Interactive Brokers is a US broker who has been at the forefront of computer assisted trading since its inception back in 1978. Since then the company has grown to become a major player and Interactive Brokers offers its customers a complete brokerage service.
With over four decades of innovation to its name and almost 2 million satisfied customers Interactive Brokers, also known as IBKR, is a major US provider. In my Interactive Brokers review I will test this well regarded trading platform and see if their reputation is deserved.
Who is Interactive Brokers suitable for?
Interactive Brokers is a superior choice for professional traders and investors. In my opinion, it’s a great fit for anyone who is serious, or looking to get serious, about trading.
Interactive Brokers Ratings
- Advanced trading platform
- Commission-free trading
- Huge selection of securities
- Confusing website and poor UI
- Confusing pricing model
- Not very beginner friendly
Who are Interactive Brokers?
Interactive Brokers was founded by Thomas Peterffy, a Hungarian refugee who fled to the US in 1965. Peterffy, a technically minded individual with an analytical mind, was coding commodity trading software in the technological prehistory that was the 1970s. Ahead of the game, he saw that a software-based approach to trading was the future, and in 1977, quit his job and founded the market maker that would eventually be known as Interactive Brokers.
Interactive Brokers is a true innovator. One of their early offerings that stood out with was its first fully-automated algorithmic trading system, which they launched way back in 1987.
Since its early pioneering days, the company has gone from strength to strength;, growing to become the largest electronic brokerage firm in the US by number of daily average revenue trades and, to this day, the company remains true to its founders vision with a focus on building technology over chasing high sales.
Interactive Brokers is a multinational broker headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut.. The company employs almost 3,000 people all over the world and its trading platform provides customers access to a wide range of products, including stocks, options, futures, EFPs, futures options, forex, bonds, funds, and a select portfolio of cryptocurrencies.
Who owns Interactive Brokers?
Interactive Brokers is owned by the Interactive Brokers Group (IBG), which had its initial public offering (IPO) in 2007. The largest single shareholder is Thomas Petterffy, with institutional investors, such as The Vanguard Group, Inc., holding large stakes in the company.
Accounts and products available at Interactive Brokers
Interactive Brokers offers customers a complete range of different accounts, including individual, joint, trust, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA), and Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) and Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) accounts.
In most cases, customers will open an individual or IRA account as these tend to suit the needs of private investors who are either looking to generate wealth or save for their eventual retirement. Meanwhile, parents, who are looking to help their children get a financial leg-up, will find that UTMA and UGMA accounts are a good choice.
Once you have decided on the account type that is best for you, you have the choice of opening either the IBKR Lite or IBKR Pro account—you cannot have both under the same account. In essence though, a Pro account is geared toward meeting the needs of advanced traders and the Lite account is aimed at casual traders and casual investors.
As you would expect from a serious broker such as Interactive Brokers, the range of products on sale via their platform is extensive, to say the least, and leaves most other brokers, and especially online brokers, in the shade. Interactive Brokers offers a complete range of products, including:
- Penny Stocks
- Structured Products
- Fixed Income
- Mutual Funds
I have included cryptocurrency on the list, but the selection is very small. Cryptocurrency trading is only possible with Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, and Ethereum.
Interactive Brokers Fees and charges
As a major investor in technology, Interactive Brokers has always been able to cut its costs, and has passed these savings on to customers.
Put simply, the company has always had a reputation for low fees, and my review can confirm that their trading costs are among the lowest.
Interactive Brokers offers two main trading accounts to its customers; these are the IBKR Pro and IBKR Lite accounts. The two accounts are aimed at different investors, with the IBKR Lite aimed at casual and private investors, and the IBKR Pro designed for professional traders.
IBKR Lite offers unlimited commission-free trading for U.S. stocks and ETFs, as well as certain mutual funds.
Interactive Brokers charges some of the lowest margin rates of any of the significant online brokers. For IBKR Lite account holders, this fee is a flat 2.6% for margin trades of all sizes.
Options trading fees for Lite customers are billed at $0.65 per contract and no base. Furthermore, IBKR Lite customers do not have to worry about account minimums, maintenance, annual, account, transfer, closing, inactivity, or monthly fees. You simply can relax and concentrate on trading, knowing that you will be only charged for what you do.
IBKR Pro customers enjoy the same $0 account minimum, and are not billed any account maintenance or inactivity fees.
However, though still very competitive, the pricing structure on the IBKR Pro platform is a bit more complex. For example, you are charged commissions, but there is a choice of either fixed or tiered pricing options. With the fixed pricing model, you are billed $0.005 per share for stock trades, with a minimum fee of $1 and maximum of 1% of the total trade value. Serious active traders, who are looking to complete a large volume of trades per month, are better off using the tiered pricing system. With this pricing model, the more you trade, the lower the fee. Interactive Brokers similarly uses both fixed and tiered commission systems for other investments, like options, bonds, forex, and mutual funds.
Margin rates for IBKR Pro users range from 0.75% to 1.6% with the exact percentage rate depending on the amount borrowed—the more you borrow, the lower the rate. On top of these fees, traders should be aware of the exchange and regulatory fees; again these are minimal, but forewarned is forearmed.
Lastly, I should mention that for those wanting to engage in cryptocurrency trading, regardless of whether you are a Pro or Lite user, the fees on Interactive Broker are extremely competitive. Crypto trading with Paxos on Interactive Brokers’ platform has a low commission of just 0.12% to 0.18% of trade value. Compared to the competition, these rates are, once again, some of the lowest available.
Platforms available at IBKR
Interactive Brokers offers investors a huge choice of trading platforms. The exact platform you decide on depends what your trading goals are, but with such a wide selection brokers and traders of all levels, you are sure to find a platform that is the perfect fit.
I will now take a closer look at them for you.
Interactive Brokers Client Portal
The Interactive Brokers’ Client Portal is a web based trading platform, and of the trading platforms offered by IBKR, is what I would call the “vanilla” experience. This has been designed to serve as a one-stop resource for clients, and lets you trade, check quotes, review news, monitor account balances, and manage account information using one simple trading interface.
With one simple login, you are given access to all the key information and tools needed to manage and monitor your IBKR account.
The IBKR mobile app is a platform that lets you trade and monitor your account via your mobile device. As a mobile app experience, it’s designed to be intuitive and easy-to-use. In my review, I found that the app let me do what I needed to do, for example, trade my stocks, options, and futures.
Easy-to-use does not mean simplistic; the IBKR mobile app stands out thanks to features such as SmartRouting. This fancy bit of tech helps you when trading, by automatically searching for the best price for your order, and re-routing your order to achieve optimal value. This makes IBKR one of the better mobile trading apps I have used.
IBKR GlobalTrader is a client portal in the form of a sleek and easy-to-use trading app, available for both iOS and Android mobile devices. Interactive Brokers has a reputation for making trading platforms that are more suited to advanced traders, as their professional level tools can be daunting. However, this is not the case with GlobalTrader, which has been designed from the ground up to provide an easy-to-navigate, swift, and sleek trading experience.
With GlobalTrader, you are getting a client portal that lets you trade stocks and other asset classes, including:
You can trade options and exchange traded funds on over 30 different market centers. This includes the major US exchanges, such as the New York Stock Exchanges (NYSE), but also the London Stock Exchange (LSE), and even further afield, such as the Warsaw Stock Exchange.
Interactive Brokers Trader Workstation (TWS)
The Trader Workstation (TWS) is Interactive Brokers’ flagship desktop platform. This is a platform that has been designed to meet the exacting demands of active traders and investors who trade multiple products, and need a powerful and flexible tool to facilitate their trading requirements. Trader Workstation is a tool that will delight active traders, as it lets you use a range of advanced features, which help make conducting in-depth technical analysis of markets and market trends a breeze.
The Trader Workstation platform features a customizable Mosaic interface and supports a huge number of different order types. I found the Trader Workstation Mosaic to be an extremely capable and fully customizable tool. The ability to ‘drag and snap’ layouts, letting me manage what data I had on screen, and switch between light and dark themes, was especially neat. Advanced traders will be like a kid in a candy store with this platform, as it provides a comprehensive order entry and management tool that you can tinker with as much as you want.
APIs, aka application programming interfaces, let you connect your IBKR trading account and your custom-built trading applications. This platform lets you easily integrate your trading account into any existing applications or front-end systems you may already be using, or should you wish to develop and plug-in your own commercial trading software.
I have to admit that I was not able to do the API experience justice, as I had to ensure that this review came out on time. However, based on my short experience with the API, I found it to be a simple-to-use and very capable interface. If you want to fully automate your own stock trading strategies and monitor your account balance and portfolio in real time, then you will find this desktop trading platform to be the stuff of your dreams.
For such traders, I have to heartily recommend Interactive Brokers, as almost all other brokers are unable to provide the API resources Interactive Brokers do.
IBKR Services & Tools
Interactive Brokers offers many trading tools that, when compared with other brokers, are in a league of their own.
This positive wealth of tools may put off some inexperienced traders, but don’t be daunted! They are an asset and, like all trading tools, are there to help you.
Your Interactive Brokers account has features that let you quickly and easily identify market trends and even conduct advanced charting. For example, with just a few clicks, you can create heat maps to identify growth sectors for investment, or pull your stock out on time, if a downturn is imminent.
Mutual Fund/ETF Replicator
This powerful tool can help you find the best possible prices on individual or composite ETFs. The replicator tool scans the market for mutual funds or ETFs and returns the value trades that match the parameters you entered.
Options Strategy Lab
This tool offers traders the ability to create simple and also multi-leg option orders based on their own pricing or volatility forecasts. Using the Options Strategy Lab, you can also compare up to five options strategies at one time and filter results by premium, delta, strike and/or expiry.
Buy and sell using a cash quantity or fractional shares, which are stock units that amount to less than one full share. Purchase as little as $1 of almost any US stock, experiment with trading and investing without committing substantial sums of money, or learn about building and rebalancing diversified portfolios.
These are just some of the tools that are offered by Interactive Brokers. That said, there are many more, but to review them in any meaningful way would need an entire review of its own. To give you the abridged version though, I can say that when you compare Interactive Brokers and the tools its competitors offer, most of them will come off a poor second best.
How to open an account with Interactive Brokers
Opening an account with Interactive Brokers is a simple and relatively fast process. Just make sure you have your Social Security Number (SSN) number at hand, or proof of ID number if you’re not US citizen. You will also need to provide the name, address, and phone number of your employer. Lastly, don’t forget to have your bank, or third party broker, information at hand.
Assuming you have all this info to hand, go to the Interactive Brokers website, and the Open an Account page.Once you have decided on what account you want to open, you will need to add your personal info; provide your financial data, and also input what your financial goals are. After doing so, you will be asked to verify your identity; review the information, and then, simply, sign the contract. Once this is done, you just need to add funds to your account to start trading with Interactive Brokers.
Deposit & Withdrawal process
The deposit and withdrawal process is smooth and painless, even when you want to take funds out of your account, something that is not always the case with Interactive Brokers’ competitors.
To deposit funds
Interactive Brokers lets you deposit funds by a number of means:
- ACH (Automated Clearing House)
- Online bill payment
- Direct Rollover (IRA accounts only)
- Trustee-to-Trustee (IRA accounts only)
- Debit Card.
To deposit funds, you simply log in to your account and, in the client portal, navigate to the Account Management screen. From here, you will select the Transaction Type ‘Deposit;’ select the ‘Method’ of payment, and then enter the amount. Once you have confirmed these details, you simply have to follow the on-screen instructions to complete the deposit process.
To withdraw funds
The withdrawal process is pretty straightforward with Interactive Brokers, and the first withdrawal of the month is free! Great for smaller investors and less active traders. Also, Interactive Brokers do not drag out the process; in my review, it took just two days for funds to appear.
In order to withdraw funds, you first need to log-in, click ‘Transfer & Pay’ and ‘Transfer funds.’ From here, you will enter the amount and then click on the ‘Withdraw Funds’ icon. You will be asked where you want to withdraw the funds to and, once you have provided the info, you simply submit your withdrawal process, and, hopefully, in two days’ time, the funds will clear.
Customer Support with Interactive Brokers
Whilst it’s certainly not the worst online broker when it comes to customer support, it has cut a few corners.
To contact Interactive Brokers, you can call customer support Monday to Saturday 24/7. If you are calling within the US, the number is: 1 (888) 919-0022. If you are not in the US and need help, then the number is: 1 (312) 542-6890. You can also get in touch with Interactive Brokers by email and chat. The chat service is available Monday to Saturday 24/7, and on Sunday from 13:00 to 19:00 E.T.. The turnaround on emails is 24 hours.
The support provided by the phone service has a reputation for being lacklustre, and I can confirm that this is the case with calls going dead, hanging-up, or stuck in limbo. The quality of service provided by email and chat is much better. Email replies are reasonably swift and answer the questions, and the chat service uses a mix of bots and human agents to help handle your problems..
Research Interactive Brokers
Interactive Brokers is one of the very best research providers. The sheer scope of research tools is impressive and these research services are not gated or paid for. In fact, I would say that it can be a case of information overload, and perhaps a bit daunting for new investors.
Hardly a criticism I admit! Again, to confirm, Interactive Brokers is possibly the best research provider, period.
Education Interactive Brokers
When it comes to providing educational materials, Interactive Brokers stands as the benchmark others try to follow. The IBKR campus is a one-stop resource, which will turn even the most nervous of greenhorns into a knowledgeable and confident trader. In the campus, a wide range of assets are available, including:
With courses on topics ranging from how to trade forex, mutual funds, international trading, bitcoin cash, and more, the Traders Academy also covers tutorials for the many tools and platforms available, including IBKR Mobile, Client Portal, and TWS API applications.
Keep abreast of the latest market news and access a wealth of engaging financial market analyses with free live webinars, or through the extensive and ever-growing library of on-demand, recorded events.
IBKR Traders’ Insight
An asset for advanced traders and casual traders like, with financial analysis, video commentary, and economic insights. As well as commentary from research providers, including IBKR’s Chief Strategist, Steve Sosnick and Senior Analyst, Steven Levine.
Regular podcasts, with interviews and discussions with analysts and executives from the world of finance.
The IBKR Quant blog covers programming, deep learning, IBKR API, AI, Blockchain, and other transformative technologies influencing today’s markets.
Student Trading Lab
The Trading lab provides a space for academics and teachers to test out academic theory in a real-world trading environment. Designed to supplement syllabuses and to provide a practical, hands-on trading environment.
Safety with Interactive Brokers
Interactive Brokers is a fully insured broker and is protected by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (“SIPC“) for a maximum coverage of $500,000 (with a cash sublimit of $250,000). Interactive Brokers has an overall Trust Score of 99 out of 99. Furthermore, Interactive Brokers are authorized by eight tier-1 regulators.
Interactive Brokers FAQs
Is Interactive Brokers safe?
Yes, Interactive Brokers is a safe broker. The company has a great reputation and is a well regarded provider of services to the financial sector.
Is Interactive Brokers good for beginners?
Yes, Interactive Brokers is a good choice for beginners. They offer beginner friendly platforms and their fees are among the lowest available.