Based in the UK and looking at how to buy shares for the first time?
You simply need to open an account with an FCA regulated stock broker, deposit some funds with your card or bank account – and then choose which shares you want to purchase.
In this beginner’s guide, we explain everything you need to know about buying shares in the UK. We’ll discuss how to select a stock broker, fees, how to place your first share order and provide tips on choosing the right shares. At the end of the article, we’ll point you in the direction of our investing in shares course where you can learn more advanced strategies.
- 0.1 How to Buy Shares in 3 Simple Steps:
- 1 How do you Buy Shares in the UK?
- 2 How Does Online Share Dealing Work in the UK?
- 3 What are the Pros and Cons of Investing in Shares?
- 4 Step 1: How to Select a Stock Broker
- 5 Where to Buy Shares – The Best UK Share Dealing Platforms of 2020
- 6 Step 2: Learn the Basics of Buying Shares in the UK
- 7 Step 3: What to Consider Before You Buy Shares in a Company
- 7.1 Tip 1: Diversify as much as you can
- 7.2 Tip 2: Start off with low stakes
- 7.3 Tip 3: Consider a copy trading portfolio
- 7.4 Tip 4: Understand what fees and commissions you are paying
- 7.5 Tip 5: Learn how to research stocks
- 8 Step 4: Buy Shares UK
- 9 How to Buy Shares – The Verdict
Step 1: Open an Account
You will first need to open an account with an FCA-regulated share dealing platform
Step 2: Deposit Funds
Add some funds to your brokerage account with a debit/credit card, bank account, or e-wallet.
Search for your chosen stock, decide how many shares you want to buy, and confirm the order.
75% of retail investors lose money trading CFDs at this site.
Before the internet, buying shares in the UK was an overly-manual process. You would need to call a stock broker over the phone to discuss your requirements. This would be time consuming and costly (due to the spread – the difference between the ask and the bid price of a stock).
This is in stark contrast to how UK share dealing works today, where every share purchase can be facilitated at the click of a button. All you need is an online brokerage account – which you can fund with a UK debit/credit card or bank account.
Then, you simply need to choose which shares you wish to buy, and the transaction will be completed in seconds. Best of all, as there are now hundreds of UK stock brokers each competing for your business, fees and commissions have never been so competitive. In fact, there are even UK share dealing platforms that allow you to buy stocks without paying any dealing charges.
Once you have opened a brokerage account and funded it with your preferred payment method, you will then have access to thousands of shares. This includes companies listed on the London Stock Exchange and the Alternative Investment Market. Outside of the UK, you will also have access to international stocks on the New York, Tokyo and Frankfurt stock exchanges.
Major exchanges in the US allow you to invest in tech giants such as Facebook, Apple and Amazon. Crucially, you will be investing on a DIY basis – meaning that you will need to choose which companies you want to buy shares in.
- You decide you want to purchase stocks in British American Tobacco (BAT)
- You register with a regulated share dealing platform
- You deposit £200 with your UK debit card
- You buy £200 worth of BAT shares. If the price was £20 per share, you would receive 10 shares.
- The investment will be reflected in your brokerage account. You can sell the shares at any given time – during standard market hours
- You could lose money
- You will need to select your own investments
- No guarantee that your shares will increase in value
Step 1: How to Select a Stock Broker
Though buying shares online is a seamless process, there is lots to learn before you get started. At the forefront of this is choosing a UK stock broker that meets your needs. After all, the broker in question will be responsible for obtaining and holding the shares that you wish to buy – so you need to spend some time researching the platform before signing up.
Some of the most important factors that you need to look out for are:
The first – and most important metric that you need to consider before joining a UK stock broker is whether or not it is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). This will ensure that you are able to buy, sell, and trade shares in a safe and secure environment.
- All FCA brokers are required to go through a long and drawn-out application process before they can legally accept UK traders.
- The platform will need to have its books audited by the FCA on a quarterly basis.
- All client funds must be held in segregated bank accounts. This is a crucial safeguard, as it means the broker cannot use your invested funds to cover its own working capital.
- Segregated bank accounts also means that were the broker to run into financial problems, your money would be ringfenced.
All in all, never sign up with a UK share dealing platform if it doesn’t hold that all-important FCA license.
UK Payment Methods
Once you have assessed the broker’s regulatory standing, you then need to explore what payment methods it accepts. In the vast majority of cases, UK share dealing platforms will accept a debit/credit card and bank account transfer. The latter is more suitable for larger deposits over £10,000. Depending on the broker, it may take 1 to 3 business for bank wire funds to land in your account, but if you conduct an instant bank transfer they can be credited in two hours.
Stock brokers such as eToro also accept e-wallets: Skrill, Neteller, and most conveniently, Paypal.
UK and International Stock Markets
Make sure you browse through the UK stock broker’s platform to see what shares they offer. If it’s a UK-based broker, then it is all-but-certain that you will have access to the vast bulk of companies listed on the London Stock Exchange (Tesco, Royal Mail and British Airways etc). With that said, some platforms limit you to firms listed on the main FTSE 100 index, while others dive deeper by including the AIM.
Outside of the UK investment space, leading share dealing sites will also give you access to international markets. At the forefront of this is the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ.
These two exchanges host some of the largest companies in the world – such as Facebook, Disney, Nike, Ford, IBM, Microsoft, Amazon, and more. Ultimately, it’s best to choose a stock broker that covers both UK and international markets, as this will give you the best chance possible of diversifying your risk. eToro, for instance, allows you to purchase shares from 17 different markets.
Fees and Commissions
Online stock brokers are in the business of making money – so you will always need to pay a fee of some sort. This includes a dealing charge that you will pay when you purchase shares, and then again when you sell them. Most brokers charge this as a flat fee – meaning that you will always pay the same amount regardless of how much you invest.
In other cases, some brokers will charge an annual maintenance fee. This is charged as a percentage against the total amount you have invested with the broker. The good news is that some UK share dealing platforms allow you to buy stocks without paying any dealing charges or annual fees. Instead, they make their money from the ‘spread’, or a one-off conversion fee when you make your first deposit (eToro, for instance, charge 0.5%).
To give you an idea of what you are likely going to pay – check out the comparison table below.
|UK Stock Broker Fees||Charge Per Trade||Annual Fee||Conversion Fee|
|IG||£3 or £8||£24 per quarter (less than 3 trades)||0.50%|
|Hargreaves Lansdown||£5.95 to £11.95||Free||0.25% to 1%|
|Barclays||£6||0.2% (£48 min.)||N/A|
|Interactive Investor||From £3.99||From £9.99 per month||1%|
Finding the time to research the ins and outs of an online stock broker can be challenging. With this in mind, below you will find a selection of leading UK share dealing sites that meet a number of minimum requirements. This includes that all-important FCA license, support for UK debit/credit cards and bank accounts, and the ability to buy and sell shares in domestic and international companies.
1. eToro – Best All-Round UK Stock Broker (Commission-Free)
eToro is an online broker that offers several investment products – all of which can be accessed via your desktop or mobile device. On top of CFD instruments covering commodities, indices, forex pairs, and cryptocurrencies, the platform offers a fully-fledged share dealing department.
At eToro, you can invest in British blue chip stocks such as Tesco, BT and Rolls Royce, as well as trending tech shares such as Amazon, Apple and Tesla. One of the main reasons that eToro makes our list is that it allows you to buy and sell traditional shares without paying any dealing charges.
This is revolutionary in the UK investment scene, as the likes of Hargreaves Lansdown will charge you in excess of £11.95 per trade. Instead, it’s only the 0.5% conversion fee on your deposit that represents any type of charge.
If you wish to trade stock CFDs – where leverage of up to 1:5 is available – then you will have to pay a small fee known as the spread. You can learn more on the difference between buying a physical stock and trading stock CFDs here.
eToro has a fully-fledged license with the FCA. It’s also licensed in Australia (ASIC) and Cyprus (CySEC) – so you have regulatory protection on three fronts.
In terms of getting started, it takes just minutes to open an account. The platform allows you to deposit funds with a UK debit/credit card, bank account, or e-wallet – albeit, you will need to meet a $200 minimum (£160-ish). Once your deposit has been processed by the broker, it will be converted to US dollars at a small fee of 0.5%. This allows you to access to international markets without needing to keep worrying about exchange rates. If you wish to deposit over £2,000, then eToro requires you to submit identification. The platform supports large investments – up to £40,000 per card transaction and no limit with bank wire transfers. These would qualify you for a VIP account manager and a chance for a face to face meeting at their London headquarters.
Another perk of eToro is its copytrading functionality, which gives you the chance to copy successful stock investors and build like for like portfolios. This feature does, however, come with additional charges. For a more detailed overview, check out our eToro review.
- FCA regulated and trusted brand. A Premier League sponsor.
- Buy stocks without paying any commission or share dealing charges
- 1,000+ stocks listed on multiple international markets
- Deposit funds with a debit/credit card, e-wallet, or UK bank account
- Ability to copy the trades of other users
- Not suitable for advanced traders that like to perform technical analysis
- High spreads on forex
- 0.5% conversion fee on your deposit
75% of retail investors lose money trading CFDs at this site.
2. Plus500 – Commission-Free Stock CFD Trading Platform
An additional trading platform that has proven popular with in recent years is that of Plus500. Unlike eToro, the provider specializes exclusively in CFDs. The main drawback of this is that you will not own the underlying stock. On the flip side, you will be able to trade more than 2,000 stock CFDs without paying a penny in commission.
Plus500 also allows you to apply leverage on your stock CFD trades. At an upper limit of 1:5 for retail clients (and more on other asset classes), a £200 deposit would permit a maximum trade size of £1,000. Using Plus500 to trade stock CFDs will also give you the capacity to choose from a buy or sell order. This means that you can speculate on the price going up and down. This is something that you won’t be able to do with a traditional stock broker.
In terms of the fundamentals, not only is its parent company listed on the London Stock Exchange as a PLC, but Plus500UK Ltd is authorized & regulated by the FCA (#509909). You can open an account in minutes at Plus500, and deposit funds with a UK debit/credit card, bank account, or Paypal. You’ll need to meet a minimum deposit of £100.
- Commission-free CFD platform – only pay the spread
- Thousands of financial instruments across heaps of markets
- Retail clients can trade stock CFDs with leverage of up to 1:5
- You can short-sell a stock CFD if you think its value will go down
- Takes just minutes to open an account and deposit funds
- CFDs only
- More suitable for experienced traders
80.5% of retail investors lose money trading CFDs at this site
If you’re looking for an old-school stock broker that has modernized its platform for the newbie trader – it might be worth considering IG. Launched in 1976, the broker now has over 178,000 registered investors. One of the main advantages of going with IG is that you will have access to both traditional share dealing services and CFDs. As such, you get the best of both worlds.
All in all, IG lists more than 10,000 stocks across several exchanges. On top of the UK, this includes the US, Singapore, Australia, Canada, and Germany. In terms of fees, IG charges a flat dealing charge of £8 per trade – which you will pay when you buy shares, and again when you sell them.
If you manage to place three or more trades throughout the month, its dealing charge is reduced to £3. CFDs come with a variable commission that depends on the exchange you are looking to access. With more than four decades in the brokerage arena, your money is safe at the IG.
It holds multiple licenses, including that of the FCA. You can easily deposit and withdraw funds with a UK debit/credit card or bank account, and minimum deposits amount to £250. Just be aware that IG charges a 1% and 0.5% transaction fee on payments made with a Visa or MasterCard, respectively.
- Trusted broker with a long-standing reputation
- Good value share dealing services
- Leverage and short-selling also available
- Spread betting and CFD products
- Access to dozens of international markets
- Great research department
- Minimum deposit of £250
- US stocks have a $15 minimum commission
- Complicated platform
There are of course other notable mentions: Hargreaves Lansdown, AJ Bell and Halifax Share Dealing, but the platforms are not as beginner friendly.
So now that you have selected an FCA regulated stock trading platform, your next port of call is to learn the basics of how shares actually work. In getting comfortable with the fundamentals, you stand the best chance possible of avoiding costly mistakes.
When a company decides to go ‘public’, this means that it will be listed on a stock exchange. In turn, this allows everyday investors to purchase ‘shares ‘in the firm. As the name suggests, you will own a ‘share’ of the company that you invest in – proportionate to the number of stocks that you hold.
The value of the shares are determined by market forces. In other words, if there are more buyers than sellers, the share price will increase. When it does, the value of your investment will follow suit.
If there are more sellers than buyers, this has the opposite effect – meaning that the value of your shares will go down. As a shareholder of a company, you will be entitled to a range of perks.
At the forefront of this is an entitlement to dividends and the ability to vote at Annual General Meetings (AGMs). You can sell your shares at any given time during standard market hours. The amount you receive back in cash will be based on the number of shares you hold against that of the current stock price of the company.
People invest in shares because they want to make money. That is to say, shares give you the opportunity to grow your wealth at a much faster pace than relying on the interest that banks pay. This can be achieved in two ways – capital gains and dividends.
If the value of your shares is higher than the price you originally paid, this is known as ‘capital gains’.
- Let’s suppose that you buy 1,000 shares in BP at 350p per stock
- This means that your total investment amounts to £3,500
- Five years later, BP shares are now priced at 450p per stock
- You are happy with your gains so you decide to sell the shares
- You made 100p per share (450p-350p), and at 1,000 shares – this amounts to a profit of £1,000
This £1,000 profit is what is known as capital gains. In the UK, you will need to declare your capital gains to HMRC. The specific tax rate will vary depending on your personal circumstances.
You will also have the opportunity to earn money from shares in the form of dividends. In its most basic form, dividends allow large-companies to share their profits with stockholders.
If and when they do, you will be entitled to your share of the proceeds. The specific amount that you get will vary depending on how well the company is performing. Not all shares pay dividends, but if they do they are typically distributed every 3 or 6 months.
Here’s how dividends stocks work:
- Let’s say that you hold 500 shares in HSBC
- The firm pays dividends every three months
- This time around, HSBC announces a dividend yield of 7%
- This amounts to £0.28 per share
- You hold 500 shares, so you will receive a total of £140 (£0.28 x 500 shares)
The best thing about dividends is that you will receive this in addition to your capital gains. In an ideal world, you will be investing in stocks that increase in value, while at the same time pay regular dividend payments!
While past performance is never a sure-fire indicator of future results, below you will find the average annualized returns of the FTSE 100 over the past 25 years.
If you wanted to mirror these returns, you would need to invest in an ETF or mutual fund that tracks the FTSE 100.
As we briefly noted earlier, there are tens of thousands of publicly-listed companies across dozens of stock exchanges. Crucially, the specific markets that you will have access to will depend on the broker that you sign up with. For example, between eToro, Plus500, and IG you will be able to buy, sell, and trade over 10,000 different companies.
This includes firms listed on the:
- London Stock Exchange (UK)
- Alternative Investment Market (UK)
- NASDAQ (US)
- New York Stock Exchange (US)
- Tokyo Stock Exchange (Japan)
- Hong Kong Stock Exchange (Hong Kong)
- And many, many more!
Although the stock markets have historically performed well – this isn’t the case with all companies. On the contrary, many firms – both in the UK and overseas, are now worth just a fraction of their prior all-time highs. This is especially the case with the UK high street banking space – with the like of HSBC and Natwest never truly recovering from the financial crisis of 2008.
With this in mind, below you will find some handy tips that will allow you to mitigate your risks when investing in the stocks and shares space for the first time.
Tip 1: Diversify as much as you can
In a nutshell, diversification is simply the opposite of putting all of your eggs into one basket. That is to say, instead of investing in one or two companies, a well-diversified portfolio would see you hold dozens, if not hundreds of different stocks. Not only this, but you will be investing in firms from several sectors – subsequently ensuring that you are not overexposed to a single niche.
For example, let’s suppose that you have £5,000 to invest into the stock markets.
- An inexperienced investor might use the entire £5,000 to invest in a single company
- A shrewd investor would likely buy shares in 100 different companies at £50 each. This would cover multiple sectors, too.
Tip 2: Start off with low stakes
If you have never previously invested in the stocks and shares space, it might worth starting off with low stakes. On the one hand, most UK stock brokers require you to meet a minimum investment amount that typically sits within the £100-200 range. On the other hand, you are not required to inject the entire balance into a single trade.
On the contrary, platforms like eToro permit a minimum stock investment of $50 (£40-ish). As such, by starting off with small amounts, you will be able to build your confidence up without breaking the bank.
Tip 3: Consider a copy trading portfolio
If you have little to no knowledge of how stocks and shares work, it might be worth considering the merits of a copy trading portfolio. Beginner friendly platforms like eToro allow you to mirror the trades of experienced investors.
Not only does this include their current portfolio – but each and every investment thereon. The best thing about it is that you get to review the credentials of the trader before copying them.
This includes metrics like their historical trading record, risk rating, and the types of equities they like to buy. Ultimately, a copy trading portfolio will allow you to gain exposure to the stock markets without you needing to worry about what shares to pick.
Example of a Popular eToro Copy Trader: Richardstroud
While eToro is home to hundreds of talented copy traders, Richardstroud is one the most copied at the platform. With more than $2 million under management. the trader made returns of 41.47% in 2019. In the first 6 months of 2020, Richardstroud is 27.63% in the green. The trader has 70.37% of his portfolio in traditional stocks, while the rest is mainly in ETFs.
Example of How Copy Trading Works
In order to grasp how Copy Trading actually works, let’s look at a super basic example.
- Let’s suppose that the Copy Trader has an investment portfolio of £100,000
- Of this, 25% is in Royal Mail, 25% is in BT, and 50% is in GlaxoSmithKline
- You decide to copy the trader with an investment of £5,000
- As such, your portfolio will consist of £1,250 of Royal Mail shares (25%), £1,250 of BT shares (25%), and £2,500 of GlaxoSmithKline shares (50%).
As and when the trader makes changes to their portfolio (selling shares, buying new shares, etc.) – this will be reflected in your portfolio.
Tip 4: Understand what fees and commissions you are paying
Stock brokers charge a fee for facilitating your share investments. This can vary quite wildly in the online brokerage space, so it’s important that you know how much you paying to trade. While some brokers are super-transparent on what they charge, others aren’t.
As such, make sure you look out for the following charges:
- Share Dealing Fee: The most common fee charged by UK stock broker platforms is that of a ‘share dealing fee’. This is typically charged as a flat fee – and you will pay it at both ends of the trade. For example, if the broker charges £5 per trade, then you will pay this when you buy the shares, and then again them you sell them.
- Annual Fees: Some brokers in the UK share dealing space – such as NutMeg, charge an annual fee. This is often a percentage of the total amount you have invested at the platform. For example, if the annual fee amounts to 0.2% and you have £5,000 invested – you will pay £10 per year.
- Spread: The difference between the ‘bid’ and ‘ask’ price of a stock is known as the ‘spread’. Although it’s not a direct fee per-say, it still needs to be taken into account. For example, if the spread amounts to 1%, this means that you need to make gains of at least 1% just to break even!
- Non-Trading or Conversion Fees: You should also check to see what non-trading fees the broker charges. This might come in the form of a deposit or withdrawal fee, or a fee charged when your account becomes dormant.
Tip 5: Learn how to research stocks
It is also important for you to learn how to research stocks. By this, we are not talking about anything overly complicated like technical analysis or chart reading. On the contrary, just make sure that you are kept abreast of any key market developments that might impact the value of your investment.
- For example, let’s supposed that you have £3,000 invested in Royal Mail shares.
- If Royal Mail announces that it is planning to cut hundreds of jobs, how do you think this will impact the share price?
- Without a doubt, negative news such as this would likely result in a mass sell-off from shareholders.
- In turn, the value of the shares will go down.
- With that said, if you sold the shares as soon as the news was announced, you would stand the best chance possible of minimizing your losses.
As a side-tip, it might be worth signing up for news alerts with a third-party platform. For example, the Yahoo! Finance website allows you to add your invested companies into its portfolio, and then you can elect to receive real-time news when a relevant story breaks. For more information on stock tips, check out our best shares to buy guide.
Some examples of widely-used stock analysis methods are listed below:
- Price-to-Earnings Ratio: The price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio looks at the correlation between a company’s earnings with that of its stock price. This allows investors to ascertain whether the shares are under or overvalued. You simply need to divide the current share price into the company’s earnings per share, and you will be left with a ratio. Although there are many other variables to consider, the major US stock markets average a price-to-earnings ratio of between 13-15.
- Debt-to-Equity Ratio: The debt-to-equity ratio looks at how much debt a company has in correlation to its equity. In simple terms, this lets you know whether or not the company has too much debt on its hands. The calculation will leave you with a ratio of between 0 and 1 – and so the higher the number, the more debt it has (in relation to the size of its equity). You do need to assess the type of industry that the company is operating in when utilizing the debt-to-equity ratio, as it is widely accepted that certain sectors need to carry more debt than others (such as construction firms).
There are many other fundamental analysis methods used by seasoned investors. You can read more on how to pick stocks and shares on a DIY basis here.
At this stage of our in-depth guide, you should now know the ins and outs of how to choose an FCA stock broker, as well as what you need to consider prior to parting with your money. If you feel that you are now ready to get the ball rolling, we are now going to show you what you need to do to get started with a shares investment today.
The step-by-step walkthrough is based on popular FCA broker eToro, albeit, feel free to use any share trading platform of your choosing.
Open an Account
You will first need to visit the eToro homepage and click on the ‘CREATE ACCOUNT’ button. The broker will then ask you to enter a range of personal information – such as your:
This includes your:
- Full Name
- Home Address
- Date of Birth
- National Insurance Number
- Contact Details
You will also need to choose a username and a strong password.
Upload Some ID
As eToro is regulated by the FCA, it is required to ask you for some identification documents. You simply need to upload a copy of your passport/driver’s license and a proof of address. This can either be a recent bank account statement or utility bill. As soon as you have uploaded the documents, eToro should be able to validate them within minutes.
You will need to meet a minimum deposit amount of USD $200 at eToro (about £160).
Supported payment methods include:
- Debit Cards
- Credit Cards
- UK Bank Transfer
As we briefly touched upon earlier, all eToro deposits will be converted to US dollars at a fee of 0.5%. This will then give you instant access to over a dozen financial markets – both in the UK and overseas.
Once your eToro account has been funded, you can then buy your very first share. In our example, we are looking to buy shares in BP. As such, we enter ‘BP’ into the search box at the top of the screen and then click on ‘TRADE’. If you are yet to decide which shares you wish you buy, click on the ‘TRADE MARKETS’ button and browse the eToro stock library.
Before we can buy shares in our chosen company, we need to set up a ‘buy order’. As you can see from the screenshot below, the current market price of BP is 305.60p – and this will change on almost a second-by-second basis. Nevertheless, we need to enter the amount of money that we wish to invest in US dollars. In our example, we are buying $500 worth of BP shares. Note – we are buying the underlying asset, as opposed to selecting leverage and trading the stock as a cfd.
In order to complete the investment process, we simply need to click on ‘OPEN TRADE’. Within a few seconds, our order will be executed – meaning that we have just bought BP shares on a commission-free basis!
The process of buying shares in the UK has changed considerably over the past decade. No longer do you need to speak with a traditional stock broker over the phone to place your buy and sell orders. Instead, you simply need to choose a regulated online share dealing platform, deposit some money with your UK debit/credit card – and then choose which stocks you want to buy. We recommend you try eToro, due to its FCA regulation, zero commission and zero stamp duty.
Disclaimer: Investing in shares involves significant risk of loss and is not suitable for all investors. You should carefully consider your investment objectives, level of experience, and risk appetite before making a decision to buy shares. Most importantly, do not invest money you cannot afford to lose.
Can you invest in foreign companies?
Yes, the vast bulk of UK stock brokers give you access to domestic and international companies. At a minimum, this typically includes the NASDAQ and New York Stock Exchange. Brokers like eToro go one step further by giving you access to less liquid markets. This includes Canada, Hong Kong, France, and even Saudi Arabia!
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is responsible for regulating stock brokers that serve UK clients.
You usually have a choice from a debit/credit card or UK bank transfer. Some brokers also support e-wallets.
Most UK stock brokers charge a flat fee on each trade that you place. This means that you will pay the same fee when you buy shares, and then again when you offload them. In rarer cases, brokers such as eToro and Robinhood allow you to buy shares without paying any commissions.
You will need to find an online broker that has direct access to the AIM. If they do, you will be able to buy and sell AIM shares at the click of a button.
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