Stock brokers let you buy and sell stocks and shares as well as other investments such as bonds, ETFs and funds. We have ranked, compared and reviewed some of the best stock brokers in the UK regulated by the FCA to help you choose the most appropriate stock broker for your investment objectives.
Best Stock Brokers 2022
Our picks for the best online stock broking accounts are based on over 7,000 votes in our annual awards, our own experiences testing the accounts as well as an in-depth comparison of the features that make them stand out compared to alternatives.
Hargreaves Lansdown: Best stock broker 2022
Hargreaves Lansdown is ranked as our best online stock broker in the UK. It won the 2022 and 2021 Good Money Guide award for best full-service stock broker because of it’s capped account fees, market range and research.
Managed or DIY?
0% – 0.45%
Interactive Investor: Best fix-fee stock account
Interactive Investor is a low-cost online stock broker offers investors access to over 40,000 shares in over 20 markets. The flat account fee helps keep costs down for large portfolios and you get one free trade per month for smaller accounts.
Managed or DIY?
£9.99 a month
AJ Bell Youinvest: Best for low-cost stock investing
AJ Bell Youinvest has the cheapest account fee for all the stock brokers we feature. The dealing account is low cost and unlimited. where you can invest as much as you want, whenever you want.
Managed or DIY?
Bestinvest: Good for investment advice and low costs
Bestinvest has combined low-cost online investing and share dealing with personalised expert advice to help clients choose the right investments for their portfolio. A good choice for large long-term investors.
Managed or DIY?
*0.2% account fee is for holding ready-made portfolios. above £500,000 it reduces to 0.1%. For other investments the account fee is 0.4% up to £250k. Dealing commissions £4.95 per online share trade, fund dealing is free.
What is an online stock broker?
An online stock broker is a company that buys and sells shares and other investments on behalf of its clients. However, in some cases, stockbrokers go beyond the standard trade execution role and offer extra services. For example, some brokers provide advice on which stocks to buy and sell and how to build an investment portfolio.
There are three main types of stock broker:
- Execution-only stock brokers only provide basic share dealing services and do not offer any investment advice.
- Advisory stock brokers provide share dealing services and also provide advice on what shares to buy and sell.
- Discretionary stock brokers manage your money for you and make trades on your behalf.
Most stock brokers charge commissions for executing trades as well as annual custody fees for holding your money in an account.
Here is how to invest in stocks online.
How to Find a Good Online Stock Broker
A stock broker is a type of investment platform that executes share transactions on behalf of clients.
Stock broking has changed a lot over the last few decades due to advances in technology. Today, most stock brokers operate online. Yet the process of buying and selling shares is broadly the same as it was in the past – you place a trade with your broker and the broker then executes the transaction for you.
When choosing a stock broker, there are a number of things to consider. In this guide, we look at what you should consider when comparing brokers, and highlight some of the best UK stock brokers for different types of investors.
Stock brokers explained
A stock broker is a firm that buys and sells shares for clients and then holds the shares in investment accounts on behalf of the clients.
Shares are investments that represent ownership in companies. They are traded on stock exchanges such as the London Stock Exchange, the New York Stock Exchange, and the Nasdaq Stock Exchange. Stock brokers essentially act as an intermediary between investors and the world’s stock exchanges.
Without a stock broker, you have very limited options when it comes to buying and selling shares.
How are online stock brokers regulated?
Almost all firms offering financial services in the UK must be registered with and authorised by the UK’s financial regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
When a stock broker is regulated by the FCA, it is bound by the regulator’s rules and regulations. This provides you with a certain level of protection. For example, FCA-regulated platforms are required to hold clients’ assets and investments separately from their own assets. Similarly, clients’ cash must be held in trust accounts with authorised UK banks. This can protect you if the stock broker goes bust.
If an FCA-regulated provider becomes insolvent, and you suffer a financial loss as a result, you will be protected under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) up to £85,000.
You should never use a UK stock broker that is not regulated by the FCA. If you trade with an unregulated broker, you are taking a major risk with your money. You can find out if a firm is authorised by the FCA on the FCA Register here.
At Good Money Guide, we only review stock brokers that are authorised and regulated by the FCA. This means that they are duty-bound to protect clients’ money and follow trading and investing regulations.
For more information on the importance of regulation read our guide to investment scams.
How to choose the best stock broker
The best stock broker for you will depend on your personal circumstances and requirements. For example, if you are new to investing, you may need a stock broker that offers basic educational resources and good customer support. However, if you are a more advanced investor, you may need a broker that offers access to many different markets as well as sophisticated investment and trading tools.
Some things to consider when comparing stock brokers include:
- The range of shares offered by each broker. This is particularly important if you plan to invest in international shares. Some brokers only offer access to a limited range of international markets.
- The different types of accounts offered by each stock broker. Some brokers offer access to a range of different accounts including general investment accounts, Stocks & Shares ISAs, Lifetime ISAs, and Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) accounts. Others, however, only offer general and online share dealing. Tax-efficient accounts such as ISAs and SIPPs can help you minimise your tax liabilities.
Research & Added Value
- The investment tools and research provided by each stock broker. Some brokers offer a range of features that can help you make better investment decisions such as stock screeners, fundamental data sets, and charts. Others, however, just offer basic trading services.
- The user-friendliness of each broker’s platform. Ideally, you want a platform that is well laid out, easy to use, and can be accessed via an app so that you can monitor your account and place trades on the go.
Customer Service & Reviews
- The customer service and support offered by each stock broker. Some brokers are better than others when it comes to providing customer support. Service and support can be important, particularly if you are new to investing. You may need help placing a trade.
- The reliability of each broker’s platform. Some platforms are more reliable than others, particularly during periods of market volatility. This shouldn’t be overlooked as it can be very frustrating if you cannot access your investment account because the platform is down.
Costs & Fees
- The fee structure of each broker. Every stock broker has a different fee structure. This needs to be considered carefully because fees and charges can have a big impact on your overall investment returns over time. Some fees and charges to consider include trading commissions, annual custody charges, entry fees, and exit fees. Some brokers offer fee calculators that allow you to compare fees. These can be useful when comparing platforms. The cheapest stock broker is not necessarily the best option for you.
- The trustworthiness of each platform. It’s important to find a stock broker that you can trust. A good place to start is to check that the broker is regulated by the FCA.
It’s a good idea to check user reviews of a few different firms when comparing different stock brokers. You can find stock broker reviews on Good Money Guide and on other review sites such as Trustpilot. Customer reviews will give you a better idea of the broker’s customer service levels and reliability.
What is the best stock trading app?
In recent years, stock trading apps have become very popular. These apps allow you to monitor your portfolio and make trades on the go via devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Stock trading apps can vary in quality. The best apps are:
- Well laid out and easy to use
- Able to provide access to most account features
- Able to provide access to financial data so that you can make well-informed investment decisions
- Highly secure with two-factor authentication and/or biometric login features
- Reliable and free of bugs
- Available on multiple devices
Three top UK stock trading apps include:
Hargreaves Lansdown (App Store rating: 4.7)
Hargreaves Lansdown offers a high-quality investing app that enables you to:
- Buy and sell thousands of investments including domestic and international shares, bonds, ETFs and investment trusts, and over 3,000 funds
- Manage your investments and view your transaction history
- Top up and withdraw cash on the go
- Login with fingerprint or Face ID
- Access fund and share factsheets
- Create watchlists
- Track market movements
- Access research from Hargreaves Lansdown’s investment experts
- Set stop and limit orders
On the downside, Hargreaves Lansdown’s fees and charges are higher than those offered by some other providers.
AJ Bell Youinvest (App Store rating: 4.7)
AJ Bell Youinvest offers a well-designed, easy-to-use app that allows you to:
- Trade shares on the go
- Access shares in 24 markets including the US, Canada, and most European markets
- View and check the value of your portfolio
- View all your current active trades
- Track market movements
- Read and send secure messages
On the downside, AJ Bell Youinvest doesn’t offer as many investment options as Hargreaves Lansdown.
What is the best stock broker for beginners?
Some stock brokers are better suited to beginner investors than others. Generally speaking, those that are new to investing need a broker that offers basic educational resources, good customer support, and low fees.
Some reasons that Hargreaves Lansdown is well suited to beginners are:
- Buying and selling shares through its platform is straightforward.
- The platform provides access to plenty of educational resources.
- Customer service is excellent.
- The website and app are reliable and easy to use.
On the downside, Hargreaves Lansdown’s fees are higher than those of some other providers.
What is the best stock broker for low-value investments?
If you are only investing a small amount of money, it’s important to find a stock broker that has low fees and charges.
One of the best low-cost UK stock brokers is Freetrade. With Freetrade, you can buy shares commission-free (there are FX fees on international shares). You can also buy ‘fractional’ shares. Freetrade won the 2021 Good Money Guide award for Best Commission-Free Stock Broker.
On the downside, Freetrade’s range of investments is quite limited compared to other brokers. It also offers far less research and investment tools than other providers do.
Which brokers offer MT4 and MT5 stocks?
MetaTrader 4 (MT4) and MetaTrader 5 (MT 5) are electronic trading platforms that are widely used by traders. With these platforms, you can analyse financial markets, perform technical analysis, set up trading signals, and automate your trading with algorithms.
In the UK, a number of brokers offer access to MT4 and MT5 including IG, CMC Markets, and FxPro. It’s worth pointing out, however, that CMC and FxPro specialise in Contracts for Difference (CFD) trading or financial spread betting. You cannot buy shares directly through these platforms.
How to switch to a different stock broker
Switching to a different stock broker is usually quite a straightforward process.
The first step is to contact the broker you wish to switch to and apply to transfer your investments. This usually involves completing a form. The new stock broker will then contact your old provider and begin the transfer.
The transfer time will depend on a few variables including the providers you are using and the nature of your investments. Some providers are more efficient than others when it comes to handling transfers.
Can you move stocks from one broker to another?
Often, you can transfer your shares and investments directly from one broker to another. Transferring an investment directly is known as an ‘in-specie’ transfer. Not all providers allow you to do this, however. For example, Freetrade does not currently support in-specie transfers out although it does support in-specie transfers in.
How do you start trading stocks?
The first step is to open an account with a reputable stock broker. This is usually a relatively straightforward process. You will need to provide the broker with your personal details including your name, address, and phone number. You will most likely have to provide some identification and proof of address.
You will also need to choose what kind of investment account you wish to trade shares in. In the UK, you can trade stocks within a number of different types of investment accounts including a:
General Investing Account
- A general investing account is a standard dealing account. With this type of account, you can contribute as much money as you want and access your money whenever you want. The downside to this type of account is that it will offer no protection from Capital Gains Tax or Income Tax.
Stocks & Shares ISA
- A stocks & shares ISA is a tax-efficient product that shelters capital gains and income from HMRC. You can invest up to £20,000 per year in this type of account.
- A Lifetime ISA is a tax-efficient product designed to help people save for retirement or to purchase their first home. It is open to those aged 18-39. Contributions into this type of account come with a 25% bonus while you’re under the age of 50. The annual allowance is £4,000.
Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP)
- Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP). This is a government-approved personal pension account. With this type of account, capital gains and income are sheltered from HMRC. However, you cannot touch the money until you turn 55 and it is subject to income tax upon withdrawal.
Once your account is set up, the next step is to fund it. Again, this should be a relatively simple process. Usually, you can fund your account via your debit card in a matter of minutes. Once the transaction has been authorised, your funds will show up in your account. Once your account is set up and funded, you can then set about trading stocks.
While every platform is different, most operate in a similar way. To buy shares, for example, you simply search the platform for the company you’re interested in and then click through to the company’s page. Here, you’ll receive a quote for the security. You then enter the trade details (i.e. how much money you want to invest) and confirm the transaction.
Different types of investing with a stock broker
Before you start trading stocks, it’s a good idea to think about your financial goals and risk tolerance and develop an appropriate investment strategy. Some of the main investment strategies that are commonly pursued by stock market investors include:
- Growth investing involves investing in companies that are expected to grow faster than the market average. Growth stocks can offer high potential returns, however, they can also be quite volatile, which means that they can be riskier.
- Value investing involves investing in companies that are trading at a discount to their true value. The idea is that if a stock is trading below its true value, it’s undervalued, and, therefore, may rise over time.
- Sustainable investing: this involves investing in companies that meet environment, social and governance (ESG) criteria. Sustainable investors often avoid stocks in sectors such as oil, tobacco, and defence.
Dividend & Income Investing
- Dividend (income) investing involves investing in companies that pay regular dividends. Dividend investing is popular among retirees and those looking to generate passive income.
- Small-cap investing: this involves investing in small companies. Smaller companies often produce higher returns than larger companies over time, however, their stocks are generally more volatile than those of larger companies.
These investment strategies are not mutually exclusive. It’s possible to combine a number of different strategies. Which strategy is best for you will depend on a number of factors including your financial goals and risk tolerance.
What is the best company to invest in?
The best companies to invest in will depend on your financial goals, risk tolerance, and investment horizon.
If your goal is to generate growth over the long term from shares, it can pay to invest in high-quality companies in the same way that top investors like Warren Buffett and Terry Smith do.
High-quality companies come in different shapes and sizes, however, they tend to have a few things in common including:
- An excellent product or service
- A competitive advantage that prevents competitors from stealing market share
- Strong long-term growth prospects
- A high level of profitability
- A strong balance sheet
- Good management
When investing in shares, it’s important to take a diversified approach. By spreading your money over many different companies, you can reduce your overall portfolio risk significantly.
Selling your shares through a stock broker is typically a straightforward process. All you need to do is place an order detailing the stock you wish to sell and the number of shares you wish to sell. The shares will then be sold.
Most stock brokers allow you to set up ‘limit orders’ when selling stocks. With a limit order, you can state the minimum price you wish to sell at.
What are the different types of stock trading available?
There are two main ways of trading stocks.
Physical share dealing
The second way is to trade stock price movements via Contracts for Difference (CFDs). CFDs are financial instruments that enable you to profit from a security’s price movements without actually owning the underlying security. With CFDs, you can trade in both directions and also use leverage to increase your exposure. Brokers that offer CFD trading include IG, CMC Markets, and Saxo Markets.
How much do stock brokers charge?
Fees and charges vary from broker to broker. The main charges to look out for include:
- Trading commissions are the fees that brokers charge to buy and sell shares. Typically, they range from around £7 to £12 per trade. However, some brokers offer lower trading commissions for those who trade often. Some, such as Freetrade, also offer commission-free trading.
Foreign exchange fees
- FX fees. These are usually due on international share deals. FX fees on platforms such as Hargreaves Lansdown and AJ Bell Youinvest are around 1% of the trade’s value.
- Annual custody fees are annual account fees and they vary significantly among brokers. Hargreaves Lansdown, for example, charges 0.45% per year, capped at £45 per year (£200 for SIPPs). By contrast, Freetrade has no fees for its basic General Investing Account.
Entry & exit fees
- Most providers do not charge entry or exit fees these day but some providers do. Exit fees are charged when you move your shares or funds from one stock broker to another.
There are many cheap stock brokers today, however, the cheapest provider is not always the best option. Those that have higher fees tend to offer more reliable platforms, more investment options, better customer service, and more tools and research.
How does a stock broker make money?
Stock brokers make money in several ways including:
- Trading fees. Most brokers charge commissions to buy and sell shares.
- Trading spreads. A spread is the difference between the price to buy the stock and the price to sell the stock.
- Annual or monthly account fees.
- Interest on clients’ cash savings.
- Payment for order flow.
Stock broker FAQs
Can you invest in the stock market without a broker?
It is sometimes possible to invest in the stock market without a broker. For example, if you participate in an Initial Public Offering (IPO) or dividend reinvestment plan, you may not need a broker to buy shares.
How do stock brokers execute trades?
Stock brokers in the UK typically execute trades through the Retail Service Provider (RSP) network. The RSP network facilitates the interaction of retail brokers and market makers / liquidity providers.
When you place a trade through a broker, the broker sends an electronic request for a price quote to a pool of market makers. These market makers then return quotes to the broker who selects the best price. You then have a period of up to 30 seconds to decide whether to accept the quote.
How to sell stock certificates without a broker
You can sell stock certificates without a broker by using a certified share dealing service. A number of companies offer this, including Shareview.
Where to sell stock certificates without a broker
You can sell stock certificates through Equiniti’s Shareview service. Equiniti is a British outsourcing business that is focused on financial and administration services. Its Shareview feature offers one-off trading for share certificates without setting up an account. Shareview Dealing allows you to sell share certificates for a one-off fee in all companies where Equiniti is the registrar.
What is a stock broker conviction buy?
A ‘conviction buy’ stock is a stock that a stock broker believes will produce good returns for investors. Stock brokers put conviction buy ratings on stocks that they believe will outperform the market.
What happens when a stock broker closes?
When you invest with a regulated stock broker, your assets are kept separate from the broker’s own assets. This means that if the broker goes bankrupt, your assets will be protected (although there may be a delay in getting them back).
If a stock broker is taken over by another company, your shares will usually be transferred onto the new company’s platform.
Where can you find a private stock broker?
While most stock brokers today are based online, you can still find private client stock brokers that offer more traditional services. You can find private client brokers by searching online.
How are stock investment gains taxed?
Stock investment gains are subject to Capital Gains Tax (CGT). This is a tax that you can be required to pay when you sell or dispose of an asset for a profit.
Everyone in the UK has an annual Capital Gains Tax allowance. For the 2021-22 tax year, this is £12,300. This means that any gains realised under this amount incur no Capital Gains Tax. CGT is due on gains above this amount, however.
One way to minimise CGT liabilities is to buy shares within a Stocks & Shares ISA. In this kind of investment account, all capital gains are tax-free.
Do stock brokers contact HMRC about share payments?
Generally speaking, stock brokers do not contact HMRC about share payments. It is up to you to declare these payments to HMRC.
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