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Our updated guide to help you find the best online broker

Okay, UK investors, after taking the pain of creating a whopping great comparison guide to the UK’s leading online brokers, we’ve once again returned to the battlefield to fully update it.

Eating a bag of rusty nails water would have been more fun, but it would not have produced a quick and easy overview of all the main execution-only investment services.

Fund supermarkets, platforms, discount brokers, call ’em what you will – we’ve stripped ’em down to their undies for you to eyeball over a cup of tea and your favourite tranquilizers.

Online brokers laid bare in our comparison table

Who’s the best broker?

It’s impossible to say. There are too many subtle differences in the offers. The UK’s brokers occupy more niches than the mammal family, and while I know which one is best for me, I can’t know which one is right for you.

What I have done is laser focus the comparison onto the most important factor in play: Cost.

An execution-only broker is not on this Earth to hold anyone’s hand. Yes, we want their website to work, we’d prefer them to not screw us over, go bust or send us to the seventh circle of call centre hell… These things we take for granted.

So customer service metrics are not included in this table. It’s purely a bare-knuckle contest of brute cost for services rendered.

Why should investors flay costs as if they were the tattooed agents of darkness? Because if – as the FCA predicted – you will see an annual after-inflation return of 2.5% on your portfolio for the next decade, then the last thing you need is to leak another 1% in portfolio management charges.

This makes picking the best value broker a key battleground for all investors.

Using the table

I’ve decided the main UK brokers fall into three main camps. These are:

  • Fixed fee brokers – Charge one price for platform services regardless of the size of your assets. In other words, they might charge you £100 per year whether your portfolio is worth £1,000 or £1 million. Generally, if you’ve got more than £25,000 stashed away then you definitely want to look at this end of the market. Bear in mind that fixed fee doesn’t mean you won’t also be tapped up for dealing monies and a laundry list of other charges.
  • Percentage fee brokers – This is where the wealthy need to be careful. These guys charge a percentage of your assets, say 0.3% per year. For a portfolio of £1,000 that would amount to a fee of £3. On £1 million you’d be paying £3,000. Small investors should generally use percentage fee brokers, but even surprisingly moderate rollers are better off with fixed fees. Many percentage fee brokers use fee caps and tiered charges to limit the damage but the price advantage still favours the fixed fee outfits in most cases.
  • Share dealing platforms – Platforms that suit investors who want to deal solely in shares and ETFs. Sites like X-O and friends fill this brief.

Choosing the right broker needn’t be any more painful than ensuring it offers the investments you want and then running a few numbers on your portfolio.

The final point you need to know is that this table’s vitality relies on crowd-sourcing. I review the whole thing every three months, but it can be permanently up-to-date if you contact us or leave a comment every time you find an inaccuracy, fresh information, or a platform you think should be added.

Thanks to your efforts as much as ours, our broker comparison table has become an invaluable resource for UK investors.

Take it steady,

The Accumulator

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{ 216 comments… add one }
  • 151 SemiPassive May 4, 2016, 6:29 pm

    I’ll second Naeclue, if you have a reasonable pot and are holding mainly ETFs and investment trusts H-L aren’t bad at all due to the capped charges.
    There is automatic dividend reinvestment for ETFs.

    You can set up regular investment plans for most common investment trusts as well for only £1.50 per month so easy to drip feed.
    My only gripe is you cannot do the same for ETFs, so you have to make larger but less frequent buys when it comes to them.

  • 152 FIREplanter May 5, 2016, 12:59 am

    @SemiPassive

    Check out #16 @ Re Regular Investing http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=5448806#topofpage

    I haven’t tried it myself, but the regular investing feature seems to be quite flexible and there’s nothing to stop us from using it as a quarterly investment tool. And it should work with etfs as well as shares don’t see why it shouldn’t.

  • 153 SemiPassive May 5, 2016, 9:11 am

    That doesn’t seem to talk about H-L. And no intention of changing providers at the moment.
    The H-L regular investment picker has a dropdown box that lets you pick FTSE-listed shares and investment trusts but it doesn’t show any ETFs. There is no technical reason why it couldn’t – you can choose them for one off buys after all – so presumably it is a business one to encourage use of the OEIC funds that they promote.

  • 154 Pedro May 5, 2016, 10:14 am

    So tl;dr on 150 comments… 🙂 AJ Bell is dealing fees only and probably best bet for a new infrequent trading 90% buy and hold ‘forever’ individual shares+ETF’s ISA?

  • 155 Rob May 8, 2016, 10:09 am

    If you don’t need the tax wrapper you can save money by bypassing the broker altogether and invest directly.

  • 156 The Investor May 8, 2016, 3:28 pm

    @Rob — Everyone should use the tax wrapper. Not doing so is a diabolical decision.

  • 157 Neil June 15, 2016, 9:16 am

    Hi,

    I’ve got a S&S ISA with HL, and have just ordered Vanguard LifeStrategy 80. It offered the choice of income or accumulation. I chose the latter. However, does it really matter which one?

    Also, my total ISA fund is just over £43,000. Is HL the best platform? I find the 0.45 fee quite high, but I can’t work out if it would be cheaper elsewhere. I thought I read about a fixed fee on this forum, but I can’t find reference to it on the HL site. When I tried to research platforms before, it turned out this fund wasn’t available on some other platforms.

    Thanks for your advice.

  • 158 Paul June 19, 2016, 7:03 pm

    Hi. One year into the excitement of passive investing so new to it all.

    Have used Bestinvest for my full ISA entitlement 15/16 and didn’t really know why I chose this platform. I am fund only so a charge of 0.4% seemed ok. For example Charles Stanley is 0.25%, so, better.

    My question is, has anyone ever transferred their ISA, is it a pain, is it easy and what problems does it bring, or more importantly, any costs involved? I do have five ETF/Shares to transfer, as well as funds.

    In the long term 0.15% seems worth it.

  • 159 The Accumulator June 20, 2016, 8:40 pm
  • 160 Neil August 10, 2016, 8:00 pm

    Youinvest are changing the charge system. Details below:

    What are the changes?

    We are removing the SIPP custody charge of between £5 and £25 per quarter (depending on the value of the SIPP)
    We are removing the £50 plus VAT administration charge for customers in income drawdown where no income is being paid
    We are simplifying our charges for paying pension lump sums including tax free lump sums. These will now cost £25 plus VAT
    We are reducing our dealing charge for buying and selling funds from £4.95 to £1.50
    We are introducing a custody charge for holding shares (including investment trusts, ETFs, gilts and bonds) of 0.25% per year of the value of the investments held. This is capped at £25 per quarter for a SIPP, £7.50 per quarter for an ISA and Dealing account and £5 per quarter for a Junior ISA. There is no custody charge for cash held in your account
    We are changing our fund custody charge (which applies to unit trusts, OEICs and structured products) from 0.2% per year (maximum £50 per quarter) to a tiered structure based on the value of funds held:
    0.25% per year for the first £250,000
    0.10% per year for the next £250,000 to £1m
    0.05% per year for the next £1m to £2m
    0% over £2m
    We can also confirm that our charges for a Lifetime ISA, which is scheduled to be available from 6 April 2017, will be the same as our new ISA charges.

    The new charges come into effect from 1 October 2016.

  • 161 Jeff August 24, 2016, 9:52 pm

    According to a recent e-mail from AJ Bell, they have revised their fee structure for my SIPP:
    Share custody charge: 0.25%; Max £100 per anum (replacing the annual fee)
    Fund custody charge 0.2% max £200 a year. This is an increase.

    So when I opened the SIPP, the annual fee was zero.
    Their first increase was to £100
    Now they can charge up to £300

    For a product which is configured not to be portable, I think this kind of price gouging is unethical. The FCA should look into it, instead of wasting their time with bank accounts, which any idiot can easily move within a few minutes.

  • 162 RobertG August 26, 2016, 9:11 pm

    Hey Jeff,

    Your Sipp is portable to other brokers too.
    There may be some costs,(TD none, HL yes), but it definitely can be done. I moved from Equitable to HL and am now considering moving to AJ, though I do not invest in funds – just shares and ETFs.

    Good luck anyhow.

  • 163 Haydn September 3, 2016, 11:05 am

    Does anyone have any feedback on First Direct’s broker service? On the website it looks similar to most fee-based services. I am interested as we already bank with them and the Fidelity percentage-based fees are racking up! Thanks, H.

  • 164 Blob January 10, 2017, 10:33 am

    How about Beaufort Securities? I’ve been using them for several years now (I have no affiliation to them).
    A very simple back end system. £8 a trade. No set up or annual fees.

  • 165 FIREin' London January 10, 2017, 11:06 am

    Thanks for updating – and at a very good time – I am starting to look for next years platforms to diversify my holdings so they are spread around a bit!

    FIREin’ London

  • 166 BlackSamurai摩天楼 January 10, 2017, 12:23 pm

    thanks from me too 🙂 i start investing for the first time at the end of the month 🙂 cant wait 🙂

  • 167 J January 11, 2017, 8:36 pm

    If I only want to invest in VGLS80, either Charles Stanley or Cavendish online right?

  • 168 Charles P January 11, 2017, 9:23 pm

    @ J If I were only investing in Vanguard LifeStrategy I would choose something like Halifax share dealing. £2 a trade if regular investing and nothing for holding the investments. There is an additional small annual charge if you hold them in a wrapper.

  • 169 The next branson January 12, 2017, 2:53 am

    The H-L regular investment plan does now have ETFS in the share drop down

  • 170 FIREplanter January 12, 2017, 5:21 am

    SnowMan from MSE forum has come up with an excellent google sheets investment platform calculator to estimate the cost of investing with various platforms. Would be worth giving it a go!

    Check out the Thread here
    http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?p=71891642

    Check out the calculator here here:
    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1En9DtGId0rdR9GTY3V-sk9TPluHNKu8_i75uHsIDl4E/edit#gid=690765087

    -FIREplanter

  • 171 BlackSamurai摩天楼 January 12, 2017, 9:58 am

    @J You can use charles stanley or cavendish as you said – you can also use close brothers as well 🙂 i am still deciding between them and td direct for myself 🙂

    @All – I am going to be creating my own little space on wordpress about my investment journey – when it goes live, I will inform all you nice people – I also got something else in the works that i feel us UK investors will benefit from, especially the newbies like me 🙂

  • 172 Michael January 13, 2017, 10:08 am

    Possible correction: I called BestInvest yesterday to ask about transferring a pension from elsewhere to a SIPP with them. The lady on the line told me that they charge a £100 fee for the crystallisation calculation, followed by £25 a year for drawdown (your chart says no drawdown fees).

  • 173 Scott January 13, 2017, 3:44 pm

    I initially posted this in the comments under the table, but probably better here since it’s a question that others may be able to answer…

    @The Accumulator – your summary comment following the table update of 08/01/17 suggests Close Bros could be good for a SIPP holding only funds worth less than £70k. Am I reading correctly from your table that in this scenario there is no platform fee, and no trading fees? I’ve looked at their own website and the key features doc of their SIPP and it does appear there are no charges, but this can’t be right. What am I missing?

  • 174 Passive Investor January 14, 2017, 9:57 am

    @jeff. I agree with your comments about the FCA, though I recently came across something much worse. I am administering the estate of an elderly relative who had some shares and funds with quite a big stock broking firm. There standard charge to sell the holdings and move them into cash was 1.65% !! (More for holdings less than £10K). When I complained and threatened to move everything (possible but not at all easy) and complain to the FCA they reduced to half this which is better but still a rip off. Overall the annual charges on my relatives portfolio must have been around 4% per year. A fantastic way of transferring the savings of a very elderly lady to her broker. (And for a totally disorganised portfolio). It really is completely shocking that the FCA allows this to happen.

  • 175 The Accumulator January 14, 2017, 11:49 am

    @ Scott – their platform fee of 0.25% applies to all products but there is no additional charge on top of that for the SIPP .

  • 176 Mr optimistic January 15, 2017, 7:28 pm

    Just had a look at the wife’s ISA which has been with m&g since peps first started in 1985 ish. No platform charges but fund fees average 1.4%, £1020 pa. So intend to switch to II who have been very helpful on a peripheral matter (personal reply to enquiry why iShares edge world value was not available in ISA. It should be and they are changing their web site). Y only defence is that platforms haven’t been around that long…… On the plus side, any alternative would be cheaper assuming find switch.

  • 177 YamiKuriboh May 23, 2017, 7:36 pm

    Fantastic post and a very helpful table. Can someone please help me with a noob question on dealing fund charges – interactive investor charge £10 to deal funds in the table and £1.50 for regular investing. If i set up a monthly direct debit into a few funds, would i be charged £10 or £1.50 per fund per month? Thanks!

  • 178 Adrian Steele May 23, 2017, 9:56 pm

    @YK I am with iii and it would be £1.50 per fund (not sure about ETFs and shares but I think it’s the same). This comes out of your quarterly £20 fee. So you can but 4 different funds per month without paying extra. The only slightly annoying thing is that they batch trades and there is often a delay between them receiving the money and the trade. Also you have no control over the trading date. Still neither of these really matter and overall it is very good value indeed.

  • 179 D May 24, 2017, 5:54 pm

    There seems to be a trend for eulogising Vanguard. I even have VWRL myself but no person or company is perfect. Their new ISA launch, for instance, is not that attractive – yet. It is even more expensive than Hargreaves, the current punch bag of brokers.
    The conventional view that Hargreaves is “not the cheapest” needs to be challenged. I have a Hargreaves ISA capped at £45 per year and SIPP capped at £200. That is cheap. For my general pot over £200k with just three ETFs, how much cheaper does anyone expect them to go without impacting the great service? So far, the fund buyers are subsidising ETF/IT holders to some extent while making Hargreaves a +50% profit margin.
    If you have just ETFs I would like to know who would be cheaper?

  • 180 The Accumulator May 25, 2017, 5:43 am

    Depends on the size of your portfolio, how often you trade and account type but check out Fidelity, any other percentage fee broker with a lower % charge if your portfolio size doesn’t hit the cap, and iWeb.

  • 181 october May 25, 2017, 2:26 pm

    Too good to be true?

    My wife and I have held ISAs with iweb for the last 4 years. We hold individual shares and (mostly) Vanguard index funds (the old classic style as I prefer these to ETFs).
    It’s no frills but efficiently/adequately does the job for me. On the odd occasion that I have to ring customer service it has been just fine.

    There is no ‘annual management charge’ for holding funds, just a £5 trading fee. This compares with £625pa. if I was with AJ Bell or £1125pa. with HL. for the funds I hold.

    Have I got this wrong or am I missing something as this appears too good to be true? (No such thing as a free lunch and all that). Even Vanguard Direct would surcharge £375.
    Is this sustainable?

    I believe iweb is part of the Halifax Group (which in turn is Lloyds) so it is not as if it is a small time outfit ?

  • 182 october May 25, 2017, 2:38 pm

    On the subject of Vanguards new service, perhaps the ‘percentage brokers’ may retaliate by taking a leaf out of Vanguard’s book and reduce their annual fee on OEICs etc but then remove the cap on ETFs. (as they are becoming so popular)– Just a thought – watch this space!

  • 183 The Accumulator May 25, 2017, 6:49 pm

    @ October – you aren’t missing anything. They do charge an upfront fee of £25 to open an account – they put this fee up to £200 for a couple of years – but came back down again. Oh and there’s an additional fee for a SIPP.

    I’m with them as well. I guess they’re hoping we trade. If you can resist that temptation then they are tough to beat. You’re right about their parentage too.

  • 184 Mr optimistic May 27, 2017, 12:36 pm

    Thanks for the hard work: on a bank holiday weekend too. One thing I am not sure about is the comment against Halifax Sharedealing SIPP. It looks more attractive than implied. What am I missing?

  • 185 Scott May 27, 2017, 9:58 pm

    @Mr optimistic – which comment against Halifax Sharedealing SIPP are you referring to? Is this in the table, or in readers’ comments? I can’t see anything adverse.

  • 186 Mr optimistic May 27, 2017, 11:55 pm

    I am having trouble with the server so pls excuse any d!ouble post. Comparison table. Reckons SIPP under 50k only. Looks better than that.

  • 187 GRG June 6, 2017, 3:30 pm

    Now that the ii, TD deal has gone through and TD is being merged with ii they are both going to use the ii pricing structure, I will now be paying an account fee for my ETF only ISA. With TD there was no charge for holding ETFs so it looks like a move, as being a very infrequent trader the two free trades per quarter has no appeal. I’ve been looking at Saga Share Dealing & X-O as these don’t charge platform fees or inactivity charges. If anyone has had any dealings with them any information would be welcome.

  • 188 Paul July 11, 2017, 8:39 am

    If you are intend to invest in Vanguard funds, transfer your ISA directly to Vanguard.

  • 189 Mike strutter July 24, 2017, 9:18 am

    Not sure if mentioned but there appears to be a work around for selftrade. You are not charged a £12 a quarter inactivity fee if you are charged a 0.3% quarterly fund fee. For people wanting to hold shares or etfs IT’s etc that don’t really trade you may want to buy £50 of a fund if they’ll let you. You should only be then be charged about 70p a year to hold your shares regardless of pot size of shares. Hope that makes sense. DYOR of course.

  • 190 Phil August 11, 2017, 3:03 pm

    Quite a few changes in the platform world going on at the moment. Had a letter from Fidelity re a new platform they are launching imminently. This will allow shares to be dealt and held in ISA, SIPP etc. Great. BUT the big downside is that monthly dealing fees for purchases of ETF’s and IT’s will go from 0.1% of the deal value to £1.50 per deal.

    It brings it line with other platforms but takes away a huge reason away for me to use it.

    For anyone saving small amounts per month across multiple IT or ETFs this will be a huge increase in charges. Fund dealing remains free, however with a 0.35% platform charge for funds it makes it questionable.

    The upside remaining is that IT/ ETF platform charges remain capped at £45 per year. For now anyway….

  • 191 Adrian September 26, 2017, 11:30 am

    Great update thanks.

    Do we know of platforms that allow for dealing of fractions of ETFs? I think Fidelity do but what about the others?

  • 192 Jim Hughes September 26, 2017, 9:29 pm

    Is there any reason HSBC’s InvestDirect is not included in the table?

  • 193 The Accumulator September 27, 2017, 5:55 pm

    @ Adrian – most do in my experience. Best just to email a specific platform you have in mind if it’s a deal-breaker

    @ Jim – yes, it’s not very competitive. There are a fair few platforms out there that don’t make the table because they don’t have a compelling offer

  • 194 drpops February 13, 2018, 9:48 pm

    I was a loyal HL investor – but their customer service is on the decline.
    I see a steady deterioration.
    they simply don’t care about retail customers anymore
    they will create many obstacles for withdrawal, super easy to deposit money though!
    e-mail response time is around 15 days now (used to be 3-4 days)
    think carefully if it is worth allowing them to chip 0.45% of your hard earned money each year for this abysmal care you receive.
    From my experience I would suggest trying charles stanley – I am a customer for about the same time, and they are only getting better.

  • 195 Chopper February 14, 2018, 12:24 pm

    Echo above regarding CSD, phone is answered immediately, secure messages replied to same day. Only quibble is they don’t have a switch function i.e. you have to sell then buy back in.

  • 196 Max February 14, 2018, 3:30 pm

    Useful update, thank you.

  • 197 Gaz February 15, 2018, 7:09 pm

    @The Accumulator
    Thanks for the prompt TA, I’ve just started my ISA Transfer from Cavendish to Vanguard to save slightly on the fees. I’m wondering if now’s a good time to move away from Lifestrategy and start DIY’ing it.
    Has there been any more recent updates to ‘9 lazy portfolios for UK investors’ http://monevator.com/9-lazy-portfolios-for-uk-passive-investors-2010/ or ‘Low cost index trackers that will save you money’ http://monevator.com/low-cost-index-trackers/ that I’m missing?

  • 198 Tim P February 15, 2018, 11:21 pm

    Hi,

    Just wanted to say that I’ve recently found this blog, and have found it incredibly inspiring / motivating for me to take control of my finances. Slightly scary, as everything I read leads to more questions, but thankfully not paralysed by analysis. The articles, as well as the comments are always thought provoking. Cheers.

  • 199 Matthew February 16, 2018, 11:24 am

    You acknowledge in the introduction its impossible to say who is the best broker, because its different for everyone, but then state the most important factor is cost.

    I’m getting old so becoming more prone to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choice-supportive_bias
    and therefore, maybe unnecessarily, look for justification that my choice (HL) is the best. Its certainly (unfortunately) not the cheapest (especially for funds), however for me other factors come into play such as quality of service, their loyalty payments, navigation / information on the site, reputation / stability, flexibility, etc. I have used other brokers and wasted hours (make that days) sorting out (not always satisfactorily) bad service, therefore I value other factors in addition to cost.

    I don’t always think cheapest is best and therefore I think other factors need to come into the decision. For anyone from HL reading this you are still too expensive though, so please don’t get complacent.

  • 200 The Accumulator February 18, 2018, 5:26 pm

    @ Gaz – the 9 lazy portfolios was a conversion of US portfolios and as such I think many of them are too focussed on domestic equity for a UK accumulator who’s over 5 years from retirement. 8 – 10% in the UK is a better balance, as in the Slow & Steady portfolio.

    This piece also has some useful ideas: http://monevator.com/asset-allocation-types/

    Although I’m personally now much more cautious about allocations to index-linked gilts: http://monevator.com/why-uk-inflation-linked-funds-may-not-protect-you-against-inflation/

    Low cost trackers is due an update soon but the funds in the list will pretty much all get you in the right ballpark.

    @ Tim – Thank you very much for taking the time to leave your thoughts, we really appreciate it.

    @ Matthew – good perspective and utterly fair comment. HL is excellent for service and that does count. I’ve tried a fair few brokers and found that my needs are so passive that they rarely stretch the abilities of even the bare bones merchants but I do hear you.

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