Interactive Brokers Review

By: Han Chang
Last Updated: May 04, 2020
Advertiser Disclosure

Interactive Brokers

Summary

Interactive Brokers LLC is known for its international investing options, advanced trading platform, and competitive rates for high volume traders.

Instead of charging by the trade, they charge by share and have minimum monthly commissions. IB has been in operation for 30 years and hold over $5 billion in equity capital.

The company boasts more than 100 market destinations internationally and direct access to trade execution for electronically traded products such as options, futures, forex, funds, and stocks which is why Interactive Brokers is preferred by many advanced active traders.

In this InteractiveBrokers review, we will walk you through the wide range of investment products that IB has to offer. Whether you are a professional broker or a casual trader, you'll appreciate their competitive margin rates, their client portal and trader workstation (TWS), and their level of customer service.

Quick Facts

Minimum Deposit
$10,000
Trade Commission (Stock)
$0.005 per share
Trade Commission (Option, per trade)
$0.00
Trade Commission (Option, per contract)
$0.70

Interactive Brokers Fee Structure

Trade Commission (Stock)$0.005
Trade Option (Option, per trade)$0.00
Trade Commission (Option, per contract)$0.70
Broker Assisted Trade$30.00
Mutual Fund Trade Fee$14.95
IRA Annual Fee$0.00
IRA Account Closing Fee$0.00

Interactive Brokers Tradeable Instruments

Stocks
Options
Forex
Futures

Interactive Brokers Features

24/7 Support
Virtual Trading
Retail Locations0
ATM Fee Reimbursement
Checking Account
Savings Account
Commission Free ETFs39
Clearing CompanySelf clearing

Supported Platforms

Trade on your terms. Whether you prefer the power of a native desktop client, the convenience of a web platform, or the mobility of an iOS or Android app, make sure that the brokerage you select works the way you like to work.

Web

Windows Desktop

iOS Tablet

iOS Phone

Android Tablet

Android Phone


Expert Walkthrough

Interactive Brokers boasts more than 100 market destinations internationally and direct access to trade execution for electronically traded products such as options, futures, forex, funds, and stocks which is why Interactive Brokers is preferred by many advanced active traders.

Interactive Brokers offers one of the many attractive active trading platforms with low price fees per share. It is an advanced platform for active traders, has many options on tradable securities which includes foreign stocks, and has unbelievably low margin rates.

Its latest offering, BKR Lite, offers commission-free ETFs and trades of stocks that are suitable for casual investors.

While Interactive Brokers is yet to be known for its IBKR Lite platform, it surely is way ahead in the industry with low-cost trading fees for professionals (IBKR Pro). Through the Trader Workstation (TWS) platform, Interactive Brokers offers excellent tools and a voluminous selection of tradable securities.

While having advanced technology as one of the strengths of Interactive Brokers, they have lived with the reputation of lusterless customer service, but they have evidently worked hard over the years to improve this perception by introducing Ibot Service, an artificial intelligence engine that can review inquiries and answer questions in plain English and is available throughout the website and their platforms.

What is Interactive Brokers?

The Interactive Brokers Group was founded as a broker-dealer back in 1977 by Thomas Peterffy who continues to be its Chairman and CEO. Today, it's consolidated equity capital is approximately $6 billion where the firm and its affiliates average nearly 1 million trades per day. Its credibility as an investment and brokerage firm was cemented through Standard and Poor's BBB+ investment-grade rating.

Today, Interactive Brokers boasts over a thousand employees in its offices scattered around the USA with satellite offices in Switzerland, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Russia, Hungary, Estonia, China, and India. Interactive Brokers' headquarters is situated in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Interactive Broker is a brokerage that offers low commission rates for active traders. Through their trading platform (called Trader Workstation, or TWS for short), users can trade in over 24 countries on more than 100 market centers for bonds, forex, stocks, bonds, ETFs, futures, and options (where options regulatory fee per contract may apply).

The brokerage claims there are over 60 types of order types supported which is significantly more thantheir competitors such as TD Ameritrade for 2020. Users also have the option to make trades via the IB brokers mobile app.

Interactive brokers, with its high average revenue per trade, is considered the largest electronic trading platform that is based in the U.S.

When you make a trade, Interactive Brokers will offer “smart” routing for US-listed securities that are generally available only to IBKR Pro account only which provides per contract to ensure your order is directed to markets that offer you the best deal, since they have memberships in numerous markets.

Traders also have options to bypass this open and instead direct orders to a preferred exchange manually.

Interactive Brokers also offers other features such as comprehensive reports which include transaction cost analysis, real-time confirmations, margin details, and tax optimization.

They provide tools such as the Option Strategy Lab that allows users to create multi-leg option orders based on price preferences and volatility forecasts.

Interactive Brokers Is Best For…

  • Expert or advanced traders who are self-directed and have experience beyond the normal stock and bond investing
  • Day traders who place high volume and high-frequency trades and considers investing as a business
  • Traders who have a large amount of money to invest
  • Options traders
  • Traders who want to open a margin account
  • Traders who want to trade penny stocks
  • Investors who want to take advantage of Interactive Brokers' great margin rates
  • Clients from more than 200 countries and territories who want to invest in their wide range of mutual funds

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • IB offers the lowest margin rates of any brokerage firm in the U.S. This broker is inexpensive because of its careful design, which is intended for investors and traders who want to minimize the cost of trading
  • Wide variety of products and services - Stocks, Options, Futures/FOP, Spot Forex, Metals, Bonds, Exchange Traded Funds, Mutual Funds, Exchange for Physical, Hedge Funds, Robo Portfolios
  • Maximum $0.005 per share for IBKR Pro or 1% of trade value, $0 for IBKR Lite
  • IBKR platform's 'SmartRouting Technology' - This is considered as Interactive Brokers' advanced technology to effectively route trades that have exceeded industry standards on stock and options price execution
  • For U.S. exchange-listed stocks, no commission fee is charged
  • Robust trading platform: Fast and includes a customizable dashboard
  • IBKR mobile app keeps account holders on-the-go updated with realtime data

Cons:

  • Interactive Brokers inactivity fees: You get charged per month if you have an inactive account
  • High broker account minimums (as of writing, the minimum is $10,000 for broker account for the first eight months and will greatly reduce to $2,000 starting on the ninth month, though users under 25 years old have a minimum of $3,000)
  • IBKR Pro can be a steep learning curve to use as a platform for less-experienced traders deeming Interactive Brokers as more oriented towards sophisticated or professional brokers who already know how they want to invest
  • Their customer service and customer support needs a revamp on processes and closing tickets from clients because most of its customers are unimpressed with the way they handle this part of the business

Supported Account Types

Margin accounts - Allows purchasing of securities on margin, futures positions, naked options positions, and short security positions. Basically, margin accounts borrow money to purchase securities.

The amount of money that an investor borrows from Interactive Brokers to buy securities is referred to as the Margin Loan. The Margin Requirement is the minimum amount that a client must deposit and it is used to express the current market value's percentage.

Cash accounts - Can only use to enter long securities positions, covered short option positions, and long option positions. Interactive Brokers maintains separate securities and futures account for regulatory purposes.

Portfolio margin accounts - Allows professional traders with hedged portfolios to benefit from the least requirements and great leverage, though, foreign accounts may not qualify.

Account Minimums and Fees

All account minimum amounts are in USD, or the non-USD equivalent for those outside of the US

Individuals >25: $3,000

RAs, Advisor/Broker clients and Indian residents trading with an IBLLC-US account: $5,000

Individuals (over 25), trading group masters and broker masters: $10,000

Fees depend on the types of trades and products used. In general, though, fees differ depending on whether or not you choose fixed, tiered pricing, or if you have an inactive account as Interactive Brokers charge monthly inactivity fees subject to terms and conditions.

For traders who hold an IBKR Lite account, Interactive Brokers offers commission-free ETFs and unlimited trades on US exchange-listed stocks.

If your account has less than $2,000 account balance and does not generate $20 or more in commissions, an inactivity fee of $20 per month will be charged. In addition, $10 will be charged for an account with a balance between $2,000 to $100,000 if no trade was made in a given month.

But if you are a beginner trader who is getting through the learning curve of trading and is conscious of inactivity fees, US clients may opt to choose IBKR Lite as they do not charge inactivity fee for that account.

Here is an example of their pricing:
Fixed pricing - a fixed amount per share or a set percent of trade value, and includes all Interactive Brokers commissions, exchange, and most regulatory fees except the transaction fees, which are passed through on all stock sales. For stocks and ETFs, $0.005 per share with a $1 minimum trade value and 0.5% maximum (includes exchange and regulatory fees). The set percent of trade value may vary for every country.

For European mutual funds, for example, the fixed-rate pricing may charge a set percent of trade value or a fixed rate, which includes all IBKR commissions, exchange, and regulatory fees.

Tiered pricing for stocks and ETFs: those who trade 300,000+ shares per month pay less than $0.002 per share and does not include exchange and regulatory fees.

For Spot Forex Trades and Forex CFD, InteractiveBrokers charges a tiered commission based on their combined Monthly Trade Value. It is important to note that commissions for forex trades on IB are calculated based off of the trade value - after which they are then converted to the base currency.

For a detailed account of pricing structure, visit the Interactive Brokers pricing page for up to date information.

Opening an Account

The process to open an account depends on the type you plan on opening and your country of residence. For individuals, the minimum age is 18 to open a cash account, but you need to be at least 21 to open a margin account.

Interactive Brokers also require individual account holders to prove that they have fairly extensive knowledge of products they want to trade - applicants may be asked to conduct simulated trades using a demo version - where Interactive Brokers review account openings and has their rights reserved to reject applications that do not meet minimum requirements and of course, minimum fees.

That means you have to have executed at least 100 trades (any product type will do) or 100 simulated trades using their demo software. Users will also need to meet the minimum equity deposits and must have liquid net assets of $20,000.

Requirements differ for institutions, but generally, you’ll need to be registered under your local regulatory law. For example, in the US that may mean registering with the Commodity Trading Advisors (CTA) for institutions that want to trade US commodities.

For all accounts, you will need to provide documents that prove you or your institution's identity, proof of address, and funding information.

Citizens or residents from most countries can open an account. The only exception is those that are prohibited by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Before being able to trade stock and utilize Interactive Brokers' platform, make sure to fund your account through the following options:

  • Wire transfer
  • Check
  • Online bill payment check
  • ACH transfer
  • Direct rollover — for IRA accounts only
  • Trustee to trustee — for IRA accounts only

Trading Platform

Interactive Brokers' traders can log into the Client Portal which is web-based, but Trader Workstation is Interactive Brokers' forerunner platform.

Interactive Brokers’ Trader Workstation (TWS) is considered a pretty robust trading platform out there. The desktop version features alerts, watchlists, real-time monitoring, and the ability to customize the dashboard.

Within this trading platform, you can also access research news and market data. Some of this information might require subscription fees.

Once you log in, you can create different workspaces that allow you to look at different data and execute trades. Some of the tools you can access include advanced charting, paper trading, mutual fund replicator, volatility lab. Traders can also access an options strategy lab to compare strategies as well as create and submit simple and complex multi-leg options.

Since there are so many products to invest in Interactive Brokers, the TWS may seem overwhelming to first-time users. Traders might want to consider using their HTML based trading platform called IB WebTrader which may be less intimidating to use.

IB WebTrader is available only to clients who signed up the IBKR Pro pricing plan where the said simplified platform offers a little more than basic charting and streaming quotes but it makes the utilization of the interface easy in a few clicks. IB WebTrader gives you the ability to quickly logging in and be able to fill the need for placing a trade.

Interactive Brokers also has a sleek and crisp mobile application that is available for iOS and Android devices. Through the apps, clients can stream data, can chart tools, and can place even the most complex trades from a mobile device. Mobile users who are always on-the-go will find that there are no limitations on their ability to use the app from the palm of their hand for they have access to over 120 worldwide markets.

For those wanting to give the platform a try before committing, you can download their demo software.

Advisory/Investor Education

This section of the interactive brokers' review tackles how Interactive Brokers is able to provide information to its current investors and prospective investors alike outside of login.

Investors’ Marketplace is a place where third-party service providers can interact with investors and clients.

The goal is for this to be a place where they can do business together talk about information on the brokerage's performance including its systems, customer service, and other stuff in relation to stock trading and other financial instruments.

Investors' Marketplaces is a structured, interactive, and rigorously designed curriculum with financial professionals, investors, educators, and students in mind.

For investors or prospects who are looking for a better appreciation of stocks, asset classes, financial markets, currencies, tools, instruments, and interface functionality that they can avail on IBKR's Trader Workstation, this is a good place for you.

Not only can anyone connect with different service providers, but it can also be a place to ask questions and learn about different advisors, research analysts, business developers, and hedge funds individuals can work with.

They also provide on-demand learning, called Traders’ University. Traders can learn about IB products and services. This includes courses, on-demand webinars, interactive tours, and IB Traders Insight, which provides commentary from leading experts.

Similar to the literal investment that traders do, Interactive puts a lot of investment when it comes to investor education as well. Back in 2018, IBKR has hosted more than 300 webinars that tackled topics such as, but not limited to, placing trades, available asset classes, technical analyses, and options trading to name a few.

In addition, a Master Class event was held in some parts of the U.S., and live education events spanning across all topics about investment were streamed.

IBKR Pro or IBKR Lite?

This section will provide a comprehensive Interactive Brokers review on their latest and sought after commission plans namely, IBKR Pro and IBKR Lite. So we can have a better look at which plan suits your stock trading experience and style.

On one hand, IBKR Pro is Interactive Brokers' traditional pricing plan designed for the sophisticated investor with the lowest cost, access to global markets, and advanced trading tools through the provision of premier trading technology. With this plan, traders will have access to investing in numerous financial products such, as but not limited to, Stocks, Options, Futures, Foreign Exchange, and Exchange Traded Funds.

IBKR Pro boasts of the lowest margin rates in the industry and competitive interests on USD cash balance accounts, and last but certainly not least, access to all of IBKR's premier trading technology including their more than 60 order types and algos, and all of their API solutions.

Monthly inactivity fees will be charged for accounts that fall below a specified amount of trade but the good news is there is no required account minimum balance for IBKR Pro account holders.

IBKR Lite, on the other hand, is a streamlined plan designed for the less-experienced and casual investors, offers unlimited commission-free trading on US exchange-listed stocks and Exchange Traded-Fund trading.

IBKR lite account holders have access to free associated market data and in addition, enjoy no monthly inactivity fees and no required minimum account balance.

IBKR Lite charges the same low costs as IBKR Pro users if you want to trade other asset classes such as Options, Futures, Mutual Funds, Fixed Income, and more.

If you are a retail investor or a financial advisor who does stock trading on behalf of a retail client, Interactive Brokers has its rights reserved to reject orders from IBKR Lite or a series of orders that do not appear to have a retail trading behavior.

It would be best to take it up a notch go open IBKR Pro on these types of stock trading situations.

IBKR Lite's smooth-running and easily understandable design features cash quantity orders, fractional share trading, and comprehensive fundamental research to name a few. However, it goes with its name that it offers limited trading tools, order types, and algos.

Now that you know both plans and which suits your style, regardless of the commission plan you choose, you can do stock trading wherever you want.

Account-holders have various options to access Interactive Brokers' order panel in the client portal, even through mobile if you are on-the-go and want to get updates from your account, or at home with your desktop trader workstation (TWS).

You can visit their website for a more detailed and side-by-side comparison of both commission plans.

Bottom Line

If you have fairly extensive active stock trading experience, Interactive Brokers might be the best solution for you.

With its low fees and myriad of options, those with a considerable sum to invest will see that this is one of the best brokerage firms locally and internationally.

However, if you’re just getting started in investing or want fairly low maintenance investing solution, then the steep learning curve of their stock trading platform may be too much for you.

Active or professional and casual traders will both benefit from Interactive Brokers' advanced execution, strong trading platforms on desktop and mobile app, low-cost trading fees, and lowest pricing in the industry with the introduction of their plans such as the IBKR Pro and the IBKR Lite.

Interactive Brokers is apparently among the top-recommended brokerage firms for this review and a top choice for local and international traders alike who are looking to take part in the U.S. stock and options markets.

In addition, Interactive Brokers is a great resource for new and upcoming traders with the introduction of their Lite platform, making it inclusive for traders of all shapes, sizes, and lengths.

Interactive Brokers has put a lot of effort into advancing their technology to make it more inclusive to the mass market or retail investors but must take into consideration that the overwhelming amount of information may still be quite confusing to first time or less-experienced investors.

In fact, the same amount of tools and information also makes the platform one of the best choices for day traders and more advanced investors who have extensive knowledge of financial instruments such as mutual funds, foreign exchange, knows how to invest in stocks, and others.

They are the biggest beneficiaries of Interactive Brokers' extensive capabilities and customization abilities.

Frequent and professional traders must always make it a point to review their current broker's capabilities and shortcomings as well. And if you are outgrowing your current broker and is ready to up your game in this arena, then Interactive Brokers naturally is the next step.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Interactive Brokers good?

When it comes to offering a wide range of options to trade stock, trade experience for users that stand out compared to other brokers upon getting into the trader workstation, range of offerings that span from long and short stocks, Mutual Funds, Futures and Futures Options, futures forex, helpful customer service, a flexible array of order types, leading in the technology of trading which includes IBKR Pro and IBKR lite for professional and casual traders, and is one of the lowest cost brokers to name a few, then Interactive Brokers is good for you.

Why is Interactive Brokers so cheap?

Interactive Brokers offers fixed-rate and tiered pricing as their pricing models.

With fixed-rate on standard stock trades, you'll have to pay just $0.005 per share with a minimum of $1 per order where all exchange and regulatory fees are included.

On the other hand, tiered pricing is a model frequent traders can also take advantage which can be as low as $0.0005 per share when you trade more than 100 million shares per month, not inclusive of exchange, regulatory, or clearing fees.

Margin investors love it as Interactive Brokers is the lowest in the industry.

In addition, Interactive Brokers processes more than a million trades every trading week, making it one of the largest discount online brokers on a global basis.

With that significant amount of transactions, Interactive Brokers is able to provide its clients with the lowest margin rates.

How does Interactive Brokers make money?

Interactive Brokers make money from four primary sources – Commissions, Trading gains, Net Interest Income, and Other income, most of which provide a steady growth from previous years.

Is my money safe with Interactive Brokers?

Yes. First and foremost, Interactive Brokers has a long track record when it was founded back in 1978 and is regarded as one of the biggest US-based discount brokers which is strictly regulated by several financial institutions globally, including the US Securities and Exchange Commission (US-SEC) and the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to name a few.

Due to the licenses acquired from multiple regulators, Interactive Brokers is considered safe by professional and casual traders alike.

For whom does Interactive Brokers work best?

Interactive Brokers work best for experienced active or professional traders because Interactive Brokers offers fees which prove to be the lowest in the industry, Interactive Brokers offers access to extensive investment vehicles such as forex trading, mutual funds, stock trading, portfolio tracking, provision of live updates, and up-to-date company notifications.

In addition, casual traders also enjoy Interactive Brokers as it offers to flatten the traders' learning curve for its platform through their IBKR Lite.

What are the pieces of information that Interactive Brokers require to open an account?

Interactive Brokers review the following information from applicants:

  • Your name and date of birth
  • Contact details - email and mobile - and residential address
  • Asset and income details - properties, revenue information, etc.
  • Employer name and address
  • Proof of government-issued ID such as a passport or driver’s license
  • Bank details for funding
  • Investment objectives and details about the experience

What should I do after making my first trade?

You have now made your way to becoming a professional or experienced trader. In doing a trade, make sure to take advantage of research information provided by Interactive Brokers from free and paid sources to help you keep abreast of tracking your investments.

Also, you would need to trade stock and other instruments more in order to avoid inactivity fees more so with IBKR Pro traders as Interactive Brokers charges inactivity fees when your commission charges or average equity balance falls below a specified amount. Remember, this is one of the losses you can easily avoid!

Get yourself informed with content that they continually provide such as short video clips, webinars, or be interactive in their Investors' marketplace where a community of investment experts gathers.

If you need help with your account either through phone, email, or live chat, their customer service department is ready to assist.

What is the biggest disadvantage of Interactive Brokers?

Among all the topics covered in this review, one of the biggest disadvantages of Interactive Brokers is its required minimum equity that is pegged at $10,000 to open an account is evidently higher than most of the brokers.

Which countries can trade Forex with Interactive Brokers?

Interactive Brokers offers Foreign Exchange options in four global marketplaces where all forex trading is conducted through the company’s IDEAL PRO platform namely;

Europe: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Israel, Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom

America: United States, Canada, Mexico

Asia-Pacific: Australia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea


About the Author
Avatar

Han Chang, M.Sc. is cofounder of InvestmentZen. An alumni of Boston University with a Masters degree in Computer Science, Han has extensive work experience on Wall Street developing black box trading algorithms for high frequency trading firms. He also has worked in Silicon Valley as a web developer for companies like OKCupid and General Assembly. He is passionate about the role of technology in crowdfunded investments. Han is also an early cryptocurrency adopter, having bought his first Bitcoin in 2013. His advocacy for a more open decentralized financial system has been featured on TheHill.


Interactive Brokers Reviews

Reviews.com

Experienced traders' choice Interactive Brokers is a top choice for active and experienced traders who want to trade any investment product for the lowest costs and fees in the industry. The trading platforms generally suit the needs of experienced investors who don't require the additional resources offered by the major brokers.

StockBrokers.com 2020-01-17

Best for trading internationally Interactive Brokers comes with a $10,000 minimum funding and is not suitable for casual investors, but provides fantastic support for international trading. It also offers active traders a very competitive commissions schedule for low-cost trading.

NerdWallet 2020-01-15

Not recommended for newbies Interactive Brokers is perhaps one of the most comprehensive stock brokers for active and advanced traders. For novice and less active investors, we recommend you look elsewhere.

The Dividend Pig

For investors who are into dividend growth If you are a dividend growth investor and can round up $10,000, than I highly encourage you to take a look at Interactive Brokers for your taxable account.

Investoo

Could be challenging to trading newbies Interactive Brokers basically offers a professional-style trading environment for traders. New traders will find it a bit difficult to use their platforms but once some experience has been attained, it becomes a breeze.

Money Crashers

For long-term investors Interactive Brokers is ideal if you are a self-directed, experienced, and active trader who takes trading beyond general long-term stock and bond investing.