The U.K.'s IG began life as a spread betting shop in 1974 and has grown into a financial powerhouse in recent decades, adding contracts for difference (CFD) and traditional shares to its core trading operations. IG now boasts more than 195,000 clients worldwide, with net global trading revenues of nearly $750 million and offices in 14 countries across five continents. The broker now ranks as U.K.'s top retail forex provider, according to Investment Trends.
Plus500 has been in the CFD business since 2008. They are registered in the UK and licensed by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 509902). The company offers CFD trading in forex, stock indices, individual equities, commodities, cryptocurrencies, ETFs, and options. Plus500 was the first broker to introduce a Bitcoin CFD (2013). The company does not charge commissions on any of its trades.
Both of these brokers offer CFD trading. CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. Between 74–89% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.
In our 2019 Best Online Brokers Awards, IG received an award for Best for Forex Trading.
- Account Minimum: £0
- Fees: EUR/USD—0.6 pips average
- Best for: Cost-conscious traders
- Account Minimum: $0
- Fees: Minimum of 0.6 pips for EUR/USD
- Best for: Forex Trading
Traders on Plus500 aren't given many options when it comes to executing their trades. They can place and monitor their trades manually on Plus500's web-based or mobile trading platform. The platform is clearly targeted to those who just need a mechanism for executing trades. Plus500 is best suited for customers who intend to perform most of their research and analysis elsewhere. Guaranteed stops are available on some markets, however, they come with an increased spread and cannot be added to previously opened trades.
IG gives you the flexibility to automate your trading and bypass IG and go directly to the market makers and even use your own, or a third-party, trading platform. We are impressed with the number of trading platforms and tools that are available to individual and institutional traders (asset managers and introducing brokers) alike. In fact, their only negative mark was because they require a minimum account balance of GBP 5,000 to access its Virtual Private Servers (VPS) for free (traders often use a VPS to run automated trading algorithms). Otherwise, access to the VPS costs account holders GBP 50 per month.
- Offers access to more than 15,000 global markets
- ICG's size and trading volume allow it to offer some of the lowest spreads and commissions in the industry
- Virtual Private Server (VPS) carries a fee
- Simple and easy to use
- Customizable technical analysis charts
- Mobile app has the same functionality as the desktop does
- Ability to set price-based alerts
Mobile and Emerging Tech
The IG mobile app includes most of the functionality available in the desktop application. Traders can access IG's trading instruments, complex order types and account details, trading signals, and charting (complete with trading indicators and drawing tools) from the Android or iPhone apps. The app has a customizable layout so that a client's default opening screen can be focused on the information they want to see first. The iPhone app includes fingerprint security but the Android version does not.
The Plus500 mobile applications include all of the functionality available in the desktop application as well. Between the two on mobile and emerging tech, it's a tie as neither distinguishes itself.
- Clients can use advanced order types, track their accounts, and receive trading alerts
- Dynamic charts can also be expanded to fullscreen
- Can also easily toggle back and forth between accounts
- Traders can access Plus500's 2,000+ trading instruments
- Charting enabled on Android, iPhone, or iPad mobile apps
- No enhanced security measures
News and Research
At the time of our review, Plus500 does not seem to have any dedicated research or analysis tools. Plus500 does provide customizable charts where traders can conduct a technical analysis on any of the instruments they are interested in trading. It also provides a simple "Traders' Sentiment" indicator that shows traders what percentage of Plus500 clients are buying an instrument, like the EUR/USD currency pair, and what percentage are selling the instrument.
IG provides comprehensive research and education through IG Analysis and Education links. IG Analysis includes well-organized news, analysis, financial calendar, market data, screener, and a look at the week ahead. A search function pulls up a deep dive of useful materials but some topic coverage is limited. Educational resources include the full-featured IG Academy, which assists in trading and knowledge development through free courses, webinars, and seminars.
- Includes real-time news feeds, calendars, and advanced data analytics
- Provides insights into what is happening on the IG trading floor
- Client sentiment tool and dynamic charts
- Trader's sentiment—shows what other clients are trading
- Economic Calendar—calendar from Dow Jones
- Technical Analysis Chart—100+ technical indicators
Education and Security
IG's education via its IG Academy is well organized and comprehensive. It is even available in a mobile app so you can take your education with you. The ongoing webinars and commentary incorporate the trading platform, which will help investors to become more proficient with its use. The nine trading courses available emphasize spread betting and CFDs. But the courses on technical analysis, trading psychology, understanding risk and reward, etc. are applicable regardless of the market you are trading.
Plus500 surprisingly offers no dedicated education section or platform tutorial. The broker does at least provide one legally required "Key Information Document" (KID) that outlines the basics of what each available instrument is and the risks associated with trading it. The KID has information on commodities, cryptocurrencies, ETFs, forex, indices, options, and shares. Clearly Plus500 expects its clients to know what they're doing or, at the very least, to seek out educational material elsewhere.
- Mobile app offers trading education on-the-go
- IG Academy allows users to master select trading concepts
- Track progress and see what you still need to learn
- Plus500 provides no educational material
Both brokers primarily earn revenue through spreads rather than commissions. IG spreads and fees match up favorably with its rival in most categories, which is impressive given Plus 500's no-frills reputation. IG spread bets carry no commissions, unlike share CFDs, which charge a minimum commission but no spread.
While still competitive, Plus500's rates tend to be a bit higher. Depending on which products you are trading, Plus500 can be cheaper to use. Stock spreads range from 0.10 to 0.50%, the S&P 500 is just 50 pips, and Bitcoin is 0.85% per side. On average, an active trader should expect to pay about the same overall across products on either platform.
- Stock trade fees: $0.005 per share
- Account minimum: GBP 100
- Stock trade fees: $0.02 per share
- Account minimum: GBP 100
Investopedia is dedicated to providing investors with unbiased, comprehensive reviews and ratings of online brokers. Our reviews are the result of six months of evaluating all aspects of an online broker’s platform, including the user experience, the quality of trade executions, the products available on their platforms, costs and fees, security, the mobile experience and customer service. We established a rating scale based on our criteria, collecting over 3,000 data points that we weighed into our star scoring system.
In addition, every broker we surveyed was required to fill out a 320-point survey about all aspects of their platform that we used in our testing. Many of the online brokers we evaluated provided us with in-person demonstrations of their platforms at our offices.
Our team of industry experts, led by Theresa W. Carey, conducted our reviews and developed this best-in-industry methodology for ranking online investing platforms for users at all levels. Click here to read our full methodology.