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Interactive Brokers Review 2021

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Interactive Brokers is a safe online broker known for its Trader’s Workstation platform, zero-commission trades, trading tools, and market-leading pricing. The firm connects to all global electronic exchanges making futures trading, equities, and options easy and straightforward from their desktop, Web, and mobile platforms.

interactive-brokers-logo
Broker NameInteractive Brokers
Year Founded1978
RegulationSEC (USA), FCA (UK)
Tradable AssetsStock, ETF, Forex, Fund, Bond, Options, Futures, CFD, Crypto, Warrants, Structured Products
Min Deposit$0
DepositsACH, Check, Online bill payment, Direct Rollover (IRA accounts only)
PlatformsTraders Workstation (TWS)
Base Currencies22
Demo AccountYes

Review Summary

Our Top findings for Interactive Brokers

  1. Interactive Brokers provides access to 135 global markets in 33 countries. Professional traders get the best treatment. Interactive Brokers offers industry-leading low commissions and margin rates. Theirs is a winning platform solution for Day, Mobile, Options, and Futures traders.
  2. Interactive Brokers offers 68 different order types. They provide access to global investment options including stocks, options, futures, and bonds in 31 different currencies.
  3. They offers great fundamental research and educational offerings for casual investors.

Interactive Brokers is ideal for casual investors and advanced traders. Advanced traders pay the lowest margin and commission rates. Their proprietary Traders Workstation (TWS) platform provides an easy and intuitive trading process. They invest in retail products, developing the beginner-friendly ‘Client Portal.’

Founded in 1978 by Thomas Peterffy, an American Stock Exchange (AMEX) seat holder and trading technology expert, Interactive Brokers has 24 global offices. A publicly traded brokerage, they are based in Greenwich, CT, and are members of the NASDAQ 400 Index. Interactive Brokers is licensed by the US SEC and other financial authorities. They are a security conscious trader. Their Mobile app precautions include login with biometric (face or fingerprint) recognition and other forms of two-factor authentication.

They carry excess SIPC insurance from Lloyd’s of London. Each account is covered for $150M US. For clients with full SIPC protection, Lloyd’s provides an extra $30M US coverage including $900K US in cash (all accounts subject to a total $150M US limit). Interactive Brokers’ Bank Deposit sweep program helps clients supplement existing SIPC coverage with $2.5M US of FDIC Insurance on eligible cash balances.

Investment Offerings

Interactive Brokers has a broad range of international trading offerings. These include stocks, options, futures, and bonds.

Their customers trade across more than 120 global exchanges. They have a large inventory of fixed-income products including 26,000 global funds, 11,000 mutual funds (from 285+ fund families and including Bitcoin futures trading).

Interactive Brokers customers trade:

  • stocks long and short
  • OTCBB (penny stocks)
  • mutual funds (IBKR is the world’s largest mutual fund marketplace)
  • bonds: corporate, municipal, treasury, CDs and international
  • single-leg and multi-leg options (up to 8 legs)
  • futures and futures options and CFDs
  • forex (23 currencies, 115 trading pairs)
  • Fractional US stock share trading on NYSE, AMEX, NASDAQ, ARCA, or BATS, as well as OTC
  • pink U.S. penny stocks (average daily volume above $10M/market cap above $400M)
  • non-U.S. stocks
  • IPOs
  • Warrants
  • single stock futures

US Retail forex trading is only availble to clients with $10M in their account. Lite Account ‘Client Portal’ users must switch to TWS to execute international trades.

FeatureInteractive Brokers
Forex Spot TradingYes
Currency Pairs (Total Forex Pairs)115
Cryptocurrency traded as actualYes
Cryptocurrency traded as actualYes

Commissions, Fees, and Account Types

Interactive Brokers fee structure is complex. They have an above average number of trading options. Fees vary depending on instrument, amount, and account type.

Peterffy launched Interactive Brokers for professional traders and large institutional investors. This group earns the lowest possible commission schedule. They built the Client Portal for casual retail investors.

IBKR offers two main pricing plans:

  • Pro (for professional investors)
  • Lite (for more casual investors)

Pro Fees:

Standard fixed price US stock trades per trade value are:

  • $.005 per share
  • minimum cost $1.00
  • maximum cost 0.5%

IBKR Pro’s pricing option starts at $.0035 per share.

Pro Options:

IBKR offers a tiered commission option for US exchange contracts using IB SMART routing.

  • Premiums > $.10 equals $.65 per contract with a $1.00 minimum and no maximum.
  • Premiums between $.05 and $.10, the rate is $.50 per contract.
  • Premiums < $.05, the rate is $.25 per contract.

Pro Benefits: they do not accept payment for order flow. IBKR has the industry’s lowest margin rates. These vary from a high of 1.55% to an attractive 0.75% for clients with more than $1 million traded with the firm.

Lite Fees:

  • No inactivity or data fees
  • All US stock and ETF trades cost $0
  • Options trades follow normal IBKR Pro pricing
  • IBKR Lite has a lower order execution quality.

Interactive Brokers Lite makes money off order flow. This account is for casual or beginning investors.

Pro Non-Trading Fees: For new or casual traders, the minimums and miscellaneous fees are high. The easiest way to avoid them is to maintain a $100,000 balance or spend $30 in monthly commissions. Inactivity charges are $20 per month.

Deposits: are fast and simple. IBKR eased its onboarding process. Traders must e-sign several forms to get an account functional. Features are available when the account opens.

Minimum deposit: The minimum account opening deposit is $100. Traders open an account without a deposit. They must fund it within 90-days of opening or it will close. A $110,000 deposit minimum is required to open a portfolio margin account.

Withdrawals: There is no charge for the first withdrawal (of any kind) in a calendar month. Interactive Brokers charges fees for each subsequent withdrawal. Withdrawals can be done by:

  • Wire transfer
  • US ACH transfer (US accounts only)
  • Check (only for US currency and a US mailing address)
  • Canadian EFT transfer (Canadian accounts only)
  • SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) Initiated at IB
  • BACS (GBP withdrawals only)
  • GIRO/ACH (available for HKD, CNH, and SGD)
  • NZD ACH (available for NZD withdrawals only)

Accounts not part of the Interactive Brokers Secure Login System have a limited withdrawal amount. Account-holders not using a security device have a daily withdrawal limit of $50,000. Unsecured accounts may withdraw up to $100,000 over five-business days.

FeatureInteractive Brokers
Minimum Initial Deposit$0
Stock Trade Fee (pe trade)$0
ETF Trade Fee$0
Options Base Fee$0
Options Per Contract Fee$0.65
Mutual Fund Trade Fee$14.95
Broker Assisted Trading Fee$30.00
Commission-Free ETFs120

Platforms and Tools

Interactive Brokers is a global leader in trading technology. Their platform and investment tools help investors trade, access client forums, conduct market overviews and analyze their portfolios.

Trader Workstation (TWS): TWS is user-friendly, customizable, and offers continuously updated streaming data. It is a desktop-based program. TWS is customizable and trades multiple global assets. It is designed for professional investors and ranks among the best professional trading platforms in the industry.

TWS Professional tools: IBKR trading tools include: Portfolio Builder, Options Strategy Lab, Algo Trading, Risk Navigator, Strategy Builder, Market Scanner, and Volatility Lab. Traders create extensive watch lists on equities, individual options contracts, futures, forex, warrants, and CFDs. There are 494 data points traders use for customization.

IBot: this Artificial Intelligence (AI) tool handles customer requests and portfolio information. IBot handles orders, quotes, and more. Its chat feature finds analytic tools and advanced order types. Users query via voice or typed commands. IBot remembers and keeps handy links to their frequently used tools.

TWS positives: traders enter orders from inside the matrix display or any TWS graph. Advanced algorithms help them place large orders and access any market. IBKR’s order router identifies price improvements, maximizes possible rebates, and achieves optimal execution. The TWS Mosaic interface helps traders arrange tools like building blocks to create a custom work/trading space. There is a demo version of TWS that both beginning and experienced clients use to learn the platform and test their trading strategies.

TWS drawbacks: TWS and IBKR follow a vast number of securities. Several automated analysis tools (like Recognia and specific newsfeeds) are only available as paid subscription add-ons.

Charting: IBKR’s charting is interactive. Traders see 100+ predefined indicators or create their own. Traders toggle between 15-time frames to trade from charts. The platform’s advanced settings help traders build custom dashboards.

Trading technology: Advanced algorithms let large traders place orders and access any market through TWS. IBKR intelligent order routers identify price improvement, maximize possible rebates, and achieves optimal execution through specialized rerouting technology. This technology gives traders access to “dark pools” (hidden institutional order flows) for executing large orders. Option orders with multi-leg requirements are routed automatically. Each leg of a spread is independently executed.

Mid-Price order: Interactive Brokers routes to several venues using an order type they call ‘mid-price order.’ Mid-price order is a floating order that adjusts to market movements, fills orders and quickly identifies price improvements.

Client Portal: for inexperienced traders, IBKR offers the web-based Client Portal platform. This includes core features to trade and manage a basic portfolio. It is less robust but easier to use. Client Portal has a few high-end analytical tools such as global data, customizable watch lists, and scanners. While IBot makes IBKR’s Client Portal accessible and easier to use than previous versions, becoming familiar with TWS requires a significant time and learning investment.

FeatureInteractive Brokers
Virtual Trading (Demo)Yes
Proprietary PlatformNo
Desktop Platform (Windows)Yes
Web PlatformYes
Social Trading / Copy-TradingYes
MetaTrader 4 (MT4)No
MetaTrader 5 (MT5)No
cTraderNo
DupliTradeNo
ZuluTradeNo
Charting – Indicators / Studies (Total)51
Charting – Drawing Tools (Total)31
Charting – Trade From ChartYes
Watchlists – Total Fields7
Order Type – Trailing StopYes

Mobile Trading

Mobile trading with Interactive Brokers is supported across all Android and iOS mobile and tablet devices.

The app features lightning-fast streaming data, full-featured order entry, and portfolio management. Interactive Brokers includes everything professionals need to trade on the go. The mobile app has most of the TWS desktop and web functionality. While missing some of the full TWS or Client Portal platform functionality, all asset classes trade on the mobile app. The app gives traders an account overview, the ability to add/withdraw funds, view their trade history, create watchlists, access newsfeeds, and view charts. Mobile watchlists are shared with the main TWS and Client Platform and data streams in real-time.

Strikes and expiry dates are represented by tiles. Traders tap these in the mobile app and get a straightforward options trading interaction. Investors compare two potential trade options using the Performance Profile tool. The ‘Trade’ button lets traders send orders. IBot is part of the mobile app and helps traders find analytical tools and advanced order types. Stock alerts only arrive via email.

Mobile Charting: Charting includes 70 optional indicators and easy customizations.

FeatureInteractive Brokers
Android AppYes
Apple iOS AppYes
Trading – ForexYes
Trading – CFDsYes
Alerts – Basic FieldsYes
Watch ListYes
Watch List SyncingYes
Charting – Indicators / Studies30
Charting – Draw TrendlinesYes
Charting – Trendlines MoveableYes
Charting – Multiple Time FramesYes

Research

Interactive Brokers research is among the best in the industry for beginners, seasoned traders, and professionals. It includes everything each group needs to be successful.

IBKR’s 3rd Party Research: comes from noted sources like Dow Jones, Zacks, Market Realist, TipRanks, and many others. Thompson Reuters provides ESG ratings which let traders rank and compare companies based on variables they consider critical. Premium research is available at a discount.

IBKR’s Probability Lab: is built into TWS. The Profitability Lab lets options traders compare Market Outlook to current conditions and suggests trading strategies.

IBKR’s Risk Navigator: helps traders predict specific market condition changes that could affect their portfolio.

Portfolio Analyst: provides in-depth analysis of all financial accounts in one place. It provides traders with a hedge fund-level of reporting on their portfolio’s performance and makeup.

Performance Attribution: provides a perspective on which market sectors could contribute to a trader’s portfolio. They change benchmarks across more than 230 different variables.

Fundamentals Explorer: located in the Client Portal, Fundamental Explorer is the best research tool for beginning investors. It does a good job using design to visualize data. The Social Sentiment analysis tab uses Twitter data to identify trends, overall sentiment scores, and other key takeaways.

ESG Research: IBKR includes several ESG ratings and research tools across its platforms. The Impact Tool helps traders score their holdings for specific metrics. After identifying the issues that matter most to a trader (like guns, animal testing, or clean water), their Impact Dashboard displays an A – F grade. The tool makes recommendations of similar companies to trade with better alignment grades.

TWS Research highlights: include numerous screeners, extensive back-testing functionality, and portfolio analysis tools, which are all excellent. For traders looking to conduct specific research, Interactive Brokers offers over 70 third-party provider feeds a la carte, including Morningstar, which is available either free or for a monthly fee. Any provider package purchased integrates straight into TWS.

TWS Research drawbacks: traders must learn to navigate TWS to find the information they want. There are few streamlined views. Client Portal is easier to use. While not intuitive it provides a better research experience than TWS.

Additional Interactive Brokers technical tools: help traders create flexible order types on TWS, Client Portal, and the Mobile app. These include:

  • Conditional Orders based on price, volume, daily P&L, margin cushion, number of shortable shares, and rebates from the trading venue.
  • Portfolio Builder creates a tailored strategy to construct a portfolio of stocks.
  • Share and Dollar lots for any asset class.
  • Tax Optimizer selects tax lot defaults to maximize several factors.
  • Portfolio Checker lets traders assess portfolio health. Compares performance to 200 global benchmarks and evaluates risk measures.
  • Trader’s Journal is a note-taking feature to record/save trading notes/ideas on any product.

Charting: Interactive Brokers charting is interactive. Traders can use 100+ predefined indicators or create their own. Traders toggle and zoom between 15-time frames and trade from their charts.

FeatureInteractive Brokers
Daily Market CommentaryYes
Forex News (Top-Tier Sources)Yes
Weekly WebinarsNo
AutoChartistYes
Trading Central (Recognia)No
Delkos ResearchYes
Social Sentiment – Currency PairsYes
Economic CalendarYes

Education

Interactive Brokers is a market leader providing free investor education programs and tools.

IBKR Traders Academy: is a structured, rigorous curriculum intended for financial professionals, investors, educators, and students. It helps them understand asset classes, markets, currencies, tools, and functionality available on Interactive Brokers’ platforms. There are 45+ courses available to traders, quizzes, and tests. The website includes a trading glossary, FAQ section, and daily expert webinars. Traders Academy is available on mobile desktop and other platforms.

Webinars: IBKR hosts 250 live webinars annually. They provide access to 1,000 recorded webinars. Many videos are available on their YouTube channel. Interactive Brokers offers a large variety of short platform tutorial videos.

Outlooks: IBKR Traders’ Insight blog provides outlooks for the US, Asia-Pacific, Europe, and various market sectors along with retirement and tax topic content. Clients who want to write their trading algorithms and model financial markets access the Interactive Brokers’ Quant blog.

Interactive Brokers Fundamentals Explorer: combines research from Refinitiv and TipRanks. These offer research for every covered stock. Hovering over a field shows more information and peer comparisons.

Customer Service

Interactive Brokers has a reputation for providing lackluster customer service. This an area they are working to improve.

Telephone customer support: causes irritation. Their digital assistant IBot is helpful on mobile devices as it integrates with voice commands. It is powered by an AI engine answering questions in plain English. IBot sends customers to online FAQs and resources. Phone service includes 24/5 phone with call back service.

Online chat: is available with a live human agent.

Securities Class Action Recovery solution: this automated service removes administrative burdens of joining securities class action lawsuits. It examines positions and detects filing eligibility. The service submits claim filings on an investor’s behalf to administrators to recover compensation. Court-awarded settlement amounts are deposited into their account.

Conclusion

Interactive Brokers is a great online broker for professional traders. Their TWS platform, zero-commission trades, 70 optional order types, and more than 137 global assets to trade appeal to investors of every level. Their beginning trader Client Portal platform, extensive educational material, Traders Academy, and $0 ETF and stock trades make them a great broker for beginning traders. They offer an enormous number of platform tools and investments. The wide variety of order types, trading algorithms, and global asset classes available across Interactive Brokers will please frequent traders. Their news feed and research tools are exceptional.

Interactive Brokers is ideal for those looking to learn and apply more complex investing strategies. A low-cost way to become familiar with the platform is through their Robo-advisory service. With industry-leading commission rates for professional traders and a robust trade platform suitable for any professional, Interactive Brokers is an excellent choice for investors who fit its target experienced trader market.

Interactive Brokers compared to other brokers:

Interactive Brokers Review


Methodology 

The mission of Business24-7 is to provide comprehensive, unbiased ratings and reviews of online providers. User experience, the mobile experience, customer service, costs and fees, security, the quality of trade executions, the products available on their platforms are all part of our six-month evaluation of a providers’s platform. The rating scale was based on thousands of data points that have been weighted into the scoring system.

Providers were also required to fill out a multi-point survey regarding every aspect of their platform. In-person demonstrations and evaluations were provided by the majority of the online providers we reviewed.

Stefan Grasic, along with our team of industry experts, conducted our reviews and developed this methodology for ranking what form is used in online investing.

Business24-7 maintains high editorial standards and provides the best advice and recommendations. The products and companies that we review may compensate us when you click on the links on this website.

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Stefan Grasic (Dipl.-Jur) is the World Wide Director of research for Buisness24-7 and has considerable experience in the financial and investment niche, but also enjoys writing articles for the general readership. Stefan is an active Crypto, Forex and general investment researcher advising blockchain companies at their start up level. He keeps fit by mountain biking, surfing, skiing and lots of other adrenaline sports.