The best UK international stock brokers

 

Introduction | UK brokers | US brokers | Hong Kong brokers | Singapore brokers | Other

This is an overview of the leading UK online stock brokers that are able to buy international shares. To browse fuller details of their costs as a comparison table, see the table of UK international stock brokers. and check each broker’s individual entry in the stockbroker directory. To compare fees for investing in UK shares only, see this comparison of the cheapest UK online stock brokers.

Who’s who

TD Direct Investing (formerly TD Waterhouse) is where many UK investors start looking. It offers a good range of major markets for online stock trading in Europe, North America and Asia at low rates, but watch out for the huge 2% charge on currency conversions – if you can minimise these, it can still be reasonable value (consider paying in funds in foreign currency to help with this and see comments on Internaxx below). NatWest Stockbrokers is the same underlying platform at higher fees, so there’s little reason to use it.

Barclays Stockbrokers used to offer a reasonably wide range of markets by telephone at a rather high price. It recently overhauled its service to offer a slightly smaller range online with a fee structure more comparable with TD Direct. Relatively speaking, the number of markets available is better and currency commission charges are lower, but TD Direct offers more flexibility on holding foreign currency. Which of the two firms offers better value will depend on your trading pattern. Barclays also still offers the old telephone dealing service, although it doesn’t seem to be heavily promoted anymore. This covers a few more markets – notably in Asia – but carries extra fees, and is more comparable in cost and range to the full service brokers (see below).

Elsewhere, Saxo Bank is cheap, strong in the Nordic markets, covers the major Asian exchanges and unusually also includes Poland and South Africa. Interactive Brokers also has good coverage of Asia, is the only UK-registered discount broker to include Mexico and takes almost no commission on FX conversions (0.01%). Neither of these are UK firms – Interactive Brokers is American and Saxo Bank is Danish – but they have UK offices and their UK arm is FCA-regulated. Both market themselves more to traders, but long-term investors shouldn’t be put off by that.

Halifax, Hargreaves Lansdown, Interactive Investor and Selftrade offer a limited selection of European and North American stocks at low headline rates (although FX costs are not especially competitive and none allow you to hold foreign currency). However, all but Halifax trade through market makers rather than directly, so you may pay a mark-up to the intermediaries. Most have good reputations, but there seems little reason to go with any of these for foreign dealing purposes alone. If you use Halifax, consider using its iWeb online-only service, which has slightly lower fees.

AJ Bell Youinvest (formerly known as Sippdeal), iDealing and Share Centre offer a similar service to the above, but are more competitive on FX costs (although Youinvest’s recent increase in FX costs has made it less attractive than before). They may be a useful option for investors in North American and European stocks. In particular, Sippdeal’s no-fee ISA and low-cost SIPP products could make it interesting for smaller investors who want to hold foreign shares within a tax-advantaged account at reasonable cost. Sippdeal also offers major Asian markets for telephone dealing at higher cost.

Alliance Trust, better known for its i.nvest fund supermarket, has recently added an international sharedealing service by telephone. Rates on markets that are covered by the discount online stock brokers reviewed above are not competitive for frequent dealing and the selection of stocks in many markets is limited. However, it is unusual in offering South Africa and may be of interest to some investors who want to buy and hold some major foreign shares without dealing frequently.

Some of the traditional UK private client stock brokers offer a wide range of international markets and are worth considering if you trade in blocks of £2,500-5,000 or more. Below that, their higher trade commissions usually mean its not cost-effective – although it’s worth mentioning that other costs – such as currency conversion – may well be lower. You should also get better service and trade execution than with many of the discount brokers.

In general, expect the following firms to offer the US, Canada, most developed European markets and a number of the larger Asian ones, including emerging markets such as Malaysia and Thailand. Each will then typically offer a few other countries, which usually depend on what clients have asked for most over the years. With firms such as these, you should call to discuss your requirements before choosing one.

Brewin Dolphin and Stocktrade are the advisory and execution only arms of the same group. They can handle countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines and also offer Poland. Charles Stanley has a similar range and can also do Korea and Greece. For Killik & Co, the most unusual market is the United Arab Emirates.

Redmayne Bentley trades foreign shares through market makers rather than directly and consequently is fairly flexible about what it will try to get. It may be able to offer shares from markets that no other UK retail stock brokers trades, including at least some stocks from Taiwan. On the downside, this approach comes with higher-than-average trade and administration fees, especially for markets outside Europe and North America.

Daniel Stewart is a mostly institutional broker that accepts private clients. It doesn’t appear to have a minimum account size and covers a wide range of markets, including some very difficult ones. Fees are comparable to long-standing private client firms, although custody charges are higher – it will probably need a £5,000-10,000 minimum size per trade to make it cost effective.

Lastly, Sucden Financial is a trader-orientated service that offers the US and several European markets, including the Nordic countries. Its range of derivatives may be attractive to those looking for a multi-asset account, but commissions for stock trading are not the most competitive available. However, readers have given positive feedback on good customer service and knowledgeable staff.

What they trade

Major US and European stocks are the standard for online trading – even some brokers that don’t explicitly offer foreign shares may be able to get blue chips from these markets for you. Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore are the most common Asian markets. For anything else, your choices narrow rapidly.

Company
Markets available
AJ Bell Youinvest (Sippdeal)
(execution only)
Online: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA

Broker-assisted: Australia, Greece, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Africa
Alliance Trust
(execution only)
Online: UK

Broker-assisted: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, USA

Selection limited in many markets
Barclays Stockbrokers (execution only)Online: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, USA

Broker-assisted: Japan, Malaysia
Brewin Dolphin (advisory) and Stocktrade (execution only)Online: UK, US, Canada, major European markets

Broker-assisted: Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, USA, Western Europe
Charles Stanley
(advisory and execution only)
Online: UK

Broker-assisted: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, USA
Daniel Stewart
(advisory and execution only)
Broker-assisted: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China B, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, UK, USA
Halifax Sharedealing and iWeb
(execution only)
Online: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, UK, USA
Hargreaves Lansdown
(execution only)
Online: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA
iDealing
(execution only)
Online: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA
Interactive Brokers
(execution only)
Online: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India (for NRIs only), Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA
Interactive Investor
(execution only)
Online: Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, UK, USA
Killik & Co
(advisory)
Broker-assisted: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, UAE, UK, USA
NatWest Stockbrokers
(execution only)
Online: Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, UK, USA

Broker-assisted: Sweden, Switzerland
Redmayne Bentley
(execution only)
Broker-assisted: Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, Western Europe, UK, USA

Greece available as CFDs
Saxo Bank
(execution only)
Online: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA

Greece available as CFDs
Selftrade
(execution only)
Online: Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, UK, USA

Some stocks by telephone only, selection limited in many markets
Share Centre
(execution only)
Online: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA
Sucden Financial
(execution only)
Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA
TD Direct Investing (TD Waterhouse)
(execution only)
Online: Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, UK, USA

Broker-assisted: Sweden, Switzerland

For full details of fees and other services, click to see the detailed UK international online stock broker comparison chart.

What they charge

UK investors have a preference for simple fee structures and flat fees are common among the execution-only online stock brokers. Around £12/trade is the going rate. You can get lower minimums for some markets by shopping around the more trader-orientated brokers with differentiated fee structures. Traditional commission-based stock brokers charge up to 1.5-2%, plus a foreign dealing supplement. Expect a minimum of £50 or more for foreign shares.

Account fees and inactivity fees are usually low or non-existent. Custody fees are rare, but not unknown, especially with traditional stock brokers. Watch out for FX conversion charges, which can hit 2% at some discount online brokers as they try to claw back the low headline trade commission.

In my view

The obvious starting points are Interactive Brokers or Saxo Bank with their convenient online trading platforms and low commissions. iDealing and Sippdeal can be an useful option for major stocks in North American and European markets and currently seem to be the most cost-effective solution for holding foreign stocks in an ISA. Barclays Stockbrokers and TD Direct Investing offer a good range of markets and are attractive if you can avoid converting currencies too frequently.

Traditional stock brokers such as Brewin Dolphin/Stocktrade, Charles Stanley, Killik & Co and Redmayne Bentley offer a wide range of markets and often greater flexibility and a more personal service, but at a cost. Adventurous investors who deal in remote markets frequently may do better with a foreign broker instead.

Judged purely on international dealing, there are few reasons for choosing any of the others, since they offer other cost nor range advantages. However, they may have other advantages that make them useful for a predominantly UK-based investor who just wants to buy foreign shares occasionally.

It’s worth being aware that TD Direct Investing also has a Luxembourg division called Internaxx. This operates a slightly different service to its UK counterpart, which includes different fees and the availability of Sweden and Switzerland for online trading.

There is no explicit commission on FX conversions, although in that case I suspect the currency exchange rates it offers you must hide a small mark up – however, users report that they seem close to the interbank rate. This may be worth investigating for frequent traders, UK investors looking for an offshore brokerage account or non-European investors looking for an international online stock broker to trade European markets.

Client restrictions

Most UK stock brokers will not accept non-resident retail clients due to money laundering regulations, although attitudes vary and it’s worth checking with the firm in question. The traditional private client stock brokers are be more flexible and welcoming than the discount brokers.

A known exception is TD Direct Investing, both through its overseas resident account and through Internaxx. The international firms Interactive Brokers and Saxo Bank will accept clients of most nationalities, although probably not through the UK office. See this update on UK stock brokers for non-residents for more details.

Introduction | UK brokers | US brokers | Hong Kong brokers | Singapore brokers | Other