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Interactive Brokers Review

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The StockBrokers.com best online brokers 2019 review (9th annual) took six months to complete and produced over 30,000 words of research. Here's how we tested.

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 120 market centers in 31 countries, and deal in stocks, options, ETFs, futures, forex, and bonds, Interactive Brokers has something to offer for all seasoned traders.

Review Summary

Rank: 5th (of 16)

While Interactive Brokers is not suitable for casual investors, it leads the industry for low-cost trading for professionals. Through the Trader Workstation (TWS) platform, Interactive Brokers offers excellent tools and an extensive selection of tradable securities.

Benefits

  • Leader in access to international markets as well as investment offerings.
  • Lowest margin rates in the industry.
  • Endless order types for professionals.

Considerations

  • Fees charged for inactive accounts.
  • Poor customer service.
  • Trading platform is difficult to navigate.

Exclusive Offer:

  • New clients that open an account today receive a special margin rate Open Account

Commissions & Fees

Rank: 1st (of 16)

Because Interactive Brokers’ core clientele are professional traders and institutions, it is critical for the company to provide the lowest commissions schedule available. In our rigorous assessment, there is no question they deliver.

Benefits

  • 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.
  • Options Trades - 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.
  • Interactive Brokers does not accept payment for order flow, a key element in providing quality order execution.
  • Interactive Brokers leads the industry with the lowest margin rates, which vary from 3.68% down to a staggering 2.68% for clients who hold more than $1 million with the brokerage.

Considerations

  • 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.
  • New and casual investors should be aware of the miscellaneous fees and minimums charged by Interactive Brokers. Put simply, maintain a $100,000 balance or spend at least $30 in commissions each month and you will be in the clear; otherwise, charges for inactivity can reach up to $20 per month.

Further Reading

Fees Comparison

To open an account with Interactive Brokers there is no minimum deposit ($110,000 min required for portfolio margin). If the trader 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.

FeatureInteractive Brokers
Minimum Deposit$0.00
Stock Trade Fee (per trade)N/A
ETF Trade Fee$0.005
Options Base Fee$0.00
Options Per Contract Fee$0.70
Mutual Fund Trade Fee$14.95
Broker Assisted Trades Fee$30.00
Commission-Free ETFs48
View all 23 data points

Platforms & Tools

Rank: 3rd (of 16)

The flagship platform Interactive Brokers offers is its Trader Workstation (TWS), which supports trading everything under the sun, including global assets. While TWS is not designed for new investors, it easily ranks among the best platforms in the industry.

Benefits

  • For less experienced traders, Interactive Brokers offers the web-based WebTrader platform, which includes only the core features necessary to efficiently trade and manage a portfolio.
  • Watch lists can include anything from equities to individual options contracts, futures, forex, warrants – you name it. A staggering 453 data points are available for column customization.
  • IBot, also available in TWS mobile, uses a foundation of artificial intelligence to quickly service customer requests via chat (or voice in the IB TWS iPhone app). Portfolio information, orders, quotes, and more are all supported. Think, "What’s the last price of GOOG?" or, "Chart AAPL vs. MSFT" or, "Buy 100 shares of FB."
  • Trading tools designed for seasoned traders are widespread: 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.

Considerations

  • Tasks such as pulling up a stock to trade are tricky due to the vast array of securities available to trade. For example, typing in “AAPL” for Apple yields a slew of possible matches, which can be overwhelming for non-professionals.
  • Charting is robust and surprisingly straightforward; however, only nine drawing tools and 121 technical indicators are available, which trails industry leaders by a wide margin.
  • Automated technical analysis tools (e.g., Recognia) are available only as a paid subscription add-on.

Gallery

Further Reading

Tools Comparison

FeatureInteractive Brokers
Web Platform Yes
Desktop Platform (Windows) Yes
Watch Lists - Total Fields453
Charting - Drawing Tools9
Charting - Indicators / Studies121
Option Chains - Total Columns37
Streaming TV Yes
Paper Trading Yes
Platforms & Tools 4.5 Stars
View all 59 data points

Research

Rank: 7th (of 16)

While many data points we checked for are present, for example viewing the top-ten holdings for a given ETF, navigating TWS to conduct stocks, ETFs, bonds, and mutual funds research is extremely difficult. That said, TWS includes advanced research tools seasoned traders desire, such as scanning and back testing.

Benefits

  • Research highlights include numerous screeners, extensive back-testing functionality, and portfolio analysis tools, which are all excellent.
  • For traders looking to conduct specific research, Interactive Brokers offers dozens of third-party provider feeds a la carte, including Morningstar, which are available for a monthly fee. Any provider package purchased integrates straight into TWS.
  • Stepping away from traditional research, PortfolioAnalyst provides traders hedge fund-level reporting on their portfolio’s performance and makeup. Interactive Brokers also offers a free version for non-customers where you can link all your individual accounts and run reporting. It isn’t as insightful and easy to use as, say, Personal Capital, but it’s a compelling tool for traders with assets spread across numerous institutions.

Considerations

  • Performing even basic research on stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds is nothing like a traditional full-service brokerage experience one might find at Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, or Charles Schwab. You have to learn how to navigate TWS to find the information you want; there are no streamlined views.

Gallery

Research Comparison

FeatureInteractive Brokers
Research - Stocks Yes
Stock Research - Reports1
Research - ETFs Yes
Research - Mutual Funds No
Research - Pink Sheets / OTCBB Yes
Research - Fixed Income Yes
Research - Futures Yes
Research - Forex Yes
Research 3.5 Stars
View all 60 data points

Customer Service

Rank: 13th (of 16)

To score Customer Service, StockBrokers.com partners with customer experience research group Confero to conduct phone tests from locations throughout the United States. For our 2019 Broker Review, 300 customer service tests were conducted over ten weeks.

Results

  • Average Connection Time: 1 - 2 minutes
  • Average Net Promoter Score: 7.3 / 10
  • Average Professionalism Score: 6.4 / 10
  • Overall Score: 7.14 / 10
  • Ranking: 13 th (16 brokers)
  • View Infographic

Mobile Trading

Rank: 4th (of 16)

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.

Benefits

  • From lightning-quick streaming data to full-featured order entry and portfolio management, Interactive Brokers includes everything professionals could want from a brokerage.
  • The Order Wheel tool, although confusing to use at first, makes rapid, detailed order entry feasible on small form factors.
  • Apple Watch support.

Considerations

  • Charting is a mixed bag. Usability has its high points and low points, and some features one would expect are not included, such as stock and/or index comparisons.
  • Other drawbacks include no customizable home screen, no Level II quotes, and only being able to set basic stock alerts without push notifications support.

Gallery

Further Reading:

Mobile Apps Comparison

FeatureInteractive Brokers
iPhone App Yes
Android App Yes
Apple Watch App Yes
Watch List Syncing Yes
Stock Alerts - Basic Fields Yes
Charting - After Hours Yes
Mobile Trading 4.5 Stars
View all 52 data points

Offering of Investments

Rank: 1st (of 16)

Interactive Brokers provides the most diverse offering in the industry and leads by a wide margin in multiple areas, including international trading, order types, and cash management.

Benefits

  • Support for every investment imaginable, including a staggering 65 different order types.
  • Customers can trade across more than 120 international markets in 31 countries.
  • Rare in the online brokerage industry, any account cash sitting idle beyond $10,000 will earn customers interest. The rate varies depending on the account balance; higher balance accounts earn more interest.

Considerations

  • Retail forex trading is not offered in the United States.
  • Only 48 commission-free ETFs offered.

Further Reading

Offering Comparison

FeatureInteractive Brokers
Stock Trading Yes
OTCBB / Pink Sheets Yes
Options Trading Yes
Complex Options Max Legs8
Options Exercising (Web) Yes
Options Exercising (Phone) Yes
Bonds (US Treasury) Yes
Bonds (Corporate) Yes
Bonds (Municipal) Yes
Futures Trading Yes
Forex Trading No
Mutual Funds (No Load)7558
Mutual Funds (Total)11000
DRIPs Yes
Advisor Services No
Offering of Investments 5 Stars
View all 40 data points

Final Thoughts

Rank: 5th (of 16)

With industry-leading commission rates, more than 60 different order types, excessively low margin rates, support for every investment imaginable, trading in more than 120 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.

2019 Review Methodology

For the StockBrokers.com ninth annual best online brokers review published in February 2019, a total of 4,544 data points were collected over six months and used to score brokers. This makes StockBrokers.com home to the largest independent database on the web covering the online broker industry.

Participation is required to be included. Each broker completed an in-depth data profile and provided executive time (live in person or over the web) for an annual update meeting. Our rigorous data validation process yields an error rate of less than .001% each year, providing site visitors quality data they can trust. Learn more about how we test.


Blain Reinkensmeyer

About the author: Blain Reinkensmeyer As Head of Research at StockBrokers.com, Blain Reinkensmeyer has 18 years of trading experience with over 1,000 trades placed during that time. Referenced as a leading expert on the US online brokerage industry, Blain has been quoted in The New York Times, Forbes, and the Chicago Tribune, among others.

All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 02/18/2019 and is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. 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.

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