To get the most out of your investments, you need an online stock broker that suits your needs. We’re here to help.
Where can I find the best trading platforms?
Right here on this page. Below you’ll find a table comparing a number of the top, most well known UK stock broker platforms, along with some of their best features.
What is a stock broker?
A stock broker is a service that enables you to buy stocks and shares, either to hold for the long term or to trade for quick profits. An online stockbroker is a platform that allows you to buy and trade stocks online. Many online brokerages will allow you to trade more than stocks, with forex, cryptocurrencies, and commodities among the popular trading options.
How do online brokers work?
As an individual investor, you can’t directly execute stock trades. An online broker thus acts as a middleman who will help you execute those trades. They can do so in one of two different ways: share dealing and CFD trading.
Share dealing is a form of investing in which you buy shares of a company’s stock. There are two ways to make money when share dealing, depending on the investment strategy you choose. The first is when you buy shares of a stock, they go up in value, and you sell those shares at a higher price. The second is when you buy shares of a stock that issues dividends to investors as a percentage of their profits.
Just be aware that the stock you buy may go down in value rather than up, and that not all stocks issue dividends. In short, profits are by no means guaranteed.
CFD trading explained
CFD stands for contract for difference, and these instruments allow you to make trades based on the price movements of a variety of assets. A CFD is a contract between two parties – a buyer and a seller – with the buyer agreeing to pay the seller the difference between the current value of the asset being bought (in this case shares of a stock) and the value of that asset once the contract’s term has expired.
For example, if Apple shares are trading at $110 each, you could take out a CFD for 5 shares by paying $550. If Apple’s stock price falls to $105, you’ll only be able to sell your CFD for $525; if it rises to $115, you’ll be able to sell at $575.
The biggest benefit of CFD trading is that it gives investors the ability to profit from market movements without needing to own the underlying asset in question. CFDs also allow traders access to techniques such as leveraged trading which can help maximise profits but also incurs extra risk.
What should I look for in a stock trading platform?
There are multiple factors you want to consider when comparing the best UK stock brokers. Here’s what you should look for:
Design and ease of use
Stock investing requires extensive research, patience, and skill. Given all of those challenges, the last thing you want is to waste time trying to figure out how your online broker’s website functions. Choose an online broker with a well designed website and/or mobile app that’s easy to use.
Fees and commissions
Making a profit when investing is far from a given. You certainly don’t want to have to pay significant fees or commissions to make the task even more difficult. Look for an online broker that offers reasonably low fees or commissions when processing your trades.
Some investors like to experience the entire buffet of investing choices. That’s why the number of tradable assets offered by an online broker can influence your choice of brokers. If variety is a must for you, look for an online broker that lets you trade not only stocks but also cryptocurrencies, forex, and other assets.
In addition to looking for a variety of asset choices, many investors seek numerous different trading options for their asser of choice.
- Some investors may want to go short (betting that the price of an asset will go down), in addition to going long (betting that the price of an asset will go up).
- Other investors may favour hedging, which is when you make an investment designed to limit the potential downside of another investment you’ve already made.
- Another trading option popular with certain investors is scalping. This is a method of arbitrage in which you attempt to make money by taking advantage of small price gaps between the bid price and the ask price of a specific asset on different platforms.
When in doubt, it makes sense to pick a broker with a strong reputation. The better an online broker’s user reviews and industry accolades, the more you can rely on the wisdom of crowds to guide your choice.
No matter how effective an online broker’s website might be, it’s inevitable that a hiccup or two will come up. An online broker that offers fast and helpful customer service can give you peace of mind that your investment needs will be properly cared for.
Do stock brokerages charge fees?
Yes, even the best online stock brokers in the UK charge fees for their services. Typical fees for executing a trade with a stock trading broker will range from around £5 to £15, but the exact nature of the fees charged will depend on your choice of broker. Our comparisons will help you find out which broker offers the best fee structure for the trades you want to make.
Is it safe to invest with an online broker?
Yes, as long as you go with a trustworthy service. Online brokers must register with government authorities wherever the company is registered, and are thus subject to strict financial regulation. That makes the leading online brokers that we profile on this site secure places to invest your money. Beware of unregulated platforms, as they are more vulnerable to scams.
Are there trading limits?
Yes. Most major UK stock brokers will allow you to trade as many shares as you like; it just might require multiple trades to execute the complete order if you’re investing a massive amount of money. Commodities brokers on the other hand may impose stricter limits, depending on the availability of the commodity in question.
There isn’t really a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, and our reviews and guides are the best place to look for more specific information about broker trading limits.
Do I have to verify my online trading account?
Yes you do. Any of the best stock brokers will require some form of identity verification. This process could involve everything from the broker verifying your bank information to more elaborate verification procedures.
The overarching term for this layer of security is “KYC”, which stands for “Know Your Customer.” Brokerages and other financial institutions use KYC guidelines to help prevent people from laundering money or conducting financial scams.
How to trade stocks
Here are the steps you’ll need to go through to start trading stocks on your new trading platform:
- Go to the website of the online broker you want to use.
- Click the register button (or similar) to sign up.
- Enter your personal information as indicated. Online brokers won’t let you sign up anonymously, so at a minimum, you will likely need to provide your email address and some other basic pieces of information.
- Link your bank account or other payment methods to your stock trading account. Note that it could take anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of days for the broker to verify your payment method before you start trading.
- Once your payment method is verified, enter the ticker symbol of the stock you want to buy (for example, the ticker symbol for Apple is AAPL).
- Type in the number of shares you want to buy.
- Check to see that the bid and ask prices being offered roughly fit with the preferred price you’d like to pay.
- Click Buy. You’re now the proud owner of the shares.
For more information, read our how to buy shares guide.
Benefits and drawbacks of online stock brokers
If you’re an investor looking to buy stocks, stock brokers online have their pros and cons. Here are some of the biggest benefits and drawbacks to look for:
- Valuable service. Online stockbrokers serve as intermediaries, a valuable and necessary service, given that as an individual investor you can’t directly execute stock trades yourself.
- Affordable. Most brokers only charge a few dollars per transaction, making them affordable.
- Helpful. The best online brokers have offer quality customer service that can help you if you’re struggling with the stock trading process.
- Multiple payment options. The largest, best stock brokers may offer a variety of different payment options, including bank transfers, debit cards, credit cards, PayPal, and more.
- Not always regulated. While most major brokers are regulated, some more obscure ones aren’t necessarily regulated. That puts you at greater risk for potential scams.
- Not anonymous. Some investors have become increasingly secretive about their investing transactions. Major online stock brokers require certain personal and financial information which makes anonymity impossible, and makes those brokers very different than, say, peer-to-peer cryptocurrency exchanges.
- Verification process can sometimes be cumbersome. Some online brokers require you to invest a fair amount of time and effort before they’ll approve you to start making trades.
Should I use online trading platforms?
It’s up to you. If you’re looking for a fast and easy way to buy stocks, then one of the best trading platforms can be a good choice, assuming it’s reputable and properly regulated. They allow easy access to the world of trading and investing, and are the best place to start building your own portfolio or trade CFDs.
Consider your financial goals and whether buying, selling, and trading stocks is right for you before signing up to a broker. If you decide it’s a road you want to go down, then use our comparisons and reviews to find the best platform for you. Or, try one of our educational resources if you’re not ready.