With a large market-share in the forex broker space, both IC Markets and IG offering the leading forex trading platforms and customer support with IG offering more currency pairs at 91 vs 63 for IC Markets while both lower spreads and high leverage if offered by IC Markets.
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When comparing the spreads of the brokers, it is important to understand the reason each account has different spreads. We will look at each account one by one the fundamentals differences between each trading account.
The below forex brokerage calculator compared IC Markets to IG for their lowest brokerage accounts (forex direct vs raw spread account). It shows the significant saving between the two accounts. Just note, the forex direct account offered by IG only offers the USD base currency.
IC Markets Raw spreads account offers the narrowest spreads through ECN pricing. IC Markets uses ECN style execution to bring you the best spreads.
Electronic Data Communication (ECN) networks allow you to execute your orders directly with liquidity providers. Removing the ‘middleman’ or dealing desk between yourself (the trader) and providers’ means spreads are a true reflection of the market price.
To keep the spreads ‘raw’, IC Markets (and other ECN brokers) charge a commission for each trade you execute when using an ECN account instead of re-quoting the spread. IC Markets charges a $7.00 (round trip) commission for every 100,000 units (standard lots) you trade.
Narrow spreads encourage the trader to trade higher volumes, which means IC Markets can earn more in commission. A wider spread means costs for traders are higher, which means lower volumes traded. With this in mind, brokers have little motivation for broker to manipulate spreads. IC Markets are the issuer of their own products so they are not a 100% true ECN broker, but as they have no dealing desk or requotes, prices can truly be said to be ECN in the spread.
Note: an Islamic account that complies with sharia law is available for Muslim traders that comply. This account is the same as the account of the RAW spread but has no swap-fee (also called overnight rates or holding fees).
You will notice the spreads on this account are 1 pip wider than the Raw Spread account. This is because the broker has widened the spread. This 1 pip in the spread replaces the commission you see in the Raw Spread account.
We recommend selecting the IC Markets Raw Spreads account over the Standard account. Commission costs of USD$7 round-turn are less than 1 pip, which is $10. You can learn more in the IC Markets Raw vs Standard page.
IG offers 2 broad types of accounts. Leveraged trading account for trading CFD instruments and Non Leverage trading for trading Shares.
If you wish to trade any of the following contracts for difference (CFDs):
Then you will need a leveraged (CFD) account. Within the Leveraged CFD account, you can choose from two account types.
This account is for clients that are new to forex trading. The account protects your investments by including a guaranteed stop-loss with all your positions. This can help protect your investments until you become comfortable trading derivatives. As all trades include a small premium so they will have wider spreads than with the standard account. You will be able to upgrade to a standard account once you have completed 10 trades or you can request from your personal account manager for an upgrade.
The standard account has two types of trade execution. This is a market maker and DMA.
With this account, IG operates as a market maker. This means when you execute a trade, you are dealing directly with IG. When you open your position, IG will act as the seller. When you sell, IG will act as the buyer. In short, IG takes the other side of all your trades. As there is a dealing desk, spreads are wider than with an ECN pricing account.
Despite taking the opposite side of your trade, IG uses data sourced from liquidity providers to keep prices ‘real’. While the spreads are wider than the IC Markets Raw Spread account, there is no commission charge. This means the IG Standard account is competitive with IC Markets Raw Spread account.
Minimum spreads are as follows:
If you want lower spreads, then you can consider the Forex Direct account which uses Direct Market Access (DMA) execution technology. This is similar to ECN, but the broker has individual contracts with each liquidity provider in liquidity pool. This is different from ECN, where the brokers have no contracts as you are connected to anonymous ECN networks. DMA pricing is similar to ECN.
This account is not available to all traders. To qualify, you must meet the following conditions:
Traders in the UK and Europe (with IG UK)
Traders Outside of the UK and Europe
As spreads are not widened, DMA trader will pay a commission. The commission is as follows:
AVG DMA Spreads
We recommend IC Markets ‘Raw Spread’ account. The ECN style account can consistently offer the narrowest spreads, as prices are set by the market. While the IG Standard account is competitive, we can’t be sure prices will also match ECN prices.
Open a demo account >>Visit IC Markets >>
When trading, we always prefer brokers that offer higher leverage limits. Leverage means you don’t need high levels of your capital to achieve large returns on your fx trading. While we always recommend being aware of the risks when trading with leverage, often you need leverage to achieve significant returns. This is because currency movements most of the time are only incremental. It is only in extreme events such as a political crisis that current movements can be drastic.
IC Markets offer leverage of 500:1 to clients that fall under the jurisdiction of the Seychelles Financial Services Authority (FSA). For those that fall under the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission in Cyprus (CySEC) or Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), leverage for forex pairs is capped at 30:1.
Likewise, IG Markets forex leverage varies depending on the regulation that applied to the territory their client is based on.
If you want to trade forex and CFDs, it is important to be aware of the high risk involved when trading complex instruments. All top brokers will offer some form of risk management tools available, such as order types, price alerts and company-wide investor protection policies.
Some of the fastest execution speed in the forex online broker industry is available with IC Markets. IC Markets place their fibre optic cable technology at Equinox data centres near major forex trading centres. This placement means they can achieve order execution completion of under 40ms. Fast execution is imperative for IC Markets as they only offer the basic risk management tools all forex brokers offer. Without the fast execution speed and low latency that IC Markets achieve, your trades could be at risk of ‘slippage’ which can impact your ability to trade confidently.
The infrastructure behind IG trading infrastructure is not spoken about on their website. However, IG does provide statistics about their slippage performance, which is a good indication of their trading speeds.
What needs to be understood is that the ‘stop’ slippage should be low (i.e. closer to 100%) and the ‘limit’ slippage should be higher (i.e. close to 0%). IG uses algorithms that use ‘asymmetric’ logic when executing trades which helps them achieve ideal execution levels.
IG also publish their rejection levels. Rapid price changes and varying levels of liquidity can determine if your trade will be successful. Remember that IG is a market maker, which means they only hold so much liquidity of each currency at one time. This may mean if you are trading high volumes of a currency pair, IG may not have the necessary volumes of liquidity to execute your trade.
IG allows you to mage rejection risks through the following
While the above are all tools IG when it comes to execution speed, IG also has some risk management tools that IC Markets do not offer. The main tools are guaranteed stop-loss order. This tool allows you to set your sell price for a small fee, and IG can guarantee this price when you go short.
The other feature IG off is a ‘limit risk account. This is a setting on your account that, when enabled, will require you to purchase a guaranteed stop-loss order for every trade you do.
It is worth noting that neither broker offers guaranteed negative balance protection. Instead, both brokers offer a margin call system or minimum balance protection. This system is a series of warnings that your account funds are below specified margin limits. The idea of the notifications is to allow you to add more funds to your account or sell some of your positions.
It is important to understand why each broker has such different approaches when it comes to speed and execution. Speed is very important to IC Markets because they offer an environment similar to an ECN broker. Foreign exchange prices are constantly changing, and any lags during trade execution may mean the price you buy or sell might not match the advertised price. This can result in slippage.
IG, unlike IC Markets, is more about managing risk with risk management features to protect your investments.
The following trading platforms are available with IC Markets. MetaTrader 4 (MT4), MetaTrader 5 (MT5) and cTrader. IG also offer MT4 (along with their proprietary platforms).
MT4, MT5 and cTrader are the most popular trading platforms worldwide and are available as desktop and webtrader platforms, as well as mobile trading apps for iOS and Android devices.
This trading software or platform has long been the most popular trading platform for both traders and brokers. Continual upgrades mean the platform become one of the most ‘complete’ trading platforms available, making it popular with fx brokers. MT4 makes trading easy for those new to trading, but also offers sophisticated features for traders requiring more in-depth information. While it is true many other products nowadays offer similar features, MT4 continues to be the best as they consistently offer new features.
Key features of note on MT4 include charts and indicators, expert advisers (i.e. trading automation) and the ability to customise your trading screens.
This platform is an upgrade on MetaTrader 4. While it is true MetaTrader 4 continues to be far more popular than MetaTrader 5, slowly but surely MetaTrader 5 is catching up. MetaTrader 5 uptake has been slow because when MetaTrader was released in 2010, it was built to be compliant with USA trading regulations. USA trade regulation doesn’t allow hedging or F.I.F.O style trading. MetaQuest assumed that the rest of the world would follow the USA with these regulatory requirements. This error has since been rectified and MetaTrader 5 now allows netting (F.I.F.O) and hedging systems, meaning the meets USA and international regulatory requirements. So although MT4 remains the chosen platform, there is now little reason to choose MT4 over MT5.
MetaTrader 5 is an improvement over MT4 as it allows better trading through central exchanges. This makes the platform a better choice as now better built to allow for trading of all types of asset classes including shares, commodities and indices. Other benefits include faster processing (which can help reduce slippage) as it is a 64-bit multi-threaded platform that can handle up to 4GB (an upgrade on MT4 which uses 32-but, mono threading with a 2GB limit, more charts and indicators). Lastly, MT5 is better built for backtesting as it is using MQL5, which should assist with the easier creation of expert advisors.
If you use MetaTrader with IC Markets, you will also get access to their MT4 Advanced Trader tools. This is a series of 20 additional trade execution and management tools that will make your trading experience even better.
This platform is another very popular readily accessible free platform available for traders. Choosing cTrader over MetaTrader is simply a case of personal preference. All platforms offer many of the same key features however some many prefer the cTrader interface. Some of the main features of cTrader are Level II pricing, Detachable charts, a dedicated platform for trading automation and 26 timeframes. cTrader however, is only for forex trading, not CFD or cryptocurrency trading.
There are different trading tools available with IG. It is important to understand each platform serves a different purpose and therefore will serve the needs of different traders.
The first table shows with ‘Web-based’, ‘mobile app’ and ‘Tablet apps’ are IG proprietary platform. This platform is IG award-winning platforms and contains all the standard tools traders will want access too. It is worth noting that the Tablet is only built for iPad and that you can only trade directly from charts if using the web platform.
Below are some of the custom platforms that IG offer:
IG gives you an extensive range of platform choices to choose from. We, however, don’t find these platforms interesting enough to choose over the MetaTrader options available with IC Markets. If you choose MetaTrader with IC Markets, you can access the platform on your phone, tablet or the web. MetaTrader 4 is a great option as many brokers offer this platform however we are recommending MetaTrader 5. While not as many brokers offer this as MetaTrader 4, it is still relatively common and offers all the MT4 features and more.
This broker offers a solid collection of different asset classes for trade. While IG offers a far more extensive range of trading options, IC Markets off most of the standard CFDs most people will look to trade with.
These CFDs include 17 different indices, 19 different commodities plus spot and futures CFDs, 120+ stocks from the ASX, Nasdaq and NYSE (provided you are using MT5). 6 different Bonds, 4 Global futures and 10 of the most popular cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ripple, Dash, Ethereum and BitCoin Cash.
IC Markets do not charge a commission when trading bonds and indices.
If you’re looking for a broker that offers an all-in-one CFDs trading portfolio, then IG might be the right broker for you. IG range of derivatives covers just about any assets you might want to consider for trading. Trading options include over 8,500 shares from the Australian and international stock markets, over 31 global indices, 26 different commodities and all the major cryptocurrencies.
Please note: The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK recently changed regulation banning retail traders from accessing or trading cryptocurrency markets. To trade crypto with IG, you will need to sign up with an IG branch outside of the UK.
IG also offer other assets not commonly on offer with other brokers, these include options, interest rates, bonds, exchange-traded products (ETP), exchange-traded funds (ETF) and initial public offerings (IPOs).
If purchasing shares, then IG allows you to purchase shares with lower commissions for the first weeks of trading while you build your confidence. After this period it is 0.08% commission per side with a minimum charge of $7. To purchase shares you will need a non-leveraged trading account.
If you are an IG client in the UK, you can also do spread betting. This is very similar to CFD trading but you don’t own the underlying product but instead bet on the direction the instrument will move. It is popular with traders in the UK as there can be tax savings on your profits.
IG offers great portfolio derivatives that cover all the CFDs you may wish to consider for investment.
IC Markets do not have any sign on or deposit bonus. Nor do they have a refer a friend program. This could be looked at favourably in some aspects. IC Markets focus on offering the lowest spreads through their ECN broker. This means they are operating on very low commission margins. If they had a sign-on bonus, this could be passed onto consumers through other costs.
IG (who are a market maker, not ECN broker) on the other hand have a refer a friend program. With this program, IG will give you up to US$1000 in credit and your friend US$100 for each friend you introduce to IG. The program does have certain conditions whereby the friend must meet minimum deposit and trade requirements.
Given IC Markets don’t have a bonus program then consider IG as an option if you desire a bonus.
You can contact the IC Markets support team 24/7 through live chat, email, or call back. They also provide FAQ in their help centre, where you can find possible answers to your questions.
IC Markets offer an extensive range of educational resources that will provide you with all the trading information you may need. This includes information on the advantages of Forex and CFD trading, video tutorials on how to use MetaTrader 4 and Web TV, which is recorded daily from the New York Stock Exchange discussing trade ideas in short video format. They also have a devoted webpage that provides an educational overview. When you choose this page, you are taken to a page they call an ‘Information Hub for the Serious Trader’. This site includes information on different types of analysis and trading data and a range of other topics such as risk management. You can also find links to all the past webinar they have hosted about different trading topics here.
You can reach out to IG for support via Email, Live chat, phone and twitter. The customer support is available 7 days a week however the hours are more limited on Saturdays.
The broker has a decent collection of tools that can assist you when trading for any issues or information you may need. These include glossaries, forums, users’ guides and FAQ. the most notable feature their ‘IG Academy’. This education series is made of 9 different trading courses covering forex and CFD trading. Here you will find booklets, webinars and mobile apps as different means to relay trade information.
While both brokers provide good customer support and service, we like IG range of education tools as they are more comprehensive.
IC Markets have no fees when it comes to making a deposit or making a withdrawal with any of their funding methods. This is across the standard and RAW account types. The range of methods you can use for funding is quite broad. Funding methods include Credit cards and Debit Cards (Visa and MasterCard), Skrill, Neteller, PayPal, BPAY, POLi, UnionPay and FasaPay.
IG on the other hand have charges for various funding methods. You will find they have a 1% fee when using Visa and 0.5% when using MasterCard. PayPal also has a 1% fee. All these methods have a minimum of $500 when making a deposit. BPAY and Bank Transfer are free and have no minimum deposit.
IC Markets not only offer more funding options when we compare with IG but don’t have fees.
Justin Grossbard has been investing for the past 20 years and writing for the past 10. He co-founded Compare Forex Brokers in 2014 after working with the foreign exchange trading industry for several years. He also founded a number of FinTech and digital startups including Innovate Online and SMS Comparison. Justin holds a Masters Degree and an Honours in Commerce from Monash University. He and his wife Paula live in Melbourne, Australia with his son and Siberian cat. In his spare time, he watches Australian Rules Football and invests on global markets.