Recommended if you want low fees and can deal with a complicated trading platform. Definitely not ideal for beginners.
Interactive Brokers is one of the biggest US based discount brokers.
Interactive has very competitive trading and margin fees. The brokerage company provides access to almost all of the biggest financial markets around the world. Its product range varies from the simple stocks to the more sophisticated options and futures. If you prefer to invest in funds, Interactive can handle that as well.
Their customer service is a weak point. You should expect long waiting times both on the phone and in email, and we have also received some controversial answers from these different sources. On a positive note, it is available in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Russian.
Competitive fees come with some shortages on the user experience side. Both the web and desktop platforms are overly complicated, but they provide great execution tools. On top of this, the desktop platform offers unique research and technical tools which competitors do not. The mobile platform is more user friendly as it is a more up-to-date development.
The company provides several quality research options for free and third party research for additional fees.
Join our upcoming e-mail course to get to the next level in online trading
Gergely Korpos, 04 August 2017
Interactive Brokers is a US-based online brokerage firm, a public company listed on NASDAQ. It conducts its broker and proprietary trading businesses in over 100 destinations worldwide. Below is our complete Interactive Brokers review, which consist of the following sections:
|Interactive Brokers Review Scores|
|Money transfer and withdrawal||★☆☆☆☆|
Interactive Brokers is a truly international service provider. The Interactive Brokers Group has 7 independent entities - in the US, Canada, Australia, India, Japan and Hong Kong - which are all regulated by different authorities.
If you are a European investor, your account will be handled by the UK subsidiary, which is backed by the FSCS (Financial Services Compensation Schemes). FSCS provides protection up to GBP 50,000. European clients can open only UK-based accounts, opening a US account as a European citizen is not possible.
Who can open an account?
Interactive Brokers is present on all continents hence other than legal restrictions - like a complete ban on CFD trading in the US - we did not encounter any limitations.
Your base currency (a currency in which you maintain your book of accounts) can be any of the following:
|Australian Dollar||British Pound||Canadian Dollar||Chinese Offshore Yuan|
|Czech Koruna||Danish Krone||Euro||Hungarian Forint|
|Hong Kong Dollar||Israeli Shekel||Japanese Yen||Mexican Peso|
|New Zealand Dollar||Norwegian Krone||Russian Rouble||Singapore Dollar|
|Swedish Krona||Swiss Franc||US Dollar|
Interactive Brokers offers two types of accounts for Europeans: individual and joint accounts.
An individual account is owned and used by a single trader or investor;
A joint account is owned and used by two individuals.
Account opening process
The account opening process is overly complicated and slow. It takes about 30 minutes to go through the 5-step registration process where users must provide lots of personal information, namely:
Proof of identity and date of birth;
Proof of residency;
Your employer’s name, address and phone number;
Bank or third-party broker account numbers and routing numbers for check deposits.
The documents can differ from country to country but these are the standard requirements. Clients can send the documents via fax or email, so the process is fully online. New accounts are usually approved between 1 or 2 business days if all the application requirements are satisfied. Once approved and your funds are received, you can start trading right away. All in all, opening an account at Interactive Brokers is a long and complicated process.
At Interactive Brokers, you can fund your account through a bank transfer. However, there are some other funding options in certain currencies, e.g. cheque transfer for US dollars.
You can fund your account in a wide range of currencies, such as Australian Dollar, Canadian Dollar, Swiss Franc, Chinese Offshore Yuan, Czech Koruna, Danish Krone, Euro, British Pound, Hong Kong Dollar, Hungarian Forint, Japanese Yen, Mexican Peso, Norwegian Krone, New Zealand Dollar, Russian Rouble, Swedish Krona, Singapore Dollar or US Dollar.
Depending on your bank, it can take 1-4 days for the money to arrive. Non-US banks are usually at the longer end of the range.
Money withdrawal methods accepted by IB are wire and SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area). Clients without Secure Login System are limited to a maximum withdrawal of USD 50,000 per day and a maximum withdrawal of USD 100,000 within 5 business days. There is no charge for the first withdrawal in a calendar month, however, IB will charge withdrawal fees for subsequent withdrawals, which depends on the currency in which you would like to receive your money. In the case of euro, it costs EUR 8.
If you receive money in your account in a different currency than your base currency, conversion rates are identical to the forex trading conversion rates.
IB offers an exceptionally wide range of products. Asset classes available for trading are:
Funds (Mutual Funds and Hedge Fund Investing as well)
Bonds (government and corporate bonds as well)
The CFD product range includes shares, forex and indexes. In case of stock trading, you can access every significant market around the world, including North America (US, Canada, Mexico), Europe (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK) and the Asia-Pacific region (Australia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Singapore). You can see it in more detail on Interactive Brokers’ website.
Interactive Brokers has just introduced a new Asset Management service - previously called Covestor, a startup acquired by IB. It enables clients to copy professional portfolio managers at IB, so they can automatically make the same trades as the professionals. Only registered investment advisers and hedge fund managers can become portfolio managers. Clients can choose a portfolio manager whose style fits them the most and check the real time performance of their portfolio on IB’s website or on their mobile phone. Portfolio managers invest their own money in the portfolio they offer, which makes the whole service a lot more credible. Clients are free to switch portfolios whenever they want without fees or penalties, which is a great plus. The cost of the service consists of the usual brokerage commissions plus an annual management fee ranging from 0.08 to 1.5 percent. All in all, Asset Management combines the benefits of an actively managed fund and a low cost, automated ETF.
You must open a separate account if you want to use Asset Management, which means that it is not completely integrated into the brokerage system. This makes the whole account opening process overcomplicated and a bit shady. According to the customer care representative, as an EU citizen - unlike with normal IB accounts - you can and have to open a US account to use the service. The account minimum depends on the portfolio you want to invest in, currently the lowest investment is USD 5 000. Due to these factors we did not open an account, all we know is based on the information provided by the customer care. Overall, we faced many complications and drawbacks, so you need to have a very strong commitment to open an Asset Management account.
You can get more information on Interactive Brokers Asset Management's site.
In terms of trading fees, Interactive Brokers is among the discount service providers with outstandingly competitive commissions and fees.
The only service provider whose prices are comparable to Interactive Brokers' fees is DEGIRO which is also a discount player. IB is cheaper in terms of stocks and CFDs and yearly fees for novice traders are also more advantagous at IB. For more information, check out our comparison table.
The company provides fixed rate and tiered price plans as well. Fixed rate plans typically charge a single rate per contract or share which covers all commissions and exchange fees; while tiered plans charge broker commissions which decrease based on volume, plus exchange, regulatory and clearing fees.
In case of stocks, ETFs and warrants, both options can be chosen. Below, you can find the standard fixed pricing structure of stocks, ETFs and warrants:
|Stocks, ETFs and Warrants||Standard fixed trading fees|
|0.005 / share (min USD 1)|
|0.01 / share (min CAD 1)|
|0.1 % of trade value (min MXN 60)|
Austria, Belgium, France, Xetra, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Switzerland
|0.1% of trade value (min EUR 4)|
|0.05% of trade value (min NOR/SEK 49)|
|0.15% of trade value (min EUR 6)|
|GBP 6.00 up to 50 000 trade value; GBP 6.00 + 0.05% of incremental trade value > GBP 50 000 (min GBP 6)|
|0.08% of trade value (min AUD 6)|
|0.08% of trade value (min HKD18)|
|0.08% of trade value (min JPY 80)|
|0.08% of trade value (min SGD 2.5)|
Option prices at IB are a bit more expensive than DEGIRO’s prices, but much cheaper than any of the other established brokers’ fees. Stock and index options are both available, below you can find the standard stock options prices:
|Stock options||Standard fixed trading fees|
|US||USD 0.7 / contract (min USD 1)|
|Canada||CAD 1.25 / contract (min CAD 1.5)|
|Mexico (AMXL)||MXN 25 / contract (min 25 MXN)|
EUR 1.5 / contract (min EUR 1.5)
|Germany||EUR 1.1 / contract (min EUR 1.1)|
|Italy, Netherlands||EUR 2 / contract (min EUR 2)|
|Switzerland||CHF 1.7 / contract (min CHF 1.7)|
|UK||GBP 1.7 / contract (min GBP 1.7)|
|Australia||AUD 0.30 / contract (min AUD 2)|
|Hong Kong||HKD 1 / contract (min HKD 18)|
|Japan||JPY 90 / contract (min JPY 90)|
|Singapore||USD 2.85 / contract (min USD 2.85)|
The standard fixed futures trading fees range from USD 0.85 per contract (US futures) to AUD 6.25 per contract (Australian futures):
|Futures||Standard fixed trading fees|
|US||USD 0.85 / contract|
|Canada||CAD 2.4 / contract (min CAD 2.4)|
|Mexico||MXN 20 / contract (min MXN 20)|
|Belgium||EUR 4.5 / contract (min EUR 4.5)|
|France, Germany||EUR 2 / contract (min EUR 2)|
|Italy, Netherlands, Spain||EUR 3 / contract (min EUR 3)|
|Switzerland||CHF 4 / contract (min EUR 4)|
|UK||GBP 1.7 / contract (min GPB 1.7)|
|Australia||AUD 6.25 / contract (min AUD 6.25)|
|Hong Kong||HKD 30 / contract (min HKD 30)|
|Japan||JPY 500 / contract (min JPY 500)|
|Singapore||SGD 4 / contract (min SGD 4)|
When it comes to Forex trading, IB offers a single pricing structure based on the monthly trade amount. If you trade less than USD 1,000,000,000 a month, the commission is 0.20 basis point of the trade value. Of course, you can get better conditions if you are a hardcore Forex trader: the commission is only 0.08 bps of the trade value if you trade more than USD 5,000,000,000 a month.
|Monthly traded amount|
|USD ≤ 1,000,000,000||0.20 basis point * trade value (min USD 2)|
|USD 1,000,000,001 - 2,000,000,000||0.15 basis point *trade value (min USD 1.5)|
|USD 2,000,000,001 - 5,000,000,000||0.10 basis point * trade value (min USD 1.25)|
|USD > 5,000,000,000||0.08 basis point * trade value (min USD 1)|
IB offers bonds in the US, European and Asia-Pacific market as well with highly competitive, tiered commission structure, which means that commissions are calculated based on volume. Commission rates are around 0.1% if you are trading relatively small amounts.
|US Corporate Bond||USD ≤ 10,000||0.1% * face value (10 bps)|
|US Municipal Bonds||USD ≤ 10,000||0.1% * face value (10 bps)|
|Europe||≤ 50,000||0.1% * trade value (10 bps)|
|Hong Kong Government Bonds||≤ 15,000,000||0.08% * trade value|
You can trade with share, index and forex CFDs. To share and forex CFDs applies a volume-tiered pricing, while index CFDs use a fixed pricing structure. IB has very low commissions regarding CFDs.
|CFDs||Monthly traded amount||Commission|
|US Share CFDs||≤ 300 000 (in USD)||0.005 USD per share (min USD 1)|
|European Share CFDs||≤ 10 000 000 (in EUR)||0.05% per trade fee (min EUR 3)|
|Australian Share CFDs||≤ 10 000 000 (in AUD)||0.05% per trade fee (min AUD 5)|
|Hong Kong Share CFDs||≤ 300 000 (in HKD)||0.05% per trade fee (min EUR 3)|
|Japanese Share CFDs||≤ 9 000 000 000 (in JPY)||0.03% per trade fee (min JPY 100)|
|US 500 index CFD||-||0.005% per trade (min USD 1)|
|UK 100 index CFD||-||0.005% per trade (min GBP 1)|
|Japan 225 index CFD||-||0.01% per trade (min JPY 40)|
|Forex||≤ 1 000 000 000 (in USD)||0.20 basis point * trade value|
Interactive Brokers imposes withdrawal fees as well, the amount of it varies depending on the currency in which you want to withdraw your money.
You can see the most important fees which are not directly related to products summarised below:
|Exercise and Assignment|
Non-US Index Options
Charged standard option commissions on exercise or assignment. No charges on lapsed/expired contracts
Futures / Futures Options
Charged the standard futures or futures options commission at expiration of the contract
USD 20.00 ticket fee
|DTC Position Transfer|
USD 100 per settled transaction
USD 25 per settled transaction; USD 100 per rejected transaction
USD 5 per settled transaction; no fee for rejected transaction
CHF 30 per order
EUR 30 per order
GBP 25 per order
IB has web, desktop and mobile platforms as well. The core and most advanced platform is the desktop, while the web and the mobile are simplified versions of that.
Interactive Brokers' web trading platform, called IB Webtrader, is good for execution with a very advanced order management panel, but some of the standard functions like technical analysis are missing or underdeveloped. It is obvious that this is not the core product of IB, they are optimising their efforts for the desktop version.
At first sight, the platform looks quite complicated and indeed, it is not a user friendly framework. However, if you have some trading experience, after a couple of days of practice and after reading this review you should become comfortable with it.
If you are a beginner, we definitely do not recommend starting with this.
You can choose between the normal and the beta Webtrader. In this review, we tested the normal version since the beta is permanently subject to testing and changes in functionality.
Interactive applies a normal online login system, but you can also protect your account with their so called Secure Login System. This system has two-step authentication, using a plastic card that you receive with codes and numbers on itfor the login. It is certainly safe, however a bit outdated. The mobile app is more convenient for added safety.
After the market info window, you arrive to the main control panel. As you can see, the design is very 90s style.
The layout is highly customisable, so it provides great flexibility in optimising your platform layout to your needs.
The platform is available in many languages: English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Russian, Slovenian, Chinese and Japanese, this can be changed within the platform.
Apart from the customisability of the windows, you have several options to change the trading preferences, the display and to manage the watch lists. For example, you can switch to expert mode that allows you to execute your trades with fewer clicks.
The platform is like a browser where you have default tabs with default functions. You can add your own tabs and you can also change the content of the default tabs.
The default tabs are the following:
The available extra windows to play around with are:
Most of them are self-explanatory, but let us describe a few. With the Book trader, you can basically see a deeper book (bid and ask prices) of an asset if you have a subscription for that stock exchange. The Market data and view are quite similar functions, the first is presenting the market info for one instrument while the latter is for all the items in a watch list. By using the Portfolio news, you can check the latest news related to the instruments you are holding.
Within each tab, you have a default window but you can add other windows as well. The Market tab provides the market information of the selected watch list items. Clickable prices might be a stress factor, but do not panic. If you are not in the expert trading mode, this only generates a preview of an order, but not a firm one.
The Account tab is straightforward, here you can check your balance, the margin requirements and so on.
The Options tab is focused on options trading with options chain for one or more underlyings.
The Product tab can be filled with charts and with other market info. If you don’t need this, just hide it.
The Scanner function is not the most sophisticated in the market in terms of parameters, but you can scan US corporate bonds as well, which is missing from the competitors. Within the equities you can scan US, American non-US, European and Asian stocks. The parameters mostly concentrate on trading activity and price movements (e.g. top gainers) rather than on valuation (e.g. P/E).
The Market pulse gives you a high-level overview of the daily market moves in the biggest equity, sovereign debt and forex markets, plus information about the equity volatility in the US, Germany and Japan. It is a very handy tool, using this you can get market information in an effective way.
The Search function is not so potent. For example, if I search for Apple in the simple view I would expect to have Apple Inc. listed on the NASDAQ as the first result. Instead, the first 6 results are certificates from the German stock exchange and Apple Inc. can be found only in the middle of the result list. The Search function is separate from the platform which is not convenient at all. Even if you find your target instrument, you need to go back to the platform and find it there again based on the ISIN code.
You can improve the search results if you first select the asset class and then you start the search process. In this case, the results are more structured, but you have to know what you are looking for, since the result list contains each stock exchange where Apple Inc. is listed.
The Search function has a large database, but products cannot always be found within the right asset class tab. For example, you receive an endless list of the structured products for a stock search, but the Japan iShares ETF is listed within the stocks.
The interactive chart function is very basic. The only thing you can adjust is the time frame, that’s all, no indicators and technical analyses tools.
Quite surprisingly, a lot of quasi-basic functions are missing from IB Webtrader:
Obviously, the web product is not the main focus of IB.
Order types and order management
At the bottom of the web platform, you have an order management panel that has pretty advanced functions - way more advanced than what the competitors have. The panel has three tabs: new order, orders and trades. In new order, you can place your orders; while in the orders, you can follow your open orders. Trades tab lists your previous trades.
The order inserting panel looks like an excel row. At first, you think there should be something else, a nicely designed window with big buttons, but nope, that’s it.
You have a great selection of order types, some of them are designed for advanced or professional traders:
The order terms also provide some specialties beyond the typical ones:
You can also define the place of execution (which exchange) or you can choose Interactive’s smart routing that promises the best price. If you prefer to trade outside the regular trading hours, no problem, IB provides an option for this as well.
Before submitting your order you can preview it, a useful function for correcting potential mistakes.
The mobile trading app is handier than the web platform. You can feel that it is a more up to date interface with a completely different structure and design.
If you have a mobile phone with a fingerprint sensor, after the first login the app requires fingerprint authentication, a convenient and safe solution.
In general, it is annoying that the back button opens the previous window but always goes back to the main view.
At the bottom of the app, you have a menu list. Here you can check:
The most innovative and exciting function within the app - also available on the desktop version - is the chatbot.
This is a nice function if you want to execute an order or close a position very quickly or you need basic information very fast, e.g. only by typing “oil chart”.
It is a beta version, but quite fun to play around with. In general, it understands the basic order commands like “apple price” or “buy 1 apple share”. On top of this, you can also search for company fundamentals, like dividend yields, PE ratios or target prices. Some of the functions like the chart are also live within the chatbot.
A bit more complex commands like “amazon income statement” or “amazon revenue 2015” are not understood by the bot, so there is a lot more to develop. But we are convinced that Interactive Brokers is developing this function further, so it will be exciting to follow up with the newer versions.
At the top of the screen, the Search button is almost always visible. It is more user friendly than its web platform equivalent. After finding the asset you are looking for, you can choose from the asset types of the same underlying. For example, if you search for Snap, you can choose between Snap stock, futures, options, warrants and CFDs.
After choosing the underlying, e.g. the Snap stock you will end up on the information and trading window. Here you can see:
The order panel is highly advanced with lots of exotic order types, but still understandable if you are familiar with the terms.
The available order types are:
The available order time types:
Trading after the regular hours is also available. The scanner is quite like the web version, but you have a wider asset class selection on mobile. Futures and indexes are also available here. Contrary to the web platform, the app has a very sophisticated alert and notification toolkit, combined under the “Notification”, “Trading assistant” and “Alerts” menu points. Among these, the trading assistant is a unique function compared to the competitors, where you can set notifications for your account, positions, trades and market. The IB Trader’s Insight is also available from the app.
Interactive’s desktop platform, TWS is so advanced and has so many functions that even a separate review would not be able cover it all. Anyhow, we tried to provide a comprehensive summary of TWS below. Hopefully, this will be enough to decide whether this is your dream platform or it would be better to stay away from it. If you would like to start exploring the platform, we would highly recommend looking at the user manual as well. The help menu provides deeper insights on this as well.
All in all, this is a great platform for the advanced and professional users, but beginners or long term investors can hardly take advantage of all its features.
To be honest, this is by far the most complex platform that we have ever reviewed. Personally I was working in the institutional trading and wealth management industry and it is evident that originally this platform was designed for these guys, but then IB has opened it up for the public.
In the desktop platform, you have literally everything you could desire when trading. You want an algo trading machine? No problem, TWS delivers it. You were dreaming of replicating your favourite ETF or create a new one? Interactive developed a function for this as well. Ever wondered whether it is possible to trade via chatbots? At IB, this is reality.
Similarly to the web platform, TWS is highly customizable, but at the beginning, you have two pre-set tabs or templates. The newest Mosaic and the classic TWS view. You can set up your own template as well.
The order functions are excellent and you have so many opportunities it's hard to grasp. For example, only here could we find forex hedge functions that can be attached to a stock order. This is useful when you want to hedge out the currency risk from a trade. With IB you can set this up within one order. This is brilliant.
We do not want to waste time with describing how great the interactive charting function is or how many order types and order management functions are available to you… plenty, including order algos as well (e.g. TWAP) that are usually used by professionals and institutional brokers.
The functions are grouped into five sections in the menu:
Within the Trade section you have some basic functions, like the order entry/management and portfolio information, but also some more exciting ones. The above mentioned chatbot is available here grouped with a Portfolio builder and an Option strategy builder function. The Portfolio builder provides some predefined portfolios to follow, but you can also build your own that can be back-tested. You can also set up rebalancing and investment rules.
The Quotes menu point covers the different views of the market information. Market depth, options chain, price history and watch list are all available for your convenience. The actual rates of the stock loan borrow (SLB) rates are also visible here.
The Technical analytics and IB information, which is basically the research offered, will be covered in the research section of the review.
The Advanced trading tools menu point hides some real pearls. With the Basket trader, you can trade a bunch of instruments at the same time. The FX Trader provides the floor for heavy forex traders. Several features are available for the option traders as well: a separate Options trading panel, Option portfolio builder, Option rollover and Option writer are all available.
If this is not enough, feel free to explore the Merger arbitrage function, the Volatility and spread trader and a function for futures term structures.
The weakest link of the platform is its search function. As we experienced with the web version, the search results are not structured and it is quite difficult to filter out the noise. For example, if you search for an RWE stock that is a German utility provider, all the structured and derivative products are presented in the results and it is not easy to find the real stock I would like to trade. The chatbot is a solution here, where if you type in RWE, it directs you to the stock listed on the main stock exchange.
Interactive Brokers’ research has endless possibilities, but it requires an investor/trader that has the experience and time to exploit it.
Interactive Brokers provides:
The quality of the research in general is good and you always have the freedom to choose between third-party providers. The research functions are reachable from the Information System menu point, also called IBIS. Among the free researches you can read big names’ papers as well, like Thomson Reuters’ stock reports, Morningstar’s equity ownership and short interest report or Dow Jones’.
It is really good that you can get an informative daily summary of the markets through the Daily Lineup. Using this function, you can be informed about the hottest news, the latest analyst recommendations while an earnings and economic calendar is also included. A pretty useful and quick start to your day.
The calendars can be used separately at any time from the menu.
Within the fundamental data, IB provides again a broad selection. Company overview, analyst recommendation, income statement for 6 years, analyst forecast, dividend calendar and peer group companies, just to mention the half of them. The classic news stream is tweaked by an integrated Bloomberg TV, market signals and social sentiment signals provided by the StockTwits fintech startup.
Within the technical analytics, we will mention only the exotic ones:
Customer service is a weak point at IB, which further supports our opinion that IB brokerage is not recommended for beginners.
You can contact Interactive Brokers via phone, chat and email. This might sound good on paper, but reaching out to them is much harder in real life. We called their representatives several times with exhaustingly long waiting times and the toll-free number was also unavailable. Receiving answer to our email messages also took 3-4 days, not to mention that once the answer was written in Russian. The chat did not work at all.
IB Asset Management has its separate customer service, we contacted them via chat when we tried to open an account. Interestingly, the Asset Management representative told us the total opposite what IB brokerage representative told us 3 minutes before.
On the other hand, customer care is available in several languages, namely in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Russian.
We hope our Interactive Brokers review was helpful for you! Don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or feedback!