Put yourself in control with a self-select ISA

If you're comfortable picking your own investments you can avoid relying on a fund manager to run your Isa for you by opting for a 'self-select Isa'. This way, you fill up your tax-efficient Isa 'wrapper' with whatever investments take your fancy, rather than relying on professional guidance.

Self-select Isas can hold stocks, unit and investment trusts, exchange-traded funds, gilts and some bonds, and you take control of your investment portfolio, buying and selling when you want. You can choose where to open one from the growing number of 'fund supermarkets' or 'platforms' that are currently battling to cut costs ahead of an April deadline to make charges transparent.

There is a range of tools on offer at these investment websites to help you pick the right funds for your situation. The cost of investing in this way is typically cheaper than city-based stockbrokers, as you are not taking advice and paying for this as part of the service.

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Consider the cost

However, the amount you pay will depend on the sum you have to invest, and the underlying investments you pick. There may be different charges for say, shares, and unit and investment trusts, alongside administration costs and charges each time you buy and sell.

On a £10,000 portfolio consisting of five investment funds, held for 10 years, the website Candid Money reckons an investor would end up with about £32,000 on a cheap platform, compared with £30,500 at a more costly rival, so it pays to consider cost carefully.

Accounts are available from Interactive Investor, Bestinvest, Hargreaves Lansdown, Charles Stanley, and Alliance Trust Savings, among many others. Some charge a flat fee, while others impose a percentage cost of your portfolio. So consider carefully how you plan to use the account and also any additional tools you might like to help pick and manage your investments.

Self-select Isas are useful if you want a wide range of investment choices, and if you want to hold investment trusts and stocks you may be forced to go down this route. There may also be other fees to pay too, depending on what investments you 'self-select'.

For example, if you decide to trade shares inside your Isa, you'll face dealing costs of typically around £10 depending on the size of your shares purchase or sale. This could reduce, depending on how often you trade (frequent traders sometimes pay less per trade).

It's possible to transfer shares and other investments you already own from, say, past utility company or bank privatisations, into a self-select Isa. However, make sure those types of investment are accepted by the provider you go with, and remember they will count as part of your Isa allowance.

Self-select Isas are not for everyone. They won't be the best route, for example, for people who take no interest in their investments and just want a more profitable home for their cash than a standard savings account.

You have to be prepared to put time and energy into running your own portfolio, not just in selecting the investments you want but also in keeping track of company news, results and performance for your existing holdings, and in looking around for new opportunities.

Compare fund supermarkets, using your portfolio, at comparefundplatforms.com or monevator.com.