Interactive Brokers Review 2018

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· 4.5 · 27 April, 2018
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Interactive Brokers is one of the biggest US-based discount brokers. It is regulated by 7 different regulators including top-tier authorities like FCA and SEC. Interactive Brokers Group is listed on the New York Stock Exchange but doesn't have a banking background. In our Interactive Brokers review, we tested an individual account.

Interactive Brokers recently lowered its minimum deposit $10,000 to $0 for individual clients. In some cases, e.g. for margin account for leverage there is a $2,000 minimum deposit.

As a plus

Interactive Brokers has a very competitive fee structure. Its offered product range is very broad among asset classes and regions. It has a great, but complicated desktop platform for advanced traders.

On the flip side

The web trading platform has limited functions and it is not user-friendly. The account opening process is complicated and slow. You can use only bank transfer for funding and withdrawing money.

Recommended for advanced traders wanting low fees and can deal with a complicated trading platform. Definitely not ideal for beginners.

Interactive Brokers infograph

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Interactive Brokers review
Investor protection and regulation

Interactive Brokers is a US broker which is regulated by 7 financial authorities globally. Its parent company, Interactive Brokers Group is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

The Interactive Brokers Group is an international broker operating through 7 different entities, in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, India, Japan and Hong Kong. The different legal entities are regulated by different authorities and the investor protection amount changes country by country. 

The European investors can only open a UK account. When you open a UK account you will be served by both IB UK (Interactive Brokers (U.K.) Limited) and IB US (Interactive Brokers LLC). The investor protection amount you get for a UK account depends on the products you invest in. If your traded products are supplied by the IB UK, you receive the UK account protection, £50,000. If your traded product is provided by the IB US, you receive the US investor protection, $500,000, with a cash limit of $250,000. For the cash, by default, you get the UK protection until your cash is handled by IB US. As you can see, this is neither user-friendly nor transparent. So, our best advice here is to ask the customer service from time to time about the protection amount of your actual portfolio.

However, we would like to provide you with the following general rule we could read out from the terms and conditions. For stocks, shares, bonds and mutual funds, you receive the US investor protection, $500,000, with a cash limit of $250,000. For forex, CFDs, index options, futures, futures options and OTC metal futures, you get the UK protection, £50,000. This separation of your assets is not visible in your account, but we believe Interactive Brokers segregates the assets in the background.

USA clients have a more clear picture. They are eligible for SIPC's $500,000, with a cash limit of $250,000 investor protection scheme. 

Country of clients Protection amount Regulator Legal entity
European countries £50,000 FCA (Financial Conduct Authority)/FSCS protection scheme Interactive Brokers (U.K.) Limited
USA $500,000 ($250,000 cash limit) SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission)/SICP protection scheme Interactive Brokers LLC
Canada No protection IIROC ( Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC)/Canadian Investor Protection Fund.  Interactive Brokers Canada Inc.
Australia No protection  Australian Securities and Investments Commission Interactive Brokers Australia PTY LTD
India No protection BSE (Securities and Exchange Board of India) Interactive Brokers (India) PVT. LTD.
Japan No protection FSA (Financial Services Agency) Interactive Brokers Securities Japan Inc.
Hong Kong No protection Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission Interactive Brokers Hong Kong Limited 

Interactive Brokers Group (holding group of IB affiliates) is listed on New York Stock Exchange and doesn't have a banking background. At the time of our Interactive Brokers review, IB brokers don't provide negative balance protection. Just for your information, negative balance protection prevents your account from going into negative.

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Interactive Brokers review
Account opening

The account opening process is fully digital and you can choose from a great variety of account base currencies. On the other hand, the account opening process is slow and complicated.

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 account opening limitations. European clients can open only a UK account. Opening a US account as a European citizen is not possible.

Minimum funding requirements

Interactive Brokers changed its minimum deposit requirements from $10,000 to $0 for individual clients. In some cases, the required minimum amount has remained. $2,000 is needed if you open a margin account. Margin account means that you trade with borrowed money, also known as leverage.

Account types

Interactive Brokers offers many types of accounts. Two big groups of accounts:

  • accounts for individuals
  • accounts for institutions.

See here the short summary relating to the accounts for traders and investors group:

Account types Short description
Individuals Account is owned and used by a single individual.
Joint Account is owned and used by two individuals.
Trust Account is held by a Trustee (separate legal entity) for your benefit.
IRA Individual retirement account which is only available for US clients.
UGMA/UTMA Account for minor clients. This is only available for US clients as well. 
Friends and family group Account for a client group less than 15 members.
Family office Account for an individual who is a Family Office Manager.
Small business Account for small corporations.

You must open a separate, US account if you want to use the Asset Management service, which means that it is not completely integrated into the brokerage system. This is a bit complicated since you need to maintain two accounts. As an EU you can open a US account to use the Asset Management service.

Institutions (e.g. hedge funds, mutual funds) can open accounts at IB. If you are interested in institution account, visit the IB's website.

There is also a demo account, so you can try the platform until you get familiar with that.

In our Interactive Brokers review we tested the individual account.

Account Base Currencies

Your Interactive Brokers account base currency 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  

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 within 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.

Interactive-brokers-review-account-opening-infographic

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Interactive Brokers review
Funding and withdrawal

There are limited funding and withdrawal options for Europeans. Bank transfer is available, debit/credit card funding is missing. US customers are served with a much broader funding/withdrawal options.

Funding Options

For funding you have the following options:

  • Bank transfer (wire)
  • ACH (automated clearing house) initiated at your bank/at IB
  • Automated Clearing House (ACH) transfer initiated at IB
  • Check
  • Online bill payment
  • Canadian Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) initiated by IB (Canada only)
  • AUD Bill payment (BPAY - for Australian Dollars only)
  • Direct Rollover (IRA accounts only)
  • Trustee-to-Trustee (IRA accounts only)

For Europeans only the bank transfer is accessible.

For more information, check IB's website.

Withdrawal Options

For withdrawal you have the following options:

  • Bank transfer (wire)
  • SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area)
  • US ACH transfer initiated at IB (US accounts only)
  • Check (only available for US currency; your mailing address must be in the US)
  • Canadian EFT transfer (Canadian accounts only)

There is no charge for the first withdrawal in a calendar month. However, Interactive Brokers charges withdrawal fees for subsequent withdrawals. The fee of this depends on the currency in which you would like to receive your money. In the case of euro, it costs €8.

Clients without Secure Login System are limited to a maximum withdrawal of $50,000 per day and a maximum withdrawal of $100,000 within 5 business days.

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.

Compare to other brokers

Interactive Brokers review
Product portfolio

IB offers an exceptionally wide range of products.

Available Product Types

Asset classes available for trading are:

  • Equities
  • ETFs
  • Forex
  • Funds
  • Bonds
  • Options
  • Futures
  • CFDs
  • Cryptos
  • Asset management service

CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 62% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

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Available Markets

Equities

Interactive Brokers gives you access to 74 equity markets. It's a deep coverage compared to competitors' accessible markets. Just to give a feeling, you can trade at 30 markets at Saxo or 34 at DEGIRO

Find below which countries' stock markets (and how many markets) are available to trade. If you want to see full detailed market list, visit Interactive Broker's website.

Europe North America Asia/Pacific
Belgium (4) USA (17) Australia (2)
Estonia (1) Canada (6) Hong Kong (3)
France (4) Mexico (1) India (1)
Germany (7)   Japan (3)
Hungary (1)   Singapore (1)
Italy (1)    
Latvia (1)    
Lithuania (1)    
Netherlands (4)    
Norway (1)    
Poland (1)    
Portugal (1)    
Spain (3)    
Sweden (1)    
Switzerland (5)    
United Kingdom (4)    

ETFs

At Interactive Brokers, you can trade with 20,223 ETFs on 25 markets. This is a wide-range compared to competitors like DEGIRO with ~6000 ETFs or Saxo with 625 ETFs.

Europe North America Asia/Pacific

Euronext France (SBF)

Chicago Stock Exchange (CHX)

Australian Stock Exchange (ASX)

CHI-X Europe Ltd Clearstream (CHIXDE)

NASDAQ OMX BX (BEX)

Hong Kong Futures Exchange (HKFE)

Frankfurt Stock Exchange (FWB)

NYSE Arca (ARCA)

Hong Kong Stock Exchange (SEHK)

Stuttgart Stock Exchange (SWB)

NYSE MKT (NYSE AMEX)

National Stock Exchange of India (NSE)

XETRA (IBIS)

Canadian Securities Exchange

 

CHI-X Europe Ltd Clearnet (CHIXEN)

Chi-X Canada

 

Euronext NL Stocks (AEB)

Omega ATS (OMEGA)

 

Bolsa de Madrid (BM)

Toronto Stock Exchange (TSE)

 

Swedish Stock Exchange (SFB)

Mexican Stock Exchange (MEXI)

 

SIX Swiss Exchange (EBS)

   

CHI-X Europe Ltd Crest (CHIXUK)

   

London Stock Exchange (LSE)

   

Forex

In forex trading, you can reach 100+ currency pairs including the major and minor ones. This is a really wide offering and only a few competitors can provide a similar forex portfolio.

Funds

Interactive Brokers gives you the access to 196 investment funds. This includes the biggest funds, like BlackRock or Vanguard. It's a mid-range offer compared to competitors like DEGIRO with 581 funds, or Saxo which doesn't provide access to investment funds.

Bonds

You can trade with more than ~100,000 bonds on 12 markets. Just to compare, you can trade with ~5,000 bonds at Saxo or ~ 1,000 at DEGIRO.

You can trade with bonds in the following markets:

Europe North America Asia/Pacific
Euronext Bonds

BondDesk

Hong Kong Stock Exchange (SEHK)

 

BONDLARGE

 
 

Knight BondPoint

 
 

Knight BondPoint for Munis

 
 

Knight BondPoint for US Government Securities

 
 

MuniCenter

 
 

NYSE Arca Bonds (NYSE BONDS)

 
 

Tradeweb

 
 

Tradeweb for Munis

 
 

Tradeweb for US Government Securities

 

Options

You can trade on 35 option markets compared to DEGIRO's 13 or Saxo's 6 available markets.

Futures

In future trading, you can reach 36 global markets. This offer is very good compared to Saxo’s 22 or DEGIRO's 12 available markets. The main offered futures markets are CBOE, EUREX, Euronext, CME, CBOT, NYMEX, ICE. For the full list, visit Interactive Broker's website.

CFDs

The CFD product range includes shares, forex, and indexes. You can choose from 13 stock indexes, ~6,000 single shares or 84 currency pairs. This is an ok CFD portfolio if you compare to another broker's CFD portfolio, like Saxo's 29 stock indexes,~9,000 single shares, and 7 currency pairs offer.

Cryptocurrencies

At IB you can trade with Bitcoin futures and Bitcoin and Ether ETNs. Bitcoin futures is available on the CME and Cboe futures exchanges. Bitcoin and Ether ETNs are traded on the Swedish stock exchange. If you want to know more about crypto investing,  we recommend our crypto blogpost.

Asset management service

The asset management service 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. 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 Asset Management combines the benefits of an actively managed fund and a low cost, automated ETF.

The minimum investment depends on the portfolio you want to invest in. The lowest investment is $5,000 at the time of our review of Interactive Brokers.

Interactive Brokers review
Fee structure

Interactive Brokers has a competitive and transparent fee structure.

Interactive Brokers has a highly competitive and transparent fee structure. DEGIRO is the only broker can compete with Interactive Brokers fees.

Trading fees

The company provides fixed rate and tiered price plans as well. Interactive Brokers monthly fees depends on the plan you choose. Fixed rate plans typically charge a fixed rate per contract or share which covers all commissions and exchange fees. Tiered plans charge fee based on the monthly trading volume, plus exchange, regulatory and clearing fees. In the latter case more you trade, the lower commission you will have.

Minimum trading fees are also low, so lower volume trades are also cost-effective.

Equity, CFD, bond, options, and futures trading fees are competitive, while forex and fund trading fees are mid-range.

Cost of a typical trade Interactive Brokers DEGIRO Saxo Bank Tradestation
US equity $1.0 $0.7 $15.0 $5.0
UK equity $8.7 $5.4 $11.6 NA
Forex - EURUSD $2.3 NA $3.2 NA
Fund $15.0 $10.6 NA $15.0
US stock index options $7.0 $5.0 $60.0 $10.0
US stock index futures $8.5 $5.0 $60.0 $12.0
US government bond $5.0 NA $91.2 $20.0

The volume of a typical trade for equities and funds is $2,000 or equivalent. The cost of the forex trade means a $20,000 trade, including commission and spread costs. The typical trade for stock index options and futures means ten contracts. The volume of the government bond trade is $10,000.

For more fee comparison visit our broker comparison table.

Stock, ETF and warrant trading fees

Below, you can find the standard fixed pricing structure of stocks, ETFs and warrants.

Market Commission Min Max
North America      

US

$0.005 / share $1 1% of the trade value

Canada

CAD 0.01 / share CAD 1 0.5% of the trade value

Mexico

0.1 % of trade value MXN 60 No
Europe      
UK up to £50,000 trade volume £6.00 up to 50 000 trade value, min £6 £6 £6
UK > £50,000 trade volume £6.00 + 0.05% of incremental trade value > £50,000 £6 £29

Belgium, France, Xetra, Italy, Netherlands

0.1% of trade value €4 €29
Switzerland 0.1% of trade value CHF 10 No
Spain 0.1% of trade value €4 No
Austria 0.1% of trade value  €4 €120
Poland 0.1% of trade value PLN 15 No

Norway, Sweden

0.05% of trade value NOR/SEK 49 No

Portugal

0.15% of trade value €6 No
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania 0.2% of trade value €10 No
Hungary 0.1% of trade value HUF 200 No
Asia-Pacific      

Australia

0.08% of trade value AUD 6 No

Hong Kong

0.08% of trade value HKD 18 No

Japan

0.08% of trade value JPY 80 No

Singapore

0.08% of trade value SGD 2.5 No
India 0,01% of the trade value INR 6 INR 20

Forex trading fees

When it comes to forex trading, IB offers a pricing structure based on the monthly trade volume. 

Monthly traded amount Commission Min
USD ≤ 1,000,000,000 0.20 basis point of the trade value $2.00
USD 1,000,000,001 - 2,000,000,000 0.15 basis point of the trade value $1.50
USD 2,000,000,001 - 5,000,000,000 0.10 basis point of the trade value $1.25
USD > 5,000,000,000 0.08 basis point of the trade value $1.00

Mutual fund trading fees

Country Commission Min Max
US 3% of the trade value $0 $14.95
US no transaction fee funds 0% $0 $0.00
Europe 0.1% of the trade value €4 €29.00

Bond trading fees

Bonds Volume Commission Min Max
US Corporate Face value ≤ 10,000 0.1% * face value $1 The lesser of $250, 1% of trade value
US Treasuries Face value ≤ 1,000,000 0.02% * face value $5 No
Europe Trade value ≤ 50,000 0.1% * trade value €2 No
Hong Kong Government Trade value ≤ 15,000,000 0.08% * trade value HKD 18 No

Options trading fees

Market Commission Min
North America - all options    
US, monthy contracts <= 10,000    
Premium >= $0.1 $0.70 / contract $1.0
$0.05 <= Premium >= $0.1 $0.50 / contract $1.0
Premium < $0.05 $0.25 / contract $1.0
Canada, monthy contracts <= 10,000 CAD 1.25 / contract CAD 1.5
Mexico (AMXL) MXN 25 / contract MXN 25
Europe - index options    
UK £1.7 / contract £1.7
Germany €1.1-2.0 / contract €1.1-2.0
Belgium, France 

€1.5 / contract

€1.5
Italy €2.0 / contract €2.0
Netherlands €1.5 / contract €1.5
Norway NOK 12 / contract NOK 12
Spain €0.8 / contract No
Switzerland CHF 2.8 / contract CHF 2.8
Asia-Pacific - index options    
Australia AUD 2.0 / contract AUD 2.0
Hong Kong HKD 30 / contract HKD 30
India 0.01% of the trade value INR 6
Japan 0.12% of the trade value JPY 100
Singapore $2.85 / contract $2.85
South Korea 0.2% of option value KRW 1,000

Futures trading fees

Futures Standard fixed trading fees
North America  
US USD 0.85 / contract 
Canada CAD 2.4 / contract (min CAD 2.4)
Mexico MXN 20 / contract (min MXN 20)
Europe  
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)
Asia-Pacific  
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)

CFD trading fees

You can trade with share, index and forex CFDs.

CFDs Monthly traded amount Commission Min
US share CFDs ≤ $300,000 $0.005 per share $1.0
European share CFDs ≤ €10,000,000  0.05% €3.0
Australian share CFDs ≤ AUD 10,000,000 0.05% AUD 5.0
Hong Kong Share CFDs ≤ HKD 300,000,000 0.05% HKD 12.0
Japanese Share CFDs ≤ 9,000,000,000 0.03% JPY 100.0
US 500 index CFD - 0.005% $1.0
UK 100 index CFD - 0.005% GBP 1.0
Japan 225 index CFD - 0.01% JPY 40.0
Forex ≤ 1,000,000,000 0.20 basis point * trade value $2.0

Crypto trading fees

While writing this Interactive Brokers review, you can trade cryptos through ETNs (exchange-traded notes) and futures.

At the time of our Interactive Brokers review, two bitcoin (EUR and SEK) and two ether ETNs (EUR and SEK) were available on the Stockholm Stock Exchange. IB's trading cost here is 0.05%, but minimum SEK 49.

You can trade only with bitcoin futures on two futures exchanges, the CME and CBOE. The commission of one bitcoin futures contract is $10 a the CME and $5 at the CBOE.

If you want to learn more about crypto trading check out our crypto blogpost.

Asset management fees

The cost of the service consists of the usual brokerage commissions plus an annual management fee ranging from 0.08 to 1.5 percent. This depends on the portfolio you have chosen.

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Non-trading fees

Interactive Brokers has an ok non-trading fee structure. Interactive Brokers inactivity fee is $10 monthly which is a bit high in the market, especially compared other brokers, who do not apply inactivity fees, like DEGIRO.

 Non-trading fees
Account fee No
Inactivity fee

You need to generate at least 10 USD/month commission, otherwise, inactivity fee = 10 USD - commission generated

Financing fee Benchmark + 1.5%, benchmark is different for each currency
Conversion fee

No

Deposit fee No
Withdrawal fee for bank transfers One free/month, $10 for the rest. For exotic currencies, this can be higher.
Custody fee No

Financing fees are also competitive compared to peers.

Yearly financing fee Interactive Brokers DEGIRO Saxo Bank Tradestation
USD 2.9% 2.7% 9.5% 8.5%
EUR 1.5% 1.3% 8.0% NA

The first withdrawal is free in each calendar month. After the first withdrawal IB charges the following withdrawal fees for bank transfers:

Currency Wires
CHF 11
CZK 300
DKK 30
EUR 8
GBP 7
HUF 6,000
ILS 30
NOK 50
PLN 40
RUB 330
SEK 50
USD 10
ZAR 200

Interactive Brokers review
Web trading platform

Interactive Brokers' web trading platform is good for execution with a very advanced order management panel. However, standard functions like technical analysis are missing or underdeveloped.

Look and Feel

It is obvious that this is not the core product of IB, they are optimizing their efforts for the desktop version.

Based on our Interactive Brokers review, 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.

Login and security

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 it for the login. It is certainly safe, however a bit outdated. The mobile app is more convenient for added safety.

Search Functions and Charts

After the market info window, you arrive at the main control panel. As you can see, the design is very 90s style.

Interactive-brokers-review-web-trading-platform

The layout is highly customizable so it provides great flexibility in optimizing 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 the 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:

  • Market
  • Account
  • Options
  • Products
  • Scanner
  • Market pulse
  • Search

The available extra windows to play around with are:

  • Chart
  • Market data
  • Option chain
  • Balances
  • Book trader
  • Market value
  • Margin requirement
  • Market view
  • Portfolio news
  • Portfolio
  • Position

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.

Interactive-brokers-review-web-trading-platform-chart

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).

Interactive-brokers-review-web-trading-platform-scanner

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.

Interactive-brokers-review-web-trading-platform-start-window

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.

Interactive-brokers-review-web-trading-platform-search-results

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.

Interactive-brokers-review-web-trading-platform-chart

Quite surprisingly, a lot of quasi-basic functions are missing from IB Webtrader:

  • no technical analysis
  • no alerts
  • no general news panel (only portfolio related)
  • no fundamental data
  • no possibility for research.

Obviously, the web product is not the main focus of IB.

Placing Orders

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 a 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:

  • market
  • limit
  • stop
  • stop limit
  • market on close
  • market on open
  • limit on close
  • trailing stop
  • trailing stop limit
  • discretionary
  • bracket

Interactive-brokers-review-web-trading-platform-order-panel

The order terms also provide some specialties beyond the typical ones:

  • day order
  • good till canceled
  • at the open
  • immediate or cancel
  • good till date/time
  • good after date/time

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.

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Interactive Brokers review
Mobile trading platform

Interactive Brokers' mobile trading application is delivered with lots of features and an innovative chatbot as well. On the other side, the user-friendliness could be improved upon.

Look and Feel

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.

Login and Security

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.

Interactive-brokers-review-mobile-trading-platform-watchlist

At the bottom of the app, you have a menu list. Here you can check:

  • your account information,
  • your portfolio,
  • news related to your portfolio,
  • the market information of your watch list,
  • a scanner function,
  • and a “More” button for other functions.

Search Functions and Charts

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.

Interactive-brokres-review-search-function

After choosing the underlying, e.g. the Snap stock you will end up on the information and trading window. Here you can see:

  • the market information regarding the asset,
  • an interactive chart with technical indicators,
  • related news,
  • some fundamental information,
  • summary of the latest analyst’s report,
  • and the buy and sell buttons that transfer you to the order panel.

Interactive-brokers-review-mobile-trading-platform-fundamental-data

Placing Orders

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:

  • market,
  • stop,
  • stop limit,
  • trailing stop,
  • market on close/open,
  • limit on close/open,
  • market if touched,
  • limit if t2ouched,
  • relative/pegged to primary.

The available order time types:

  • day
  • good till cancel
  • at the open

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 with 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.

Special feature - Chatbot

The most innovative and exciting function within the app - also available on the desktop version - is the chatbot.

Interactive-brokers-review-mobile-platform-chatbot-buy-apple-shares

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.

Interactive-brokers-mobile-trading-platform-chatbot-oil-chart

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.

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Interactive Brokers review
Desktop trading platform

Interactive Brokers offers a desktop trading platform with advanced features, many customizable options, and advanced order execution functions. The platform is best suited for advanced trader.

Look and Feel

Interactive’s desktop platform, TWS is so advanced and has so many functions that even a separate review would not be able to 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. Do you want an algo trading machine? No problem, TWS delivers it. Were you dreaming of replicating your favorite 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 a 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.

Interactive-brokers-review-desktop-trading-platform-main-page

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:

  • Trade
  • Quotes
  • Technical analytics
  • Information system
  • and Advanced trading tools

Interactive-brokers-review-desktop-trading-platform-menu-structure

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.

During our Interactive Brokers review, 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.

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Interactive Brokers review
Research

Interactive Brokers research has endless possibilities, but it is definitely not user-friendly.

At the time of our Interactive Brokers review, IB provides:

The quality of the research is good and you always have the freedom to choose between third-party providers (IB does not have an in-house research team). 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 earnings and economic calendar is also included. A pretty useful and quick start to your day.

Interactive-brokers-review-desktop-trading-research-daily-lineup

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:

  • Stock/ETF benchmarker: you can benchmark your stock or portfolio versus a selected benchmark
  • Mutual fund and ETF replicator
  • Very advanced volatility lab
  • Very advanced group of option analysis functions, like option probability lab
  • and a very useful portfolio performance analyzer (VaR, Sharpe etc.)

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Interactive Brokers review
Education

Interactive Brokers offers a quality and comprehensive educational space, with tutorials and trading knowledge videos and webinars.

You have the chance to educate yourself in many ways:

  • Online courses
  • Webinars
  • Educational videos
  • Glossary and other

IB gives you the chance to deepen your knowledge in trading. You can choose from courses based on your trading professionalism. You can enroll a course relating to how to use IB's trader application. Furthermore, you can search the unfamiliar words, expressions, acronyms in trader's glossary section. 

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Interactive Brokers review
Customer service

Customer service is a weak point at Interactive Brokers. Response time is very slow on all channels, answers are often irrelevant and inconsistent.

You can contact Interactive Brokers via:

  • phone
  • e-mail.

This might sound good on paper, but reaching out to them is much harder in real life. During our IB review, we called their representatives several times with exhaustingly long waiting times and the toll-free number was also unavailable. Receiving answers 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. 

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Interactive Brokers review
Bottom line

Interactive Brokers is recommended if you like low-cost trading and easily navigate yourself in a really complicated platform. We would mainly recommend IB for traders who are able to monetize on the wide range product portfolio and the almost unlimited functionalities.

IB is one of the biggest discount US brokers regulated by top-tier regulators. During our Interactive Brokers review, we liked the wide range of product portfolio, the low trading and margin fees, and its advanced desktop trading platform.

On the flip side, web trading platform is a bad experience. It has limited functions and inconvenient to use. Account opening is also slow. The funding and withdrawal work through bank transfer.

Definitely recommended if you are experienced and can deal with a complicated platform.

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Interactive Brokers logo

Interactive Brokers is one of the biggest US-based discount brokers. It is regulated by 7 different regulators including top-tier authorities like FCA and SEC. Interactive Brokers Group is listed on the New York Stock Exchange but doesn't have a banking background. In our Interactive Brokers review, we tested an individual account.

Interactive Brokers recently lowered its minimum deposit $10,000 to $0 for individual clients. In some cases, e.g. for margin account for leverage there is a $2,000 minimum deposit.

Recommended for advanced traders wanting low fees and can deal with a complicated trading platform. Definitely not ideal for beginners.

Interactive Brokers infograph

Compare to other brokers

Overall

Pros
  • Competitive fee structure
  • Broad product portfolio
  • Great desktop platform for advanced traders
Cons
  • Limited and not user-friendly web trading platform
  • Slow and complicated account opening process
  • Funding and withdrawal only through bank transfer

Investor protection and regulation

Pros
  • Regulated by 7 financial authorities
  • Listed on New York stock exchange
Cons
  • Doesn't have banking background
  • Non-transparent investor protection for Europeans

Account opening

Pros
  • No minimum deposit for non-margin accounts
  • Simple digital identification
  • Several base currencies
Cons
  • Slow and complicated account opening process
  • Confusing and unclear messages throughout the process

Funding and withdrawal

Pros
  • User-friendly
  • No charge for the first withdrawal every month
Cons
  • Credit/Debit card deposit and withdrawal not available
  • Lengthy funding and withdrawal - over 3 days

Product portfolio

The available asset classes to trade:

  • Stock
  • ETF
  • Forex
  • Fund
  • Bond
  • Options
  • Futures
  • CFD
  • Crypto

Fee structure

Pros
None
Cons
  • $10 / month inactivity fee

Web trading platform

Pros
  • Good variety of order types
Cons
  • Bad search function
  • Not user-friendly
  • Bad help function

Mobile trading platform

Pros
  • Two-step (safe) login
  • Innovative functions (i.e. Chatbot)
  • Price alerts available
  • Order confirmation available
Cons
  • Not user-friendly

Desktop trading platform

Pros
  • Two-step (safe) login
  • Good variety of order types
  • Price alerts available
  • Order confirmation available
  • Clear fee report
  • Advanced trading functions
Cons
  • Bad search function
  • Not user-friendly

Research

Pros
  • Good quality news flow available
  • Good set of analytical tools
  • Fundamental data available
Cons
  • Hardly understandable for beginners

Education

Pros
  • Trading platform tutorial videos
  • Educational videos
  • Good production quality
Cons
  • Courses only available to members

Customer service

Pros
  • Phone support available
  • Available in local languages
Cons
  • Slow support
  • Irrelevant answers
  • Inconsistent answers

AUTHOR OF THIS REVIEW

Gergely Korpos
Gergely Korpos
Co-founder, CPO
Gergely's aim is to bring more clarity into personal investing. He has 10 years of experience in financial markets with GE Money, KPMG and MOL. He concluded thousands of trades as a commodity trader and financial portfolio manager
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