How To Buy Shares Online

Written by Editorial Team
Last updated: 21st March 2023

Looking to buy shares online?

We look at what you need to consider & how to select a share trading platform.

In today’s society, it is of course, possible to buy just about anything online.

This is most certainly the case when it comes to purchasing shares – instead of telephoning your stockbroker to buy or sell shares, you can now do so at the click of a mouse or tap of a screen via an online trading platform.

You can open an account on the trading platform of your choice in a matter of minutes – you just need some basic details to hand such as your bank account details, identity documents and national insurance number.

We look at:

How to buy shares online

Our view:  The next generation of online trading platform apps means you can get setup & buy shares in as little as 10 minutes!

  1. Select a share platform – See below our 5 top platform picks
  2. Open your share account – To do this you will need your bank details and national insurance number
  3. Fund your account – You will need to fund your a/c with a debit or credit card or bank transfer
  4. Search for the share using the  stock code – Type in the stock code of the share you want to buy into the search box
  5. Check out the latest info and price for  – Some platforms offer free research and analysis
  6. Buy  shares – Nice and easy!
Join today & get £50 FREE trading credit (T&Cs apply).
More than 40,000 UK & international investment options

Invest from £1

Features:
Flat fee plan starts from £4.99 pm
No trading fees when you top up monthly with the ii regular investing service.

Join over 400,000 investors using ii's award-winning platform. Trade from £3.99. Capital at risk
Go to website »
Trusted by over 400,000 people. Fully FSCS protected. ADVFN Winner 2022 "Best Low Cost Stockbroker". Capital at risk.
Invest in over 6,100+ US, UK & EU stocks & ETFs commission-free




Features:
Start with £2 investment. Superb app design and transparent account charges. Great for beginners and experienced investors alike
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Trusted by over 1.5 million people. FSCS protected. Capital at risk. Other charges may apply. No subscription required
Choose from over 2,000 funds
From £25 per month

Features:
Low cost ISA. Multi-award winning ISA provider.
Go to website »
Mobile app - manage your portfolio on the move. FSCS protected. Capital at risk.
Trade UK & International shares for £6. No charge for fund trades

Features:

One simple customer fee of 0.25% p.a.
8,000+ investments to choose from.
Go to website »
Barclays gives you the investment choice and research tools you need to grow your money. Over 300,000 people have used our award winning service, expert insights and resources to help work towards their financial goals. Voted Best Stockbroker at the Online Money Awards 2023. Capital at risk.
Access over 3,000 funds. UK & Overseas shares.
Invest from £100 or £25 pm

Features:
Live share prices.
Award winning services.
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Hargreaves Lansdown is the UK's No 1 platform for private investors trusted by over 1.6 million customers. Capital at risk.
Access to 70,000+ instruments, smart trading tools & market insights

Investment platform for different needs and experience levels

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Saxo serve clients in 170 countries, hold 70+ bn GBP in assets under management & process 1m transactions daily. FCA regulated. Capital at risk.
Buy & trade over 3500+ UK, EU and US stocks with low 0.35% currency conversion.


Features:
Say goodbye to high minimums and barriers to entry. Capital at Risk
Go to website »
Multi-currency investing, your money goes even further without the constant foreign exchange fees. Deposit, hold and invest in international stock markets in EUR, GBP and USD — all under one roof. Shares have a low, transparent execution cost. Investing in your local ETFs is completely free of Lightyear fee (other fees may apply). Earn interest on uninvested cash. Access live news feeds about the stocks you own, as well as professional analyst ratings & price targets. Lightyear is now live on web and has launched earnings calls audios. Capital at Risk. We, Fair Investment Company, will be paid a referral fee if you open an account and deposit funds through some of the links on this page. This includes financial promotion.
Invest in real stocks with 0% commission*. Over 5300 instruments


Features:
XTB is one of the largest stock exchange-listed FX brokers in the world with 720,000+ customers and over 20 years of activity in the financial markets. Capital at Risk
Go to website »
World class trading platform: Easy to use, fully customisable, superior execution speeds, performance statistics. Applying for an account is quick and easy with a secure online form, and you could be trading within minutes. Wide range of instruments -forex, indices, commodities, shares and ETF’s. Multilingual customer support team is ready to help you - 24h hours a day from Monday to Friday. *For monthly turnover up to 100,000 EUR (then comm. 0.2%, min. 10 EUR). Capital at risk
Buy & trade over 17,000+ shares online. Zero commission on US shares. FX conversion fee of just 0.5%.
Invest from £1

Features:
Easy to use platform. Demo account. Speak to other traders. Award winning trading app.
Go to website »
IG offer exclusive out of hours giving access to 70+ shares when the market is closed. 313,000+ clients worldwide. FCA Regulated. Capital at risk. Spread bets and CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 69% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading spread bets and CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how spread bets and CFDs work, and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money
Choice of 500 low cost ETF Funds
Invest from £1

Features:
No buying or selling fees. No ISA account charges. Powerful automation. Easy diversification. DIY or managed.
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The InvestEngine offers investors a low cost ETF investment platform. Build your own portfolio commission free or leave it to their experts for just 0.25%. Build your own low cost portfolio using managers such as Vanguard, iShares & Invesco. FSCS protected. Capital at risk.

What is an online share trading platform?

In short, a platform is a website or mobile app which offers users the ability to buy and sell investments, including shares, investment trusts, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), unit trusts and OEICs as well as other types of asset such as corporate bonds and commodities.

There are 2 ways to buy and sell stocks online

You can invest in stocks directly via a share dealing service or you can speculate on share prices using leveraged trading products.

a. Investing in shares

Share dealing services enables you to invest in company shares with a view to selling them for a profit at a later date.

When you buy shares you become a part owner of that Company and gain shareholder rights, including any income that is paid as dividends.

Different share dealing services have different charging structures. Some platforms offer commission-free share dealing, but most operate on a fixed fee per trade with usually a reduction in this fee if you carry out more than a certain number of trades per month.

With profits you make on share trading capital gains and dividends earned may be subject to tax at your personal rate. Tax can be mitigated if you trade within an ISA or Self Invested Personal Pension account.

b. Shares Trading

With derivatives trading you can use products such as CFDs and spread bets to speculate on a share’s price increasing or decreasing without having to take direct ownership of the shares themselves.

CFDs (Contracts For Difference) and spread betting are leveraged products, which means you can gain full exposure to company shares while only putting down a small deposit. While this magnifies possible profits, it does the same for losses.

CFDs & spread bets are popular among short term traders as profits and losses are realised immediately – making it faster to open and close trades. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t use them for longer-term positions too. You’d just need to consider the costs involved in maintaining a position – such as overnight funding – and the bet duration as spread bets do have fixed terms.

They also enable you to buy and sell shares online without ever owning the underlying asset. This has tax benefits and means you can trade both rising and falling markets (Tax laws are subject to change).

Why use a online share trading platform?

 Benefits of using a trading platform include:

  • Lower trading costs
  • Easy access to the UK and global share market
  • 24/7 access to your investments online
  • You can hold all your tax efficient investments such as ISAs and SIPPs in one place:  including lifetime ISAs, right to buy ISAs and  junior ISAs
  • Plus any other fund holdings or shares that you’re trading outside of a tax-free environment, from a general trading account

You should always pay close attention to the charges you are likely to pay, and the fees charged by different platforms can vary considerably, but you may well find that the dealing charges on an online trading account are lower than the fees you might pay to use a traditional stockbroker.

It may well be the case that the platform offers reduced fees to clients who frequently use their services to buy and sell shares.

By managing your shares online, you have 24/7 access.

What do online share trading platforms offer?

 Using an online trading platform offers you flexibility and convenience when buying investments compared to the the more traditional offline/telephone stockbrokers.

Typically, the platform you select will offer access to investments from stock exchanges around the world. Some platforms are more extensive than others so depending on what you are looking for compare options before you apply.

As well as a direct trading account some platforms offer ISA accounts, Junior ISA accounts and Self Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) accounts.

Most stocks and shares ISA customers invest in the stock market in an indirect way, via unit trusts, investment trusts, exchange-traded funds, open ended investment companies and similar arrangements. Using an online trading platform allows you to invest in individual company shares via your ISA.

As an additional option, most platforms will allow you to buy products such as Contracts For Difference (CFDs), or to engage in spread betting.

These allow you to speculate on whether the price of a particular share will increase or decrease in value, and there is the potential to achieve significant gains without you actually needing to purchase the shares themselves.

The platform may also allow investment in currencies and cryptocurrencies or allow you to engage in an increasingly popular option known as ‘copy trading’.

With copy trading, also known as social trading, you essentially choose whether to follow the investment path already chosen by an experienced trader.

A trader will open an investment position and will broadcast the position they have taken. You might then follow, or ‘copy’ what they have done. If you are on an automated trading platform, you will automatically adopt that position.

Many investors are prepared to pay a bit more in fees for a platform that offers really useful apps and services.

IMPORTANT: No news, feature article or comment should be seen as a personal investment recommendation. Before deciding to invest, you should ensure that you are familiar with the risks associated with a particular plan. If you are unsure of the suitability of a particular product, both in respect of its objectives and risk profile, you should seek independent financial advice. The value of shares, ETFs and ETCs, bought through a share dealing account, stocks and shares ISA, or a SIPP can fall and rise, which could mean getting back less than you originally put in. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Spread bets and CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. Between 67%-81% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs. You should consider whether you understand how spread bets and CFDs work and whether you can afford to risk losing your money. Professional clients can lose more than they deposit. All trading involves risk. Tax treatment of ISAs depends on your circumstances and is based on current law, which may be subject to change in the future. ISA transfer charges may apply; please check with your provider.