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Interactive Brokers review

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Experienced traders can enjoy powerful investing tools plus some of the lowest fees around.

Earn interest on your cash balance and access to competitive brokerage fees.

Interactive Brokers offers an impressive range of tools and low fees for active or professional investors. As of late 2019, the company introduced IBKR Lite, a platform aimed at casual investors that charges no commissions on US exchange-listed stocks and ETFs.

Details

The information on this page, including rates and fees, is current as of April 15, 2020.

Who is Interactive Brokers best for?

Good for
  • Active or professional traders. Experienced traders will like such features as low brokerage fees, access to extensive investment vehicles, portfolio tracking, live updates and company notifications.
Not so great for
  • Beginners. The platform has a high learning curve, and there’s a monthly activity fee for IBKR Pro accounts trading below a certain volume.

Company Background

Interactive Brokers Group (IBKR) was launched over 40 years ago and services over 135 markets globally. Today, it’s one of the largest electronic brokers based in the US based on daily average revenue trades. It’s headquartered in Connecticut and regulated by the the SEC, NYSE, FINRA, SIPC, FCA and other international regulatory agencies.

Interactive Brokers Canada Inc. is a member of the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) and the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF), which provides protection against certain types of losses in the unlikely event that a member firm becomes insolvent. Interactive Brokers has offices in the US, Canada (Montreal, QC), the UK, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Australia, Hungary, Russia, Japan, India, China and Estonia.

As Interactive Brokers states on its website, this platform is targeted toward advanced investors. Make sure to check out the trial version of TWS to test whether you’re ready to launch the real deal.

Product types

Through Interactive Brokers, you can invest in the following products:

  • Stocks
  • Options
  • Futures
  • Forex
  • Metals
  • Bonds
  • ETFs
  • Mutual Funds
  • EFPs
  • Hedge Funds
  • Robo Portfolios

Account types and structures

Investors have a wide variety of account configurations to choose from based on their preferred investment strategy, financial goals and country of residence. Both cash accounts and margin accounts can be configured for customers in the categories below (visit IBKR’s website for more information).

  • Individuals
  • Joint account holders
  • Trusts
  • Partnerships
  • Corporations
  • Retirement Saving Plans

IBKR Lite and IBKR Pro

Amid a sea change of online brokers slashing commissions, Interactive Brokers launched IBKR Lite, a plan that offers a simplified trading platform for casual investors. Unlike IBKR Pro, this plan offers unlimited trades on US exchanged-listed stocks and ETFs with no commissions. For both plans, you’ll pay a fee for trading mutual funds, options, futures, fixed income and other such investments.

IBKR Pro is aimed at more experienced traders and comes with access to WebTrader, an easy-to-learn online trading platform that offers a powerful suite of advanced trading tools, market data, charts, news and more. IBKR Pro account holders can also use customized API software to design their own trading applications and market-monitoring programs.

Interactive Brokers features

  • Earn interest on idle cash. Interactive Brokers pays interest on cash sitting in your account. Earn up to 0.5% interest on balances of $14,000 CAD or more (the rate varies depending on your exact balance).
  • Wide range of order types. Interactive Brokers offers more than 100 order types and algorithms to help you execute faster trades and limit risk.
  • IBot feature. The trading platform includes an easy-to-use chatbot with voice activation that responds quickly to market and company queries and can place orders for you.
  • Research. Access news and research from such sources as Morningstar Equity Ownership, Zacks Investment Research and Seeking Alpha. You can also elect for paid subscriptions to additional sources.
  • Traders Workstation (TWS). This is available only to IBKR Pro users. If you’re an IBKR Lite user, you’re limited to Interactive Brokers’ web-based Client Portal or mobile apps.
  • Portfolio Builder. An additional platform application in the Traders Workstation that allows you to create custom portfolio strategies using historical data and research.

What can you do with Portfolio Builder?

Portfolio Builder is an application that:

  • Allows you to easily compare and test your portfolio against a benchmark index.
  • Gives you a live news feed and real-time notifications of takeovers, earnings, options expirations and more.
  • Lets you compare your portfolio and strategy with other leading investors.
  • Lets you adjust your strategy until the historical performance meets your standards.

What are the benefits of Interactive Brokers?

Interactive Brokers allows convenient online trading via desktop or mobile. You’ll also find a bevy of other benefits that separate the platform from others.

  • Multiplatform. If you have an IBKR Pro account, you can use Interactive Brokers’ trading platform, the Traders Workstation (TWS), on both desktop and mobile.
  • Customizable. Suit your investment style, whether you’re trading shares, options, futures, forex or a mix of these.
  • Fee structure. Interactive Brokers has some of the lowest fees on the market, however there are additional costs such as the tiered inactivity fee, which isn’t immediately obvious. This fee is a $10 minimum commission per month any time that commissions don’t add up to $10, and $20 per month if you have less than $2,000 in your account.
  • Broad access.Unlike other trading platforms where you need multiple accounts to trade different products, Interactive Brokers allows you to access stocks, options, futures, FOPs, ETFs, warrants, SSFs, forex, metals, indices, fixed income and mutual funds.
  • Invest in global markets. You can buy and sell stocks and other securities from over 30 different countries using one account 24 hours a day, 6 days a week. Currently, trades in over 20 currencies are supported.
  • No minimum to open a cash account. You don’t need a minimum deposit to open a cash account.

What to watch out for

While Interactive Brokers offers powerful trading platforms, it has a list of weaknesses that you’ll want to carefully consider before opening an account.

  • High learning curve. To optimize your account through TWS, you’ll need to really understand what you want to get out of it, which is no easy task for beginners. On top of this, the setup is complex enough that even advanced traders will find the process takes some time to get right.
  • Real-time data may cost you. Interactive Brokers boasts extensive live data feeds and customizable company notifications. But data and news may involve extra fees based on which options you choose.
  • Fees for minimal account activity (IBKR Pro accounts only). Single, individual and small business IBKR Pro account holders must make $10 USD in commissions per month (or the equivalent in non-USD funds), or they’ll be charged the difference as an activity fee. This means if $6 in commissions are earned one month, the activity fee will be $4. Other types of accounts impose similar activity fee requirements. No account maintenance fees are charged on IBKR Lite accounts or accounts with balances of at least $100,000 USD.
  • Minimum deposit for margin accounts. You need at least $2,000 USD (or the equivalent in non-USD funds) to open a margin account. There is no minimum amount required to open a cash account.

Interactive Brokers reviews and complaints

Interactive Brokers is not accredited with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). However, it has an A+ rating, indicating it’s likely to respond to customer complaints. As of April 15, 2020, Interactive Brokers has over 20 complaints on its BBB page, all of which it has responded to.

As of the same date, Trustpilot shows a 3.5 out of 5 rating with 520+ customer reviews for Interactive Brokers in the US. Many clients say customer support is slow to resolve issues and the platform often runs into technical problems. At the time of writing, Interactive Brokers in Canada is not yet rated on Trustpilot.

What are the fees?

Interactive Brokers markets itself as having the lowest cost trading platform on the market. That may be true, but there are loopholes to watch out for.

The fee tables below are for stocks, ETFs and warrants. Trades for options, futures, forex, fixed income and more come with their own fee structures.

Broker or commission fees

With IBKR Pro and IBKR Lite fixed-rate pricing, the commissions you pay include exchange and regulatory fees.

With IBKR Pro tiered pricing, you’ll pay exchange, regulatory and clearing fees.

Subscriptions to real-time streaming market data is free in some instances, but you may need to pay for them when exchanges charge Interactive Brokers for the data.

CAD fixed brokerage fees for IBKR Lite

Cost per stockMinimum commission per orderMaximum commission per order
US exchange-listed stocks and ETFs$0.00$0.00$0.00
Non-US-exchange-listed stocks/ETFs$0.01$1.000.50% of trade value

CAD fixed brokerage fees for IBKR Pro

Cost per stockMinimum commission per orderMaximum commission per order
No-transaction-fee ETFs$0.00$0.00$0.00
Stocks$0.01$1.000.50% of trade value

CAD tiered brokerage fees for IBKR Pro

If you choose the tiered fee structure — available only for IBKR Pro — your brokerage fee decreases the more you trade per month.

Fees vary based on what and where you’re trading, with different fee schedules for different countries and options. Additional clearing and exchange fees depend on which exchange the security is listed on.

CAD commissions for Canadian stocks, ETFs, ETPs and warrants
Monthly trade valueCost per shareMinimum commission per orderMaximum commission per order
First 300,000 shares$0.008$1.000.50% of trade value
300,001 – 3,000,000 shares$0.005$1.000.50% of trade value
3,000,001 – 20,000,000 shares$0.004$1.000.50% of trade value
20,000,001–100,000,000 shares$0.003$1.000.50% of trade value
>100,000,000 shares$0.003$1.000.50% of trade value

Inactivity fee

There’s an inactivity fee of up to $10 if your monthly brokerage fees on trades are less than $10. It’s a tiered system where the inactivity fee is equal to $10 minus broker commissions. For example, if your commissions equal $6 in one month, your inactivity fee would be $4. Unfortunately, this fee increases up to $20 a month if your average equity balance falls below $2,000.

International stock trading fees

IB’s fees on international stocks depend on which country the stock is listed in and whether you’ve chosen a tiered or fixed fee structure. Stocks listed in the US and Canada charge brokerage fees per stock rather than value. Most stocks listed in Europe and Asia-Pacific use trade value to set the fees.

Online stock trading

How do I get started?

It’s relatively simple to open an Interactive Broker account, but there are a few interesting eligibility requirements.

Eligibility

  • To open most types of accounts, you need to be at least 21 years old. Customers aged 18-21 can open cash accounts as long as they meet all other requirements.
  • Confirm that you have good or extensive knowledge of the product you wish to trade including at least 2-5 years of trading experience. If you can’t confirm this, IB may ask you to conduct simulated trades using the demo version first.

Required information

When you’re ready, provide the following information:

  • Your name
  • Date of birth
  • Contact details and residential address
  • Annual net income
  • Total assets
  • Employer name, address and phone number
  • Bank details for funding
  • Proof of identification, such as passport, driver’s license or national identity card
  • Investment objectives and details about experience
  • Estimated net worth (including the value of your residence)
  • Estimated liquid net worth (not including the value of your residence)

How do you fund your account?

You can transfer money into your Interactive Broker account via:

  • Wire transfer
  • Bank ACH transfer from your bank
  • Online bill payment
  • Automated Customer Account Transfer Service
  • Account Transfer on Notification (ATON)
There are also options available for transferring US, European and Asian securities to your IB account.

How to open a stock trading account

I’ve made my first trade. Now what?

  • Take advantage of research. Interactive Brokers offers a wealth of research from various sources — free and paid. Keep up with the newest developments to properly track your investments.
  • Avoid inactivity fees. You don’t have to worry about these costs if you only use IBKR Lite. If you have an IBKR Pro account, however, you’ll incur fees if your commission charges or average equity balance fall below certain amounts.
  • Use Interactive Brokers’ educational resources. Trader’s University offers webinars, short videos, courses, tools and more to help you broaden your trading knowledge. Visit the IBKR Expert Community for market commentary and data.
  • Contact customer support. If you need help with your account, contact Interactive Brokers via phone, email or chat.

Interactive Brokers customer service

Contact Interactive Brokers by phone or chat Monday through Friday or by chat on Sunday. Hours vary depending on contact method.

Phone

  • How to call:
    1-(877)745-4222 Toll free
    1-(514)847-3499 Direct dial
  • Hours of operation:
    8am – 5:30pm, Mon-Fri (EST)

Chat

  • How to access:
    Through your Client Portal
  • Hours of operation:
    Weekdays 24 hours, Sundays 1pm – 7pm EST

Email

  • How to access:
    Through your message center, or through an inquiry form on the Interactive Brokers website
  • Typical response time:
    Within 24 hours

Bottom line

If you’re an experienced trader looking for a platform that offers low fees for high-volume trades, IBKR might be exactly what you’re looking for. But if you’re just learning and testing the waters, you may want to compare other trading platforms.

Frequently asked questions

Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of futures, stocks, ETFs, CFDs, options or any specific provider, service or offering. It should not be relied upon as investment advice or construed as providing recommendations of any kind. Futures, stocks, ETFs and options trading involves substantial risk of loss and therefore are not appropriate for all investors. Trading CFDs and forex on leverage comes with a higher risk of losing money rapidly. Past performance is not an indication of future results. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before making any trades.

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