menu
Open an account today. Get Started
Overall

While Interactive Brokers comes with a $10,000 minimum funding and is not suitable for casual investors, it leads the industry in international trading and low-cost commissions desired by professional traders.

Commissions & Fees
Offering of Investments
Platforms & Tools
View More
Best in Class
  • Commissions & Fees
  • Offering of Investments
  • Platforms & Tools
  • Mobile Trading
  • Order Execution
arrow_drop_down arrow_drop_up

By Blain Reinkensmeyer on February 21st, 2017 | Last updated: March 23rd, 2017

Dislikes
  • Steep minimum deposit to open an account
  • Fees charged for inactive accounts
  • Poor customer service
Special Offer Trade on over 100 market centers in 24 countries Learn More


Interactive Brokers Review

For our 2017 Stock Broker Review we assessed, rated, and ranked sixteen different online brokers over a period of six months. In total, we conducted 349 customer service tests, collected 5,277 data points, and produced over 40,000 words of research. Learn more.

Founded nearly 40 years ago, Interactive Brokers (IBKR) is known for its industry-leading commissions schedule, margin rates, and support for international trading.

By presenting one universal portal through which clients can trade on more than 100 market centers in 24 different countries, and deal in stocks, options, ETFs, futures, forex, bonds, and CFDs, Interactive Brokers has something to offer any seasoned trader who has at least $10,000 ($100,000 for margin accounts).

Commissions & Fees

With its core clientele being professional traders and institutions, providing the lowest commissions schedule available is critical for Interactive Brokers. In our rigorous assessment, they deliver without question.

First, it is important to note that Interactive Brokers does not accept payment for order flow, a key element in providing quality order execution. In our assessment of order execution for the 2017 Review, the broker came second behind Fidelity. For more, see our guide to order execution.

Overall, Interactive Brokers unquestionably reigns supreme in the category of commissions and fees.

Interactive Brokers also leads the industry with the lowest margin rates, which vary from 1.91% down to a staggering 1.41% for clients who hold more than $1 million with the brokerage.

Speaking of equity trades, rates start at $.005 per share with the fixed-rate structure ($1 minimum). Alternatively, the tiered-rate structure, which starts at $.0035 per share, can be used, but routing is left to the client, which can add or reduce the cost, depending on whether the client is adding or removing liquidity. 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.

Interactive BrokersLightspeed TradingTradeStationOptionsHouseSogoTrade
Stock Trade Fee (flat)N/A$4.50$5.00$4.95$5.00
Stock Trade Fee (per share)$0.01$0.01$0.01N/AN/A
Options Base Fee$0.00$0.00$5.00$4.95$5.00
Options Per Contract Fee$0.70$0.60$0.50$0.50$0.50
Commissions & Fees 4.5 Stars 4 Stars 3.5 Stars 4.5 Stars 4.5 Stars

Options are $.70 per contract with no minimums, and active options traders will enjoy the fact that exercise and assignments are practically free. Like tiered equity trades, per contract fees tier down as total shares traded increases.

New and casual investors should be aware of the miscellaneous fees and minimums charged by Interactive Brokers. Put simply, spend at least $30 in commissions each month and you are in the clear; otherwise, charges for inactivity can reach up to $20 per month. While far lower than the minimum spend required at say Lightspeed and TradeStation, it is still something to keep in mind. A full breakdown can be found on the Commissions & Fees notes further down the page.

Overall, Interactive Brokers unquestionably reigns supreme in the category of commissions and fees.

Research

Being a professional trader-focused brokerage, Interactive Brokers is not known for its research offering. Bundled with the platform clients will find what they need to conduct mostly thorough research for stocks, decent research for ETFs, and little to no research for Mutual Funds.

That said, Interactive Brokers does offer a variety of third-party provider feeds a la carte, including Morningstar, which are available for a monthly fee. See: Best Brokers for Research.

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 is designed to be used by traders with ample market experience. The default experience is called Mosaic, while clients also have access to view what is called Classic TWS (the original version of the platform).

Interactive Brokers Mosaic

Because Interactive Brokers supports so many asset classes, it had to rethink its position and watch list management. What they came up with, which takes some getting used to, is extremely efficient. Type in any stock symbol and you will see a summary of available securities. Watch lists can include anything from equities to individual options contracts, futures, forex, warrants, you name it. I preferred the Mosaic view, although I know many long-term clients prefer the Classic view.

Interactive Brokers Mosaic watch list

Watch lists can have up to 338 different columns, and to say they are fully customizable is truly an understatement. No broker offers an experience like TWS. Beyond learning how to effectively build watch lists, I found only 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 non-professionals.

Turning to charting, technical traders will find nearly everything they need. One hundred and twenty four different studies are available to be added to any chart, and customizations cover every possible option. Note though, while 124 option indicators are impressive, TWS still trails the 270 and 370 offered by TradeStation and TD Ameritrade thinkorswim, respectively. Out of all the tools on TWS, I found the charts to have the most user-friendly interface.

Interactive Brokers TWS Mosaic charts

Considering the depth of functionality, I was surprised to find only eight tools for mark ups. While the basics are present – trendlines, notes, zooming, Fibonacci, etc. – important tools such as support and resistance lines, channels, and the like are missing. Pickiness aside, the charts on TWS have all the core functionality required to succeed: viewing historical trades, alerts, trading off charts, comparisons, and index overlays, to name several.

There is no question TWS is built for professional trading as there are, for example, a staggering 63 different order types available for clients to use, by far the most in the industry.

Alongside charts, TWS is also home to a variety of other tools not covered in this review. Algo trading, Options Strategy Lab, Volatility Lab, Risk Navigator, Market Scanner, Strategy Builder, and Portfolio Builder, to name a few, are all available within TWS. There is no question TWS is built for professional trading as there are, for example, a staggering 63 different order types available for clients to use, by far the most in the industry.

Interactive Brokers TWS Volatility Lab

After assessing TWS across 58 individual variables, the platform easily ranked among the best in the industry. Certain tools, such as charting, lack depth compared to those the top-ranked platforms use; however, overall, TWS delivers.

Lastly, for clients traveling without access to their desktops, or for clients looking to simply monitor their portfolio, place trades, and view watch lists, IB WebTrader is a good solution. After loading WebTrader, I found a detailed summary of my portfolio balances and margin requirements alongside a full spectrum order ticket.  When I say full spectrum, I mean trading for all asset classes is supported. The only limitations are algo orders and other advanced order types.

Interactive Brokers Web Trader

Pulling quotes will provide only a basic high-level summary, an extremely rudimentary chart I recommend be avoided altogether, and an option chain. Basic stock screening is also present alongside a high-level international market summary tab, Market Pulse. Customizations are essentially non-existent throughout, although streaming real-time quotes are found throughout, which is essential.

Interactive Brokers Market Pulse

Bottom line, the focus of WebTrader is to monitor portfolios and manage orders; it is not designed to be used as a standalone. It accomplishes these functions well.

Mobile Trading

Mobile trading with Interactive Brokers is mostly an enjoyable experience. All devices are supported including iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Android smartphone, and Android tablets.

When testing the iPhone app, I found the app had everything I needed to trade effectively.

When testing the iPhone app, I found the app had everything I needed to trade effectively. From lightning quick streaming data to full-featured order entry and portfolio management, all the main criteria were quickly checked off.

Interactive Brokers mobile watch list

The drawbacks with the experience center around usability. For example, the charts have 68 different optional studies, which is great, but the charts are not flexible. If you set the settings to view a daily chart of the past six months, that’s the only view you will get until you adjust the settings; there is no panning. Also, two-factor login with Touch ID is supported, but you have-to use a secondary IB Key app instead of simply Touch ID logging into the actual app as you load it.

Interactive Brokers mobile stock chart

Other drawbacks include a lack of stock and/or index comparisons in charting, no customizable home screen, no streaming live TV or videos on demand, no Level II quotes, and only being able to set basic stock alerts without push notifications support. You also cannot perform ACH account transfers within the app.

Cons aside, I found the app had a handful of nice features not often found across the industry, including custom screening /scanning and after-hours charting.

As stated previously, mobile trading with Interactive Brokers is well supported across all devices and has the core functionality required by traders to go about their business and trade effectively.

Other Notes

One notable weak spot in Interactive Brokers’ offering is its customer service. During testing for our 2017 Review, we found support to be consistently poor regardless of the channel being used: phone, email, live chat. The broker placed 15th out of 16 brokers we tested. See: Best Brokers for Customer Service.

While Interactive Brokers does not cover advisor services and institutional asset management, the company is unique in that it offers what it calls the Investor’s Marketplace. The tagline of the service is to “Find the right service provider for your trading needs.” For example, I presented myself as “an individual investor seeking an advisor” and a list of several hundred advisors popped up. Hedge funds, research and technology providers, administrative service providers, and the like are all included.

Final Thoughts

With industry-leading 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 a robust trade platform suitable for any professional, Interactive Brokers is a great choice for investors who fit into its target mold.


Blain Reinkensmeyer

Reviewed by Blain Reinkensmeyer Blain heads research at StockBrokers.com and has been involved in the markets since placing his first stock trade back in 2001. He developed StockBrokers.com's annual review format seven years ago which is respected by broker executives as the most thorough in the industry. Currently maintaining funded accounts with more than a dozen different US regulated online brokers, he's executed thousands of trades through his career and enjoys sharing his experiences through his personal blog, StockTrader.com.


Ratings Overall

Best in Class

2017
 6

Overall
  • Commissions & Fees
  • Offering of Investments
  • Platforms & Tools
  • Mobile Trading
  • Order Execution
  • Active Trading
  • Options Trading
2016

Overall
This broker did not finish Best in Class.
2015
 9

Overall
  • Commissions & Fees
  • Offering of Investments
  • Platforms & Tools
  • Mobile Trading
  • Active Trading
  • Options Trading
2014
13

Overall
  • Commissions & Fees
  • Platforms & Tools
  • Mobile Trading
  • Active Trading
2013
10

Overall
  • Commissions & Fees
  • Mobile Trading
  • Active Trading

Commissions & Fees

Commission Notes

To open an account with Interactive Brokers there is a $10,000 minimum ($110,000 min required for portfolio margin). If client does not spend at least $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 ("US Securities and Futures Value Bundle") which is waived if at least $30 in commissions is spent. Interactive Brokers is one of few in the industry that does not receive payment for order flow for equity trades, a known factor in order execution quality.

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 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 shares each month.

Broker assisted trades are offered at $.01 per share with a minimum order price of $100.

Options Trades - For options trades, the standard rates are also tiered. For an investor trading less than 10,000 contracts per month having their trades routed using the Interactive Brokers Smart Routed system (default), there 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 no load 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), forex, bonds, and CFDs.





Trade Commissions Breakdown

Stock Trade Fee (flat) N/A
Stock Trade Fee (per share) $0.01
Options Base Fee $0.00
Options Per Contract Fee $0.70
Options Exercise Fee $0.00
Options Assignment Fee $0.00
Mutual Fund Trade Fee $14.95
Broker Assisted Trades Fee $30.00
Minimum Deposit $10,000.00

Margin Rates

Margin Rate Under $24,999.99 1.91%
Margin Rate $25,000.00 to $49,999.99 1.91%
Margin Rate $50,000.00 to $99,999.99 1.91%
Margin Rate $100,000.00 to $249,999.99 1.61%
Margin Rate $250,000.00 to $499,999.99 1.61%
Margin Rate $500,000.00 to $999,999.99 1.61%
Margin Rate Above $1,000,000.00 1.41%

Miscellaneous Fees

Bond Trade Fee $5.00
Treasury Trade Fee $5.00
IRA Annual Fee $30.00
IRA Closure Fee $0.00
Returned ACH Fee N/A
Returned Wire Fee N/A
Stock Certificate Processing Fee N/A
Stock Certificate Delivery Fee N/A
Paper Statement Fee N/A
Paper Confirmation Fee N/A
Domestic Wire Fee $10.00
International Wire Fee $10.00

Account Features

Offering of Investments

Advisor Services help No
Bonds (Corporate) help Yes
Bonds (Municipal) help Yes
Bonds (US Treasury) help Yes
CDs help No
Clearing Firm help Self-clearing
Commission Free ETFs help 33
Direct Market Routing - Stocks help Yes
Direct Market Routing - Options help Yes
DRIPs help Yes
# of Easy to Borrow Stocks help 4500
Forex Trading help No
Futures Trading help Yes
Member FINRA help Yes
Member SIPC help Yes
Mutual Funds help Yes
Mutual Funds (No Load) help 5823
Mutual Funds (Load) help 2184
Mutual Funds (NTF) help 2912
Mutual Funds (Total) help 8026
Mutual Funds Phone Trades help No
Mutual Funds Web Trades help Yes
No Fee IRAs help No
No Inactivity Fees help No
No Minimum Deposit help No
Options Exercising (Web) help Yes
Options Exercising (Phone) help No
Options Trading help Yes
Complex Options Max Legs help 8
Options Trading (Mini) help Yes
Options Trading (Weekly) help Yes
OTCBB / Pink Sheets help Yes
Stock Trading help Yes

Customer Service

Phone Support help Yes
Email Support help Yes
Live Chat (Current Clients) help Yes
Live Chat (Prospect Clients) help No
24/7 Support help No

Platforms & Tools

Desktop Platform (Windows) help Yes
Desktop Platform (Mac) help Yes
Web Platform help Yes
Active Trading Platform help Trader Workstation (TWS)
Charting - Display Corporate Events help Yes
Charting - View Historical Trades help Yes
Charting - Indicators / Studies help 124
Charting - Drawing Tools help 9
Charting - Trade Off Chart help Yes
Charting - Notes help Yes
Heat Mapping help No
Ladder Trading help Yes
Level 2 Quotes - Stocks help Yes
Level 2 Quotes - Options help Yes
Option Chains - Streaming Real-time help Yes
Option Chains - Total Columns help 37
Option Chains - Quick Analysis help Yes
Options Analysis - P&L Charts help Yes
Options Analysis - Probability Analysis Basic help Yes
Option Analysis - Probability Analysis Adv help Yes
Option Positions - Contract Rolling help Yes
Stock Alerts Delivery - Email help Yes
Stock Alerts Delivery - Sound help Yes
Stock Alerts Delivery - Text SMS help Yes
Streaming Time & Sales help Yes
Streaming TV help Yes
Trade Hot Keys help Yes
Virtual Trading help Yes
Watch Lists - Streaming Real-time Quotes help Yes
Watch Lists - Total Fields help 338

Research

Research - ETFs help Yes
Research - Mutual Funds help No
Research - Pink Sheets / OTCBB help Yes
Research - Fixed Income help No
Misc - Global Markets Overview help Yes
Misc - Portfolio Allocation Breakdown help Yes
Misc - Portfolio Builder help Yes
Equity Research - Earnings Analysis help Yes
Equity Research - Insider Analysis help Yes
Equity Research - Metric Comparisons help Yes
Equity Research - SEC Filings help Yes
Equity Research - Social Sentiment help No
Equity Research - Research Reports help 0
ETF Research - Performance Analysis help Yes
ETF Research - Top 10 Holdings help Yes
ETF Research - Morningstar Style Box help No
ETF Research - 3rd Party Ratings help Yes
ETF Research - Research Reports help Yes
Mutual Fund Research - Fees Breakdown help No
Mutual Fund Research - Top 10 Holdings help No
Mutual Fund Research - Performance Analysis help No
Mutual Fund Research - Prospectus help Yes
Mutual Fund Research - 3rd Party Ratings help No
Mutual Fund Research - Research Reports help No
Screener - Stocks help Yes
Screener - ETFs help Yes
Screener - Mutual Funds help No
Screener - Options help Yes
Screener - Bonds help Yes

Education

Has Education - Stocks help Yes
Has Education - ETFs help No
Has Education - Options help Yes
Has Education - Mutual Funds help No
Has Education - Fixed Income help No
Has Education - Retirement help No
Investor Dictionary help Yes
Client Webinars help Yes
Client Webinars (Archived) help Yes
Live Seminars help No
Videos help Yes
Retirement Calculator help No
Progress Tracking help No
Interactive Learning - Quizzes help No

Mobile Trading

iPhone App help Yes
iPad App help Yes
Apple Watch App help Yes
Android App help Yes
Android Tablet App help Yes
Mobile Site help Yes
Touch ID help Yes
Account Transfers help No
Quotes (Real-time) help Yes
Quotes (Streaming Real-time) help Yes
Watch List (Real-time) help Yes
Watch List (Streaming Real-time) help Yes
Watch List Syncing help Yes
Market Movers (Top Gainers) help Yes
Custom Screening / Scanning help Yes
Charting - Stock Comparisons help No
Charting - Technical Studies help 68
Charting - After Hours help Yes
Stock Alerts - Basic Fields help Yes
Stock Alerts - Advanced Fields help No
Stock Alerts Delivery - Push Notifications help No
Customizable Homescreen help No
Streaming TV help Yes
Trading - Stocks help Yes
Trading - After-Hours help Yes
Trading - Conditional Orders help Yes
Trading - Mutual Funds help No
Trading - Simple Options help Yes
Trading - Complex Options help Yes
Trading - Option Rolling help No

Banking

Member FDIC help No
Checking Accounts help No
Savings Accounts help No
Debit Cards help No
Credit Cards help No
Mortgage Loans help No
Mobile Check Deposit help No
Online Bill Pay help No
Mobile Bill Pay help No
ATM Fee Reimbursement help No
No Fee Banking help No
Retail Locations help 0

Order Execution

Receives Payment for Order Flow (Equities) help No
Receives Payment for Order Flow (Options) help No
Client Liquidity Rebates help Yes
Financial Information Forum (FIF) Participant help No

Compare Interactive Brokers

Select one or more of these brokers to compare against Interactive Brokers.

All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 2/20/2017 and is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. The StockBrokers.com 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 bottom 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.




arrow_drop_upBack to top