We spend a lot of time talking about how to trade successfully on the stock market here at HostingData.
But while basic trading is great for short-term profits and even for its own sake, sometimes you need to know what platforms to use for long-term investment strategies.
In fact, most people use the stock market for retirement and nothing else, leaving day trading and other short-term strategies to economic gurus like us.
If you’re interested in those kinds of gains, you’ll need an investment platform: a tool to help you make smart, successful long-term trades.
Good news – some of the best online investment platforms are also great trading platforms and vice versa. Let’s take a closer look at the top online investment platforms in the UK for the upcoming year.
Top Rated Investment Platforms in the UK 🇬🇧
Whether you’re new to long-term investing and want to take charge of your retirement funds or if you already have some investing experience, we’ve compiled the following guide to help you choose a great investment platform.
Check out our quick investment platform comparison tool to see a bird’s eye view of our favorite platforms.
Note: Some of the platforms on our list, Plus500 for example, are CFD-only.
CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. Between 74-89% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs. You should consider whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.
Best Investment & CFD Platforms for Long-Term Trades (UK)
When determining the best investment platforms that can help you ensure long-term profits on your investments, we focused on platforms that were user-friendly, intuitive, and that had the research tools and controls necessary to give you ultimate freedom.
Let’s take a quick look at our top five picks.
#1 eToro: Best UK Investment Platform
Great for Beginners 🆕
CopyTrading and CopyPortfolios
This is easily the most interesting feature that eToro brings to the table. In a nutshell, you can use the CopyTrading feature to copy the individual trades of investors who seem to be doing a great job maximizing their investments.
The CopyTrading feature allows all of eToro’s users to share information.
When you work together, you can ensure that everyone makes a profit.
Users can also benefit from the CopyPortfolios feature, an extension of CopyTrading that allows you to copy entire investment portfolios. There are two main ways to leverage this feature: Market Portfolios and Top Trader Portfolios.
The latter of the two lets you copy the exact trades of some of the best performers on the market. This, in turn, makes it a great choice for beginners who may not know how to invest wisely.
Using this feature, they can rest assured that their long-term investments will be sound since some of the best investing minds have made the same moves. It’s a great feature for minimizing risk.
Plus, you can tweak this feature and have it invest as much of your available funds as you like with a single command. Talk about ease-of-use!
No Commission Charges
While eToro isn’t truly free, it is true that you don’t need to pay any commission charges with any trade you make. This isn’t a big deal for long-term investors (who typically won't make a lot of trades), but it’s still a nice aspect and lowers the overall cost of using the eToro investment platform.
Note that eToro does charge withdrawal fees and you have to have a minimum amount in your account to make a withdrawal in the first place.
Lots of Trading Options
eToro is among the best when it comes to sheer trading variety. You’ll be able to access tons of trading markets and make long-term investments using stocks, indices, currencies and ETFs.
This is opposed to other investment platforms that may only have a handful of markets available for your investment strategies.
Excellent User Interface
Lastly, eToro benefits heavily from its intuitive and user-friendly interface. Not only can you access all of your information via the Android-mobile app (and therefore keep an eye on your investments day-to-day), but you can also benefit from the community streams feature.
It’s called eToro OpenBook and essentially works as a trading Twitter. It’s a great place to ask experts investment questions directly or to share your information with newbies who are trying to get a leg up with their long-term investments.
All in all, eToro has a lot to offer and is one of the best investment platforms available to UK residents, period.
#2 Plus500: Top-Rated CFD Provider
Leading UK CFD Provider
76.4% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.
Diverse Investment Options
As with eToro, Plus500 offers a diverse array of different CFD investment options, including stocks, commodities, options, and ETFs.
Plus500’s WebTrader is among the easiest platforms to understand. You’ll be able to quickly create watch lists (to monitor certain stocks or other instruments), analyze different charts, and place and monitor your trades all via a few interlinked screens.
Furthermore, the platform can be accessed across different devices and systems, ranging from Windows PCs to regular web browsers and even most smartphones and tablets. This allows you to monitor your trades while on the go or to craft your portfolio while at work.
Guaranteed Stop-Loss Orders
A stop-loss order is a special command you can execute for a particular stock or trade once it dips in value to a certain point to prevent yourself from losing too much money. Plus500 guarantees any stop-loss orders that you place, which protects you from any market risk.
Note, however, that this feature is only available on some instruments, so be sure to check before assuming that you’re covered in the event of a sudden market dip.
Also of interest is the negative balance protection mentioned above. This effectively prevents you from losing more money than you put into your account through automatic blockers in its software. It’s a small feature, but useful for newcomers whose reach may accidentally exceed their grasp.
Plus500 takes security seriously, so you don’t need to worry about the fact that its headquarters is one of the few not in the UK. Instead, Plus500 acts as principal for its clients and always hedges any financial exposure within its parent company to prevent any market risk.
Though it doesn't provide deposit insurance, it is registered by most regulatory authorities in the Asia-Pacific and European trading regions. As mentioned, it offers negative balance protection and never intermingles any of its client funds with its corporate funds.
You can take advantage of its additional security by using the biometric authentication feature that’s available for the mobile app. Plus500 even includes a timer that will lock you out of the mobile and web-based applications if they haven’t been moved after certain period of time.
All in all, Plus500 is secure (in terms of SSL & cybercrime) but somewhat lacking investment platform. Since it doesn’t have very many research or educational tools, though, it may be a suitable choice if you have plenty of investment experience to fall back on already.
Plus500UK Ltd authorised & regulated by the FCA (#509909)
#3 Interactive Investor: For Hardcore Professionals
Excellent Charts and Research Information ℹ️
Charts From Morningstar
In order to make successful long-term trades, you’ll need to have excellent charts and research information.
Fortunately, Interactive Investor’s charts come from the stock research analysis firm Morningstar (the information from which usually costs a pretty penny).
This provides you with tons of starter research to help as you decide on investments for your portfolio and build it for future success.
Fortunately, Interactive Investor also includes automatic technical analysis through Trading Central. This provides you with all the detailed information you need to make educated buying and selling decisions over many months or years.
Great Mobile App
While Interactive Investor technically suffers since it doesn’t have a desktop platform at all, you’ll likely appreciate the phenomenal mobile app.
It’s incredibly streamlined and straightforward; even new investors will find it easy to use through and through.
You’ll be able to place trades, view the various aforementioned charts with a single tap on your screen, and even access various stock watch lists without lag or stuttering.
However, the website has a little more data on the screen and is a little more detailed in terms of its analysis tools, so you may still need to go to the actual website from time to time to get all the information you need before making a decision to invest or not.
This feature is admittedly better for short-term traders, but it’s still a good feature that makes Interactive Investor stand out from the other competitors. By making placing a trade quick and easy, you’ll be able to execute your long-term investment plans without any hiccups or delay.
When you navigate to the app’s broad research tab, you’ll find heat maps, rise and fall maps, and even market news concerning the status of your investments at large. You’ll never feel as though you don’t have an appropriate understanding of your investments thanks to this feature.
Become skilled enough and you’ll be able to anticipate market shifts in time to salvage your portfolio or to make big gains over the next few years.
All in all, Interactive Investor’s long-term investment features are well-suited to investors looking to build a nest egg for their golden years.
#4 Hargreaves Lansdown
Awesome Pre-Built Portfolios 👤
Real-Time Streaming Data
One of the big benefits of Hargreaves Lansdown is the market data you get for London Stock exchange assets. All you have to do is activate this feature in your account and you’ll automatically receive slightly delayed data that can help you make educated decisions about which stocks you want to buy or sell.
This is notable since most other UK investment platforms or brokers will charge monthly fees for the same information. However, Hargreaves Lansdown is a little pricey in other ways, charging regular annual fees, pre-trade fees on many types of financial instruments, and more.
Robust Mobile App
The aforementioned mobile app is one of the best in the industry, in our opinion. It's available for Android devices alongside iPhones and iPads.
While the controls are relatively simplistic, the app also provides you with most of the fundamental research you can find in the desktop version of the app. It’s not a stretch to say you may never need to touch the desktop version at all.
For example, all recent in-house research is available for every stock you can find on the app’s screen. Again, this helps you to check on the status of your portfolio on the go. You can even view mobile charts in a special “full-screen” mode for deeper analysis and easier reading.
Fantastic Research Area
Many long-term traders will claim that research makes or breaks an investment platform. In that case, you’ll be pleased to know that Hargreaves Lansdown includes a veritable treasure trove of fundamental company data.
Among its quote pages, you’ll find information on each potential company or stock regarding:
- Overall performance
- Recent company news
- Stockbroker forecasts
- Recent director deals
- Company info
- Financials and dividends
All of this can help you determine whether a given stock is a good investment decision in the short and long-term. Plus, you’ll find plenty of analyst commentary for all the funds and shares on the Wealth Shortlist (more on that below).
This notable feature is basically a special Hargreaves Lansdown listed that highlights the best funds across certain investment sectors.
It’s a fantastic inclusion for newcomers who don’t know where to put their money for long-term success and who may want to focus on funds, specifically, for their investment strategy rather than stocks or other instruments.
However, you’ll need to be comfortable with funds investment in order to make the most of this shortlist. All in all, Hargreaves Lansdown is a great choice for investment if you have a mind for research and appreciate well-made mobile apps.
No-Commission Trades With US Shares 🇺🇸
Access to US Shares
IG makes a mark in the industry by offering its users access to no-commission trades with US shares. This is notable since regular trades do charge commission fees. You get the discount so long as you make three trades per month (which counts as “active” to IG).
Whether or not this will actually be beneficial for long-term investing strategies is up for debate. Some folks’ strategies require them to purchase new stocks regularly as they grow their portfolios, while others may not really make use of this benefit.
IG is also a great choice as an investment platform since it works well with most major trading apps, including MetaTraders 4 and 5 and cTrader. All of these options work on both Mac and Android computers or devices.
In other words, IG grants you exceptional customizability and fantastic control as you tweak your portfolio for maximum profitability.
If you’re already comfortable with one of the above apps, you don’t need to learn a whole new one to use IG to great effect.
Even better, you can use most of these apps to manage your trades on mobile devices like tablets or even mobile phones.
Good Investment Diversity
Long-term investors looking to diversify their portfolios will benefit from the fact that IG allows you to trade over 12,000 different shares, as well as across 19 different international exchanges, funds, investment trusts, and more. As any skilled long-term investor will tell you, a diverse portfolio is the key to success.
Plus, IG also lets you trade with ISA or SIPP accounts: these accounts allow you to trade with more freedom and flexibility compared to basic share-dealing accounts you can find with other investment platforms.
Excellent Research Tools
We can’t review IG without mentioning its extensive research tools.
All of its learning resources are totally free to access and you'll be able to find research information on individual stocks or other financial assets using its main platform, which comes complete with technical indicators and several stock picking tools.
Despite all of this research complexity, it's an intuitive platform overall and even beginners should get the hang of things after a few hours of navigating through its tabs and controls.
Best Online Investment Platform Buying Guide 🛒
Reading about top investment platforms in the UK is one thing. It’s another to understand how and why you should subscribe to one or another.
What Is an Investment Platform?
Put simply, an investment platform is a kind of online market trading platform that, as opposed to a regular online trading platform, will let you purchase various investment instruments (such as funds, bonds, shares, and so on) and place them inside a tax-free Stocks and Shares ISA or individual savings account.
They may also allow you to place your trades inside an SIPP or self-invested personal pension.
Put another way, investment platforms are meant for long-term financial gain and stable trading. Regular brokers or trading platforms are better suited for short-term gains and trading.
Investors typically use investment platforms in order to build up enough of a financial nest egg to retire, or to save up for other big expenses such as college for their children.
As such, investment platforms (or trading platforms that can double as investment platforms) will often have different features or attributes compared to short-term trading services.
With investment trading, you’ll buy and hold certain stocks for months or years, allowing your portfolio to gradually increase in value over time. Then you’ll sell the stocks or other financial instruments at a date that works for your financial savings goals.
It’s the same kind of strategy that’s behind any retirement fund or savings account, really.
What’s a Stock? What About Other Market Assets or Instruments?
A stock is just a share or unit of ownership in a company. When you buy a stock, you buy a single piece of ownership in a given company. By owning a stock, you get a very small fraction of a corporation’s assets or profits.
Stock exchanges allow you to buy and sell stocks.
In addition to regular stocks, there are other financial instruments you can invest in.
- ETFs or exchange-traded funds
- Mutual funds
- CFDs or contract for difference
- Options, which are specialized instruments that guarantee the right to buy or sell a stock at a particular price at a certain time
Many of the best investment platforms will allow you to purchase multiple types of market assets and instruments. A diverse portfolio typically leads to better long-term investment gains since you’re less susceptible to market risk or declines.
How to Invest in Stocks Using an Investment Platform
Investment platforms are pretty similar to stock trading platforms in terms of their mechanics. Learn more about them in our online stock trading guide for beginners.
First, you’ll need to sign up for an investment platform by providing some personal information and funding the account. Because investment platforms are designed for long-term investment gains, they usually have a minimum investment amount. This is often between £100 and £1000 or so depending on the service.
How Do You Know Where to Invest Money?
Don’t have the experience necessary to master long-term investing right off the bat? No worries.
Most great investment platforms in the UK will also come with educational resources.
These include tutorials and advice on how to analyze different stock information. These resources will help you to make better decisions as you build your portfolio.
Certain platforms, like eToro, may even let you copy the trades or investment strategies of other investors on the same platform. You can, therefore, tag along with experienced investors and make a consistent profit without having to do a ton of research.
But you might want to do your own research using the tools available with your chosen investment platform as you become more experienced.
Research means looking at aspects of a stock like:
- How well the company is doing
- Its current dividends (i.e. shareholder profits)
- Projections for how the company will do over the next few years
All of this information can help you predict whether a given investment will be a good choice in the long run. It takes time to master, but it’s well worth it in the end.
How Much Do Investment Platforms Cost?
It depends. As opposed to regular trading platforms, many investment platforms come with additional fees since you’re expected to hold onto the stocks purchased through these platforms for a long time.
Typical charges include:
- Annual ongoing charges, which help to pay for the platform’s upkeep
- Buying or selling fees, which are incurred when you execute various transactions
- Inactivity fees, which can kick in if you don’t use your account for a certain amount of time
In many cases, these charges will come out of your investments’ returns. That’s why it’s important to compare the costs of different investment platforms and make sure you pick the one that works best for your budget.
How to Choose the Right Investment Platform
Speaking of picking the right investment platform, let’s take a look at how you can choose the platform that’s best for your needs.
Again, be sure to compare the different fees and charges that various platforms might charge. Some of these fees might be hidden.
For instance, eToro is a great choice in terms of cost overall. While it does charge withdrawal fees, it doesn’t charge any commission fees (i.e. fees on any trades you make). eToro is one of the most affordable investment and trading platforms available to UK residents.
Most investment platforms will require you to always keep a minimum amount of cash in your account. Sometimes this is relatively affordable, such as £200. But in other cases, it may be in the thousands of pounds. Check this factor before signing up for an investment platform.
Even with the best online trading platforms for beginners you’ll need good educational and research resources.
The best online investment platforms will have excellent research tools and tabs for you to check out.
The more research tabs a platform has, the easier it'll be to make smart investment decisions.
However, it’s also a good idea to check where a given platform gets its research information.
Firms such as Morningstar are great examples of solid, well-regarded investment research firms whose research can be relied on time and time again.
Other platforms may have teachers or advisors that you can consult when learning how to use a given investment platform or making your first investment trades. eToro has CopyTrading, which also allows you to copy experienced investors and make a profit that way.
Platforms with smooth, streamlined user interface designs are better than those with clunky interfaces (who likes a hard-to-use app? Not us!). The easier you can use a platform, the more enjoyable your experience will be, and the faster you'll learn its ins and outs.
Is There a “Demo” Account?
Lastly, it's a good idea to see if a given platform has a demo account. Demo accounts allow you to set up an account and tour the platform in question without having to put down any money. You'll instead be given some fake digital currency to make trades and see how your investments pan out.
Demo accounts are great ways to try out an investment platform before you commit fully.
What’s the Best Online Investment Platform in the UK?
Ultimately, eToro is the best online investment platform for most UK residents. This is due to its overall low prices, excellent market diversity, and the CopyTrading feature.
The last tool is particularly good for new investors who want to make sure that their long-term investments are stable and solid, even if they don’t have the research experience necessary to guarantee it for themselves.
What’s the Cheapest Online Investment Platform in the UK?
eToro is also among the cheapest online investment platforms. But Interactive Investor is also relatively affordable and comes with additional excellent features such as One-Click trading and Stop-Loss protection.
Is It Safe to Make Investments Using Online Platforms?
In most cases, yes. All of the above platforms are registered by the FCA and have done business in the UK for quite some time. Registered platforms include protection for their clients (i.e. you) that ensures that you’re insured in the event of a digital hacking incident when your funds are lost.
But these platforms have good digital security by default, so this is unlikely anyway.
Ultimately, eToro and the other investment platforms above are great tools that you can use to begin a long-term retirement or another investment strategy in earnest.
Be sure to try them out for yourself and see which one is right for you!