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Interactive Brokers Canada Review

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Summary of Features

 

 

Interactive Brokers

Commissions: StocksFixed: US Markets $0.005/share - Min $1, Max 1% of trade value (USD)
Canadian Markets $0.01/share - Min $1, Max 0.5% of trade value (CAD)

Tiered: US Markets - $0.0035 per share on first 300,000 shares (minimum of $0.35), down to $0.0005 for highest volume tier
Maximum of 1% of total trade value
(USD)
Commissions: OptionsUS Markets
Fixed: $0.65 per contract - Min $1 (USD)

Tiered:
Varies between $0.15 to $1 per contract depending on volume and type (USD)
Commissions: ETFsSet of no transaction fee US ETFs, all others follow Stocks pricing above.
Account MinimumNone
Inactivity FeesNone
Investment TypesStocks, ETFs, Options, Futures, FOPs, Warrants, Structured Products, SSFs, Currencies, Metals, Indices, Fixed income, Mutual funds
Account TypesTFSA, RRSP, Spousal RRSP, Margin, Various Trust accounts
Account CurrenciesMost major currencies
Fractional SharesAllowed (Except in RRSP/TFSA)
Mobile AppIBKR Mobile is available on both iOS and Android. Application user interface is slightly complex, however it is intuitive once you get past the learning curve.
Desktop AppInteractivebrokers.ca has a variety of in-depth features for traders to access. These features can be a little complex for beginner traders but are nevertheless very useful for those who understand them.
Advanced Data StreamsA combination of commissions and amount of equity in your account is used to calculate how much real-time market data is available. The breakdown is available here.
Research ToolsVariety of research tools are available on the platform. Features such as scanning and back-testing can be done to analyze trades. In addition, news and other stock information is instantly available through partnerships with firms such as Morningstar.
Consumer Protection (i.e. CIPF)IIROC and CIPF

 
 
Learn more at InteractiveBrokers.ca

 


 

About Me

Before we dive in, a little bit about me. I am an investor who has been investing for half a decade.

As a Canadian, the number of platforms available in the country continues to evolve with competition being as fierce as it’s ever been.

Of note, Canadians saw the first zero commission platform being available to them through the introduction of Wealthsimple Trade.

 

Currently I’m using the Interactive Brokers (IBKR) platform to conduct my trading. I have been on the platform for just over a year now, moving over from primarily using Questrade and Wealthsimple.

Overall, the IBKR platform has better suited my needs, particularly as I moved onto more sophisticated investment instruments.

While the two aforementioned platforms were good for learning about investing and executing simple trades, IBKR provided vastly more customization and allowed me to make trades in a fast and efficient manner.

One of the main reasons I prefer the IBKR platform are the low costs associated with trading.

As I will mention below, the commissions charged are some of the lowest in Canada. In addition, the tiered fee model means the more you trade, the lower these per share commissions get.

On the other hand, under the fixed fee model, IBKR charges a maximum of 0.5% of the trade value in commissions, versus others like Wealthsimple who charge 1.5% in fees for CAD to USD (and vice versa) when purchasing and selling US-listed securities.

I also enjoy the access to a wealth of research and analytical tools, which help inform my decision making. In my opinion, no other platform comes close to the amount of information available through IBKR.

 

Overview

Interactive Brokers is a very well known and respected broker that offers services to clients around the world.

Interactive Brokers was solely awarded the Barron’s best online brokerage title in 2021 after being tied for the top spot in 2019 and 2020.

Clients are usually attracted to the Interactive Brokers platform by the low commissions and advanced platform features.

From stocks to options to currencies to bonds, Interactive Brokers offers a low cost way to trade just about any type of security under the sun.

As an international company, Interactive Brokers is very well established and provides clients access to a wide range of research and educational material on markets around the globe.

IBKR has been available to Canadians since 2000.


 

Pros

  • Low commissions and account fees, especially for high volume and high account balance individuals, fixed and tiered pricing options
  • Large number of tradable security types (stocks, bonds, options, futures, warrants, currency etc.)
  • International presence gives clients access to worldwide markets

 

Cons

  • Both mobile and web platforms (while feature-packed) were hard to navigate at first
  • While the commissions are low, it may take a while to understand how much you will be paying on certain types of trades / the optimal structure for your trading volume

 


 

Interactive Brokers Fees

Interactive Brokers offers clients two different commission options: fixed and tiered.

Using the fixed model, users pay a fee on each trade, which amounts to $0.005 per share ($1 minimum), up to 1% of trade value as a maximum for US markets (USD) and $0.01 per share ($1 minimum), up to 0.5% of trade value as a maximum for Canadian markets (CAD).

Under the tiered model, the commissions decrease as the volume of shares traded increases.

Investors who trade under 300,000 shares a month on US markets will be charged $0.0035 per share, with a minimum of $1 and up to 1% as a maximum (USD).

Above 300,000 shares, the per share price continues to decline across an additional 4 tiers, ranging up to > 100,000,000 shares traded per month.

On options, fixed fees for US markets are $0.65 USD per contract. Again, tiered options are available, ranging between between $0.15 to $1 per contract depending on volume and type (USD).

On currencies, IBKR offers some of the lowest fees on exchange rates, and also gives you access to a wide range of currencies.

 
Update: As of July 1, 2021, Interactive Brokers has eliminated all inactivity fees! This is welcoming news, allowing clients to benefit from low fees without having to worry about the frequency of their trading.

The online brokerage does charges fees for accounts that are left inactive.

For individual accounts with $100,000 USD or greater in assets, inactivity fees are $0 if you have commissions greater than $10 USD that month. If your commissions are less than $10 USD, your inactivity fee will be $10 USD minus commissions paid.

For those with an average equity balance under $2,000 USD, that number is $20 USD, so inactivity fees are $0 if you have commissions greater than $20 USD that month, however if your commissions are less than $20 USD, your inactivity fee will be $20 USD minus any commissions paid.


 

Interactive Brokers Account Types

1. For individuals (i.e. non advisor):

  • Individual
  • Joint (two parties only)
  • Registered, which includes the following sub-types:
    • Regular Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP)
    • Spousal Retirement Savings Plan
    • Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSA)
  • Margin
  • Trust:
    • Informal Trust (same as individual application for IB Canada)
    • Formal Trust (start individual application, then select Trust)

 

2. For advisors

  1. Family Account
    For those who have power of attorney and want to trade for multiple people within one account. Non-registered individuals may manage multiple sub-account(s) for a maximum of 5 close family members only.
  2. Professional Advisor
    For professionals who hold designations from security commissions who want to manage multiple accounts in one interface.

 


 

The Interactive Brokers Platform

Many comments online have mentioned the online and mobile platforms as one of the biggest negatives about IBKR.

Realistically, the web and mobile applications are really catered towards professional traders, and as a result are not as easy to use and navigate as other platforms.

It took me multiple tries before figuring out how to execute a simple market order.

While day traders may find many of the available features helpful, those who are beginners may find them to be a bit overkill.

Despite my experience, I felt confused and lost when attempting to navigate through the complex interface.

However, with some time and patience, I was able to gradually figure out the platform and even began taking advantage of the more advanced features.

As seen below, your trading view can be customized allowing you to display the information most important to you on the dashboard.

By moving things around, I was able to create an environment where all the information that I felt was important could be easily accessed.

Another complicated part that became easier over time was understanding the terminology and acronyms used. For example, IBKR gives access to a large list of advance order types.

Understanding acronyms like OCA (One cancels all), RPI (Relative/Pegged to Primary) and MKT PRT (Market with Protection) were difficult, but became a vital part of my trading strategy once I mastered this skill.

 
Interactive Brokers Platform
 


 

Opening a Interactive Brokers Account

Opening accounts within the IBKR platform has been critiqued for a few reasons.

Personally, I found that the time it took to set up the platform was slightly longer than with other brokerages.

IBKR will ask for your social insurance number, employer information, and bank information (similar to any other brokerage).

These steps are necessary for identification and AML purposes I’m sure.

However, if these are not sufficient, online commenters have stated that a commissioner of oaths or guarantor is necessary to sign off on your ID and provide this confirmation in writing to IBKR.

I personally did not have this issue, but it is important to flag that additional steps may be necessary with any brokerage, resulting in a delay in the account opening process.
 


 

Interactive Brokers Lite

Leveraging the feedback regarding the complexity of the full IBKR platform, as well as the market trend of brokerages offering zero commission fees, the company created a “Lite” version that does not contain all the bells and whistles.

According to their U.S. website, IBKR Lite clients can benefit from no inactivity fees and commission free U.S. stock/ETF trades.

The trade off is lower quality order executions.

For most people aside from day traders, the difference in order executions isn’t likely to be very noticeable, and as a result the Lite option would be perfect for beginner investors.

Unfortunately, IBKR Lite is currently only available to clients in the United States.


 

Interactive Brokers vs Wealthsimple Trade

In Canada, clients have the ability to choose from a variety of different options when choosing an online brokerage.

One particular option that has been very popular in recent years is Wealthsimple Trade, which I also used for a time period.

In the beginning, there was no web based application, and trading was only available through their mobile app.

The interface was sleek and very user friendly.

In addition, trading of Canadian stocks and ETFs were also commission free.

However, there was a limited amount of stocks that could be traded.

Many stocks that are available on other platforms are not tradable on Wealthsimple.

It often took weeks before newly IPOed companies were listed on Wealthsimple.

In addition, trading of U.S. based equities were quite expensive, with a 1.5% currency exchange fee charged on both buying and selling, since you’re unable to keep USD in your Wealthsimple Trade account (i.e. you must convert to and from CAD each time you buy/sell U.S. equities).

While trading Canadian securities was free, the costs of making trades of U.S. based equities quickly added up for me.

The ability to access a wide range of stocks in both North America and abroad combined with low commissions are the main reasons users may gravitate to a platform like IBKR.

IBKR and Wealthsimple Trade are very different types of platforms, with IBKR being more of a full service platform while Wealthsimple Trade is great for the basic function of buying and selling stocks.

You can also check out my Interactive Brokers vs Questrade.

 


 

In Summary

Overall IBKR is one of the most versatile online brokerages available at the moment.

While the platform obviously caters to higher volume, higher account value traders, there are nevertheless some very real benefits to IBKR over other platforms for even the most beginner traders.

With such a large variety of securities available to be traded, there is surely something for everyone in the IBKR platform.

There is no question that issues remain regarding the user experience on their web based and mobile trading applications.

However, these may be solved in the future if IBKR Lite is released in Canada.

There is a clear and noticeable effort to balance features between seasoned veterans and first timers.

Satisfying all user types will require some work, but overall the platform must be commended for moving towards becoming the go-to platform in Canada for all traders.

 
 
Learn more at InteractiveBrokers.ca

 


 

FAQs

 

1. Does Interactive Brokers Canada allow purchase of fractional shares?

IBKR Canada allows the purchase of fractional shares in all accounts except TFSA and RRSP. Fractional shares trade using the same commission structure as regular shares, and the function is available for most U.S. traded stocks.

 

2. What is the minimum deposit for Interactive Brokers Canada

There is no required minimum deposit.

 

3. What are the margin rates for Interactive Brokers Canada?

Margin rates are based on a blended system with tiers based on dollar amount.
Tier 1 is $0 to $100,000, Tier 2 is $100,000 to $1,000,000 and so on.
Rates lower in each tier and also depend on the currency you are using.

nv-author-image

Baggio Ma

I have been investing for half a decade, using the perspectives gained from my work experience in the private, public, and non-profit sectors to shape my investment outlook. I have a specific interest in the potential of emerging disruptive technologies and their impact on the future.