Interactive Brokers (or “IBKR”) is one of the world’s largest online stock brokerages. The company was founded all the way back in 1977 by Thomas Peterffy, who arrived in the United States in 1965 with no money and not knowing a word of English. His brainchild, Interactive Brokers, has become a global powerhouse in the online brokerage space, with over two million trades executed per day and yearly revenue of nearly $2 billion.
European investors on community sites like Reddit and Bogleheads frequently recommend IBKR as the number one choice for low-cost investing and trading for the following reasons: It’s practically available everywhere, and it gives investors access to a gigantic range of stocks, ETFs, options, and much more all from a single investment account that can be funded in multiple currencies.
We’ve been seeing Interactive Brokers make significant progress in Europe in recent years as more and more European investors catch wind of how appealing the brokerage really is. The first step was removing the monthly activity fee, which is now a flat zero. IBKR has also been opening up more banking relationships across Europe so that European investors can fund their accounts with local bank transfers. The latest bonus for European investors is the IBKR Global Trader, a handy mobile app that makes it simple to deposit in your local currency and trade global stocks.
Here’s a full rundown so you can decide for yourself if IBKR is worth your time, money, and trust or not.
Interactive Brokers One-Minute Review
Interactive Brokers is often lauded as one of the best brokerages available to investors in Europe, but it’s necessarily suitable for everyone. The main advantage of IBKR is the ability to trade thousands of stocks, options, futures, and other products while feeling confident that you’re getting the best possible price and the highest level of protection.
Track record and customer protection
Among the brokers available to European investors, IBKR has been in business the longest, having been founded in 1977. The company is headquartered in the United States and has been publicly traded on Nasdaq since 2007.
One thing that all investors should care about is customer protection. In this regard, IBKR excels. Its balance sheet is impressive, with over $350 billion in customer assets held on the platform and $10 billion in equity capital. This gives the company a large cushion to manoeuvre and flexibility to deal with potential customer losses.
Another key point to remember is that IBKR has been profitable almost every year since its inception. In contrast, many of the neobrokers who have emerged in Europe recently are not profitable and have yet to demonstrate that they can survive a severe market downturn.
Local currencies and global reach
IBKR has 20 different currencies available and provides access to 150 markets and 90 stock exchanges in the US, Europe, Canada, and Asia. They’ve gradually rolled out new trading platforms for non-professionals over the past years. First, the web-based Client Portal, and lately, the GlobalTrader mobile app, both of which have made the brokerage much more accessible to a broader audience.
No longer for professionals only
While there’s still a sentiment that Interactive Brokers is geared towards professional traders, that’s no longer true. The opulence of choice might be confusing for new investors (you can trade more or less anything you want). Still, the company has made a lot of effort to make its platforms user-friendly and customizable. Truth be told, it’s gotten harder to find anything negative to say about Interactive Brokers, but we’ll try.
Lowest trading fees and no more inactivity fees
Trading fees on the IBKR are extremely low across all asset classes. Furthermore, IBKR eliminated its obsolete €10 monthly inactivity fee in 2021. If you had an account worth less than €100,000 before this update, you would have been charged €10. This is no longer the case. IBKR now has a €0 monthly fee. This was a great move by the company and has made IBKR more attractive to small investors.
GlobalTrader – The newest addition
In March of 2022, Interactive Brokers rolled out a new mobile app, IBKR GlobalTrader. The app is designed for everyday investors who want to trade globally but don’t need the advanced features professionals use. The fees, account minimums, and products available are the same as on other platforms, but the user interface has been simplified, and the user experience is much better.
Here are the key points to keep in mind about Interactive Brokers:
- Reputation. It’s one of the world’s oldest and largest stock brokerages, it’s very well-capitalized and has a strong balance sheet, it’s publicly traded, and it’s been profitable for many years.
- Stability. The company has been around for more than 40 years, has survived multiple global recessions, is listed on NASDAQ, has public financials, and boasts a yearly revenue of nearly $2 billion.
- Genuineness. IBKR is a serious investment platform for people who are serious about their money. In contrast to many of the smartphone brokers out there, it’s not an amuse-bouche playground for dabbling in the stock market.
- Pan-European availability. Where other brokers might only be available in a few countries, IBKR is available throughout Europe, in 44 countries. They accept account applications from almost all nationalities. Plus, it supports local currencies, not just dollars and euros.
- Now for everyone. IBKR was traditionally aimed at professionals, but this changed with the launch of the new platforms: The web-based Client Portal, IBKR Mobile, and IBKR Global Trader.
- Regulatory protection. Interactive Brokers is regulated by 11 top-tier financial authorities across the globe, including three European ones, the UK’s FCA, the CBI in Ireland, and Hungary’s MNB.
That’s more or less Interactive Brokers in a nutshell. If you want to know IBKR in-depth, keep reading to learn more about this company’s history and what it’s like to trade with them.
Interactive Brokers main features
|🗺️ Country of origin||USA|
|📜 Regulation||USA (SEC, FINRA, NYSE), Canada (IIROC), UK (FCA), Luxembourg (CSSF), Ireland (CBI), Hungary (MNB), Australia (ASIC), SFC (Hong Kong), India (BSE), Japan (FSA), Singapore (MAS)|
|💶 Europe availability||Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraina, United Kingdom|
|🛍️ Products||Stocks, ETFs, bonds, forex, commodities, futures, crypto (ETNs), copy trading, robo portfolios|
|🛡️ Asset protection||Varies|
|💰 Inactivity fee||No|
|💰 Withdrawal fee||$0|
|💰 Deposit fee||$0|
|💳 Funding options||Bank transfer|
|💱 Deposit currencies||20, including EUR, GBP, USD, CZK, DKK, HUF, NOK, PLN, RUB, SEK, CHF|
What is Interactive Brokers?
Interactive Brokers is an American online stock broker headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut. Founded in 1977, the broker is one of the oldest platforms around. The platform is now home to over 981,000 investors from over 200 countries.
With an IB account, you’ll be able to trade almost any type of product, from stocks and ETFs to leveraged instruments like futures and options. Altogether, you’ll be able to trade on 150 markets across 33 countries in 25 currencies.
Interactive Brokers pros and cons
From the viewpoint of a European investor, Interactive Brokers has a lot to offer. Naturally, it has its shortcomings as well.
Things you might like
- Availability. It’s ironic that a US broker should be more available in Europe than most European brokers, but that’s the case with Interactive Brokers. You can open an account if you’re a resident of 44 countries, including all 28 EU member states. And if you don’t reside in the EU, there’s a good chance IBKR will still accept your account application if you have a valid passport.
- Its track record. We’re repeating ourselves here, but it’s worth emphasizing that Interactive Brokers has been around longer than any other brokers available in Europe. It hasn’t stopped innovating in all that time, either.
- Low trading fees. Last year, IBKR had a campaign called “Zero commissions isn’t the same as free”. Those who genuinely care about fees will know that the devil is in the details. True trading costs are determined by order quality and routing systems, not just commissions. IBKR doesn’t sell European clients’ order flow; they route orders to market makers who provide the best prices and return those price improvements to customers.
- Low currency exchange fees. IBKR has the lowest FX fees in the industry. They don’t mark up the spreads to their own benefit or charge any hidden costs, so what you see is what you get. Go to their website, and you’ll see a live feed of their current spreads. They’re almost non-existent.
- Global trading. While Bogleheads may not care for international stocks, many investors do. IBKR gives you access to more markets and more asset classes than any other stock broker in Europe.
Things that could be improved
- No automated investing. A popular way to get started with investing is to dollar-cost average into the market. On IBKR, it’s not possible to set up recurring investments or automated transfers to your account. This is a common feature among other brokerages, and it’s something we hope will be added in the future.
- ETFs are slightly more expensive than on DEGIRO. ETFs and index funds are a core part of many people’s portfolios. The good news is that IBKR offers more than 5,000 of them, including international ETFs. The bad news is that their fees are slightly higher than on DEGIRO, another popular European broker. But the difference is marginal.
Interactive Brokers is available throughout most of Europe. Here is a complete list of eligible European countries:
- Aland Islands
- Channel Islands and Jersey
- Czech Republic
- Faeroe Islands
- Isle of Man
- Republic of Moldova
- San Marino
- The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
- United Kingdom
How to open an account with Interactive Brokers in Europe
Opening an account with Interactive Brokers is relatively easy, but a time-consuming process. You will be asked a series of questions that take around 30 minutes to complete. Below I have listed the three main steps required to get started on IB:
Step 1: Start the application
Jump over to Interactive Brokers’ website and hit “Open Account” to start the application. You’ll need to select a memorable username, as you’ll be using it later on to log in together with your password. Confirm your email address by clicking the link that was sent to your inbox.
Step 2: Provide information
Now comes a lengthy 4-step know-your-customer process involving several questions. Your questionnaire may look a little different from mine depending on your residency and the type of account you’re opening.
On the first screen, you will need to share the following details:
- Customer/account type: individual (only you) or Joint (shared account, e.g. with your spouse or someone else).
- Contact information: full name, address, phone number, etc.
- Personal information: date of birth, tax residency, tax number, etc.
- Source of wealth: declare in percentages the origin of your funds
Under “Base currency”, you can choose between multiple currencies, including EUR, GBP, CHF, and so on. Selecting a standard currency for your profile under this step will not prevent you from funding your account with different currencies later on.
The next screen is called “Regulatory”. Here you first need to choose which type of account you want to open. You can select between the Cash or Margin account.
- The Cash account is probably the type of account most new investors will open. With a cash account you can only invest money that you actually have available.
- The Margin account, on the other hand, will enable you to invest with borrowed funds, or let your cash balance go into occasional overdraft. In that way, it’s more flexible and suitable if you plan to do both investing and trading. If you want access to leveraged products, you will most likely need a margin account. The annual interest rate charged is only around 1.5% for USD and EUR.
Don’t worry too much about what you choose, as you can also change your account type later on. You can read up on the differences between cash and margin accounts here.
IB will then ask you some questions about your financial situation and trading experience, including
- Net worth and income
- Investment experience
- Overall objectives
You have to the different types of products you would want to invest in. You also need to declare how many years of experience you have with each instrument. For buy-and-hold investors, selecting stocks and bonds will be enough.
In the final steps, IB will ask you to read and accept a series of agreements and terms in order to open your account.
You also need to provide proof of your residency and identity.
At this stage, you also have the option to fund your IB account.
Submit your application and wait for approval.
Step 3: Fund your IB account
If everything went well, your application should be approved within two weeks’ time. The only step left now is to active your account. To do this, you need to make a bank transfer from an account held in your name.
Click on the burger menu in the top-left corner and select “Transfer and pay” and “Transfer funds”. Follow the instructions on the screen closely. You will be required to select a currency and amount.
Click “Create deposit” and copy the payment details. Remember to include the message shown under “Payment reference” when initiating the transfer. Usually, there’s an area called “Reference” or “Text” in your bank’s interface where you can do this.
While most European brokers are moving towards commission-free equity trading, Interactive Brokers maintains a more conservative pricing system. One could speculate this is because they prefer to deal with larger accounts. That said, the fee structure on Interactive Brokers can be complicated to understand. I’ll try to break it down as simple as possible, but make sure to verify the numbers yourself on IB’s website.
Inactivity and custodian fees
There are no inactivity fees on Interactive Brokers.
Fixed vs tiered pricing
IB has two pricing plans for international users: “Fixed” and “Tiered”. The fixed per-share plan is simpler to understand, but the tiered plan is usually cheaper for investors with larger monthly volumes.
- Fixed pricing charges a set percent for trades. Additional fees are included in the price, such as exchange and regulatory fees. Under the fixed plan, an ETF on Xetra would cost 0.1% of your trade value in fees with a minimum of €4 and maximum of €29. A medium-sized trade of 100 shares of €50 per share would cost €5.00.
- Tiered per-trade plan charges 0.05% per trade. Exchange, regulatory, clearing and other fees are vary and are added on top. Under tiered pricing, an ETF on Xetra would cost 0.05% per trade in fees with a minimum of €1.25 and maximum of €29, an exchange fee of €0.96, a clearing fee of €0.23, and a regulatory fee of €0.01. A large-sized trade of 1,000 shares of €20 per share would cost €11.2.
Platforms and tools
Interactive Brokers offers a number of trading platforms for regular investors and professional traders alike.
In this review, I want to highlight the platforms that are geared towards everyday users. These are the web application, the Client Portal, and the app for Android and iOS, the IBKR Mobile. I would recommend that you stay clear of the Trader Workstation – it’s only meant for professionals.
The Client Portal or is Interactive Brokers’ beginner-friendly web platform. This is the easiest place for investors to buy and sell simple products like stocks and index funds.
The Client Portal is structured to present a clear overview of your portfolio on the front page, along with other key performance indicators, such as gains and losses. To give your dashboard a personal touch, you can also add or remove widgets that provide additional information.
From the top menu, you can search among thousands of assets by entering the company name, symbol, ISIN code, or similar. Each product page contains key metrics, a company description, and of course some pretty performance charts. You can also trade by clicking the “Trade” button which will let you create a buy or sell order directly.
Since there are thousands of products to choose from and these sometimes look very similar, always remember to double-check you are dealing with the right investment, currency, and using the right exchange.
If you prefer to trade on the go, you can download the IBKR Mobile or GlobalTrader app. The IBKR Mobile platform is slightly more complicated than the Client Portal but provides all the features you need to stay on top of your investments. GlobalTrader, on the other hand, is just as easy as the Client Portal to use but has a more limited feature set.
Essential features include a portfolio overview, P&L (profit-and-loss) analysis, order placements, watchlists, alerts, and research tools like asset data and news.
Interactive Brokers Europe: Protection
Interactive Brokers is one of the safest brokerage firms around. The company has existed for almost half a century, is regulated by several top-tier financial authorities, has impressive financials, and provides numerous technical safety measures to protect your account. Moreover, its mother company is publicly traded on Nasdaq, meaning all financial statements are published online for everyone to review.
To legally do business in multiple jurisdictions, Interactive Brokers serves its clients from a number of locally regulated entities around the world. In Europe, IB operates the following licensed bodies:
- Interactive Brokers U.K. Limited (IBUK) is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
- Interactive Brokers Luxembourg SARL (IBLUX) is regulated by the Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier (CSSF)
- Interactive Brokers Ireland Limited (IBIE) is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland (CBI)
- Interactive Brokers Central Europe Zrt. (IBCE) is regulated by Central Bank of Hungary (Magyar Nemzeti Bank)
From what could be gathered online, European clients of IB are assigned to these as follows (some countries are missing from the list):
- IBUK: UK
- IBIE: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Lichtenstein, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland
- IBLUX: Luxembourg
- IBCE: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia
What happens to your investments if Interactive Brokers goes bust? Although there are only a handful of historical examples of large brokerages collapsing, it does happen from time to time. However, modern US, EU, and national regulations for the financial markets have created multi-layer protection systems to safeguard investor assets. A ton of rules, basically.
Most importantly, brokers like IB are required to keep client assets, your “real” equity-like stocks, segregated from those of the broker in a special bank account, also known as a custodian account or securities depository. When you buy shares of equity, these are stored electronically with the custodian with you registered as the beneficiary owner. In practice, these “accounts” are digital ledgers with names and numbers.
In case of bankruptcy of your broker, creditors of the bankrupt broker cannot lay claim to your funds as these are held by separate legal entities. Meaning, everything else being equal, your equity would be returned to you eventually, although it may take years.
Investor compensation schemes
If this system should fail or if the records were mismanaged, only then would the various investor compensation schemes come into play as a last resort. In this scenario, European investors are protected from loss differently depending on which entity of IB they belong to:
|Regulator||Compensation (up to)|
But remember, there is only coverage against failed brokerage firms, not against failed investments. So, if say your TSLA position went belly up, it would still be tough luck.
To sum up, Interactive Brokers is an excellent fit for European investors of all shapes and sizes, but their trading platform may be more suitable for those with some years of experience behind the back. You will have access to thousands of instruments at low cost through the user-friendly Client Portal and mobile apps, including individual stocks and popular passive products like low-cost ETFs, which altogether makes it easy to build and maintain a diversified portfolio.
At the same time, Interactive Brokers is also great for traders with high-risk tolerance and for those looking to utilize the broker’s low-interest margin loans. If you execute multiple orders per month and you are comfortable with advanced order types, you will appreciate the low commissions, professional platforms, and low margin loan interest rates.
Interactive Brokers Europe review
Interactive Brokers is an excellent broker for Europeans, offering low trading fees, zero monthly fees, no account minimums, the largest investment selection, and a superior track record of over 40 years.
Frequently asked questions about Interactive Brokers
What is the minimum deposit for Interactive Brokers in Europe?
There is no minimum deposit for Cash accounts. Furthermore, IB charges no fees for bank deposits or withdrawals.
How does Brexit affect European clients of Interactive Brokers?
Clients of Interactive Brokers residing in the European Economic Area (EEA) were forced to migrate their accounts from the UK to one of three new European entities.
Is Interactive Brokers safe?
Interactive Brokers has survived several financial crises, is regulated by multiple top-tier regulators around the world, separates client and proprietary funds, and claims around $8.5 billion in equity capital. Altogether, this makes IB a safe broker.
Is Interactive Brokers Lite available in Europe?
No, IBKR Lite is not available outside the US. For European investors, there are commission-free alternatives available like DEGIRO.
Where can you use Interactive Brokers in Europe?
Interactive Brokers is available in the following countries: Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Channel Islands and Jersey, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Greenland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Moldova, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine, United Kingdom.
Is Interactive Brokers good for beginners?
For complete beginners, Interactive Brokers might seem overwhelming at first. With some practice, however, you should be able to navigate the platforms with relative ease.
How much is the monthly inactivity fee for EU clients?
There is no monthly inactivity fee on Interactive Brokers and no account minimums.