This is an overview of the leading UK online stockbrokers that are able to buy international shares. To browse fuller details of their costs as a comparison table, see the table of UK international stockbrokers. 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 stockbrokers.
UK stockbrokers have seen a lot of changes and consolidation in the last few years, but this had little impact on the choices for buying international shares. The main outcome was that several companies that used to offer similar services at slightly different prices have merged, meaning there are fewer firms to compare.
The big dividing line between online brokers in the UK is whether they let you hold cash and settle trades in foreign currencies or convert from sterling each time. Since you will usually a commission whenever you change currency, how frequently you trade in and out of positions is crucial in deciding which broker suits you.
The sterling-only brokers are well suited to longer-term investors (especially if you are using an ISA for foreign stocks because these accounts can’t hold foreign currency). The major firms in this group are Hargreaves Lansdown, AJ Bell Youinvest, and Halifax Share Dealing and its budget brand iWeb (same service, different fees).
If you intend to buy and sell frequently, you will generally do better with brokers that allow you to hold a range of foreign currencies. These firms will typically be aimed more at active traders. Examples include Interactive Brokers, Saxo Markets, IG and iDealing.
Interactive Investor also offers a multi-currency account, but in terms of fees and services it probably competes more directly with the long-term investment platforms than with the trading firms. HSBC UK InvestDirect Plus is a rather minimal service that only offers UK and US stocks, but charges no currency commission.
In addition to the online discount brokers, some of the traditional UK private-client stockbrokers offer international dealing, which may sometimes include markets that no UK-registered online broker provides. The main reason why this site doesn’t include full details for these firms is that it is often difficult to get a consistent and definitive answer on where they can trade.
Fees tend to be high: with dealing commissions of 1.5-2%, plus a foreign dealing supplement, you will often pay a minimum of £50 per trade, and there may also be an annual custody fee on a per-stock basis. If this might still be cost-effective for you, see if firms such as Charles Stanley, Killik & Co or Redmayne Bentley offer the markets you want.
Major US and European stocks are the standard for online trading. Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore are the most common Asian markets. For anything else, your choices narrow rapidly.
|AJ Bell Youinvest||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
|Halifax Sharedealing and iWeb||Online: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, UK, USA|
|Hargreaves Lansdown||Online: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA|
|iDealing||Online: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA|
|IG||Online: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Germany, Netherlands, UK, USA|
|Interactive Brokers||Online: Online: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Estonia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Israel, India (for NRIs only), Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA|
|Interactive Investor||Online: Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, UK, USA
Broker-assisted: Sweden, Switzerland
|Saxo Markets||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|
For full details of fees and other services, click to see the detailed UK international online stock broker comparison chart.
UK investors prefer simple fee structures and so flat-rate commissions are common among the execution-only online stockbrokers. Around £10-12/trade is the going rate. You can get lower minimums for some markets through the more trading-orientated brokers, where charges often vary by country.
Some form of account fee, custody fee or inactivity fee is now common even for dealing accounts and ISAs, although there are still a few exceptions. Hargreaves Lansdown has no custody charge for shares in a dealing account, while iWeb has no annual fee for an ISA beyond its one-off account opening charge. Watch out for FX conversion charges, which can be as much as 1.5% at some brokers as they try to claw back the low headline trade commission.
The obvious starting point for long-term investors who want a full range of US and European shares in one account is Hargreaves Lansdown and AJ Bell Youinvest. Frequent traders or those who want more global reach should look at Interactive Brokers or Saxo Markets.
Interactive Investor’s strongest feature is its flat-rate account fee, which means it may be attractive for investors who want to hold UK and international shares alongside a large fund portfolio. iWeb works out as very competitive for small trade sizes (once you get over the account-opening fee) if its limited range of markets is enough.
IG’s coverage is also narrow, but new countries are slowly being added and it could offer very good value if it provides what you need. iDealing is very competitive on price, especially for European equities. HSBC InvestDirect Plus is a niche product for people who already have an HSBC bank account and want to hold UK and US shares only.
Most UK stock brokers will not accept non-resident retail clients due to the hassle of complying with money-laundering regulations, although attitudes vary and it’s worth checking with the firm in question. The traditional private client stockbrokers are likely to more flexible and welcoming than the discount brokers.
Interactive Investor will accept some foreign clients. Interactive Brokers and Saxo Bank are international firms 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.