Interactive Brokers Review
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Founded in 1977, Interactive Brokers is one of the oldest online brokerages in the U.S. and has been listed publicly (IEX:IBKR) since 2007. It was one of the first to offer a multi-asset solution that now includes options, futures, forex, and bonds across 120 market centers in 31 countries.
Regulated in numerous major financial centers globally, Interactive Brokers is known for its competitive commission rates, and today offers retail forex to Eligible Contract Participants (ECPs) in the US and most other regions around the world. The broker offers 115 currency pairs, over 4,200 CFDs, and thousands of exchange-traded securities.
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.
- Regulated in major jurisdictions and publicly traded.
- Extensive range of trading products across global markets and asset classes.
- Competitive fees and discounts for high-volume traders.
- Retail spot forex only offered to non-U.S. clients.
- Desktop platform too complex for inexperienced traders.
- Web platform lacks forex charts.
- Monthly minimum activity charges.
Is Interactive Brokers Safe?
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.
|Publicly Traded (Listed)||Yes|
Commissions & Fees
Despite its monthly minimum activity fees, Interactive Brokers appears to offer competitive rates, but without publishing its average spreads for forex, it is difficult to make a precise comparison.
- 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.
- For active traders, there are applicable discounts you may be entitled to depending on your monthly trading volumes and the relevant products.
- 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 first out of 16 U.S. equity brokers in our sister site’s StockBrokers.com 2019 Broker Review.
|Minimum Initial Deposit||$0|
|Average Spread EUR/USD - Standard||N/A|
|All-in Cost EUR/USD - Active||N/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.
- TWS available for both MacOS and Windows. Within TWS, FXTrader is the main terminal for trading forex and gives traders access to 85 forex pairs offered by Interactive Brokers.
- While TWS takes ample time to learn, fortunately over a dozen default layouts are provided, including one for forex trading.
- 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, and considered a cash-settled security, and SMART, a contract structured as a non-deliverable rolling CFD.
- TWS offers 121 available studies that can be added to a chart, which is far above the industry average of 42 compared to other brokers reviewed, and only surpassed by thinkorswim by TD Ameritrade, which has 397, followed by Dukascopy Bank with 313, and then City Index with 139.
- 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.
- While the number of customizations that can be made in the TWS platform is impressive, the complexity and long lists of possible configurations can be intimidating to unseasoned investors. To put into perspective how complex some of the configuration options are, the watch list alone can be configured with nearly 300 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. Meanwhile, 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.
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|Virtual Trading (Demo)||Yes|
|Desktop Platform (Windows)||Yes|
|Social Trading / Copy-Trading||No|
|MetaTrader 4 (MT4)||No|
|MetaTrader 5 (MT5)||No|
|Charting - Indicators / Studies (Total)||121|
|Charting - Drawing Tools (Total)||9|
|Charting - Trade From Chart||Yes|
|Watchlists - Total Fields||300|
|Order Type - Trailing Stop||Yes|
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.
- 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)
- View Infographic
While Interactive Brokers lacks a full-feature 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.
- 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.
- The content provided by Traders’ Insight and MarketPulse, alongside the extensive list of analytical tools and news content, helps Interactive Brokers stand out.
- Interactive Brokers lacks a rich offering of in-house and premium third-party forex research.
- 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.
|Daily Market Commentary||No|
|Forex News (Top-Tier Sources)||Yes|
|Trading Central (Recognia)||Yes|
|Social Trading / Copy-Trading||No|
|Social Sentiment - Currency Pairs||No|
Interactive Brokers provides a great mobile experience via IBKR Mobile that competes among the best multi-asset brokers in the industry. For forex trading, it’s primary drawback is that the app is so diverse that it lacks a focused FX experience.
- Compared to TWS, the IBKR Mobile app is much easier to navigate.
- 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.
- The IBot feature, which lets you chat with an artificially intelligent bot (either by typing or the voice command), understands commands such as “show me a chart of the EUR.USD” and then returns a matching chart that can be opened from the search results. IBot is also available in TWS.
- 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.
Mobile Apps Comparison
|Apple iOS App||Yes|
|Trading - Forex||Yes|
|Trading - CFDs||Yes|
|Alerts - Basic Fields||Yes|
|Watch List Syncing||Yes|
|Charting - Indicators / Studies||68|
|Charting - Draw Trend Lines||No|
|Charting - Trend Lines Moveable||No|
|Charting - Multiple Time Frames||Yes|
|Charting - Drawings Autosave||Yes|
Offering of Investments
The following table summarizes the different investment products available to Interactive Brokers clients.
|Forex: Spot Trading||Yes|
|Currency Pairs (Total Forex pairs)||115|
|CFDs - Total Offered||6100|
|Cryptocurrency traded as actual||No|
|Cryptocurrency traded as CFD||Yes|
In 2017, Interactive Brokers launched Bitcoin futures, helping to position itself to cater to the growing demand from traders and investors who look for exposure to speculative digital assets within their portfolios. While futures are offered, CFDs are not, which reflects the conservative focus of Interactive Brokers management. Until cryptocurrencies are well established, we do not anticipate further support beyond futures contracts.
While Interactive Brokers still offers forex to institutional clients with at least $10 million in the U.S., it discontinued its retail forex offering in September 2016 and therefore only offers retail forex trading to international clients outside of the U.S. and Alberta, Canada.
With nearly every type of forex instrument available across 85 currency pairs, including spot, forwards, futures and options trading, Interactive Brokers provides a diverse and bespoke offering for currency traders, on top of over 4000 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.
Even though experienced traders will require time to learn the TWS platform, Interactive Brokers is a great choice for professional and active 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.
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.
About the author: Steven Hatzakis 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.