By: Harvey Jones | Updated: 26th February 2020.
In my view, online trading and investment platform Interactive Investor is the place to be for DIY investors. And with more than a million customers, there are a lot of other investors that seem to agree. Just be sure to study the new subscription plans to make sure the new charging structure fits your pattern of investing.
On Interactive Investor’s website, you can buy and sell thousands of different investments including stocks and shares, actively managed funds, exchange traded funds (ETFs) and investment trusts, and manage your money inside a tax-free ISA or SIPP. It also offers more complex financial instruments such as spread betting, contracts for difference, and foreign exchange trading.
For me, its biggest attraction has always been the flat charging structure, with trades costing just £10 (£6 for regular traders). Starting in June 2019, Interactor Investor will stick with the flat-fee pricing, but now customers choose from three subscription pricing models, with per-trade fees for UK share trades varying from as low as £3.99 to £7.99, depending on which plan you choose.
If you ask me, following the change in pricing model, Interactive Investor remains a top site for investors, and may be even better now for certain types of investors. That said, if you hardly ever place a trade, the changes may not be music to your ears.
The site is jam-packed with features. It lays out your investment portfolio neatly and clearly, so you can see exactly where you stand with a single glance.
It then offers a vast amount of investment data and research plus a host of extras and add-ons, including a watchlist, price alerts, transaction history, company research, stock news and coverage of international markets.
I have a dealing account with Interactive Investor and I chose it for a simple reason – I liked its prior flat rate charging structure of just £10 a trade, which I found clear, simple, memorable and competitive. That pricing structure is now history. The big investment platforms make little or no money from customers who rarely or never trade, but still need to be serviced. This may partly explain why Interactive Investor has switched to a monthly charging model.
Previously, customers paid a £22.50 quarterly fee, which added up to £90 a year but was returned in trading credits. That means that if you did nine £10 trades during the year, holding the account didn’t cost you a penny beyond what you would have spent on dealing fees.
Now you can either pay:
The monthly charges are all more expensive than before… but wait, you get (some) money back when you trade! With all three plans, you get a £7.99 credit that you can use towards trading. With the Investor plan, that’ll allow you to make, for example, one free UK share or ETF trade per month. This means that if you make one trade per month, your cost of holding the account effectively falls to just £2. With Funds Fan you could use the £7.99 credit for two free fund trades (at £3.99 each under that plan), but could just as easily use it for a single UK share or ETF trade. And once again, with Super Investor you get that same £7.99 credit, but it’ll go even further, since fund, UK share, and ETF trades are all just £3.99, so you basically get two free trades of your choice each month (assuming you stick with UK investments).
There is no getting away from the fact that those who trade very rarely will pay more, though. If, for example, you make zero trades throughout the year, and choose the ‘Investor’ plan, you’ll end up paying £2.49 more than you did under the previous pricing structure. However, jumping up to just one trade per month, you’re now breaking even versus the old structure (actually, you technically save £0.01 per month or £0.12 per year, but we’ll call that even!). After that level of trading, the savings start to stack up thanks to the lower dealing fees — at two trades per month you save £24 per year, at three trades per month you save £48 per year, and so on.
Of course if you’re consistently making two to three trades per month, that’s where it starts to get a bit tricky. That’s because at that point you have to start considering whether you should stick with the ‘Investor’ plan or bump up to the ‘Super Investor’ plan. While customers on the ‘Super Investor’ plan shell out more per month (£19.99), they get an additional free trade and, more importantly, an impressively low dealing fee of £3.99. If you’re at that consistent three-trades-per-month level, you’ll end up saving nearly £24 per year on the ‘Super Investor’ plan versus the ‘Investor’ plan (and save £72 per year on the ‘Super Investor’ plan versus the old pricing structure).
Naturally, if you trade more than three times per month on average, then the ‘Super Investor’ plan only looks comparatively more attractive. By the time you reach 20 trades per month – which I would deem very active (if not over-active) – you’d save more than £800 per year comparing ‘Super Investor’ to ‘Investor’ and more than £300 per year comparing the ‘Super Investor’ plan to the old pricing structure.
The bottom line is that it’s worth your time to take a few minutes to consider your average yearly trading activity to determine the best plan for you. If you trade fairly infrequently, that’s probably the ‘Investor’ plan. If you focus on funds and make two or more funds trades per month, then the ‘Funds Fan’ may be a good fit. And if you’re consistently making three or more trades per month, ‘Super Investor’ could be your ticket to saving big on your share dealing.
And here’s something to bear in mind as you work this out: there’s no percentage-based platform fee hiding out here, so the attraction here is that it remains a very ‘what you see is what you get’ pricing structure. (Note that if you own funds, there may still be fees imposed by the fund manager that are unrelated to Interactive Investor’s fees).
Interactive Investor does not charge any fees to set up an account or transfer funds in. It has also just scrapped its charges for transferring funds out, which I admire, as some accounts come with hefty closure charges.
I’ve been a personal financial journalist for 30 years, writing for national newspapers, magazines and websites. I reported on the technology boom in the 1990s, and the subsequent bust. I covered the financial crisis, and the tentative recovery. Decades of writing about the big banks has taught me to be sceptical, to examine every pledge and promise, and look closely at the small print of their product offerings. I’m on the side of the consumer, alert to rip-offs while also keen to highlight top deals. There are plenty out there, if you know where to look.
Under the new structure, monthly fees on the core Investor plan will total £29.88 more over the year than the previous quarterly charge, hitting those who do not make any trades over the year. However, as noted, if you trade once a month, then you will pay roughly the same as before due to the lower £7.99 fee. Trade twice a month and you save around £24 a year.
The £7.99 trading charge on the Investor plan applies to UK shares, funds, investment trusts and ETFs, and impressively, US stocks as well. Other international shares cost £19.99.
On the Super Investor Plan you pay a rock bottom £3.99 a trade for UK stocks, ETFs, funds and investment trusts, rising slightly to £4.99 for US shares, and £9.99 for other international shares.
On all three plans, regular investments are free, which is a huge benefit to those that set up regular investing plans. Dividend investing is £0.99 per dividend reinvestment.
It is worth noting that the trading credits are only available for 90 days.
If you hold funds you will continue to pay the asset manager’s underlying fund charges as well, as on any platform.
There are a range of fees for SIPPs, including an annual fee of £120, but overall this platform is highly competitive price wise.
You can invest in almost 40,000 shares in the UK, US and internationally, across 16 global stock exchanges – and nine different currencies. That’s enough to be getting along with.
The minimum monthly sum for regular investments is £25, while the minimum lump sum investment is £100.
The more I use this platform, the more I like it. It sets out my portfolio holdings clearly in a single page that’s easy to view even on my small laptop screen. It always allows users to break their portfolio into shares, funds and cash for further analysis, and click on fund reports, performance charts and trading history for each holding. This is customisable, too. There’s also a button to perform a “X-ray analysis”, which breaks down your entire portfolio into asset allocation, world regions, stock sectors and investment styles. You can also set this as your start page when you log in (which I’ve just done).
The platform’s advanced stock selection tools lets you scan and screen the Morningstar stock database by, say, yield, cover, earnings growth, net gearing, cash flow, and so on. Its market highlight page shows all of today’s top risers and fallers, including individual stocks and industry sectors across a range of industries, plus latest company news. You can also drill deep into individual stocks to examine key statistics, performance, charts, ratios, financials, and so on.
The site also offers share price calculators, an ETF selector tool, Interactive Investor’s “quick start funds” (a range funds for new investors), and the “ii Super 60” investments, a range of high-conviction active and passive funds, investment trusts, and ETFs.
In fact, it seems like every time I dig in to the site’s offerings, the more great tools and features I find.
You can open your trading account online via a desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile and get started in less than 10 minutes. Gather your address details for the last three years, your National Insurance number and debit card details to fund your account. Interactive Investor does offer a call centre during normal office hours but this site really is aimed at those who can go it alone online.
I can’t find much to fault here. Interactive Investor offers everything I’m looking for from a share dealing account, including easy trading and in-depth research, with a great charging structure that works for both those trading smaller and larger amounts. And I believe the offering could be a good fit for a wide variety of investors.
The new charging structure will work particularly well for busy investors, who may find its Super Investor plan highly compelling with trades starting from just £3.99. The Investor plan will also appeal to those who trade fairly regularly, as trading an average of once per month will allow users of this option to reclaim all but £2 of their monthly £9.99 charge and pay a lower dealing fee than the previous pricing structure. Fund investors will like the Funds Fan plan for a similar reason. However, one category of investor will not be happy. Those who just leave their portfolio sitting there, neither buying nor selling, will pay an extra £30 a year. Perhaps that’s just the price of inactivity.
The bottom line? Always make sure any platform has the right charging structure for the way you invest.
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