In this Interactive Brokers Review – Trader Workstation, we will cover IB’s platform (TWS for short) and explain how it has been a simple, yet powerful ally to the active trader and investor. Right off the bat, they are a good broker and their order executions and short locates are solid. Their charting platform is a bit antiquated and needs updating and their customer service is pretty decent.
Is Interactive Brokers Good for Beginners? (Review Breakdown)
Interactive Brokers is well known for two key elements; their international trading platform, and low fees and commissions. As a newbie to the trading world, everything can seem overwhelming. But that doesn’t have to be the case. With Interactive Brokers, everything a beginner needs is at their fingertips.
Here’s a sample of what you get if you choose to go with them as your broker:
- Simulator: They offer a great simulated trading platform to practice trading
- Choice: You can trade stocks, options, futures
- Customization: A customizable mosaic trading platform
- Trader Work Station (TWS): Advanced algos and trading tools
- IBKR WebTrader (PRO): Web based trading platform.
- IBKR Mobile: Trade on the go from IOS and Android devices
- IBot: find info you need without special syntax or financial jargon
- Freedom: Choice to trade internationally in over 100 markets in over 24 countries.
We started using IB’s TWS as a secondary broker in early 2016, as it came highly recommended by another experienced trader in our stock market community.
Looking back, that seems like a very typical way people find out about IB. It is very popular among the “hard core” trading community, globally, but its all well suited to the casual investor. It has spread very rapidly through word of mouth, and has a great reputation for being a reliable and versatile brokerage firm.
1. Mosaic Layout
From day one, we were impressed with its simple, yet alien looking layout. While we still continue to use and enjoy TD Ameritrade’s Thinkorswim platform, there are some stark differences between the platforms.
Also free to take our free Interactive Brokers Platform setup course if you want helping getting started with them.
First off, when you download and install TWS, you will be greeted with their “Mosaic Layout”. This is quite different from the tab based layout you may be used to with TOS.
You’re going to want to arrange your Mosaic to your preference and liking. You also may notice that you are not able to fit all the windows, and charts into a single mosaic layout.
This is why it pays to have a larger monitor, or multiple monitors when trading! Check out our day trading computer setup post to get a handle on the right gear to power your platform. Next, on the top right, you’ll see “Layout Locked” click this and you can re-arrange as you see fit.
In this Interactive Brokers review you’ll see we have customized the TWS Mosaic. Top left we have Order Entry. Top Right, you see Time and Sales – these are all the trades that are being filled in real time, often referred to as “reading the tape”. Bottom right you have Level 2 market data, mid left, you can see the daily chart of $X, and finally bottom left you see your activity window, where all your active and completed orders will show.
2. Trader Workstation
One of the best features of the Interactive Brokers Traders Work Station (TWS) platform is their shorting ability. Compared to other brokers I’ve researched, IB has the most substantial amount of stocks available to short.
Additionally, we like using a minimum of TWO screens for TWS. Though you may find that is not necessary. However, for day trading, this is absolutely needed. We typically will use the setup above, and group the remaining windows we need in a separate window. More on that later.
Next, we want to talk about the strengths of Interactive Brokers. If you need more help with stock training then make sure to take our free courses.
3. Fast Trade Executions: Interactive Brokers Review
IB has lightening fast trade executions. Interactive brokers has created a “Smart Routing” system to provide traders with lightening fast execution speeds. This means IB searches for the best fill on your option or stock, depending on the time of your order, with the goal of executing it immediately.
IB boasts that this adds up to real money in your account. We enjoy that there is very little lag, and have not found a faster trade execution with any of the other brokers we have tried.
How Much Are Interactive Brokers Commission Fees in 2021? (Review of Pricing)
1. Low Commission Fees
IB is known for having some of the lowest fees and commissions in the industry with a fixed and tiered fee structure. And, like most brokers, prices differ depending on markets traded. In North America, IB is only .005 cents per share.
For example, 100 shares worth of a $25 dollar stock would only cost you $1.00 in commission. Compare this to $5-7 that most brokerages are charging, and it adds up quick. Options are also very inexpensive to trade on IB (learn how to open an investment account).
Option contract commissions are calculated by the premium and the number of contracts. Contracts will cost you as little as .25 cents! (pricing subject to change)
2. IB Tool: Interactive Brokers Review
IB is jam packed with tools. Whether you are an advanced trader, investor, or beginner, there is something for everyone. Every type of scanner imaginable is at your disposal. Fundamental, Options, Volatility, News, Bonds, Complex Order and Trades scanner.
We like the free analyst research reports, event calendar and it even has a “Alexa Style” voice activated information window called Ibot.
Simply ask it questions about a stock symbol and it will retrieve the information you are after, IB has thought of everything when it comes to tools and you could honestly take a years time exploring all of the various tools at your disposal. You can even stream Bloomberg TV within the platform!
3. Access Granted!
Access to the global markets, Futures and FX. There are no limitations when it comes to the global markets. Margin is great at IB and has the lowest rates of any broker, according to Barons. Please note there is NO margin available on FX unless your account is 1 million.
The Interactive Brokers review picture above is a screen shot of the option volatility lab. We like this tool because it shows a list of options plays you might want to take, along with probability, ROI, all calculated depending on what you “expect” for a percentage price move (based on your charting skills!) If you need help with your technical analysis skills, take our course!
Can You Short on Interactive Brokers? (Short List Review)
Yes you can short on Interactive Brokers. They have one of the best short list platforms on the market, while being one of the most economical brokers. You can also setup a scanner using their “Advanced Market Scanner” and scan specifically for stocks with short shares available.
Interactive Brokers has had the best “short share” availability we have ever seen. That was a big draw for us when trading stocks. They have some very interesting features when it comes to shorting.
We like to sort the list by the least amount of shares available. This way we can find stocks that are most likely already being shorted, and have a limited surplus left to borrow from. Check out a list of the top trading companies. Also, here’s a list of the top free trading brokers.
Another big thing that we like is IB has a little green dot that is either dimmed or illuminated depending on if it has shares available for borrow or not, right on the order entry screen.
This is fantastic because as your scanner picks up a stock, and you wish to check it out in IB, you’ll know immediately if there are shares available to short at a glance.
You can further expand additional information by hovering over the dot and open the stock symbol in the SLB tool. This tool will show you shares available, and you can see shares being covered or borrowed in real time! This is incredibly useful information.
Check out our trading service to learn more about what services we offer to our community.
Takeaways: Interactive Brokers Review
- Something newbies should know is that there are some minimums charges that IB has. Unless you have $100,000 or more and or spend at least $30 in commissions fees each month then you will be subject to some maintenance charges. These inactivity charges can go up to $20 per month. We are active traders and investors, so the fees are not a big deal for us, but worth noting.
- Great for investing in foreign markets
- IB has a little bit longer of a wait time to reach a person for support, usually 3-5 minutes of wait time on average. The same was also true of using their chat function. This is a little bit longer than most brokers, however, their customer service personnel are very helpful.
- IB does have ok charting, but it is not as good as some other platforms we have tested and use. And it still has a VWAP problem where the VWAP indicator is not accurate. This is something we wish they would fix! Other than that, no major complaints with their platform, and charting setup.
- Take our free online trading courses for beginners if you need help with trading.