Interactive Brokers Review 2015

After using Interactive Brokers for a number of years, I feel that it’s a good a time to write a review on the popular online discount brokerage.  In late 2014, IB finally delivered on their promise to offer RRSPs and TFSAs to Canadians.  Although it comes with a $50/year maintenance fee, the low trading fees will be attractive to many investors.

2020 update: While IB are going strong, i personally still prefer using Questrade. IB is more geared towards daily trading, offering leverages and low commissions for forex trading. However, Questrade is much better if, like me, you prefer passive income through ETF trading instead. You can read my Questrade review or visit their site before deciding which company is the better solution for you.

Trading Platform(s):

  • The TWS software trading platform is extremely powerful, but a bit tricky to use. Once you get accustomed to the GUI, you will wonder how you ever traded without it. They have demo software on their site so that you can give it a test run before you commit.
  • They also have a web based trading platform which is not as powerful but extremely user friendly. The web based platform is convenient when away from your main computer.

Low Trading Commissions

  • $1USD/200 shares (US), $0.005 / share > 200 shares (0.05% max)
  • $1CAD/100 shares (CAD), $0.01/share > 100 shares (0.05% max)
  • Example: 400 CAD shares @ $5/share, commissions cost: 400 x 0.01 = $4, or $5 x 400 = $2000 x 0.05% = $10, whichever is less.
  • Commissions can get expensive if trading penny stocks.

Low Margin Rates

  • Prime – 0.23 on balances < = $115,000
  • Prime – 0.73 on balances > $115,000
  • Prime – 1.23 on balances >= $1,150,000 (big wigs)

Low Foreign Exchange Rates:

  • Where the big banks will charge up to a 1.25% premium (each way) on top of the exchange rate, Interactive Brokers charges the going exchange rate x 1 basis point.
  • 1 basis point = 0.0001 (0.01%) with a min. commission of $2.50USD.

Real time Quotes

  • NASDAQ quotes are free providing that you trade at least $30USD/mo worth of commissions. Otherwise they are $10/mo, level II quotes are $20/month
  • TSX I quotes are $10/mo, level II quotes are $14.50/mo.
  • You can find the rest of the data fees here.
  • I personally use my bank brokerage and Questrade for my real time quotes.

Fees

  • Min commissions are $10USD/mo. If you don’t trade at least this amount per month, they will take the difference from your account.
  • EFT deposits are FREE, along with the first monthly withdrawal. Fees apply after first withdrawal.
  • $50/year maintenance fee for RRSP/TFSA.

Opening an Account

  • Requires $10,000 initial deposit.
  • Fairly lengthy initial paper work.
  • Deposits take 5 days to get approved (through EFT).

Who is this brokerage suited for?

  • Active traders looking to reduce their trading commissions.
  • Not suited for penny stock traders as there are cheaper alternatives than Interactive brokers. For example, 8000 shares of a stock @ $0.50/share will cost 8000 x $0.50 = $4000 x 0.05% = $20 in commission + ECN fee on venture exchange.
  • You could make the same trade above with E-Trade or CIBC for $9.95 or $6.95 respectively.
  • Suited for investors who pay more than $120USD / year in commissions which works out to be around 4 trades / year with the big banks.

Conclusions:

  • I personally use and recommend Interactive Brokers for active traders as it will save most traders a bundle of money in commissions. The powerful interface along with fast execution times make it an extremely competitive brokerage for traders.
  • This platform is not only for traders, long term investors who spend more than $120USD/year in commissions should also consider this brokerage.
  • If you are interested in stock trading, check out some of the free stock trading tools that I use.

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FT

FT is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.
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Sam
7 years ago

Hey Great Review sort of dotated …

So do you have three brokers? One at Questrade, one at your bank and IB? Why not consolidate?

Paul
8 years ago

From any one who has interective broker account. Could you tell me what is the best data plan subscribe to, i am only trading canadian securities and which is mostly ETF’s. so don’t need 10 dollar US fees structure. they offer monteeal exchange fees for $6 and another $9 for level 2 data. Also TSX Level 1 for 6 and level 2 for 10+6=$16. my understanding is that either of these fees are waived based on volume.

Can someone help .

Paul

Chris
8 years ago

Even though they have no transparancy, and auto-liquidate you on margin accounts, I still am considering IB very strongly. I don’t have $25000 cash but I would like to day trade with a small amount. Is there any way to get around the day trading requirement? Or maybe I have to stick to 3 trades a week?

IB complaint HK
8 years ago

No possibility to complaint with Interactive brokers Asia

Due to instability of Interactive Brokers systems and incompetence of “Salvatore Recco”, I lost lot of money. I could have recovered it with a competent and professional broker. But Salvatore Recco(Head of Institutional Services Asia) was slow, not polite, unprofessional, giving lame excuses and possibly make big money on my back.

0/you will notice that IB asia has no independent complaint officer( in fact the manager but he wont bother to answer). If any problems happens, especially a senior IB staff is incompetent, you could not complain.No one is checking what they are doing in Asia, so manipulations of the records/transactions and wrong doing can be done by their staffs in Asia.
1/ zero transparency: you wont get any records ( transaction, transcripts,…) even with a lawyer. “Salvatore Recco” is blocking our access to any records because he make the mistakes.
2/ you will not be able to speak or see face to face, “Salvatore Recco”or a manager or a complaint officer in Hong Kong or Asia. They will just hide and send you a small potato guy.The small potato told us different things so I discovered that Salvatore Recco was lying and the staff know of his wrong doing.
3/ even spending money with a lawyer wont be helful as they will hide and refer you to a US complaint or any virtual manager in other continents.
4/ their methods in order that you give up your complaints, its their complaints tickets systems, for sure it will take many months/ years. They will tell you that they will get back to you within few days but instead give you lame excuses few month later. By that times all records could be modified by IB.
5/they have many others tricks so be careful, they can make you push to accept new rules at same time when you later login,…
6/ they are not going to compensate you for their staffs mistakes for sure! Because They do not have any compensation fund aside in Asia !

I wonder how can a broker operates without transparency!

I discover on internet others complaints about “”Salvatore Recco”, if you have any problems with him or IB, please help me. I took a lawyer and complaint SFC and regulator without any answer!!!
I will appreciate if someone can help me because “Salvatore Recco” is blocking my complaint as he was the one involved and possibly make a big money in my back!

Matt Correia
8 years ago

I agree with Jack Snapper, they will auto liquidate you intraday, i lost a good deal of money to them trading credit spreads, an option strategy with fixed margin requirements and fixed loss. Apparently they don’t know basic math and thought i was a threat and blew up my spreads with their algo. I’ve been trying to recover my money through FINRA for over a year now. They are scammers and should be shut down. Their new scam is to loan you $1mm for every 200k in your account, auto liquidate you and take your house.

Park
8 years ago

If your strategy involves long term leverage using a margin account, there is no better brokerage than IB in Canada. If someone has a better alternative, I would be interested in knowing it.

Jiminey
9 years ago

I already posted this in FrugalTraders “Canadian Online Discount Stock Brokerage Comparison”, but for Interactive Brokers Canada clients, I recently put a feature request for Interactive Brokers Canada clients to be permitted ACH transfer to USA bank accounts a this link: http://www.interactivebrokers.com/en/general/poll/index.php?sid=8079

If we get enough votes they might implement this. Currently, for Interactive Brokers Canada clients a wire transfer is required to withdraw funds from Interactive Brokers Canada to a USD bank account that is located in the USA, and although there is no charge from Interactive Brokers, USA banks typically charge a $15 incoming wire fee.

Dave
9 years ago

I’ve had NO problems with IB for 7 years.

Just don’t overmargin yourself. They don’t mess around, they WILL liquidate you, but they are a business and have to protect themselves.

Their $1 commissions are simply the best.

Binary Options Guy
10 years ago

I would like to know more about the forex aspect of interactive brokers – ie maybe a blow-by-blow of costs / real numbers of setting up a simple carry trade with 10:1 leverage.