Our comprehensive ranking of Stocks & Shares ISAs
12 brokers featured
full cost considered
The UK’s no. 1 investment platform for private investors. Boasting over £125bn in assets under administration and over 1.5m active clients. ‘Best Share Dealing Platform 2021’ (UK Investor Magazine) and ‘Best Digital ISA’ (Boring Money 2021 Best Buys).
- Widest range of funds
- ISAs & SIPPs available
- Most popular UK broker
- Competitive management charge for < £50k portfolio
- Management charge for > £50k portfolio is less competitive
- Share dealing charges are £11.95 for infrequent deals
Large UK stockbroker with a flat stocks & shares ISA account fee and a free trade every month. Cheapest for investors with big pots.
- Cheapest management charge for large portfolios
- ISAs & SIPPs available
- One free trade per month
- Flat £9.99 account charge is costly for small accounts
- Web platform interface isn't as slick as peers
AJ Bell Youinvest stocks & shares ISA offers lower prices the more you trade! Which?™ 'Recommended Provider' for the last 3 years.
- Invest regularly from £1.50
- Great share research tools
- Participate in IPOs
- Free withdrawals & no inactivity fees
- No clear drawbacks
- An all-rounder that stays competitive as your account grows
- Auto portfolio management for peace of mind
- Great value management fees
- Ethical options available
- Largest UK service of its kind
- Cannot invest in individual shares or funds
- More expensive than a DIY investing portfolio
Buy and sell funds at nil cost with a Fidelity International stocks & shares ISA, plus simple £10 trading fees for stocks & shares and ETFs.
- Large range of funds
- Fidelity Wealth Management service is free for >£250k
- Simple, flat £10 trading fees
- No key drawbacks
- An all-rounder that stays competitive & unlocks benefits as your account grows
Capital is at risk.
The best stocks & shares ISAs in the UK
Take your pick of the top UK stocks & shares ISAs. All ISA providers listed below offer low-fee share dealing, fund purchases and more.
We earn commission for referring new customers. We give equal prominence to stocks & shares ISA providers who don't pay to be featured. Commission doesn't impact scoring or the order of stocks & shares ISA accounts. Risk warning: all trading carries a risk of loss. Fees were correct at the time of publishing, however these can change. See our disclaimer.
Managed stocks & shares ISAs
These stocks & shares ISA providers manage your money for you. Invest a lump sum or create a monthly contribution. Sit back and watch your money grow in a tax-free environment without having to pick shares yourself.
The ultimate guide to stocks & shares ISAsFinancial Expert™ tips on choosing the best stocks & shares ISA for you
What is a stocks & shares ISA?
A stocks & shares ISA is a regulated type of stockbroker account. It can be used to hold cash, shares and other asset classes.
The major draw of a stocks & shares ISA is the tax protection it offers. Any income earned in a stocks & shares ISA is exempt from income tax. The same applies to capital gains which are made by selling investments at a profit.
As well as tax protection, stocks & shares ISAs keep the paperwork simple too. That’s because you don’t even have to declare income and capital gains on your personal tax return if they occur within an ISA.
How much can you deposit into a stocks & shares ISA each tax year?
There are strict limits on how much cash you can deposit into a stocks & shares ISA each tax year. The limit for the tax year ending 5 April 2021 is £20,000.
It was confirmed in the 2021 Spring Budget that £20,000 will also be the cap on deposits for the 2021/22 tax year also.
The limit resets with the end of each tax year, and you can use this to your advantage. If you have £40,000 to deposit in a stocks & shares ISA, you could deposit:
£20,000 on the 5 April 2021 and;
£20,000 on the 6 April 2021
This would technically use the full allowance of both tax years, yet allow you to deposit a large lump sum in the same week. This example assumes that you have not used any of the 20/21 ISA allowance.
Be aware that if you have already deposited cash into other ISAs in the current tax year, such as:
- Cash ISA
- Lifetime ISA
- Innovative finance ISA
- Junior ISA
Then these will reduce the amount you can contribute to your stocks & shares ISA. You can never deposit more than the annual limit in total across all of your ISA accounts.
What investments can you hold in a stocks & shares ISA?
Stocks and shares ISAs can hold stocks and shares, as the name suggests. But they can also hold:
Funds. These come in many forms, such as:
- Unit trusts
- Investment trusts
- Exchange-traded Funds (or ‘ETFs’)
- OEICs (Open Ended Investment Companies).
Bonds. These could include:
- Corporate bonds
- Government bonds
Cash, including foreign currencies. Your deposit will initially arrive as cash, unless you have specifically transferred in investments from another stocks & shares ISA provider.
Although stocks & shares ISAs can hold cash, they’re not intended as a savings account. That's because they tend to pay uncompetitive rates of interest on cash deposits.
In fact, many stocks & shares ISAs pay 0% interest on any cash deposits. It’s often more practical to open a separate cash ISA or savings account to earn a better rate of interest on any significant balances.
What investments are prohibited?
Here is a non-exhaustive list of investments which cannot be held in a stocks & shares ISA:
- Direct investments in a private, unlisted business. (Think of the investments made by the Dragons on the BBC series The Dragons Den).
- Direct investments in land & property.
- Loans to private individuals. It may be possible to hold these types of ‘peer to peer’ loans within an innovative finance ISA instead.
- Commodities, such as gold bullion, silver bullion and oil.
- Derivatives or Contracts for Difference (CFDs)
What fees do stocks & shares ISAs charge?
Like most stockbroker accounts, stocks & shares ISAs charge a combination of fees. These include:
Trading fees or commission. This is a transaction fee paid each time you buy or sell units of an investment within your account.
Platform fees or account charges. This is an annual, quarterly or monthly fee deducted from your account. These can be calculated as a percentage of your assets, or as a flat monthly fee. This charge can sometimes have a minimum and maximum value, to moderate the charges for very small or very large accounts.
Registration fees are uncommon, but sometimes exist. This is a one-time fee to cover the administrative effort of setting up a stocks & shares ISA.
Currency conversion fees. You may pay a commission or fixed charge each time you convert cash from one currency into another in your account. As an example, this may occur if a European company you own has paid a dividend in Euros, which you wish to use to buy a UK company which is listed in Pound Sterling.
Exit fees. A stocks & shares ISA may charge a fee to transfer investments directly out of the account to another provider. If these apply, they will be charged per investment. Some providers don’t charge anything for this service, so it’s worth looking out for in the small print.
Overall, the fees which will probably have the most impact on your investment returns are the trading fees and platform fees. It’s helpful to measure the combined cost of these when comparing stocks & shares ISAs. That’s why we highlight them in the comparison table above.
Is the best stocks & shares ISA always the best account option?
You may be wondering - why do investment platforms offer a non-ISA version of their investment accounts? Isn’t it a no-brainer to open the stocks & shares ISA every time?
The answer is: Yes, a stocks and shares ISA is usually the efficient choice. It provides a high level of tax protection, and usually carries similar fees to other accounts. Therefore, it follows that investments will grow in value faster in a stocks & shares ISA compared to a standard investment account.
However, there are several scenarios where an ISA isn’t always the best option:
- If you have already contributed £20,000 to a stocks & shares ISA in the current tax year.
- If the general account has lower fees, and you don’t place much value on the tax benefits of the ISA, for example if you don’t expect to pay much tax on income anyway.
- If you don’t qualify for a stocks & shares ISA. For example, if you are not a resident of the United Kingdom.
How long have stocks & shares ISA accounts existed?
The history of stocks & shares ISAs is in fact a relatively short history. The earliest ancestor of the stocks & shares ISA is the PEP (Personal Equity Plan) which was launched in 1987 with an annual allowance of just £2,400.
Since then, the account has been rebranded not once, but twice. Their first name change called them 'Maxi-ISAs', before eventually landing on the simple 'stocks & shares ISA' name in 2006.
The allowance of the stocks & shares ISA has also been generously increased over successive Budget Statements up to the current limit of £20,000.
A major trend in the evolution of the ISA has been towards greater flexibility. Money can now retain its tax free status if withdrawn but repaid into the account within the same tax year.
Rules have also been relaxed regarding which types of ISAs can be transferred into each other. Originally, cash ISAs could be transferred into stocks & shares ISAs but not vice versa. Now, the top stocks & shares ISAs can be transferred back into cash ISAs. This is a popular move as people approach retirement age and want to reduce their risk and get better access to their cash.
What should I invest in?
This is a big question, and not one that Financial-Expert.co.uk can answer for you.
A journalistic resource such as Financial-Expert.co.uk is clearly not in a position to provide you with financial advice which is tailored to your personal circumstances.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to buy shares, and how to build an investment portfolio, we have plenty of helpful guides for beginners which can provide education on the basic principles applied by wise investors.