Lightyear Review – is it the best trading app?

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The Generation Money Guarantee

At Generation Money our purpose is to help you make better financial decisions. All of our articles are independently written and/or edited by finance professionals and adhere to strict editorial guidelines. This post may contain links which, if clicked, could result in a payment to the site. These links never impact our editorial policy and all rankings and product recommendations remain unbiased. For more details, read how this site is financed. This content contains financial promotions.

Table of Contents

Lightyear Review

Our Verdict

Lightyear’s app is slick and well-designed, and you can invest in thousands of UK and international shares and ETFs from your phone. It also has simple pricing with no annual account fees, making Lightyear a great low-cost investing app. You can hold multi-currency accounts, too. We give it 4/5.

Plus, get 10 free trades by using the promo code GENERATIONMONEY when signing up and depositing at least £50. A great way to get started.

T&Cs apply. Capital at risk if you invest.

This is our independent Lightyear review.

Lightyear is an app-only, multi-currency investment and trading platform which entered the UK investing space in 2021.

With its slick, well-designed app and easy-to-understand pricing Lightyear will appeal to those who are happy to invest from their phone.

In this Lightyear review, our team of finance professionals cover how it works, how much it costs, which investments it offers and its main pros and cons.

Use the table of contents to skip ahead to a particular section or read on for our full Lightyear review.

Table of Contents

What is Lightyear?

Founded in London by two former Wise employees, Lightyear is an investing and trading app which launched onto the investing app scene in the UK in 2021. It offers over 3,500 UK and international stocks and funds to invest in, with low commission on share dealing and no account fees.

You can also hold accounts in multiple currencies (GBP, USD and EUR), so you can transfer your money to the currency of the stock you want to invest in. There’s a very competitive 0.35% fee for doing so, putting Lightyear ahead of many of its rivals when it comes to FX fees.

Plus, Lightyear has been one of the leading investment apps for paying interest on uninvested cash (more on this later). Not paying interest to customers on their cash deposits is something the FCA has warned many of the larger investment platforms about, so Lightyear has been ahead of the curve.

You can currently get 10 free trades if you deposit at least £50 and use our promo code GENERATIONMONEY when signing up. T&Cs apply. So, if you already want to give Lightyear a try, download the app and get started.

Get 10 free trades

Use the promo code GENERATIONMONEY when signing up, deposit at least £50 and get 10 trades for free.

T&Cs apply. Capital at risk if you invest.

Who is Lightyear for?

Lightyear’s focus on developing an easy-to-use app will particularly appeal to younger and more tech-savvy investors. It does have a web platform, too, though.

In fact, of the many investing apps we’ve reviewed, Lightyear is one of the best for beginners in our view. It’s easy to get started and its app is very user friendly. You’ll be picking investments yourself, though, so make sure to do your own research.

If you prefer a hands-off approach to investing, we recommend InvestEngine’s Managed Portfolios. Read more in our full guide to the best robo-advisors in the UK.

You’re not totally left to your own devices with Lightyear, though. 

It has many innovative features, including alerts when there’s a shareholder action coming up for a company you’re invested in. You can also create a profile with your current investments and share it with your friends.

Alongside that, there’s lots of useful information when browsing the app. You can see analyst ratings for stocks – which are the professional opinions of equity research firms – and key financial metrics about the company.

So all of this combined with low flat fees on dealing and no annual account fees (more on fees below) makes Lightyear a great option to start investing with.

Accounts and Products

Next we cover the account options you have when investing with Lightyear.

General Investment Account (GIA)

A GIA is the only type of account that Lightyear currently offers. A General Investment Account allows you to trade and invest with no annual contribution limits.

Tax is subject to personal circumstances, but you may have to pay capital gains tax on any profits made from the increase in value of investments when you sell them when investing outside of an ISA. If you’d prefer to invest through a Stocks and Shares ISA, read our guide to the best Stocks and Shares ISA for beginners.

For many, though, this isn’t a major issue as there’s an annual allowance (called the annual exempt amount) of £6,000 before capital gains tax is due.

Any gains above £6,000 will be added to your income and taxed at either 10% (basic rate taxpayers) or 20% (higher rate taxpayers)

You may also need to pay dividend tax on any dividends received in a GIA. Again, though, there’s an annual allowance before you must pay tax, and for dividends it’s £1,000 (from 6th April 2023). Dividends are not normally subject to tax if investing through a Stocks and Shares ISA.

Lightyear’s standard personal account gives you access to all of its features and investments, which we cover further down in this review.

Business Account

Lightyear also offers an investment account for businesses. This covers freelancers and personal holding companies.

It has much the same features as Lightyear’s personal account, but additional checks may be needed before you can open one.

There aren’t that many retail investment platforms that allow you to open an account as a business (Interactive Investor being a notable exception), so Lightyear is a good choice if you want to invest your business’ spare cash.

Is there a Lightyear ISA?

As mentioned above, you can only open a GIA as a personal or business customer – Lightyear does not currently offer a Stocks and Shares ISA.

An Individual Savings Account (ISA) is a government-approved savings or investment account where all gains and income are free from tax. 

So when investing through a Stocks and Shares ISA you won’t pay capital gains tax, income tax or dividend tax when your investments increase in value or pay out income. This is a great way to build an investment portfolio over time.

If you’re interested in investing through an ISA, read our guide to the best investment apps in the UK to see which is right for you. 

Is there a Lightyear SIPP?

Lightyear does not currently offer a SIPP. A Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) is a type of private pension that you have lots of control over.

Opening a SIPP is a great idea as not only are there a wide range of investment options, but the government also adds 25% to your contributions. Higher and additional rate taxpayers can also claim back more tax through a self-assessment return.

Similarly to an ISA, any gains or income within a SIPP are free from capital gains and income tax. There’s an annual limit on tax relief of £60,000 or your annual income – whichever is lower.

These government bonuses and tax reliefs means that you can quickly grow your investments via a SIPP and build a fund for your retirement. Read our guide to the best SIPP providers to find out which one is right for you.

Multicurrency accounts

When you open a Lightyear account, you have the option to hold cash in either British pounds, US dollars or Euros. It costs 0.35% to convert money between currencies and you get the spot rate on transfers (the live interbank rate).

For example, to invest in European shares you can simply convert your money from pounds to euros. You can then buy the European shares directly in euros without any further FX charges, until you convert euros back into pounds. Later in this review we look at how Lightyear’s FX fees compare to some of its rivals.

As we’ll see below, you get paid interest on uninvested cash whichever currency your cash is held in. 

Interest on uninvested cash

As we mentioned earlier in this Lightyear review, Lightyear was one of the first investment platforms to pay interest on uninvested cash. It’s one of the major benefits of using Lightyear to invest.

The rates paid vary by currency, but as of February 2024 are as follows:

CurrencyInterest rate
GBP4.50%
EUR3.25%
USD4.50%

That means that while you’re deciding what to invest in, your money is earning a return. In fact, the rate paid in British Pounds is competitive with many easy-access savings accounts on the market, and easily beats the rates on offer at other investment platforms.

Until recently, many of the big investment platforms in the UK would pay no interest on uninvested cash at all. Essentially, it was a money-making exercise for those platforms. 

This is because customer deposits into investment accounts would be held with a bank which would pay interest to the investment platform. Instead of passing this on to customers, or keeping some of it and passing the rest on, some platforms kept it all for themselves. 

Very naughty – and the FCA thought so, too, and ordered a clampdown on this practice.

Get 10 free trades

Use the promo code GENERATIONMONEY when signing up, deposit at least £50 and get 10 trades for free.

T&Cs apply. Capital at risk if you invest.

Investment Choice

In total there are more than 3,500 shares and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) to invest in with Lightyear. 

Stocks and Shares

Individual stocks and shares make up the majority of investments that Lightyear has to offer.

These include the big-name companies in the US such as the ‘Magnificent Seven’ of Tesla, Meta, Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Nvidia.

At the time of writing (February 2024), there are:

  • 257 UK stocks
  • 274 European stocks
  • 44 Asian stocks
  • 104 Canadian stocks
  • 61 Chinese stocks
  • 2,379 US stocks

The UK stocks primarily cover those that make up the FTSE100 index of the largest publicly traded companies, but also include some from the FTSE350. They only include those listed on the London Stock Exchange, so no Alternative Investment Market (AIM) companies are available.

UK stocks in the Lightyear app
UK stocks on the Lightyear app

There are thousands of US shares to invest in which, combined with low FX conversion fees, makes Lightyear a great app for trading US stocks.

Since Lightyear’s initial release in the UK it’s been consistently adding more stocks and shares on its platform, so there’s probably plenty more to come.

In fact, you can even request a stock or fund that’s not available through Lightyear’s app so that it may get added in future.

Fractional shares

Instead of buying an entire share in a company, Lightyear allows you to buy a fraction of a share in US companies.

Fractional shares in our Lightyear review
Fractional instruments on Lightyear

Fractional shares have become popular in recent years, particularly among beginner investors, as they allow you to invest in a stake in companies with very high share prices.

They allow you to own a portion of a share, such as 10% (or 0.1), instead of requiring you to buy the whole share. This means you get exposure to companies with high share prices that otherwise would take up a lot of your capital.

For example, Microsoft shares are trading at around $400 at the time of writing. So, to own just one share you’d need $400 to invest. If you’re starting out with a fund of say $2,000, that would mean 20% of your entire portfolio is needed to invest in Microsoft ($400 out of $2,000).

Instead, you can buy a fraction of a Microsoft share, such as 10% for $40 in this example, and have Microsoft as part of your portfolio.

ETFs

Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) are a low cost and very popular way of investing. They’re funds which typically track a major share index, such as the S&P 500, giving you exposure to an entire market without individually buying all of the shares yourself.

As they tend to track a particular benchmark or index, they don’t require expensive fund managers to look after them. This saves on management fees, meaning that ETFs tend to be much cheaper than traditional mutual funds or investment trusts.

There are hundreds of ETFs available with Lightyear, including popular index funds such as Vanguard’s S&P 500 tracker.

You can also trade ETFs that invest in bonds and property as well as shares, and ETFs which focus on particular geographies or themes (such as clean energy). 

With Lightyear there are no fees or commissions when investing in ETFs, so you just pay the underlying fund charge as you would regardless of the platform (and FX fee if you are buying in a currency different to your base currency).

Money Market Funds (MMF)

A newer addition to Lightyear, you can now invest in Money Market Funds (MMF). 

MMFs are funds which invest in income-generating securities. What that means is that money is pooled together and used to buy bonds (fixed income securities) and money market instruments (short term debt, usually issued by large companies or governments), or deposited with banks. 

These investments generate an income, which is passed on to investors (after fees). Money Market Funds have become popular as interest rates have risen, as they are seen as low risk but have competitive yields (cash returns). 

Lightyear has 3 Money Market Funds provided by Blackrock, one each for pounds sterling, euros and US dollars. 

Money Market Funds available with Lightyear
Money Market Funds on Lightyear

Unlike shares and ETFs, Lightyear charges an annual fee on investments in MMFs. The fee depends on the size of your investment as follows:

  • Up to £1m: 0.30%
  • £1m – £25m: 0.20%
  • Over £25m: 0.09%

You should take into account the above fees, as well as the ongoing fees charged by Blackrock, when calculating the net yield on the funds.

Money Market Fund fees in Lightyear's app
Calculating the net yield on MMFs with Lightyear

Lightyear App Review

Now we look at one of the best features of Lightyear – its app.

Once you’ve downloaded the app and created your account, you’ll be presented with a simple home screen with 3 tabs. One is to explore investments, the next is to view your portfolio and the final tab is to view your cash balance.

The Explore tab provides easy filtering of investment options by investment type, geography and theme. 

Ligtyear's explore page

When you click on an investment, such as an ETF, you’ll get a neat summary page showing useful information.

Testing the instrument information screen for our Lightyear review

You can also see analyst ratings of a stock:

Analyst ratings on the instrument page in Lightyear's app

It’s a really easy-to-use, well designed app that’s great for building a portfolio from shares and ETFs.

You can also easily flick between your multi-currency accounts and make instant transfers between them.

Lightyear’s app is one of the best we’ve tested. 

Get 10 free trades

Use the promo code GENERATIONMONEY when signing up, deposit at least £50 and get 10 trades for free.

T&Cs apply. Capital at risk if you invest.

Lightyear Fees & Charges

Lightyear is a low cost app. There are no monthly subscription fees or annual platform charges (except on MMFs), and no fees on withdrawals. 

Deposits are free unless you deposit more than £500 by card. But deposits via bank transfer are always free. Here’s a summary of what you can be charged:

  • Dealing Fees:
    • UK Shares: £1 per successful order
    • US Shares: min. 0.10%, maximum $1 per successful order
    • EU Shares: €1 per successful order
    • ETFs: Free of Lightyear execution fees. Underlying fund fees may apply
  • FX Conversion Fee: 0.35% (you will need to convert your cash into the currency of the stock you want to buy)
  • Deposits and withdrawals:
    • Bank Transfers: Free
    • Fast Deposit Fee: First £500 is free, 0.5% thereafter on card deposits
  • Money Market Fund Fees (charged annually):
    • Up to £1m: 0.30%
    • £1m – £25m: 0.20%
    • Over £25m: 0.09%
    • Underlying fund fees may also apply

We like Lightyear’s low flat fee pricing, but bear in mind that small trades will be expensive in percentage terms.

For example, buying £20 of UK shares will cost £1 which is 5% of the transaction value. Much larger trades work out to be very cheap, for example £500 of UK shares works out at 0.2%. 

Currency conversion fees comparison

Below is a comparison of Lightyar’s currency conversion fees against some of its rivals.

PlatformFX conversion fee
eToro0.50%
Freetrade0.59%
Hargreaves Lansdown0.75%
Interactive Investor1.5%
Lightyear0.35%
Revolut0% on £1k/mo, 0.5% thereafter

The big savings on low conversion fees and multi-currency accounts comes from reinvestment. 

Many other platforms charge an FX fee per transaction each time you buy and sell investments in a foreign currency. 

With a multi-currency account, like Lightyear’s, you convert your cash once into the currency you want to invest in. Then you can buy and sell assets without further FX fees (dealing fees still apply). 

This means you only face more FX fees when you want to withdraw money in your home currency, or top up your deposit, rather than each time you place a trade.

Is Lightyear Safe?

Lightyear is regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) as an appointed representative of RiskSave Technologies Ltd. 

The FCA is the UK’s regulator of financial companies (there’s also the PRA which regulates Banks). RiskSave Technologies is a specialist provider of regulatory and compliance services to finance companies in the UK. Their experienced team helps to ensure Lightyear is compliant with the FCA’s rules and regulations. 

FCA authorisation and regulation is the first sign we look for when reviewing the safety of investment platforms and banking apps. 

But, Lightyear is not currently covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), which guarantees up to £85,000 of your money in the event that the company holding it goes bust. 

That doesn’t mean there aren’t safeguards in place, though. Lightyear segregates client money from its own funds. Your funds cannot be touched by Ligthyear’s creditors in the event that it was to go into administration. So, you’ll get your money back even in the unlikely event Lightyear was to go out of business.

On top of that, your holdings in US assets are protected by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) for up to $500,000. European investments are also protected, in this case by the Estonian Investor Protection Sectoral Fund for up to €20,000.

Customer Service

As we’ll look at in the next section, Lightyear has very good customer feedback. But how good is its customer service when you need help?

Firstly, there’s no in-app chat or phone support, which is a little bit disappointing – especially the lack of in-app chat. Instead, you can fill in a contact form through the app and a member of the Lightyear team will get back to you.

However, Lightyear does have an extensive support section in the app, as well as detailed FAQs which cover a wide range of customer queries. So, you might not need to contact Lightyear at all. But if you do need to, it’ll have to be via contact form or by emailing [email protected].

Looking through customer reviews on Trustpilot (more on this below), lots of people mention that customer support was speedy and helpful. 

Lightyear Customer Reviews

Lightyear’s rating of 4.8 on Trustpilot (as of February 2024) is one of the highest ratings of all of the investment platforms we’ve reviewed. 

Its rating is classed as ‘Excellent’ and many customers comment on how user-friendly the app is, and its low pricing.  

On Apple’s app store, Lightyear also has a high rating of 4.7 from more than 400 reviews (as of February 2024). 

Overall, Lightyear has one of the highest positive feedback rates across the many platforms we’ve reviewed here at Generation Money.

Pros and Cons

Here are the main pros and cons from our Lighyear review.

Pros

  • One of the best and easiest-to-use apps on the market
  • Over 3,500 UK and international stocks and funds
  • Low commission fees on trading
  • No annual account charges (except on Money Market Funds)
  • Multi-currency accounts (GBP, USD, EUR)
  • One of the best rates of interest on uninvested cash
  • Low FX conversion fee of 0.35% (cheaper than many other investment apps)
  • Consistently adds more stocks and ETFs
  • Business accounts
  • FCA regulated

Cons

  • No Stocks and Shares ISA or SIPP
  • No mutual funds, investment trusts or bonds to invest in
  • Not FSCS protected (but other safety measures in place)
  • No in-app chat support or phone support

Lightyear promo code

A little reminder – if you sign up to Lightyear using our promo code GENERATIONMONEY and deposit at least £50, you’ll get 10 FREE trades. A great way to get started! Ts&Cs apply.

Lightyear Review – Final Verdict

That brings us to the end of our Lightyear review. Lightyear is a great investing app – it’s one of the best that we’ve reviewed.

We’d particularly recommend it for beginner investors as it’s so easy to use and has low fees. The app is well-designed, easy to navigate and looks great, too. Plus, there’s lots of useful information to browse through when investing.

The main drawback, in our view, is that Lightyear doesn’t currently offer a Stocks and Shares ISA. But, while you can’t invest through a tax-wrapper, Lightyear is great for building your own portfolio. Unless you make gains of more than £6,000 per year when selling investments, you won’t pay capital gains tax, anyway.

Another great Lightyear feature is that it pays interest on uninvested cash. The rates it pays are very competitive, too, even compared to bank savings accounts. This means your spare cash isn’t just lying around getting no return while you decide what to invest in.

On top of that, you have multi-currency accounts and low FX conversion fees – great for building a portfolio of US or international shares. Get started by downloading the app, and use the promo code GENERATIONMONEY to get 10 free trades when you deposit £50.

Get 10 free trades

Use the promo code GENERATIONMONEY when signing up, deposit at least £50 and get 10 trades for free.

T&Cs apply. Capital at risk if you invest.

Get 10 free trades

Use the promo code GENERATIONMONEY when signing up, deposit at least £50 and get 10 trades for free.

T&Cs apply. Capital at risk if you invest.

Get 10 free trades

Use code GENERATIONMONEY when signing up to Lightyear, deposit £50 and get 10 free trades.
T&Cs apply. Capital at risk if you invest.

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