Interactive Brokers- New USer Advice?

I am in the process of switching from TD Ameritrade to Interactive Brokers. I know that a lot of the posters here use IB. Any advice on learning the ropes? It looks VERY different from TDA.

Also, which BI services to subscribe to get the right mix of live (not delayed) data?

Thanks… Bob

Hi Bob,

I use Interactive Brokers and am very happy with them. The data subscriptions you want will depend on what data you need. For example, do you just need domestic equities? Or do you also need bonds, mutual funds, options, or foreign equities? What about OTC stocks? Are you happy with Level 1 quotes, or do you want deep book?

Personally, I’d just start with what you know for sure you need. You can add additional data subscriptions whenever you want.

Do you have any other specific questions? IB also offers a lot of webinars and training videos, which you might find useful.


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I just switched one of my accounts to Interactive Brokers. So far, I’ve just got the free data. I trade options, so I’m going to subscribe to the US Options data on Monday. Note that you can add or remove data at any time, but if you subscribe to it at any point in a month, then you end up paying for the entire calendar month. As Neil said, just add subscriptions as you find you need them. They even have a web form to help you figure out what data subscriptions might be relevant for any given ticker.

They’ve got a LOT of recorded webinars. I’ve already watched a dozen or so hours, and there’s lots more I might watch. I’d start with the introductory webinars first. If you think you’ll use TWS (their Java-based trading software), I’d watch the TWS Configuration one next.

They’ve got two main trading interfaces: WebTrader and Trader’s Work Station (TWS). WebTrader is a browser-based interface. If you’re going to mostly trade stocks and simple options, then WebTrader would be fine. TWS is the “do everything” interface. Within TWS, there are two main interfaces: Mosaic and Classic TWS. Mosaic has a window with various “components” (like your price quotes, order entry, charts, news). Classic TWS looks like a spreadsheet where you can intermix quotes/information and orders. Some of the really advanced stuff is only available via Classic TWS right now. You should probably start with one of the interfaces and learn its basics first. If you don’t know which to try first, probably watch the introductory webinars for both.

They repeat the webinars about once a month it seems. If you’ve got questions, participating in a webinar live would give you an opportunity to ask the presenter questions.

If you’re going to use TWS, you’ll probably want to configure it to show just the information you care about, in a layout that makes sense to you. Those introductory webinars and the TWS Configuration webinar showed me enough to get mine set up reasonably. I suspect I’ll be making minor tweaks for months to come.

They’ve also got lots of written documentation. I’ve only scratched the surface on that so far. (The TWS User Guide is 1166 pages!)

Good luck, and enjoy the low commissions!



Thanks for the feedback. I’ll begin reviewing the videos ASAP.

I’m happy with level 1. What do the Free US Value Bundles get me? It appears nothing. Nearly everything is delayed (yhoo,pfie,nflx…).
Which package do you recommend I start with?

Thanks… Bob

Hi Bob,

What do the Free US Value Bundles get me?

Well somewhat confusingly, you’ve actually joined IB during a period of transition, so those free bundles aren’t really free – they’re just free through the end of the year so folks don’t get double-charged as they switch from the old bundles (which are being discontinued) to the new ones.

The U.S. Value Bundle, which will be $10/month beginning January (or free if you generate $50/month of commissions), includes level 1 quotes for BATS exchanges, plus quotes for mutual funds, bonds, Dow Jones indices, CME futures and future options quotes, and CBOE market data express indices.

What you don’t get with the value bundle are quotes for NYSE, NASDAQ and AMEX – they’re basically using BATS as a proxy (though of course your trades will always execute at the best price, regardless of your data subscription).

Personally, I don’t care about most of the stuff in the new bundle, so I decided instead to subscribe directly to what I actually want (including the NYSE, NASDAQ, and AMEX level 1 quotes for $1.50/month each). It ends up being more cost effective for me and I get exactly what I want.

I hope that helps a little. You’ll get settled in soon enough, and remember that you’re going to probably save a boatload on commissions, so I wouldn’t sweat too much about spending a little on data as you discover what you need. Just adjust as you go.


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Hi Bob,

Here is a post I recently wrote on the Fool Stock Advisor board, which addresses some of the benefits of IB.


Hi Huddman,

I’ll try responding to your points.

1) $1 commission is that for real? (With $10 minimum per month of course)

Yes! Naturally, there may be some transactions that cost a little more ˜$2. If you need to buy a foreign currency to purchase an equity position on a foreign exchange, you’ll pay a little more.

2) Do they charge you to change or cancel your order? How much?

No! I (accidentally) executed a couple of orders (buying Euros instead of selling them), which I cancelled with no cancellation fee.

3) If you had say 3 accounts, one taxable, one IRA for self, one IRA for wife, and you wanted to place an order to buy 100 shares of Master Card for say around 80K and then allocate 30 shares in taxable, and 35 each in the two IRA accounts, do they allow this? How much approx. commission for such a trade?

Most likely, it’s $3 for 3 transactions in 3 different accounts (I only have brokerage at this time with IB). But one can create a family account, which enables you to transact in many accounts and buy the market subscriptions that consolidate fees into the single account. This allows you to reach the minimum thresholds a lot easier than paying for market access in each account individually.

5) The $10 minimum applies to each and every account? I have 6 accounts. I might transfer 5 of them. Would I end up paying $50 per month? Might still be a good deal. But just checking. I don’t want to pay $10 from my smaller roth IRA accounts where I don’t trade often. If I have to pay the $50 commission, I rather pay it from my taxable account. Roth money is precious.

See above. Also, one should be able to have various IRAs along with a brokerage account under a single account number, which would provide a better answer to your question.

6) Do they show you historical closing values of your account?

One can pull historical balances on a daily basis. My account had money only since February, which limits the view. But I can input any data range I want. Fidelity doesn’t do this.

7) Any performance measurement tools? Do they show Daily/Monthly or YTD PnL for example? Option House had this and was very cool.

Yes! One can run a query (with daily, weekly, monthly data) that spits out performance data that compares returns against a benchmark (I forgot the benchmark and I don’t know if this may be modified.

8) How is the year end tax related tools? TD allows you to download your activity to Turbotax. However, with WellsTrade I couldn’t do this. And with option house I had a bad experience too. This is very important I think. Although TD leaves you on your own for options reporting. So it is not perfect either.

I don’t know the details yet. However, there are specific canned tax queries that include all asset classes one can run.

I have TD and they have given me lower commission. But now things have changed. Option House has me at 3.95 which is great. But why pay thousands of dollars in commission when I can get away with about $600 per year with Interactive Brokers?

It costs $7.95 @ Fidelity and $1 @ IB for an equity transaction. At Fidelity, one gets market data for free and at IB one pays about $15 monthly (waiver subject to minimum transaction fees) for about the same level of data. So I save money as long as I have <4 transactions monthly. If you’re paying $1,000s, you’ll definitely save money with IB.

The reason I went to IB is due to Fidelity telling me that they no longer want my business as I live overseas (what a bummer, because I’ve been with Fidelity since the early 90s). Initially, I had a difficult time with the platform, because it’s complex and has the look and feel of a trading platform. However, I’m becoming familiar with the platform and really like it. Something else I noticed, which is worth a lot of money in the long run, is that my IB trades execute at better prices than Fidelity. I exclusively use limits, and my purchases have executed at pretty decent levels below the limit prices compared to how Fidelity executes (It makes me think that Fidelity has been screwing me for years).

Regarding margin, if you intend to use it, it’s done differently at IB. Instead of a margin rate (Fidelity’s is >8% annually), they lend you the money, and the current rate is <2% annually. The only reason I figured this out is due to the fact that I bought $US equities in my Euro account, believing they would automatically take payment from my Euros. Instead, they lent me the $US until I bought enough to cover my purchases.

IB also has a great authentication card I use to log into my account (I hope I don’t lose it), customer service is great (they proactively contacted me to provide me with personalized training).

Here is another important point. I can access my account via the web, via an installed application and via a java applet. If you run the java versions, remember to log out of your account. Otherwise, it will stay connected, even if your computer goes asleep.

Finally, I’m really happy with my IB account, especially now that I am used to the interface. I don’t ever want to go back to Fidelity (I left my IRAs with Fidelity for the moment).

Hopefully, this helps.



DJ, I want to thank you for posting this. I’ve just started trading with Robinhood and Fidelity and have opened an Interactive Brokers account, but not funded it yet. Not too sure if I’m ready to take the plunge of moving my funds to IB. Your post has really helped me understand how IB’s platform is different and how my fees might change.

I’m finding it really hard to navigate US brokerages while I live overseas (despite being a US citizen and banking in the US). Merrill Edge bounced me after about a week, and it is taking extreme efforts to get the last balances transferred. Fidelity is good so far. IB looks even better, but not as user-friendly as Fidelity for a beginner.

Thanks again for the helpful post!

Lots of US brokers are shutting down accounts in certain countries. It does not depend on the nationality of the account holder but the country of his residence. I also switched after TDA closed accounts in Venezuela. I looked at IB and passed them up. I landed at Lightspeed. They specialize in traders and have very low commissions but they also have a web platform that is not as cheap but good for investors like myself…

Their telephone help desk is pretty good and if you have Skype you can use their free number from overseas.

I find it best not to rely on the broker for data. Over the years I have developed various data sources. You pay for what you get. With brokers that provide lots of data, most if which I don’t use, you pay for stuff you don’t use. Get free data from the web, it cheaper!

Denny Schlesinger

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