Interactive Brokers Review 2020

May 29, 2020 07:23 AM ET
Interactive Brokers Review 2020

Review Summary

Interactive Brokers are known as one of the largest brokerages based in the US, offering online trading to millions of clients worldwide. They offer a range of sophisticated trading platforms, coupled with educational resources and tools for market research. The broker uses its own proprietary technology called “SmartRouting” which searches for the best market prices available, ensuring that orders are executed at the best possible prices. 

Interactive Brokers 

RATING

7.5

YEAR FOUNDED

1978

LOCATION

United States

REGULATION

CFTC(United States)
NFA(United States)
IIROC(Canada)
ASIC(Australia)
FCA(UK)
SFC(Hong Kong)

US AVAILABLE

Yes

TRADING INSTRUMENTS

Commodities, Forex, Indices, Metals, Bonds, Options, ETFs, Mutual Funds

TRADING PLATFORMS

Trader Workstation, Web, Mobile

MINIMUM DEPOSIT

$1

DEPOSIT METHODS

Wire Transfer, Check

Base currencies

19

Inactivity fee

Yes

Withdrawal fee amount

$0

Max. Leverage

1:200

Min. Spread

0.1 pips

Currency pairs

105

Demo account

Yes

Social / Copy trading

No

 

Interactive Brokers Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

  • Multiple Trader Tools
  • Limited Payment Options
  • Cutting Edge Platforms Across Devices
  • Customer Service Response is Poor
  • Research and analysis from Third Party Firms
  • No Fixed Spread Accounts
 
  • Leverage is Restricted

 

In-depth Interactive Brokers Review

Interactive Brokers is a United States based brokerage firm that is known for its competitive trading commissions and fees. Since being founded in 1978, the company has expanded its operations to many other countries, such as Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, etc. it is headquartered in Connecticut, USA. The company’s shares are publicly traded as IBKR on NASDAQ.
Interactive Brokers is known for its proprietary technology called SmartRouting, which ensures that orders are executed at the best possible price. It gives its users access to over 125 markets across 31 nations, typically executing over 859000 trades a day. It has won over 1000 accolades for its brokerage services, mostly because of its low brokerage fees 

  • Regulation: Interactive Brokers provide their services across jurisdictions around the world, and hence have to be regulated by several international regulatory bodies. 

    • In Australia, Interactive Brokers Australia pty Ltd is regulated and licensed by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission or ASIC

    • In the UK, Interactive Brokers ltd is regulated and authorized by the Financial Conduct Authority(FCA)

    • In the US, Interactive Brokers LLC is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). It is a member of NYSE, FINRA, and SIPC. 

    • In Canada, Interactive Brokers Canada INC is a member of IIROC or the Investment Industry Regulatory Organisation of Canada

    • In Hong Kong, Interactive Brokers Hong Kong Ltd is regulated by the SFC and is a member of both the HKFE and SEHK. 

    • In India, Interactive Brokers India is a member of both the BSE and NSE

Account Types and Opening

Interactive Brokers offers several account types for both Individual traders and investors as well as for institutions.

These are mentioned in the list below. 

  • Trust Accounts

  • Individual Investor or Trader

  • Registered Investment Advisor

  • Money Manager

  •  Hedge Fund

  • Proprietary Trading Group

  • Family Office

  • Friends and Family Advisor

  • Small Business

  • Incentive Plan Administrator

  • Introducing Broker

  • Compliance Broker

  • Educator

  • Administrator

  • Referrer

However, there are two major types of individual retail accounts which are briefly described below. 

  • IBRK Pro: The IBRK Pro account is meant for high volume professional traders who are offered the best possible prices and lower costs. Clients trade on the flagship IB Trader Workstation platform, as well as the WebTrader platform. Interest is paid in idle cash. There is an inactivity fee which is applicable when a user pays less than $10 as trade commissions. However, accounts with a balance of $100000 and above are exempt from this rule. 

  • IBKR Lite: IBKR Lite Accounts are meant for individual, joint and IRA clients and require no minimum balance, no inactivity fee and no commissions for trading on US stocks and ETFs. Account holders can only use the IBKR Mobile as well as the Client portal platforms for trading and cannot access the TWS. 

Integrated Investment Management 

For US clients, Interactive Brokers has introduced the concept of the Interactive Brokers Debit Card as well as an Integrated Investment Management program. It introduces new features such as Borrowing, Direct Debit Card Deposits and Paying Bills without checks through Bill Pay. Only US Cash and margin Accounts are eligible for this. 

How to Open an Account at Interactive Brokers?

The entire account opening process is seamless and online and account verification usually takes around 2 business days to complete. They have a 5 step registration process which takes about an  hour to complete.
Users have to provide some personal information as well as answer some questions about their own trading experience. 

How to Open an Account at Interactive Brokers

The users are then asked to verify their identity and place of residency by uploading some specific documents such as passports, national Id and driver’s license for verification of identity, and utility bills, bank statement, driver license or credit card statements for verification of residency. 

Users have an option of choosing any one of 19 base currencies when they open their account. These include the Australian Dollar, British Pound, Canadian Dollar, Chinese Yuan, Czech Koruna, Danish Krone, Euro, Hong Kong Dollar, Hungarian Forint, Israeli Shekel, Japanese Yen, Mexican Peso, New Zealand Dollar, Norwegian Krone, Russian Rouble, Singapore Dollar, Swedish Krona, Swiss Franc  and US Dollar. 

Deposit and Withdrawal

Interactive Brokers does not accept any third party transfers, cash or post-dated checks or money orders. Deposits are free and the first withdrawal for each month is free. There are two main methods through which users can deposit and withdraw. 

  • Bank Transfer: Bank Transfers are the main method through which users deposit and withdraw on the platform. However, this method is slow, as it can take about 3 to 5 working days before the broker finally receives the user’s funds. 

  • Check: Interactive Brokers only accepts checks in USD and drawn on a US bank. The check should be payable either to IB LLC and IB HK. 

Clients in the US have some additional methods such as Automated Clearing House, Online Bill Payment, Direct Rollover and trustee to Trustee. 

Commissions and Fees

Trading Fees

When it comes to Interactive Brokers trading fees, users can choose between two options, namely Fixed rate and tiered price plans.

  • The tiered price plan charges users a fee based on their monthly trading volume. Commissions tend to get lower if the trader increases his/her trading volume. Additional charges for this plan include exchange, clearing and regulatory fees. 

  • The Fixed rate price plan typically charges traders with a fixed rate on a per contract or share basis, which is inclusive of all commissions and exchange fees. 

It should be noted that IBKR Lite account holders from the US can trade US listed ETFs and stocks free of any commission. 

For the purpose of this review, we will examine the fixed rate plans for all the different classes of instruments. 

  • Fees for ETFs and Stocks: When it comes to stock and ETF commissions, Interactive Brokers charges less as compared to many other brokers. The Stock and ETF Commission rates for a $2000 trade are given below

    • German Stock: $4.4

    • UK Stock: $7.2

    • US Stock: $1.0

The stock fees for Interactive Brokers varies from market to market. This is highlighted in the table below. 

 

Markets

Commissions

Min 

Max

UK up to £50,000 trade volume

£6.00

£6

£6

UK more than £50,000 trade volume

£6.00 + 0.05% of trade value

£6

£29

Belgium, France, Xetra, Italy, Netherlands

0.1% of the trade value

€4

€29

Switzerland

0.1% of the trade value

CHF 10

No

Spain

0.1% of the trade value

€4

No

Austria

0.1% of the trade value 

€4

€120

Poland

0.1% of the trade value

PLN 15

No

Norway, Sweden

0.05% of the trade value

NOK/SEK 49

No

Portugal

0.15% of the trade value

€6

No

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania

0.2% of the trade value

€10

No

Hungary

0.1% of the trade value

HUF 200

No

Asia-Pacific

 

 

 

Australia

0.08% of the trade value

AUD 6

No

Hong Kong

0.08% of the trade value

HKD 18

No

Japan

0.08% of the trade value

JPY 80

No

Singapore

0.08% of the trade value

SGD 2.5

No

India

0,01% of the trade value

INR 6

INR 20

 

  • Annual Financing Rates for stocks, options and futures: The margin rates for USD, GBP and EUR are 2.6%, 2.0% and 1.5% respectively. The annual financing rates when it comes to USD are as follows: 

    • $200,000,000.01 – 1.39%

    • $3,000,000.01 to $200,000,000 – 1.39%

    • $1,000,000.01 to $3,000,000 – 1.59%

    • $100,000.01 to $1,000,000 – 2.09%

    • Under $100,000 – 2.59%

  • Fees for Forex: Overall, the fees for forex is average even though the fees for EUR/USD is high. The forex benchmark fee for the following forex pairs is given below. 

    • EUR/USD fee: $17.9

    • AUD/USD fee: $12.0

    • GBP/USD fee: $13.6

    • EUR/GBP fee: $13.0

    • EUR/CHF fee: $7.1

  • Mutual Fund Fees: The fees for mutual funds at Interactive Brokers is fixed at $15 for a $2000 fund. However, it tends to change according to different ranges and has both minimum and maximum rates. This is explained in the table below.

Country

Commission

Min

Max

US

3% of the trade value or $14.95, whichever is lower

-

-

US funds with no transaction fees

0%

$0

$0.00

Europe

0.1% of the trade value

€4

€29.00

Global

3% of the trade value or $14.95, whichever is lower

-

-

 

  • Fees for Bond: Commissions for a $10,000 government bond trade is $5 fee for US Treasury Bonds and $10 fee for EU government bonds. 

  • Fees for Options: Commissions for the Stock index options for ten contracts is as follows

    • US stock index Options: $7.0

    • German Stock Index Options: $12.1

    • UK Stock Index Options: $20.4

  • Fees for Futures: Interactive brokers have low fees for futures. Commissions for the stock index futures of 10 contracts are as follows.

    • UK Stock Index Futures: $20.4

    • US Stock Index Futures: $8.5

    • German Stock Index Futures: $22.0

  • Fees for CFDs: The fees for a $2000 long position which is held for one week are given below

    • Europe 50 Index CFD fee: $2.9

    • Apple CFD fee: $3.5

    • Vodafone CFD fee: $8.2

    • S&P 500 Index CFD fee: $3.6

The leverage applied for the stock index is 20:1 in the above example. 

  • Fee for Cryptocurrencies: Traders can access cryptocurrencies through ETNs and futures. There are two different kinds of Fees which are discussed below.

    • Bitcoin and Ether ETNs: Users can access Ethereum and Bitcoin on the Stockholm Stock Exchange. Here, Interactive Brokers  charges a 0.05% fee when trading on the Stockholm stock exchange with a minimum requirement amount of SEK49. 

    • Bitcoin Futures: Interactive brokers also provide cryptocurrency trading through the CME Group and the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE). The commission fee for trading Bitcoin futures Contracts on the CBOE is $5 and on CME is $10. 

  • Non Trading Fees: Interactive Brokers charges its users with an inactivity fee which depends on multiple factors. 

    • Account balance less than $2000: $20

    • Account balance above $2000: $10

    • Account owner younger than 25 years old : $3

Trading Instruments and Markets

Interactive Brokers offers an exceptional range of ETFs and bonds, as well as offering more exotic products such as warrants and structured products. It provides access to 140 exchanges worldwide. 

  • Stocks and ETFs: Interactive Brokers offer 78 stocks and 13000 ETFs. Examples include NASDAQ, New York Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange. 

  • Forex: Interactive Brokers offer a total of 105 currency pairs including, major, minor and exotic pairs. 

  • Mutual Funds: Interactive Brokers offers over 261 fund providers such as Blackrock and Vanguard. 

  • Bonds: Interactive Brokers offers over 62621 Bonds including government and corporate bonds. 

  • Futures: Interactive Brokers offers a total of 32 Futures markets to its users. 

  • Options: There are 33 options markets in Interactive Brokers, which includes options from Chicago Board Options Exchange, CME Group, Korea Stock Exchange, Mexican Derivative Exchange etc. 

  • Cryptocurrency: Interactive Broker provides both Bitcoin and Ethereum trading , primarily through three methods

    • Bitcoin Futures can be traded on the CME Group and Chicago Board Options Exchange

    • Bitcoin and Ethereum ETNs are traded on US OTC markets and Stockholm Stock Exchange

    • Bitcoin Index is available on the CME group, Chicago Board Options Exchange and New York Stock Exchange

Trading platforms and tools

There are numerous trading platforms offered by Interactive Brokers, catering to the requirements of different types of traders. 

  • IB Trader Workstation (TWS): The IB Trader Workstation or TWS is a flagship proprietary platform, typically catered towards experienced traders who require flexibility and multiple tools. It can only be used by Interactive Brokers Pro users and is available for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux as a downloadable desktop platform. Some of the features of this platform are listed below. 

    • Customisable charts on several timelines, analytical tools and technical indicators

    • Offers over 100 order types and algo

    • Gives access to trading, watch list, order management, portfolio tools and charts

    • Allows trading stocks, futures, options, bonds, forex and funds spanning across 100 global markets. 

    • Provides customisable charts on technical indicators, analytical tools and several timelines. 

    • Users receive professional news and analysis from Dow Jones, Reuters, Trading Central etc. 

    • Provides reporting of account balances, trade history and P & L

IB Trader Workstation (TWS)

  • Client Portal:  The Client Portal is a simple web-based account management platform which also provides trading facilities. This platform is mostly geared for beginner traders. Some of the functions of this platform include:

    • Viewing account info, trade history, portfolio performance etc in real time. 

    • Provides customisable charting on multiple timelines

    • Live News Streamed Directly to the platform

    • Provides comprehensive product information for almost every asset. 

Client Portal

 

  • IBKR WebTrader: The IBKR WebTrader is the browser version of the desktop TWS and is solely available to Interactive Broker Pro Clients. 

Some of its features are listed in brief below

    • Provides advanced order management

    • Provides Full reporting in real time including account status, margin requirements, position, P & L etc. 

    • Simple functionality and user-friendly

    • Provides Advanced Tools like BookTrader, Contract Search, Market Depth, Market Scanner etc. 

    • Provides a customisable interface which can cater to different styles layout and instrument requirements of traders. 

IBKR WebTrader

  • IBKR APIs: IBKR APIs are only available to IBKR Pro Clients and are useful for users who script their own trading software or use any other third party software. It can be downloaded only as a desktop version for windows, Mac or Linux. It supports several programming languages including Java, C++, C#, DDE etc. 

Tools

  • Investors Marketplace: The Investor’s marketplace allows investors and clients to transact inside the Interactive Brokers network. They can search for different services, view requirements and appraise services before making a final decision. It provides over 450 technology services, over 200 administrative services, 600 investment services, 320 research and 4000 business development services. They provide multiple tools such as Options calculator, Trader’s Calendar, Options Strategies App and Probability Lab. 

User Experience

Mobile Trading

  • IBot: The IBot is a software assistant, which can be used to place orders using words and text commands. Apart from  having a desktop version, IBot is also available as part of the IBKR Mobile App. 

  • IBKR Mobile: Traders who are interested in trading on the go can use the IBKR Mobile App. It is compatible with both Android as well as iOS devices. Some of the features of this app include

    • A two factor authentication system for Providing Additional Security

    • Provides Integrated Real-time Market Scanners and Alerts

    • Provides Access to 125 Global Markets timelines 

    • IB SmartRouting technology is provided which helps to bring the best available prices to clients. 

    • Users can trade Multiple Instruments and View Charts 

Research and News

For providing research, Interactive Brokers has incorporated several third-party news providers into its TWS platform. While some are free, most require a monthly subscription. The free services are also available with a demo account. Some of the services that Interactive Brokers provide include, Bezinga News, Alliance News, The Fly News, Dow Jones,  Edison Investment Research  etc 

Education

  • Trader’s Academy: The Trader’s Academy is an important educational resource for novice traders especially. It provides much needed knowledge on how to handle the TWS apart from some general trading knowledge. Only registered clients can access this academy. They provide a total of 247 lessons and 39 courses.  The lessons cover articles on varied topics related to investment products, trading and investment. 

  • Courses and Tours: This section provides much needed insight into forex strategies, options and technical analysis through ten videos. 

  • Short Videos: Interactive Brokers provide a collection of videos which serve as instructional guides on how to use the platform. It has over videos in multiple languages including Japanese,  Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Dutch, German etc. 

  • Demo Accounts: Interactive Brokers provides a “Paper” account which works like a demo account. It is available for all users who have set up trading accounts. Users are provided with $ 1000000 worth of virtual money, which novice users can use to test the platform and its functionalities. The IBKR Mobile App also provides a similar function through a “read-only mode” . 

Customer Service

Interactive Brokers offers a multilingual customer support service which operates from the various offices that the broker has all around the world. They work on a 24/5 basis and can be reached over phone lines, web chat and email. Alternatively, one can also reach the broker on their official LinkedIn, Twitter or Youtube channel. 

Safety and Security

Apart from being regulated by multiple international regulatory bodies in the jurisdictions they operate, they take some additional steps as well. The platform is secured using secure Socket Layers and Firewalls. It also adheres to strict KYC guidelines in place when verifying accounts. 

Conclusion

Interactive Brokers is arguably one of the largest trading platforms operating in the US. It has strict regulatory compliance, offers proprietary technology and a vast selection of instruments to trade from. However, the payment options are limited and may act as a deterrent while attracting new users.


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