IB Trader WorkStation (TWS) Cost and Requirements (2020)

Interactive Brokers Trader WorkStation trading platform review. IB TWS direct access pricing, stock trade fees, charts, pros and cons. Is TWS free?

Interactive Brokers Trader WorkStation Overview

Interactive Brokers has a very advanced desktop platform called Trader Workstation. With a single account, it can be used to trade many different security types, including options, futures, forex, and bonds, across more than 100 international markets. Let's take a look at what Interactive Brokers delivers with this software.

Platform Impression

The platform functions as a desktop application. It first must be downloaded from the IB website. After installing the program, it should be launched from the desktop or Start menu. Users can log in with an IB account, or for paper trading, the application can be accessed in demo mode using just an e-mail address.

Three different color options are available when logging in: classic, dark, and light. The software is fully customizable. The wrench icon produces a window where many different features can be modified. These include order entry, charts, technical analysis, and market data tools.

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Two different formats are available after logging in: Mosaic or Classic. The difference is primarily in how different items are displayed. Mosaic uses tiles, whereas Classic uses icons at the top of the screen. Multiple tabs with different formats can be created on the platform, and it's easy to switch between them.

A nice British voice announces when the Internet connection has been lost or re-established. The same voice announces when an order has been completed or canceled. A pop-up window from the bottom of the platform also displays a completed trade.

TWS trading platform

Charting and Order Placement

A chart can be displayed as a small tile or detached to display full screen. Colors of backgrounds and lines can be changed. Many technical studies can be displayed below or on top of the graph. Trend lines are also available. The graph can be displayed as candlesticks or OHLC bars. A stock's price history can be compared against any of the world's major indices.

Trader WorkStation Review

A chart can be saved as a template for future use. Logarithmic scale can also be specified. A crosshair can be used to analyze a chart. The application allows a text box to be used to save notes. It's a very customizable program. Even the width of bars can be adjusted.

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An order can be placed from the chart. Buy and sell buttons are displayed in the upper-right corner of the chart. Clicking on one of the two buttons produces an order ticket. Advanced orders besides market and limit can be used. For example, market if touched is available. An order ticket has two different modes: regular or advanced. The latter provides more order options, of course. For example, users can select the option to allow the order to be filled outside of regular market hours. Other options include triggers and how the order is routed. The order can be sent immediately to an exchange without a preview if desired.

IB Trader WorkStation Review

One of the advantages of TWS is its ability to trade a wide variety of products. Typing in a company's name or ticker symbol in the order entry box produces a drop-down window with a range of selections. Depending on the security, these may include stock, options, warrants, futures, or CFD (contract for difference). Clicking on any one of those items produces the appropriate trading tool for the security desired.

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The financial publication Barron's awarded Interactive Brokers 4½ stars out of 5 for "Best Trading Experience and Technology". The broker also received first place from WSL Institutional Awards for "Best Options Trading Platform". IB received 1st Runner Up for Institutional Platform from Stocks and Commodities Awards.

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Trader Workstation is much more sophisticated than Schwab's advanced platform, StreetSmart Edge. TWS has more order types and can be customized to a greater extent. StreetSmart Edge is more user friendly and takes less time to learn. However, there are fewer products available on Schwab's platform to trade, such as warrants and forex.

TD Ameritrade's advanced platform, thinkorswim (review), is on the same level as Trader Workstation in terms of sophistication and amount of time to learn. Both platforms can trade futures and forex in addition to stocks and options. Charting in thinkorswim is very advanced, probably more advanced than TWS. Thinkorswim provides live streaming of CNBC free of charge, whereas TWS users must pay a subscription fee to get news from Reuters, Morningstar, and Dow Jones.

StreetSmart Edge requires a $1,000 minimum account balance, while thinkorswim is free for all TD Ameritrade customers. Trader Workstation, on the other hand, comes with an account that has a minimum monthly fee of $10, and an opening deposit of at least $10,000.

Interactive Brokers Trader WorkStation Summary

Interactive Brokers claims to cater to sophisticated investors, and Trader Workstation certainly lives up to the advertising. Most amateur investors will find the software difficult to learn. On the other hand, experienced and professional investors who need an advanced platform to trade a variety of securities across different national exchanges will benefit both from the platform and the broker.

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