International exposure is an essential part of good portfolio diversification. While you can gain some exposure through ETFs and American Depositary Receipts (ADRs), our evaluation of the best brokers for international trading looks at the brokerage firms that give you direct access to international assets.

To qualify as an international broker for our review, a brokerage firm must be U.S.-based, U.S.-regulated, and offer international customers the ability to buy and sell stocks. We also look for the access a broker provides to international exchanges beyond the U.S. and how it supports traders moving between currencies. For the international trading category, we examined the brokers with the largest selection of assets across international markets. We also considered overall platform functionality and order types since these features are important to successful trading in markets that span the globe.

Our research revealed a clear winner for both the overall best platform for international trading and the best online broker for non-U.S. investors. Interactive Brokers has, by far, the largest global reach of all the brokers we reviewed. If you are looking to access international markets in a more meaningful way beyond ETFs, Interactive Brokers gives you the largest selection of markets on a robust platform with excellent trading tools. As the broker states, customers from over 200 countries can use Interactive Brokers to access 150 markets in 23 different currencies. Given the pace at which Interactive Brokers has been adding markets, there is a chance this number will continue to rise.

Best International Brokerage Accounts:

Interactive Brokers: Best Broker for International Trading

4.6
  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: Maximum $0.005 per share for Pro platform or 1% of trade value, $0 for IBKR Lite
Read full review

Why We Chose It

Interactive Brokers (IBKR) is in no danger of being unseated as our pick for the best U.S.-based online broker for international trading. Customers can trade stocks, options, futures, forex, bonds, and mutual funds from a single integrated account. The company accepts customers from more than 200 countries and territories and supports trading on 150 markets across 33 countries, using 23 currencies. On top of this, Interactive Brokers offers a sophisticated trading platform with excellent trading tools and superior order execution. These robust features enable traders to set up positions across markets and asset classes in a way that's hard to match.

Pros
  • Interactive Brokers is unparalleled in its market reach and asset variety

  • Trader Workstation (TWS) is a powerful tool with a high level of customization

  • The direct access to exchanges worldwide 24-hours a day

Cons
  • International trading on Interactive Brokers works best through TWS, which can be intimidating for new traders

  • Interactive Brokers' fee-based pricing structure is tiered and can be confusing (although the fees are modest)

Interactive Brokers: Best Broker for Non-U.S. Investors

4.6
  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: Maximum $0.005 per share for Pro platform or 1% of trade value, $0 for IBKR Lite
Read full review

Why We Chose It

Interactive Brokers also takes the win in the best online broker for non-U.S. investors category. Interactive Brokers provides worldwide access, allowing you to fund your account in your domestic currency and then convert at market rates to trade outside your domestic market. Here again, it is hard to see any of the current brokers catching up with Interactive Brokers any time soon simply because the gap is so large. If you are outside the U.S. and looking to trade directly with assets around the globe, Interactive Brokers is the top choice by a wide margin.

Pros
  • You can fund your account in many different base currencies

  • The conversion for non-native currency transactions is directly supported through the platform

  • Accepts customers from more than 200 countries and territories, with offices in the U.S., Switzerland, Canada, Hong Kong, U.K., Australia, Hungary, Russia, Japan, India, China, Luxembourg, Estonia, Singapore, and Ireland

Cons
  • TWS, IBKR's trading platform, has a steep learning curve, which can be intimidating to less experienced traders

  • Interactive Brokers still uses a fee-based pricing structure for trades

Final Verdict

When it comes to international trading, competitors to Interactive Brokers face an uphill battle. Not only does Interactive Brokers have a wide global reach that enables traders to essentially cycle through markets 24 hours a day, but it backs all this up with one of the most robust trading platforms and lowest margin rates.

The types of multi-market, multi-asset trades that used to require a Soros-style hedge fund's resources can be run from a single brokerage account with Interactive Brokers. Interactive Brokers has also shown that it is unlikely to get complacent in improving the breadth and depth of its offering. Interactive Brokers added cryptocurrency trading to its platform, removing what some investors saw as a serious limitation.

It must be noted that the vast offering and complex tools are intimidating if you are new to investing. As a newer investor, you may also be able to find all the international exposure you want through ETFs on a simpler platform. However, if you are serious about international trading, there is no better broker than Interactive Brokers.

What Is an International Broker?

An international broker is a brokerage firm that offers international investors the ability to buy and sell stocks. To qualify as an international broker for our review, a brokerage firm must be U.S.-based, and U.S.-regulated. Two of the key reasons individual investors would want to invest in international investments (or investments that offer international exposure) are diversification and the potential for growth, particularly in emerging markets.

How To Buy Stocks Internationally

There are a few ways individual investors can gain exposure to international markets. For example, investors can invest in American depositary receipts (ADRs), U.S.-registered mutual funds, or U.S.-registered ETFs that invest in foreign securities. However, to buy individual stocks on a foreign market, you need to open an account with an international broker—one that supports the buying and selling of international stocks.

Once you have opened and funded an account with an international broker, buying international stocks is similar to buying stocks on U.S. exchanges. You may need to request access (including price data) for the specific exchange(s) you want to trade. Also, you may need to research the exchange and ticker symbol to ensure you are trading the intended stock.

In general, international stocks must be bought and sold on the same exchange (e.g., if you buy stock in France you must sell it there, too). Certain exchanges may have additional requirements. For example, the Tokyo Stock Exchange and Osaka Securities Exchange set daily price limits for all securities to manage volatility. Depending on your broker, the commissions and fees for international trades may differ from those for U.S. stocks, and currency exchange fees may apply, as well.

What To Consider When Choosing an International Broker?

When choosing an international broker, look for the same features you would want out of any broker: a strong industry reputation, up-to-date security standards, solid customer service, reasonable costs, robust trading tools, helpful educational content, and access to the markets you want to trade.

Can a Non-U.S. Citizen Open a Brokerage Account?

In most cases, legal U.S. residents who are not U.S. citizens can open U.S.-based brokerage accounts, provided they complete the required paperwork and certify their tax status. Non-U.S. citizens who live outside of the U.S. can open an account if the broker accepts applications from their country of residence.

Other International Trading Considerations

A small group of online brokers allows you to place trades on foreign markets. You’ll find stocks, bonds, futures, and currencies to trade, but be mindful of additional risks like limited liquidity and currency exchange rate fluctuations.

If you’re interested in one or two international markets, you might consider opening an account with a local broker in that country. The major risk here is that regulatory agencies outside the U.S. may not be not as proactive, and foreign brokerages have been known to shut down overnight, absconding with their customers' assets.

Take the Next Step to Invest
×
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.
Service
Name
Description

Methodology

Investopedia is dedicated to providing investors with unbiased, comprehensive reviews and ratings of online brokers. Our reviews are the result of months of evaluating all aspects of an online broker’s platform, including the user experience, the quality of trade executions, the products available on its platforms, costs and fees, security, the mobile experience and customer service. We established a rating scale based on our criteria, collecting thousands of data points that we weighed into our star-scoring system.

For investors who want to trade directly in instruments traded in markets outside the U.S., a small subset of online brokers allows you to place trades on foreign markets. You’ll find stocks, bonds, futures, and currencies to trade, but be mindful of additional risks like limited liquidity and currency exchange rate fluctuations. To determine the best brokers for international trading, we focused on which firms offered the largest selection of assets across international markets. After that, overall platform functionality and variety of order types were also measured as these are important to successful trading when undertaking position management in markets that span the globe.

Read our full methodology.