How to pick an Isa platform

Published by Tom Wilson on 30 September 2015.
Last updated on 05 November 2015

How to pick an Isa platform

Isa costs and charges

Unlike savings, you’ll have to pay to invest online and the price usually depends on the value of your portfolio. Charges are one of the biggest drags on investment performance over the long term, if not the most significant, so it’s vital to shop around.

Our tables, from Steve Nelson of platform boffins the lang cat, show what you’ll pay to use a few providers. Estimates are based on buying and selling five shares a year. If you have a larger portfolio, you’ll probably be better off picking a platform that charges a flat-fee, rather than a percentage of the value. 

We’ve not included fees charged by the funds themselves, which vary but will be advertised on the platform. Tracker funds, which are managed by computer programs and mimic the performance of an index such as the FTSE 100, are cheaper as they don’t require expensive fund managers. Actively managed funds (run by investment professionals) cost more but could outperform the market or offer access to more ‘exotic’ investments.

There are no fund fees for holding equities but you’ll be charged transaction fees when you buy or sell, as well as stamp duty.

There could be additional platform charges for other services, such as drawing from your pension in retirement. Also watch out for exit fees, particularly if you’re holding equities, as these can be as much as £25 per share. Also note that iWeb has a one-off £200 joining fee, which just isn’t worth it for smaller portfolios.

Investment options

The right platform will not just be cost effective for your portfolio size. It’ll also offer suitable investment options, fund research and other tools to meet your needs.

All featured platforms offer funds, and if you’d like to try your hand at picking stocks those providers have been highlighted too. You may also wish to look for a platform that offers cheaper passive investments such ETFs, or model portfolios that provide exposure based on how much risk you’re willing to take. 

“A lot of it depends on the nature of your investments and if you need help choosing funds or a proposition,” says Nelson. “If you want someone to hold your hand, Nutmeg or Retiready from Aegon would be good as they help you assess your risk profile.”

These simplified guided solutions will gauge your appetite for risk and provide low-maintenance suggested portfolios. The underlying investments on Nutmeg are exchange traded funds (ETFs), while RetiReady uses passive fund-of-funds.

ISA table


Each platform offers additional tools to help you review and manage your portfolio. For example, most, including Hargreaves Lansdown, offer portfolio analysis tools that show your asset allocation and performance against inflation or another benchmark. rPlan is one that goes further, sending regular performance updates, highlighting any underperforming funds. 

The majority of fund supermarkets are mobile-optimised, so you can check your funds on the go. If you want to manage your portfolio through an app it can be done, but few currently stand out, according to the lang cat.   

If you’ve also got a Sipp it’s best to find a platform that offers both Sipps and Isas to save the pain of getting used to two different services.

Investment intelligence

If you’re looking to get into the nitty-gritty, the wealth of information offered by a powerhouse like Trustnet could be useful, but it’s likely be overbearing for people starting out for the first time.

One final tip: Once you’ve found a platform that meets your needs, check to see if there’s a dummy portfolio option. These let you get a feel for the platform before depositing real money.


If you are ready to open a Stocks and Shares ISA please consider Interactive Investor, our sister site and award winning brokerage.