When choosing where to open a stocks and shares Isa there is plenty of choice - with a couple of dozen brokers competing for your business.
Below Money Observer runs through a short checklist of the main things you should be weighing up before deciding which broker to pick.
Price is arguably the most important consideration and is the one thing that as an investor you can control. When it comes to the fees levied by brokers, they vary considerably depending on your pot size.
There are two main ways brokers charge their customers. They levy either a percentage fee or a fixed fee - a pounds and pence amount - which is much easier to get your head around.
According to consultancy The Platforum, as a rule of thumb the percentage way of charging favours smaller portfolios, while the fixed model becomes competitive for larger portfolios of around £50,000 upwards.
Brokers that charge a percentage figure include Charles Stanley Direct (0.25 per cent a year), Fidelity Personal Investing (0.35 per cent), Barclays Stockbrokers (0.35 per cent), Bestinvest (0.4 per cent) and Hargreaves Lansdown (0.45 per cent). Many cap the fee payable for larger portfolios.
Those who charge a pounds and pence figure include The Share Centre (£57.60), Interactive Investor (£80) and Alliance Trust Savings (£90).
Trading costs also vary, so be mindful of this if you want to regularly chop and change your holdings.
Some brokers, such as Interactive Investor, offer a certain number of 'free trades' as part of their overall fee, but others do not. Fund trades, however, are normally free on percentage-based platforms.
TOOLS AND FEATURES
Price, while important, should not be the only thing to mull over. The tools and features offered by brokers provide useful information for investors, particularly novices.
Some brokers offer a very basic, no-frills experience when it comes to helping customers choose and research investments. This is fine for investors who know what they are doing, but less so if you're a first-time investor or would appreciate a bit of hand-holding.
At the other end of the scale there are brokers that offer plenty of bells and whistles, including fund and share research, news and education sections, fund comparison tools and investment guides. Hargreaves Lansdown is widely considered to be a well-resourced site.
As ever, you need to weigh up whether the overall package is offering value for money.
OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER
Customer service and experience of online transacting are also important, although they are both hard to judge until you take the plunge and sign up.
Another thing to check is that the investment you want to buy is available. Some brokers, for example Chelsea Financial Services and Rplan, do not offer investment trusts.
It is also worth pointing out that shares listed on international exchanges are only available through certain brokers.
For those who want to buy a ready-made portfolio, again, they are only offered by certain brokers. Money Observer puts together a suite of Model Portfolios - a 12-strong range that are designed to meet certain investment objectives.
The portfolios are monitored quarterly and can be bought for £10 on the Interactive Investor website.
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