Interactive Brokers Review: Pros, Cons & How To Use It

In this article, we will be breaking down all the details of Interactive Brokers.

Updated: June 24, 2023
Matt Crabtree

Written By

Matt Crabtree

 
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For investors looking to take their portfolio to new heights, Interactive Brokers is the perfect choice. Offering fast, reliable execution, low commissions, and an array of trading options, Interactive Brokers is the ideal platform for today's savvy investor.

In this article, we will be breaking down all the details of Interactive Brokers, covering everything from its pricing structure and order types to its account minimums and customer service.

We’ll also go over interactive brokers’ unique features and services that make it an ideal platform for both novice and experienced investors.

So, whether you’re new to investing or looking to grow your portfolio, read on to learn why Interactive Brokers is the best choice for your trading needs.

What Is Interactive Brokers?

A Brief History

Interactive Brokers is a global brokerage company that has been providing clients a comprehensive range of products and services ranging from online stock trading, options trading, mutual funds, futures and commodities, foreign exchange, and more since 1978.

In the beginning, Interactive Brokers was known as Timber Hill and was founded by Thomas Peterffy to provide investment services to customers. The company started by trading options and then moved onto stock and other financial services, becoming a fully-integrated stockbroker in 1993.

Today, Interactive Brokers is one of the largest brokerage companies in the world.

With offices in the US, Europe and Asia, the company provides a comprehensive range of products and services to over a million clients from around the world. It has become a major player in the stock, options, and commodities markets, and offers fast and reliable execution of trades from one account.

Getting Familiar With Interactive Brokers

Generally speaking, learning about your brokerage of choice can help you make better decisions about your investments, so it pays to do so.

The company provides a wide range of products and services, allowing investors to find the best investment opportunities for their individual needs.

Interactive Brokers also offers a variety of online resources and educational materials to help investors become better educated about the markets and investing in general.

Additionally, they provide a user-friendly interface, making it easy to navigate the company's products and services. Interactive brokers have maintained a solid reputation in the industry over time and are backed by a team of highly-experienced traders and professionals.

Lastly, with their platform, investors have access to the latest market data, research and reports to help them make more informed investment decisions. Investing with Interactive Brokers also gives investors the opportunity to work with professionals who have a deep understanding of the markets and know the best strategies for trading.

What Types Of Account Do Interactive Brokers Offer?

Are you interested in opening an account with Interactive Brokers? The online brokerage offers a range of accounts to meet your investing needs and goals.

From individual and joint accounts to IRA, trust, and custodial accounts, here’s an overview of the types of accounts you can have through Interactive Brokers.

Individual Accounts

Individual accounts are the most common type of account offered by Interactive Brokers. These accounts are opened in the name of one person and are individually owned and managed. You can set up a regular brokerage account with Interactive Brokers, as well as a margin account, cash account, and retirement accounts, such as an IRA.

Joint Accounts

Joint accounts are available through Interactive Brokers as well. A joint account combines the assets of two or more people, and all account holders have the right to trade, deposit, and withdraw funds. You can also open a joint margin account or a joint retirement account, such as an IRA, with Interactive Brokers.

Trust Accounts

Trust accounts are another option with Interactive Brokers. Trust accounts are set up by an individual or organisation to protect and manage assets for the benefit of a third party, such as a child or other beneficiary. The assets held in the trust are owned by the trust itself, not the individual or organisation that set it up.

Custodial Accounts

Custodial accounts are used to hold assets for individuals who are not yet of legal age to manage the funds. These accounts can be opened by parents or legal guardians and are managed to benefit the minor. With Interactive Brokers, you can open a custodial account with a cash, margin, or retirement account.

What Are The Fees & Commissions For Interactive Brokers?

The company charges a variety of commissions and fees for its services, which can impact the cost of trading and investing. To help investors better understand their costs, we'll be taking a closer look at Interactive Brokers fees and commissions

Overview

Interactive Brokers typically charge commissions based on order size and market liquidity. The commissions are tiered so that bigger orders cost less per share. The basic commission under the tiered structure is set at £0.005 per share, with a minimum of £1.00 and a maximum of 0.5% of the trade value.

In addition to commissions, Interactive Brokers charges an inactivity fee for customers who do not place an order or maintain a minimum account balance. The minimum balance required to avoid this fee is £10,000 for the first 8 months of having an account and £2,000 after 9 months.

Fees For Stocks And ETFs

The commissions and fees for stocks on the Interactive Brokers platform vary, depending on the market for the stock. For United States stocks and ETFs, the commission rate is set at £0.005 per share, with a minimum of £1.00 per trade.

For Canada stocks and ETFs, the commission rate is set at £0.005 per share, with a minimum of £9.95 per trade. For European stocks and ETFs, the commission rate is set at £0.005 per share, with a minimum of £2.50 per trade.

Options Trading

Interactive Brokers charges a base fee of £0.65 per contract for options trades, with a minimum of £1.00 per trade.

Futures & Forex Trading

For futures trades, Interactive Brokers charges a base fee of £0.85 per contract, with a minimum of £1.00 per trade. The base fee increases to £1.50 per contract for complex options trades involving four or more legs.

Additional Fees And Charges

In addition to the commissions and fees mentioned above, Interactive Brokers also charges a variety of additional fees and charges. These include brokerage fees for orders placed outside of regular market hours, exchange fees for trading in certain markets, margin interest on funds borrowed via margin trading, and an optional fee for paper trade confirmations.

Navigating Interactive Brokers' Platforms & Technology

In today’s investment world, technology and platforms have become greatly valued.

As an online broker, Interactive Broker’s suite of platforms, tools, and technology offer professional traders an intuitive and comprehensive experience. But what exactly is included in the Interactive Broker’s platform, and how do you use it? Let’s take a deeper look.

What Is Included In The Interactive Brokers Platform?

Interactive Brokers offers a variety of different platforms tailored to different user types, such as Investor, Trader, Institutional Account, or even Consumer. All come with their own unique features, tools, and technology.

The primary platform is the Trader Workstation (TWS), which is a downloadable market analysis and trading software. It provides access to a range of asset classes, including stocks, options, ETFs, bonds, futures and foreign exchange.

It also gives active traders access to over 100 analytical tools including real-time market data, charting, options analytics, and more. It also has a range of advanced order types and algorithms to help you optimise your trading strategies.

In addition, IB also provides a mobile trading platform that allows users to trade and monitor the markets from anywhere.

How Do You Use The Interactive Brokers Platform?

Interactive Brokers platform is designed to be user-friendly, intuitive and easy to use. There are several ways to access their platform, depending on the user's preference.

If you use the TWS platform, you can access all the features and tools through its main menu, which is conveniently organised and offers quick access to the features. There are tutorials and videos to guide you in setting up and navigating the platform.

For mobile users, you can access all the same features through the IB mobile app. It offers the same features as the desktop version and you can easily monitor and execute trades on the go.

How Intuitive Is The Interactive Brokers Platform?

From the client portal in the main menu, you can quickly access all the features and have access to their range of tools promptly.

The mobile app offers many of the same features as the desktop version and is designed for a more convenient mobile trading experience.

Interactive Brokers also offers tutorials, videos and step-by-step instructions to help you set up and understand the platform better. The user-friendly and intuitive platform makes it easy to get up and running.

Trading With Interactive Brokers

What Kinds Of Trades Can You Make With Interactive Brokers?

At Interactive Brokers, you have a wide range of trading options available to you. This includes stocks, options, futures, bonds, and foreign exchange.

Stocks

When trading stocks with IB, you can buy and sell stocks of companies listed on major stock exchanges, such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the Nasdaq. Stocks are an excellent way to gain exposure to companies, and investors can choose to buy and sell shares instantly.

Options

Options trading is a great way to get some skin in the stock market without having to buy the underlying shares. By buying, or selling options, investors can speculate on the price movements of stocks without owning the underlying securities.

IB offers both traditional options, as well as spread bets on options, allowing traders to hedge their portfolios or take advantage of market opportunities.

Futures

Futures are a type of contract that let investors buy or sell commodities, such as grains, metals, energy, or indices, at a set price at some point in the future. Futures can be a great way to gain exposure to the commodities markets, as well as to hedge your portfolio against volatile price movements. IB offers numerous futures contracts, including currency futures, equity index futures, and agricultural futures.

Bonds

Bonds are another type of security you can trade with IB. Bonds are issued by governments, corporations, and other institutions, and they are generally seen as a safe investment. Bonds pay fixed interest rates and are generally considered to be a low-risk investment. IB offers a wide range of bonds, including government bonds, corporate bonds, and high-yield bonds.

Foreign Exchange

Foreign exchange, or forex, is another type of security offered by IB. Forex trades are made up of major currencies and constitute one of the largest financial markets in the world. IB offers traders the ability to trade foreign exchange with tight spreads, low margin requirements, and no commission charges.

All in all, IB offers a wide range of trading opportunities for investors.

From stocks and options to futures and foreign exchange, IB has something for everyone. With its suite of powerful trading tools and powerful software, IB enables traders to quickly and efficiently execute trades and take advantage of market opportunities.

Benefits & Drawback Of Investing With Interactive Brokers

With access to international markets, low fees, and automated trading, there are many benefits that come from investing with IB.

However, as with every investment, there are some drawbacks that need to be considered. Let's take a detailed look at the advantages and disadvantages of using IB for investments.

Benefits Of Investing With Interactive Brokers

Low Fees:

One of the more significant advantages of using IB is their low fees. Their fee structure is straightforward, with no hidden costs, and is geared toward helping their customers save money. The fees may vary depending on the type of financial transaction, but they're typically very affordable compared to other brokers.

Wide Range Of Markets:

IB provides access to international trading markets, which is great for investors looking to diversify their investments. Investors have the ability to buy and sell stocks, commodities, bonds, mutual funds, options, and more.

Automated Trading:

IB provides a number of automated trading tools to help investors take advantage of changing market conditions. The tools allow you to set up personalised trading strategies and execute trades more quickly.

Drawbacks Of Investing With Interactive Brokers

High Minimum Deposit:

The minimum deposit to open an account with IB is £10,000, which can be a prohibitive amount for some investors. This can be a major drawback for new investors or those who don’t have a lot of money to invest.

Who Are Interactive Brokers' Competitors?

While Interactive Brokers may be the most established and popular online stockbroker, there are other options out there that can provide similar services. Let's explore who Interactive Brokers’ competitors are and how they compare.

TD Ameritrade

One of the most notable competitors to IB is TD Ameritrade. Like Interactive Brokers, TD Ameritrade offers low fees and a range of trading services, and is one of the world's largest brokers with millions of customers.

One thing that sets TD Ameritrade apart from Interactive Brokers is their range of proprietary trading platforms, including the popular thinkorswim and Trade Architect.

TD Ameritrade also offers a wide selection of research and educational resources, making it a great choice for beginner traders.

Charles Schwab

Another competitor to Interactive Brokers is Charles Schwab, one of the oldest and most reputable stockbrokers in the industry. Charles Schwab offers several different trading platforms, including the popular StreetSmart Edge, as well as a range of research tools, educational resources, and commission-free ETFs.

While Charles Schwab isn’t as low-cost as Interactive Brokers, they do offer robust research and trading tools that more experienced traders may find appealing.

Fidelity

Fidelity (review) is another major online broker that is worth mentioning. Fidelity’s fees are slightly higher than those of Interactive Brokers and TD Ameritrade, but they offer several unique features, such as a useful Stock Plan Analyzer and the ability to buy partial shares.

Fidelity also offers a range of mutual funds and commission-free ETFs, making it a great option for those who want to add diversification to their portfolios.

E*TRADE

Finally, E*TRADE is another major online broker that provides low fees and a wide range of trading platforms, research tools, and educational resources. E*TRADE also offers its own proprietary trading platform, called Power E*TRADE, which is designed to be straightforward and easy to use.

While E*TRADE’s fees are slightly higher than Interactive Brokers’, its advanced features and educational resources make it a great choice for experienced traders.

Final Thoughts On Interactive Brokers

Are Interactive Brokers The Right Choice For You?

The question of whether Interactive Brokers is a good choice for an individual investor can be difficult to answer. IB offers a variety of features and services that can be attractive for a wide range of investors.

Having said this, depending on the individual investor's goals and risk tolerance, there are some considerations to take into account when making a decision to use IB for their investing needs.

The primary benefit for individual investors is the wide range of features available with the Interactive Brokers trader workstation.

From low exchange and regulatory fees to multiple asset classes supported, IB offers many options that make it appealing to various types of investors. They also offer a number of helpful educational resources to help users understand the different trading options.

However, for some people, the complexity of the system can be off-putting. Although IB offers a wealth of helpful resources to guide users, understanding how to navigate the various features can be time-consuming.

Additionally, since IB is a larger, more established broker, some of the more modern features and services found with other online brokers may not be available.

Support Quality

In terms of resources and services, IB offers a wide variety of options for its customers. Starting with their support network, IB has top-notch customer service. They have an experienced staff available throughout the day, five days a week, and they can be contacted through phone, email, or online chat.

On top of that, IB customers also have access to a variety of educational videos, webinars, tutorials, and other forms of learning resources to help them learn the basics of investing.

Furthermore, as a trading platform, IB helps customers make informed decisions with the help of their Risk Navigator and SmartRouting tools. The Risk Navigator helps customers review their portfolios by enabling them to view the risk of individual positions, while SmartRouting helps them research the optimal execution.

Furthermore, IB also provides integrated market data and news for its customers so that they can make informed decisions about their investments.

Finally, IB offers sophisticated trading tools for experienced traders and investors, such as its ForexTrader platform, its Advanced Orders platform, and its Futures Trader platform. The ForexTrader platform helps traders make well-informed trades, while the Advanced Orders and Futures Trader platforms are designed to provide more advanced features for experienced traders.

Takeaways

Interactive Brokers is a popular choice for individual investors, and for good reason. With a wide range of tools and resources available, IB offers an excellent service to a variety of investors. Ultimately, it's important to do your own research and to determine if IB's features and services fit your specific needs.

However, once you understand the potential pros and cons, you should be able to make an educated decision about whether or not IB is the best choice for you.

Where To Find More Information

If you're considering whether or not Interactive Brokers is a good choice for your investing needs, it's important to research and educate yourself on the features and services offered.

There are numerous resources available online, plus most brokerages offer trial accounts that allow you to test the platform, making it a great way to understand how it works and if it's a good fit for you.

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