Fair Comparison of Brokers: Interactive Brokers Tiered Pricing

Posted on Categories Broker, Investment
Fair Comparison of Brokers Interactive Brokers Tiered Pricing

A few days ago, I posted a comparison between Interactive Brokers and DEGIRO. It turned out from this comparison that DEGIRO was always cheaper than Interactive Brokers.

While the comparison was fair, I did a “mistake”. Indeed, one of my readers pointed out that I only considered Fixed Pricing of Interactive Brokers. I forgot to consider Tiered Pricing. Tiered Pricing is a much more complicated pricing system that Interactive Brokers offers. I was thinking that it was only an account for big traders. But it turns out it is not the case. Indeed, it may be cheaper in some cases.

In fact, I did two “mistakes”. I also realized I did not take currency exchange into account. With these two mistakes, I thought it would be best to update my comparison in order to be fair. I do not want to present incomplete comparisons on this blog.

In this post, I am going to present this pricing system and compare once again the two brokers. Thanks a lot to cashfl0w for pointing out my mistake. Once again, I always welcome comments, especially when they help me learn new things.

Interactive Brokers Tiered Pricing

Interactive Brokers Logo
Interactive Brokers Logo

In the first comparison of the two brokers, I described in details the Fixed Pricing system. It is really simple. There is a simple price for each exchange. You pay a base price based on the number of shares. There are a minimum and a maximum per trade as well. The minimum is very important since that is what we, simple investors, are ending up paying.

On the other hand, the Tiered Pricing system is much more complicated. You have to pay each individual fee in a separate way. What you will pay depends on which exchange you are trading. If you want to estimate your fees, you will need to do the estimation for each stock exchange you want to use. The Safe Custody fees of 10 CHF per month are the same for the Tiered Pricing system and for the Fixed Pricing.

For a United States ETF (NYSE), you will have to pay the following fees:

  • Interactive Brokers commission: 0.0035 USD per share, with a minimum of 0.35 USD and a maximum of 1.0% of the trade
  • Clearing Fees: 0.00020 USD per share
  • Transaction Fees: 0.00130% of the value.
  • NYSE Exchange Fees: USD 0.0030 per share

But there are a few twists. You only pay transaction fees when you sell something. This is a great news for the long-term investors that rarely sell anything! And secondly, you do not pay the clearing fee if the total amount is less than 0.35 USD. Even though you should end up paying 0.36 USD for most trades, you will only pay 0.35 USD.

For a Switzerland ETF (SIX), the fees are:

  • Interactive Brokers Commission: 0.080% of the value, with a minimum of 1.50 CHF and a maximum of 49 CHF
  • SWX (EBS) Exchange Fee: 1.50 CHF per order and 0.015% of trade value
  • Trade Reporting Fee: 1 CHF
  • Clearing Fee: 0.538 CHF

Trading on SIX is much more expensive than trading on NYSE. On the other hand, you have to pay for currency exchange fees.

As you can see, the Tiered Pricing system is much more complicated than the Fixed Pricing system. However, it can be cheaper than the Fixed pricing in some cases. We are going to see in several examples if this can compare with DEGIRO prices or not.

Currency Exchange

Since I am paid in Swiss Francs (CHF) and investing about 75% in United States funds, I need to convert a lot of my Swiss Francs to United States Dollars (USD). In the previous post, I did not take exchange fees into account. This is something I am going to fix in the current comparison.

For most brokers, currency exchange is not free. In DEGIRO, you are going to pay 0.1% of the converted value for each exchange. It is the same for the two kinds of accounts of DEGIRO. In Interactive Brokers, you are going to pay a flat fee of 2 USD for each conversion. Once again, the price is the same for the Tiered and Fixed accounts.

Standard Investor

I am going to take the same scenarios as for the previous comparison. We are investing the same amount each month. Each fourth month, we are investing in a Swiss ETF. And all other months, we are investing in a United States ETF. Since our main currency is Swiss Francs, we have to pay currency exchange fees every time we invest in U.S. funds.

We have already established that Interactive Brokers is expensive for a portfolio of less than 100’000 CHF. It is fairly easy to compute how much it will cost with a smaller portfolio. Unless you do a lot of trades, you will pay up the 120 CHF per year of custody fees. This is exactly the same for both pricing systems of Interactive Brokers.

The first investor example that we consider is starting with 100’000 USD and is investing 2000 USD per month. Here are the results in this scenario:

DEGIRO vs Interactive Brokers - Standard Investor
DEGIRO vs Interactive Brokers – Standard Investor

Which gives us a total for the four different accounts:

  • DEGIRO Basic: 33 CHF
  • DEGIRO Custody: 99 CHF
  • Interactive Brokers Fixed: 57 CHF
  • Interactive Brokers Tiered: 36 CHF

I am really surprised by the results. Interactive Brokers Tiered is significantly cheaper than the Fixed pricing. It is around 30% cheaper on that particular example. I am also surprised by the difference that the currency exchange fees make. It is significantly different from my previous calculations. Indeed, the Tiered account is now almost as cheap as DEGIRO Basic.

Let’s see what happens when we invest 5000 USD per month:

DEGIRO vs Interactive Brokers - Standard Investor
DEGIRO vs Interactive Brokers – Standard Investor

This gives us a total for the four different accounts:

  • DEGIRO Basic: 63 CHF
  • DEGIRO Custody: 140 CHF
  • Interactive Brokers Fixed: 57 CHF
  • Interactive Brokers Tiered: 37 CHF

It is interesting to see that Interactive Brokers Fixed account did not change at all. And the Tiered account only slightly increased. This is the advantage of the fixed base costs. They are expensive with small amounts. But they are getting cheaper with bigger amounts. And it is especially interesting to note that Interactive Brokers is cheaper than DEGIRO! Both accounts are actually cheaper! I was not expecting this! In fact, the Tiered account is significantly cheaper than any DEGIRO account.

Advanced Investor

We can take an example with an investor that already has 500’000 USD and is investing 10’000 USD per month. This investor is getting closer to Financial Independence (FI).  Here are the fees that he is going to pay:

DEGIRO vs Interactive Brokers - Advanced Investor
DEGIRO vs Interactive Brokers – Advanced Investor

Which gives us the following yearly fees:

  • DEGIRO Basic: 114 CHF
  • DEGIRO Custody: 426 CHF
  • Interactive Brokers Fixed: 57 CHF
  • Interactive Brokers Tiered: 39 CHF

Once again, the fees of Interactive Brokers almost did not go up. On the other hand, DEGIRO fees went up quite a bit. Once again, both Interactive Brokers pricing systems are cheaper than DEGIRO.

Does it really matter?

Yes! Fees do matter! You should always minimize the fees. Do not forget that what you do not spend on fees is invested into your portfolio. And all these savings are compounding year after year! Over the long-term, this is a lot of money.

Let’s take the case of the standard investor. DEGIRO Basic and Interactive Brokers are the same fees here. Between DEGIRO Basic and Interactive Brokers Tiered, the investor can save 26 CHF per year. That means you are going to save 1800 CHF in about 30 years with a yearly return of 5%! And if you were using DEGIRO Custody, you could save 103 CHF per year. That is more than 7100 USD after 30 years of compound interest. This is more than a month of your expenses! You do not want to give all that money to your broker! You want to keep it!

Conclusion

I think that my comparison between the two brokers is now complete. This time, I included the Tiered Pricing of Interactive Brokers and the currency exchange fees for both brokers. I am really hoping I did not miss anything this time.

This time, the conclusions are a bit different than before:

  1. If you have more than 100’000 USD (or CHF), you should use Interactive Brokers with the Tiered Pricing system.
  2. If you do not want your shares to be lent and have less than 100’000 CHF. You should use DEGIRO Custody account. Interactive Brokers is really too expensive for portfolio below 100’000 CHF.
  3. If you do not mind your shares to be lent and have less than 100’000 CHF. You should use DEGIRO Basic account.

In my opinion, the safe custody fees of Interactive Brokers is really their greatest disadvantage, by far. Without that, I would probably have directly have used them as my broker the first year. But they are actually cheaper than I thought. And DEGIRO is actually more expensive than I realized.

What does all this mean for me? In the last comparison of the two brokers, I have already established that DEGIRO Custody was too expensive. The fee on the dividends is actually more than I thought. My first step will be to see if I can switch from the Custody account to the Basic account. Once my portfolio reaches 100’000 CHF, I will have to consider switching to Interactive Brokers. If it is too difficult to switch account at DEGIRO, I may also end up switching directly to Interactive Brokers.

Once again, thanks to Cashfl0w for pointing out my mistake! And for reviewing the current post! I have not yet updated the previous comparison. But I will do it before the end of the year.

What about you? What is your favorite broker? Which broker have you used?

8 thoughts on “Fair Comparison of Brokers: Interactive Brokers Tiered Pricing”

  1. Hi Mr. Poor Swiss,

    Thanks for the update (and to Cashfl0w for helping improve our knowledge)! I was waiting for this.
    I’ll update my own blog post and link back to this post so that readers of my blog can have a clear view on why DeGiro is interesting for a small (retail) investor and IB (or it’s partners, such as the Belgian Lynx) becomes more interesting for larger accounts.

    Greetings

    1. Hi Mr. Fight to FIRE,

      Yes, I was actually surprised myself by the results. There is less and less advantage to use DEGIRO in my mind for my investing scenario.

      I contacted DEGIRO and they cannot transfer anything for free between Custody and Basic accounts. So I am probably going to transfer everything to IB next year.

      Thanks for stopping by :)

  2. Nice job. This time, this, really is a “fair” comparison. I can certify the numbers are correct, at least for the US securities. ;-)

    Don’t forget to factor the switching cost (transferring securities between brokers or selling/buying your securities) + hassle/time of moving a whole portfolio (good luck calculating it too…) from one broker to another broker, when you want to calculate and compare the “real” cost of being on one broker vs another one for a period of time.

    I wonder if/how you can switch account type on Degiro between Basic and Custody ? I can’t even see my account type with their UI. I think I set it up as Basic… Would like to know if anybody knows more about it…

    So, even without currency exchange fees/forex, buying swiss securities on the SIX accounts for almost 5 bucks…. That’s not expensive, still ten times what you pay on the US exchanges (not counting fx)(!), but I wonder then why all these swiss brokers and banks charge you between $25 and $100 for any small/medium transactions… That basically accounts for a direct negative 1% – 3% on the return just for the fees themselves… Glad I don’t do business with these thieves. :-)

    1. Thanks :)

      Yes, it is going to be a major pain to switch broker! I am thinking that the best way is actually to sell everything and buy again later.

      I asked DEGIRO and they told me that the only way to change account type is to create a new account and do the transfer. That sucks because that way, you have to pay the fees in both directions. I will definitely not do that.

      The account type is visible in the web interface in the upper left corner. I also think it’s available in the mobile application somewhere.

      Yeah, I do not understand either how Swiss brokers can charge so much for the same service that some brokers are very cheap at providing.

      I am really thinking of moving everything to IB now. I will have to consider the advantages compared to the safe custody fees since my portfolio is well below 100K.

      Thanks for the help :)

  3. For anyone with >$100k, I think using IB is a no-brainer. Transferring positions is also not a big deal. I transferred some positions from my Schwab account to IB. It took a few days and cost $50.

    The main downside is the complex interface (but for simple trading, you can just use the web interface) and quote/data is charged separately. I maintain my Schwab account for this.

    1. Hi Phil,

      I am starting to believe the same indeed. If I only had to use CH positions, I would probably use DEGIRO. But since most of my invested money will be in USD, IB will be my choice once I have enough money invested.

      As for the interface, I am planning to use the web interface. The Desktop interface is really crazy!

      Thanks for stopping by!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *