How to Open an Interactive Brokers Account in 2021?

Mr. The Poor Swiss | Updated: | Financial Independence, Investing
How to Open an Interactive Brokers Account?

(Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links)

Interactive Brokers is an excellent broker from the United States. It is known for its cheap fees and its unique range of offered investment products. It is being used by many personal finance bloggers, for instance.

It is currently the best broker that allows access to U.S. ETFs. And U.S. ETFs are the most efficient ETFs for Swiss investors.

In this guide, I go over the details of how to open an Interactive Brokers account. It is not very difficult, but there are a few things you need to know before you start your application.

Interactive Brokers

Best Broker for Swiss Investors
Interactive Brokers

Interactive Brokers is an outstanding broker, with extremely affordable fees! Trade U.S. security for as little as 0.5 USD!

So what is Interactive Brokers (IB)? IB is a brokerage firm from the United States. It was created in 1978 in New York, more than 40 years ago! IB is the largest brokerage firm in the United States and the leading foreign exchange (forex) broker. Interactive Brokers offers access to many instruments such as stocks, bonds, options, futures, futures options, and even more.

It is a very well-known broker with an excellent reputation. It is known to be cheap compared to its competitors. I have already compared IB and DEGIRO in the past. This comparison showed that it is even less expensive than DEGIRO, the broker I was using before.

An essential thing with IB is that, by default, they do not lend your shares to other people such as DEGIRO does by default. You also have the option of lending shares, and you will get some of the money from the lending. But, you have the choice, which is good!

If you want more information on IB, read my review of Interactive Brokers.

Why open an IB account?

So, why did I open an IB account? It is currently the best broker available to Swiss investors.

There are reasons to prefer Interactive Brokers over other brokers.

  1. They offer access to U.S. ETFs to Swiss investors, while many brokers are not.
  2. They have excellent prices.
  3. They offer access to many investing instruments.
  4. They offer foreign exchanges at an excellent price.

For the story, I had a DEGIRO broker account before. But then, they cut access to U.S. ETFs even though it was not necessary. And they had very poor communication in the process. I found them to be very unprofessional in that matter. So I decided to switch to IB that still has this access and is much more professional.

Finally, DEGIRO only accepts money from a single bank account. With IB, you can transfer money to your account from any bank account. Since I sometimes receive money in USD, this is important for me to transfer USD without costs.

And talking about USD, IB is much cheaper than DEGIRO at converting between currencies. So, in the long term, I will save a lot of money with IB.

So, let’s see how one can create an account on IB.

Create an Interactive Brokers account

First, prepare some time in front of you. The account creation process on Interactive Brokers is not difficult, but it will take some time. You will need to answer a few questions, and you will need to wait a day for your account to be funded.

First, you can go to the account creation page and Start Application for Individual, Joint, and Retirement Accounts. I needed an Individual account, but maybe you will need a type such as Joint if you plan to do it for you and your spouse. The procedure should be mostly the same, but I never tried other accounts than the Individual.

On the first page, you will need to enter your email, a user name, and your password for the account. Make sure to choose a good password and user name. I would recommend making your password at least 20 characters long. A long password is essential to secure your online accounts! Make sure to remember it correctly as well!

You also need to enter your country of residence. If your country of legal residence is different, you also need to enter it. You can then confirm the first page.

At this point, they will send you an email to confirm your email address. Just check your mail and choose to continue the application.

Personal information

On the second page, you will have to set your account type. I set to Individual for my needs. You can check the kinds of accounts to make sure you choose the one according to your needs. But 99% of people will want an Individual account.

Then, you will have to set the general kind of personal information. There is nothing special here, only the thing you are used to entering on each website. You will have to set your addresses as well. Be aware that since this will be related to your taxes in the end, it is essential to enter them correctly. You will also need to enter a valid phone number. This phone number will be used for authentication, so once again, be sure to enter it correctly.

IB has several types of accounts. You will need to select the account type you want. The primary type of account is a Cash account. A cash account is the account type you probably need. It means you need to have the money before each trade. There are also Margin accounts. Margin means you can use leverage for investing with money you do not have. Unless you know what you are doing, I highly recommend going for a Cash account.

Another thing you need to configure when you create an IB account is the base currency of your account. I make most of my payments in Swiss Francs (CHF), and I live in Switzerland. Therefore I went with CHF as my base currency. You can always convert money from your base currency to any other currency. The base currency only matters for the display in the interface. If you choose CHF, you can still transfer USD and buy shares in EUR, for instance.

If you transfer CHF, you will be warned about the negative interest rate on CHF balances. Currently, there is a negative interest only on balances higher than 100’000 CHF. You can get the actual negative interest rate and limit here.

Now, you will also have to set up three security questions. You will need these questions if you ever need to recover your account. This procedure is, once again, a standard procedure. Make sure you choose questions from which the answer is not ambiguous (but not easy to find out)!

Investment Questions

After this, you need to answers many questions about your finances.

You need to set how much your net worth is and how much income you have. You also need to say what your objectives are for your investments. For instance, you may want to invest in appreciation of capital or for fixed income. All this information is here for regulatory reasons. I would advise you to answer them with honesty simply.

You also need to set which instruments you need to invest in. For instance, if you want to invest and Stocks and Bonds, you need to select these options. I only selected stocks. There are many more options like Stocks, Bonds, Options, and Futures. You also need to select in which country (stock market exchange) you want to invest.

You also need to confirm your phone number with a code.


At this point, you will have to agree to all the rules that IB has for trading. Ideally, you may want to read them. But, you probably will not!

If you want, you can also join the Stock Yield Enhancement Program. This program will allow IB to lend your shares to other people. With that, you will receive half of the interest of the lending. Of course, there is a slight risk to that, and you may also not be able to sell your shares when you want or need to. I did not agree with that. But that may be something I will consider in the future.

At this point, Interactive Brokers will want to get proof of your identification. For this, you can upload a driving license, an ID card, a passport, or an alien ID card for IB to confirm your identity. On the same page, you will also have to enter information about your tax status. You will also have to fill in information about your employer and your job occupation. Usually, you also need to submit something as proof of address. But for some reason, I was not able to complete this at this point when I created my account.

Fund your account

IB will fully activate your account once they receive funding.

You need to deposit the first amount of money for IB to validate your account. First, you need to declare how much money you will deposit. Then, IB will give you all the information necessary for the payment.

Make sure you properly copy the IBAN. With banking transactions, you should always double-check all banking information before you do a transfer. Since they have a bank account in Switzerland, the transfer will be free!

And do not forget to include the “Further Benefit to XXX” line! Otherwise, the money will not directly go to your account, and you will have to contact them to fix the issue. You will need to do that for all your future deposits to your Interactive Brokers account.

Finalize your account

After you have funded your account, there are still a few more things you can do.

First of all, you can configure the market data. You should set your market data status to non-professional. And you should check that you are not buying any market data. Unless you plan to day trade, you do not need any of this data. You do not want to pay for it.

You can also configure your mobile phone to use it as Two-Factor Authentication (2FA). One excellent thing is that you have to use two-factor, you have no choice. It is great. 2FA is an essential part of online security. First, you need to install IBRK Mobile on your phone. This application is available for Android and iOS.

Once you installed the application, you can register the application as two-factor for your account. You will have to log in with your user and password. You need to enter the code you received by SMS. Finally, you can then choose a PIN for your future two-factor authentication. Make sure to remember that PIN since you will have to use it for each of your connections to Interactive Brokers.

If you do not know about 2FA and why it is necessary, read my article about online personal finance and security.

Wait for your account

At this point, you only need to wait for IB to create and fund your account.

It should not take too long. For me, it only took one day for my account to be created and funded. It is quite fast. The next day, I could directly make my first trade.

Finalize your account

Now that you have access to your account, there are two more things to finalize in your account.

The first thing that remains at this point is to configure the Pricing System. I recommend you use the Tiered Pricing system. IB is cheaper than DEGIRO when you use the Tiered Pricing system. You can make the change in your Account Settings. If you prefer the more predictable Fixed Pricing, you can also opt for it.

Here are my settings just before I made the change to Tiered pricing:

Interactive Brokers Account Settings
Interactive Brokers Account Settings

The second thing applies if you are a Swiss investor and will invest in U.S. ETFs. In that case, you need to fill the W8-BEN form. That is fairly simple. You can go into your Account Settings. Then, you need to click the (i) blue button next to your name below Profiles. Then, you can click on “Update Tax Forms”. They will then take you to the process, and you will have the choice of filling the W8-BEN tax form. This will halve the dividend withholding from your American stocks and ETFs. This is very important if you want to profit from the great tax efficiency of U.S. ETFs.


Best Broker for Swiss Investors
Interactive Brokers

Interactive Brokers is an outstanding broker, with extremely affordable fees! Trade U.S. security for as little as 0.5 USD!

The procedure is now complete! If you followed this guide, you now have an Interactive Brokers account.

At least for now, we have access to U.S. Exchange Traded Funds such as VT, which makes the most significant part of my portfolio.

I have now been using IB for almost two years. And I am delighted with IB. Interactive Brokers is the best broker available to Swiss investors.

The next step is now to buy an ETF from Interactive Brokers. It is fairly simple and only takes a little time.

What do you think about Interactive Brokers? Do you already have an account? If not, which broker are you using?

Mr. The Poor Swiss is the author behind 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.

171 thoughts on “How to Open an Interactive Brokers Account in 2021?”

  1. Hello,

    Do you know how to transfer money from neon to Interactive Brokers? It seems like it’s not possible to transfer money to a company in the US even if they have a bank account in Switzerland.

      1. When you want to make a transaction to a CH IBAN you have to enter the adress of the receiver. The country of the receiver is chosen from a drop-down list. However, in that list there is no US as an option.

        I also contacted neon via email and I received this response:
        “Es ist leider im Moment nicht möglich über die neon App eine Inlandzahlung an einen US-Empfänger zu erfassen.”
        which basically means it’s not possible :(. That sucks but luckily I still have a second bank account.

        1. Hi Kristopher,

          Thanks a lot for sharing their answer. It does indeed sucks a lot! I was considering closing my Migros Bank account (can’t stand their apps…), but apparently, I will have to keep it.
          This is bad because it means that for IB investors, Neon is not a good bank.
          I will update the articles about Neon to reflect that issue.

          Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Dear Mr Poor Swiss
    Thank you very much for your excellent articles.
    What happens to your IB deposits if you lose your password, become incapacitated or die? How can one’ s wife or family members access one’ s IB deposits?

    1. If you lose your password, you can use the “forgot password” method to recover it normally.
      In case you become incapacitated, I have no idea what would happen.
      If you die, your spouse should be entitled to the money. Therefore, I would actually share the account with her. A joint account would be best for these cases.

  3. Hi Mr. The Poor Swiss
    Thanks a lot for this blog, it is very helpful. All these days I was e-Trading with PostFinance, I was on thoughts to move slowly to IB because of costs and I found all the information that I need here. and also a comparison chart in another blog from you. Very Great! I have question inline to what Donovan had asked regarding USD transfer to IB.

    Since I am already using PF I have USD and CHF. It is clear to transfer CHF and no fees any where. When it comes to USD transfer IB is giving only ABN. I just tried to transfer as a test an amount of 100$ and they(I believe JP Morgan Chase) charged 5$ and 95$ is credited at my IB. Can I directly use the IB’s CH IBAN and transfer USD from PF giving reference(Final Credit) to my IB account number ?(To avoid costs). Will it work to transfer like this even without generating wire Deposit instruction order at my IB ?(because if I choose USD the routing is different via JPMC). Last question , if I go in usual route by generating , will they (IB or JPMC) charge one time fee of 5$ per transfer or do they charge percentage based amount of value that I transfer ?

    Thank you for your time and feedback.

    1. Hi MSRao,

      I am really not sure you can transfer USD to the CH IBAN. With IB, you have to declare deposits in advance, so I am not an USD deposit would be matched on their CHF IBAN.
      I would contact IB to ask what is the best way to transfer USD to their accounts from a Swiss bank.

      Otherwise, you could consider TransferWise to do the conversion, but it will not be free.
      I do not see a free way for this transfer, unfortunately.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Hi Mr.The Poor Swiss,

    Thanks a bunch for the blog! The perks of the internet still surprise me to this day and the will of people like you for sharing knowledge even more! ;)

    I’m an EU citizen with a C-permit in Switzerland and I wanting to move away from a savings account in postfinance. For tax purposes, I am considering investing 100k in one or two US domiciled ETFs through IB (e.g. VT/VOO).
    The thing is, I see it as a long term investment and I won’t be doing any other transactions as my life does not allow me being an active investor.
    That means, I wouldn’t pay fees in IB (since I would invest 100k) but I could eventually pay inactivity fees.

    1 – Is IB the best choice for this passive approach? Would it make more sense to simply invest in EU ETF with US securities, even if the taxes would not be optimized for CH?

    2 – Regarding inactivity fees, would TradeStation Global be a better option vs IB?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Marco,

      I believe IB would be the best choice indeed. There are no inactivity fees with IB, only the custody fees that are waived at 100k.
      So, no, TradeStation Global would not be better than IB in my opinion.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Same for me..”Currently we do not accept applications of this type from your jurisdiction.”
    May be it’s related to migration of accounts started after brexit. Will see.


      1. I had the same problem/message while trying to create an account over the new year. It seems they fixed the problem and today, i.e., 4th January 2021, I could create a new account.

        BTW, your blog is great at least for foreigners like me living in Switzerland.

  6. Hello Mr PoorSwiss,
    IB can manage multiple currency cash accounts. I had some USD and transferred to IB. They deducted USD24 as bank fees which is quiet steep.
    Do you know if there is a way to minimise these fees if USD or any other currencies other than CHF is available in your portfolio?

    1. Hi Poor Ticinese,

      I have never tried transferring USD from Switzerland. The only time I transferred USD is from an American bank account and this was free.
      If you transfer USD in Switzerland, almost no transfer will be free.
      I do not think there is a way to transfer USD from a Swiss Bank account into their CH bank account.
      You could try going through TransferWise.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  7. I tried to open an individual account at IB and got the following message ‘Currently we do not accept applications of this type from your jurisdiction.’

    Do you know why this may be happening ?

    1. Hi Facundo,

      I have never seen that. From which country are you trying to create an account? European accounts are in the process of being migrated out of Interactive Brokers UK and into their European entities. This may be related.

      1. I can also confirm that :(

        I am trying to open an account from Switzerland and I got the same message.

        Pretty strange…

  8. Hi Mr Poor,

    I’m Swiss in switzerland. I opened an account on TDameritrade. Had to send money to US.
    Now I’m thinking of Interactive brokers.
    You mentioned they have swiss accounts? For me that is a big PLUS.
    But do you know any other differences with TDameritrade?

    – Any difference in taxes due to the account location?
    – Difference in costs per transaction? others fees?
    – speed of execution, quotes?
    – does the PDT also apply?

    I mostly do options and avoid dividends.

    Thanks you very much for the help to me and to others.

    1. Hi Renzo,

      I have never tried TDAmeritrade, so I do not know the exact differences. TDAmeritrade has some free transactions which IB has not.
      IB has a CH IBAN which I think TDAmeritrade has not.
      But I do not know about the other differences.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Hi Mr Poor Swiss. I have just opened IB account using your referral link. Not sure how much they pay you for a new account opened via your referral, but I have gained knowledge about IB thanks to YOU, so I hope you get some small bonus for it. I hope my next 30 years will be positive journey :) But I already don’t understand something- for example, I check some stock prices and it shows me the price with C in the front – any idea what it is? Like Canadian dollar? Price is in USD, stock is US company in US exchange market (NYSE) but shows something like C50.10 where 50.10 is the price itself (not always, some stocks show no C in the front). I will need to learn all these things, really.

    1. Hi small_potato,

      Unfortunately, I only get something if you spend an absurd amount of fees in one year, so I hope I won’t get anything from you :)
      But thanks!

      It’s actually a good question. The C indicates that it’s the closing price. It’s the way they indicate that the market is closed for this stock. You do not have to worry about it. But it’s a bit weird, because it’s not always the same for all the stocks that are closed.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      1. oh, sorry to hear, I plan to buy big only after major crash and when prices are sweet :) At the moment most of the stocks are so expensive, there is market craziness galore and people buy like there is no tomrorow. SOrry to hear your bonus depends on the fees of recommended user. In any case, really appreciate your feedback, this is extremely positive thing you do!

        C before the price – I feel like I am retarded, really. Some stocks have it, some dont… I will be observing and learning. Thx again!

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