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Broker Reviews

Interactive Brokers

Published by
On Tuesday, February 17th, 2015 .


Interactive Brokers comes with a $10,000 minimum funding and is not suitable for casual investors, but provides fantastic support for international trading. It also offers active traders a very competitive commissions schedule for low-cost trading.


Steep initial investment to open an account; fees charged for inactive accounts; trading platform comes with heavy learning curve.

Trade on over 100 market centers in 19 countries - Learn More

Interactive Brokers Review

Interactive Brokers (IBKR) is known primarily for two key elements: international investing and highly competitive commission rates. While there are some catches to its competitive commissions offering, which will be broken down in the review below, the broker is worth close consideration.

By presenting a portal through which clients can trade on more than 100 market centers in 30 different countries, and deal in stocks, options, ETFs, futures, forex, and bonds, Interactive Brokers has something to offer any seasoned investor who has at least $10,000 ($100,000 for margin accounts).

Commissions & Fees

All investors want competitive commissions, and active traders are no exception. With this in mind, and because Interactive Brokers caters particularly for hyperactive traders and institutions, keeping commissions low is their No. 1 priority.

Starting with margin rates, Interactive Brokers offers the lowest rates in the industry. Rates vary from 1.60% down to a staggering 1.15% for clients who hold more than $1 million with the brokerage. New clients should be aware of the miscellaneous fees and minimums with Interactive Brokers. In a nutshell, spend at least $30 in commissions each month and you are in the clear; otherwise, charges for inactivity can reach up to $20 or more. A full breakdown can be found on the Commissions & Fees tab in the navigation menu above this review.

Stock trades run at $.005 per share with the flat-rate structure ($1 minimum). Alternatively, the Cost Plus structure, which starts at $.0035 per share, can be used, but does not cover exchange, regulatory, clearing, and transaction costs. Some math will reveal that for small order sizes, i.e., several hundred shares, Interactive Brokers is a fantastic deal. Trade several thousand shares or more though, and Interactive Brokers quickly becomes pricey.

Options are $.70 per contract with no minimums, and active options traders will enjoy that exercise and assignments that are practically free. 

Interactive BrokersLightspeed TradingTradeStationOptionsHouseSogoTrade
Stock Trade Fee (flat)N/A$4.50$9.99$4.95$3.00
Stock Trade Fee (per share)$0.01$0.01$0.01N/AN/A
Options Base Fee$0.00$0.00$0.00$4.95$5.00
Options Per Contract Fee$0.70$0.60$1.00$0.50$0.50
Commissions & Fees

The only x-factor when trading through Interactive Brokers is that they do receive payment for order flow and do internalize trades. While routing and rebates can be controlled under Cost-Plus pricing and the site claims their smart-order routing consistently achieves aggressive price improvement, we do not have enough data to say whether the quality of executions is actually superior to its competitors.

Customer Service

One noticeable weak spot in Interactive Brokers’ offering is its customer service. During our testing, we found support to be consistently poor, both via phone and email.

During phone testing for this review, we were connected to a rep within one minute several times, one call took several minutes to connect, and another took multiple attempts that ended in failure. Once connected, reps had different levels of experience and courteousness. For example, on only one occasion were we ever asked if we had any further questions before concluding the call.

When it came to email support, the experience was inconsistent. In testing for this year’s review, one of our email tests received a response within an hour, but for two others it took more than two days to receive a response. Responses were also all over the board, with one receiving our highest marks and most of the others being good or just ok.

Additionally, 24-hour support should not be confused with 24/7. Phone support is not available on Saturdays. Furthermore, phone support hours are not 24 hours a day. When we inspected the website, we discovered that the hours of operation depend on your regional location.

Platforms & Tools

The flagship platform Interactive Brokers offers is its Trader Workstation (TWS). The platform is set up to trade everything under the sun, including global assets, and to be used by those with ample market experience. New traders beware: This platform is not built for you. Instead, we recommend using the HTML browser-based IB WebTrader or Mosaic within TWS.

Because Interactive Brokers supports so many investment types and international currencies, the broker had to rethink order and watch list management. What they came up with, which by no means is easy to adjust to, is truly a work of art. The best way to describe it is to think of an Excel workbook. Columns are optional data fields (160 to be exact), and rows can be any security imaginable. Everything streams seamlessly and trades can be made straight from it.

Interactive Brokers watchlist portfolio screen

There is one usability disadvantage that comes from supporting so many investment types, and that is pulling up quotes or trading securities. Even typing in AAPL for Apple yields a slew of possible matches, which can be overwhelming for unseasoned investors.

Since TWS is difficult to master, Interactive Brokers began building out Mosaic, a more user-friendly version of Classic TWS. Both can be run at the same time, which can be confusing if you are not used to the platform; however, once you get the hang of it, it isn’t too bad.

Originally, clients could only place simple trades, view charts, have a watch list, and perform other basic actions. Over the years, Interactive Brokers has ported many of the legacy features and functionality over to Mosaic, and today it is nearly 100% standalone.

Interactive Brokers Mosaic watchlists

There is a variety of other TWS tools that are not covered within this review. Algo trading, Options Strategy Lab, Volatility Lab, Risk Navigator, Strategy Scanner, and social sentiment analysis, to name a few, are all available within TWS. The broker is built for trading with a staggering 63 different order types available for clients. While TWS is no thinkorswim by TD Ameritrade or TradeStation, the platform is very impressive in its own right. All data considered, Interactive Brokers earned 4.5 stars for Platforms and Tools.

Interactive Brokers Mosaic charts

Other Notes

Interactive Brokers offers little to no research. The broker does offer a good variety of education, but overall we found it to be just okay.

Mobile trading with Interactive Brokers is mostly an enjoyable experience. On the iPhone app, we did not like the limited technical study options available for charting or the lack of watch list syncing. However, we greatly appreciated the streaming real-time data throughout the app, alongside the extensive order entry capabilities.

Interactive Brokers’ complete offering of investments is fantastic. The range of offerings covers not just trading in market centers around the world, but trading in general, as Interactive Brokers supports equities, options, futures, forex, fixed income, CFDs, futures options, and more. The lone weak spot is in the mutual funds arena as Interactive Brokers makes only 2,771 funds available for purchase (the broker launched a new tool in 2014, Mutual Fund Replicator, to help clients find ETF replacements for any mutual fund they are considering). Regardless, Interactive Brokers earned the No 1 rank for Offering of Investments.

Final Thoughts

With highly competitive commission rates, more than 50 different order types, staggering low margin rates, support for every investment imaginable, trading in more than 100 international markets, and an adaptive trade platform suitable for any pro, Interactive Brokers has quite the offering for investors who fit into its target mold.

Blain Reinkensmeyer

Reviewed by

Blain has been involved in the markets for over 12 years, heading equity broker research and reviews. His personal blog,, provides to-the-point daily market recaps to over 17,000 subscribers.

Commission Notes

To open an account with Interactive Brokers there is a $10,000 minimum ($100,000 min required for margin). If client does not spend atleast $10 in commissions per month they will be charged the difference. Additionally, there is a fee of $10 charged for real-time quotes each month which is waived if atleast $30 in commissions is spent. As of December 1st, 2014, clients are now also required to pay $1.50 per month for NASDAQ, NYSE, and AMEX equities quote data. This $4.50 per month cannot be waived with commission spend. Lastly, Interactive Brokers currently does not pay interest on any positive (free) cash balances for US ($) clients.

Stock Trades - Standard fixed pricing US stock trades run $.005 per share with a minimum of $1.00 and a maximum of 0.5% of trade value. Several examples of how this commission structure is calculated are seen below:

  • 100 shares of a $50 per share stock = 100 x .005 = $1.00 (this trade meets the minimum of $1.00)
  • 1,000 shares of a $50 per share stock = 1000 x .005 = $5.00 (this trade price is the cost of 1,000 shares *.005 per share)
  • 1,000 Shares @ USD 0.50 Share Price = $2.50 (this trade meets the maximum commission of .5% of total trade value, or .5% x $500, and thus does not cost $5.00)

For traders who want are comfortable managing their own routes to minimize exchange costs or maximize exchange rebates, Interactive Brokers also offers a tiered pricing structure. Rates start at $0.0035 per share when trading less than 300,000 shares per month and drop as low as $.0005 per share when trading over 100,000,000 each month.

Broker assisted trades are offered at $.01 per share with a minimum order price of $100. It should also be noted that Interactive Brokers charges inactivity fees if certain commissions thresholds (monthly spend) is not met. For regular accounts if $10 is not spent per month in commissions then the difference will be charged (ie if you spend $5, then $5 would be charged). For those under 25 this minimum is $3 per month. Lastly, for clients with less than $2,000 in portfolio value, the minimum is $20 per month.

Options Trades - For options trades, the standard rates are also tiered. For an investor trading less than 10,000 contract per month having their trades routed using the Interactive Brokers Smart Routed system (default), their are three tiers based on the price of the contract itself. These tiers are broken down below (exchange and regulatory fees may also apply):

  • Contract price less greater than $.10 = $.70 per contract with a $1.00 minimum and no maximum.
  • Contract price less than $.10 but greater than $.05 = $.50 per contract with a $1.00 minimum and no maximum.
  • Contract price less than $.05 = $.25 per contract with a $1.00 minimum and no maximum.

And for options traders who want to directly route their trade options orders, they can do so at a price of $1.00 per contract.

Mutual Funds - Only non-loaded Mutual funds are supported. Each trade costs $14.95. Initial purchase must be atleast $3,000.

Other Investments - Interactive Brokers also offers futures trading (all types), bonds, and forex trading. For more information on these investments please visit the website.

Trade Commissions Breakdown

N/A Stock Trade Fee (flat)*
$0.0050 Stock Trade Fee (per share)*
$0.00 Options Base Fee*
$0.70 Options Per Contract Fee*
$0.00 Options Exercise Fee
$0.00 Options Assignment Fee
$14.95 Mutual Fund Trade Fee
$30.00 Broker Assisted Trades Fee
$10,000.00 Minimum Deposit

Margin Rates

1.60% Under $24,999.99
1.60% $25,000.00 to 49,999.99
1.60% $50,000.00 to $99,999.99
1.30% $100,000.00 to $249,999.99
1.20% $250,000.00 to $499,999.99
1.15% $500,000.00 to $999,999.99
1.15% Above $1,000,000.00

Miscellaneous Fees

$5.00 Bond Trade Fee
$5.00 Treasury Trade Fee
$0.00 CD Trade Fee
$0.00 IVR Trade Fee
$30.00 IRA Annual Fee
$0.00 IRA Closure FEe
$0.00 Forced Margin Sellout Fee
$0.00 Returned ACH Fee
$0.00 Returned Wire Fee
$0.00 Stock Certificate Processing Fee
$0.00 Stock Certificate Delivery Fee
$0.00 Paper Statement Fee
$0.00 Paper Confirmation Fee
$10.00 Domestic Wire Fee
$10.00 International Wire Fee

Interactive Brokers Ratings

Commissions & Fees
Customer Service
Platforms & Tools
Ease of Use
Offering of Investments
Mobile Trading

Interactive Brokers Awards


Interactive Brokers was awarded Best in Class for Offering of Investments, Commissions & Fees, Platforms & Tools, Active Trading, Options Trading, and Mobile Trading. They also received #1 for International Trading. Read the 2015 Online Broker Review.


Interactive Brokers was awarded Best in Class for Commissions & Fees, Platforms & Tools, Active Trading, and Mobile Trading. They also received #1 for International Trading. Read the 2014 Online Broker Review.


Interactive Brokers finished #1 for Commissions & Fees, #2 for Active Trading, and was rated Best for International Trading. Read the 2013 Broker Review.

Offering of Investments

Self-clearing Clearing Firm
39 Commission Free ETFs
Yes Corporate Bonds
Yes Direct Market Routing - Stocks
5000 # of Easy to Borrow Stocks
Yes Forex Trading
Yes Futures Trading
No Fee IRAs
Yes Mini Options
Yes Municipal Bonds
Yes Mutual Funds
0 Mutual Funds (Load)
2771 Mutual Funds (No Load)
0 Mutual Funds (NTF)
2771 Mutual Funds (Total)
No Inactivity Fees
No Minimum Deposit
Yes Options Trading
Yes Order Type - After Hours
Yes Order Type - Algo
Yes Order Type - Broker Assisted
Yes OTCBB / Pink Sheets
0 Retail Locations
Yes Stock Trading
Yes US Treasury Bonds
Yes Weekly Options

Customer Service

Yes Phone Support
Yes Email Support
Live Chat (prospect clients)
Yes Live Chat (current clients)
24/7 Support

Platforms & Tools

Yes Desktop Platform
Yes Mac Platform
Yes Web Platform
Trader Workstation (TWS) Active Trading Platform
Yes Auto Investing
Yes Ladder Trading
Yes Level 2 Quotes - Stocks
Yes Option Chains - Basic View
Yes Option Chains - Strategy View
Yes Option Analysis - P&L Charts
Yes Streaming Time & Sales
Streaming TV
Yes Trade Hot Keys
Yes Virtual Trading


Yes Research - ETFs
Research - Mutual Funds
Yes Research - Pink Sheets / OTCBB
Research - Fixed Income
Yes Misc - Global Market Overview
Yes Equity Research - News
Yes Equity Research - Chart
Yes Equity Research - Option Chains
Yes Equity Research - Balance Sheet
Yes Equity Research - Cash Flows
Yes Equity Research - SEC Filings
Equity Research - Insider Analysis
0 Equity Research - Research Reports
ETF Research - Top 10 Holdings
ETF Research - Research Reports
Mutual Fund Research - Research Reports
Mutual Fund Research - Fees Breakdown
Mutual Fund Research - Performance Analysis
Mutual Fund Research - Performance Chart
Mutual Fund Research - Top 10 Holdings
Yes Screener - Stocks
Yes Screener - ETFs
Screener - Mutual Funds
Yes Screener - Options
Yes Screener - Bonds


Yes Has Education - Stocks
Has Education - ETFs
Yes Has Education - Options
Has Education - Mutual Funds
Has Education - Bonds
Has Education - Retirement
Yes Investor Dictionary
Yes Client Webinars
Yes Live Seminars
Retirement Calculator
Yes Community Forums

Mobile Trading

Yes iPhone App
Yes iPad App
Yes Android App
Yes Android Tablet App
Yes Mobile Site
Yes Company Data
Yes Company News
Watch List Syncing
Yes Options Chains Viewable
Yes Market Movers (Top Gainers)
Barcode Lookup
Yes Charting - Multiple Time Frames
Yes Charting - Can Turn Horizontally
Charting - Portfolio Perf vs Indices
Charting - Stock Comparisons
Yes Trading - Stocks
Yes Trading - Simple Options
Withdrawal Balance Available


Checking Accounts
Savings Accounts
Debit Cards
Credit Cards
Mortgage Loans
Mobile Check Deposit
ATM Fee Reimbursement
No Fee Banking

Active Trading

Yes Internalizes Trades
Yes Receives Payment for Order Flow
Yes Client Liquidity Rebates

Best in Class

Best in Class - Offering of Investments
Yes Best in Class - Commissions & Fees
Yes Best in Class - Platforms & Tools
Best in Class - Research
Best in Class - Customer Service
Best in Class - Ease of Use
Best in Class - Investor Education
Yes Best in Class - Mobile Trading
Yes Best in Class - Active Trading
Best in Class - Options Trading
Best in Class - New Investors

Compare Interactive Brokers:

All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 11/01/2014 and is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. The staff is constantly working with its online broker representatives to obtain the latest pricing data. If you believe any data listed above is inaccurate, please contact us using the link at the top of this page. For stock trade rates, advertised pricing is for a standard order size of 500 shares of stock priced at $30 per share. For options orders, an options regulatory fee per contract may apply. Square Logo