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Best stocks and shares ISA

By Antonia Medlicott

  • Published: April 24, 2024
  • Edited by: Clare West
  • Last Update: 1 week ago
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My independent analysis of fees, assets, features, platforms, and ready-made portfolio returns to identify the best stocks and shares ISA available in the UK.

My quick list

*We don’t make any money from the platforms for recommending them on this list. These are my totally impartial views that I think represent the best value for money.

4.5
InvestEngine

Best for lowest-cost ETFs. Suited to beginners

With investments, your capital is at risk. This could mean the value of your investments goes down as well as up.

5.0
Interactive Brokers

Best for tools and low costs. Suited to experienced investors.

Warning: CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 67.6% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with IBKR. You must consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing money.

4.5
Trading 212

Best for very low fees, user-friendly interface, and 24/5 trading.

Capital at risk.

4.5
Saxo Markets

Best for frequent traders seeking a high-end broker and high-performing ready-made funds.

Capital at risk.

4.5
Moneybox

Best performing ready-made ISA suitable for beginners.

Capital at risk.

5.0
AJ Bell

Best for investors looking for DIY and fully managed options.

Capital at risk.

icon My tip

A stocks and shares ISA will only save you money on tax if you are already maxing out your Personal Allowance of £12,570. Those not using the Personal Allowance may find a General Investment Account to be a more cost-effective option.


4.5

InvestEngine

Best for lowest-cost ETFs. Suited to beginners

With investments, your capital is at risk. This could mean the value of your investments goes down as well as up.

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Reasons to use

  • Lowest cost ISA on the market
  • Fully managed service available
  • 590+ ETFs for DIY investing
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Reasons to avoid

  • Limited to only ETFs
  • No pension account

Antonia says

Unbeatable fees and fractional investing make this the most economical way to invest in fully diversified ETFs. While options are limited to ETFs, there are more than 590 to choose from and they offer a transparent and easy way to
enter the stock market.

Investors have the option of picking their own funds, or engaging in a fully managed portfolio.Automated investing and one-click portfolio rebalancing make this a hands-off approach.

All in all, a thumbs up from me for beginners looking for an uncomplicated way to start investing.

Use this if

  • You are looking for a low-cost, simple way to invest
  • You are happy to invest in ETFs

Fees

  • No account fees
  • No trading fees
  • 0.25% for managed portfolios
  • ETFs fees starting at 0.05% per year
  • Average ETF charge for managed portfolios: 0.15% per year
  • Market spreads average: 0.07% per year

ETF Investments

  • ESG
  • Thematics
  • Dividend focused funds
  • Emerging markets
  • Small cap

Scores

Fees:

5.0

Trading platform:

4.0

Account opening:

4.5

Research:

4.0

Education:

3.0

Customer service:

4.0

For a detailed analysis of InvestEngine services, check out our review for 2024

Read full review >
5.0

Interactive Brokers

Best for tools and low costs. Suited to experienced investors.

Warning: CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 67.6% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with IBKR. You must consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing money.

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Reasons to use

  • Very low cost
  • Interest on uninvested cash
  • Unrivalled choice of assets
  • Powerful trading tools
  • Superior account protection
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Reasons to avoid

  • Can be complex and unsuitable for beginners
  • No crypto

Antonia says:

Not for the faint-hearted. This is a serious platform designed for experienced users.

Whilst there are a variety of platforms available to suit different types of traders, novices are unlikely to require the extensive range of assets or advanced tools and order functionality that can be found here.

IBKR S&S ISA

That being said, those looking to build their trading knowledge may find the Trading Academy useful, and multiple currency accounts can work out cost-effective for trading on markets outside of the UK.

Use this if

  • You are a serious trader or keen to learn how to become a trader
  • You are looking to trade in a wide variety of assets on a cost-effective platform

Fees

  • £3 per trade for Western European stocks
  • No added spreads
  • Minimum monthly activity fee of £3, unless this amount in generated in trades, in which case no fee will be charged
  • 0.002% FX fees (minimum $2)
  • £1 minimum deposit

Investments

  • Stocks
  • Options
  • Futures
  • Currencies
  • Bonds
  • Funds
  • ETFs

Scores

Fees:

5.0

Trading platform:

4.5

Account opening:

3.5

Research:

5.0

Education:

5.0

Customer service:

3.0

For a detailed analysis of Interactive Brokers, check out our review for 2024

Read full review >
4.5

Trading 212

Best for very low fees, user-friendly interface, and 24/5 trading.

Capital at risk.

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Reasons to use

  • 0% trading commission and zero custody fees
  • No fees for the ISA
  • Fractional shares
  • Low FX fees
  • 5.2% interest on uninvested cash
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Reasons to avoid

  • Unable to transfer in existing portfolios
  • Copy-trading functionality requires improvement

Antonia says:

Zero commission trading coupled with low FX fees make this a very compelling option for cost-conscious investors.

The 5.2% interest on uninvested cash is the best rate we have come across to date. In addition you will get 1% cashback on all ISA deposits until April 30th 2024.

Trading212 S&S ISA

However, you will need to be confident picking and choosing your own investments here from a good selection of global stocks, ETFs, and commodities. One asset of note are the fractional shares on offer, not often found within an ISA due to the regulatory ambiguity. But this can help smaller investors gain access to big-name stocks that may otherwise have been unaffordable.

Use this if

You are a new investor looking for low-costs and an easy-to-use platform
You would like to learn more about investing using social trading

Fees

  • Zero commission
  • 0.15% FX fees
  • Low spreads

Investments

  • Global stocks
  • ETFs
  • CFDs (not within the ISA)
  • Forex
  • Commodities
  • Indices

Scores

Fees:

5.0

Trading platform:

4.0

Account opening:

4.0

Research:

4.0

Education:

2.0

Customer service:

2.5

4.5

Saxo Markets

Best for frequent traders seeking a high-end broker and high-performing ready-made funds.

Capital at risk.

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Reasons to use

  • Excellent research
  • Advanced trading platform
  • Extensive range of assets
  • Above average performance for a ready-made portfolio held in an ISA
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Reasons to avoid

  • Customer service hit and miss
  • Complex fee structure

Antonia says

While this is often just considered an option for advanced traders, the Saxo Brown Advisory Ethical Selection ready-made portfolio outstripped all the competition in 2023 with a return of 18.39%, meaning it could be a smart place for less experienced traders to invest their money. However, I would caution you against placing too much value on historical returns.

Because Saxo also possesses a banking licence, they have top-tier regulations, making them one of the safest options.

There are almost 30,500 global stocks, ETFs, investment trusts, and bonds to choose from, all accessible from Saxo’s sophisticated platform.

Research is also good with live market updates and in-depth macro analysis.

Use this if

  • You are an advanced or professional trader
  • Your skills would benefit from extensive research

Fees

  • Fees are variable according to trading size and account status. Frequent traders are rewarded with lower fees.
  • Platinum or VIP fees are competitive.
  • Buying and selling shares for new clients costs 0.10% per trade with an £8 minimum.

Investments

  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • ETFs
  • Funds
  • Managed portfolios

Scores

Fees:

4.0

Trading platform:

4.5

Account opening:

4.0

Research:

5.0

Education:

5.0

Customer service:

3.5

For a detailed analysis of Saxo Markets, check out our review for 2024

Read full review >
4.5

Moneybox

Best performing ready-made ISA suitable for beginners.

Capital at risk.

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Reasons to use

  • Best performing ISA
  • Leading interest rate on cash ISA
  • Good savings tools
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Reasons to avoid

  • Account fees are at the higher end of the spectrum
  • Mobile app only
  • Limited education

Antonia says

For a complete beginner lacking the confidence to pick and choose their own investments, Moneybox is a solid option, with the best-performing ISA for the last 5 years, according to our independent research. It’s also an excellent app if you are looking for somewhere to keep both your savings and investments as, at 5.11% AER, they currently have the leading rate on any easy access cash ISA – a position they have held for a number of years now.

Money Box Review General Investment Account

There are also options here for picking your own investments from a selection of funds or rebalancing your suggested portfolio. And investors who historically find it difficult to save can utilise the round-ups and payday boosts on offer.

Use this if

  • You are looking for the highest returns on a ready-made portfolio in an ISA.
  • You are a beginner looking for an easy option.
  • You would like the option to build your own portfolio.
  • You don’t have a large starting pot and could utilise the money-saving tools to grow your portfolio.

Fees

  • £1 subscription fee after the first 3 months
  • 0.45% platform fee
  • Annual fund provider costs 0.09% – 0.88%
  • 0.45% FX fee for US stocks

Investments

  • Ready-made portfolios
  • US Stocks
  • Fractional shares
  • Tracker funds
  • ETFs

Scores

Fees:

3.5

Trading platform:

4.0

Account opening:

5.0

Research:

3.5

Education:

3.5

Customer service:

3.5

Read full review

Read full review >
5.0

AJ Bell

Best for investors looking for DIY and fully managed options.

Capital at risk.

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Reasons to use

  • Shares custody capped at £3.50 per month
  • Good range of assets
  • Regular investing
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Reasons to avoid

  • Large portfolios can incur high costs to hold funds
  • Relatively high trading fees

Antonia says

An exceptionally low-cost option with the added security of being listed on the London Stock Exchange. AJ Bell is a reliable platform with a long-standing reputation for excellent customer service coupled with a wide range of investment options, including ready-made portfolios, which have just managed to outperform in the industry average.

AJ Bell Tesco plc

This is a viable option for both beginners and more experienced investors; however, those who like to trade on a regular basis may find the shares trading fees prohibitive.

Use this if

  • You are a buy-and-hold investor looking to hold shares, ETFs, and investment trusts.
  • You have a large portfolio.

Fees

  • Shares custody charge: 0.25% [ maximum £3.50 per month]

Funds custody charge:

  • first £0 – £250,000 – 0.25%
  • £250,000 to £500,000 – 0.10%
  • Value over £500,000 – FREE
  • Shares dealing – £5.00
  • Ten or more share deals in the previous month – £3.50
  • Fund dealing – £1.50

Investments

  • Shares
  • Funds
  • Exchange-traded funds
  • Investment trusts

Scores

Fees:

4.5

Trading platform:

4.5

Account opening:

5.0

Research:

4.5

Education:

5.0

Customer service:

5.0

For a detailed analysis of AJ Bell, check out our review for 2024

Read full review >
update-icon

Updates

April 2024 Freetrade removed from recommendations as while it is commission free, it works out expensive when compared to Trading 212

Cost Comparison tables


The below tables are intended as a guide and are not representative of the full price you will pay. However, they do successfully highlight the more expensive options and we have included some platforms that are not recommended on this list in order to provide you with a fair comparison and to illustrate how their prohibitive costs have led to their failure to be included in our ‘best of’ selection.

And just to give you an easy visual of how those costs look on the various platforms, here is an interactive graph that allows you to switch between commission fees, management and subscription fees, and FX fees.

Ready-made portfolio's past performance


The following analysis has been conducted in-house and is exclusive to Investing Insiders.

While analysing historical returns can be an important tool to identify consistency, it should in no way be used as a way of predicting future performance. No one has a crystal ball when it comes to investing.

Below is a simple graph showing the historical performance of the ISAs on this list offering ready-made portfolios. The only missing portfolios are those from InvestEngine as they have failed to provide us with the information required. The percentage displayed is an average of all the ready-made portfolios offered by the platform.

As you can see, Moneybox has strong historical returns and is, in fact, the best-performing ready-made ISA across the last 10 years. The industry average lies at 24.4% for the last 5-year cumulative period. This means that all the portfolios on our list are outperforming the industry average where 5-year returns are available.

So which portfolios performed badly? IG saw 5-year returns of 16.1%, Nutmeg came in at 23% and Wealthify saw an average return of 20.3%. When you compare this to Moneybox which saw a return of 54.2%, you start to get a picture of how important portfolio performance is.

How I score the platforms on this list


A significant amount of research goes into selecting the stocks and shares
ISAs on this list. Some of the ISAs have made the grade because they
represent good value for money; some have been included for the exceptional
service they offer, whilst others have been included due to the historical
performance of their portfolios.

A rigorous testing process has been employed for each and every ISA on this
best-of list, and in addition, we have tested all the stocks and shares ISAs
that didn't make it onto this list.

We delve into considerable detail on each of the following categories:

  • Platform and usability
  • Customer service
  • Safety
  • Education
  • Research
  • Tools
  • Markets and products
  • Fees
  • Deposits, transfers, and withdrawals
  • Account opening
  • Managed fund performance

Each category has a strict scoring system. As an example, under ‘Fees’ we would score each platform out of five for the following:

  • Platform fees
  • Spreads
  • Commissions
  • FX fees
  • Inactivity fees
  • Fund management fees
  • Withdrawal fees
  • Deposit fees
  • Subscription fees
  • Trading fees
  • Minimum deposit
  • Interest
  • Fees for closing account

In this way, each platform is assessed using the same criteria. For more information on how we review the platforms, click here.

How to choose the best stocks and shares ISA for you


Whilst I have detailed the costs for various-sized portfolios in the table above, please remember that the cheapest platforms are not always the best. For example, one of the cheapest ways to invest is using InvestEngine, and while this is a very plausible option for anyone looking to invest solely in ETFs, this option would be very limiting for investors who may like to diversify with other assets. Therefore, before you select the cheapest option, please ensure that it has all the functionality that you need.

Needless to say, as long as you match the platform with your investing experience and knowledge, you won't go far wrong with any of the options on this list.

So, without further ado, here's what I would recommend for each level of experience ranging from beginner to experienced investor:

Beginners

  • InvestEngine
  • Moneybox

Intermediate

  • Trading 212
  • AJ Bell

Experienced

  • Interactive Brokers
  • Saxo

The main difference between platforms that cater for beginners, and platforms that cater for experienced investors is whether they provide ready-made portfolios that have been expertly diversified, whether you are at liberty to pick and choose the assets that make up your portfolio, or a mixture of both.

Beginners would almost certainly benefit from a ready-made or fully managed portfolio, and these can often be matched to your appetite for risk as well as your personal circumstances. Take a moment to check the historical performance of all the ready-made portfolios available within an ISA here.

More experienced investors would be wise to check the range of assets available as well as research and tools. Trading fees could also be a consideration, depending on how often you intend to trade.

FAQs

If you are debt-free, would like to save towards a long-term or mid-term financial goal, and are already using your personal allowance, then a stocks and shares ISA is definitely a good idea.

There are a multitude of factors that can affect the performance of a stocks and shares ISA. In the past ten years, the average annual rate of return has been 9.64%. However, this is no indication of future performance.

Use this guide to match yourself with the best stocks and shares ISA for your level of experience and individual requirements. It is often a good idea to use the demo account where available.

From April 2024, the rules relating to stocks and shares ISA have changed to allow investors to open as many accounts as they wish. Therefore, you needn’t be concerned about paying into more than one stocks and shares ISA as long as you remain within the £20,000 allowance.

Note from the Insiders:


Due to the rules laid out by HMRC, which stipulate that individuals only contribute to one stocks and shares ISA in any one tax year, there are occasions whereby I have opened a General Investment Account in order to test the platforms and the services they offer. This has, in no way, hindered my research of the platforms in order to provide you with this list.