Interactive Brokers is Pathetic, but Americans Have No Choice
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Interactive Brokers is Pathetic, but Americans Have No Choice

Interactive Brokers provides an awful level of service. Their service is constantly failing – it goes down all the time these days locking traders out of access to their positions and costing them serious losses. And, users of the web interface find that it sometimes logs them on and sometimes does not. Apps are cumbersome and not designed around the Mac. Phone representatives are helpful, but can only be reached by those who have balances large enough to be given a direct number. Others will find themselves waiting on hold for hours.

The trading fees, as well, are completely out of line with ETrade or TDAmeritrade. While they do offer a free product to compete with Robinhood (from which they also sell order flow), it is an entirely no frills product that will not work for most.

In fact, just about everything is frustrating compared to ETrade or TDAmeritrade.

However, there are a few undeniable realities:

First, the US market is seriously overvalued relative to European and Asian markets. Americans should think about accessing these markets. Americans should also think about holding currency outside of US dollars and crypto, such as the Euro, the British pound or the Japanese yen.

Second, we are now fully involved in a climate catastrophe. US companies that are addressing this catastrophe and stand to benefit are few and far between (Tesla, GE, Ford?). European companies are the ones building innovative solutions here. The smaller European renewable companies are not listed at all in the US, and the larger ones (such as Orsted or Vestas) can be traded in the US only through unsponsored ADRs. While Interactive Brokers doesn’t have full access to all markets, it does enable access to the largest markets where all of these companies trade.

It is quite extraordinary that Interactive Brokers in the only online brokerage that will enable Americans to easily trade on foreign markets and to hold foreign currencies. It is equally extraordinary that they provide such a terrible level of service. But, I think we are stuck.

Ari Socolow
Ari Socolow: Ari Socolow is the Chief Economist and Editor-in-Chief at BestCashCow. He is particularly interested in issues relating to bank transparency and the climate crisis. Since co-founding BestCashCow in 2005, Ari has been frequently cited in the media as an expert on local and national savings accounts, CD products, mortgage and loan products and credit card rewards products.


  • Jonathan Cranston

    September 06, 2021

    IBKR is the worst. I was never able to get online during US trading hours. Had several million in there, and they weren't interested in keeping the account. Plus the fees! They never called me back and I left.

    I am also invested heavily in renewable energy stocks, including the two Danish wind stocks that you mention. Yes, I am very uncomfortable with unsponsored ADRs. (FWIW, Charles Schwab does not permit the purchase of unsponsored ADRs). And, yes, there are several other smaller renewable energy plays across Europe that I simply cannot access.

    Still looking for another solution to this ...

  • t1

    October 13, 2021

    Unable to fund my account, thus never using their services. Tried electronic funds transfer which was disallowed by receiving broker. Then tried personal check which was returned in the mail uncashed. I am a professional financial economist from the banking sector, descended from generations of bankers who made investments, thus knowing how financial institutions operate effectively. This one is not. Too much monkey business for me to be involved in.

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