Interactive Brokers Review
Richard Montana | August 2, 2022
Interactive Brokers is one of the largest brokerages in the USA, providing industry leading online trading products and services to clients around the globe. They have an excellent range of sophisticated trading platforms with some of the best trading tools you will find anywhere. This means you can conduct in-depth market analysis and make informed trading decisions. The broker has lots of educational resources to help bring beginners up to speed. You will find plenty of market research and insights to inspire opportunities. I think they are one of the best brokers for professional traders and sophisticated, active traders who are looking for low fee trading in a regulated environment.
Pros & Cons
- Trading on cutting edge platforms across multiple devices
- Access 90+ stock exchanges in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia
- $0 commissions and low-cost investing options
- Excellent range of high-quality trading tools are provided
- Research and analysis from reputable third-party firms
- Comprehensive trader education including a dedicated traders academy
- Practice trading with virtual funds in a simulated environment
- Wide range of available account types
- 24/5 customer support
- Limited payment options
- Clients from some countries are not accepted
- Customer support response time
- Prolonged account opening process
- Inactivity fees apply
- May be overwhelming for the absolute beginner
- The pricing schedule is quite complex
Interactive Brokers (IBKR) is a US brokerage known for its competitive trading fees and commissions. It was founded in the United States in 1978 but today, the broker has expanded its operations to many countries. The head office is located in Connecticut, US with international offices in Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Hungary, India, China (Hong Kong and Shanghai), Japan, Singapore, and Australia. Interactive Brokers company equity capital is in the billions. Its shares are publicly traded as IBKR on the NASDAQ exchange.
The Interactive Brokers Group Inc, or IB, conducts broker-dealer agency business and proprietary trading business worldwide. Through its broker-dealer agency business, IB provides direct access to trade execution and clearing services to institutional and professional traders alike. The company’s electronically traded products include a fantastic range of stocks, options, futures, foreign exchange, bonds, CFDs, and funds. The company is regulated by the SEC, FINRA, NYSE, FCA, and other top-tier regulatory agencies worldwide.
Interactive Brokers uses its own proprietary ‘SmartRouting’ technology to search for the best market prices available. This helps to ensure that orders are executed at the best possible prices. It connects to around 125 markets in 31 countries. The broker states that it executes around one million trades every day which is a huge amount. Over the years, Interactive Brokers has won over 100 industry awards for its brokerage services. The awards are mostly in the areas of low brokerage fees and overall performance. I think this is testament to the top-class brokerage services that they provide. IBKR clients can enjoy both the power and simplicity of feature-rich platforms.
When it comes to choosing a broker, regulation is one of the most important things to look out for. I would always prefer to trade with a regulated broker as they can provide you with certain protection that an unregulated broker cannot. Interactive Brokers have perhaps the most impressive regulation that I have seen from any broker, including IG. This personally gives me absolute peace of mind that I can trust them for my daily trading activities without worrying about the safety of my funds. They must follow all of the stringent rules and procedures that have been put in place to protect investors.
- INTERACTIVE BROKERS LLC is a member NYSE – FINRA – SIPC and regulated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)
- INTERACTIVE BROKERS CANADA INC. is a member of the Investment Industry Regulatory Organisation of Canada (IIROC) and Member – Canadian Investor Protection Fund
- INTERACTIVE BROKERS AUSTRALIA PTY LTD is licensed and regulated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)
- INTERACTIVE BROKERS (U.K.) LIMITED is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
- INTERACTIVE BROKERS (INDIA) PVT. LTD is a member of National Stock Exchange of India (NSE) and Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE)
- INTERACTIVE BROKERS HONG KONG LIMITED is regulated by the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC), and is a member of the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited (SEHK), Hong Kong Futures Exchange Limited (HKFE)
Interactive Brokers strictly complies by all the regulatory laws guiding each jurisdiction. But generally, all clients’ funds are deposited in segregated accounts which are separate from the broker’s accounts. All clients are properly verified using ‘Know Your Customer’ guidelines. No individual registration is complete without a ‘proof of identity’ and a ‘proof of address.’ New clients are required to upload a scanned copy of their government issued identity cards and also a utility bill.
The various Interactive Brokers websites and platforms are digitally secure. This is because of the firewalls and Secured Socket Layers (SSL) implemented. The aim is to ward off any intruder or internet hacker that may want to steal clients’ identity or steal user sensitive information.
Interactive Brokers does not provide services to residents of some countries including Afghanistan, Burundi, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Yemen, etc. You can find an up to date list on the brokers website. If you are unable to open a trading account with them for whatever reason, please feel free to peruse our broker reviews for an alternative option.
Interactive Brokers give you access to an excellent choice of award-winning platforms powerful enough for professional traders but designed for everyone. The robust trading platforms offer features to meet the needs of both the occasional investor and the active trader. Whether you need to simply monitor your account or want to perform in-depth analysis to create your own trading strategy using proprietary algos and API, the platforms provide the features you need to help you reach your trading and investing goals, however basic or complex they may be.
This is a simple web based platform for account management and trading. It could be considered the best platform for beginner traders. The web application serves as your one-stop destination to check quotes and place trades, see account balances, P&L and key performance metrics, funding, reporting, and more.
Here are some of its features:
- View account info, portfolio performance, trade history, etc in real time
- Order management; place orders, modify or close orders easily
- Customisable charting on different timelines
- Live news is streamed on the platform
- Comprehensive product information is available for every asset
Trader Workstation (TWS)
This is the flagship proprietary platform designed for frequent traders who are experienced and require multiple tools with power and flexibility. It is only available to Interactive Brokers PRO clients. It is available as a downloadable desktop platform for Windows, MAC OSX and Linux.
Here are some of the features of the TWS:
- Enables traders, investors and institutions to trade stocks, options, futures, forex, bonds and funds on over 100 global markets from a single account
- Customisable charts on several timelines, technical indicators and analytical tools
- Full reporting of account balances, P & L, trade history, etc
- Over 100 order types and Algos
- TWS Mosaic gives access to trading, order management, chart, watchlist and portfolio tools all in a single, customisable workspace
- Professional news and analysis from Reuters, Dow Jones, Trading Central, bezinga, etc
- 26 Advanced trading tools such as FXTrader, BookTrader, SpreadTrader, Volatility Lab, etc
- Analytical tools such as Market Scanners, ChartTrader, etc
You can quickly and easily trade on the go with the modern and intuitive Interactive Brokers mobile trading apps. They are very user-friendly and designed for users who have Android or iOS devices. I think these are ideal for managing positions and following the latest market news from the comfort of your mobile device.
Here are a few of the IBKR app functions:
- Gives access to 125 markets across the globe
- The IB key two-factor authentication (2FA) gives extra security to the app
- Easily trade multiple instruments and view charts on several timelines
- Integrated real-time market scanners and alerts with email notifications
- Uses IB SmartRouting technology to bring the best available prices to clients
IBKR GlobalTrader provides the tools and technology that make it easy to find and invest in companies around the world. You can take your time to explore to add the perfect assets to your watchlist to follow them at all times. You can build your portfolio of US stocks and ETFs completely commission-free, and use Fractional Share trading to invest in most US stocks, regardless of share price. I like how the app makes it easy to monitor your portfolio’s performance with a tap, and how you can use swap to sell out of one position and buy into another with a single order.
This is a software assistant that can place orders using words and text commands. It is powered by Artificial intelligence that recognises the natural language text commands and acts on it immediately. It is available on the following platforms: TWS Desktop, IBKR Mobile, Client Portal and Website.
This is an app that makes it easy to put your money where your heart is. Download to your iOS or Android device (tablet or smartphone) and find and invest in companies that share your values. IMPACT helps you participate in driving the change you want to see in the world. Identify the values that matter most to you, like racial equality or clean water, as well as the practices you find objectionable, like animal testing or greenhouse emissions. IMPACT reveals opportunities to invest in like-minded companies, making it easy to ensure your portfolio pursues returns for you, your community and the planet.
This is the browser version of the desktop TWS. It is only available to Interactive Brokers PRO clients. WebTrader is a scaled-down version with a simplified interface that may better suit those who generally trade a single instrument or use more basic order types. The clean, intuitive interface makes it easy to access market data and transmit orders for your IB account where access to TWS may not be possible.
Here are some of its features:
- Access to 125 global markets from a single account
- Simpler than the desktop TWS and protected by a firewall
- Advanced order management
- Full reporting in real time e.g. P & L, position, account status, margin requirements, etc
- Advanced tools like market depth, BookTrader, Market Scanners, Contract Search, etc
- Asset specific news and fundamentals from sources like Reuters and others reliable firms
- Customisable interface to suit only your style, favourite layouts and instruments
This is for investors who script their own trading softwares or uses other third party softwares. It is only available to IBKR PRO clients. The IBKR API software is available for downloads only on desktop computer running Windows or Mac/Unix. It supports the following languages: Java, C++, Python, C#, ActiveX, DDE. Other API solutions offered by IB are REST API, FIX CTCI & W.T Web API. From easy-to-use Excel API to our industrial strength FIX API, they offer something for every experience level. The TWS API is well-supported with numerous examples to help you get started.
The trading platforms offer a wide range of product centered tools like the OptionTrader and Probability Lab for simplified single and complex multi-leg option trading; FXTrader for currencies trading; Mutual Fund/ETF Replicator to help you easily find lower cost ETF alternatives to popular mutual funds; our fixed income screeners for corporate, municipal and agency bonds and CDs – and more. I think you will find there are more tools available than you will ever need access to. You can setup the platforms to be as complex or simplistic as you need them to be.
Traders who are trading large orders have access to over 30 algos, including the brokers very own Accumulate/Distribute algo which has customizable logic to help you fill large-volume orders while adjusting to market conditions based on your criteria. You can see the total picture before you buy or sell using the what-if portfolio scenarios. The brokers professional-caliber IB Risk NavigatorSM reveals exposure across asset classes and around the globe, helping you to monitor and adjust your positions as needed.
Research & News
Interactive Brokers has incorporated several third party news and research providers into the TWS platform. Some are free but most require monthly subscriptions. There is an excellent choice of services, including some of the best in the industry. The free services are available even on demo accounts. Here are some of the services available:
- Alliance News: Free trial and then $25 for News in English and $20 for Italian news
- Bezinga News: Bezinga Crypto news and Bezinga Pro are free. But Bezinga Pro API Professional is $250
- Profession Bundle: This comprises of Dow Jones new, Trading Central, briefing.com, MT Newswires, The Fly news; all for $155 per month
- Non Professional Bundle: It comprises of Dow Jones news, Trading central, The fly news; for $55
- The Fly News: Free trial, then, $21 monthly
- MT Newswires: Free trial, then $100
- Street account: Free trial, then $315 for street account
- 24/7 Wall Street: Free insightful news and commentary for equity investors
- Access wire: Free real-time analytics
- Alexandria Research: Free text analytics and sentiment assessment tools
- AltaVista Research: Free research on ETFs
- Capitalise: Free automated trading platform
- Dow Jones: Free news for North America but has several subscription services
- Econoday: Free market analysis from experts
- Edison Investment Research: Free research on improving company visibility helping improving investors’ knowledge
- Estimize: Free financial estimates platform sourced from amateur analysts
- ETFguide: Free technical forecast on ETFs, stocks, bond , commodities, etc
This is a marketplace where investors and clients can meet in order to transact. Investors can search for different services, view the requirements and appraise the services before making a decision. There is an impressive range of over 600 investment services that you can choose from, with over 320 research services, over 450 technology services, 200+ administrative services and over 400 business development services.
Apps, Tools & Widget
These consist of some handy tools that I think can help to enhance your trading experience.
- Traders’ Calendar App: Shows the trading holidays and asset expiration dates of many instruments
- Options Calculator App: Users input the options price and other parameters in order to learn the impact
- Options Strategies App: Shows the profit and loss of options combinations. Users can select inputs and test
- Probability Lab: Analyzes the market probability distribution. It is used by options traders
Interactive Brokers excel in all areas, with education being no exception. They have a plethora of excellent educational content including trading guided and tutorial videos. Whatever your experience level, there is something for everyone. Even if you are an absolute beginner, you can work your way through the easy to understand yet detailed content which will help being you up to speed with trading online. I think they probably have the best selection of educational resources that I have seen from any broker.
This is a comprehensive resource made up of articles, questions, answers, videos and a glossary. It contains a fanastic range of over 700 articles arranged alphabetically. There are over 80 training videos. The knowledge base has a search area that can be used to search for resources. A glossary with over 1,200 trading terms and definitions are available.
The Traders’ academy is designed for professionals and investors who need knowledge on the TWS and other trading knowledge. The academy is only for registered clients. There are a total of 39 courses and 247 lessons. The lessons are made up of articles, videos and quizzes. It is categorized as follows:
- Investment products
- Trading and investing: consisting of trading tools, financial planning, advisor tools and portfolio management
Several webinars are scheduled on the website. You can also watch back hundreds of previously recorded webinars in your own time.
This is a collection of videos that teaches the TWS to clients. There are over 150 videos on the platform. Also, there are over 140 videos in Chinese, Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German and Japanese languages. There are 13 videos on account management and 28 videos on institutional trading.
Courses & Tours
This section has a decent selection of around 10 videos on forex strategies, options and technical analysis.
Clients from over 200 countries and territories invest globally in stocks, options, futures, currencies, bonds, and funds from a single unified platform. No trade is too small, and no stock is too expensive. You can even invest with as little as $1 with fractional shares, regardless of the price of a stock. IBKR boasts of thousands of instruments from hundreds of markets from all over the world. I think you will be hard pressed to find a greater selection elsewhere although Saxo Bank also have a huge product offering. Here are the markets available for you to choose from:
- Stocks from 100 markets from 26 countries
- Digital Options
- Futures from over 30 financial markets
- Forex; trade in 22 currencies
- 2 Metals; Gold and Silver
- Over 38,000 corporate bonds
- ETFs from 28 exchanges in 14 countries
- Over 10,000 Mutual funds
As you would expect, Interactive brokers offer several account types to individual and corporate bodies. The broker lists the following client types:
- Individual Investor or Trader
- Trust Accounts
- Registered Investment Advisor
- Hedge Fund
- Money Manager
- Proprietary Trading Group
- Family Office
- Small Business
- Friends and Family Advisor
- Introducing Broker
- Incentive Plan Administrator
- Compliance Officer
No matter the type of client, there is likely an account for you. Generally, we will look at the major individual retail account types. They are as follows:
This account is designed for individuals, joint or IRA clients. There are no required minimum balance, no inactivity fees and no commissions on US stocks and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). Clients can only use the ‘Client Portal’ or ‘IBKR mobile’ platforms for trading. IBKR Lite accounts cannot access the TWS.
This is the major account designed for high volume professional traders. Account holders are offered the lowest costs and best possible prices. Interest is paid on idle cash and clients’ trade on the flagship IB Trader Workstation platform as well as the WebTrader, mobile and API platforms. However, inactivity fees are charged if the trade commissions paid within a month is less than $10, the balance is charged. Inactivity fees are not charged for accounts with a balance of $100,000 or more.
The Multilingual customer support desk operates from the various Interactive Brokers offices. They are mostly available 24/5. Over 15 phone lines are available for clients from different countries to get support. Other channels are instant web chat, email and Ask iBot FAQs. Interactive Brokers are on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. I think it would be great if they extended support hours to 24/7.
This is one of the areas I feel that the broker could improve. There is only a limited choice of account funding options that can take days to clear. I couldn’t find any online payment processors so you are limited to bank transfer and check. This is not ideal if you want to fund your account to quickly try and take advantage of some market news. I think they should implement some more modern forms of payment as this could make deposits and withdrawals much more convenient. It is important to keep in mind that the broker does not accept third party transfers, money orders, cash or post-dated checks.
IBKR accepts checks drawn on a US bank and in USD. The check must be made payable to IB LLC or IB HK.
This is the major payment option accepted by IBKR. The only problem with this method is that is takes about 3-5 working days before the broker receives the funds.
Interactive Brokers has one of the largest electronic trading platforms in the United States. The broker states that its mission is to make investing easy and transparent while saving you time and money. In the many years in which they have been providing industry leading brokering services, they have grown into a global and multi asset online brokerage firm.
I like how they are regulated in several countries where they have operational offices and must abide by the rules of these strict regulators. Investors’ funds have some protection and the operational environment is digitally safe. With the IB SmartRouting technology, traders are offered the best available pricing and best possible execution speeds. There are thousands of markets to trade on the several platforms.
Interactive Brokers flagship Trader Workstation (TWS) is a sophisticated platform designed for professionals. Its myriad of tools and features are inexhaustible. The number of third-party news and analysis providers will surely inundate any trader. For New traders, a comprehensive trader academy is provided. The training courses and videos are sufficient to give beginner traders satisfactory knowledge to commence trading.
However, the payment options available are very limited compared to other brokers and the account opening process isn’t that straightforward. Inactivity fees also apply if you do not trade frequently enough. That being said, these are minor things that can be easily overlooked when you consider how much they excel in all other areas. I think they are a great choice of broker for active traders who are looking for the best that the industry has to offer.