How do we rate stocks and shares ISAs?

Find out how we rated stocks and shares ISAs and our customer survey.

To help find you the best stocks and shares ISA, our team analyses 83 features and fees for each share trading platform we’ve reviewed on our site and 26 features and fees for each robo-advisor we’ve reviewed on our site.

We use this analysis to create our expert star ratings. Platforms that score well across the board are eligible to be included in our “best for” picks. These reflect the stand-out features of great platforms. We also survey hundreds of customers so you can find out about the service each platform provides, from the people who matter most. 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?

How we rate the apps depends on the type of provider they are. We’ve split them into share dealing apps and robo-advisors.

Share dealing providers

We compare share dealing platforms based on 9 key factors:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. Products. This is all about the different tax wrappers and investment types the providers offer. Can you invest in a LISA or SIPP? Are there junior products available? Can you invest ethically, overseas or in fractional shares?
  4. Fees. More on this below, but we look at the range of fees you’ll pay with the provider.
  5. 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.
  6. Learning resources. Can you learn alongside your investing? What tools are on offer? Can you practise using a demo account?
  7. 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.
  8. Customer service. How did the platform perform in the Finder customer satisfaction awards? What help is available to its customers?
  9. 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.

Robo-advisors

We compare robo-advisors on 7 key factors:

  1. Products. This is all about the different tax wrappers and investment types the providers offer. Can you invest in a LISA or SIPP?
  2. Portfolios. Does the platform have a risk assessment quiz to help you choose a portfolio? How many portfolios does it offer? Are there any ethical portfolios? Are the portfolios managed or do you have to manage them yourself?
  3. Fees. More on this below, but we look at the range of fees you’ll pay with the provider.
  4. Mobile and desktop features. What is the app like? We check functionality like research, roundups and login security.
  5. Learning resources. Can you learn alongside your investing? What tools are on offer? Can you practise using a demo account?
  6. Customer service. How did the platform perform in the Finder customer satisfaction awards? What help is available to its customers?
  7. Doing the job it’s meant to do. There is no absolute “best stocks and shares ISA” for everyone, so what we want to help you find is the one that works for you. That’s why we’ve picked providers that suit different users, whether you fancy doing it yourself or using managed portfolios.

A bit about fees

There’s no getting around the fact that a lot of share-trading platforms have a complicated fee structure.

The brokerage fee (sometimes called the commission) 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.

Broker fee structures differ across the board.

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 calculate the total broker fees you’d pay if you made: less than 10 trades per month; 10 to 19 trades per month; or 20 or more trades a month. In some cases, such as for US shares, we’ve compared the standard fees and the best available fee.
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.

For robo-advisors, we’ve compared the percentage fee each provider charges. In order to compare the fees with providers that charge flat fees, we’ve compared the fees changed annually to invest £10,000, £100,000 and £1 million.

How do we decide which features are more important?

Each factor in our scoring methodology is weighted.

Our experts base this on user and market research to ensure it reflects what’s important to you.

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.

We exclude providers known as “robo advisers” which do everything for you – with these, you’re not making your own investments directly in the stock market (examples are Nutmeg, Moneyfarm and Moneybox).

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.

“Customers say” star ratings – calculated from our customer satisfaction survey

In December 2020, Finder ran an independent customer satisfaction survey about share dealing platforms. We polled 752 customers who told us 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 one and five 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 one to five, 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:

★★★★★ – Excellent

★★★★★ – Good

★★★★★ – Average

★★★★★ – Subpar

★★★★★ – Poor

All investing should be regarded as longer term. The value of your investments can go up and down, and you may get back less than you invest. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. If you’re not sure which investments are right for you, please seek out a financial adviser. Capital at risk.

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