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Interactive Brokers (IBKR) is one of the largest online brokerage firms in the U.S. As an account holder, you can trade stocks, bonds, options, foreign currencies, ETFs, and more on IBKR’s online trading platform. You can also open a robo advising account.
In 2018, Barrons named IBKR Best Online Broker. That same year, they also won a top-three spot among Investor Business Daily’s Best Online Brokers poll.
Suffice it to say that if you’re an online trader—or if you’re looking to become one—you should be familiar with this company.
The good news is, if you’d like to learn more about IBKR, you’ve come to the right place.
This post is going to give you a full overview of the services they offer, the pros and cons of being a customer, the fees that they charge, and more.
What is Interactive Brokers?
Interactive Brokers was founded in 1977 by Thomas Petterfly, and headquartered in Greenwich, Conn. Fast-forward to today, and the company has over $7 billion in equity capital and employs over 1,400 people throughout the world.
IBKR has international branches located in Japan, Switzerland, Estonia, Canada, and Hong Kong, among other areas.
Here are some other fun facts to consider about IBKR that help shed light on how the company got to where it is today:
- IBKR (which was known as Timber Hill when it first emerged) was the first company to introduce trading via handheld computers.
- IBKR was one of the first companies to develop trading algorithms.
- By volume, IBKR is the most widely used online trading platform in the world. Each day, the company and its associated agencies process over 859,000 trades.
Next, let’s take a look at the services that IBKR offers.
Trading Accounts for Individual Investors
With an IBKR Lite account, you can make an unlimited amount of commission-free trades on domestic stocks and ETFs. What’s more, there’s no minimum balance required to open an account and no monthly maintenance fees.
IBKR Lite might be a good choice if you are new to the investing world and would like a self-service, low-cost platform. It appears that the IBKR Lite product was created as a response to the rapidly growing marketplace of free online trading platforms like Ally Invest, Robinhood, and TD Ameritrade.
That’s not to say that IBKR Lite is a shallow trading platform—quite the contrary. IBKR Lite is a robust platform that can help many budding traders gain control over their portfolios and start working toward a life of financial independence.
For example, IBKR Lite gives you access to a user-friendly client portal and a mobile app that enables you to make trades on-the-go—wherever you happen to find yourself.
More advanced traders will likely prefer an IBKR Pro account due to the powerful Trader Workstation (TWS) platform that comes with it. At a glance, TWS appears to be more or less the same type of system that professional traders and hedge funds use every day.
Using the TWS platform, you can trade stocks across more than 100 financial markets. You’ll also have access to the most advanced and up-to-date market data (although additional fees may apply).
IBKR Pro customers can also implement advanced trading algorithms within TWS. For example, the ScaleTrader algorithm, very generally, is designed to help you buy low and sell high. Simple enough!
Let’s say there’s a stock you’ve had your eye on for a while. You can set ScaleTrader to purchase that stock when the market is particularly weak automatically (e.g., when the stock price falls to an all-time low).
Conversely, you can set ScaleTrader to sell your stock when the price reaches an all-time high (which means that it might drop back down in the near future).
You don’t need to maintain a minimum balance to open an IBKR Pro account. However, you will get charged a $10 monthly maintenance fee if your monthly commissions are lower than $10. You can avoid that fee by having over $100,000 in your account. It seems easy enough, right?
Also, I have only mentioned just a few of the functions that an IBKR Pro account offers—listing them all would require a much longer post. That said, take a look at the screenshot below, and you can see what I mean: IBKR Pro is designed for advanced, hands-on traders.
Investors who want to trade on margin can use IBKR’s Margin Trading service. The company claims to offer the lowest interest rate of any online broker for margin loans.
Integrated Investment Account
With an Integrated Investment Account, you can deposit your paychecks, earn high interest on your cash, and then easily invest that money in the market.
You can also spend your money using your IBKR Debit Card and Bill Pay service or borrow money with a margin loan.
IBKR also offers a robo-advising service called Interactive Advisors. Investopedia named Interactive Advisors one of the best robo-advisors in 2019.
To open an account, you need to deposit at least $1,000. Once your account is set up, you can choose from a variety of portfolios based on your investing preferences.
Keep in mind that IBKR charges a nominal asset management fee of 0.08% to 1.5%. They also charge low commission fees on trades—something that many brokers, including seasoned players like Charles Schwab and Fidelity, are moving away from.
Business to Business Accounts
IBKR offers a wide range of business account services. I imagine this is why the company conducts so many daily transactions. It seems as though many of their customers are managing funds and investments for other individuals and businesses.
Here are some of the business-focused accounts that IBKR offers:
- Small Business Accounts are designed to help corporations, partnerships, and limited liability companies (LLCs) invest their business funds in the market.
- Family Office Accounts are intended to make it easier for family offices to manage complex estate portfolios.
- Friends and Family Advisor Accounts are for those who manage money for a small number of friends and family. By law, you’d have to have under 15 clients to qualify for this type of account.
- Investment Advisor Accounts are available for registered financial advisors and commodities traders that have over 16 clients and manage over $25 million in assets.
- Hedge Fund, Introducing Broker, Proprietary Trading Group and Money Manager Accounts offer more advanced solutions for high-volume trading businesses. Companies can access financial products across 125 markets, with competitive pricing and advanced reporting tools that are designed to meet the needs of larger investment firms.
- Employee Incentive Plans enable companies to administer stock options and equity plans to employees through an easy-to-use cloud-based access portal.
Interactive Brokers Pricing
Interactive Brokers offers straightforward pricing on their individual account services. As I mentioned earlier, there are no fees or minimum balances required for an IBKR Lite account, and there’s a $10 monthly fee for IBKR Pro account if certain conditions are not met.
For IBKR’s robo-advising service—Intelligent Advisors—you’ll pay an asset management fee of 0.08% to 1.5%.
When it comes to IBKR’s more advanced products, there are thousands of different investment options available and various fees associated. They have to make money somehow, right? See a full overview of the fees they charge.
Signing Up and Getting Started
It’s super easy to sign up for an IBKR account. Visit their website and click “Open Account” on the top right-hand corner of the page.
From there, you’ll have to answer a few simple questions about the type of account you want to open.
Next, enter your personal details, and you’re good to go. Then, if you like, you can access your account easily via their mobile investing app:
Interactive Brokers Security
As you might expect from a company that processes over 800,000 trades each day, security is essential to IBKR. For example, customers can enroll in a secure login system, which requires two-factor authentication for account access.
There’s also a secure login feature on IBKR’s mobile apps designed to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing your account. What’s more, accounts with over $500,000 in equity can opt for the IBKR Digital Security Card+ for an even higher level of account security.
Customer Service and Support
Phone support is available to account holders 24/7. A list of their regional contact numbers and hours of operations can be found here. You can also chat with customer service or email them at any time. If you have an issue with your IBKR Debit card, help is available 24/7, seven days per week, at the following numbers:
- US: 1 (866) 532-4654
- International: 1 (801) 559-2140
Pros and Cons of Interactive Brokers
- Advanced trading platform with sophisticated tools for active traders
- Award-winning robo-advising service available for passive investors
- Unlimited, commission-free trades available on IBKR Lite
- $1,000 minimum deposit required for robo-advising, which is higher than some competitors
- Might be “too advanced” for the average investor
- No traditional high-yield savings account available
Interactive Brokers FAQ
What is the Minimum Deposit for Interactive Brokers?
There’s no minimum deposit required for IBKR Lite or IBKR Pro accounts. There is, however, a $1,000 minimum deposit required for IBKR’s robo-advising service, Interactive Advisors.
How Much Does Interactive Brokers Charge Per Trade?
With an IBKR Lite account, trades involving U.S.-based stocks and ETFs are free. With an IBKR Pro account, fees depend on what’s being traded, how much is being traded, and where the trade is taking place. For a full overview of the commissions and fees that IBKR charges, visit their website.
Is Interactive Brokers Safe?
Yes, it’s safe to invest your money with Interactive Brokers. The company has been in business for over 40 years and is the largest online trading platform in terms of the number of daily trades processed.
Keep in mind that investing in the market always carries risk, and your funds are not FDIC-insured like they would be in a high-yield savings account.
How do I contact Interactive Brokers?
Interactive Brokers has customer support agents available 24/7. The contact number for the U.S. is 1 (877) 442-2757. Account-holders can also access live chat and email support. See above for more details on IBKR’s contact information.
Why is Interactive Brokers so cheap?
This is just a hunch, but I would guess that Interactive Brokers is able to charge relatively low fees because they are processing a huge volume of trades on a daily basis.
Their strategy might be keeping commission and asset management fees low in order to attract more customers.
As for the IBKR Lite account being free to trade US-based stocks and ETFs with, this is an entry-level account with limited offerings compared to the IBKR Pro account.
Alternatives to Interactive Brokers
When it comes to online trading platforms, some of the main alternatives to Interactive Brokers include:
Robo-advisor alternatives include:
Is Interactive Brokers a Good Brokerage?
If you’re a serious trader and want access to the most advanced trading tools and market research, Interactive Brokers is definitely worth your consideration. I have not seen any other companies offer advanced trading tools that are available in IBKR’s Trader Workstation.
What’s more, their robo-advising service also offers a robust investment option for those who would prefer to take a more hands-off approach to investment.
Let’s face it: trading stocks is not an easy game to win. That’s why I generally recommend taking a long-term investment strategy. (If you’d like to learn my advice about long-term investing, check out my Best Investing Strategies post.)
If you think you have what it takes to get rich by day trading, don’t let me hold you back. Many people have been able to do just fine as day traders. Maybe you can do the same.
Thanks for reading and here’s to a prosperous financial future!