Our best share trading platforms

Trade stocks online and boost your investment returns

With online stock trading you have more control over which companies you invest in and when to buy or sell a given stock.

Online stock trading

Compare share trading platforms from leading providers
AJ BellHargreaves LansdownBarclaysAJ BellHargreaves LansdownBarclays
Your investments are not guaranteed: Shares can fall in value, as well as rise, and you may not get back the full amount you put in.
Fact checker
Last updated
December 21, 2023

What is online stock trading?

Online stock trading is often referred to as "share dealing" or "share trading", but every one of those terms translates to the buying and selling of shares in public limited companies (PLCs) that are listed on the stock exchange.

Even though interest rates are now higher than the historical lows during the pandemic, the return on investment on stocks and shares almost always outpaces what most savings accounts offer, but as always that comes with risk attached.

% of UK shares owned by UK residents[1]
12%

What is a share?

A share or stock is a unit of ownership in a company. Stock trading involves buying and selling shares. One simple form of trading is to purchase shares in publicly listed companies – such as Amazon, Google, or Tesla – and then sell them for a profit if the price of the stock rises.

How do stock prices change?

The price of a single share in a company is calculated by dividing the total market value of the company by the number of shares.

This price rises and falls due to various factors, such as the company's performance or the implementation of new government regulations. Global events can also play a part: the pandemic and the war in Ukraine are prime examples of this. Such factors affect the demand and availability of a company's stock. If there are more buyers than people willing to sell, the price will likely rise. If there are more sellers in the market than buyers, the stock's price tends to drop.

Stocks and shares vs cash
How the value of £1,000 invested in different things has fared over the past 10 years.

Source: Defaqto

Savings accounts data based on average notice accounts interest of 3.07%.

How to trade stocks or shares?

You can trade stock using desktop software, web-based platforms, or smartphone apps. When comparing the best trading platforms, it pays to think about the following factors:

Fees

All online market trading platforms charge a fee for each transaction, as well as monthly or annual fees. This is the case whether you want to buy or sell shares. The fees you pay can vary depending on the amount of money you invest, the number of trades you make, and the types of investments you choose.

Ease of use

Often you need to respond quickly to market changes, so a share-dealing platform that is easy to use and lets you make fast, accurate, hassle-free trades is a must.

Access to research

The best share trading platforms offer real-time market updates along with analysis from brokers about different stocks. This intel can help inform your trading decisions.

Trade options

Look at what options are available for you to buy or sell shares. Can you automate transactions to happen when a stock reaches a set price? Do you have the option to create stop-loss orders? These types of features are worth seeking out because they help to manage your risk.

Margin loans

Some people borrow money to help build their investment portfolio. If you want to do this, check to see if your share-dealing platform or online broker offers margin loans.

Security

How secure is the platform? Security is vital to make sure your funds are safe. The best trading platforms have robust security features to protect your money.

What to consider before investing

Only invest what you can afford to lose

Stock trading is a risky venture: the value of stocks can rise and fall due to external economic factors. As a result, you may get back less money than you originally invested.

Start with small investments

It's a good idea to give yourself time to get used to buying and selling stock via trading accounts. This is especially true if you're new to trading shares in an online environment.

Do your homework

Investigate each company before trading in their stock. Visit their website to find out what they do and how they are performing. You should also check for economic news and trading reports.

Online stock trading is about risk and reward, but there are ways to minimise your risk by doing the research, picking a platform to suit your financial circumstances, and being patient if the market takes a dip.

Golden rules for stock trading

Do your research

With online stock trading you're looking for short-term gains in what can be a volatile market. Doing your research when picking which stock to invest in, when to buy and when to sell, is extremely important. 

If you're not an experienced trader, it can help to pick a share trading platform that gives you the insights you need to make those decisions. But keeping yourself informed and up to date about how the market is performing will help you hone those skills over time. 

That said, even the most experienced traders lose money from time to time, as there is always a risk when trading stocks. 

Diversify your portfolio

Investing in a wide range of stocks can help to maximise returns. A broad portfolio is more resilient to economic changes as different stocks react in different ways to the same set of circumstances. 

So while certain stocks may drop in price in reaction to a particular event, others may rise or be unaffected and thus limit any losses or even allow you to make a profit. 

Don't panic

Try to avoid the temptation to sell during momentary market dips. The stock market is full of peaks and troughs, and it may be smarter to hold your nerve (and stocks) and ride out any short-term falls to gain long-term profits.

Golden rules for stock trading

Do your research

With online stock trading you're looking for short-term gains in what can be a volatile market. Doing your research when picking which stock to invest in, when to buy and when to sell, is extremely important. 

If you're not an experienced trader, it can help to pick a share trading platform that gives you the insights you need to make those decisions. But keeping yourself informed and up to date about how the market is performing will help you hone those skills over time. 

That said, even the most experienced traders lose money from time to time, as there is always a risk when trading stocks. 

Diversify your portfolio

Investing in a wide range of stocks can help to maximise returns. A broad portfolio is more resilient to economic changes as different stocks react in different ways to the same set of circumstances. 

So while certain stocks may drop in price in reaction to a particular event, others may rise or be unaffected and thus limit any losses or even allow you to make a profit. 

Don't panic

Try to avoid the temptation to sell during momentary market dips. The stock market is full of peaks and troughs, and it may be smarter to hold your nerve (and stocks) and ride out any short-term falls to gain long-term profits.

Jargon buster

Bear market

A bear market is a market environment where a major index or stock falls 20% or more from its recent highs. It’s the opposite of a bull market.

Blue chip stock

Blue-chip stocks are the stocks of large, industry-leading companies, typically with good reputations. The term was derived from blue gambling chips, the highest-valued chips in casinos.

Broker

A firm or person who executes your buy and sell orders for stocks or other securities. Some brokers also provide advisory services.

Bull market

A bull market is the opposite of a bear market and is a market experiencing a prolonged period of increasing stock prices that are at least 20% above a recent low.

Day trading

Day trading is the practice of buying and selling a stock or security within the same trading day, often with the intention of profiting from small fluctuations in price.

IPO

An Initial Public Offering (IPO) is the first sale or offering of a stock by a company to the public. 

Portfolio

A collection of assets that makes up a trader or investor’s portfolio. Your portfolio can contain a single stock or an infinite number of stocks and other securities.

Stop-loss order

A stop-loss order directs a stockbroker or share trader to sell a stock when it reaches a predetermined price. It is usually used by investors who want to limit their potential losses on a particular share.

Volatility

Volatility can either refer to an individual stock's price movements or the movements of a financial index. Stocks that fluctuate wildly in price over a short period of time are considered highly volatile, while those that move slowly are deemed less volatile.

FAQs

How do I start online trading?

You can start online trading by opening an online stock trading account. Once the account is opened, transfer the amount of money you plan to trade into the account. Once in place, that money can be used to buy and sell shares.

How much money do I need for stock trading?

In terms of how much money you need for stock trading, it's not as much as you might think. Some online trading platforms will let you invest as little as £25 a month. You could start by setting aside a few hundred pounds for trading, then gradually increase how much you invest as you improve your knowledge and gain better insights into the market. As your profits grow, so too can your investments, but remember there are no guarantees, and your investments can go down as well as up.

Is online stock trading safe and secure?

Online stock trading is safe and secure if you use a regulated stock trading platform. But that doesn't take away from the fact that stock trading is an inherently risky activity. That’s why you should not trade with more money than you are willing to lose. It’s also important to educate yourself about trading by reading books and news articles to increase your knowledge.

Can you buy a single share of stock?

Yes, you can buy a single share of stock. In addition to buying just one share of stock, you can also purchase a piece of a single share – in other words, fractions of shares.

Explore share dealing and stock trading guides

Learn more about share dealing and stock trading from our in-depth guides.
How to start investing in shares
How to start investing in shares
Tips on investing in times of financial uncertainty
Tips on investing in times of financial uncertainty
How are investments taxed?
How are investments taxed?

About the author

Salman Haqqi
Salman Haqqi spent over a decade as a journalist reporting in several countries around the world. Now as a personal finance expert, he helps people make informed financial decisions.

Didn’t find what you were looking for?

Customer Reviews

Rated 4.1 out of 5
by 1,054 people

References

1. Ownership of UK quoted shares: 2020 according to Office for National Statistics, March 2022