Interactive Brokers Review 2021: Pros, Cons and How It Compares

Interactive Brokers attracts active traders with low per-share pricing, an advanced trading platform, a large selection of tradable securities — including foreign stocks — and ridiculously low margin rates. Its new offering, IBKR Lite, offers commission-free trades of stocks and ETFs.

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.


The investing information provided on this page is for educational purposes only. NerdWallet does not offer advisory or brokerage services, nor does it recommend or advise investors to buy or sell particular stocks or securities.

Our Take

5.0

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: Active and casual traders alike will benefit from Interactive Brokers' advanced execution, strong trading platforms and rock-bottom pricing.

Interactive Brokers IBKR Lite

on Interactive Brokers's website

on Interactive Brokers's website

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Large investment selection.
  • Strong research and tools.
  • Over 7,000 no-transaction-fee mutual funds.
  • NerdWallet users who sign up for IBKR Pro get a 0.25 percentage point discount on margin rates.

Cons

  • Website is difficult to navigate.

Compare to Similar Brokers

Interactive Brokers IBKR Lite
Merrill Edge
SoFi Active Investing
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Fees

$0

per trade

Fees

$0

per trade

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Account Minimum

$0

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Promotion

Up to $600

when you invest in a new Merrill Edge® Self-Directed account.

Promotion

$5 to $1,000

in free stock for users who sign up via mobile app

Get more smart money moves — straight to your inbox

Become a NerdWallet member, and we’ll send you tailored articles we think you’ll love.

Full Review

Where Interactive Brokers shines

IBKR Lite: Interactive Brokers has long been a popular broker for advanced traders, but in 2019 the company launched a second tier of service — IBKR Lite — for more casual investors. With IBKR Lite, you get unlimited free trades of stocks and exchange-traded funds that are listed on U.S. exchanges.

Investment selection: If you're interested in trading other investments, including options, futures, mutual funds, fixed income and more, you can do that on 135 exchanges in 33 countries with a Lite account, but the trading costs will be the same as what IBKR Pro investors pay.

Advanced platform: As the name implies, IBKR Pro is geared toward advanced traders. If that's you, you'll probably like the broker's per-share pricing of $0.005 per share (the minimum is $1), advanced trading platform, unmatched range of tradable securities — including foreign stocks — and ridiculously low margin rates.

Both tiers of service have a $0 account minimum and offer fractional shares of stock. IBKR Lite and IBKR Pro have no account maintenance or inactivity fees.

Where Interactive Brokers falls short

Website ease-of-use: Interactive Brokers provides a great deal of information on its website, but finding and interpreting the information you want isn't always easy. For IBKR Pro customers, the various commission and fee structures can make it hard to quickly identify what your costs will be. Portions of the website are dedicated to institutional, broker and proprietary trading accounts, and that can be confusing.

Interactive Brokers is best for:

  • Casual and advanced traders.

  • Day traders.

  • Margin accounts.

  • Options trading.

  • Research and data.

  • International investors.

Interactive Brokers at a glance

Account minimum

$0

Stock trading costs

• IBKR Lite: Unlimited free trades on U.S.-listed stocks and ETFs.

• IBKR Pro: $0.005 per share; minimum $1 and maximum 1% of trade value; volume discount available.

Options trades

IBKR Lite and IBKR Pro: No base commission; 65 cents per contract with $1 minimum. Volume discount available.

Account fees (annual, transfer, closing, inactivity)

None.

Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds

Over 7,700 no-transaction-fee mutual funds.

Tradable securities

• Stocks.

• Fractional shares.

• Bonds.

• Mutual funds.

• ETFs.

• Options.

• Futures.

• Forex.

• Metals.

Crypto offering

Access to BTC, ETH, LTC, and BCH.

Trading platform

IBKR Lite and IBKR Pro customers get access to Client Portal trading platform and powerful Trader Workstation platform at no charge.

Mobile app

Advanced features mimic the desktop app, but iOS and Android user ratings are average.

Research and data

Extensive research offerings, both free and subscription-based.

Customer support options (includes how easy it is to find key details on the website)

24-hour phone, email and chat support, available six days a week.

Interactive Brokers in more detail

Account minimum: 5 out of 5 stars

Interactive Brokers allows you to open an account with no minimum required.

Stock trading costs: 5 out of 5 stars

If you're a casual investor, it’s hard to beat the free trades you'll enjoy with IBKR Lite. But even advanced traders who opt for IBKR Pro will like the low stock and ETF commission structure at Interactive Brokers, which favors frequent, high-volume traders at just $0.005 per share. There’s a $1 minimum trade commission and a maximum of 1% of the total trade value, and exchange and regulatory fees are included.

The broker also offers tiered pricing to lower rates even more. Investors who trade up to 300,000 shares a month can pay $0.0035 per share; tiered rates based on trading volume go as low as $0.0005 per share for clients who trade more than 100 million shares a month. Exchange and regulatory fees are extra on this plan.

Options trades: 4 out of 5 stars

Options trading is offered at competitive pricing, for both Pro and Lite customers, with a $.65 charge per contract and no base, plus discounts for larger volumes. The minimum options trade commission is $1 per order.

Account fees: 5 out of 5 stars

Interactive Brokers charges no annual, account, transfer or closing fees, which is relatively rare among brokers we review.

Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds: 5 out of 5 stars

The retirement-investor set will be happy with the broker's impressive list of no-transaction-fee mutual funds — over 7,700 in all, above and beyond the vast majority of the broker's competitors.

Tradable securities available: 5 out of 5 stars

Interactive Brokers offers something for everyone here: Advanced traders will love the huge selection of products, from standard offerings of stocks, options and ETFs to precious metals, forex, warrants and futures.

Interactive Brokers also offers fractional shares. The ability to purchase a portion of a company's stock, rather than a full-priced share, makes it easier to invest in companies that have lofty share prices. That, in turn, makes it easier to maintain a diversified portfolio, especially for investors with smaller accounts.

Crypto offering: 5 out of 5 stars

Interactive Brokers introduced cryptocurrency trading in 2021, giving users access to bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin and bitcoin cash. And while the service doesn't offer commission-free trading like some brokers do, the fees are pretty minimal, ranging from 0.12% to 0.18%, depending on monthly volume. There is also a $1.75 minimum per order.

Trading platform: 5 out of 5 stars

The casual traders who find IBKR Lite appealing will find the Client Portal platform adequate for their trading needs. But both IBKR Lite and IBKR Pro traders seeking something more powerful can now enjoy access to Interactive Brokers’ Desktop Trader Workstation, which is considered one of the best trading platforms available for advanced traders.

The platform is fast and includes standard features such as real-time monitoring, alerts, watchlists and a customizable account dashboard. An options strategy lab lets you create and submit both simple and complex multileg options orders and compare up to five options strategies at one time.

Other tools include a volatility lab, advanced charting, heat maps of sector and stock symbol performance, paper trading and a mutual fund replicator, which helps users identify ETFs that replicate the performance of a selected mutual fund but offer lower fees. Interactive Brokers For You notifications offer customized alerts about events that could affect a trader’s investments.

Worth noting: Another broker we review, Zacks Trade, offers its customers access to white-labeled versions of Trader Workstation. Zacks Trade charges higher trade commissions, but offers clients free calls with support reps who are licensed brokers. It's an option worth considering for traders who want the power of Interactive Brokers' trading platforms alongside a bit more personal support.

For investors looking to trade with a conscience, Interactive Brokers offers an Impact Dashboard, free to all users on Trader Workstation, the Client Portal or mobile apps. The dashboard allows investors to select their personal investment criteria from 13 principles (including clean air and water, LGBTQ inclusion and gender equality). Investors can also exclude investments based on 10 categories, such as animal testing, corporate political spending and lobbying and hazardous waste production.

Mobile app: 3 out of 5 stars

The IBKR mobile app, available to both Lite and Pro customers, is Trader Workstation on the go, with advanced trading shortcuts, over 400 data columns, option exercise and spread templates, news, research, charting and scanners. Users can create order presets, which prefill order tickets for fast entry. Presets set up on Trader Workstation are also available from the mobile app. However, the app gets only average ratings from both Android and iOS users.

Research and data: 5 out of 5 stars

Interactive Brokers provides access to a huge selection of research providers and news services, many for free, including Fundamentals Explorer, which offers fundamentals data from Thomson Reuters on over 30,000 companies, plus more than 5,500 analyst ratings, and reports and newswires from 82 companies. Other research providers available to all clients include Zacks Investment Research, Morningstar Equity Ownership, Market Realist, 24/7 Wall Street and Seeking Alpha. Over 100 additional providers are also available by subscription.

Customer support: 4 out of 5 stars

Interactive Brokers offers 24-hour phone, email and chat support, six days a week. However, there are no physical branches, so you won't be able to schedule an in-person meeting, if that's your preference.

While many brokerages are only open to U.S. investors, Interactive Brokers is available to investors in 218 countries and territories. As noted above, Interactive brokers opens the door to investing on 135 exchanges in 33 countries, and lets clients fund and trade accounts in 23 currencies.

Is Interactive Brokers right for you?

Interactive Brokers has always been a great choice for active traders, especially those who can move into the broker's cheaper volume-pricing setup. With the availability of free trades through IBKR Lite, even casual traders might find Interactive Brokers a strong contender. But beginner investors might prefer a broker that offers a bit more hand-holding and educational resources.

How do we review brokers?

NerdWallet’s comprehensive review process evaluates and ranks the largest U.S. brokers by assets under management, along with emerging industry players, using a multifaceted and iterative approach. Our aim is to provide an independent assessment of providers to help arm you with information to make sound, informed judgements on which ones will best meet your needs.

DATA COLLECTION AND REVIEW PROCESS

We collect data directly from providers, and conduct first-hand testing and observation through provider demonstrations. Our process starts by sending detailed questionnaires to providers to complete. The questionnaires are structured to equally elicit both favorable and unfavorable responses from providers. They are not designed or prepared to produce any predetermined results. The questionnaire answers, combined with product demonstrations, interviews of personnel at the providers and our specialists’ hands-on research, fuel our proprietary assessment process that scores each provider’s performance across more than 20 factors. The final output produces star ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.

RATING FACTORS

Evaluations vary by provider type, but in each case are based upon the weighted averages of factors that include but are not limited to: advisory and account fees, account minimums and types, investment selection, investment expense ratios, trading costs, access to human financial advisors, educational resources and tools, rebalancing and tax minimization options, and customer support including branch access, user-facing technology and mobile platforms.

Each factor can involve evaluating various sub-factors. For instance, when gauging the investment selections offered by robo-advisors, 80% of the score is based on the potential for diversification (how well-diversified a resulting portfolio of investments could be) combined with the availability of specialty portfolios and level of customization for investors. Expense ratios form an additional 10% of the score, and low or no management fee the remaining 10%.

FACTOR WEIGHTINGS

The weighting of each factor is based on our team’s assessment of which features are the most important to consumers and which ones impact the consumer experience in the most meaningful way. The factors considered, and how those factors are weighted, change depending upon the category of providers reviewed.

INFORMATION UPDATES

Writers and editors conduct our broker reviews on an annual basis but continually make updates throughout the year. We maintain frequent contact with providers and highlight any changes in offerings.

THE REVIEW TEAM

The review team comprises seasoned writers, researchers and editors who cover stocks, bonds, mutual funds, index funds, exchange-traded funds, alternative investments, socially responsible investing, financial advisors, retirement and investment strategy on a daily basis. In addition to NerdWallet, the work of our team members has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Forbes, USA Today, Bloomberg News, Nasdaq, MSN, MarketWatch, Yahoo! Finance and other national and regional media outlets.

The combined expertise of our Investing team is infused into our review process to ensure thoughtful evaluations of provider products and services from the customer perspective. Our writers and editors combine to have more than 70 years of deep experience in finance, ranging from a former Wall Street Journal reporter to a former senior financial advisor at Merrill Lynch.

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

While NerdWallet does have partnerships with many of the reviewed providers, we manage potential conflicts of interest by maintaining a wall between our content and business operations. This wall is designed to prevent our writers and the review process from being influenced or impacted by our business partnerships. This way, all reviews can provide an unbiased review that serves the interests of our users. For more information, see NerdWallet’s editorial guidelines.

on Interactive Brokers's website