Trading stocks is a great way to learn more about the financial markets, grow income, and secure some long-term investments.
The issue is that making a successful profit can be challenging, especially if you are new to the stock market.
Knowing where to get started with data trading and trading platforms can be hard for the uninitiated—especially seeking the best free trading platforms for beginners.
Fortunately for you, you are in the perfect place—we have put together all you need to get started with day trading. Ready to learn your exchange-traded funds from your stocks and your shares from your ETFs?
Then get comfortable, settle down, and prepare to learn more.
We have found the best free trading platforms for you to get started making money, whether you are new or experienced—read on for all you need to know as we take a deep dive into some of the most popular platforms on the market.
Table of Contents:
Top 10 Free Trading Platforms in the UK 🇬🇧️
|1. XTB Online Trading||★★★★★||Open Account|
|2. Interactive Brokers||★★★★★||Open Account|
|3. TradeStation||★★★★★||Open Account|
|4. IG||★★★★★||Open Account|
|5. Vanguard||★★★★★||Open Account|
|6. Degiro||★★★★★||Open Account|
|7. Saxo Markets||★★★★★||Open Account|
|8. Freetrade||★★★★★||Open Account|
|9. Hargreaves Lansdown||★★★★★||Open Account|
|10. Trading 212||★★★★★||Open Account|
1. XTB Online Trading - Best Trading Platform
There are very few UK-based trading platforms that are free—but XTB happens to be one of them. The trading platform is free to use, and this also applies to the majority of the features. They also offer a variety of cashback rebates to benefit their customers and have great software and innovation for you to take advantage of.
Mostly Free Trading Platform
When you start to trade stocks and explore trading platforms, you will soon realize that some of the “free” platforms out there have a lot of hidden fees or that they are cheaply made and rather unimpressive. That doesn’t seem to be the case with XTB, though. They plug in xStation5 and xStation Mobile, which allows you a lot of customization and detail that even some pricy providers can’t match.
To enjoy XTB for free stock trading, there are some caveats: you do have to have a specific account balance to avoid fees.
Most of the trading fees that are incurred are associated with spreads, Bitcoin, and CFDs. Stock and ETF trades on the platform are commission-free up to £100K per month, but these other categories have minimal fees. For spreads, it’s a certain percentage, all of which are under .9. For Bitcoin CFDs, you’re going to pay £3.50 for your trades.
Reasonable Exchange Fees
Exchange fees are only charged if you purchase stock from another country. That means in the UK, if you purchase a US stock for USD, you pay a conversion fee.
When you dip below that number, you will get charged for any withdrawals. Otherwise, withdrawals are also free. You will need a bank to transfer between, as that is the only method permitted for withdrawal purposes. This plays a key role in helping to keep those transfer fees as they are.
Avoiding Withdrawal Fees
The withdrawal fees help maintain a minimum balance within your portfolio. As long as you can keep that minimum, you pay £0 fees on your withdrawals. If you dip below, you pay a minimal fee.
The good news is that you won't get any repetitive charges if you need to withdraw below that minimum. It’s a one-time fee, and it’s not a terrible fee. It’s only a few pounds and won’t break the bank.
XTB is a solid platform with a lot of really great details. It’s no wonder that they have 500,000 customers at their doorstep. They are heavily geared towards the European industry, which is solid too. But, just like any other provider, they aren’t perfect. There are a few details that some traders don’t like.
The first is that the conversion fee is pretty high compared to other companies. It’s .5%, which can be a lot of money on a little trade. You expect some conversion fee, but this will add up quickly.
The other most common complaint about this company is that while they are a global provider, nearly all educational content is available in English only. This seems a bit odd since they are not US-based. While many customers can read English fine, it’s inconvenient, considering they have a larger platform.
2. Interactive Brokers – Best Advanced Trading Platform
Many trading platforms are prioritising the same interface.
They are all racing to be as simple and minimalist as possible—but what if you want something deep and informative?
Interactive Brokers is a free trading platform that heavily rewards users who go in with highly advanced knowledge. This is reflected on two fronts: First in their actual website, and second in their trading app.
Easy to Use Website
Let’s discuss their website first. The first thing you will notice about their website is that they keep several things separate—there are different buttons for looking at the stock market, placing a trade, and learning about the stock market, and this means they are all equally, visually significant.
This is very much intentional, as Interactive Brokers want to create a very specific user experience—they tend to appeal to advanced traders, who are able to read their news, analyze stocks, and buy shares in a company all as separate activities. But why is this? What is the advantage of this?
What Does it Mean to be an Advanced Trader?
Advanced trading means that you do not just buy the stocks advertised to you—instead, you go a little deeper and seek out your stock and ETF trades to make the most significant profit.
Interactive Brokers are set up to facilitate this. If your stock market news and your stock trading ability exist on the same interface, then you will be looking at news stories claiming that a company is going to explode in value right next to the “buy stock” button, and can take fast, decisive action.
The advantage that Interactive Brokers gives you is that it separates these things out, giving you a more objective, more comprehensive view of the stock itself and the news around it.
This simplicity and ease of use also extend to its desktop app, which includes a heavily customisable interface. This means you can intermingle your watchlist, controls for buying stocks, and news on the same screen, making it super easy to manage your trades—especially compared to other, more complex trading platforms.
You have probably already noticed the drawback to the way Interactive Brokers does things: they primarily appeal to someone who is looking to make use of all of their tools.
This means that if you are not interested in all of their assistance, then those tools will just get in the way. This is most obvious in relation to how they separate the market, buying, and learning. The biggest dealbreaker some people will face is not being able to buy straight from the market screen.
This extends the most to their desktop app. While it is customisable, even customising it is hard. This is to say nothing of actually buying stock off of it.
3. TradeStation – Best Trading Platform for Variety
Contrary to outsiders' perception, the stock market does not just stock. Strictly speaking, the stock market deals in shares of companies, but even shares of companies can be bought and sold in a variety of different ways.
What TradeStation has to offer is one of the most comprehensive markets for trading in these alternative methods. These methods include things like stock options and CFDs, as well as futures and crypto. Anything you can think of to trade, TradeStation has.
The most popular method of trade that they offer is options. Let’s explore what those are.
What are Stock Options?
Imagine you need a table to eat at. So, buy a table. You eat off of it… But then the price of tables goes up. So, you sell it and make a profit. This is what normal stock trading is like with free stock trading apps.
Options work a little differently. With options, you are buying a reservation for a table at a restaurant. That means you are purchasing the ability to use the table for a certain period. But while demand for that table might increase, it might also decrease. This makes the value of that reservation an asset worth trading in itself.
Because you must own the option to buy a stock to buy the underlying asset, some people will pay good money to buy an option even (and sometimes especially) if the stock is cheap. This makes the market for stock options highly volatile. You can make a whole lot of money this way with little effort.
But to return to the metaphor of the table reservation: What if the restaurant burns down? That would render the reservation worthless. And similarly, if the underlying stock is found to be useless, that option will become worthless. And unlike an actual stock, a stock option can expire.
This creates a situation where you spend an amount of money to either make a lot of money or make no money at all. Not many platforms offer this way of trading because it is risky for consumers.
But TradeStation does.
Ideal for Riskier Trades
If you are on the hunt for a trading platform which allows you to take a little more off a gamble, Trading Statios is the perfect pick, as they will enable the trading of options from across the market. In addition to this, TradeStation offers similarly risky CFDs, futures, and less-risky crypto. This means that anything you might want to trade is on offer at TradeStation. In addition to this, they offer some above-average learning tools.
Of course, offering risky trades presents its own problems. As with any free trading platform that offers options and CFDs, TradeStation has a reminder on many of its pages that most people lose money trading them. This is required by law in most countries that regulate TradeStation, including the UK.
In addition, while the learning tools offered by the site are above average, they are hardly comprehensive. Their news feed is basically completely absent and lacks the token market updates often found on these types of sites. This data and details are critical to a highly speculative market such as options, so you will have to get them elsewhere, which can be a major inconvenience to traders who like to have all of their information in place on the trading platform before they get started.
The obvious answer is that TradeStation views options and CFDs as gambles. Many people would agree, so be sure to invest in them sparingly. And remember, most trades with these securities lose money.
4. IG – Best Foreign Currency Trading Platform
British currency has a fascinating history. Having one of the largest empires in the world, the British Pound Sterling (abbreviated as GBP) was formerly tied to the value of gold to give it a standard.
Most of the world followed this “gold standard” in the 19th and 20th centuries, since it allowed people to easily understand a currency's trade value by measuring how much gold it could buy.
But by 1971, most countries were tying their currency to the American Dollar.
The British Pound was one of the few currencies to be left “floating”. This meant that it was not tied to anything besides market forces. Sometimes (in fact, often times), this made it even more valuable than the American Dollar, and by extension, more valuable than all the currencies tied to it.
IG is a trading platform that does its best to represent that superior value. It does this in two ways: Tying the New York and London Stock Exchanges together. And two, by allowing for the easy foreign currency trade of the American Dollar and the British Pound.
What is Foreign Currency Trade?
Foreign currency trading is a unique and complex method of extracting value from the world's different currencies. These currencies are organised into “pairs” where you use one to buy the other.
So, in this case, you are using the British Pound to buy the American Dollar. The idea is that since the Pound is worth more, you will end up with more money after the trade. Once the Dollar increases in value and the Pound decreases in value, you can sell your Dollars for more Pounds than you started with.
While a lot of money can be made by doing this, it requires a lot of foreknowledge to make wise foreign currency trades. IG provides some of the best learning and research tools for this kind of marketplace. They even give you access to other kinds of trade, like basic stocks and cryptocurrency.
IG’s biggest weakness is visible from going to their site: Their interface. It is dense, complex, and poorly optimised, meaning that it can move slowly sometimes—this can be frustrating and possibly put you at a disadvantage when you come to trading stocks. The reason for this lag is mainly because the primary method of trade that facilitated requires a lot of different sources of information to do right.
5. Vanguard – Best UK Based Trading Platform
While all of the trading platforms on this list are accessible from the United Kingdom, Vanguard is one of the few trading platforms based in the United Kingdom.
But why is this important?
The simple fact is that many traders based in the UK feel more confident and secure when the trading platform they are using is also UK-based; this means that they are legally required to follow UK rules and regulations, and this can help traders feel that their money is safe and secure when they balance stock and ETF trades
What Does Vanguard Offer?
Vanguard are known for a range of great features, and these include:
Consumer Trading Accounts
One of the main things that Vanguard offers is a focus on consumer trading accounts. It has different accounts for different needs: Do you want a retirement account? An account to pay off a loan? Or maybe you’re setting up a college fund?
Vanguard can cover these and open the door to normal day trading. This makes them great for beginners and people who do not want to go too deep into trading.
Range of Assets
Vanguard is also known for its wide range of assets—you can make money trading stocks, investing in EFTS, or opting for a range of other investments and assets. This makes it easy to diversify your portfolio and allows for a wider net that can boost security and success.
Another advantage of the site is that funds tend to be relatively low in commission and trading fees compared to other trading platforms—this means you can enjoy more of your money. It makes this an appealing trading platform for those relatively new to investing and stock trading.
The main issue is that Vanguard is not as helpful to people looking to trade big and dramatically; this platform is best suited to new investors and traders. Advanced users will find very little for them here, since it mainly aims to achieve certain long-term financial goals.
As a result, it also lacks serious learning, news, or research tools, so it may not be the best option for those looking to take their stock trading to the next level or trade stocks that offer more risk and danger.
6. Degiro – Best International Trading Platform
It is easy to think of the New York Stock Exchange as the centre of the financial world. And in a way, it is.
But it is not the only centre—the London Stock Exchange is the most obvious example of another major power in the financial world.
Hong Kong, Australia, and the United Arab Emirates also have their stock exchanges with unique trading rules.
Access to a Range of Markets
The good thing about Degiro is that it has the power to connect them all. This means two things: First, it means that the platform has access to a huge number of different markets. These markets have different trends, respond to different events, and generally operate very differently. Mastering these differences can make you a lot of money, and Degiro offers an easy guide to help with this.
The second thing this means is that Degiro is regulated by various regulators. Each country where Degiro does business oversees the trades Degiro does with its markets. This means that, unlike many online trading platforms, Degiro has far more scrutiny than others.
Do these Regulations Get in the Way?
People think of regulations as necessarily obstructive, but that is not always true. Most of the time, different rules in different countries mean that things are traded… well, differently.
The most obvious example is “Islamic account” options offered by many Arab markets. The Quran forbids certain kinds of interest from being placed on debts (specifically compounding interest).
This means that many brokers offering trading platforms and trading services to countries in the Middle East will have some Islamic account option that does not deal in any compounding interest. Instead, they will usually have some sort of another fee to account for this.
Another example of different regulations is the United States PDT or Pattern Day Trading rules. These are rules that are not made by a governmental body, but an independent agency that oversees trade in the United States. Their rules state that no one below a certain amount of capital can day trade.
Suppose you are a regular day trader in the United Kingdom. In that case, you might be surprised to do business in the American market and find that because your assets are tied up somewhere that the regulators can’t see, you are considered too low capital to trade more than four times in one week.
Essentially, Degiro is an online broker who has access to all of these different markets and their corresponding regulations and takes care of the hard work for you—this is one of the best free trading platforms to access a global market and diversify your portfolio without having to worry about the nuance of regulations and rules for each unique market.
With all this talk of international markets, you might wonder how much Degiro does to help you understand the different market rules. The answer is, sadly, not a whole lot.
The interface Degiro offers you is clean and minimalist, so there is rarely anything getting in the way of you seeing how the markets work themselves—but that still is not as good as a hard and fast lesson as to how they work.
As a result of this lack of introduction, most people will not use their Degiro accounts very much after signing up. Instead, they will take their time carefully analysing the different markets to see how they work before placing their trades on this or another free trading platform, reducing Degiro to more of an advice or research platform than an actual free trading platform.
7. Saxo Markets – Best Indexes
Saxo Markets is a trading platform that offers quite a lot to investors of all skill levels.
This is because while they have many charts, graphs, and other learning and analysis tools for newer investors, they also have something that more advanced investors treat as valuable as gold: Great indexes.
They also provide a free ISA program, meaning anyone can get started growing their savings with them.
Their indexes make them more suitable for advanced traders, but their educational and savings tools appeal to retail investors and beginners at trading.
What is an Index?
The indexes are a big deal because while some can reach across all platforms (the S&P 500 is the most obvious example), some are exclusive to a single trading platform.
An index is a database of different securities—usually stocks. This database keeps track of the share prices of various companies. You can buy into an entire index, usually at the average price of all the companies in it, and therefore get a fractional share of each company.
The idea here is that your investment covers the whole industry, rather than being dependent on the success or failure of a single company. If the industry is seeing success, then so will you.
Saxo Markets’ indexes are known for being more interesting and complex than just representations of whole industries. They will track worker movements, regulations, and the kinds of resources the companies use, allowing the index to include complex data points.
Saxo Markets offers a lot of help to new traders. But there is only so much it can do to make “vertical integration” and “macroeconomics” engaging, interesting, or even comprehensible to beginners.
It is a trading platform designed for people wanting to engage more complicated and nuanced with the market. This means that there is a lot to maximise and optimise. But it also means that if you do not know how to do that, there is much-lost value in doing business with Saxo Markets.
Due to market limitations, it is also limited in how much you can get out of overseas trading.
8. Freetrade – Best for Retail Traders
Freetrade is a platform that offers a lot to new investors and beginners. The stand-out features include things such as web seminars on how to spot good trades, learning tools for everything from the basics of working the interface to high-level macro analysis, and of course, indexes of the biggest industries.
They even give you access to securities such as foreign currency and options. They stop short of anything more complicated, like CFDs and cryptocurrency. This relates to the way they are regulated, as they do not like to include securities as volatile as those which are known for having risk-related issues.
But where Freetrade shines is in how welcoming it is to retail investors.
What is a Retail Investor?
You are either a retail investor, or you are not. The less sure you are about what a retail investor is, the more likely you are to be a retail investor. A retail investor is someone who is not a “professional” trader. That means they have little to no formal education or licensing for stock trading.
Rather than trading at a brokerage firm, they use their salary from a real job to finance their investments. This means they will usually have less money to trade and less knowledge of how to do it.
Freetrade welcomes retail investors with their copious learning tools and free stocks, no commission fees, and options to invest in an ISA, or individual savings account.
The ISA is a great place to start with Freetrade’s issues. The ISA is an excellent tool for growing your savings, but Freetrade locks it behind the paywall of its premium services. Some stocks and indexes are locked behind paywalls as well. In all cases, the paywalls are justified by the lack of commission fees.
What it means, however, is that while Freetrade is a great place for retail investors to start, it will only really reward them if they trade frequently, which most retail investors do not.
9. Hargreaves Lansdown – Best Mobile App
Free stock trading apps for mobiles tend to be highly streamlined. This means a couple of things: Firstly, trade is always slower on them. If you want to buy a share and sell it in the same five-minute window, a mobile app will not be very reliable.
That is not to say it will never happen, just not consistently.
They also generally lack highly nuanced learning tools. After all, how much market analysis can you do when working with a screen smaller than most people’s palms?
Hargreaves Lansdown seeks to address these obstacles precisely. It makes trading as fast, reliable, and easy as most mobile apps. But it also incorporates things like learning tools into the mobile experience.
The most notable of these is its lessons, which can be consumed as videos, but also work as podcasts. This means you do not have to use the app with rapt attention like most trading apps. You can put on a podcast teaching you about candlesticks, then go for a run.
What Sort of Advanced Options Does Hargreaves Lansdown Offer?
Perhaps the most notable thing that sets Hargreaves Lansdown apart from other mobile apps is its various securities and account options. Most account options matter how much money you spend to get paid off conveniences. But not with this app.
Hargreaves Lansdown offers ISAs and SIPPs. We already covered investment savings accounts but not SIPPs. A SIPP is a self-invested personal pension. That means it is a recovery account for situations when you lose employment, get injured, or need funds for a personal emergency.
The advantage that a SIPP offers you over an employer-provided pension is that you can direct how it grows yourself. You can also have it directed for you, but many people seek out SIPPs because they know how to make it grow larger than a normal pension provided by an employer.
However, the best part of SIPPs is that having one does not disqualify you from a pension from your employer or the government. This means that while having one is somewhat complex and can take from your current finances, getting a SIPP is a strict upgrade from not having one.
You have probably noticed that the most favourable comparisons we make for Hargreaves Lansdown are between itself and other mobile apps. That is because it is generally not as good as a desktop app.
It has its niche, certainly. If you are not interested in (or, more likely, unable to) trade stocks while sitting at a computer, then a mobile app is a way to go. But for all of its tools, Hargreaves Lansdown will feel clunky and slow to anyone with substantial trading experience due to being on mobile.
While it has no minimum deposit or account fees, it does have commission fees. This means that it favours traders who deal in large trades every so often, as opposed to trading frequent, small amounts.
10. Trading 212 – Best User Experience
For many people just starting in trading, they are not looking to be fully immersed. Such an idea is objectionable to them. Most people want to feel like they are connecting to something bigger than themselves. They want to see how to get from financially struggling to independent.
Trading 212 knows this and prioritises this experience. Its interface is clean, concise, and futuristic. Its tutorials are in-depth, simple, and paced for absolute beginners at stock trading.
But perhaps most importantly, the mobile and desktop apps are almost identical. In theory, this should not work. Mobile apps are constructed to benefit a phone's controls and screen size. Desktop apps are built to present more information and have access to more tools at once.
Trading 212 unifies these designs so you can switch between them seamlessly while keeping their interfaces easy to use on both platforms.
Does Trading 212 Allow You to Customise Its Interface?
Along with low fees and clear tutorials, customisability is another feature that beginner traders look for in a trading platform’s app. The reason for this is simple: They assume that most of the information a trading platform offers them will be incomprehensible.
Trading 212’s customisation tools are geared around this fact. They do not drown you in charts, graphs, and news reports with little to no direct relationship to the stocks you track and trade.
Instead, they start you off with a blank canvas and allow you to fill it in over time. They give you recommendations as to how this canvas is filled, but it is never crammed full of information for you.
While Trading 212 does a lot to stay cheap and easy to use, it can prove challenging for most people to get what they want. This has to do with a couple of things: Firstly, while it does have analysis and learning tools, they are hard to find and not very comprehensive.
Secondly, the platform does not give you access to many different stocks. This means that a lot of your buying power is going to be limited to a small market that is subject to more external forces than internal forces. It also means your money does not go as far in general.
Trading 212 also lacks any higher-risk securities. This is for the best, given the platform’s target demographic, but on top of everything else it is lacking, the platform is generally under equipped.
Let's explore any lingering questions you may still have regarding free stock trading apps.
Does it Matter which Broker I Use?
When you use a free trading platform, your risk is relatively minimal. Your first broker is your first broker. It will give you an understanding of what you want from a trading app so that you can look for these features in other online brokers. Experimenting with free trading platforms allows you to determine your needs for a trading app without paying any fees.
What are the Negatives with Free Trading Platforms?
You can begin your trading journey using free stock trading platforms without paying and committing to a subscription. However, you must also consider the cost of conversion. Converting currencies with free trading platforms can incur additional costs—beginner investors must know this. Additionally, you could outgrow your trading platform as you learn more about stock and ETF trades, needing a more comprehensive features offering.
What are the Best Trading Tools for Free Trading Apps?
When evaluating the best free stock trading apps, you need to look for the following features and tools:
- User-friendliness—you should look for an app that is easy to use and understand.
- Search functions—searching for specific stocks and markets using the app should be easy.
- Security—multifactor authentication will ensure that the money in your account is protected from a cybersecurity standpoint.
- Order confirmation and price alerts—you should consistently be aware of any price changes, and the app should provide you with order confirmation for the stocks you purchase.
Among free trading apps, one of the most common themes is the tension between complexity and simplicity.
Generally, something deeper has to be harder to use. It will give you more options but at the cost of being more complicated.
Remember this not just when you pick your first trading app but throughout your whole trading journey. While you might start simple, there may come a day when you want to jump over to a trading app with more tools, ways of learning, and more securities to use.
And when that happens, you can freely switch to a more complicated trading app.