Interactive Brokers Review
By Blain Reinkensmeyer
February 18th, 2019
Last Updated: March 7th, 2019
The StockBrokers.com Annual Review (9 years running) sets the official industry benchmarks. Our Head of Research, Blain Reinkensmeyer, is respected by executives as the leading analyst covering online brokers. 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 120 market centers in 26 countries, and deal in stocks, options, ETFs, futures, forex, and bonds, Interactive Brokers has something to offer for all seasoned traders.
While Interactive Brokers is not suitable for casual investors, it leads the industry in international trading and low-cost commissions desired by professional traders.
- Leader in access to international markets as well as investment offerings.
- Lowest margin rates in the industry.
- Endless order types for professionals.
- Fees charged for inactive accounts.
- Poor customer service.
- Trading platform is difficult to navigate.
- New clients that open an account today receive a special margin rate Learn More
Commissions & Fees
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.
- 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.
- 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.
|Stock Trade Fee (flat)||N/A|
|Options Base Fee||$0.00|
|Options Per Contract Fee||$0.70|
|Mutual Fund Trade Fee||$14.95|
Platforms & Tools
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.
- 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.
- 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.
|Desktop Platform (Windows)||Yes|
|Watch Lists - Total Fields||453|
|Charting - Drawing Tools||9|
|Charting - Indicators / Studies||121|
|Option Chains - Total Columns||37|
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.
- 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.
- 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.
|Research - Stocks||Yes|
|Stock Research - Reports||1|
|Research - ETFs||Yes|
|Research - Mutual Funds||No|
|Research - Pink Sheets / OTCBB||Yes|
|Research - Fixed Income||Yes|
|Research - Futures||Yes|
|Research - Forex||Yes|
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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
|Apple Watch App||Yes|
|Watch List Syncing||Yes|
|Stock Alerts - Basic Fields||Yes|
|Charting - After Hours||Yes|
Offering of Investments
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.
- 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.
- Retail forex trading is not offered in the United States.
- Only 48 commission-free ETFs offered.
|OTCBB / Pink Sheets||Yes|
|Complex Options Max Legs||8|
|Mutual Funds (No Load)||7558|
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.