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Deciding to become an investor can be really exciting, and it’s a significant step in your personal finance journey. It can also feel a bit scary!
If you’re thinking about whether 2021 is the right time for you to invest, or you’re just looking for a UK alternative to the Acorn investment app, then you’ve probably realised that there are lots of options available.
Open banking paved the way for the latest wave of fintechs, meaning we’re now spoilt for choice when it comes to investing apps. That choice might seem a bit daunting at first, but don’t panic… it’s actually a good thing! We’re all for putting the ability to invest into the hands of everyday people 🙌
With that in mind, we’ve rounded up some of the leading investing apps that will put the power of the stock market in the palm of your hand 📲
Each of the investment apps we’ve chosen for comparison has particular strengths, and our guide will show you how to find the best investing platform for you, based on investment options like, fees, and features.
If you’re a first time investor or a new investor then you can check out our earlier guide for some investing basics.
Before we get into the business of comparing the main investing apps out there, it’s probably worth taking a moment to consider the 4 main ways you might evaluate the differences between them:
1.Types of investment accounts
Stocks & Shares ISA: An investment account that offers relief from dividend tax and capital gains tax, up to a certain value. You can select from individual / fractional shares or bonds, and investment funds. This can be a great way to start investing, but there are limits on the amount you can deposit and the number of ISAs you can pay into during a single tax year.
Lifetime ISA: LISAs are a new type of ISA created to help people save for their first home or for retirement. The UK Government will also add a bonus on top of your contribution, up to a set limit, each tax year… but there’s a charge if you need to withdraw early, or for another reason.
Junior Stocks & Shares ISA: A Junior ISA is a long-term savings account set up by a parent or guardian, specifically for their child's future (only the child can access the money, and only once they turn 18). As with a regular Stocks & Shares ISA, you won’t pay tax on any capital growth or dividends.
General Investment Account: Useful if you’re looking to invest more than the maximum amount permitted within an ISA during a single tax year.
Pension Account: Aggregate and manage your existing pensions, or create a Self Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) and invest to work towards a long-term, specific retirement date.
2.Types of investment options
Investment funds: a fund is a way for investors to effectively pool resources in order to capitalise on the advantages of operating as a group. The main benefit of funds is that they are heavily diversified.
Mutual Funds: A mutual fund is a professionally managed portfolio typically containing some combination of bonds and shares. They are put together by fund managers, around a theme such as asset class (e.g. technology or emerging markets) or risk-level (e.g. high-growth companies). The main advantage of a mutual fund is that they allow you to create a diversified portfolio, with very little effort or input on your behalf.
Exchange-Traded Funds: An ETF is a type of ‘Index Fund’, a collection of securities that are indexed against a particular financial market, such as the FTSE 100 or S&P 500. Unlike mutual funds (which are bought and sold at the end of each day), ETFs are traded on an exchange, like individual stock.
Individual stocks / fractional shares: This is the way to invest in specific companies, or a smaller portion of one full company share.
3.Investment fees & withdrawals
Monthly fee: A rolling subscription charge for using the investment platform.
Management fee: This annual charge, normally expressed as a percentage of your overall investment value, is the fee associated with maintaining the platform and providing the technology to execute trades on your behalf.
Fund Provider fee: This annual charge is paid to the professionals who create and maintain the funds in which your money is invested. It's typically expressed as a percentage of the amount you invest in that specific fund. You’ll notice that when comparing fees, these are normally shown as a range that encompasses all the different funds offered by that particular app.
Note: management and provider fees are usually automatically reflected in your overall investment portfolio, along with any earnings or losses.
Market spread: In the stock market, the spread refers to the difference between the lowest ask price and the highest bid price. When making trades on your behalf, a broker will typically be able to attain the most favourable price, and offer you a less favourable one. In this sense it can be considered to be an indirect trading cost… although some of the apps in our comparison claim not to charge ‘commission’, this is how they make money.
Currency conversion charge: The ‘FX Spot Rate’ is the current price to directly exchange one currency for another. Because some of the apps in our comparison allow you to trade currency, in this context the fee is the commission for placing the trade on your behalf.
Automated investing: In order to start investing with one of these investment apps, you’ll need to deposit money before you can place a buy order. Each of the apps in our comparison will allow you to deposit manually, but some also allow you to automate the process by rounding up the spare changes on your purchases, or to maximise your contributions by use of an automated savings algorithm.
Robo-advice: While many of the apps in our comparison give you access to a range of funds and shares, some will even assume responsibility for making investing decisions on your behalf. By asking you questions about your goals and appetite for risk, they can automatically recommend a tailored portfolio for you and manage this as they deem fit.
Investing simulators: If you like the idea of investing… but not quite enough to do it with your own money, then you could consider building some confidence and experience by practicing with a virtual sum of money.
Performance tracking: Once you do have money invested, you’re going to want to keep an eye on how your investments are performing. Each of the apps in our comparison will display your earnings and returns in a slightly different way, but an intuitive and well constructed UI can actually help you understand the performance and subsequently make better decisions.
Investment app comparison 2021
(Annual, unless stated otherwise)
|Amount to start||Withdrawals times|
• Round ups
• AI saving algorithm
• Gamified saving
• £1/month subscription fee (1st month free)
• 0.15% fund management fee
• 0.06%-0.90% fund provider fee
|£1||7 working days|
• £3/month subscription fee for ISAs
• 0.45% currency conversion trade charge
|£1||3-5 working days
(same days withdrawals cost £5)
• Round ups
• £1/month subscription fee (first 3 months free)
• 0.45% fund management fee
• 0.12%-0.30% fund provider fee
|£1||2 to 3 weeks|
• 0.35%-0.75% fund management fees
• 0.20% avg. fund provider fee
• Up to 0.09% market spread up
|£5,000 or £1,500
+ regular direct debit
|7 working days|
• 0.25%-0.75% fund management fees
• 0.17-0.31% fund provider fee
• 0.07% avg. market spread
£100 Lifetime ISA
£500 ISA or GIA
|3-7 working days|
• 0.50% currency conversion trade charge
• 0.02% avg. market spread
|£1||2-3 working days|
• 0.50%-0.70% fund management fees
• 0.16-0.19% fund provider fee
(£5,000 for socially responsible investing)
|7-10 working days|
Range of assets:
- 10 Mutual funds
Plum offers a range of mutual funds that are based around risk level (e.g. ‘Slow and Steady’) or asset class (e.g. ‘Tech Giants’).
You can invest in a GIA or Stocks & Shares ISA.
Although you can still deposit manually with Plum, the real power of this platform lays in the automated saving algorithm. This allow you to configure your investments so that they still happen, even when you’re not thinking about it. There are even fun ways to gamify the amount you deposit, with additional saving rules like the ‘52 Week Challenge’ or ‘Rainy Days Rule’.
Range of assets:
- 850+ UK & US Stocks
- 43 ETFs
Freetrade offers a range of UK and US Stocks and ETFs.
They don’t charge commission on trades or any additional management or provider fees, instead just applying a £3 per month subscription charge.
Freetrade also allows you to buy ‘fractional shares’, which means you can still invest in businesses where the individual whole share price is very high (e.g. Apple shares are traded for over US$100 per share).
You can invest in a GIA / Stocks & Shares ISA, or a SIPP.
Withdrawals are typically paid in 3–5 working days, but Freetrade offer an expedited same-day service for £5 if the request is made by 2pm.
Range of assets:
- 3 Portfolios
Moneybox has 3 different investment portfolios to choose from, Cautious, Balanced and Adventurous.
You can choose to invest in a GIA / Stocks & Shares ISA, Junior ISA, Lifetime ISA, a Pension or ‘Socially Responsible’ companies.
In addition to manual transfers, you can also deposit funds with Moneybox directly by rounding up your debit card transactions.
Range of assets:
- 7 Portfolios
Moneyfarm don’t offer individual stocks or even allow you to pick specific funds, instead providing personalised robo-advice and a bespoke portfolio.
By using a questionnaire to establish your investor profile (i.e. your goals, financial knowledge and attitude to risk) Moneyfarm recommend a portfolio of global equities, corporate bonds and commodities.
You can invest in a GIA / Stocks & Shares ISA or pension account, with a Personal Investment Advisor to help guide you and manage your portfolio.
Range of assets:
- 80+ ETFs
Nutmeg selects a portfolio for you from their extensive range ETFs.
They use a questionnaire to find out about your personal goals and appetite for risk, after which their experts can select funds that most closely match your investment style.
They offer the standard GIA / Stocks & Shares ISA, plus Junior ISAs Lifetime ISAs or a Pension.
You can specify how closely you’d like Nutmeg to manage your portfolio, and even specifically indicate a preference for Socially Responsible Investments.
Range of assets:
- 6500+ global stocks (incl. 200+ ETFs)
Trading212 has the widest variety of global stocks for you to choose from.
In addition to the standard GIA / Stocks & Shares ISA, they also offer the ability to engage in Contracts for Difference) CFD trading, meaning the platform might be more suitable for advanced or experienced investors.
The Trading212 site also offers educational resources in the form of video guides and investment tutorials, plus you can hone your trading skills by practicing with a virtual sum of £50,000 to begin with.
Range of assets:
- 9 Portfolios
Wealthsimple invests your money in a globally diversified portfolio of low-cost index funds that they suggest for you.
They do this by asking you questions about your financial goals and previous experience when you create your account, and then by creating a portfolio that matches your perceived appetite for risk.
You can invest in a GIA / Stocks & Shares ISA, Junior ISA or a Pension.
Wealthsimple offers different tier, or packages, which are dependent on the amount you deposit with them. Your tier will dictate the fees you pay and also the extent to which the financial advice they provide is bespoke.
However you choose to invest, please remember that your capital is at risk.
If you need a hand with managing your budget then Plum can also help with that too! Take a look at our earlier article for more on the benefits of budgeting with a personal finance app 📲
If you'd like to invest your money for retirement, then you may be able to take advantage of additional tax relief by opening a Plum Self Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) 🌱 Take a look at our article to see if a SIPP is right for you.Download Plum