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Compare Our Top-Rated Share Dealing Accounts in the UK

Updated: 18th October 2021

With plenty of brokers vying for your business, getting your trading portfolio up and running online can be simple, and often cheap. We’ve gathered together what we view as some of the top providers of online share dealing accounts in the UK. Remember, past performance is no guarantee of future returns and unlike cash, the value of investments, and any income from them, can fall as well as rise so you could get back less than you invest. If you’re unsure about the suitability of an investment for your own circumstances, please seek independent financial advice first.

The Motley Fool UK has been helping individual investors in the UK invest better for more than 20 years. Over the long term we believe, subject to your own individual circumstances, it’s hard to find a better way to grow your money other than by buying and holding shares for the long term… and we like to think we know a thing or two about what makes a great share-dealing broker too!

On this page you’ll find our list of what we consider to be some of the best share dealing accounts in the UK currently available. You can also find more information about our ratings, how to compare brokers, and how to buy shares online.

Hero Tips: Must knows when trading shares online

  1. Low fees are better

    All else equal, lower share dealing fees and lower platform fees are better. When you pay fewer fees, more of your money can help build your portfolio.

  2. Low fees aren't all that matters

    Low fees are great (that's why they're listed first!). But low fees aren't much help if your share dealing platform doesn't offer the features you need or isn't easy to use. The value of those lower fees can easily be lost if you can't invest well.

  3. Buying shares puts your money at risk

    When you buy shares, you can lose money. If you're just starting out, it's especially important to keep that in mind. There are some investment vehicles that carry higher risk -- like CFDs, penny stocks and forex. Others, like index funds and ETFs, tend to be less risky. Understanding what you're investing in can't eliminate your risk, but it can reduce it. Investing lower amounts at the beginning can also reduce your risk -- after all, when buying shares, you can only lose the money that you invest. Remember, if you’re ever unsure about the suitability of an investment for your own circumstances, please seek independent financial advice.

Here are The Motley Fool's top-rated online trading platforms in the UK

Offers from our affiliate partners appear first and are ordered from highest rating to lowest, followed by other top-rated offers. You can read more about our ratings and page sort here. Offers from affiliate partners are marked with a *.

Top Product

Great for: Low-cost deals for active traders

5 stars question mark
Fineco Bank
Apply Now!

On FinecoBank's Secure Website

* Affiliate partner

FinecoBank is a new kid on the block in the UK and they’re making a splash. The service is highly competitive on share-dealing price at just £2.95 per trade and offers particularly attractive rates for investors buying shares outside of the UK. In this multi-currency account, you can also trade directly in many local currencies. Better still, there’s no platform fee.

Read full review >

Risk Warning

Investments involve various risks, and you may get back less than you put in.

More details [+]

The value of your investments can go down as well as up and you may not get back all the money you put in. All investments carry a varying degree of risk and it’s important you understand the nature of these risks. The Motley Fool believes in building wealth through long-term investing and so we do not promote or encourage high-risk activities including day trading, CFDs, spread betting, cryptocurrencies, and forex.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • Just £2.95 per trade
  • Open your account using promo code TRD500-ML and during your first 3 months you can trade without incurring commission charges – up to a total commission amount of £500. (Terms and conditions apply.)
  • Easy access to UK and non-UK shares
  • No annual fee

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here to learn about how and why we work with partners.

what we like

  • Just £2.95 per trade
  • Trade without incurring commission charges for the first 3 months – up to a total commission amount of £500. Use promo code: TRD500-ML. (Terms and conditions apply.)
  • Easy access to UK and non-UK shares
  • No annual fee
  • PLATFORM FEE:

    £0
  • Share dealing charge:

    £2.95

Risk Warning

Investments involve various risks, and you may get back less than you put in.

- More details

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • Just £2.95 per trade
  • Open your account using promo code TRD500-ML and during your first 3 months you can trade without incurring commission charges – up to a total commission amount of £500. (Terms and conditions apply.)
  • Easy access to UK and non-UK shares
  • No annual fee

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here to learn about how and why we work with partners.

Great for: Long-term investing in shares

5 stars question mark
Hargreaves Lansdown Logo
Apply Now!

On Hargreaves Lansdown's Secure Website

* Affiliate partner

Hargreaves Lansdown (HL) is the UK’s market leading share dealing broker, providing easy access to an extensive range of funds, ETFS, UK and overseas shares. HL offers a robust service with an easy-to-use website and plenty of free information to help make your investment decisions — although keep in mind this isn’t a substitute to seeking out independent financial advice. In our view, the ‘Fund and Share’ account is great choice for long-term share investors looking to manage their portfolio online.

Read full review >

Risk Warning

Investments involve various risks, and you may get back less than you put in.

More details [+]

The value of your investments can go down as well as up and you may not get back all the money you put in. All investments carry a varying degree of risk and it’s important you understand the nature of these risks. The Motley Fool believes in building wealth through long-term investing and so we do not promote or encourage high-risk activities including day trading, CFDs, spread betting, cryptocurrencies, and forex.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • Market-leading platform
  • No annual fee for holding shares & ETFs
  • Lower share dealing fees if you trade more often

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here to learn about how and why we work with partners.

what we like

  • Market-leading platform
  • No annual fee for holding shares & ETFs
  • Lower share dealing fees if you trade more often
  • PLATFORM FEE:

    £0
  • Share dealing charge:

    £11.95

Risk Warning

Investments involve various risks, and you may get back less than you put in.

- More details

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • Market-leading platform
  • No annual fee for holding shares & ETFs
  • Lower share dealing fees if you trade more often

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here to learn about how and why we work with partners.

Great for: trading funds and trusts, and monthly share dealing

5 stars question mark
interactive investor logo
Apply Now!

On Interactive Investor's Secure Website

* Affiliate partner

Interactive Investor’s share dealing platform is straightforward and uncomplicated, which means it could be a good choice for both the newbie and the more seasoned investor. The platform provides access to a wealth of investment choices, including UK and International shares, funds, investment trusts and ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds). Interactive Investor will even alert you to the latest IPOs (Initial Public Offerings) as they come to the market.

Read full review >

Risk Warning

Investments involve various risks, and you may get back less than you put in.

More details [+]

The value of your investments can go down as well as up and you may not get back all the money you put in. All investments carry a varying degree of risk and it’s important you understand the nature of these risks. The Motley Fool believes in building wealth through long-term investing and so we do not promote or encourage high-risk activities including day trading, CFDs, spread betting, cryptocurrencies, and forex.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • Trading credit worth £7.99 every month with all three available plans
  • The platform is very user friendly and easy to use
  • The flat fee structure makes it easier to anticipate total fees for the year
  • Investors can choose between a selection of shares, funds, investment trusts and ETFs
  • The platform keeps investors informed about the latest IPOs
  • † Reflects the ‘Investor’ pricing plan. Fees for other plans differ. See our full review for more information.

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here to learn about how and why we work with partners.

what we like

  • Trading credit every month worth £7.99
  • A choice between three different price plans
  • Easy-to-use platform
  • PLATFORM FEE:

    £9.99†
  • Share dealing charge:

    £7.99†

Risk Warning

Investments involve various risks, and you may get back less than you put in.

- More details

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • Trading credit worth £7.99 every month with all three available plans
  • The platform is very user friendly and easy to use
  • The flat fee structure makes it easier to anticipate total fees for the year
  • Investors can choose between a selection of shares, funds, investment trusts and ETFs
  • The platform keeps investors informed about the latest IPOs
  • † Reflects the ‘Investor’ pricing plan. Fees for other plans differ. See our full review for more information.

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here to learn about how and why we work with partners.

Great for: Experienced investors looking for low costs and a broad international reach

4.5 stars question mark
DEGIRO Logo
Apply Now!

On DEGIRO's Secure Website

* Affiliate partner

For experienced investors who trade frequently, DEGIRO has a lot to offer: global reach, ultra-low costs, and a relatively easy-to-use trading platform that’s now available on mobile. For those who want a little more hand-holding, or who don’t trade so frequently – or globally – then a DEGIRO account will probably have less appeal.

 

Read full review >

Risk Warning

Investments involve various risks, and you may get back less than you put in.

More details [+]

The value of your investments can go down as well as up and you may not get back all the money you put in. All investments carry a varying degree of risk and it’s important you understand the nature of these risks. The Motley Fool believes in building wealth through long-term investing and so we do not promote or encourage high-risk activities including day trading, CFDs, spread betting, cryptocurrencies, and forex.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

 

  • *€2.50 fee per non-UK exchange on which you trade, per calendar year.
  • Degiro’s commission is volume-based and exchange-based, so you’ll only ever pay the £2.03 quoted above if you trade exactly £2,000 worth of shares on the London Stock Exchange. Buy or sell a different amount, or on a different exchange, and you’ll pay a different amount. On the London Stock Exchange, the price calculation is £1.75 + 0.014% for a trade, with a maximum of £5 charge.
  • Headquartered in The Netherlands, DEGIRO is subject to Dutch financial regulations, which bar brokers from holding client funds. Investors used to facilities such as dividend reinvestment will therefore find that DEGIRO can’t oblige.
  • DEGIRO doesn’t offer tax-advantaged ISA or SIPP accounts.

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here to learn about how and why we work with partners.

what we like

  • Ultra-low trading costs
  • Direct access to a wide range of international exchanges
  • Fast, simple trading of shares, ETFs, options and futures
  • PLATFORM FEE:

    £0.00*
  • Share dealing charge:

    £2.03

Risk Warning

Investments involve various risks, and you may get back less than you put in.

- More details

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

 

  • *€2.50 fee per non-UK exchange on which you trade, per calendar year.
  • Degiro’s commission is volume-based and exchange-based, so you’ll only ever pay the £2.03 quoted above if you trade exactly £2,000 worth of shares on the London Stock Exchange. Buy or sell a different amount, or on a different exchange, and you’ll pay a different amount. On the London Stock Exchange, the price calculation is £1.75 + 0.014% for a trade, with a maximum of £5 charge.
  • Headquartered in The Netherlands, DEGIRO is subject to Dutch financial regulations, which bar brokers from holding client funds. Investors used to facilities such as dividend reinvestment will therefore find that DEGIRO can’t oblige.
  • DEGIRO doesn’t offer tax-advantaged ISA or SIPP accounts.

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here to learn about how and why we work with partners.

Great for: active investors who want lots of control and choice

4.5 stars question mark
IG Logo
Visit site

Go to IG’s Secure Website

* Affiliate partner

IG are establishing themselves as a top choice for traders worldwide. Their share dealing account offers active investors cheap commissions and an incredible choice of investments. Designed for more experienced investors, there’s a wide range of tools available on the platform. They also provide access to an excellent selection of investment information and resources.

Read full review >

Risk Warning

Investments involve various risks, and you may get back less than you put in.

More details [+]

The value of your investments can go down as well as up and you may not get back all the money you put in. All investments carry a varying degree of risk and it’s important you understand the nature of these risks. The Motley Fool believes in building wealth through long-term investing and so we do not promote or encourage high-risk activities including day trading, CFDs, spread betting, cryptocurrencies, and forex.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • Low commissions on US and UK shares for active traders (if you make three or more trades per month, the commission drops to £3 for UK shares/£0 for US shares the following month)
  • No account opening fee
  • Plenty of investing resources in the IG Academy
  • No custody fee if you make three or more trades in a quarter
  • *The platform fee is free if you make 3+ trades per quarter, otherwise it’s £24 per quarter. Commissions paid are deducted from the fee.

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here to learn about how and why we work with partners.

what we like

  • Huge choice of investment options
  • Good value for active traders
  • Excellent access to resources and learning materials
  • PLATFORM FEE:

    £8.00*
  • Share dealing charge:

    £8.00

Risk Warning

Investments involve various risks, and you may get back less than you put in.

- More details

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • Low commissions on US and UK shares for active traders (if you make three or more trades per month, the commission drops to £3 for UK shares/£0 for US shares the following month)
  • No account opening fee
  • Plenty of investing resources in the IG Academy
  • No custody fee if you make three or more trades in a quarter
  • *The platform fee is free if you make 3+ trades per quarter, otherwise it’s £24 per quarter. Commissions paid are deducted from the fee.

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here to learn about how and why we work with partners.

Great for: novice investors looking for support

4 stars question mark
Barclays Logo
Apply Now!

On Barclays's Secure Website

* Affiliate partner

Barclays Smart Investor makes it easy to take your first step into investing. For those who are beginners, or short on time, it has five Ready-made Investment funds created and monitored by experts.

Read full review >

Risk Warning

Investments involve various risks, and you may get back less than you put in.

More details [+]

The value of your investments can go down as well as up and you may not get back all the money you put in. All investments carry a varying degree of risk and it’s important you understand the nature of these risks. The Motley Fool believes in building wealth through long-term investing and so we do not promote or encourage high-risk activities including day trading, CFDs, spread betting, cryptocurrencies, and forex.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • Ready-made Investment funds for novice investors.
  • Comprehensive Research Centre.
  • A cost calculator is available to help you to work out potential fees before committing to opening an account.
  • † The platform fee is £4 per month minimum, or the sum of 0.2% p.a of funds plus 0.1% p.a of other investments in the account, whichever is greater based on the value of your investment. This fee is capped at £125 per month.
  • ‡ Dealing charge is £3 per online transaction for funds and £6 per online transaction for all other investments. All automated regular investments are £1 per transaction. All telephone transactions are £25 each.

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here to learn about how and why we work with partners.

what we like

  • Five Ready-made Investment funds
  • Barclays' Funds List can help narrow down choices
  • Simple pricing structure and a cap on monthly fees
  • Platform Fee

    From £4

  • Share Dealing Charge

    From £3

Risk Warning

Investments involve various risks, and you may get back less than you put in.

- More details

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • Ready-made Investment funds for novice investors.
  • Comprehensive Research Centre.
  • A cost calculator is available to help you to work out potential fees before committing to opening an account.
  • † The platform fee is £4 per month minimum, or the sum of 0.2% p.a of funds plus 0.1% p.a of other investments in the account, whichever is greater based on the value of your investment. This fee is capped at £125 per month.
  • ‡ Dealing charge is £3 per online transaction for funds and £6 per online transaction for all other investments. All automated regular investments are £1 per transaction. All telephone transactions are £25 each.

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here to learn about how and why we work with partners.

Great for: intermediate and advanced traders

4 stars question mark
Saxo Markets logo
Apply Now!

On Saxo's Secure Website

In terms of resources, expertise and tools, Saxo Markets is easily among the best platforms I’ve seen. However, it is not the easiest to use. Beginners may find it daunting.

While the fees are not high, they are infuriatingly complicated. And investors need a £500 minimum to get started. These are factors to consider if opening a small account.

Read full review >

Risk Warning

Investments involve various risks, and you may get back less than you put in.

More details [+]

The value of your investments can go down as well as up and you may not get back all the money you put in. All investments carry a varying degree of risk and it’s important you understand the nature of these risks. The Motley Fool believes in building wealth through long-term investing and so we do not promote or encourage high-risk activities including day trading, CFDs, spread betting, cryptocurrencies, and forex.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • Platform may be daunting for beginners
  • Long-winded and complicated fee structure
  • £500 account minimum
  • † There’s no platform fee, so long as your account is active. However, if you “only hold cash funds”, you’re charged £25 per quarter.

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here to learn about how and why we work with partners.

what we like

  • Outstanding research tools and analysis
  • Enormous range of investment options
  • Free demo version available
  • PLATFORM FEE:

    £0.00†
  • Share dealing charge:

    £8.00

Risk Warning

Investments involve various risks, and you may get back less than you put in.

- More details

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • Platform may be daunting for beginners
  • Long-winded and complicated fee structure
  • £500 account minimum
  • † There’s no platform fee, so long as your account is active. However, if you “only hold cash funds”, you’re charged £25 per quarter.

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here to learn about how and why we work with partners.

Great for: simple and cheap investing.

5 stars question mark

If you want cheap and simple investing right at your fingertips, Freetrade could be the platform for you: the commission-free trading coupled with just a £2 minimum investment makes it a great app to dip your toes into the world of stock-picking. 

Read full review >

Risk Warning

Investments involve various risks, and you may get back less than you put in. Tax benefits depend on individual circumstances and tax rules, which could change.

More details [+]

The value of your investments can go down as well as up and you may not get back all the money you put in. All investments carry a varying degree of risk and it’s important you understand the nature of these risks. Remember that taxes can be complicated and the tax benefits of this product depends on your personal circumstances. Tax rules are subject to change. The Motley Fool believes in building wealth through long-term investing and so we do not promote or encourage high-risk activities including day trading, CFDs, spread betting, cryptocurrencies, and forex.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • Free trading with no commission charge.
  • No monthly, annual, or inactivity charges for a basic general investment account.
  • Invest from as little as £2.
  • Ability to purchase fractional shares of US companies.
  • Additional monthly account fees apply for a Freetrade Stocks & Shares ISA or Freetrade Plus account.
  • On non-UK trades, a foreign exchange (FX) rate is charged equal to the current spot rate plus 0.45%.

what we like

  • Free trading
  • Simple and straightforward account opening
  • Attractive mobile app platform
  • PLATFORM FEE:

    £0.00
  • Share dealing charge:

    £0.00

Risk Warning

Investments involve various risks, and you may get back less than you put in. Tax benefits depend on individual circumstances and tax rules, which could change.

- More details

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • Free trading with no commission charge.
  • No monthly, annual, or inactivity charges for a basic general investment account.
  • Invest from as little as £2.
  • Ability to purchase fractional shares of US companies.
  • Additional monthly account fees apply for a Freetrade Stocks & Shares ISA or Freetrade Plus account.
  • On non-UK trades, a foreign exchange (FX) rate is charged equal to the current spot rate plus 0.45%.

Great for: active traders looking for zero-commission trading on stocks.

4.5 stars question mark

“The world’s leading social trading platform”, global multi-asset investment platform eToro offers zero-commission trades on stocks, while there is no platform fee to pay. For those looking to trade stocks from the UK and beyond regularly, who are happy with a taxable, US$-denominated account, eToro might be a great choice.

Read full review >

Risk Warning

Investments involve various risks, and you may get back less than you put in.

More details [+]

The value of your investments can go down as well as up and you may not get back all the money you put in. All investments carry a varying degree of risk and it’s important you understand the nature of these risks. The Motley Fool believes in building wealth through long-term investing and so we do not promote or encourage high-risk activities including day trading, CFDs, spread betting, cryptocurrencies, and forex.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • Being able to see what other traders are up to, via eToro's social trading features, might be appealing to some.
  • eToro does allow and promote leveraged trading using CFDs, and alternative investments, which can lead to excessive risk and losses in excess of initial capital (at the time of writing, eToro stated that 67% of CFD traders on its platform lose money)
  • As all accounts are denominated in US$, there will be a conversion charge for deposits and withdrawals made in GBP. There is also a $5 withdrawal charge.
  • Free demo account and eToro Trading School resource (including webinars, courses, podcasts, guides, etc)
  • eToro does not offer an ISA or SIPP so this will be a taxable account.

what we like

  • Zero-commission trading on stocks
  • Access to a wide selection of UK and international stocks and ETFs
  • No platform fee
  • PLATFORM FEE:

    £0.00
  • Share dealing charge:

    £0.00

Risk Warning

Investments involve various risks, and you may get back less than you put in.

- More details

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • Being able to see what other traders are up to, via eToro's social trading features, might be appealing to some.
  • eToro does allow and promote leveraged trading using CFDs, and alternative investments, which can lead to excessive risk and losses in excess of initial capital (at the time of writing, eToro stated that 67% of CFD traders on its platform lose money)
  • As all accounts are denominated in US$, there will be a conversion charge for deposits and withdrawals made in GBP. There is also a $5 withdrawal charge.
  • Free demo account and eToro Trading School resource (including webinars, courses, podcasts, guides, etc)
  • eToro does not offer an ISA or SIPP so this will be a taxable account.

Great for: regular investing (rather than trading) in funds and shares

4.5 stars question mark

If you’re keen to trade much more frequently than one day a month on average, perhaps there are more suitable platforms for your needs. But it suits me to invest my savings on a set day each month; doing so keeps my trading fees extremely low, and as such I’m a very happy accountholder!

Read full review >

Risk Warning

Investments involve various risks, and you may get back less than you put in.

More details [+]

The value of your investments can go down as well as up and you may not get back all the money you put in. All investments carry a varying degree of risk and it’s important you understand the nature of these risks. The Motley Fool believes in building wealth through long-term investing and so we do not promote or encourage high-risk activities including day trading, CFDs, spread betting, cryptocurrencies, and forex.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • Competitive £9.50 dealing fee relates to online transactions only; Halifax charges a £25 commission for share-dealing over the phone
  • No monthly fees to use the platform
  • Only £2 per trade using the scheduled investment service
  • Comprehensive Share Centre
  • Online Funds Centre
  • Dividend Diary option where you can see companies due to pay dividends each month
  • **No monthly fees to use the platform; £36 customer administration fee (covering any and all accounts held) taken annually.

what we like

  • Competitive reduced dealing commission once a month
  • No annual platform charge
  • Flat rate pricing avoids any confusing percentage-based fees
  • PLATFORM FEE:

    £0**
  • Share dealing charge:

    £9.50

Risk Warning

Investments involve various risks, and you may get back less than you put in.

- More details

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • Competitive £9.50 dealing fee relates to online transactions only; Halifax charges a £25 commission for share-dealing over the phone
  • No monthly fees to use the platform
  • Only £2 per trade using the scheduled investment service
  • Comprehensive Share Centre
  • Online Funds Centre
  • Dividend Diary option where you can see companies due to pay dividends each month
  • **No monthly fees to use the platform; £36 customer administration fee (covering any and all accounts held) taken annually.

What is a share dealing broker?

Share dealing brokers essentially just refer to companies online that act as brokers for investors looking to buy and sell shares. And while humans are still often involved in the process, there are often computers matching the buyers and sellers. 

In the past, we could say that brokers were the actual people that facilitated the buying and selling of shares. Today, it’s as often referring to a platform on which you buy shares and sell them. In short, when we talk about brokers, we’re talking about the companies and people that facilitate the buying and selling of shares. Simple as that.

How have trading platforms in the UK changed over time?

As mentioned, in the past, a broker might actually be a person that you’d go to — or call on the phone — for help buying or selling shares in a company. You’d say, for instance, “I’d like to buy 1,000 shares of Walt’s Wheat Ltd for less than £5 per share” and the broker would hit the phones to try to find somebody else willing to sell you those 100 shares at the price you’re hoping for. And that broker would almost always charge you a very generous commission for those services.

Today, you can still find these ‘full-service brokers’. Though maybe not as comparably expensive as in the past, they’re still quite expensive. And they’re probably not terribly interested in working with you unless your account has seven digits or more.

One of the biggest changes to this picture in our lifetimes was the rise of online share dealing brokers. These are websites focused on enabling you to trade the shares you want, quickly, easily and at a much lower cost than the full-service brokers. This was a massive change in the industry, because the commissions that online brokers charge make it much more attractive for investors of all wealth levels to invest in shares. These days, most brokers charge £12 or less for a standard share trade. And while the full-service brokers look for massive account sizes, account minimums at online brokers are typically very low, if there’s a minimum at all.

This landscape continues to change though. As online share dealing brokers continue to grow, they’re offering more and more services that you’d previously only expect to find at a full-service broker. So depending on how much assistance you need placing trades or researching shares, you can find online brokers that offer a higher level of support.

Reasons to choose an online broker

The answer here may seem simple: cost. For many investors, the cost of a full-service broker eats up most, all or even more-than-all of their investment gains. It simply doesn’t make sense. So the low fees of an online share dealing broker make much more sense for investors without massive portfolios. Which, of course, isn’t to say that investors with massive portfolios shouldn’t use online brokers — after all, doesn’t everyone love saving money?

But the appeal of an online brokerage account goes beyond the fact that the fees are much more attractive. Here are a few additional reasons that we like online brokers:

  • Ease of use — Fancy making share trades in your pyjamas? With an online broker you can do exactly that. There’s no need to leave your house, no need to even pick up the phone. With an online broker, you can simply turn on your computer — or, in many cases, your mobile — and you can quickly be investing.
  • Research — Not all online brokers offer research as part of their platform, but many do. And while it’s important to come to your own conclusions about your investments, getting additional insight from quality research can be helpful in the process
  • Screeners and other tools — Like the research, it varies from broker to broker whether you’ll have access to screeners and other investing tools. However, many online brokers, even those with the lowest commissions, do have tools that you can use to quickly narrow down the daunting number of companies to an easier list to research.
  • Low account minimums — It’s not uncommon to find online brokers now that have no account minimum. And those that do tend to have low minimums. That means that you can start investing earlier in your financial life. And at least in the past, the earlier you started investing, the better off you were.

What is the best online trading platform in the UK?

There’s no one-size-fits-all here, so when choosing an online broker, it’s important to consider your needs and not get hung up with an outside view of which broker is the ‘best’ (yes, even if that’s our ‘best’!).

To do this, you’ll want to consider what is most important to you in your broker. The top online brokers have compelling offerings, but these offerings vary slightly and will advantage certain investors. To make the best choice, it may help to consider what kind of investor you are, since that can help match you up with one online investment account or another.

Here are a few examples of investor types and what type of broker that might match well with:

Brand new to investing

Beginner investors will probably want a balanced offering. Paying sky high commissions won’t work, since you likely don’t have a very big portfolio. But the stripped-down platforms that you find with most ultra-low-cost brokers may prove bewildering to a new investor. A bigger name online broker with a balanced offering will also likely offer tools and research that can help a new investor start off on the right foot.

Steady fund-focused investor

This type of investor will want to look for an online stock broker that offers a broad selection of funds, and/or a good selection of low-fee funds. If you’re this kind of investor, you’ll also want to aim to steer clear of fund custody fees and inactivity fees.

Hardcore investing veteran

As someone with many years of experience, this kind of investor can typically leave aside extra research and a pretty interface in favor of dirt-cheap commissions. They still may want some screeners and other tools to help in their search for the very best shares, but even the lowest-rate online brokers tend to have some tools for their customers.

Of course this doesn’t cover all of the possible types of investors. And even among these three types there may be crossovers. For instance, a hardcore investing veteran may be willing to pay a bit more in commission in order to have access to research. And perhaps there’s a brand new investor that’s not scared off by a spartan investing interface. But the bottom line is to understand what your needs are as an investor, and look for those features in your online broker.

How to buy shares online

Deciding which company’s shares to invest in is beyond the scope of this page (though you can find help with that at Motley Fool UK). Once you’ve figured out which shares you want to buy though, the rest is pretty easy.

Each publicly listed company has a “ticker symbol” — a short combination of letters — that lets you call up those shares quickly. Marks & Spencer Group has the ticker symbol ‘MKS’, while GlaxoSmithKline is ‘GSK’ and Sainsbury’s is ‘SBRY’. You may not know the ticker symbol for the shares you want to purchase, and that’s ok, since most online brokers also have a ticker-symbol lookup tool that allows you to find a ticker based on the company’s name.

Once you’ve landed on the trading page for the shares you want to trade, you’ll need to decide what type of order you want to place. The two most popular order types are ‘market’ and ‘limit’ orders. A market order tells your broker that you want to buy X number of shares of that company at the best price the market offers when the trade goes through. By contrast, a limit order specifies a price for the shares, so you might specify buying X number of shares at or below 450p per share.

Is one type of trade better than the other? Not really, but a limit order is generally safer than a market order. That’s because you’re assured that your broker won’t buy the shares if the price spikes above the price that you’re comfortable with. The main ‘risk’ with a limit order is that the price does go above your limit and you don’t get the shares. In that case, you have the chance to reconsider and, if you feel comfortable with a higher price, you can put in a new limit order with a higher limit price.

Where this becomes particularly important is when trading shares of a company that has low trading volume. The reason is that this type of share can exhibit very large price swings. If you’re trading shares of GlaxoSmithKline, there are so many shares trading that it’s very unusual that the price will move more than a few percentage points per day. With smaller, less-traded shares, prices can easily move 5% or 10% in a single day, and if you place a market order at the wrong time, you might be sorely disappointed at the price you end up with. So with small, less-traded shares, limit orders are particularly smart.

Once your order is placed, you’ll be alerted by your broker when that order has been ‘filled’ and the shares will appear in your portfolio. For a highly-traded share that you buy with a market order, completing the trade could happen in a fraction of a second. While a limit order on a thinly-traded share could take hours to complete, if your broker is able to fill the trade at all.

And that’s it! While becoming a good investor takes patience, study and practice, buying the shares isn’t terribly complicated at all.

How we chose our top share dealing accounts

There are a lot of features to use to compare online broker accounts. Below are the elements we focused on in creating our ratings.

  • Platform fee – Sometimes this is called a ‘platform fee’, sometimes it’s a ‘monthly fee’ and sometimes it may be called something else, but the bottom line is that this is an ongoing fee that you have to pay to maintain your account. In some cases it’s paid monthly, while in others you pay once per quarter. In general, we prefer the lowest fees possible, and like it even better when a share dealer doesn’t charge any platform fee at all.
  • Dealing fees – Dealing fees (or trading fees) are the fees you pay when you buy or sell shares. Like the platform fee, this is pretty simple: We like lower dealing fees! That keeps money in your account and helps your portfolio grow faster.
  • Fund charges – In some cases, brokers charge management fees if you hold funds (as opposed to just shares) in your portfolio. These charges vary more than most other fees you’ll face, so if you plan to hold funds in your account, it’s a very good idea to pay attention to these fees.
  • Overseas dealing charges – When you purchase shares outside of the UK, there are often extra charges that come along with that. In some cases this is a currency conversion fee (a percentage of your trade value), in some cases it’s a flat fee and in some cases it’s a conversion fee plus an additional flat fee. Once again, we awarded share trading platforms that kept these fees as low as possible.
  • Platform features – Stock screeners, market news and third-party research can help investors find new shares to invest in. We gave extra points to those share dealing accounts that have better research and screening tools.
  • User friendliness – Some share dealing accounts are simply easier to use than others. In these accounts, navigating the site, placing trades and managing your portfolio is more straightforward and makes life easier for newer investors in particular. ‘Pro’ investors may be fine to trade user-friendliness for lower trading fees, but we awarded points for platforms that were easier to use.
  • Introductory offers – We love an extra boost, and so it’s great when a trading platform offers that in the form of free trades or discounted trades for some period of time after you open your account.

Why you can trust us

Here at The Motley Fool, we aim to do right by you. We’re looking for the best financial products, and we try to lay out the pros and the cons of those products for you in plain English. The financial world can often seem dark and tangled, so our hope is to help shed some light and untangle it. As a company, we’ve been doing this for more than two decades, in the UK, the US, Australia, Germany, and beyond. When our work can help make someone’s financial life just a bit easier or richer, we consider that a job well done.

Investing in the stock market: for experts only?

One concern that new investors may have is that investing in the stock market is only for professionals. Make no mistake about it: Investing in the stock market puts your money at risk, and you can lose money. Full stop.

So why bother trading stocks at all? The answer is that in exchange for putting their money at risk, stock market investors in past years have been rewarded with returns that have often bested other types of investments.

The trick then, is to understand how to buy shares and trade stocks with less risk. And indeed there are some things you can do when buying shares that will make it less likely that you’ll lose a large share, or all, of your money. Here are a few tips that could help:

  • Avoid higher-risk trading – Not all online trading is equally risky. Trading penny stocks, CFD trading, forex trading, spread betting, and day trading are all forms of higher-risk trading. We won’t delve right now into when and whether these are appropriate, but if you’re a beginner, these will be far riskier for you.
  • Think long term – Day trading tends to be just that — trading that jumps in and out of stocks in a day or less. And often when people speak of ‘stock trader’, they’re referring to someone trading stocks over relatively short periods. Investing for the long term can often help reduce risk and improve returns. This is because investing for the long term can help ‘smooth out’ the random swings in the stock market and help you take advantage of compounding returns.
  • Consider a mutual fund, index tracker or ETF instead of individual stocks – Individual stocks can be great investments, but your entire investment rides on the success (or failure) of that one company. By investing in a mutual fund, index tracker or ETF (exchange traded fund) you instantly diversify your investment, thereby reducing your overall risk.
  • Buy shares that you understand – Each share of stock represents a share ownership in a real company. Investing successfully means understanding what you’re investing in and why. There are thousands of companies listed on the London Stock Exchange and thousands more on stock exchanges around the world. That means lots to choose from. Especially when you’re just starting buying shares, why not choose companies that you already understand? That could mean companies that you already do business with or it could mean companies that you are very familiar with from your profession.
  • Limit how much you invest – I’ve saved this for last, since, when it comes to lowering risk, this may be the most important stock trading tip of all. When you’re buying shares online, you can only lose what you invest. So if you invest less, you have the potential to lose less. The opposite is true as well. That is, when you invest less money, you stand to profit less from your investing. But when you’re just learning, this is a great way to reduce risk.

There are major benefits from investing in stocks. But it is very possible to lose money. And so it’s important that you make the ‘investment’ to learn about investing, how to invest well and how to limit your risk — especially when you’re starting out.



Frequently Asked Questions

What makes a good online share dealing account?

The short answer is: low fees, a wide selection of investments, an easy-to-use trading platform, and good investment research and tools.

The slightly longer answer is that you should find a balance among those elements to find a platform that fits your needs.

How do you choose a stock broker?

Start by considering your needs as an investor. If you're brand new to investing, for example, you may want to choose a broker that offers a simple-to-use site and plenty of investment research to buy and sell shares. If you're more experienced, you could prioritise simply choosing the broker that keeps your fees the lowest.

How do I buy shares in the UK?

In order to buy shares, you'll need a share dealing account. This is where you'll buy, sell and hold your shares. Once you're set up with a share dealing account, you need to decide which shares you want to buy (how to do that requires a much longer answer!). Once you've decided on the shares to buy, you will place the trade through your share dealing service. Looking for more help? Check out this guide to learn more about online share dealing

What is the best online trading platform in the UK?

There’s no one-size-fits-all here, so when choosing an online broker, it’s important to consider your needs and not get hung up with an outside view of which broker is the ‘best’ (yes, even if that’s our ‘best’!).

To do this, you’ll want to consider what is most important to you in your broker. The top online brokers have compelling offerings, but these offerings vary slightly and will advantage certain investors. To make the best choice, it may help to consider what kind of investor you are, since that can help match you up with one online investment account or another.


Learn more about share dealing


The Motley Fool receives compensation from some advertisers who provide products and services that may be covered by our editorial team. It’s one way we make money. But know that our editorial integrity and transparency matters most and our ratings aren’t influenced by compensation. The statements above are The Motley Fool’s alone and have not been provided or endorsed by bank advertisers.