How to buy an ETF on Interactive Brokers from Account Management

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How to buy an ETF on Interactive Brokers from Account Management

I have recently started using Interactive Brokers (IB). It took a while for me to get used to this system. I discovered that Interactive Brokers have many interfaces from which you can trade. It is overwhelming at first.

I have been contacted a few times by readers that were having a hard time starting with Interactive Brokers. And unfortunately, I did not have any useful resources on the subject to help them. Moreover, many people do not know that they can use the Account Management interface for most tasks.

Also, this is probably the most simple interface and the most useful one for most investors.

In this article, we are going to see how you can buy an ETF directly from the account management interface. And we are also going to see how to deposit money on your account from this interface.

Interactive Brokers Interfaces

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Interactive Brokers

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Since many people are confused by the multiple user interfaces of Interactive brokers, I plan to make a few posts explaining some basic features of Interactive Brokers (IB). The idea is to help everyone that is starting with Interactive Brokers to do the necessary tasks in each interface. I will try to cover funding the account, converting currencies, and buy and selling shares for each of the posts.

In this post, I am going to go over how to buy the VOO (Vanguard S&P 500) ETF from the Account Management interface. Even though my example will focus on the VOO ETF, it is the same for any ETF.

We are going to go over all the steps. The process starts with transferring the money to IB, then converting it to USD, and then finally buying the ETF. Of course, if your base currency is USD, you do not need step 2. And if your account is already funded, you do not need the first step either.

For this, I am going to assume that you have an Interactive Brokers account. If you do not have one yet, you can read how to open an Interactive Brokers account.

Account Management Interface

The Account Management interface is the default interface of Interactive Brokers. I talked at length about the different interfaces of IB. This interface allows you to do almost everything:

  • You can visualize your portfolio and see your investing performance.
  • You can do basic trading. Some of the advanced options for trading are not available from this interface.
  • You can request a transfer of funds.
  • You can generate reports of your activity or results.

I believe this interface is good for most tasks. And this is the one I am using the most since it is also the simplest of them all to use.

To open this interface, you can go to the Interactive Brokers website. From there, you can click on the red Log In button.

Interactive Brokers Login options
Interactive Brokers Login options

To access Account Management, you can either go to the Client Portal Login or use the Account Management link. They both do the same thing. You will need to enter your account name and password. And you will also need to use your phone for two-factor authentication.

Transferring money from Account Management

If you do not have enough money to make the trade you want, you will first have to fund your account. For this, Account Management is the best interface. Let’s say you want to transfer 5000 CHF on your IB account.

There are two steps in this process:

  1. Create a new deposit method.
  2. Declare an incoming transfer from a deposit method.

The first step is only necessary if you never made a transfer from this source. If you already did it, you can skip it. Let’s see how to do both of the steps.

1. Create a new deposit method

On Interactive Brokers, you need to declare first the source of the transfer. It is only necessary to do this once for each source. You can have many sources in many different currencies. It does not have to be in the same currency as your account currency.

IB Account Management - New deposit method
IB Account Management – New deposit method

You can to Menu > Transfer & Pay > Transfer Funds to access this view. If you want to declare a new source, you can click on How to wire Funds. Then, you will have to fill some information about this deposit method.

IB Account Management - Deposit Method
IB Account Management – Deposit Method

Make sure to double-check all the information. IB will use this information to associate the incoming funds to your account. If something does not match, the fund transfer may be delayed.

2. Declare new wire transfer

Once you have created your deposit method, you will need to declare a new transfer from this method. You will have to do that every time you do a transfer.

IB Account Management - Select Deposit Method
IB Account Management – Select Deposit Method

Go back to the Transfer Funds view and select one of the deposit methods. You should have one of them for each bank account from which you are planning to send money to IB.

IB Account Management - Select Deposit Method
IB Account Management – Select Deposit Method

Once you have set the correct amount you intend to transfer, here 5000 CHF, you can continue, and Interactive Brokers will give you all the information for the bank transfer.

IB Account Management - Wire Transfer
IB Account Management – Wire Transfer

This view should give you all the necessary information to perform the wire transfer from your bank. Be careful about setting the correct message to the recipient. This message should contain your account number and your name. This information is what Interactive Brokers will use to identify the transfer as going to your account.

You can then initiate the transfer from your bank. If you transfer CHF, make sure to use the CH IBAN. That way, the transfer will be entirely free. Once the transfer is initiated, it may take a few days to reach IB. Generally, it is quite fast. As soon as my bank executes the transfer, I usually see the money on my IB account the same day.

Note that depending on when you created your account, you may be assigned another IBAN (from Credit Suisse) to wire money to your account. In this case, just follow the instructions given to you by IB.

Convert currency from Account Management

If you plan to buy an ETF that is not in your base currency, you will first have to buy this currency. Is very simple to do so from the account management interface.

You can go into the menu and click on Convert Currency.

Convert currency from the account management interface of IB
Convert currency from the account management interface of IB

 

In this view, you can simply choose which currency you want to convert and into which currency. Enter the amount you want to convert and then click Submit. IB will then generate an order for you on the forex market. And once this order is executed (generally instantly), you will get your USD.

There is another way to convert currency with a little more control. You can buy currency like you buy shares (see next section). For instance, you can buy shares of USD.CHF which means buying some USD with some CHF. If you want to buy USD with EUR, you can look for USD.EUR. If you want to buy EUR with USD, you can trade for EUR.USD. You get the idea! This will give you a little more options. But in most cases, the simple conversion will work nicely.

Buy an ETF from Account Management

Once you have enough cash in the correct currency, you can now buy some shares of the VOO ETF. If you followed the previous section, you would already be familiar with how to do it. It is precisely the same process! You can open the Trade window by using the Trade button from the top right of the interface.

IB Account Management - has several options for VOO
IB Account Management – has several options for VOO

You can type VOO, or the name of any other ETF you wish to buy shares from, and type Enter. Interactive Brokers will probably propose several options (Stock, Futures, Options, and Contracts For Difference (CFD)). And sometimes, you will also see several exchanges. Here, we want the Stock on the ARCA exchange.

IB Account Management - Trade VOO
IB Account Management – Trade VOO

If all these values confuse you, do not worry! They are making sense:

  • 266.42 is the current market price.
  • -0.06 is the last change of the market price in absolute value.
  • -0.02% is the last change of the market price in percent.
  • In red, you will find the ask volume and the ask price (266.70)
  • In blue, you will find the bid volume and the bid price (265.36)

And the fact that it is written Frozen Data is because I did not pay to get real-time data for this particular market. Or it could also mean that I am trading out of hours.

Then, you can set the amount you want as well as the Limit price. Since it is a trade, you can use several order types: Market, Limit, Stop, and Stop Limit. I recommend only using Limit Orders. You can set the Limit price based on the current data. You can also set the duration of the order. Either the order is valid only today, or it is Good Till Cancel (GTC). If you want to learn more about these options, I wrote an entire article about stock market order types.

I would advise you to use the Preview option to make sure this is what you want.

IB Account Management - Preview VOO Trade
IB Account Management – Preview VOO Trade

This view will give you all the information you want about the order. You need to pay special attention to the amount and the commission. Here, for instance, I would have paid 5328.60 USD for the purchase of 20 shares, and I would have only paid fees between 0.31 and 0.41 USD. Once you are satisfied with your order, you can click on Submit to validate it and wait for it to be executed.

Warnings from Interactive Brokers

When you trade with IB from the Account Management interface, you may encounter several warning popups on your screen. You will get used to it. But when you are starting to invest, it is discouraging.

Warning about small currency transactions

The first is when you do a small currency transaction, below 25’000 CHF.

In that case, IB will tell you that the order is too small to be using IDEALPRO and will use FXCONV instead. You do not need to worry about that! They are just two different routing systems.

For orders below 25’000 CHF, IB will not guarantee interbank exchange rates. So, you may be getting a slightly worse deal. But the difference is negligible enough that you do not have to worry about it. I have converted many times small amounts with IB without any issues.

Warning about lack of real-time data

The second warning that could pop up is when you buy an ETF without real-time data.

If you are like me, you will not have paid the monthly fee to get real-time prices. If I need them, I can always look at Google Finance to see them. You should not worry about that warning. It just means that the prices you see in the interface are delayed by 15 minutes. If you use Limit Orders as your stock market order type, you will be fine regardless.

So once again, do not worry about this warning.

Warning about price caps

The third warning is about mandatory price caps. This warning is probably the least obvious of the three.

In 2016, Interactive Brokers started implementing price caps for market orders. It means that a limit order with a price very different from the market price cannot be executed even though it would be valid otherwise. IB is using its own way of setting price caps to decide what is fair and what is not.

For instance, if a stock trades at a market price of 100 USD and you open a buy limit order at 50 USD, this limit will not be taken into account to execute market orders. Using price caps on market orders is simply a protection for investors using market orders.

Once again, you can safely ignore this warning.

Conclusion

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Interactive Brokers

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Now, you are already done! You will now have more shares of the VOO ETF. The entire process is the same for any other ETF. You just have to change the name you are searching for, and if it is available in Interactive Brokers, you will be able to buy it as well.

It is straightforward to trade from the Account Management interface. You can do all the basic investing tasks from this interface. Likely, most simple investors will never need any other interface.

As you can see, you can do much from the Account Management interface. Even though its name talks only about managing your account, it can do much more than that! You can do most things on this interface.

Of course, there are a few limitations. For instance, some of the Interactive Brokers order types are not available. But most of the time, the only kind of order you need is a Limit order. So that should not be an issue.

For beginners with Interactive Brokers, I recommend using the Account Management interface. Once you are more familiar with it, and if you are interested, you can start exploring the other interfaces. But you can go your whole investing life only using this single interface.

If you prefer the mobile interface, you can also buy ETFs from the IBKR Mobile Application.

Do you have any questions on how to use IB? Do you have any tips for the Account Management interface?

Mr. The Poor Swiss

Mr. The Poor Swiss is the author behind thepoorswiss.com. In 2017, he realized that he was falling into the trap of lifestyle inflation. He decided to cut on his expenses and increase his income. This blog is relating his story and findings. In 2019, he is saving more than 50% of his income. He made it a goal to reach Financial Independence. You can send Mr. The Poor Swiss a message here.

95 thoughts on “How to buy an ETF on Interactive Brokers from Account Management”

  1. I’m torn here. I opened the account on IB.

    Now I need to choose a fund. And it’s either VWRD.L but the average volume seems to be super low – around 57 000 trades.

    It seems super low to me.

    1. Hi Jack,

      If you are Swiss, you should invest in U.S. ETF, like VT, it is much bigger, has lower fees, is more tax efficient and the volume is much bigger.

      It is low, but not super low for a European ETF. You will never get the same trading volume as some huge U.S. ETF.
      At least, I would not stop investing in a fund just because it has only 60k trades per day.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Hi,

    for some reasons it seems not possible to trade US ETFs as a European Citizen. I read this on another blog and tried it several times.

    Do you have any specific trading permission?

    Thanks

      1. Hi Mr the Poor Swiss,

        Do you mean that an EU national but resident in Switzerland would not have access to US ETFs and VT via IB only Swiss citizens living in Switzerland? Thanks for the clarification :)

        1. No, that’s not what I meant :)

          Normally, what’s important is tax residency. I believe that if you are an EU national, living in Switzerland, and paying your taxes in Switzerland (and solely there), you should be able to use these ETFs.

  3. Hi Mr. Pool Swiss,

    I have converted some CHF to USD with the above-mentioned method.

    At the beginning a warning from IB saying that the order size is below USD 25000 IdealPro minimum and will be routed as an odd lot order. But later when the order is filled, I find that it is indicated “Bot…on IDEALPRO” with the “USD.CHF” on my list of orders and trades. So here does it mean that the conversion has been routed with IdealPro? Then when I click on it, it’s like I have a position opened and trading like the other ETF and there is a button “close position”. So is this “position” virtual? Can I or should I ignore it? I feel confused because I just wanted to exchange currency to trade ETF with USD. I try to understand why there is such a “close position” button, so here below is what I’m thinking:
    1. It’s just for information, So I can ignore it. (But it’s so weird to see the button “close position” there.)
    2. If I close the position, since I have ETF trading with USD, what’s going to happen then…
    3. Does it mean actually IB just lent me USD (with my CHF deposit as guarantee) to trade my ETF with USD, if I don’t close the position, then it means that I am also trading the currency and taking risk on it. If that’s the case, I might want to close the position when possible and at a good moment.

    Any idea about this experience?

    Thank you in advance for your help.

    Kelly

  4. Hi sir, I am trying to buy the USD-denominated QQQ on London Stock exchange(LSE). Based on yahoo finance and Invesco website, the symbol is EQQU.

    In IBKR, I can only find the EQQQ which is listed in LSE but denominated in GBp (British pence). There is also a EQQQ1 which is denominated in USD but listed in EBS (Swiss Exchange if i understand correctly). I wrote to customer service but the reply was not helpful. When i check the stock quotes for EQQU and EQQQ1, there is a slight difference.

    Is EQQQ1 in IBKR the same product as EQQU ? I have been googling for more info but couldn’t find any useful info. I am trying to DCA into QQQ over the long rum but don’t wish to start off with buying the wrong etf.

    Any advice ? Thanks

    1. Hi Kh,

      Sorry to hear about your experience.
      It seems to be the same ETF, but I am honestly not sure, I do not know any of these products. I can confirm the same thing from my account though.
      What did the support say?

      Sorry to not be able to help more, I do not know these ETFs.

  5. Hello!
    Great article! Thank you

    In order to buy ETFs with IB as an european you need trading permissions to Stock, or?

    Thanks

    1. Hi Stefan,

      When you open an Interactive Brokers, you will have to request trading permissions for each of the stock exchanges you are interested in. ETFs are traded like stocks, so you need the same permissions.
      For instance, I have requested permissions for the SIX stock exchange and the main U.S. Stock Exchanges.
      Keep in mind that as a member of the European Union, you cannot trade in U.S. ETFs.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Hi TPS,
    Thanks so much for this great resource that is your blog. It is really difficult to find relevant information for people living in Switzerland.
    I am new to IB and I have two questions:
    -When I hold a position that is not in my base currency (CHF) the system tells me that unless I have that amount in cash they will create a margin account and I will have to pay interest on that. This could be a big problem for me because if I invest in VT, for example, I would need to have a balance in cash for USD equivalent to the amount I invest, which makes no financial sense to me. The only solution I see is to change the base currency to USD, but that is not really a solution as I would still face the same issue with EUR and then with CHF ETFs. What is your recommendation?
    -A second question is wrt the ETF TERs. I want to develop an ETF portfolio with a focus on low TER. However, sometimes the same ETF has European, American, or institutional versions with slightly different fees, so it is difficult to know how much a Swiss investor has to pay as TER. Is there a repository of factsheets in Interactive Brokers where you can check before investing?

    1. Hi Lui,

      Thanks for your kind words.

      1) First, did you choose a margin account or a cash account? For most people, a cash account makes more sense. Now, regarding foreign currencies, you need to exchange your CHF in USD before you buy (or go on margin, but I do not think this is what you want).
      You can do that either by buying USD.CHF (USD priced in CHF) or using the convert currency tool in the left menu.

      2) If you are Swiss, you can invest in U.S. ETFs. And they are the best ones because they are more tax efficient. So, you should only focus on American ETFs when they are available.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      1. Hi again TPS,

        Many thanks for your fast reponse. Let me show you what I meant by this transfer of positions from assets not in my base currency. Once I ordered this transfer this is the message I got:
        Dear Client,

        Please review the information below which relates to positions transferred into your account U******3 on 26-AUG-20.

        You are transferring positions denominated in a currency other than your account’s base currency. To learn more about trading in a currency other than your account’s base currency, please watch this short video.
        – LYXIB
        The message doesnt say much but the video does: https://www.interactivebrokers.com/en/general/education/videos/trading-overseas-tws.php
        My account is standard and I am not interested in any margin account or any leverage. Have you ever come accross something similar?
        Re. ETF TERs, can you check that anywhere upfront in IB or you just check justetf.com?
        Cheers!

        1. Hi Luis,

          So, you are transferring securities from another broker, is that it?
          Then, I do not think there is an issue. This will just mean that some of your assets will be USD. If you want to buy more of them, you will have to convert USD and if you want to sell them, they will give you USD.
          I have never transferred anything to IB, but I do not think this would be an issue.

          For most ETFs, if you search for the ETF Ticket in IB, you will find detailed information about the ETF.

          Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Hi again!

    Could you please explain what exactly liquidity risk is for an ETF ?
    Takes more time to get the cash on your account when you sell? instead of selling the ETF immediately you really have to wait more days?

    I want to invest in S&P400 midcap ETF and I am concern regarding liquidity risk.

    Thanks

    1. Hi Stefan,

      There are two risks with illiquid ETFs:
      1) As you mentioned, it takes time to sell, but this is very unlikely on the stock market.
      2) The spread is bad. It means that the difference between the sell price and the buy price is high. In that case, you may get a worse deal once you want to exit.

      Now, these are not big risks! And it is more related to the size of the fund than the size of the index.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Hi TPS,

    Thank you for all your articles. It is so sad that Europeans(-CH) cannot trade original US ETFs.

    I have an account with IB UK, and I noticed the ‘delayed’ box. You mentioned that you take the live prices from Yahoo or Google.
    However, on every major site I looked, prices are also delayed. Yahoo: 15 min, Google:15 min, Bloomeber, Marketwatch etc.

    Do you mind sharing where we can find real time quotes for our 15 minutes/month interaction with the trading platform?

    Best regards

    1. Hi evian,

      I completely agree with you on that! And Swiss investors are likely to lose access to them in 2022 :(

      American stocks are real-time on Google normally. But not all stock exchanges are real-time indeed.
      And I think it’s the same on Yahoo, but not entirely sure. I generally only use Google search for that.
      For other stocks, I use the delayed price. Since I invest once a month, it’s not a big deal for me to have delayed prices.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Salut TPS,

    I am a British citizen living in Switzerland. This question has been asked numerous times but I was wondering if you knew any more (or perhaps where I could find information on) about the US ETF’s and whether we are still allowed to invest in them in 2020.

    Many thanks in advance from le Canton de Vaud

    1. Hi Jimbob,

      I can’t say about British citizens since I am not sure whether the law applies for citizenship or residency.
      However, I can confirm that Swiss citizens and residents can still invest in U.S. ETFs.
      Since IB does not have custody fees in the first three months, you can maybe create an account and try it out.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Hi TPS,

    Thanks for your article, it’s very helpful.

    Buying USD.CHF means buy USD with CHF. Does selling CHF.USD mean sell CHF to get USD? Wondering if both operations get the same result and if there’s any difference or impact.

    1. Hi Kelly,

      I believe you are correct. I am not they have all the currency pairs available like this. But in theory, buying USD.CHF should be the same as selling CHF.USD. I think that both operations wil have the same reslt. But I have never tried selling CHF.USD.
      I think that buying USD.CHF is more intuitive for many people since that means you are really buying USD with a price in CHF.
      But they should be equivalent.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Hello Mr. Poor Swiss,

    Can you please tell me, how can i find the list of ETFs and other stocks available in IB?

    I thank you very much for responding.

  12. Hi Mr. Poor Swiss
    I have a question for you regarding the permission to trade US Funds. I am an Italian citizen living in Switzerland, do I have the permission to trade US ETFs? On IB I can only select “non american” Investmentfonds, additionally I cannot find any of the UCITS ishares ETFs I wanted to invest in. Thanks for support!

    Regards

    1. Hi Elias,

      If you are a Swiss resident and are paying your taxes only in Switzerland, you should be able to invest in U.S. ETFs indeed.
      As for UCITS ETFs, they should be available as well in IB.
      If you want sure information, you would have to contact IB’s support.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  13. Thank you for the great explanation, I just bought my first ETF following your tutorial! One thing is not clear to me: do I have to keep some cash in my IB cash account (e.g 100 CHF) for fees, e.g. monthly 10 CHF fee, or can I use all my currency to buy as many ETF as possible?

  14. Thanks a lot for your explanation. Today I did my first trade thanks to you.

    I was just wondering what would happen if you do not have enough funds at the end of the month to cover the monthly 10 chf fee, any experience?

    Cheers

    1. Hi Facu,

      That’s a good question. I have tried to find the information on IB’s website and did not find it.
      I would expect that if you do not have enough funds, they are allowed to sell some of your shares to cover the fee. And if you have neither fund nor sellable shares, they are allowed to close your account.
      I was never in this situation, but I would expect them to contact such accounts before doing anything drastic.
      But if you want the exact answer, you’ll have to contact them.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  15. Hi mate, reading about currency exchange in IBRK and noticed this sentence you wrote “The first is when you do a small currency transaction, below 25’000 CHF. In that case, IB will tell you that the order is too small to be using IDEALPRO and will use FXCONV instead. You do not need to worry about that! They are just two different routing systems. You may have a very slight difference in market price between both. But I have never seen a significant difference. And FXCONV will create some virtual positions for you in your portfolios”

    <– not sure if this above is true. The 25000 limit is for your trade to go through the interbank market (the eFX platforms of the big investment banks in London). In practice, even amounts below 25k will go through smoothly and at the same cost (see this link about odd lots – the final cost may be a little bit higher for amounts below 25k https://ibkr.info/node/1459)

    I also talked with a guy who uses the platform for many years and he said that Ideapro and fxconv in terms of cash is exactly the same. Ideapro (not fxconv as you say!) will add a virtual FX position in the Portfolio window but you can take it out manually if you click on Account and go to Virtual FX Position section and you put it to 0.

    I am not 100 % sure about nuances between fxconv and idealpro, but in the end it seems they will do the same, one of them adding virtual FX position (and it seems that this is idealpro, not fxconv). Also, you can use fxconv only from TWS (not from ucstomer portal) and idealpro from both.

    1. Hi small_potato,

      Thanks for pointing that out. I will fix the part about virtual FX positions.
      In the end, it does not change the fact that both are doing the same thing but that you may be getting slightly worse prices when below 25K.
      So, I think we can safely ignore this warning, don’t you think?

  16. Hi Mr. The Poor Swiss,
    and thanks for the post an more generally for your blog that’s really interesting and useful and easy explained. I experienced an issue in buy a leveraged ETF the FNGU. In particular I get the error: “ORDER IS NOT ACCEPTED due to Rule871m for FNGU”

    From what I`ve seen it should have to do with being taxed in US which is not my case being resident in CH, but I could not find anything in the account setting neither in the IB documentation page. Do u have any experience with this issue?

    Danke im Voraus für deine Hilfe!
    Grüss
    Luca

    1. This Rule is about not letting people avoiding U.S. dividends withholding. It applies to you since this rule applies to non-us citizens. But I do not know how it applies to this ETF.
      I do not invest in complicated instruments such as this one.
      You would have to ask IB about it.

  17. Hi, Mr. Poor Swiss!
    Thank you for your great articles! May I ask if you also use IB to purchase your Ishares Core SPI ETF? Also, do you tend to wait for the good prices/market corrections when you top up your portfolio with the ETFs, or do you do it on regular basis regardless the price? It seems that the market is overheated nowadays and I have serious concerns about entering the market at the current prices .

    Regards,
    Alla

    1. Hi Alla,

      Yes, my entire portfolio is at IB. No, I do not wait for investing. When my salary arrives, I pay my bills and transfer the leftover to my brokerage account and I invest it the next day.
      The stock market is very high indeed, but if you invest for the long-term, this should not matter much.

  18. Dear Mr. The Poor Swiss,
    Thank you for all your insights and your hard work. I wanted to let you know that thanks to you I started to invest now rather then later. For testing purposes, my first deposit on IBKR was a very small amount in CHF. I was able to convert from CHF to USD for a fixed 2$ fee (which is ok I guess for bigger amounts of money). After the exchange I went back to my balance page and I see 3 fields. CHF cash, USD cash and total Cash. Can you please explain how is it possible that total Cash is less thant USD cash? And the funny thing is that the liquidity is my total Cash which again is less than USD cash (the value that I expected after exchange)

    Yours,
    Gabriel

    Kind Regards,
    Gabriel

    1. Hi Gabriel,

      I am glad my content is helpful to you!

      Without seeing the numbers, I can think of only two ways:
      * The total cash is probably in CHF, so USD can be converted to a lower amount of CHF
      * The total cash only takes settled money into account and money can take a few days to settle

  19. Dear Mr Poor Swiss,

    I am not sure why but when planned a fund transfer to IB I do not get the Wire funds to City bank UK but instead to Credit Suisse in Zurich… Should I be worried I did not select something correct or could it be a change due to Brexit? Many thanks!

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