If you’re based in the UK and looking to invest in the financial markets, a stocks and shares ISA is a great option. This is because you can invest up to £20,000 and pay no tax whatsoever on your investments! Your allowance resets each and every year, so it’s a no-brainer to make full use of an ISA. But which is the best stocks and shares ISA for you?
In this guide, we explore the UK’s best stocks and shares ISAs of 2020. On top of discussing the best providers currently active in the market, we also give you some handy tips on how stocks and shares ISA work.
- 1 What is a Stocks and Shares ISA?
- 2 How do Stocks and Shares ISAs Work?
- 3 Best Stocks and Shares ISAs 2020
- 4 Best Stocks and Shares ISAs Fees Comparison
- 5 How to Choose the Best Stocks and Shares ISA for you
- 6 When can you invest in a stocks and shares ISA?
- 7 What Are the Risks of Stocks and Shares ISAs?
- 8 How to Build a High Performing Stocks and Shares ISA
- 9 Comprehensive List of UK Stocks and Shares ISAs
- 10 How to Open and Invest in a Stocks and Shares ISA
- 11 Conclusion
- 12 FAQs
In its most basic form, an Individual Savings Account, or simply ISA, is a government initiative that aims to promote investments. That is to say, you will have the chance to shield some of your investment-related tax obligations – up to a certain amount each year.
While there are several ISAs to choose from, a stocks and shares ISA is what you will want to look at if you plan to invest in the stock markets. In the 2020/21 tax year (6th April 2020 to 5th April 2020), your stocks and shares ISA comes with a limit of £20,000.
In other words, the first £20,000 that you invest in the stock markets will not be liable for tax. Ordinarily, gains that you make from a share investment would be liable for capital gains tax and dividends tax. Regarding the former, this is the amount of money that you make when you sell your shares. For example, if you buy £2,000 worth of BP shares and sell them for £3,000 – your capital gains are £1,000.
Without the aid of an ISA, you might be required to pay tax on this £1,000, depending on your individual circumstances. When it comes to dividends, anything you make after the first £2,000 would also be liable for tax. Once again, making use of a stocks and shares ISA means that you can shield these tax obligations, up to the first £20,000.
Before we run you through a numerical example of how a stocks and shares ISA works, it is important to explain the fundamentals. That is to say, stocks and shares ISAs are simply dedicated brokerage accounts. For example, let’s suppose that you open an account with Hargreaves Lansdown.
In doing, you would have access to both an ordinary brokerage account and a stocks and shares ISA account. Although this means that you will be picking and choosing shares on a DIY basis, the first £20,000 will go through the ISA. Anything after that will be liable for capital gains and dividends tax in the standard way.
Ultimately – and as we discuss in more detail later on, the ISA you go with will be based on underlying broker. For example, you’ll need to explore metrics such as share dealing fees, the types of stocks you can invest in, customer support, and whether the platform is regulated and protected by the FCA/FSCS.
Nevertheless, here is a super-basic example of how a stocks and shares ISA works.
Example of Stocks and Shares ISA
- You open a stocks and shares ISA with your chosen broker
- You invest £5,000 into Tesco, HSBC, Royal Mail, and Netflix.
- This means that you have invested a total of £20,000 – which equals your full stocks and shares ISA allowance for the year
- At the end of year one, your £20,000 portfolio is now worth £25,000
- You have also received £3,000 in dividend payments
- If you were to sell your holdings, your overall investment is now worth £28,000 (£25,000 share value + £3,000 dividends)
- As this £28,000 is based on your original £20,000 ISA allowance, you would not need to pay any capital gains or dividends tax on your earnings
Ordinarily, the £8,000 gains that you made (£5,000 + £3,000) likely would have been liable for tax. But, by utilizing your full ISA allowance, you were able to shield these profits.
Read our comprehensive guide on tax on shares here.
Benefits of Stocks and Shares ISAs
Still not sure whether a stocks and shares ISA is right for you? Below we list some of the main benefits to consider.
- Tax-Efficient: It can be super frustrating to see your investments grow, only to then lose a chunk of your profits through capital gains and dividends tax. As we have already noted, the main benefit of a stocks and shares ISA is that you will get to shield the first £20,000 from HMRC. By investing in shares outside of an ISA, you will all-but-certainly need to pay something to the taxman.
- Annual Allowance Refreshes Each Year: It is important to note that you will get a new stocks and shares ISA allowance every year. So, if you reach your £20,000 limit in the 2020/21 tax year, you can invest an additional £20,000 the following year. The figures for 2022/23 are yet to be announced by the government, so it is hoped that an increased allowance comes into play.
- Heaps of Brokers to Choose From: With stocks and shares ISAs being a no-brainer for UK investors, more and more stock brokers are offering dedicated ISAs. As such, finding an online broker that meets your needs should no longer be an issue.
- Compound Interest, Tax-Free: Let’s suppose that you invest £20,000 into your ISA in 2020, and then leave the respective stocks and shares untouched for the next 20 years. Based on a theoretical annualized average return of 7.75% on the FTSE 100, your money would be worth just under £90,000 – and that’s without taking dividends into account. As such, when you eventually came around to selling the shares, you would be able to do so without paying a single penny in capital gains tax!
- Safe and Regulated: Online brokers offering stocks and shares ISAs to UK investors must be in receipt of an FCA license. In the vast majority of cases (check this before taking the plunge), this also means that your funds will be protected by the FSCS. This means that were the broker to go bust, the first £85,000 would be safeguarded.
As noted earlier, investing in a stocks and shares ISA means signing up with a UK stock broker. As such, you need to do some homework to ensure the platform is right for you and your long-term investing goals.
To help point you in the right direction, below we list 10 of the best stocks and shares ISAs of 2020.
1. Hargreaves Lansdown – Best Stocks and Shares ISA UK
Hargreaves Lansdown is a market leader in the UK brokerage scene. On top of a fully-fledged research department and highly extensive offering of equities, the platform offers stocks and shares ISAs. You have two options when it comes to investing – DIY or ready-made portfolios.
If opting for the former, you will be selecting from over 2,500 shares, funds, and trusts yourself, meaning you retain full control of where your money goes. You can invest from just £100, or £25 per month. If opting for a ready-made portfolio, Hargreaves Lansdown will create a basket of shares on your behalf – based on your investment needs and attitude to risk.
This requires a minimum investment of £1,000. Both options carry an annual charge of 0.45%, and you then need to take share dealing charges into account. This can be as high as £11.95 at Hargeaves, so do bear this in mind. Overall, Hargreaves Lansdown is our pick for the best stocks and shares ISA for 2020.
2. Halifax – Best Stocks and Shares ISA for Beginners
Halifax Bank offers a stocks and shares ISA to customers and non-customers. This particular option is likely suitable for those of you that don’t want to be inundated with too much choice. That is to say, Halifax offers a relatively small selection of investment options, as well as three ready-made portfolios.
In terms of fees, there is a 0.24% platform charge and a 0.25% charge if using the fund management services. When it comes to share dealing charges, this stands at £12.50 per trade. This can make it somewhat expensive if you are looking to invest small amounts. There are no early account closure fees, so you can take your money out whenever you see fit.
3. Interactive Investor – Best Stocks and Shares ISA for Monthly Investments
Interactive Investor is an online stock broker that offers one of the best stocks and shares ISAs gives you access to over 40,000 investment options. This includes a full library of UK and international stocks, as well as ETFs and funds.
In terms of pricing, Interactive Investor might be suitable for you if you are looking to invest on a monthly basis. That is to say, you plan to trade once per month.
This is because the broker charges a hefty monthly fee of £9,99, but, this allows one free trade per month. As such, you aim to purchase shares in one company per month, you are effectively paying £9.99 per order. The platform has been in business for over three decades, and it also offers market insights to help you in the decision-making process.
4. AJ Bell – Best Stocks and Shares ISA for Monthly Direct Debits
While some UK investors like to inject a one-off lump sum, others prefer to pay a bit at the end of each month. If the latter sounds like you, then it might be worth considering AJ Bell. This is because the share dealing platform allows you to pay just £1.50 when you set up a monthly direct debit.
You can actually do this from just £25 per month, which is great if you only have a small amount to invest. In terms of investment options, you’ll have access to a wide range of stocks and shares, and over 2,000 ETFs, investment trusts, and funds.
If you have more than £4,000 in your AJ Bell stocks and shares ISA, you will get free access to the platform’s Shares magazine. You will have full control over your investments, which you execute online or via the broker’s mobile app. Best of all, if you are looking to transfer your stocks and shares ISA from another provider, AJ Bell will cover the costs up to the first £500.
5. Barclays – Best Stocks and Shares ISA for Low Annual Fees
Much like Halifax, Barclays is a UK bank that offers one of the best performing stocks and shares ISA accounts. Its platform is super-basic to use, so you don’t need to have any prior experience of buying and selling shares online. Although the fee structure at Barclays is somewhat confusing at first glance, it does work out fairly competitive – especially in terms of annual fees.
So, funds work out at just 0.2% per year, which is much cheaper than the 0.45% charged by Hargreaves Lansdown. Flat customer fees amount to a minimum of £4. But, all customer fees (including the annual fund charge) is capped at £125 month.
When it comes share dealing charges, standard stocks and shares cost £6 per trade, while funds are cheaper at £3 per trade. If you place your orders over the phone, an additional transaction fee of £25 will apply. Much like AJ Bell, Barclays will credit any transfer fees that are charged by your prior provider up to the first £500.
6. The Share Centre – Best Stocks and Shares ISA Platform
The Share Centre is one of the easiest online share dealing platforms to use, so it’s potentially ideal if you are just starting out in the space. This is because it takes just minutes to get set up with an account, and the process of picking and choosing your own investments is just as seamless.
In terms of its stocks and shares ISA, you will need to pay £5 per month to keep the account active. When it comes to buying and selling shares, this will cost £7.50 per trade if the order is below £750.
Anything above this and you will pay 1% of the total trade size. If you are a frequent trader that is investing larger volumes, you can cap your commission to £7.50, albeit, you will need to pay £24 per quarter in additional fees. We should also note that the Share Centre offers a full selection of assets that are suitable for an ISA. This includes bonds, ETFs, gilts, and funds.
7. iWeb – Best Stocks and Shares ISA for Simple but Cost-Effective Share Investments
Put simply, iWeb offers a ‘skin and bones’ online stocks and shares ISA that sticks to the basics. That is to say, you won’t have access to the same bells and whistles that you will find out some of the other providers we have discussed thus far.
However, you will have access to a simple, and highly cost-effective ISA service. So, all iWeb customers are required to pay an initial account opening fee of £25, with no annual fee.
After that, you will benefit from a super-competitive charge of just £5 per trade. Best of all, there is no annual dealing charge to worry about. You will, however, need to incur in a 1.5% currency exchange fee if you but international stocks. As a skin and bones broker, fundamental research tools are provided by the Funds Centre and the Shares Centre.
8. Vanguard – Best Stocks and Shares ISA for Index Funds and ETFs
If you don’t have the required knowledge to invest on a DIY basis or you simply don’t have enough time to devote to the research process, you might be best with an index fund or ETFs. This means that the provider in question will buy and sell shares on your behalf. If this is something that you are interested in, it might be worth considering the Vanguard stocks and shares ISA.
The provider is one the largest and most prevalent in the global fund scene, so it is notable that you can invest directly. You will have access to over 75 funds, all of which are personally managed by the team at Vanguard. This particular stocks and shares ISA is also one of the most cost-effective.
This is because you will pay just 0.15% per year in account fees. Any buy and sell trades that Vanguard performs on your behalf will not subject to a flat trading fee like you would have to pay elsewhere. In terms of account minimums, you can invest a lump sum of £500 or more, or commit to a monthly direct debit of £100.
9. Fidelity – Best Stocks and Shares ISA for Combining Shares and Funds
Much like in the case of Vanguard, Fidelity is a global leader in the ETF and fund space. With that said, the platform has since opened its doors to the stocks and shares ISA arena. By opening an account, you will have access to heaps of funds from a variety of markets.
Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, you can also invest in traditional shares, too. This subsequently gives you the best of both worlds, and so it ensures that you have a vast variety of assets to add to your ISA.
Once again, you will be going directly with the provider when investing in funds. Fees are somewhat reasonable, although they could be cheaper. This is because you will pay 0.35% per year – but only if you invest £7,500. Alternatively, you can get this rate if you set up a regular, monthly savings plan.
10. Cavendish – Best Stocks and Shares ISA for Research
Cavendish is a popular UK share dealing site that is excellent in the research department. You will have access to a full suite of useful market insights and fundamental data, which si great if you are looking for some assistance when investing on a solo basis.
The platform offers an easy-to-set-up stocks and shares account, which can be activated in minutes. All you need to do is provide some personal information, deposit funds with a debit card, and then choose which shares or funds you want to back.
Cavendish charges a platform charge of 0.20%, plus a service fee of 0.05%. There are also trading fees, which stands at £10 per trade. Admittedly, Cavendish isn’t the cheapest option in the market, but you will have access to a highly comprehensive offering of features and benefits.
Now you know what the best UK stocks and shares ISAs are, let’s see how the top ISAs match up against each other in terms of fees.
|Charge per Trade (shares)||Annual account fee||Inactivity Fee|
|Hargreaves Lansdown||£5.95 – £11.95 depending on number of trades in previous month||0.45% on first £250,000||None|
|Halifax||£12.50||£12.50||£10 after 12 months|
|Interactive Investor||£7.99||£199.88||£10 after 24 months|
|AJ Bell||£4.95 – £9.95 depending on number of trades in previous month||£0.25%||£10 after 24 months|
|Barclays||£6||£0.1%||£10 after 24 months|
|The Share Centre||£7.50 (or 1% for trades above £750)||£60||£10 after 24 months|
|iWeb||£5||£0 (one of account opening fee of £25)||£10 after 24 months|
|Vangaurd||£0||0.15%||£10 after 24 months|
|Fidelity||£10||£45 or 0.35%||£10 after 24 months|
|Cavendish||£0||0.20%||£10 after 24 months|
So now that you have had some time to review some of the UK’s best performing stocks and shares ISAs, we now need to discuss some of the key metrics that you need to look out for prior to taking the plunge. After all, you need to ensure that your chosen platform is right for your individual needs – as no-two brokers are the same.
This should include:
Firstly, you need to check what assets the stocks and shares ISA will allow you to invest in. For example, while some platforms only support UK shares, others give you access to the best shares to buy from markets in the US, Europe, and more.
In other cases, you might have access to a plethora of ETFs, funds, and investment trusts. All in all, you need to ensure that the stocks and shares ISA allows you to invest in your preferred asset class.
Most UK stocks and shares ISAs will charge you an annual fee. As frustrating as this can be, you need to remember that you have the potential to save thousands of pounds in capital gains and dividends tax.
The annual fee is typically expressed as a percentage, which is then multiplied by the amount you have invested. For example, if the platform charges 0.3%, and you utilized your full allowance, this would translate into an annual cost of just £60
Every time you buy or sell shares through your stocks and shares ISA, you will need to pay a trading fee, so you’ll want to find the best stocks and shares ISA for you with the lowest fees. Otherwise referred to as a share dealing charge, this is often a flat fee.
For example, if the broker charges £7.50 per trade, you will pay this when you buy shares, and again when you sell them. As a side tip, a flat fee is best suited for those of you that wish to invest larger amounts. If you want to start small, a low percentage fee is best.
Be very careful to assess where the broker stands with transfer fees. This is a fee charged when you decide to transfer your stocks and shares ISA to another provider. Not all brokers charge one, but you need to check nonetheless.
At the other end of the spectrum, some brokers will cover the transfer fee when you import your stocks and shares ISA from another provider.
Research and Educational Tools
If you’re planning to invest on a DIY basis, then you will need all of the help that you can get. At the forefront of this a stocks and shares ISA provider that offers heaps of research and educational tools, especially if you’re a beginner want to learn how to invest in stocks.
Regarding the latter, this should include some handy guides on how ISAs work, and what you need to do to build a healthy portfolio. In the research department, this should include fundamental news and market insights.
In a nutshell, you can invest in a stocks and shares ISA whenever you see fit. The most important thing to remember is that ISAs operate on a year-to-year basis. That is to say, the 2020/21 year operates from April 6th 2020 to April 5th 2021.
In other words, you can invest the entire £20,000 in one go, or instead inject small amounts throughout the year. If and when you reach your ISA limit, any additional investments will need to go in a standard brokerage account.
This simply means that you won’t benefit from any tax-savings on the surplus investments. Then, when the next tax year comes into play, you can start working towards your newly reset allowance.
The risks of investing in a stocks and shares ISA are much the same as any other investment opportunity. Put simply, there is every chance that you can lose money. After all, when you buy shares, there is no guarantee that the value of the stocks will go up. On the contrary, the shares could decrease in value. If this is the case – it is irrelevant whether you have the shares in an ISA, as you will not have any capital gains to shield from HMRC!
The fact of the matter is this – if you do not want to take on any risks whatsoever, then a stocks and shares ISA will not be for you. Instead, you will likely be suited for savings bonds that are backed by the FSCS. Sure, you won’t stand to lose any money (up to the first £85,000), you will be lucky to earn more than 1-2% per year. Ultimately, the investment arena is all about risks and returns, so do bear this in mind.
Opening a stocks and shares ISA is the easy part. The most challenging part of the process is knowing how to pick stocks and shares for the ISA. With that in mind, below you will find some tips on building a high performing stocks and shares ISA.
Tip 1. Ensure Your Portfolio is Diversified
Without a doubt, the most important tip that we can bring to you is with respect to diversification. Put simply, diversification means that you will not be putting all of your eggs into one basket. An example of this would be investing your full £20,000 ISA allowance into a single company like Facebook.
Instead, a well-diversified portfolio would see your £20,000 allocated into dozens, if not hundreds of different shares. In fact, by investing £100 into each stock, you would have a portfolio of 200 companies! Take note, if you don’t go the ETF or index route, make sure that you know how much you are paying for each individual trade.
For example, if you use a stocks and shares ISA that charges £7.50 per trade, a portfolio of 200 stocks would cost you £1,500 in fees! If you were to pay a variable fee of, say 1%, this would cost just £200 when investing the full £20,000.
Tip 2. Create a Risk-Based Portfolio
A risk-based portfolio will consist of investments from a variety of risk levels. To keep things simple, this would be investments that are considered low, medium, and high risk. Sure, some of you might be looking to build the entire portfolio with low-risk assets, but in order to grow your money faster, it is also worth considering adding a small percentage of medium and high-risk assets. Of course, the amount of risk that you take is entirely down to what you feel comfortable with.
Nevertheless, a well-balanced portfolio might consist of:
- 70% in high-grade stocks: This would consist of stable, strong, and highly established stocks like Amazon, Apple, GlaxoSmithKline, and IBM.
- 20% in medium-grade stocks: These stocks will still form part of a major index like the FTSE 100 or NASDAQ, but they come with slightly higher levels of risk. An example of this is Uber – a multi-billion pound company that is yet to make a profit. While the firm has a global presence and could potentially be worth significantly more in the future, its ever-growing debt levels do come with added risks.
- 10% in low-grade stocks: These are essentially high-risk, high-return stocks. They could, for example, be firms listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM), or a company that is currently experiencing financial difficulties. Either way, you should probably avoid adding more than 10% of your stock portfolio from this category.
Tip 3: Forget DIY Investing, Opt for a Fund
While you might enjoy the thrill of picking shares on a DIY basis, the overarching objective should be to grow your money over time. As a newbie investor, this can be a challenging task when you are required to pick shares yourself. As a result, why not consider a fund of some sort so that you can leave the decision-making process to the expects?
In a nutshell, ETFs, mutual funds, and investment trusts allow you to invest in a passive manner. Once you invest money into the fund, the fund manager will take care of the rest. Crucially, this means that the fund provider will be buying and selling investments on your behalf.
We’ve already had a look at the best performing stocks and shares ISAs, but there are many more out there. Here’s a comprehensive list of UK stocks and shares ISAs:
- Hargreaves Lansdown
- Interactive Investor
- AJ Bell
- The Share Centre
- Legal and General
- Standard Life
- Scottish Mortgage
If you’ve read our guide up to this point and you are now ready to open an invest in a stocks and shares ISA, we are now going to show you what you need to do.
Simply follow the quickfire steps outlined below to get an ISA opened in minutes!
Step 1: Choose the Best Stocks and Shares ISA for You
Your first port of call will be to find a UK stock broker that offers stocks and shares ISAs, alongside competitive fees and heaps of tradable assets. You can refer to the section above on how to find a platform that meets your needs.
Step 2: Open an Account
You will need to open an account with your chosen stocks and shares ISA provider. This requires information on who you are – such as your name, address, date of birth, and contact details. You might need to supply some verification documents if the broker is unable to do this electronically through third-party sources.
Step 3: Deposit Funds
You will now be asked to deposit some funds. You can opt for a lump sum, or set up a monthly agreement. Either way, you can normally choose from a debit card or bank account transfer.
Step 4: Choose Your Investments
Once your account is funded, you can then proceed to make some investments via your stocks and shares ISA. Depending on your choice of broker, you might have the option of investing in shares, ETFs, mutual funds, investment trusts, and even bonds.
While the viability of a cash ISA is debatable, if you’re from the UK and you plan to invest in the financial markets, a stocks and shares ISA is a no-brainer. After all, you will be able to invest up to £20,000 in the current (and next) tax year, without having any of your capital gains or dividends liable for tax.
With that said, you still need to do lots of homework before taking the plunge. Not only should this include research on your chosen investments, but also on the respective stocks and shares ISA provider, too. Crucially, just because you are shielding your capital gains from tax, this isn’t to say that you are guaranteed to make money.
Looking for the best stocks and shares ISA in the UK? Use our list of the top ten stocks and shares for 2020 to help you out!
How many stocks and shares ISAs can I have??
If opting for a stocks and shares ISA, you will be capped to just one provider per year. You can, however, use another provider in each subsequent year.
How does a stocks and shares ISA work?
A stocks and shares ISA is simply a dedicated share dealing account. That is to say, by placing up to £20,000 into your ISA, any subsequent capital gains and/or dividend payments will be shielded from tax.
How much can I put in a stocks and shares ISA?
The UK government reviews the stocks and shares ISA limit each year. In 2020/21 and 2021/22 this stands at a cap of £20,000.
Can you switch ISAs?
Yes, you can transfer your stocks and shares ISA to another provider. However, your existing provider might charge you a few for this. The good news is that some providers will cover the fee when you transfer your stocks and shares ISA in from an external platform.
What can you invest in with a stocks and shares ISA?
There is often a misconception that you can only invest in stocks and shares when using an ISA. However, you can also invest in a wide range of other asset classes - such as bonds, investment trusts, mutual funds, ETFs, and even unit trusts.
Last Updated on