IC Markets is an Australia-based forex broker that has brought to the retail market many features previously available only to professionals: ultra-fast execution, excellent liquidity with no requotes, and the ability to place orders within the spread. This combination particularly appeals to high-frequency traders using algorithmic and other automated trading techniques on the popular MT4, MT5, and cTrader platforms. It’s also a good choice for scalpers and others who are extremely price-sensitive. Non-trading fees are also low, including no fees for deposits or withdrawals.
The company isn’t just for hedge fund wanna-bes, though. Beginners are catered to with live-trading webinars and lots of introductory educational materials (although the market analysis is limited). Indeed, it’s one of the few true ECN brokers that’s accessible to beginner traders. The minimum deposit of $200 is reasonable and there are no deposit or withdrawal fees. And those who don’t want to trade themselves can link up with various third-party copy trading services and take advantage of the low rates.
While IC Markets doesn’t have its own proprietary trading platform, it does offer 20 extra proprietary trading tools for MT4 and MT5, plus access to the ever-popular Trading Central and Autochartist (the latter for a fee).
On the downside, the firm is regulated only by one Tier 1 regulator (Australia) and one Tier II (CySEC). Clients outside of Australia and the EU will have to take their chances with Seychelles or Bermuda regulation. However, the company has taken it upon itself to add some extra layers of protection for those clients. That will allow traders to avail themselves of unusually high leverage (500:1 for forex) with more safety than would normally be the case.
Customer service is available 24/7 on both technical and market-related questions, but there have been some complaints that the response on the chat line isn’t that great.
The product line is comprised of FX and CFDs. It offers an unusually wide range of CFDs, including bonds, crypotocurrencies, and many many stocks. However there are no actual stocks or cryptocurrencies available.
IC Markets is an excellent broker for traders looking for rapid execution at low cost and the ability to execute trades through automated programs. It offers the most widely used platforms in the industry with a number of proprietary analytical tools added on. The range of investment vehicles is unusually broad, as is the range of base currencies you can use (10). The broker is aiming for the more professional end of the market though so the educational section is somewhat weak.
The name IC Markets is short for International Capital Markets Pty. The company was established in Australia in 2007 by Andrew Budzinski, who is still the firm’s CEO, and several other industry veterans with the goal of bringing institutional-level trading conditions to the retail market.
IC Markets is an ECN broker and executes your trades on an agency basis. The company aggregates prices from up to 25 different price providers and passes the best bids & asked prices directly to you with no interference by IC Markets. As a result there are no requotes, but on the other hand your order may be subject to slippage, both negative and positive. That said, IC doesn’t pass through all its trades and therefore does operate as a dealing desk to some degree.
With servers located where the action is in New York and London, the two biggest FX trading centers, IC Markets has positioned itself as a broker that caters to scalpers and high-frequency algorithmic traders who need the fastest possible execution, called low latency trading. (The firm says it can execute trades in less than 1 millisecond. By comparison, it takes about 100 milliseconds to blink.) Since these kinds of clients tend to trade a lot, the company says it’s occasionally traded over $1 trillion in a month.
The website is available in 10 languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, Hungarian, Indonesian, Malay, Portuguese, Spanish Thai, and Vietnamese. Customer support however is only available in four: English, Chinese, Portuguese, and Vietnamese.
Yes indeed, as far as we can tell. Although it isn’t as tightly regulated as some of its competitors – only one Tier 1 regulator (Australia’s ASIC), it goes the extra mile to reassure clients by offering the European-standard negative balance protection to all its clients, not just those onboarded through the CySEC-regulated subsidiary. And for Australian clients, Australia’s National Guarantee Fund doesn’t provide any insurance for people trading CFDs, but IC Markets maintains its own indemnity insurance.
The company isn’t publicly traded and doesn’t operate a bank, so there’s no information available on its finances.
Clients can trade with IC Markets under one of four regulatory agencies. European clients trade under CySEC, Australian clients under ASIC. Others can choose between either its offshore entity based in the Seychelles or the Bahamas. ASIC is a Tier 1 regulator: very strict. CySEC is Tier II, but even here you’re getting negative balance protection and a compensation fund if worst comes to worst. The Securities Commission Bahamas (SCB) is Tier III, while the increasingly popular Seychelles Financial Supervisory Agency (FSA)…well, there are always trade-offs. You’re not going to get both 500:1 leverage and a compensation fund in the same package.
Which legal entity you open your account under will depend on where you live.
No, the company does not accept clients from the US, Israel, or New Zealand.
The company’s headquarters are in Sydney, Australia, with offices in Cyprus (Limassol, which is the Silicon Valley of the online trading industry) and the Seychelles.
It’s privately owned. I couldn’t find any information about the ownership.
Yes, as far as we can tell. While the company’s financials aren’t known, it’s regulated by one of the major regulators (ASIC) and has a good reputation in the market. We haven’t heard of any major run-ins or conflicts with the regulators. Customer support is available 24/7 so you should be able to get any problems sorted out quickly.
The maximum leverage you can apply depends on which subsidiary you are trading under. Traders using the EU (CySEC) or Australia (ASIC)-regulated divisions are limited by law to 30:1, but those elsewhere who were onboarded under the Seychelles-registered entity can employ an eye-popping 500:1 leverage. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean you have to; you can change the default leverage as you wish (you can’t do this at all brokers). This is very useful when you want to dial down the riskiness of your trade.
The maximum leverage also varies by product.
IC Markets offers three accounts, which differ in their trading platforms and fee structure.
1) Standard Account
The Standard account is designed for beginning traders. It uses the MetaTrader 4 platform. There are no commissions but spreads are wider than in the other accounts. That makes it easier to keep track of your P&L, because you don’t have to worry about adding in the commissions.
2) Raw Spread Account
The Raw Spread account is for more active traders. It uses MT4 or MT5 and offers extremely low spreads (average 0.1 pip spread in EUR/USD) offset by a commission of $3.50 per lot per side (= $7 “round trip”). Since it uses the MT4 platform, traders can create Expert Advisors (aka “robots”) in the MLQ4 programming language. This is a good option for day traders, scalpers, and those who want to use robots.
The Raw Spread accounts also show depth of market -- the full range of executable prices coming directly from the pricing providers. That allows traders to see how much money is waiting to trade at each price level, which gives more insight into how competitors are positioned.
3) cTrader Raw Account
This is the one for the aspiring George Soros. The commissions are a little smaller than with the Raw Trader account ($3.00 per turn or $6.00 per round trip, vs $7.00 for the Raw Spread Account and $9 at many other brokers). The big difference is that this account uses the cTrader platform, which can accommodate C# programming.
To make matters even more interesting, traders who trade over 100 standard lots per month get a discount on even these low costs!
In addition, you can open several sub-accounts with different base currencies under your profile. And of course all three are available in Sharia-compliant Islamic accounts.
We discussed trading fees in the “Accounts” section.
There’s no inactivity fee.
There are no fees for trading stock indices, just a spread of around 0.2 pip.
All in all, IC Markets has one of the lowest fee structures of any broker, which is why it attracts so many high-volume traders.
IC Markets lists its average spread on the EUR/USD at 0.02 pips (August 2021). After adding the commission equivalent of 0.6 pips for the cTrader account, the all-in cost comes to 0.62 pips (or 0.72 on MetaTrader in the Raw Spread account) – which is competitive. Alternatively, the Standard account lists an average spread of 0.62 pips and is commission-free, making it an attractive option.
IC Markets is definitely for traders, not investors. You can trade an unusually wide range of products, but they’re all either forex or CFDs. No real stocks, ETFs, or other buy-and-hold investments. That’s OK, though. That’s what you’re here for, isn’t it?
The company offers 64 currency pairs, which is maybe 60 more than you should be trading. This includes of course all the usual suspects. The Exotics that it offers are CNH, CZK, DKK, HKD, HUF, MXN, NOK, PLN, RUB, SEK, SGD, THB, TRY, and ZAR.
It offers a good range of commodities, including the four precious metals (gold, silver, platinum, and palladium), a breakfast-table full of commodities (orange juice, sugar, cocoa, coffee, wheat, and corn, plus soybeans and cotton), and energy (spot Brent and natural gas, plus both spot & futures WTI). I’m a little surprised that an Australian broker doesn’t offer CFDs on coal too, but you can’t have everything.
The company offers an unusually wide range of nine bond futures, including 3 US bonds (5, 10, & 30-year), 3 German bonds (Schatz, Bobls, & Bunds), plus Italian BTPs, UK long gilts, and 10-year JGBs. I don’t know if these interest you at all, but as a former bond analyst they set my little heart aflutter.
You can trade 23 equity indices from around the world, including such unusual ones as Norway, Sweden, and Canada.
I have no idea how many stock CFDs they offer, but it’s clearly a lot (over 2,100 they say). They list CFDS on stocks in Australia, the NYSE, NASDAQ, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Paris, and Madrid exchanges. Plus they say “you can trade global macro themes with our special selection of US Exchange listed CFDs including a range of emerging markets Indices and popular (sic) such as the VanEck Vectors Gold Miners (GDX).” Stock CFDs are only available through MT5. I’m not too clear on what a US Exchange-listed CFD is – I thought CFDs were banned in the US. I guess they mean CFDs on US-listed ETFs.
There are 23 crypto CFDs available too (well, maybe 22 – there’s Bitcoin CFD and Bitcoin Cash CFD, whatever that is). Unfortunately as you probably know the UK FCA has banned the sale of crypto-derivatives to UK retail traders so you’ll just have to find some other way to lose your money.
Finally, you can trade futures on the ICE dollar index (aka the notorious DXY) and the fabled VIX index of expected stock market volatility – Wall Street’s fear gauge.
All told this is quite a wide range of assets to trade, far more than many competitors. It should be enough to satisfy everyone unless for some reason you’re desperate to trade copper.
The account opening process at IC Markets is easy and fully digital, which is normal for most major brokers. It only takes a few minutes. The firm offers individual, joint, and corporate accounts, just in case you don’t have enough to argue with your spouse about already and want to share your trading account with them.
The minimum deposit is $200 for all three account types (or the equivalent in another currency). That’s more than at some brokers that offer $100 minimums, but really, you need more than that to get established. (On the other hand, some brokers require a more significant $1,000 to get started.)
Traders can open accounts in 10 base currencies: USD, AUD, EUR, GBP, SGD, NZD, JPY, CHF, HKD, and CAD. I’m a little surprised at this list since IC Markets doesn’t accept clients from New Zealand, Japan, or Canada. Who’s going to use NZD, JPY, or CAD as a base currency then? Maybe their expats, I’d assume. (Unfortunately as an American citizen I can’t trade with most brokers no matter where I live. Thanks!)
There’s no charge for deposits.
There are nearly 20 different ways to fund your account, including of course bank transfers and credit/debit cards, e-wallets such as NETELLER and FasaPay, plus a number of third-party payment providers, such as PayPal, Skrill, UnionPay, and BPAY (for AUD). Deposits are said to be processed immediately or at least within 12 hours, except for broker-to-broker transfers, which may take as long as five days.
Withdrawing funds from IC Markets is free for credit/debit cards, bank transfers and electronic wallets, although the company’s bank charges a hefty $20 for international transfers. Withdrawals can be anywhere from instant (PayPall/NETELLER/Skrill) to one working day (domestic wire transfer) to three to five working days (credit/debit cards).
This is an easy section to write. IC Markets doesn’t have its own proprietary platform. It supports three third-party platforms: the ever-popular Metatrader 4 and 5, plus cTrader. These three are probably the most widely used platforms and so should keep most people happy. All three are available for both Android and iOS mobile devices so you’ll be able to trade in the shower if you have a waterproof phone.
Although it doesn’t have its own platform, it does offer numerous additional trading tools for these platforms (see below).
One of the Unique Selling Points of IC Markets is 20 proprietary trading tools for use with the popular MT4 platform. In addition they offer the Advanced Trading Tools packageof add-ons developed by FX Blue, and plugins from Trading Central and AutoChartist (although there’s an extra fee for AutoChartist). This is pretty much everything you could think of and a lot that you couldn’t.
The news feed, called 'Market Buzz', offers news analytics and sentiment indicators. You can access third-party news suppliers, such as ForexLive, tickerreport.com, and MyFXbook from here. (These are free anyway so don’t get too excited.) There’s also a flood of Twitter messages.
Algorithmic trading: The desktop version of MetaTrader supports algorithmic trading, and the cTrader suite includes trading applications such as cAlgo, a C# language for automated trading, and cTrader Copy for social copy trading.
VPS services: IC Markets offers several third-party Virtual Private Servers (VPS) services for hosting client algorithms. There’s normally a charge for this service but they’re free to traders who do at least 15 lots a month. Great for traders who want to use automated trading systems.
Risk Management Tools: You can set a stop-loss, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to get out at your desired level if something extraordinary happens. This differs from some companies’ guaranteed stop-loss orders. There is an advanced margin call facility that closes out your trade automatically if it’s nearing zero. However once again there’s no guarantee that in an extreme case, e.g. when the Swiss National Bank pulls the plug on the EUR/CHF floor, it will be able to get you out quickly enough. In short, you get what you pay for. IC Markets is an ECN broker, which means lower spreads during regular markets but more risk during extraordinary markets when compared with a market-maker.
On the whole, IC Markets provides an extensive number of trading tools compared to most other brokers, which should keep most traders satisfied. However, some of the tools are only available on the MetaTrader platforms.
IC Markets doesn’t offer copy trading directly, but you can link your IC Markets account with ZuluTrade, MyFXBook, and AutoTrader. Traders using the cTrader platform can use cTrader Copy. In addition there are a lot of fund managers trading through IC Markets that offer MAM and PAMM accounts.
IC Markets’ target client base is large-scale traders using automated trading programs who are very price-sensitive. These aren’t people who generally want or need a detailed discussion of the nuances of the Fed’s latest statement. The firm therefore doesn’t put a whole lot of resources into research.
There’s a blog with both fundamental and technical analysis. Unfortunately many of the so-called “fundamental analysis” pieces are no more than news reports (this market is up, that market is down) while others are pure technical analysis pieces that shouldn’t even be called fundamental analysis. The technical analysis on the other hand is concise and well-focused on trading ideas.
I didn’t see much information on companies despite the 2,000+ stock CFDs that IC Markets trades.
Another problem I had is that the font is so faint as to be barely legible, IMHO. This is nothing unique to IC Markets, unfortunately. On the contrary it’s a widespread phenomenon. My guess is that the people who design these websites don’t actually read them, because if they did, they wouldn’t make them like this. (This is a problem I find throughout much of the retail FX industry: the people in the marketing department often have only a sketchy idea of their own product – kind of like people selling soap who’ve never taken a bath.)
The education section has a number of articles and 16 videos to teach you everything from “what is a CFD” to how to use MT4. These are great for new traders trying to get set up. They offer Web TV, a service of concise 1-minute videos by Trading Central (there may be more Trading Central materials available for paying clients), and webinars in a variety of languages by a dozen outside specialists.
Their YouTube channel seems to be where they’re putting the most emphasis. It’s filled with a wide variety of videos, including a weekly live trading webinar lasting one hour. Beginning traders can learn a lot by watching the past ones and seeing how a professional goes about his or her business. There are also a lot of videos on technical analysis, such as Fibonacci Speed Resistance Fan and Gann Trading Strategies, that could be of interest to more advanced traders as well. There are similar videos (I guess) in a variety of languages I don’t understand, including Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, Indonesia, Arabic, and Chinese. Finally, the company has some 75 videos languishing on its Vimeo channel, but this isn’t being updated.
I’d give them an A for effort on their videos but their written materials are nothing special. Again, if they want to hire me at an outrageously high salary I’d be glad to boost their research significantly. Even I have to admit though that what I do probably wouldn’t be of interest to their main client base, so I’m not going to order my Porsche just yet.
IC Markets has 24/7 customer service, which is exceptional. The phone and email support has a good reputation but the quality of the live chat reportedly leaves something to be desired: reportedly long wait times and not-so-great answers. You can reach them by email, phone, chat, or Skype. You may not have to contact them though; their extensive FAQ may well answer all your questions, and there’s a snazzy AI-driven chatbot that will wish you “Have a nice day!” at the end of your conversation.
Support is available in a wide variety of languages: Arabic, Chinese, Czech, English, Greek, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Ukrainian, Urdu, and Vietnamese.
IC Markets is a good choice for both inexperienced and experienced traders. Beginners can profit from the live-trading webinars, although they might want to supplement these with more educational resources elsewhere. They’ll also benefit from being able to ask the help desk questions 24/7. More experienced traders and those using algorithmic trading techniques will appreciate the ultra-fast execution. Everyone benefits from the low fees. Beginners who want to start off copy trading can do so by linking with other specialty brokers, and there are some investment products available too. Again though IC Markets is a broker for traders, not longer-term investors.
Regardless of how or what you trade, the broker you choose should be safe to use, affordable, and offer everything you need to trade at your best. That’s why we’re highly selective. We only feature brokers regulated by a trusted authority and we make it easy to compare their fees & features, so that you can make an informed choice.
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