Interactive Brokers Review 2021

Investors and traders are always aiming to build and expand their portfolios by partnering with experienced brokers and brokerage services. These services help them diversify investments and gain higher profits from their trading activities. However, not all brokers are physical people. Interactive Brokers (IBKR) is a digital trading platform that serves traders with its trade brokerage services. This platform is an avenue for people to become active traders in various markets.

Interactive Brokers Overview

Headquarters Greenwich, CT
Founded Year 1977
Regulated Yes
Product offered Trading Platform, Broker, Stock
Minimum Initial Deposit $100
Maximum Leverage Yes
Islamic Accounts No
Demo Account Yes
MetaTrader 4 (MT4) No
MetaTrader 5 (MT5) No
Trading fees No
Inactivity fee Yes
Withdrawal fee One Free withdrawal per month
Supported currencies USD, AUD, CAD, CHF, CNH, CZK, DKK, EUR, GBP, & More
Customer Support 24/7 via Call, Email, FAQs & Chat Room

In this Interactive Brokers review, we explore the platform in detail and understand how it attracts traders from around the world. From its low per-share pricing and advanced trading tools, this Interactive Brokers review covers this platform comprehensively. It also breaks down the low margin rates provided by IBKR services and evaluates the benefits of commission-free trades for ETFs and stocks.

What Is Interactive Brokers?

Interactive Brokers is an online trading platform that provides a wide range of tools designed to help investors in executing sophisticated trades. The platform is operated and managed by a corporate entity that provides brokerages service on these trades. Interactive Brokers was ranked as a top online broker in the 2020 global review. The quality of its trading tools is one of the primary factors defining its success. Interactive Brokers offers various tools that can help in tracking global investing trends accurately.

As a firm, Interactive Brokers offers a seamless electronic exchange for equities, stocks, futures, and options. Users can make trades across the categories from any part of the world by using the IBKR platform. These services are available around the clock as well. Interactive Brokers is also recognized for providing the most impactful and intuitive dashboard in its trading platform. This dashboard helps users with portfolio alignments. It is packed with additional ESG market research and next-level trading tools which can identify and capture international trading opportunities in real-time.

When it comes to trading, Interactive Brokers is a cost-effective solution. The IBKR Lite pricing plan attracts traders with its “no-commission on equity trades” offering. Unlike other available platforms and their high fees, Interactive Brokers only charges a small fee to its customers. This makes it a more sought-after platform for traders in the world.

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Features of Interactive Brokers

Interactive Brokers provides several features designed to cater to every need of the trader. Since the trading community at large has diverse needs, the platform continues to add new products and features based on these demands. All trading features by Interactive Brokers are directly connected with the electronic exchanges. IBKR recently expanded its mutual fund marketplace and offers more than 26,000 funds across 285 fund organizations from different parts of the world.

However, as per the reviews, the broker is yet to support cryptocurrency trading. The website has included Bitcoin futures in its offerings but traders cannot leverage crypto trades here. Based on the asset classes, users can place international trades and local trades via the Trading WorkStation (TWS) of this site.

Key Features of IBKR Lite and IBKR Pro

  • International trading tools and customized day trading features are available at low margin rates.
  • Total asset classes cross 125 markets across 30 countries, which include stocks, mutual funds, options, bonds, futures, and around 22 forex currency pairs.
  • Fractional share trading features available with historical data.
  • Special features of IBKR Pro are designed for intermediate investors as well as experienced traders.
  • Availability to trade stocks, long and short, where users can borrow from 23,000 available stocks listed according to the true borrow availability.
  • Trading with OTCBB stocks, commonly known as penny stocks
  • At a low fee, mutual funds investments are available on IBKR – which is one of the world’s largest marketplace for mutual funds (26,000+ funds) 
  • This marketplace enables investments in over 8,300 no-load funds and 4,500 no-fee mutual funds
  • IBKR Pro users get access to another 25,000 no-fee mutual funds
  • For professional investors, Interactive Brokers offers investment bonds, from corporate and municipal bonds to treasury and international bonds.
  • Interactive Brokers also offers its traders access to futures and multiple futures options
  • The platform also provides access to forex trading, which include 23 international fiat currencies across 115 trading currency pairs
  • The platform also includes features such as trading IPOs and issuing warrants on single stock futures

Another new feature of this marketplace is fractional share trading. It allows the users to trade shares of US stocks listed on NYSE, NASDAQ, AMEX, ARCA, or BATS. The average daily trading volume of such shares on IBKR surpasses $10 million. The platform holds a $400 million market cap on fractional shares trading in 2021.

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Services Offered by Interactive Brokers

Interactive Brokers offers its services primarily to institutional investors. It is designed to provide advanced trading services for sophisticated and active traders. Moreover, Interactive Brokers as a company continues to be one of the strongest service providers in the finance domain. It is actively introducing new fintech products and providing education services with multi-format resources.

These Broker services are helping investors become more active and gain in-depth experience in competitive trading. As an online broker, the platform also services the core market for the active users of IBKR Lite and IBKR Pro. To maintain this unparalleled market access, IBKR ensures that it offers layered tools to meet every possible trading need of its users.

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Is Interactive Brokers Regulated?

Yes, Interactive Brokers is a regulated broker for stocks and ETFs. It is licensed in the US as Interactive Brokers LLC. The firm is regulated by NYSE FINRA SIPC under the Hong Kong SFC. It is also regulated under Australian authority – ASIC, registered under ARBN 091191141, AFSL 245574.

To diversify its operations as a broker for stock and ETF investors, Interactive Brokers is also regulated in Canada under Interactive Brokers Canada Inc. The Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) is the key regulator in this network. The firm is also protected by the Canadian Investor Protection Fund.

In Europe, stocks and ETFs can be traded on this platform under the regulation of the Financial Conduct Authority. Interactive Brokers UK is registered under the FCA at 208159. In central Europe, the firm allows trading for stock and ETF investors under Interactive Brokers Central Europe Zrt., which is a licensed and regulated entity under Magyar Nemzeti Bank, the Central Bank of Hungary.

Interactive Brokers Review: Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
IBKR is the only broker to offer this wide range in its offerings. From direct access to global trading exchanges to a huge inventory of fixed income products, this platform is also providing European corporate bonds and government bonds for public investments.  Users can access the streaming data from IBKR on only one device at a time. Using the mobile app while still logged into the trader workstation will get prompted by “Turn off Streaming Data” warnings.
Interactive Brokers runs an advanced order execution engine that establishes the smartest order routes for the users. This engine captures all the changes in market conditions and helps an investor in re-routing their orders to ensure optimal execution. This helps the investor in attaining price improvements and maximizing all possible rebates. The platform charges maintenance fees on inactive or small IBKR Pro accounts. These fees include data charges and interests on cash unless the account has a substantial balance.
Interactive Brokers trader workstation is providing access to a mutual fund replicator. With this tool, the user can make lower-cost trades on funds across the trader workstation. This flagship platform is also essential to make expensive mutual funds. IBKR has more than 12,500 high-cost mutual funds to offer. Customers do not get the order flow shared under the IBKR Lite order router as it prioritizes payment for the flow. Hence, IBKR Lite clients are unable to use Mobile and Web platforms or even the APIs of Interactive Brokers’ trading engine.

Interactive Brokers Account Opening Process

Interactive Brokers has a simple desktop trading platform. The user can easily complete its onboarding process. Recently, the desktop trading platform has enabled e-sign to open accounts. The e-sign process is also used for unlocking account functions and features. The good thing is that the user can open an account on IBKR without making any deposit. However, an account minimum of 0 would lead to the closure of that account within 90 days of opening. Hence, the user must avoid maintaining the account minimum 0 and deposit some funds instantly to avoid the inactivity fee, which leads to account suspension.

To open the account, the user needs an email address, phone number, and country of origin. An online verification takes place to confirm the email address and phone number. Document uploads for KYC procedures are completed digitally with verified portals. Once the new account is set up, users can log in to IBKR Client Portal. Here the IBKR tools are made more accessible and can be found easily. Interactive Broker provides IBot, which is an AI-powered digital assistant, that helps new account holders with their needs.

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Types of Interactive Brokers Accounts

When it comes to account types, Interactive Brokers provides various margin accounts and brokerage accounts to its users.

Individual Account

It is designed for single users and enables the trading of assets held in the name of a single owner. The user gets access to all functions and can also issue a Power of Attorney for adding secondary users.

Joint Account

It is designed for two or more users who could collaborate under common tenancy or community property agreements. The funds are held by at least two owners. They get access to all features and can add more users with Power of Attorney.

Trust or IRA Account

It is designed for legally established entities and for retired US individuals. The remaining features are the same as above.

Small Business Account

It is offered to small-time traders and people who are not professionally involved in investments. Such users are not compelled to pay high fees.

Interactive Brokers Trading Platforms

The major plus-points of using Interactive Brokers are related to its Traders Workstation, also known as TWS. It is a powerful broker platform that creates an extensively customizable trading experience. It allows the users several comforts such as a “For You” custom list for aligning the frequently-used tools.

Trader Workstation (TWS) is a complex platform albeit. To get hands-on experience, the user must invest hours in learning how TWS works. The broker platform has a Mosaic interface. It is very aesthetically pleasing and helps the users in viewing the trading tools in building block arrangements. This type of workspace is further supported by the Library, which contains predefined interfaces and customizations.

Interactive Brokers’ Client Portal is an easy-to-navigate platform. It is primarily used for research before making an investment. It helps in placing better trades. The trade ticket system of this portal is also useful in creating shortcuts. More customization options are available on the Client Portal, helping users to place simple orders. Advanced order types, however, can be placed on the TWS only. The TWS is best for running trade algorithms on conditional multi-level orders.

The overall Interactive Brokers’ trading experience is excellent due to the functions of TWS and Client Portal. All possible asset classes can be converted into hotkeys to execute rapid order transmissions. Similarly, as per the brokerage reviews, the trade orders can be staged in batches and as per scheduled times. By setting a date and a time for these orders, the user can create complex conditional orders and keep them activated until the specified conditions are met.

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Interactive Brokers Leverage

As per the Interactive Brokers review, the broker offers stock trading, which has low fees and commissions. However, the platform leverages its services to make money for its customers.

Stock Loan Programs

Stock loan programs are good streams of revenue for brokers. IBKR holds the stocks of users in their accounts and loans these to other traders and hedge funds. This helps in creating a purposeful level on short stocks. Interactive Brokers shares this leverage with the user through a 50-50 stock loan program.

Price Improvements

IBKR uses its smart order router to identify price improvements before other brokers. It attains good leverage on these improvements and makes an average profit of $0.43 per 100 tradable shares.

Portfolio Leverage

Unlike IBKR Lite, the IBKR Pro clients can qualify portfolio leverage. In this, the platform enables portfolio margining tools and lowers the margin rates to mitigate the overall calculated risks. Typically, this type of leverage works best for traders invested in derivatives and inherently risky equity positions.

Interactive Brokers Margin

The Interactive Brokers margin rates are low on almost every trade. With Interactive Brokers, stock trading becomes a cost-effective affair. Margin traders can benefit from IBKR as these low rates translate into higher profits. IBKR Pro customers, in particular, can enjoy a maximum marginal rate of 1.5%, which is very low compared to every other broker review.

For IBKR Lite, the margin rate goes as far as 2.5%. Even so, these low rates are applicable only on funds between $0 and $100,000. At higher balances, these rates drop even lower and the broker does not charge much on million-dollar trades. Interactive Brokers has an integrated cash management feature, which helps investors to borrow funds at low margin rates via low-interest credit cards such as Mastercard.

Interactive Brokers API

As per the Interactive Brokers review, the app is used on a desktop, web platform, and mobile platform. Hence, the Interactive Brokers API is dynamic in nature. The IBKR trading APIs are built to support custom trading applications. They can integrate trading into existing third-party applications and create intuitive front-ends. The APIs also support commercial trading software development. With the IBKR APIs, users can access stocks, futures, and currencies across 135 markets in more than 30 countries. API features the IB SmartRoutingSM helps in searching the best firm stock and options at a combination of low prices and easy availability. In such ways, the Interactive Brokers APIs are used by individuals, proprietary trading organizations, hedge funds, amateur brokers. These APIs are also used by registered investment advisors for large corporations as well as third-party software developers.

Interactive Brokers Fees

Interactive Brokers reviews suggest that its fees are low, unlike other large brokers. Their equity commissions are zero as Interactive Brokers pledges to offer the lowest trading fees. This broker is also cutting its trading fees on comparatively expensive trades from the IBKR Pro account. Interactive Brokers fee structure, however, is complex. Here’s an overview of the trading fees:-

  • A fixed per-share fee of $0.005 per share traded. This includes all the regulatory trading costs and exchange fees for a minimum of $1 and a maximum of 1% of the total trade value. 
  • Tiered per-share fee on monthly orders. It starts from a $0.035 fee per share for less than 300,000 shares per month. It goes up to $0.0005 fee per share for over 100 million shares per month. 
  • IBKR Lite program charges no fees on the trades of US-listed equities. 
  • Mutual fund fees are as low as 3% of the total trade value. 
  • Margin interest fees for IBKR Pro users are 1.55% of the total balance, with a limit of $100,000. 
  • No fees are charged on closing or transferring IBKR accounts. Click here to know more about its fee structure.

Interactive Brokers Deposit & Withdrawal Options

There are various methods used for depositing and withdrawing funds from IBKR lite and the IBKR Lite platforms.

Deposit Options

On Interactive Brokers, minimum deposit requirements are not applicable. IBKR Lite users can deposit funds by using the following methods:-

  • Wire transfer directly from IB-supported banks 
  • Deposit cash electronically from other third-party brokers by using the Automated Customer Account Transfer Service (ACATS). This is also used for a position transfer.
  • Fund transfers from credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard

For IBKR Pro users, the Account Management page enables deposits via a debit card as well. However, a debit card deposit sends notifications to the user that they must make arrangements with the respective bank to deposit funds in the future.

Withdrawal Options

Money can be transferred from the platform into bank accounts with several options. To withdraw money from IBKR, the user can generate a withdrawal request or even create an internal fund transfer into a different IB account. The supported withdrawal methods are:-

  • Wire transfer 
  • US-regulated ACH transfer (for US-based user accounts only)
  • Cheque under US currency (based on verified mailing address of US residents)
  • Canadian EFT transfer for Canadian users only
  • Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA)

Resources Offered by Interactive Brokers

For extensive trading, as per the Interactive Brokers reviews, it offers a plethora of tools and research materials. These resources are useful for investing in the best mutual funds. Besides mutual funds, these tools are packed with credible information for ETF trades and futures.

A lot of in-depth research has gone into making these resources valuable. The Client Portal and the IBKR mobile apps are the main avenues to access these resources. They are available on the Research tab of the Traders Workstation. These resources are updated based on real-time data scans across all international trading markets.

Stock Screener

Under the Mosaic interface on TWS, the user can access a market scanner called Stock Scanner. This tool scans hundreds of data points based on criteria set for global options and equities. It is also used as a predefined scanner and can run custom scans on different markets. The screener has a feature called Fundamentals Explorer, which is used on TWS and Client Portal to get insightful data points as well as analyst ratings from the TipRanks web platform. This stock scanner tool is powerful on Client Portal and TWS both.

ETF Screener

The ETF market scanner is used in the Mosaic mode to specify ETF trades based on their asset class. This is a predefined scanner but also runs custom scans with varying capabilities. The Fundamental Explorer of this scanner is used to evaluate ETFs. This tool also has the Mutual Fund Replicator, which is used for identifying ETFs and finding the identical funds of a specific mutual fund. It is best used for generating high-liquidity trades on mutual funds at a lower cost. Additionally, the IBKR clients can get free access to a proprietary Hedge Finder by AltaVista. This tool is an ETF Screener alternative to detect ETFs and find similar ETFs.

Options Screener

Options Strategy Lab is a unique tool that allows users to get lucrative spreads on their trades based on the market outlook. With this tool, users can compare up to five spreads and run profitability analysis on them before entering a trade order directly from this tool with TWS.

Mutual Funds Screener

The Fund Scanner tool is available on TWS and helps in screening around 170 variables. This screening tool is also set to be added to the Client Portal and mobile platforms in the coming days.

Fixed Income Screener

Bond Scanner is an integrated tool on TWS and helps in exploring IBKR fixed-income inventory. This inventory is very huge and the tool is efficient in searching options based on asset classes, specific industries, and state-specific munis. This tool is currently not available on IBKR mobile app.

Calculators

In addition to these screen tools, the platform has various calculators. They are available on all IBKR platforms. The options-related calculators are used for calculating margin based on order quantity and interest rate.

Trading Idea Generator

Idea generators used on IBKR are Refinitiv Significant Developments, Capitalise, Benzinga, and IBKR Market Signals. They are regularly updated with market-related blogs and contain new trading ideas and strategies.

News

More than a dozen of real-time resources for market news is available on IBKR platforms –

  • 24/7 Wall Street
  • Benzinga Pro News
  • AccessWire
  • Briefing.com
  • Benzinga Crypto News
  • China Investment Insight
  • China Perspective
  • IBKR Market Signals
  • Dow Jones North American Briefing
  • IBKR Traders’ Insights
  • IBKR Quant Blog
  • Market Realist
  • Insider Insights
  • Morningstar Ownership Equity
  • MNI Forex and Fixed Income
  • StreetInsider.com Top News and Analyst Actions
  • Seeking Alpha
  • The Motley Fool
  • TalkMarkets
  • TipRanks Market News
  • Thomson Reuters Global Financial Market News
  • Refinitiv Transactions 
  • Refinitiv Brief

Charting

An extensively customizable tool is available for charting. It offers hundreds of technical indicators to collect, analyze, and chart real-time streaming market data.

Interactive Brokers Mobile App

The Interactive Brokers offers an app that is available on mobile devices of Android and iOS platforms. With the help of various Interactive Brokers APIs, this mobile app has almost every functionality of the TWS and Client Portal web platforms. The app is not ideal for pro investors as it may consume the processing power of mobile devices extensively. However, compared to the TWS desktop platform, the mobile app is easier to follow and has all available asset classes properly arranged for executing trades.

The app enables mobile watchlists. This feature helps in creating and sharing data across web and desktop platforms in the form of real-time streams. Streaming market news on the mobile app is also possible with integrated streams from Bloomberg TV or IBKR Traders Insight. Fundamental research on the mobile app is effective. The charting tool on the app is also good for quick market overviews. It also supports a suite of technical indicators. However, there are no drawing tools available on the Interactive Brokers mobile app.

This mobile app also creates an intuitive workflow. All trades can flow easily from the app by following one step to the next. Data streams on the mobile app are available in real-time. A one-at-a-time approach is enabled to help traders focus on one stream instead of a multi-device approach that distracts the trading workflow. Traditional trading sessions can be done with the app’s single interface. This mobile platform also unlocks higher research capabilities for users on the Client Portal. It provides screeners and several options strategy tools.

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Interactive Brokers Security Measures

As per the Interactive Brokers reviews, it deals with international clients from all parts of the world. It also manages trades and investments across hundreds of markets. Hence, the priority for Interactive Brokers is maintaining robust security. The focus of this firm is to create a long-time record of best-in-class security. Today, Interactive Brokers stands true to this promise. Compared to industry standards, the security of Interactive Brokers is stellar.

Biometric login is used for mobile app users via face or fingerprint recognition. Several two-factor authentication (2FA) processes are enabled at critical levels of trading. The IBKR Mobile Key is one of the best security features that ensures that the mobile app is unlocked only with a combination of fingerprint and PIN verification.

Interactive Brokers also holds SIPC insurance. It is provided by Lloyd’s of London. With this, the users can get protection on their funds up to $150 million. For IBKR Pro clients, a full SIPC protection is provided under Lloyd’s policy, which adds protection to another $30 million.

Till 2021, there has been no significant data breach at any IBKR user end-point location as per the Identity Theft Research Center. Money has not been fraudulently looted or misplaced on the platform. The IBKR Securities Class Action Recovery is a useful security solution launched in May 2020. It runs automated security features that create a service of removing the administrative burden involved in securities class action lawsuits. With this service, all users are eligible to file a claim for risks that went undetected by IBKR.

Interactive Brokers Customer Support

Customer support services are excellent at Interactive Brokers. The primary customer service channel is a 24-hr call-back phone line. This customer service is available for all users. Other customer services include a weekday phone line, an online live chat with human agents, and a secure message center. These customer support services help the IBKR customers in procuring correct and needful responses instantly.

AI-powered IBot is used by IBKR to direct its customers into online FAQs and resources. As per the Interactive Brokers review, it also holds a strong reputation for providing quality customer service. The customer support team has put in years of effort to improve this reputation. It continues to expand the IBKR customer support with the IBot service. This artificial intelligence engine has answers to almost every IBKR question when asked in plain English. Today, IBot is also available on websites and the mobile trading platforms of Interactive Brokers.

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Interactive Brokers Review: Conclusion

Based on this Interactive Brokers review, customers can comfortably add money and start expanding their trading portfolios on IBKR platforms. Several online Interactive Brokers reviews have rated this platform high due to its market competence. Interactive Brokers continues to put in great effort towards amalgamating technology with mass-market trading needs. It has an overwhelming wealth of tools, which when used precisely, can deliver high-volume guaranteed profits to the users.

Interactive Brokers caters to various global asset classes and supports trading algorithms for complex strategies. Some may still find Interactive Brokers intimidating. According to many new investors, this platform contains too much information and tools to come to a firm decision. Hence, the platform is best for day traders. Those interested in advanced trading can use this platform to their benefit. Investors can also gain the extensive capabilities and customizations of IBKR tools. Frequent traders will find this platform more pleasing, particularly for placing various order types in one go.

As far as an honest Interactive Brokers review goes, it is fairly certain that there is no major downside to IBKR platforms. For the more casual crowd, IBKR is quite a Robo-advisory service. But, being one of the low-cost brokerages, this platform is still at the point of effectively improving the financial conditions of its users.

All things considered, these regulated Brokers are designed for buy-and-hold investors and helps them make improvements by enabling various tools at their disposal.

FAQs

Here are some answers to common concerns about Interactive Brokers. 

Is Interactive Brokers Trustworthy?

Yes, the IBKR community has been growing for years and has not cited any illegal use or fraud. The platform is protected by top-end security measures. It is regulated by multiple authorities from the US as well as the UK securities and exchange commission. On top of that, the money held by Interactive Brokers is protected with fund insurance by the Lloyd’s of London banking institution.

Is Interactive Brokers Good for Beginners?

No, Interactive Brokers is best for experienced traders. It can be overwhelming for beginners. The platform has dozens of tools that are capable of running complex algorithms. However, beginners can start with IBKR Lite before using the full-scale platform under IBKR Pro.

Do Interactive Brokers Charge a Monthly Fee?

IBKR does not charge any monthly fee. However, it does charge interest to hold money in inactive accounts. This can be considered as a monthly fee for such inactive traders. These charges are called inactivity fees.

Is My Money Safe with Interactive Brokers?

Money held by Interactive Brokers is completely safe and protected by leading fund insurance companies. The withdrawal options are robust and provide no leeway for hackers to run malpractices. Moreover, as per the reviews, the platform also helps its users to withdraw as much money as they want. This way, the money can be transferred into different IBKR accounts. Internally and externally, the fund transfer on Interactive Brokers is highly secure. Hence, every user can safely keep money with Interactive Brokers.

How Much Money Do You Need to Open an Interactive Brokers Account?

There are no minimum deposit requirements placed by the company. However, if the balance remains zero for more than a period of 90 days, Interactive Brokers has the right to suspend the account. Besides this, the users must make deposits using the fiat currencies supported by the regional IBKR entities. Based on those policies, IBKR Pro users are recommended to deposit funds at some specific levels.

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