Freetrade Review

I love Freetrade, but the costs have been rising.

Nick's verdict

Freetrade has led the revolution in slashing the cost of investing and its beautiful app makes getting to grips with investing a breeze. We’d advise most newbie investors to dodge older, more expensive brokers and try out the general investing account from Freetrade. Not everything is free on the app though. For example, you will have to pay a monthly subscription to set up an ISA or to get full access to all 6,000 stocks and funds. Plus, there is heavy competition from Trading 212 and Lightyear who, for many, will offer even cheaper investing.

🆓 Commission-free trading.

⌨️ Wide range of investments available for subscribers.

📈 Paid users get interest on uninvested cash.

📱 Awesome app design.

🤳 Easily accessible and well-presented info on stocks and funds.

🧩 Fractional shares are available.

💸 Have to subscribe to access all features or set up ISAs/SIPPs.

💸 Fixed cost subscription (compared to percentage-based) can be expensive for those with small portfolios.

💡 Not much research or investing inspiration is offered.

☎️ Customer service is poor.


Freetrade was founded in 2016 with the aim to get everyone investing. Its app-based service is a user-friendly, commission-free trading platform that allows UK users to invest in a wide range of equities and ETFs from the UK, US and Europe with a transparent freemium pricing model.

It’s part of the new wave of fintech apps aimed at shaking up the investment industry. Now with 1.4 million customers, it is handling over £1.3 billion in assets making it a big player on the UK finance scene.

So it is really free? The answer is only parts of it are…and it’s not as free as it used to be. Read on and we’ll walk you through its features and costs.

Account Opening

[.custom-color]Account opening is really easy.[.custom-color]

You will be asked for the standard details like date of birth, address and email address. As there may be tax implications on any profit you make you will be asked for your National Insurance number too. There are also some long disclaimers to read through (everybody reads these right?).

At the end of the process, you’ll be asked to pick your account type:

Account Options

[.custom-color]Freetrade offers three tiers of accounts, each with different prices and features.[.custom-color]

Basic Standard Plus
Monthly Price Free £5.99 £11.99
Commission Free Trades Yes Yes Yes
FX Fee 0.99% 0.59% 0.39%
Fractional US Shares Yes Yes Yes
Stocks and ETFs Available 4,700+ 6,000+ 6,000+
Stop Loss & Limit Orders No Yes Yes
Stocks and Shares ISA No Yes Yes
SIPP No No Yes
Customer Service Basic Basic Priority
Interest on Uninvested Cash No 1% up to £2k 3% up to £4k

We’ll take you through each feature and its importance.

Free Trading? Really?

[.custom-color]No…not really.[.custom-color]

Commission-free just means that you don’t pay a trading fee when you buy or sell a stock – however it doesn’t mean you won’t incur other charges. Typically you will be charged:

Stamp Duty on UK Stocks: The current rate for stamp duty is 0.5% of the transaction value. This isn’t charged by Freetrade but by the taxman and you will face it with any broker.

FX fee on non-UK stocks: This is a currency conversion fee for buying assets that are not listed in GBP. It’s 0.99% or 0.35% depending on the tier of your account.

Monthly Charges: Freetrade doesn’t charge you a percentage of your portfolio value as an account fee, but it does charge mothly subscriptions if you want to access all features (see table above).

If you just want a general investment account you won’t have to make a monthly payment, but for other accounts, you will have to pay a subscription charge:

  • Stocks and Shares ISA: This type of account allows you to invest up to £20,000 a year without paying tax on any profits or dividends earned. It’s only available on the £4.99 or £11.99 plan.
  • SIPPs: These are self-invested pension plans. Contributions to SIPPs typically qualify for tax relief, which means that for every £80 you contribute, the government adds £20, making it an efficient way to save for retirement. They’re only available on the £11.99 a month plan.

Compared to the well-established brokers like Hargreaves Landsdown and AJ Bell this is positively cheap. They will charge £11.95 and £9.95 respectively each time you transact, FX fees of 1% and 0.75% and still charge an account fee based on a percentage of your account value (0.25% up to £3.50 for AJ Bell and 0.45% for HL). In some cases where people have small portfolios and don’t trade often, it might be cheaper to go for one of these older brokers, but for most Freetrade will be better value.

However, when you compare Freetrade to Trading 212 and Lightyear, Freetrade is probably coming out more expensive for most people. Take a look at this table:

Lightyear Hargreaves Lansdown AJ Bell Freetrade (Standard Tier) Trading 212
Monthly platform fees Free 0.45% on funds up to £250,000. 0.25% to a million. 0.1% £1 million to £2 million. 0.25% of your portfolio (max £3.50) £5.99 Free
Cost per trade US – 0.1% (max $1), UK – £1, EU – €1 £11.95 £9.95 Free Free
FX Fee 0.35% 1% 0.75% 0.59% 0.15%

So don’t be sucked in – just because it says “free” in the name doesn’t mean there aren’t cheaper options.

Fractional Shares

[.custom-color]A nice feature for expensive shares.[.custom-color]

Traditionally, when you buy stocks or ETFs, you purchase whole shares. However, not all stocks have low prices that make it easy to buy entire shares. Fractional shares allow you to invest in expensive or high-priced stocks that you might not be able to afford in whole-share increments.

This is particularly helpful with some expensive US stocks – for example, Berkshire Hathaway shares trade at over half a million US dollars.

You can’t buy fractional shares for UK or EU companies however and we find this a little disappointing as stocks here can be very high – for example, AstraZeneca trades at over £10,000 and Next trades at over £7,000.

Range of Investments

[.custom-color]Good for such a cheap app, but the full range will cost you.[.custom-color]

To get access to the full 6,000 shares and ETFs you’re also going to opt for a premium plan, if not you are limited to just 1,200. Here’s how it compares:

Trading 212 Hargreaves Lansdown AJ Bell Freetrade Lightyear
Stocks, Funds & ETFs 12,000+ 11,000+ 11,000+ 6,000+ 3,500+

So its selection of stocks is great if you pay, but can be a bit limited if you don’t. If you’re just looking to trade big listed companies (e.g. FTSE 250 companies) then you should be OK on the free tier.

What’s The Platform Like?

[.custom-color]The app has a clean, modern and intuitive design to help users navigate the platform effortlessly.[.custom-color]

Everything you need to start investing is contained in a few tabs.

The Discover Tab

Discover page features Freetrade

This is where most of the action happens. From here you can see curated lists of stocks and ETFs (exchange-traded funds – essentially baskets of assets, centred around a topic such as green energy or property) that you can trade. Lists include popular stocks, sectors, and thematic lists like AI, big tech and bonds.

Buying & Selling

Share buying process Freetrade

Once you’ve seen a stock or ETF you like, you can tap on it to reveal its individual page.

You get a nice graph showing price over time plus key stats like market cap, P/E ratio and dividend yield.  You can also tap on “Costs and Charges” to see how much you get charged in FX fees, stamps duty etc when trading this instrument.

You can also get “enhanced stock fundamentals” in this area. This aggregates analyst ratings on the stock you’re looking at and tells you how many are positive, neutral and negative. It’s a kind of Rotten Tomatoes for stocks. It’s a great feature, but only available on paid-for plans and Lightyear has a very similar feature available for free.

The buying process is painless and you get a nice summary receipt once complete.

Portfolio, Insights and Activity Tabs

Other account features Freetrade

The Portfolio tab gives you an overview of your investments and their value while the Insights tab lets you see how they break down by sector and asset type. The activity tab gives you a list all the top-ups, trades and withdrawals made on your account.

If you want to sell a stock you just tap it in your portfolio and follow a similar process to when you bought it.

Note: Freetrade does have a desktop version, but it’s essentially a copy of the app and is restricted to subscribers.

How Good Is Customer Service?

[.custom-color]It’s not good.[.custom-color]

Freetrade is let down by its customer service. Currently, there is no way to speak to a person over the phone and the in-app help triages you via a robot before letting you contact anyone.

In our customer service test, our query had to be resolved by a person but we were quoted a 3 to 5 working day turnaround to get someone to look at it. Priority support is available on the premium plan but we think this should come as standard.

Is It Good For Beginners?

[.custom-color]Yes, it’s an excellent starting point.[.custom-color]

Freetrade’s platform makes it easy to navigate your way around the world of stocks. It’s a powerful platform but has been designed to still feel friendly.

It doesn’t offer a demo account – but with no minimum deposits and fractional shares available you can have a play around and get to grips with the platform for a tenner or less.

For those starting out with small portfolios, the fixed subscription costs won’t make sense.

There is also a learning hub that offers helpful guides. They mainly focus on the basics of investing so if you already know a bit about trading we’d recommend looking elsewhere to further your financial education.

There doesn’t seem to be much news and research curated by Freetrade so again you will have to look somewhere else.

Is It Safe & Legit?

[.custom-color]It is highly regulated but is newer than other platforms.[.custom-color]

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), a regulatory body, ensures Freetrade adheres to strict operational and ethical standards. This includes fair customer treatment, secure handling of client funds, and clear information about investment products. Freetrade’s compliance with FCA regulations also significantly reduces risks related to fraud or mismanagement.

The FCA isn’t afraid to flex its muscles. In 2022 it gave Freetrade 24 hours to “remove all paid for sponsored influencer advertisements and posts across all social media platforms” when it deemed these ads could be misleading.

It is also part of the Financial Services Compensation scheme. This provides a safety net, compensating customers up to about £85,000 per person in the (unlikely) event of Freetrade going bankrupt.

Despite its safety as a platform, you should remember that investing is inherently risky and consult a financial advisor for personalised advice before making big decisions about money.

So in conclusion, is it a good platform?

Yes. We love Freetrade and think it does live up to its aim of trying to get everyone into investing. The costs keep rising though, so we’re not sure how much longer they can claim, truly, to be free.

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