Overall Ranking: 4.02 stars out of 5
Ease Of Use: 4.7 stars out of 5
Costs: 3.0 stars out of 5
Educational Resources & Customer Support: 4.2 stars out of 5
Research & Analysis Tools 3.8 stars out of 5
Range Of Product Offerings: 4.4 stars out of 5
Summary: One of the best of the best. IG has a long history and is incredibly well-respected in the industry.
Recommended For: Any trader, of any skill level, unless you’re specifically interested in Share-CFDs, in which case IG is not recommended.
Founded Stuart Wheeler in the UK in 1974, IG is one of the largest CFD brokers in the world. It has a truly global footprint, currently operating on five continents with nearly 200,000 clients at the time this review was written.
The company’s longevity, their extensive product catalog and their commitment to excellence has given them an outstanding, and well-deserved reputation.
If you live in the United States, the main argument for using IG is access to foreign exchange markets. For everyone else, the single biggest draw is CFD trading.
Is IG a good fit for you? The short answer is ‘probably,’ and in the sections that follow, we’ll do a deep dive, taking a look at everything the company has to offer.
Hand in hand with that though, we won’t pull any punches when it comes to describing the broker’s shortcomings and limitations. That way, you’ll have all the information you need to decide for yourself. If that sounds good to you, read on and let’s take a closer look.
Ease Of Use (4.7 stars out of 5)
IG existed before the internet was even a “thing.” They’ve had an online presence since the earliest days of the ‘net and as such, they’ve had a lot of time to tweak and refine their site. When you create your account, you’ll find that you have access to a number of platform options allowing you to pick and choose, customizing your trading experience.
Once you select your platform, you’ll have a number of customization options. That, combined with API access gives you virtually unlimited control.
The default site is well organized and easy to use, but given the fine-grained control, each trader can essentially create their own, unique IG context, making it a highly individualized, totally intuitive trading experience. That pushes it beyond intuitive; it becomes a visual extension of how you think, and that’s pretty hard to top.
One complaint some traders have is that IG’s site is short on polish, and it’s true. IG keeps it simple. While IG might lack a bit of sizzle compared to some other brokerage platforms, the clean, uncluttered simplicity and the overall quality of the site design more than makes up for that.
Even better, if you live in the US or the UK, you can upgrade to IG’s ProRealTime charting platform. This downloadable service is fee-based, though the fees can be waived if you meet or exceed some fairly modest trading activity requirements.
Best of all, if you have access to a Bloomberg terminal, or some other custom software you rely on, you can tie it into IG’s platform via the API.
If you’re a UK investor and you trade in sufficient volume, you can trade Forex and CFD shares through L2 Dealer, passing IG’s dealing desk. This is offered at no additional charge, though note that you will still be subject to exchange fees.
If you’re a US investor, you’ll find that the platform offers a few basic tools to help you manage your risk, including stop losses and price alerts. The US platform also streams news from the Reuters feed, and has some advanced charting options available.
The interface gives you three basic order types to work with:
- Market – This works exactly as you think it would, allowing you to buy or sell at the prevailing market rate.
- Stop – Again, this is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a pending order type that allows you to set a point either above or below the current market price (depending on whether you’re buying or selling). If you issue a stop, you may also set an expiration time, giving it a pre-determined shelf life.
- And Limit – This is a pending order type, allowing you to put a virtual stake in the ground either above or below the current market price (depending on whether you’re planning to buy or sell). As with a Stop order, if you issue a limit order, you may also set an expiration time if you wish.
One thing that most users will find to be a genuine disappointment, however, is the fact that there’s no mechanism on the platform to implement refinements to these orders. You cannot, for example, establish a guaranteed stop loss or a trailing stop loss modifying the basic stop order. That’s a legitimate weakness of the platform and something to consider before committing to trading there.
Moving beyond the web-based trading platform, you’ll also find the IG Community, which is home to an expansive forum that’s bustling with activity.
We’ll have more to say about customer support later, but as a hint of things to come, if you find yourself unable to get the timely help you need from the company’s support desk, the forums are a great alternative resource, and a spectacular place to learn, regardless of your level of experience.
If that wasn’t enough, IG has also developed apps for both the iOS and Android ecosystems, allowing you to set price alerts, do charting, and create customized watchlists you can access from your phone or tablet. It should be noted, however, that these apps lack the refinement and customization options available on the web based platform. They’re certainly not bad, but they are a good deal more limited.
Costs (3.0 stars out of 5)
On the cost front, you’ll find a bit of a mixed bag, with some of IG’s costs being below the industry’s average, and others being above it. Here’s a quick overview of what you can expect:
- The S&P 500 CFD – Low fees
- The Europe 50 CFD – Low fees
- EUR/USD – Average fees
- Inactivity Fee – Low (doesn’t kick in until 2 years of inactivity and even then is only $12 a month)
- Stock CFD Fees – High (Very high!)
To give you a few quick examples, if you were to invest $2000 in the S&P 500 Index CFD and hold the position for a week, you’d pay $2.10 on IG, versus $2.40 on eToro. On the other hand, if you were to make that same sized investment, buying an Apple CFD, you’d pay $31.90 on IG, versus just $6.30 on eToro.
Ultimately then, how attractive the fees are to you is going to be highly dependent on exactly what type of investments you’re making. It pays to study the company’s fee schedule closely before making a final decision.
Other things to note where money is concerned is the fact that it only takes $250 to initially open your account with IG and that the highest leverage available to US investors is 50:1. There are modest volume rebates available, but they don’t kick in until you hit $100 million in monthly volume, which means they’re simply not available to the vast majority of traders.
Educational Resources & Customer Support (4.2 stars out of 5)
Although IG is only about average where fees are concerned, they do a spectacular job in terms of providing educational resources to investors. The company has built a broad, deep pool of resources that are useful to investors of all skill levels.
Not only will you find a comprehensive and well-indexed trading library, but you’ll also gain access to the IG Academy, which offers both live sessions and online courses designed to get beginners up to speed quickly and offering seasoned investors some pro tips they’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else.
As robust as the company’s educational resources are, they suffer a bit when it comes to customer service. This is very much hit or miss, and there are enough customer service horror stories circulating around the web to give one pause.
Even so, there are also a number of traders who have sung the support desk’s praises, so ultimately, it comes down to the expertise of the support person who responds to your inquiry, and that, apparently, varies widely.
Earlier, we mentioned the idea of making use of the company’s thriving forum to get answers to some of the questions you may have, and if you do find yourself mired in a bad support experience, that may be the best way to get the help you’re looking for.
Research & Analysis Tools (3.8 stars out of 5)
This is another point of relative weakness for IG. IG doesn’t offer a trading journal, nor any tax accounting tools on their platform, and there’s no “sandbox” option to use for testing, all of which can be found on a variety of other platforms.
Although the company offers an extensive body of relevant, timely information to aid in research, US traders are at a distinct disadvantage because many of the research articles simply forward the reader to information on the UK site, and UK laws are different, which limits the value of the research for US investors.
Overall, there’s plenty of room for improvement in this area. It’s certainly not the kiss of death or an outright deal-breaker, but it may give you pause, and you’ll probably want to have a secondary research resource at your fingertips if you use the IG platform.
Range Of Product Offerings (4.4 stars out of 5)
IG is outstanding in this regard, giving traders access to more than 17,000 markets that fall broadly into the following categories:
- Industry Sectors
- Interest Rates
- And Shares
Unfortunately, the US platform is much more limited. Only Forex is available, but you’ll find more than 80 different currency pairs, organized categorically as follows:
- Emerging Markets
- And Scandinavian
- A simple, clean interface that offers virtually endless customization and personalization options
- The fact that you can open an account with as little as $250
- Easy access to basic, real time information
- An outstanding educational resource
- For non-US clients, access to a vast number of markets
- (Mostly) average to below average fees
- An exchange regulated the FCA in the UK and the CFTC and NFA in the US
- No sandbox or back-testing integration
- High fees for Share-CFDs
- No account protection for US traders
- No guaranteed stop losses for US traders
- And only basic order types with no ability to refine or set advanced conditions
Pros And Cons
There’s a lot to like about IG, but there are also a few shortcomings and limitations to bear in mind. As we see it, in no particular order, the strongest points of IG’s platform are:
On the flip side, IG’s weaknesses include:
Overall, we feel that IG’s strengths far overshadow their weaknesses, but we realize that opinions are bound to differ and ultimately it comes down to exactly what kind of trading you plan to do (i.e.., IG is a relatively poor choice if you’re mostly interested in Share-CFDs because the fees are significantly higher here than other platforms).
In the final analysis, we feel that IG has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best online trading platforms on the web today, offering a spectacular array of resources and an incredibly customizable interface. Although there are a few shortcomings and limitations to be mindful of, IG is, on balance, outstanding.