How do we rate share-trading platforms?
Comparing brokers is complicated, so we've rated them. Here's our methodology for scoring the features that matter, plus details of our customer survey.
To help find you the best trading platforms, our team has spent more than 500 hours (and counting!) analysing 83 features and fees for the investing platforms we’ve reviewed on our site.
We use this analysis, which includes all the categories listed below, to create our expert star ratings. We’ve ensured throughout that platforms are only compared against one another where they offer similar features – so you’ll find separate ratings for robo-advisors, contracts for difference platforms and pension providers.
Platforms that score well in certain categories are eligible to be included in our “best for” picks. These reflect the stand-out features of great platforms and are rated in different ways, using criteria that we think is important for each one, to help find a “best for” for every type of investor. We’ve detailed some of the factors we consider for each category below.
We also survey hundreds of customers so you can find out about the service each platform provides, from the people who matter most — you. We’d love to hear from you if there’s a provider you’d like to see us review and score.
What factors do we take into account?
We compare our platforms based on 9 key factors:
- Stock exchanges. This is all about what investments are available. Having a large range of stock exchanges available to buy stocks lets you diversify your portfolio across different sectors and countries. For some markets, such as US shares, we’ve analysed this in more depth.
- Funds and ETFs. How many funds and exchange traded funds can you invest in? Does the provider give expert research on funds? What are the fees for investing in funds?
- Products. This is all about the different tax wrappers the providers offer. Can you invest in an ISA or SIPP? Are there junior products available? Can you invest ethically, overseas or in fractional shares?
- Fees. More on this below, but we look at the range of fees you’ll pay with the provider.
- Mobile and desktop features. What is the app like? We check functionality like price notifications and desktop versions and the different tools available, such as charting and access to news and research.
- Learning resources. Can you learn alongside your investing? What tools are on offer? Can you practise using a demo account?
- Tools. What is on hand for you to use when trading? Such as interactive charting, advanced charting for those more experienced and information on company past performance.
- Customer service. How did the platform perform in the Finder customer satisfaction awards? What help is available to its customers?
- Doing the job it’s meant to do. There is no absolute “best trading app” for everyone, so what we want to help you find is the app that works for you. That’s why we’ve picked an app to suit different types of user – what’s important to a beginner won’t be important to everyone.
How we’ve rated fees
There’s no getting around the fact that a lot of share-trading platforms have a complicated fee structure.
Broker fee structures, or how commission is worked out, differs across the board — it can depend on how often you trade each month, how much you spend per trade and which country the stocks you’re buying are from.
While some brokers charge a flat fee, others are “tiered”, meaning the more frequently you trade the lower your fee, or percentage-based, where the more you trade the more you pay. Others are a combination of tiered, percentage-based and flat.
To allow you to compare fees, we’ve looked at the “standard trading fee” available and the “best trading fee” available. In the case of the standard fee, this is how much a trade would generally cost, with no conditions or hoops to jump through. The best trading fee is the best one you’re able to get. This will have hoops that you’ll need to jump through, such as making a certain number of trades the previous month.
Provider fees are sometimes charged as a percentage of your total investments, but in some cases it’s a flat fee. We’ve got out our calculators and pens to work out how much this would cost if you invested various amounts, ranging from £1,000 to £1 million to help us determine how they score against one another.
Finally, we’ve compared the foreign exchange fee for buying overseas stocks and the phone dealing fee, if you choose to trade over the phone and factored these into our scoring.
How do we decide which features are more important?
For our star ratings, each factor in our scoring methodology is weighted to ensure that the scores reflect what’s important to you. This is based on user and market research.
For instance, whether the platform has a desktop app is less important than whether it charges a hefty inactivity fee.
How do we choose our “best” trading platforms?
Our top picks are displayed across our investing and share-dealing content and feature four investing platforms that scored well across the board, have stand-out features and are among partner brands we work with.
Here are some of the factors we’ve looked at for some of our categories:
For categories relating to trading fees, we’ve ensured that the provider scores well in the fees category, as well as overall. Sometimes as a tie-break we’ve looked into getting more bang for your buck and considered how many shares or investments are available on the platform. For our zero commission category we’ve only considered platforms that charge zero commission.
Best for low fees
Best for zero commission
For newbie investors, we’ve only considered platforms that are considered “beginner” by our expert investing team. These are platforms that don’t have an overwhelming number of features and off-putting detailed charts. There’s such a thing as too simple, we still want a provider that scores highly overall.
Best for beginners
This category looks at the US markets you can trade, how much it will cost you, and how easy it is to send off your W-8BEN form to ensure you’re taxed correctly.
Best for US shares
This category is similar to US shares, but considers a wider range of markets available and the fees that are involved, including the foreign exchange fee.
Best for international trading
Investing small amounts
This comes close to the beginners category, but you’ll want low fees if you’re investing a small amount, so we’ve ensured that only beginners platforms with low fees are eligible to be a “best for” in this category.
Best for investing small amounts
Nobody’s born an expert investor – we’ve looked into the resources available to users that want to learn the ropes as they go. We consider what guides there are, whether there are videos and walkthroughs, if there’s a demo account and if the provider has a dedicated learning course that takes you through everything step-by-step.
Best for learning resources
The best for customer service is the one that came out top in our customer satisfaction survey, more on this below.
Best for customer satisfaction
“Customers say” star ratings
We carried out an independent survey of 753 customers in December 2021. We asked them how happy they were with a platform they had used within the previous 12 months.
We then turned their answers into a rating of between 1 and 5 stars.
And here’s how we did it…
Customer satisfaction ratings methodology
The survey asked respondents how satisfied they were with their share dealing provider on a scale from 1 to 5, and also whether they would recommend that company to a friend or not.
We turned the answers into an overall star rating that takes into account:
- How many people would recommend the company versus how many people wouldn’t. If you say you’d recommend your share dealing provider to a friend, it must mean it’s really good. So this forms 50% of our customer satisfaction star rating.
- The proportion of people who rated a provider five out of five. Wow, five out of five? This counts for 25% of our customer satisfaction star rating.
- The average rating each share dealing platform got. This tells us if a provider offers a solid service even though it doesn’t have loads of five out of five scores. This parameter forms the last 25% of our customer satisfaction star rating.
The final rating was then rounded to the nearest half star, to give the following one to five customer satisfaction range:
How we chose “good for” picks
To qualify for “good for” status in a category the platform needs to be among partner brands we work with and rank between second and sixth for that category.
Does Finder compare all investing platforms in the market?
We review most of the UK’s popular and well-regarded online brokers and we’re adding more all the time.
You may have noticed that some of our share dealing pages, tables and provider reviews come with “Customers say” star ratings. These are customer satisfaction ratings, where we asked consumers to tell us whether a service they were receiving from that company was any good.
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