Interactive Brokers: What you need to know
You can use Interactive Brokers in several ways as a stock trading platform. You can open a standard account that comes with its own features and capabilities, or you can open a Interactive Brokers Pro account that comes with plenty of extra bells and whistles but will charge you if you are inactive on the account for a certain period of time. This is a nasty sting in a tail that is, in every other respect, a budget-friendly platform. You don’t have to pay an account minimum and the fees are among the lowest on the market, but little hidden snips can leave you out of pocket if you don’t read the fine print.
Interactive Brokers: Tools and services
- Advanced trading platforms
- Well-designed tools
- Frustrating website
Interactive Brokers has some nifty features and one of them is the ability to do a free trial using all their platforms, market data and research. It’s cool, as features go, as you can explore the platforms and the systems and product portfolios before you commit. This is a leap of faith for Interactive Brokers and it does make you feel like they are that confident in what they have to offer. Along with offering a free trial as a neat service, Interactive Brokers also offers you some cool tools and services that will help you refine your investments.
While you have to navigate around a clunky website with no home page for each section (frustrating if you just want a snapshot of the various products and services), you won’t be disappointed by what’s on offer. PortfolioAnalyst comes with your account and gives you the ability to monitor and administer your accounts and use the data to asses performance and investments. This is bolstered by Probability Lab, a tool that helps you with options by dealing with the math, some third-party integration tools, and IBot, their artificial intelligence tool designed to help you get the most from your portfolio.
The platforms from Interactive Brokers include the traditional Client Portal that lets you check your accounts, quotes, trades and orders, and the Desktop TWS which is an active trading platform for traders and investors who have multiple products and trades in play. It comes with some excellent features and is supported by the mobile app and IBKR WebTrader. The latter is only available to people who have the IBKR Pro accounts and want extra trading functionality.
Interactive Brokers: Trading options and Forex
- Lengthy investment options
- Fractional shares
Account minimum amount: None on both IBKR Pro and Lite
Commission fee: Dependent on account and location
Account fees: Monthly fee if you drop below a certain activity threshold on Pro
Investment products: Stocks, Options, Futures, Forex, Metals, Bonds, ETFs, Mutual Funds, EFPs, Hedge Funds, Robo Portfolios
Interactive Brokers has a lot of variety in its investment portfolio and plenty of ways to make the most from your investments. You may initially struggle with the platform in terms of working out which account is best for you – IBKR Pro or IBKR Lite – and which commission rates apply where. That said, you will find it worthwhile to wade through the mass of fees, charges and commissions because Interactive Brokers has a lot to offer.
It’s one of the few stock trading platforms to offer Forex – only TD Ameritrade has this option in our top seven – and it also has what it calls ‘Robo Portfolios’. These are portfolios developed by automated systems around your specific investment requirements and they won quite a few accolades In the Investopedia Robo-Advisor Awards 2019. Another nice slice of Interactive Brokers’ cake is that you can invest in fractional shares which is great for those of you who can’t afford the full price of a share in a company that you really want to be part of.
Interactive Brokers: Research, education and customer support
- Traders’ Academy
- Good customer reputation
Interactive Brokers has the very cool and absolutely useful Traders’ Academy that hands you 46 courses focused on investments, products, trading, portfolio management and financial planning. These courses are designed for users of all levels of expertise, to help refine investment strategies and get the most from the platform. This is not the only offering either, you will also appreciate trading calendars, insights and webinars.
When it comes to customer reviews, Interactive Brokers has one of the best scores at three stars with an average of 45% saying the platform is excellent and 26% saying it’s great. The overall consensus is that the portfolio management features, broad range of products and customer support make it stand out from the crowd.
Interactive Brokers: Verdict
Interactive Brokers has a complex website that could do with a bit of modernization to make navigation slightly less tedious, but it also offers a ton of features and value-added services that make it a leader in the market. The two different accounts of IBKR Lite and IBKR Pro are customized to suit entirely different trading styles, and the pricing structures are low enough to keep it competitive and aligned with other leaders in the market. An ideal fit for the more experienced trader who wants tools and technologies that help them customize their portfolio, and for the casual investor who wants reliable returns with solid advice and support.