Interactive Brokers Review
Interactive traders is a comprehensive-yet-customizable trading platform geared toward professional or high-volume traders. Should you give it a try?
- Comprehensive platform for frequent high-volume traders
- Full range of investment categories
- Low fees for frequent traders
It’s not often you find an established, solid investment firm that allows you to trade actively for cheap. That’s why we want to talk about Interactive Brokers today — a firm that’s been around since the ’70s and caters to high-frequency traders.
In this article, we’ll do a deep dive of the platform so you can determine if it’s right for you.
What is Interactive Brokers?
Professional traders and seasoned investors alike can benefit from the comprehensive brokerage features offered by Interactive Brokers. This brokerage service allows smooth trade execution, and it provides quick customer service.
However, if you’re not a very active investor or if your trading volume is low, you may find better options elsewhere.
The first chairman of the firm, Thomas Peterffy, founded Interactive Brokers in 1978. The group has grown rapidly thanks to its innovative services and now manages over $7 billion worth of equity capital.
Thanks to its strong international presence, the group trades on 125 markets worldwide. Along with its affiliates, Interactive Brokers executes more than 850,000 trades each day.
The firm has established itself as a premier portal for online trading in funds, fixed income, forex, futures, options, and stocks. Interactive Brokers has more than 1,400 employees around the globe.
Interactive Brokers Features
Here are some of the key features at a glance:
- You’ll have to invest at least $10,000 to open an account at Interactive Brokers.
- Stock trades cost about 0.005 per trade at a minimum of $1. On options, the cost is $0.70 per trade with a minimum amount of $1.
- There are no fees on mutual funds and ETFs.
- Besides all sorts of investment categories, you can also invest in trusts, Traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, joint, and taxable accounts.
- You can access the platform via the website and also through the app, which is available for both iOS and Android. Blackberry users can also make use of the Interactive Brokers Blackberry app.
Interactive Brokers is known for its unique Trader Workstation, which enables traders to execute transactions across all categories (forex, funds, options, funds, stocks, and more) by using just one account.
A highly customizable workspace known as Mosaic is also available, which provides traders with sophisticated tools like market scanners, watchlists, and charts.
With the help of iBot, clients can leverage the text-based interface for seamless and hassle-free creation and submission of trade orders.
You’ll receive real-time notifications before market events that could significantly affect your portfolio.
Zero-Fee Mutual Funds
You have the liberty of choosing from over 4,300 zero-fee mutual funds for trading at Interactive Brokers.
Add value to your portfolio by selecting from 45 zero-commission exchange-traded funds.
As far as daily average revenue is concerned, Interactive Brokers is the biggest electronic brokerage service in the U.S.
The CEO and founder, Thomas Peterffy, also has the honor of creating the first-ever automatic system that can create and submit market orders. Interactive Brokers changed to a fully electronic platform for trading by 1994.
Interactive Brokers is known as a no-nonsense brokerage service that furnishes a wide range of choices for independent day traders. Casual and new investors may be overwhelmed by the rich array of features and services available at Interactive Brokers.
Among different trading platforms, the Trader Workstation is the most popular. You can install this on your desktop so that you can receive alerts, keep watchlists, follow trades in real-time, and do much more. The feature-rich trading software is based on Java, meaning that it can work on all kinds of operating systems seamlessly.
Traders who require a more streamlined and focused approach can make use of HTML-based WebTrader software. The WebTrader has all kinds of useful features, including news feeds and charting.
Interactive Brokers Pricing and Fees
The pricing model of the Interactive Brokers is a strong point of the firm that will appeal to active traders. There are two different pricing models to choose from: tiered and fixed rate.
On the fixed-rate basis, you will have to pay only $0.005 for each share. The minimum amount of each order is $1. The amount is at most one percent of the traded value.
What this means is that if you’ve traded 100 stocks valued at $25 for each share, then the fee will be just $1. For the same stock, if you trade a thousand shares, then the fees will amount to only $5.
All regulatory and exchange fees are included within the fixed-rate model.
If you’re a frequent trader, you may also benefit from a tiered pricing model where the rate goes down to a minimum of just $0.0005 for each share if you trade over a million shares each month.
The minimum amount per order is only $0.35, and it can go up to 1 percent of the traded amount.
If your order is under 300,000 shares, then you’ll have to pay only $0.0035 per share. Keep in mind that clearing, regulatory, and exchange fees are not included in these prices.
The fees on options contracts are also extremely low. For each contract, you pay just $0.70. The minimum amount charged on each order is only $1. High-volume traders are eligible for massive discounts.
Infrequent Traders Beware
However, you won’t find Interactive Brokers to be very appealing if you trade sporadically. To begin with, the minimum investment amount of $10,000 is much higher than average.
The reason for this is that this platform is geared towards experienced professionals and high volume traders. Other trading platforms have much smaller minimum investment amounts or even no minimum requirements at all.
However, if you’re below 25 years of age, the minimum investment amount reduces to $3,000. For IRA investments, you need an initial investment of $5,000.
You also need to be aware of inactivity fees. If your balance is under $100,000, then your trades must lead to at least a $10 aggregate commission.
If the commission amount is lower than this, you will have to pay the difference. If your account is below $2,000, then the commission that you pay should be at least $20 each month.
Otherwise, you will have to pay the difference.
These are not particularly big amounts, but they do indicate quite clearly that Interactive Brokers prioritizes active traders rather than casual traders. Other brokerage platforms charge far smaller fees on casual traders, making them a more viable choice financially.
You can sign up for an account at Interactive Brokers by visiting their website. Various entities, like individuals, advisors, small businesses, and families, can sign up for customer accounts.
At Interactive Brokers, institutional investors can open up a vast array of accounts, depending on their needs. Here are some of the account types available:
- Incentive plan administrator
- Introducing broker
- Proprietary trading group
- Money manager
- Mutual or hedge fund
- Registered investment advisor
If you don’t belong to any one of the categories mentioned above, then you can also sign up for an account in the following:
- Hedge fund allocators
- Compliance officer
Interactive Brokers gives cutting-edge security its due regard. The brokerage service shows extra care when it comes to protecting your account and assets against fraud.
The Secure Login System provides a vital layer of security at no extra cost. It does this by employing the digital security application that secures logins from smart devices.
With the app, you can use a random security code along with your password and username. The combination of these security layers presents a powerful means of thwarting unauthorized access and fraud.
The physical device randomly generates the security code for each login. This means that intruders cannot log in to your account unless they have possession of your smartphone.
Your investment is also protected up to $500,000 by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation.
Mobile Support and Accessibility
There are also mobile versions of the Trader Workstation and the WebTrader known as mobile TWS and MobileTrader, respectively. These apps are available on Android, iOS, and Blackberry as well. The WebTrader can operate on Windows-based smart devices, too.
There is also a full-fledged solution for using third-party software with Interactive Brokers. The brokerage firm has APIs on the Trader Workstation, which you can utilize to program automated functions that run with the assistance of the TWS platform.
However, you need to have in-depth technical expertise and be certain about what you’re doing if you want to use these APIs.
You won’t be restricted to just a single platform. Instead, you have the freedom to choose from the interfaces that you prefer.
You can contact customer service representatives via email, live chat, and telephone.
Interactive Brokers Pros and Cons
- Lowest margin rates — Margin investors will be pleased to know that Interactive Brokers charges the lowest margin rates in the industry.
- Low fees on high-frequency trades — Pricing structure leads to significant savings for active investors who frequently trade at high volumes.
- Mobile Apps — Fully functional apps available for Android, iOS, Blackberry, and Windows devices.
- Full range of investment categories — You can invest in stocks, options, exchange-traded funds, mutual funds, bonds, penny stocks, futures, precious metals, commodities, and forex.
- Free Trial — Paper trading account also available to take the platform on a test drive.
- Relatively higher fees for inactive traders — As noted above, if you don’t trade actively, the fees may not make this platform worthwhile.
- High investment requirement of $10,000 — This is much higher compared to other investment portals that have very low or no minimum requirement in this regard.
- Feature overload — A rich assortment of features and functions may overwhelm novice traders and will take time to master.
The vast array of features and pricing structure means that Interactive Brokers is not for everyone. New investors will take some time to learn all of the features and functions of the trading software.
Unfortunately, Interactive Brokers does not provide much educational material for first-time materials. If you’re a new investor, then it is better to look for alternatives that provide you with better terms and conditions for your investment needs.
What makes this trading portal perfect for new investors is its vast library of educational material. The trading service is also characterized by user-friendliness, and first-timers will find it easy going when working with a standard web-based interface. New traders can progress through the interface up to advanced features at their own rate.
This brokerage service endears itself to first-timers with its $0 minimum deposit, zero commissions and fees on ETF as well as stock trades. New traders will find themselves at ease with intuitive analysis and trading software.
Who Is Interactive Brokers For?
Interactive Brokers is suited for the following people:
- Day traders
- High-volume traders
- Penny stocks traders
- Options traders
- Forex traders
- Advanced traders
If you’re a low volume investor or if you trade only sporadically, then the benefits of trading may be offset by the fees that can be heavy on low volume monthly transactions. And if your account is idle, then you will have to pay up inactivity fees.
These points make Interactive Brokers less attractive for novices and infrequent traders. If you belong to this category, then you will be better off looking elsewhere.
If you’re an active and experienced trader who wants low commissions and fees, low margin rates, and several investment categories, then you should try out Interactive Brokers.
The services of Interactive Brokers are particularly well-suited for day traders who like to make their own decisions. Since this platform is meant for seasoned finance professionals, there is not much by way of educational resources.
Interactive Brokers is an impressive and comprehensive platform for high volume traders. They will benefit from its price schedule that incentivizes frequent trading with extremely low fees and commissions.
On the other hand, novice investors can do well with alternative platforms since their fees are much lower for casual traders. New investors will find that there is a steep learning curve for understanding the full range of functions and features.