Based in the UK and looking at financial advice on how to buy shares for the first time?
In this beginner’s guide, we’ll give you all the advice you need on how to buy shares in the UK. We’ll discuss how to select an authorised and regulated stockbroker, the fees to expect, how to place your first share order and provide tips on choosing the right shares.
- 1 How to Buy Shares – Select the Right Broker
- 2 How to Buy Shares – Step by Step Guide 2020
- 3 Learn the Basics of Buying Shares in the UK
- 4 How Much Money Can You Make From Investing in Stocks & Shares?
- 5 What to Consider Before You Buy Shares in a Company
- 6 How to Select a UK Stockbroker
- 7 Where to Buy Shares – The Best UK Share Dealing Platforms of 2020
- 8 Top Brokers Compared
- 9 What are the Pros and Cons of Investing in Shares?
- 10 How to Buy Stocks – The Verdict
- 11 eToro – Buy Shares with No Commission
- 12 FAQs
Before you can buy shares, you need to choose a top stock broker. To help you, we’ve listed the best UK brokers below, with a full breakdown of their fees and features. You can even enter the amount you plan to invest and the number of trades to work out how much each broker will cost!
This step-by-step walk-through of how to buy stocks is based on our recommended, regulated stockbroker eToro, albeit, the process is similar with most brokers. You can register using the form below when you’re comfortable with all the info on this page.
1. Open an Account with eToro Today – Pay 0% Commission on Stocks
To create an account, eToro will ask you to enter a range of personal information – such as 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.
2. Upload ID
You can make a deposit of up to $2,000 without uploading ID to eToro, but if you want to deposit more you’ll have to verify your account, as eToro is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
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.
3. Deposit Funds
You will need to meet a minimum deposit amount of USD $200 at eToro (about £160). Supported payment methods include debit/credit cards, bank transfer, and e-wallets like PayPal, Neteller and Skrill.
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.
4. Buy Shares
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.
Due to the way UK share dealing works today, you can buy thousands of global shares at the click of a button. All you need is a reliable online stockbroker account.
Best of all, as there are now hundreds of UK stockbrokers 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.
However, as well as learning how to buy shares in the UK, it’s also very important to learn the basics of how shares actually work, the investment journey and any tax rules vs tax benefits. By getting comfortable with the fundamentals, you stand the best chance possible of avoiding costly mistakes. Top share tip: once you’ve bought shares in a company, they are required to send you a share certificate within two months.
What are Shares?
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 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. We recommend you bookmark our shares terminology page whilst you purchase your first share.
If you want to work out how much you stand to potentially make from a shares investment, try out our handy investment calculator. Remember, historically shares tend to yield 6%-7% annual return.
How to Make Money from Stocks and Shares:
This can be achieved in three ways – capital gains, dividends, and compound growth.
1. Capital Gains
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 dividend income 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.
3. Compound Growth
Rather than simply cash out capital gains or hold out for dividends income, many investors look to reinvest an asset’s earnings to generate more earnings over time. This is known as compounding. By holding a stock for a long time and constantly reinvesting capital gains, you can achieve a compounding effect which sees you earn gains on your gains.
Let’s take a look at an example of how compound growth works:
- You invest in £100 per month in an asset that has a 6% return
- If you did this for 10 years, you’ll have invested £13,200 and have £18,915
- If you did this for 20 years, you’ll have invested £25,200 and have £50,640
- If you did this for 40 years, you’ll have invested £49,200 and have £209,201
The reason your investment grows in this way is that because you earn on the gains you reinvest as well as your original investment. This means that each year you earn more interest on both your initial investment and your compounding gains.
Compound growth requires patience as the initial gains are small, but over the long run it can be highly lucrative. Of course, you have to take share fluctuations, inflation and fees into account, but if done right, compound interest can be one of the best ways to grow your wealth via shares.
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 share 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 be worth starting off with low stakes. On the one hand, most regulated UK stockbrokers 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: Learn how to research stocks
Some examples of widely When you learn how to buy shares, 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 suppose that you have £3,000 invested in Royal Mail
- 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 and getting back as much as possible.
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 and selling shares, 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.
Tip 4: 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 you invest in money. Copy trading essentially allows you to invest in shares without doing any of the work, so it’s very popular among new investors.
How to Select a UK Stockbroker
You now know how to buy shares, but do you have a reliable stockbroker that matches your investment preferences? The are many brokers out there and they all differ in terms of tradable assets, fees and features, so you need to spend some time researching different platforms before signing up.
Some of the most important factors that you need to look out for are:
Financial Conduct Authority Regulation
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 card/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.
Stockbrokers such as eToro also accept e-wallets: Skrill, Neteller, and most conveniently, Paypal.
What Shares Can You Buy in the UK?
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!
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
There a number of fees and charges to consider when you’re looking for a stock broker, including dealing commissions, annual account fees, and withdrawal fees.
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 stockbroker can be challenging. Below you will find a selection of the leading UK share dealing sites that meet a number of minimum requirements that can act as investment managers for your shares. This includes that all-important Financial Conduct Authority license, support for UK debit cards/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 (0% Commission and No Stamp Duty)
eToro is our recommended stock broker as it allows you to buy over 800 different shares with 0% commission. eToro also absorbs the cost of stamp duty to keep costs even lower, making it one of the most affordable brokers on the market. Safety and security wise, eToro is FCA regulated broker and very popular among millennials who are beginner investors. With a minimum deposit of $200 to get started, opening an account is super quick and very easy.
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 shares without paying any dealing charges.
This is revolutionary in the UK investment scene and share trading, 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 investment 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 copy trading 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.
Top tip: eToro does not calculate any tax you may need to pay for you, for example, capital gains tax, so you must calculate this yourself based on your country of residence.
- 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
- Personalised eToro account where you can set up trading price alerts
- 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 in recent years is Plus500. Unlike eToro, this 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 the same way the allow you to apply leverage on other instruments. 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 stockbroker.
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 buy or sell a stock CFD if you think its value will go up or 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
3. IG – Trusted UK Share Dealing Platform With Competitive-Fees
If you’re looking for an old-school stockbroker 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 Financial Conduct Authority. 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 debit card 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.
Top Brokers Compared
Now you know all about the top UK brokers, let’s see how they stack up against each other in some key metrics.
|UK Stock Broker||Fees||Deposit||Margin|
|eToro – our recommended choice||0% Commission||$200||20%|
|IG||£0 – £10||£250||20%|
- Historically, shares yield annual returns of 5-8%. That’s better than a bank.
- High liquidity – you won’t be waiting days to buy a company share
- Increase the value of your investment when the shares go up in value
- Earn passive income in the form of dividends
- Mitigate your risks by creating a diversified portfolio of shares
- All the share dealing platforms listed on this site are FCA regulated
- Some online stock brokers allow you to buy shares commission-free
- Easily deposit funds with a UK debit/credit card, e-wallet, or bank account
- A £1,000 investment in Amazon back in 1997 would now be worth £2.5 million!
- You could lose money
- You will need to select your own investments
- No guarantee that your shares will increase in value
How to Buy Stocks – The Verdict
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!
Who regulates UK share dealing sites?
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is responsible for regulating stock brokers that serve UK clients.
What UK payment methods can I use to buy shares online?
You usually have a choice from a debit/credit card or UK bank transfer. Some brokers also support e-wallets.
What fees will I pay when I invest in stocks?
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.
How do I buy shares listed on the AIM?
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.