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Interactive Brokers review

Enjoy low fees and advanced charting tools with Interactive Brokers.

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Interactive Brokers offers a wide range of tools and competitive fees for its users. On top of this, Interactive Brokers offers IBKR Lite, a platform for investors to trade on-the-go with no commissions on stocks and ETFs listed on US exchanges.

Compare Interactive Brokers as an online broker

Name Product Number of Stocks CFDs Shares Available Markets
Interactive Brokers
Access to global markets
No
Yes
US, MX, RU, ES, UK, DE, IL, HK, SG, IN, KR, AU, CH, HU, CA
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Who is Interactive Brokers best for?

Good for

  • Active or professional traders. Experienced traders stand to gain from the low broker fees, an array of investment platforms, portfolio tools, and real-time 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 stated volume.
  • South Africans looking to trade on African exchanges. IBKR does not grant access to stock exchanges like the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Interactive Brokers is regulated and authorized by a range of authorities.

Interactive Brokers is regulated by authorities like the US Securities and Exchanges Commission, United States Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, New York Stock Exchange, Financial Conduct Authority of the UK, and a host of other international agencies. While it is not explicitly regulated by a South African government agency, it is generally considered safe to use.

IBKR Pro vs. IBKR Lite

IBKR Lite offers unlimited trades with no commissions on stocks and ETFs listed on US exchanges. You can trade mutual funds, options, futures, fixed income and other such investments for a fee.

IBKR Pro, on the other hand, is a platform built for experienced investors. You can take advantage of tools such as advanced charting, an options strategy lab and heat maps of stock performance. Fees are $0.005 (approx 0.076 ZAR) per share for stocks and ETFs, with a $1 (approx 15.18 ZAR) minimum commission and a maximum of 1% of total trade value.

What are the benefits of using Interactive Brokers?

Interactive Brokers allows you to trade both online and via its mobile trading app. Here are some benefits of choosing IBKR:

  • Multiplatform. Use your IBKR Pro Traders Workstation trading platform on both desktop and mobile.
  • Customisable. Customise your account to suit your investment preferences, whether you’re trading shares, options, futures, forex or a mix.
  • Broad access. You can access stocks, options, futures, FOPs, ETFs, warrants, SSFs, forex, metals, indices, fixed income and mutual funds all via one account.
  • Wide range of order types. Execute faster trades and limit risk using more than 100 order types and algorithms.

Interactive Brokers features

  • Portfolio Builder. An additional platform application in the Traders Workstation allows you to create a custom portfolio using historical data and research.
  • IBot feature. This easy-to-use chatbot with voice activation 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. Get access to other sources through paid subscriptions.
  • Robo-advisor. Leverage automated portfolios from Interactive Advisors with a minimum deposit of $1,000 (approx 15159 ZAR). Plus, pay management fees as low as 0.08% — a favourable rate compared to other brokers on the market.

What can you do with Portfolio Builder?

Portfolio Builder is an application that allows you to:

  • Compare and test your portfolio against a benchmark index.
  • Gain access to a live news feed and real-time notifications of takeovers, earnings, options expirations, and more.
  • Compare your portfolio and strategy to that of other leading investors.
  • Adjust your strategy until your portfolio’s performance meets your standards.

What to watch out for

While Interactive Brokers offers a range of benefits, you should consider the following factors before signing up for an account.

  • High learning curve. To optimise your account through TWS, you must thoroughly understand what you want to get out of it — no easy task for beginners. On top of this, the setup is complex enough that even advanced traders may find the process takes time to get right.
  • Complicated fee structure. IBKR has some of the lowest fees on the market, but additional costs like the tiered inactivity fee aren’t immediately obvious.
  • Trading experience. IBKR requires that users from South Africa have past experience trading in North America and/or Europe if you wish to access those markets.
  • A liquid net worth of at least $20,000 required. The company requires you to hold a liquid net worth of at least $20,000 (approx 400,000 ZAR) before you can open an account.
  • One device each time. IBKR only allows you to access its platform from one device at a time. This means that logging into a session on one device will automatically log your other device out.

What are the fees involved?

While IBKR offers competitive share and ETF fees, its options, futures, forex, and fixed income trades come with their own fee structures. These are some of the common fee types that you should watch out for with IBKR.

Broker or commission fees

IBKR Pro and IBKR Lite charge fixed rates, which means 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 are free in some instances, but you may need to pay when exchanges charge Interactive Brokers for the data.

South Africa fixed brokerage fees for IBKR Lite

Minimum per orderMaximum per order
US exchange-listed stocks and ETFs$0$0

South Africa brokerage fees for IBKR Pro and for stocks or ETFs not listed on US exchanges

Cost per shareMinimum per orderMaximum per order
No-transaction-fee ETFs$0$0$0
Stocks$0.005 (approx 0.076 ZAR)$1 (approx 15.16 ZAR)1% of trade value

Tiered brokerage fees for IBKR Pro

Available only for IBKR Pro, tiered pricing means 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.

Fees for US stocks, ETFs, ETPs and warrants
Monthly trade valueCost per shareMinimum per orderMaximum per order
First 300,000 shares$0.0035 (approx 0.053 ZAR)$0.35 (approx 5.31 ZAR)1% of trade value
300,000–3,000,000 shares$0.002 (approx 0.030 ZAR)$0.35 (approx 5.31 ZAR)1% of trade value
3,000,001–20,000,000 shares$0.0015 (approx 0.023 ZAR)$0.35 (approx 5.31 ZAR)1% of trade value
20,000,001–100,000,000 shares$0.001 (approx 0.015 ZAR)$0.35 (approx 5.31 ZAR)1% of trade value
100,000,000+ shares$0.0005 (approx 0.0076 ZAR)$0.35 (approx 5.31 ZAR)1% of trade value

Inactivity fee

You’ll pay an inactivity fee if your monthly brokerage fees on trades are less than $10 (approx 151.60 ZAR).

International share trading fees

IBKR’s fees on international stocks depend on the 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.

How do I get started?

You can open an IBKR account online. However, be sure to take note of the relevant eligibility requirements.

Eligibility

  • At least 18 years old
  • Confirmed knowledge of the product you wish to trade — you may be asked to conduct simulated trades using the demo version first.
  • Liquid net assets of at least $20,000 (approx 400,000 ZAR)

Required information

When you’re ready, provide personal and financial details that include:

  • Your name and date of birth
  • Contact details and residential address
  • Asset and income details
  • 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 investment experience

How do you fund your account?

Transfer money into your Interactive Broker account once your account has been approved. The most common top-up methods in South Africa include:

  • Wire transfer
  • Check
  • Online bill payment check

Do note that e-wallets and credit/debit card payments are not currently supported.

When signing up for an account, you may choose the base currency of your account. These options include USD, GBP, and ZAR.

    I’ve made my first trade. Now what?

    • Take advantage of research. A wealth of research from free and paid sources helps you keep up with the newest developments to properly track your investments.
    • Avoid inactivity fees. If you have an IBKR Pro account, you may incur fees if your commission charges or average equity balance fall below the stated amounts.
    • Use educational resources. Webinars, short videos, courses and tools help you broaden your trading knowledge. Alternatively, you may visit the IBKR Expert Community for market commentary and data.
    • Get customer support. Get help with your account by phone, email or live chat.

    Interactive Brokers customer service

    Contact Interactive Brokers in three ways:

    • Call 1 (312) 542-6890 Monday through Friday from 9:00 to 17:00 Eastern time.
    • Chat live with a rep through your Client Portal
    • Email through the message center anytime for a response 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 fit the bill. But newbies to trading may want to consider other trading platforms instead.

      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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