Interactive Brokers Review
With an experience of over four decades in delivering brokerage services, Interactive Brokers is one of the largest and most famous brokers in the world. Nowadays, it conducts broker/dealer businesses in over 125 market destinations in the world and has offices and representatives on all continents.
According to Airnow, the month of April 2019 had the highest monthly active users at 35,000. November 2020, in contrast, recorded the lowest active users at 16,000. Besides this, 2019 recorded the highest number of users, all above 21,000. In comparison, between May 2020 to July 2021, there were fewer users except for one outlier month above 21,000 recorded in February 2021.
However, unlike most of the competition, Interactive Brokers focused from the start on both individual and institutional clients, with an emphasis on growing the retail side of the business to balance the exposure on institutional clients.
It may not be the cheapest broker to work with, but the global access to financial markets, premier technology, and competitive prices are enough to attract interest from anyone with interest in investing.
To sum up, if in need of a global, professional and regulated broker that successfully brings together retail traders and institutional clients for their mutual benefit, look no further – Interactive Brokers is the right choice.
On Interactive Brokers Website
It doesn't mean that Interactive Brokers' agents won't contact you to ask what you feel, and if there's something they can do to help – it means that as a potential customer, there's never the feeling that the broker pushes too much.
It is another sign of professionalism on behalf of the brokerage house, leading to a good start to a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship.
A unique feature of size and magnitude few brokerage houses offer, it gives a competitive advantage against rivals like Tradestation, Firstrade, or ETrade.
The ability to offer turnkey solutions to such a large number of institutions and institutional traders signals high-quality brokerage services and trust from all parties involved in trading financial markets.
A great feature offered by this broker is the free trial period to check if you like what you see or not.
You can try the platforms, compare the commissions, the margin needed for various financial products – all risk-free, in an environment that simulates market conditions, albeit the quotations are delayed a bit when compared with live market prices.
In any case, it tells much about the broker's openness and faith that the potential customers will like what they find and will decide to open a live account.
Equally important is the transition from a free trial to a live account – it is a smooth one, with the newly created live account taking all the setups and properties of the account used in the free trial.
An outstanding feature provided by Interactive Brokers; it doesn't cover only trading areas.
Instead, it contains webinars where the broker's representatives present the trading platforms, offer live tutorials on how to use them appropriately and point out everything that's new so that the trader always knows what the last updates are and how to use them.
More interesting, the educational arm of Interactive Brokers offers sponsored content to various financial advisors to provide live trading setups and investing opportunities to potential clients. For the broker, it is a win-win situation, but so is for the retail and the institutional traders.
One of the cons is that sometimes it seems that retail traders aren't benefiting the same attention as institutional traders and other institutions.
In a way, it is normal – until recently, only retail traders with large funds to invest had access to Interactive Brokers' services. This changed in time, and the experience gained from dealing with institutions and big clients is transferred step by step to retail traders too.
While everybody welcomed the introduction of the Lite account, as it lowered the conditions to open an account with Interactive Brokers, there’s still room for improvement. Adding more markets would be one way to go, for instance.
Interactive Brokers Trading Products
Leaving no market untouched, Interactive Brokers has a presence virtually everywhere.
From bonds, stocks, Forex, to EEPs or RoboPortfolios, it makes it clear to the investor from the start that the range of options offered to trade and invest in is unparalleled.
|Stocks||125 markets worldwide|
|Options||40+ years’ experience – low commissioning gives access to sophisticated trading strategies|
|Futures||Future options, commodities, futures, on 35 market centers in the world|
|Forex||Transparent low commissions to trade 23 currencies worldwide|
|Metals||Spot gold and silver on London bullion market|
|Bonds||Access a full universe of U.S. government securities, corporate bonds, municipal securities and more|
|ETFs||A large variety of ETFs, leveraged and short included|
|Mutual Funds||Over 18000 funds from 270 different fund families|
|EFP||Exchange for Physical – sell stock and buy it back for future delivery|
|Hedge Fund Investing||Choose from a wide range of independent hedge funds available on the IBKR’s network|
|Interactive Advisors||Invest alongside actively and passively managed portfolios|
Commissions and Fees
Interactive Brokers charges various commissions and fees for almost all its product categories. For instance, stocks trading goes as low as $0.005 per U.S. share, with an additional 8 cents per one-thousand dollars to capture the best price execution.
Options trading comes with a commission rates range between 15 and 70 cents/U.S. options contract, and for trading futures with Interactive Brokers the investor pays based on tiered pricing with rebates between 25 and 85 cents per contract.
However, in the case of futures, exchange, regulatory, and carrying fees also apply.
Forex trading with Interactive Brokers is a unique experience when it comes to the spreads offered. Having direct access to the interbank market, Interactive Brokers is able to offer spreads as low as 1/10 of a pip on Forex trading for the most liquid pairs. On top of that, the broker charges a commission tier based on monthly volume with a minimum of $2/trade.
If you want to gain exposure, either on the long or short side, to the gold and silver markets, trading metals with Interactive Brokers comes at a commission rate of 0.15 basis points minimum. As for the fixed income products available on the Interactive Broker's platform, the charges start from 2.5 to 10 basis points with a minimum of $1/order. It should be noted here that Interactive Brokers acts as an agency broker – meaning it passes through the highest bids and lowest offers to provide the best solution to the customer.
For ETF trading the broker charges $0.005/U.S. share, but it also provides access to exclusive, commission-free ETF investment opportunities with some industry providers.
Interactive Brokers charges no transaction fee for over 4300 U.S. mutual funds and for the rest a fixed rate low commission that includes regulatory and exchange fees.
Besides the fees mentioned here, Interactive Brokers charges other fees for all its products, such as trading-related fees (non-commission related) or account minimums based on the type of the account opened with the broker.
Interactive Brokers makes it very clear from the start that it addresses both individual and institutional clients. As such, the account types vary depending on the type of the client – retail or institutional.
|Individual||Own and used by a single person|
|Joint||Owned and used by two people|
|IRA||Individual Retirement Account|
|UGMA/UTMA||Used by a custodian of a minor that’s U.S. resident|
For any of the individual accounts mentioned above, Interactive Brokers offers two choices:
- IBKR Lite – suited for the occasional trader offering simplified trading and commission-free U.S. stock and ETF trading
- IBKR Pro – lowest cost access for the active trader to over 125 markets
More or less, these types of accounts for the individual/retail trader are to be found on all brokerage houses with a similar offering. Where Interactive Brokers stands out of the crowd is the institutional offering. It offers no less than 13 types of account options for various institutions, depending on the type.
Even more important is that Interactive Brokers offers a turnkey solution for all these institutions to manage their client funds and report performances for all types of businesses.
If you're in the business as any of the below, Interactive Brokers has a turnkey solution for you:
- Registered investment advisor
- Introducing broker
- Prop trader
- Hedge fund
- Family office
- Compliance officer
- Incentive plan admin
- Small business
- Money manager
- Fund administrator
- Hedge fund allocator
Interactive Brokers Trading Platforms
A brokerage house that big as Interactive Brokers can't miss on the trading platforms and the technology used to bring the best quotations and service to their millions of customers.
Designed with the professional trader in mind, the trading platform suite range covers every aspect of day-to-day trading and monitoring, regardless of where the trader is – in front of the desktop or away.
One login to manage the trading account – open and close positions, monitor markets, or simply check the relevant news.
IBot has recently been integrated with the Client Portal too, making it easier to use. Important to know that for the Client Portal there’s no download required to login to your account. In other words, it works like a web-based solution.
This is the flagship trading platform Interactive Brokers is so proud of. Used by high-volume, global traders active on multiple markets at the same time, this platform is designed with a multitude of features enabling investors to access over a hundred different markets – stocks and bonds, options, or funds from a single trading account.
It has various add-ons and benefits when compared with other platforms – one of the most impressive is the number of order types possible to use (over 100!).
An app for smartphones or tablets that enables traders to monitor and actively trade their accounts while on-the-go.
In the 21st century, this is a must for any brokerage house, as mobility increased, and one way to retain and gain clients is to come up with solutions that cover their needs.
As the name suggests, this is a robot designed to place trades by interpreting customers’ words and phrasing.
Suits best traders on the go or new clients not familiar with the financial jargon and simply want to buy or sell an asset.
Designed for the IBKR PRO account only, the WebTrader works behind a firewall and has similar features with the Desktop TWS platform, albeit it is simpler in a few ways.
With a customizable interface, the WebTrader option offered by Interactive Brokers serves well its purpose – accessing worldwide markets with an Internet connection on a platform safely placed behind a trusted firewall.
Still, for the IBKR Pro accounts only, the API solution developed by Interactive Brokers lets traders build their own software to trade the markets.
Either using an Excel API or a FIX API, there's something for all experience levels.
What About Customer Service?
Tremendous efforts were put in customer service – and with great results. You can reach Interactive Brokers easily by phone, online chat, email, fax, you name it. What's more important is that you always have a guaranteed response.
Interactive Brokers goes the extra mile when serving its clients as it knows well enough that clients sit at the heart of its success.
Successful clients mean successful business – a lesson Interactive Brokers knows very well based on the four decades it is in the business.
A wonderfully designed section, the trading education corner on the Interactive Brokers website is one of a kind. The typical educational content at other brokerage houses (e.g., ETrade, Firstrade), cover the basics of opening an account, using the trading platform, and some trading strategies based on technical and fundamental setups.
Not Interactive Brokers. Its trading academy has a full array of courses ranging from investment products, investment planning, trading tools, to how to manage your portfolio. As if this wasn't enough, the live webinars held by market professionals make everyone feel like in the right place to trade financial markets.
How to Open a Brokerage Account With Interactive?
Visit the Interactive Brokers homepage and then click on “Open an account.”
Next, you open an account, where you type in your email address, username, password, as well as your country or region.
Then indicate your marketing preferences i.e. if you want interactive brokers to contact you about offers, products, and features.
Then click “Create Account.”
To complete your registration, go to your email, and click on the confirmation mail sent to you.
3 Great Alternative Brokers to Interactive Broakers
Here are our 3 choices of brokers which can use as a great alternative to Interactive Broakers:
Robo-advisory services increased in popularity in the last years. As digitalization takes over our lives, it conquered financial markets too.
Acorns services seem simple and intuitive. Compared with the traditional investing competitors, accessibility is the number one reason why investors choose to use Acorns instead of a traditional brokerage house. And yes, Acorns is a broker, as it intermediates the access to financial markets, albeit it does so for a ridiculously small fee due to extremely low operational costs. One cannot compare the costs of, say, Schwab, one of the largest brokerages in the United States, with Acorns. Hence, the difference in the costs is seen in the fees paid for accessing the market.
Besides accessibility given by the low entry costs, Acorns shines at the simplicity of its products. After all, there are only five portfolios to choose from, based on how much risk the investors are willing to take. By offering much more products to choose from (e.g. options trading, mutual funds), the traditional investment industry makes it difficult for individual investors to pick the right strategy for their portfolio.
Therefore, a robo-advisor like Acorns does not need to invest in trading education as it is its job to calibrate the portfolios and to allocate the investments accordingly – not the job of each individual client. This brings us to the biggest advantage of a robo-advisory firm in comparison with traditional investment services – there is no need to do anything, but send money in every day, week, or month. This is what attracts people scared of dealing with classic brokerage houses either due to lack of knowledge or to high costs.
Robinhood has been around for over a decade, and as the name suggests, the overall aim was to democratize finance for all, slashing the cost of trading stocks for U.S. residents.
Today, Robinhood is one of the most popular brokerage platforms. It is also due to expand its services to the U.K. in the near future. With its introduction of fractional shares, Robinhood caters to traders who are cost sensitive. The company also offers access to cryptocurrency markets.
The target client for this company is the younger generation. This brokerage house is challenging the traditional broker, making waves in the industry. Robinhood understands that while traditional brokers have more account types and cover more markets, they lack the ability for quick responses to customer changes. So, they aim to give clients the power to participate without the bulk from the traditional industry.
Although it has caused a great deal of damage to lots of businesses, Robinhood has enjoyed additional business. With little to no sporting events for people to bet on, newbie investors have turned to Robinhood. This is a sure indication that over the coming years, Robinhood will continue to grow.
An investment management firm with a worldwide reputation in funds’ management, Vanguard focuses less on the individual investor and more on institutional ones. It runs a huge financial advisory business and has over thirty million customers worldwide – a sign of a successful business that survived the test of time.
However, the individual investor still finds value in Vanguard services, albeit at higher costs than compared with the competition and at the expense of focusing more on the mutual funds industry and less on other markets like the derivatives one.
Interactive Brokers Is Best For…
Suiting both retail and institutional investors, Interactive Brokers has “arms” in every corner of the financial industry. It stands out of the crowd as a broker best for gaining access to worldwide markets.
By worldwide markets, we don't mean only stock markets, but all kinds of products from all corners of the world are available to trade with Interactive Brokers. Therefore, traders and investors looking for diversification and exposure to other corners of the financial markets, find in Interactive Brokers a solid partner.
Last but not least, Interactive Brokers well addresses the needs of investors in search of financial advisors or other money managers. In other words, it brings together investors and institutions, in an effort to please both parties, and gain a well-deserved fee for the effort.