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Interactive Brokers Review

CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 63.5% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money. This content is intended for information and educational purposes only and should not be considered investment advice or investment recommendation.

Professional traders and highly experienced investors looking for a complete multi-asset broker will find Interactive Brokers offers a comprehensive platform with competitive fees across multiple global financial markets.

Top Takeaways for 2019

After spending several hundred hours testing 28 forex brokers over six months for our third annual forex broker review, here are our top findings on Interactive Brokers:

  • Founded in 1977, Interactive Brokers is listed publicly (NASDAQ: IBKR) and regulated in five tier-1 jurisdictions, making it a safe (low-risk) broker for trading forex and CFDs.
  • Interactive Brokers is our No. 1 broker for professionals traders. That said, we do not recommend Interactive Brokers for beginners or casual investors.
  • The Interactive Brokers Trader Workstation (TWS) desktop platform is full of trading tools but is too complicated for inexperienced traders. Similarly, with mobile, the IBKR Mobile app comes loaded with features but lacks a simplified experience for everyday forex traders. MetaTrader is not offered.
  • Retail spot forex trading is not available to US-residents, and CFDs are not available to clients in Canada and Hong Kong.
  • Interactive Brokers offers below-average customer service. The broker finished 17th (out of 23) in our national testing from locations across the United Kingdom.

Overall Summary

FeatureInteractive Brokers
Overall 4 Stars
Trust Score91
Offering of Investments 4.5 Stars
Commissions & Fees 4 Stars
Platform & Tools 4 Stars
Research 3.5 Stars
Mobile Trading 4 Stars
Customer Service 3.5 Stars
Education 4 Stars

Is Interactive Brokers Safe?

help 91
Trust Score

Interactive Brokers is considered low-risk, with an overall Trust Score of 91 out of 99. Interactive Brokers is publicly traded, does not operate a bank, and is authorised by five tier-1 regulators (high trust), zero tier-2 regulators (average trust), and zero tier-3 regulators (low trust). Interactive Brokers is authorised by the following tier-1 regulators: Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC), Securities Futures Commission (SFC), Japanese Financial Services Authority (JFSA), Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Learn more about Trust Score.

FeatureInteractive Brokers
Year Founded1977
Publicly Traded (Listed) Yes
Bank No
Tier-1 Licenses5
Tier-2 Licenses0
Tier-3 Licenses0
Trust Score91

Offering of Investments

Rank: 2nd (of 28)

Retail spot forex trading is not available to US-residents, and CFDs are not available to clients in Canada and Hong Kong. The following table summarizes the different investment products available to Interactive Brokers clients.

CFDs & Cash: Besides exchange-traded forex futures and forex options, Interactive Brokers offers two types of spot forex contracts: IDEALPRO, which uses a notional cash amount to account for trade reconciliations (considered cash-settled securities), and SMART, a contract structured as a non-deliverable rolling CFD.

FeatureInteractive Brokers
Forex: Spot Trading Yes
Currency Pairs (Total Forex pairs)105
CFDs - Total Offered7400
Social Trading / Copy-Trading No
Cryptocurrency traded as actual No
Cryptocurrency traded as CFD Yes

Commissions & Fees

Despite its monthly minimum activity fees, Interactive Brokers appears to offer competitive rates; however, without publishing its average spreads for forex, it is difficult to make a precise comparison.

Commissions: For forex traders, IBKR aggregates prices from 14 of the world’s largest dealers, and instead of marking up spreads, it charges a commission per trade ranging from $16-$40 per million round turn ($8-$20 per side), comparable to brokers that offer commission-based FX trading on an agency basis.

Active traders: For active traders, there are applicable discounts you may be entitled to depending on your monthly trading volumes and the relevant products.

Minimum spend: While active traders can be rewarded with commission discounts, beginners may find overcoming fees more challenging due to monthly minimum spend requirements.

Overall, we would like to see IBKR publish its average forex spreads in 2019, since it competes well in other asset classes such as equities, where it ranked fifth out of 16 U.S. equity brokers in our sister site’s StockBrokers.com 2019 Broker Review.

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FeatureInteractive Brokers
Minimum Initial Deposit$0
Average Spread EUR/USD - StandardN/A
All-in Cost EUR/USD - ActiveN/A
Active Trader or VIP Discounts Yes

Platforms & Tools

Trader Workstation (TWS), Interactive Brokers’ flagship desktop trading platform, is not easy to use but is packed full of features covering all spectrums of trading products, including forex. While TWS takes ample time to learn, fortunately, over a dozen default layouts are provided, including one for forex trading. TWS is available for both macOS and Windows.

Forex layout: Within TWS, FXTrader is the main terminal for trading forex and gives traders access to 85 CFDs on forex or 105 cash forex pairs offered by Interactive Brokers. When adding forex pairs to a watch list, users can choose from both spot forex cash rates as well as forex CFDs from either the IDEALPRO or SMART venue.

Charting: TWS offers 96 available studies that can be added to a chart, which is far above the industry average of 42, and is only surpassed by several brokers including thinkorswim by TD Ameritrade, which has 397, followed by Dukascopy Bank with 313, and then City Index with 139.

Web platform: For browser trading, Interactive Brokers offers WebTrader, which is easier to use but very light in functionality compared to TWS. Unfortunately, WebTrader doesn’t support opening forex charts, leaving only stocks, indexes, and futures available for charting.

New traders beware: While the number of customizations available in the TWS desktop platform is impressive, the complexity and long lists of possible configurations can be intimidating to unseasoned investors. For example, the watch list alone can be configured with nearly 500 different available columns, although many of these are related to equities analysis such as earnings per share (EPS) or price/earnings (PE) ratios, and not forex.

MetaTrader: Interactive Brokers does not offer MetaTrader.

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Research

While Interactive Brokers lacks a full-featured forex research offering, out of all brokers reviewed on ForexBrokers.com, the broker offers the widest array of third-party research, including free and premium content, as well as bundled services.

Scope of content: Interactive Brokers provides a broad range of choices. Available resources include a long list of analytical tools covering nearly every spectrum, including technical and fundamental analysis, news, and portfolios.

Forex news: IBKR streams headlines from Reuters, including forex news. The content provided by Traders’ Insight and MarketPulse, alongside the extensive list of analytical tools and news content, helps Interactive Brokers stand out.

Forex research: Interactive Brokers has limited forex research from among its in-house and third-party resources. The majority of research resources available to customers are unrelated to forex specifically, which can make the experience confusing and not ideal for less-experienced traders.

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Mobile Trading

IBKR Mobile provides a great mobile experience that competes among the best multi-asset brokers in the industry. For forex trading, its primary drawback is that the app is so diverse that it lacks a focused FX experience.

Charts: Charting within the mobile app is rich and includes 70 indicators, which is far more than most brokers offer in their mobile apps, or even on their desktop and web platforms. Surprisingly, one drawback was the lack of drawing tools.

Trading Tools: The IBot feature, which lets you chat with an artificially intelligent bot (either by typing or using the voice command), understands commands such as “show me a chart of the EUR.USD” and then returns a matching chart that can open from the search results. IBot is also available in TWS.

Economic calendar: IBKR Mobile suffers from the same product challenges as TWS. Since it is not built solely for forex and CFDs trading, it is not ideal for less-experienced traders. For example, the economic calendar does not include forex data.

Video content: I was pleased to see video content available on the mobile app from multiple providers, including Bloomberg, IBKR Traders' Insight, and Real Vision, supporting Interactive Brokers research offering.

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Customer Service

To score Customer Service, ForexBrokers.com partnered with customer experience research group Customerwise to conduct phone tests from locations throughout the UK. For our 2019 Review, 229 customer service tests were conducted over six weeks.

Results

  • Average Connection Time: <2 minutes
  • Average Net Promoter Score: 5.9 / 10
  • Average Professionalism Score: 3.1 / 10
  • Overall Score: 5.3 / 10
  • Ranking: 17th (23 brokers)

Final Thoughts

With nearly every type of forex instrument available across 105 currency pairs, including spot, forwards, futures, and options trading, Interactive Brokers provides a diverse and bespoke offering for currency traders, on top of over 6,100 CFDs across global markets.

Interactive Brokers’ minimum monthly activity fees and related charges should be taken into consideration when deciding whether the broker will be a good fit for your trading style. For low-volume and newer traders, I do not recommend Interactive Brokers.

Overall, Interactive Brokers is a great choice for professional traders. The broker’s competitive commissions structure and wide range of available markets, alongside the extensive configuration options and order types found within the TWS suite of platforms, is a winning combination.

About Interactive Brokers

Founded in 1977, Interactive Brokers is one of the oldest online brokerages in the U.S. and has been listed publicly (NASDAQ: IBKR) since 2007. It was one of the first to offer a multi-asset solution that now includes equities, options, forex, futures, and bonds across 120 market centers in 31 countries.

Interactive Brokers discontinued its retail forex offering in September 2016 and today only offers retail forex trading to international clients outside of the U.S. and Alberta, Canada. Known as Eligible Contract Participants (ECPs), US institutional traders with at least $10 million in assets are still eligible to trade forex.

Interactive Brokers Trading Features

FeatureInteractive Brokers
Virtual Trading (Demo) Yes
Proprietary Platform Yes
Desktop Platform (Windows) Yes
Web Platform Yes
Social Trading / Copy-Trading No
MetaTrader 4 (MT4) No
MetaTrader 5 (MT5) No
cTrader No
Charting - Indicators / Studies (Total)121
Charting - Drawing Tools (Total)9
Charting - Trade From Chart Yes
Watchlists - Total Fields494
Order Type - Trailing Stop Yes

Interactive Brokers Research Features

FeatureInteractive Brokers
Daily Market Commentary Yes
Forex News (Top-Tier Sources) Yes
Weekly Webinars No
AutoChartist No
Trading Central (Recognia) Yes
Delkos Research No
Social Sentiment - Currency Pairs No
Economic Calendar Yes

Interactive Brokers Mobile App Features

FeatureInteractive Brokers
Android App Yes
Apple iOS App Yes
Trading - Forex Yes
Trading - CFDs Yes
Alerts - Basic Fields Yes
Watch List Yes
Watch List Syncing Yes
Charting - Indicators / Studies70
Charting - Draw Trend Lines No
Charting - Trend Lines Moveable No
Charting - Multiple Time Frames Yes
Charting - Drawings Autosave Yes
Forex Calendar No

2019 Review Methodology

For our 2019 Forex Broker Review we assessed, rated, and ranked 28 international forex brokers over a six month time period. Each broker was graded on 81 different variables and, in total, over 60,000 words of research were produced.

While encouraged, broker participation was optional. Each broker had the opportunity to complete an in-depth data profile and provide executive time (live in person or over the web) for an annual update meeting.

All data submitted by brokers is hand-checked for accuracy. Ultimately, our rigorous data validation process yields an error rate of less than .1% each year, providing site visitors quality data they can trust. Learn more about how we test.

Forex Risk Disclaimer

"There is a very high degree of risk involved in trading securities. With respect to margin-based foreign exchange trading, off-exchange derivatives, and cryptocurrencies, there is considerable exposure to risk, including but not limited to, leverage, creditworthiness, limited regulatory protection and market volatility that may substantially affect the price, or liquidity of a currency or related instrument. It should not be assumed that the methods, techniques, or indicators presented in these products will be profitable, or that they will not result in losses." Learn more.


Steven Hatzakis

About the author: Steven Hatzakis is the Global Director of Research for ForexBrokers.com. Steven previously served as an Editor for Finance Magnates, where he authored over 1,000 published articles about the online finance industry. Steven is an active fintech and crypto industry researcher and advises blockchain companies at the board level. Over the past 20 years, Steven has held numerous positions within the international forex markets, from writing to consulting to serving as a registered commodity futures representative.

Trading CFDs, FX, and cryptocurrencies involves a high degree of risk. All providers have a percentage of retail investor accounts that lose money when trading CFDs with their company. You should consider whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money and whether you understand how CFDs, FX, and cryptocurrencies work. All data was obtained from a published web site as of 02/18/2019 and is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. The ForexBrokers.com staff is constantly working with its online broker representatives to obtain the latest data. If you believe any data listed above is inaccurate, please contact us using the link at the bottom of this page.

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