Our guide to the best investment platforms for beginners

If you want to get investing, one of the first and biggest choices you’ll need to make is which platform to use.

Whether you’re looking to start investing with £50 a month, or want to put away a £50,000 windfall, picking the right investment platform for you can either take the hassle out of investing or massively increase the information and support available to you.


At their simplest, investment platforms are websites or apps where you can buy and sell investments, such as funds, investment trusts or stocks and shares. But these platforms, also known as fund supermarkets, get more sophisticated every year, and there are plenty of tools to check how your portfolio is doing and which funds you should be considering. If you’re feeling lazy, plenty of sites even do the hard work of picking funds for you.

We’ve shortlisted six of the best platforms for first-time investors investing in funds, by looking at lowest charges and the most suitable tools.

Here are the main points you need to consider when picking an investment platform.


How much does it charge?

While the right platform isn’t just about the lowest costs, you don’t want to pay more than you need to. An investor with a £30,000 portfolio could save £230 a year by switching to the cheapest platform, according to research by personal finance expert Andrew Hagger.

The table below shows the cost of investing a lump sum, using research by The Lang Cat, and the cost of investing a fixed monthly amount of either £50, £500 or £1,270, which equates to the annual limit to an individual savings account (Isa) subscription, with data courtesy of Comparefundplatforms.com. We’ve assumed an investor buys and sells five funds five times a year.

We haven’t factored in the underlying charges that you’ll pay for each fund that you hold. These vary depending on the fund and which platform you use.

(Click the table below to enlarge)

** Update: AJ Bell has announced it will change its pricing in October. Read our story on this here. **

The table doesn’t show exit charges. If you later want to switch your Isa to another provider, bear in mind that most platforms will charge you for each fund you switch. These are typically between £15 and £35 per fund, but Fidelity notably doesn’t charge people to leave.

If at a later stage you decide to move your Isa investments elsewhere, it’s worth knowing that many investment platforms periodically run offers to get you to sign up, either as a cash bonus or by offering to pay your transfer costs.

You’re only allowed to open one stocks and shares Isa in any given year, so if you’re moving you’ll need to transfer any money you have put in old Isas in full.

Finally, if you’re looking for a platform where you also hold a self-invested personal pension (Sipp), bear in mind platform charges can be higher for these, particularly if you’re taking money from your pension in retirement through a drawdown scheme.

If you’d like a personalised estimate of the platform charges you’ll pay, Comparefundplatforms. com, run by independent financial adviser Justin Modray, can provide more a more accurate forecast based on the number of funds you’ll hold, how frequently you’ll trade and whether you’re investing as a one-off lump sum or adding to your investments month by month.

What guidance do platforms offer?

Different platforms offer different levels of support for novice investors. If you want to get really involved in fund research, fund supermarkets for more experienced or advanced investors, such as Interactive Investor or AJ Bell Youinvest, offer detailed research notes and lots of information on funds.

First-time investors could do better with a site that’s got lots of information on the basics – what to think about when investing, explanations of the key concepts and shortlists of recommended funds to simplify the choices you have to make.

If you don’t want to get too involved, most platforms nowadays can accommodate that through model portfolios, which are essentially ready-made investment portfolios that you pick based on how much risk you’d like to take.

If this appeals to you, you might also want to consider services such as Nutmeg or Wealthify for your Isa. These sites aren’t strictly platforms, as they don’t let you pick funds – instead, they offer ready- made solutions.


Can you invest on the go?

These won’t appeal to everyone, but if you’re a smartphone addict, or someone who wants to check and switch investments on the move, you’ll want a platform with good mobile functionality.

Investment platform apps are still in the relatively early stages and services vary from platform to platform. Hargreaves Lansdown and Interactive Investor, for example, both let you buy and sell on the move, while others either have no mobile app at all, or only let you monitor your investments, rather than change them.

Similarly, if you’re looking for an app- based investment platform and you’re not an Apple user, do check that Android devices are supported.


Do you have other investment pots?

We’re assuming you’re investing in your Isa here. Anything you invest grows tax free, and you can put away up to £15,240 a year. However, if you also have a Sipp you’ll want to pick a platform that lets you put all your investments in one place.

It will be easier to manage, with fewer passwords to remember, and you’ll spend less time getting used to two different platforms. There may also be a cost benefit, as some of these platforms charge a sliding percentage, depending on the size of your portfolio. All the platforms in this guide also accommodate Sipps.

AJ Bell Youinvest

BEST FOR: People looking to get closely involved with their investments.

AJ Bell Youinvest is one of the bigger players in the UK. It holds more than £26 billion assets for around 120,000 investors. We have included it in our shortlist as it’s one of the cheaper fund platforms for both small and large portfolios, though it’s aimed less at the first-time investor.

The site does have plenty of investment information, but it assumes more knowledge on the part of the reader.

Similarly, support for picking investments is limited, with no select funds lists or pre-made model portfolios.

AJ Bell has one of the better apps if you’re an Apple user, with fingerprint recognition used to keep it secure. It also scores highly for customer service, according to Platforum.

** Update: AJ Bell has announced it will change its pricing in October. The changes are broadly more generous for smaller investors, but more expensive for the wealthiest investors in funds. We'll be explaining what these charges mean shortly. **

Charles Stanley Direct

BEST FOR: Low cost all-rounder

Charles Stanley has had a relatively recent overhaul, and its website is in tip-top condition as a result, according to Platforum. It’s “well-conceived and well executed”, and was the joint winner for its customer service levels.

There are recommended fund lists to help you pick what to invest in, and it’s low cost, particularly for smaller portfolios. It charges just 0.25%, which is hard to beat for investors with a £5,000 portfolio. Even for larger amounts, at £50,000 it’s second cheapest only to Interactive Investor.

For larger, six-figure balances a flat-fee model, which Charles Stanley doesn’t offer, will almost certainly be cheaper, even though its fees drop to 0.15% for people with half a million pounds or more.

Fidelity Personal Investing

BEST FOR: Ultra-cheap funds and investment guidance.

Fidelity has a big focus on small costs. Its platform charges are middle of the pack, but its fund charges are hard to beat, with a range of ultra-cheap tracker funds with charges as low as 0.06%.

Rodolfo Crespo, quantitative researcher at Platforum, says: “This is one of the most stablished direct platforms in the UK and US, and it’s improved in recent years. It stays the second best [in our annual review]. It’s the best platform for guidance.”

In terms of information for investors, the site ranges right from videos for beginners explaining the fundamentals to daily investment ideas and market commentary. As the information ranges from absolute beginner levels through to expert, this could become overbearing, but a well-thought-out structure makes navigating the content reasonably straightforward. It has powerful tools for evaluating your portfolio, uniquely showing how your portfolio has performed on an annual basis, and a good app for tracking your investments.

There are select funds lists for people who want to whittle down their options to a manageable amount, and investors who want to take a more hands-off approach can pick model portfolios based on how much risk they’re willing to take.

On the downside, the app only lets you monitor and research ideas, so if you want to buy and sell on the move you’ll need to try somewhere else.

Fidelity’s Personal Investing service only offers funds and investment trusts. Investors who want to buy individual stocks for their portfolio will need to look elsewhere, though that can be risky. If you’re investing for the first time, it’s generally seen as safer to stick to funds.

Hargreaves Lansdown

BEST FOR: Customer service.

Hargreaves Lansdown is one of the most expensive providers on our list for larger portfolios, but it’s also highly regarded by investors and industry alike. The company offers extra discounts on some funds, so you might find you can claw back some of your costs in reduced fund costs.

Growing from a bedroom operation to a FTSE 100 company, it now holds almost £60 billion investments for around 780,000 clients.

Hargreaves Lansdown was recognised as the UK’s best all-round direct platform winner by platform analyst Platforum in 2015, due to the strength of its brand, investment proposition and customer service.

Mr Crespo explains: “The customer service is consistently excellent, and it also won our award for best service. The staff are always well informed, and they share information with each other so you don’t need to have the same conversation again and again.”

Investors who want a bit more guidance with their fund choices can benefit from recommended funds, multi-manager funds that let you diversify across a range of asset classes through a single investment (though it can be expensive) and its high-quality app.

On the downside, it can be expensive for some investors, and Hargreaves’ marketing team is relentless. If you do sign up, expect a lot of post.

Interactive Investor

BEST FOR: Frequent fund dealers or big portfolios.

Interactive Investor, Moneywise’s parent company, is “by far the most cost competitive for larger portfolios”, according to Platforum, meaning people who have investments of £50,000 or more. Unlike most fund supermarkets, it charges a fixed £80 a year, which includes two free trades every three months. Others will mostly charge a percentage of the value of your portfolio.

Conversely, this pricing structure works against smaller portfolios and it’s the most expensive for a £5,000 portfolio by some margin, costing £30 more than the next best option in year one.

Interactive Investor categorises its funds by the countries they invest in and the nature of what they’re investing in. Most other platforms will group funds by risk, which might be helpful if you’re still earning your investment stripes. It hasn’t performed as well as some for customer service, but it’s taking measures to improve.

The Share Centre

BEST FOR: Friendly introductory tone.

The Share Centre is a good all-rounder, though its standard pricing structure can be expensive for frequent traders. It charges a fixed £4 a month to use the platform, but takes 1% of every fund transaction.

It provides lots of very well written, accessible information and it’s all categorised into sections for new or experienced investors.

The support for picking your investments is also strong. There are guides to help you pick the right account, select fund lists and the option to buy multi-asset funds.

It includes a section on retirement, which is useful for anyone looking to start taking money from a Sipp. But the level of information available on funds is a little superficial, and there is currently no app available for investors on the move.InPlatforum’s customer service tests, The Share Centre also didn’t perform particularly well.

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Your Comments

Why hasn't Cavendish Online been mentioned ? It is as cheap as Charles Stanley at 0.25% and gives you access to the Fidelity Network. A double incentive !

Good points, Chris. 

Cavendish Online was in the running for the best for low costs category. It narrowly lost out to Charles Stanley, as the latter charges a lower 0.15% fee for larger investors. 

As you say, Cavendish also offers Fidelity’s cheaper trackers, but inexperienced investors will find more guidance with some of the other platforms mentioned.

Any view on idealing.com ?

Hi Ketts,

We didn't look at idealing.com as we see it as more for experienced traders than investors. 

It tends to focus on trading accounts for people who want to speculate on short term price changes, rather than those who are investing for the long term. 

That said, Idealing.com does offer Isa accounts, but it seems to only let investors buy and sell individual stocks and shares, instead of funds. 

Hope this helps. 


Alliance Trust Savings always seems to be ignored in many surveys.
Is it not one of the cheapest for larger portfolios, both in terms of it's ISA and it's SIPP? No percentage charges but fee based and transparent. Online trading is £12.50 per deal; size is not relevant; and I have a loyalty reduction which brings deals down to £9.38.
You can invest in virtually anything the Government permits and, whilst it does not offer advice, I find the Staff to be both knowledgable and cheerful.

Thanks Symon. We've not included Alliance Trust Savings in this guide for beginners as it's one of the most expensive for smaller portfolios. 

You're right that it's one of the cheapest for larger portfolios, but that's only for people with six figures or more.