in the use of mobile devices globally to access social media and online services via apps continues exponentially. In fact, today more users access Facebook via mobile devices than they do via a personal computer.
It is no surprise then, that online brokers have been quick to join this party in recent years, with most devoting significant resources to mobile development. We conducted all our tests on iOS devices, focusing principally on the iPhone.
In our 2017 review, we found the AJ Bell Youinvest application better than the rest.
For some share dealing accounts, mobile services are currently just about content delivery, educational information and research. For others, the experience delves deeper, involving portfolio management, creating and maintaining watchlists and trading.
Although UK brokers continue to push ahead with innovation, three share dealing accounts in our review (Alliance Trust Savings, Halifax, and Barclays) have yet to even launch an app, while a couple have just recently launched mobile applications. This leaves plenty of room for improvement across the industry going forward. For the future, we anticipate brokers across the board will provide a full mobile trading experience that offers trade tools, price alerts, comprehensive charting and advanced order execution.
In our 2017 review, we found the AJ Bell Youinvest application better than the rest. The app includes a variety of ways to manage a user account. There’s an account summary page, portfolio details, cash statement and transaction history. Furthermore, the app is one of the few that allows for direct trading, enabling investors to place market and limit orders. There is also a comprehensive research section that includes market news, results, broker views and insider dealings. Research videos are also available via the app, and if clients have an account balance of over £4,000, they will also have access to “Shares” magazine. Finally, there is an education section, with downloadable guides.
IG was a close second to AJ Bell Youinvest with its mobile apps. IG provides two applications for its online share-dealing service. While the IG Trading app is weak in its inclusion of research, it does provide a clean trading experience. Clients have access to pre-populated watchlists, personal watchlists, and, like AJ Bell, can place trades directly within the app. The second IG app, IG Academy, focuses solely on education and does a terrific job servicing new investors. The app includes a variety of introductory courses that are cleanly organized by section. Furthermore, user progress is tracked the whole way through, and even quizzes are included.
Taking third and fourth place for mobile trading were TD Direct Investing and Interactive Investor. Both provide good mobile experiences for their clients but could use more charting options, order entry types and fundamental research and education.
All data considered, brokers are wising up to the great benefits of the mobile trading world. Although the provision of mobile by UK online brokers has advanced, we see significant scope for further innovation and development, particularly compared to offerings in the US. See: Best US Brokers for Mobile Trading.
Client education is becoming an increasingly important area brokers are targeting. Strong educational content is not only a value-added service for traders and investors, but it also leads to more confident clients, and thus clients who are likely to become more engaged in investing.
For some share dealing accounts, education entails providing simple introductory articles. But our assessment and rankings of UK-based online brokers show that many of them are delivering videos, webinars, and interactive quizzes as well as more penetrating and informative forms of higher level education.
Our No. 1 pick for education in 2017 is IG.
Our No. 1 pick for education in 2017 is IG, which focuses on broader macroeconomic trading. IG presents a strong archive of written and video educational content via the IG website. There is a separate IG Academy app, which provides step-by-step courses on basic to intermediate-term trading. These courses are broken down into modules, which include progress tracking. In addition, new clients are offered an individual, one-on-one walk through the trading platform, and are shown how to place a trade. Various in-person seminars and webinars are also available, with a regular 30-minute webinar every Monday.
In second position is Barclays. The Barclays education area provides a wealth of educational information, delivered in concise but detailed articles catering to beginners through to advanced investors. The information is presented by topic in a user-friendly manner, with a comprehensive archive and search facility. Written content is complemented by numerous videos and infographics, which enhance the learning experience and are viewed as an extremely useful add on. Overall, a strong educational offering.
Third and fourth places on our list were Interactive Investor and TD Direct Investing, respectively (currently in the process of a merger). The educational resources offered by both these brokers are better than those offered by their UK competitors and include investment glossaries, investment/retirement calculators, basic beginners’ guides, in-depth guides to fundamental analysis and trading strategies and more advanced education on Forex, CFDs and spread betting. With the merger set to be completed sometime in 2017, the future looks bright for clients of both firms.
Generally, the UK online broking industry continues to provide a greater variety and depth of educational content. Furthermore, delivering this content through multimedia enhances the client experience. Although quality and quantity of education is unlikely to be a primary reason for choosing an individual share dealing account, we do see this as an invaluable complement to the overall offering.
Best Share Dealing Accounts Summary
|Broker||Online Fee (0-9 Deals)||Annual Fee (<£250,000)||Overall Rating|
|IG Group||£8.00||£0.00||4.5 Stars|
|Interactive Investor||£10.00||£80||4.5 Stars|
|Hargreaves Lansdown||£11.95||0.45%||4 Stars|
|TD Direct Investing||£12.50||0.30%||4 Stars|
|AJ Bell Youinvest||£9.95||0.25%||4 Stars|
|Alliance Trust Savings||£9.99||£120.00||3.5 Stars|
|Fidelity International||NA||0.35%||3 Stars|
|Charles Stanley Direct||£11.50||0.25%||3 Stars|
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