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Understanding IB Margin Webinar Notes


Welcome to Interactive Brokers' Understanding Margin Webinar.

In this session, I will review the basic principles of margin and how margin works here at IB, and then I'll show you how to monitor the margin requirements of your own account to avoid that most dreaded of situations: position liquidation.

The important things I hope you will take away from this webinar are:

  • How margin works at IB.
  • How to find margin requirements on the IB website.
  • How to monitor margin for your account in Trader Workstation.

What is Margin?

Margin is defined differently for securities and commodities:

  • For securities trading, borrowing money to purchase securities is known as "buying on margin." The loan is collateralized by the securities and cash in your brokerage account.
  • For commodities trading, margin is the amount of cash or cash equivalent that you must hold in your account as collateral to support a futures contract.

How IB is Different

Like other lenders, Interactive Brokers has margin policies and procedures in place to protect from market risk, or the decline in the value of securities collateral.

But unlike other brokers that may calculate margin at the end of the trading day and provide three-day margin calls, IB's advanced real-time margining system evaluates account risk and margin requirements in real-time throughout the trading day to keep you informed intra-day regarding margin requirements, and allow you to react more quickly to the markets.


Be aware that if your account is under-margined, IB has the right to, and generally will, liquidate your positions until your account complies with margin requirements. Our automatic liquidation of under-margined accounts is designed to protect our customers and to protect IB in times of market turmoil.

Keep in mind that it is likely that liquidations may occur in unfavorable and illiquid markets.

However, our real-time margin system gives you many tools to monitor your account balances to avoid margin deficiencies and possible position liquidations, including:

  • Real-time views of current, look-ahead, and overnight margin requirements;
  • A preview of margin implications before you submit a trade;
  • The ability to set alerts based on margin requirements;
  • Margin warnings that appear as pop-up messages and color-coded account information to notify you that you are approaching a serious margin deficiency;
  • Daily Margin Reports.

Margin Methodologies

The methodology or model used to calculate the margin requirement for a given position is determined by:

  • The product type;
  • The rules of the exchange on which that product trades; and
  • IB's house requirements.

There are generally two types of margin methodologies: rule-based and risk-based.

  • Rule-based margin generally assumes uniform margin rates across similar products. A common example of a rule-based methodology is the U.S. Reg. T requirement.
  • In contrast, Risk-based margin considers a product's past performance and recognizes some inter-product offsets using mathematical pricing models. Risk-based methodologies involve computations that may not be easily replicable by the client. Examples of risk based methodologies include Portfolio Margin (for securities) and SPAN (margin for futures & futures options).

At IB, we have account types based on the rule-based Reg T and the risk-based Portfolio Margin. I'll talk about these in a few minutes.

House Margin Requirements

Regardless of whether the methodology is rule-based or risk-based, IB may set special house requirements on certain securities. For example, IB may reduce the collateral value (marginability) of certain securities for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Small market capitalization or small issue size;
  • Low liquidity in the collective primary/secondary exchanges;
  • Involvement in tenders and other corporate actions.

Rule-Based Margin

In the US, the Federal Reserve Board is responsible for maintaining the stability of the financial system and containing systemic risk that may arise in financial markets. It does this, in part, by governing the amount of credit that broker-dealers may extend to customers who borrow money to buy securities on margin.

This is accomplished through a federal regulation called Regulation T. Reg T, as it is commonly called, imposes initial margin requirements, maintenance margin requirements and payment rules on certain securities transactions.

Initial Margin Requirement

Initial Margin is the percentage of the purchase price of securities that you must pay for with your own cash and/or marginable securities.

Reg T currently lets you borrow up to 50 percent of the price of the securities to be purchased. So on stock purchases, Reg. T requires an initial margin deposit of 50% of the purchase value, which in turn allows the broker to extend credit or finance the remaining 50%.

For example, if you are purchasing $1,000 worth of securities, under Reg T, you are required to deposit $500 and allowed to borrow $500 to hold those securities.

Maintenance Margin Requirement

Maintenance Margin is the amount of equity that you must maintain in your account to continue holding a position.

During active market hours, IB clients can take advantage of reduced intraday margin for securities – generally 25% of the long stock value. In order to hold a position overnight, margin requirement reverts to the Reg T requirement of 50% of stock value.

Note that margin may not be extended for certain securities such as Pink Sheet, OTCBB and low capitalization.

Risk-Based Margin

There are two risk-based margin methods that I want to discuss today: Portfolio Margin and SPAN.

Portfolio Margin

Portfolio Margin is a risk-based methodology that uses a model called TIMS, which stands for Theoretical Intermarket Margin System. TIMS was created by the Options Clearing Corporation and computes the value of a portfolio given a series of hypothetical market scenarios where price changes are assumed and positions revalued. IB also considers a number of house scenarios to capture additional risks such as extreme market moves, concentrated positions and shifts in option implied volatilities. Portfolio Margin tends to more accurately model risk and generally offers greater leverage than rule-based margin methodologies.

Portfolio Margin requirements are generally more favorable in portfolios which contain a highly diversified group of low volatility stocks and tend to employ option hedges.

Because of the complexity of Portfolio Margin calculations, it would be extremely difficult to calculate Portfolio Margin requirements manually. If you're interested in Portfolio Margin, we recommend that you use our TWS Portfolio Margin Demo to understand the impact of Portfolio Margin requirements under different scenarios.

Standardized Portfolio Analysis of Risk (SPAN)

Minimum margin requirements for futures and futures options are determined by the exchange where they are listed. The exchanges use a risk-based margin methodology called Standard Portfolio Analysis of Risk or SPAN . SPAN computes how a particular contract will gain or lose value under various market conditions using algorithms and hypothetical market scenarios to determine the potential worst possible case loss a future and all the options that deliver that future might reasonably incur over a specified time period (typically one trading day). You can view SPAN requirements on our website or in the contract description window available in TWS.

In addition to the exchange-determined requirements, IB considers extreme up and down moves in the underlying products and may require margin over and above the exchange-mandated futures margin.

An overview of the SPAN margining system is provided in KB563.

IB Account Types

Interactive Brokers offers several account types that you select in your account application, including a cash account and two types of margin accounts – Reg T Margin and Portfolio Margin.

Cash Account

  • Cash accounts, by definition, may not use borrowed funds to purchase securities and must pay in full for cost of the transaction plus commissions. No shorting of stock is allowed. Limited purchase and sale of options. Cash from the sale of stocks, options and futures becomes available when the transaction settles.
  • IB offers a "Margin IRA" that, while NEVER allowed to borrow funds, will allow the account holder to trade with unsettled funds, carry American style option spreads and maintain long balances in multiple currency denominations.

Reg T Margin Account

Reg T Margin accounts are rule-based. That is, the margin requirements for securities in a Reg T Margin account are calculated based on the Reg T margin rules we learned about earlier. The Reg. T rules apply to margin for securities products including: U.S. stocks, index options, equity options, single stock futures, mutual funds and bonds.

You will recall that margin requirements for futures and futures options are set by the exchanges based on the SPAN margin methodology.

Portfolio Margin Account

Portfolio Margin accounts are risk-based. As the name implies, margin requirements in a Portfolio Margin account are calculated based on the Portfolio Margin (and TIMS) risk-based methodology. Positions eligible for Portfolio margin treatment include U.S. stocks, ETFs, options, single stock futures and non-U.S. stocks and options.

Given its ability for enhanced leverage and that the requirements fluctuate and may react quickly to changing market conditions, Portfolio Margin accounts are intended for sophisticated traders, and require minimum equity of $110,000 to initiate and $100,000 to maintain.

One important thing to remember is this - if your Portfolio Margin account equity drops below 100,000 USD, you will be restricted from doing any margin-increasing trades. Therefore if you do not intend to maintain at least USD 100,000 in your account, you should not apply for a Portfolio Margin account.

Upgrading Your Account Type

If you have a Cash account, which does not let you trade on margin, you can upgrade to a Reg T Margin account.

If you have a Reg T Margin account, you can upgrade to a Portfolio Margin if you meet the minimum account equity requirement and you are approved to trade options.

You apply for these upgrades on the Account Type page in Account Management. The menu path is Manage Account > Settings > Configure Account > Account Type.

IB Integrated Investment Account

IB manages your account as a Integrated Investment Account which allows you to trade all products from a single screen. Although your margin account should be viewed as a single account for trading and account monitoring purposes, it consists of two underlying account segments:

  • Securities – The securities segment or your account is governed by rules of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

    Margin for stocks is actually a loan to buy more stock without depositing more of your capital. In stock purchases, the margin acts as a down payment. Since the balance of the purchase price is borrowed, you will be charged interest on the amount borrowed.

    Reg. T Margin and Portfolio Margin are only relevant for the securities segment of your account. Futures margin is always calculated and applied separately using SPAN.
  • Commodities – The Commodities segment (which is sometimes called the Futures segment) is governed by rules of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

    Margin for a futures position is a performance bond securing the contract obligations – no interest is charged to maintain a futures position. Margin for futures is a cash or cash equivalent deposit that can earn interest while it works for you.

Excess Funds Sweep

As part of the IB Integrated Investment Account service, IB is authorized to automatically transfer funds as necessary between your IB securities and commodities account segments to satisfy margin requirements in either account.

You can configure how you want IB to handle the transfer of excess funds using a feature called Excess Funds Sweep in our Account Management system. This feature lets you choose to sweep funds to the securities account, to the commodities account, or you can choose not to sweep excess funds at all. If you choose not to sweep excess funds, funds will not be swept except to meet margin requirements.

Exploring Margin on the IB Website

There is a lot of detailed information about margin on our website. The Margin pages are available by clicking Products > Margin on our website and they include:

  • Margin calculations in a Reg T Margin account;
  • Margin requirements, including initial and maintenance margin, for all types of assets;
  • Information about Portfolio Margin and Pattern Day Trading

Margin Calculations

  • Overview page
  • Calculations for Securities page – real-time margining system means we apply margin calculations to securities throughout the day in a Reg T Margin account. Review them quickly.
  • Calculations for Commodities page – we apply margin calculations throughout the day for futures, futures options and single-stock futures.
  • Examples page

IB Reg T Margin Calculations

In a Reg T Margin account, IB applies Margin Calculations at the following times:

  • At the time of a trade;
  • In real-time throughout the trading day;
  • At the end of the trading day;
  • Overnight.

Calculations work differently at different times. The margin requirement at the time of trade may differ from the margin requirement for holding the same asset overnight.

Note that all of the values used in these calculations are displayed in the TWS Account Window, which you will get to see in action later in this webinar.

Time of Trade Margin Calculations

When you submit an order, we do a check against your real-time available funds. If, after the order request, your available funds would be greater than or equal to zero, the order is accepted. If available funds would be negative, the order is rejected.

Time of Trade Leverage Check

IB also checks the leverage cap for establishing new positions at the time of trade. The leverage cap helps to prevent situations in which there is little or no apparent market risk in holding very large positions but there may be excessive settlement risk.

Margin Calculations Throughout the Day

IB also performs real-time margin calculations throughout the day, including maintenance margin calculations, leverage checks, decreased marginability calculations and real time SMA calculations.

Maintenance Margin Calculations

IB performs maintenance margin calculations throughout the day for securities and commodities in a Reg. T Margin account. Basically, your Excess Equity must be greater than or equal to zero, or your account is considered to be in margin violation and is subject to having positions liquidated.

Leverage Checks

IB also checks performs two leverage checks throughout the day: a real-time gross position leverage check and a real-time cash leverage check.

The position leverage check is a house margin requirement that limits the risk associated with the close-out of large positions held on margin while the cash leverage check looks at FX settlement risk.

Decreased Marginability

IB reduces the marginability of stocks for accounts holding concentrated positions relative to the shares outstanding (SHO) of a company. In Reg. T Margin accounts, this increases the margin requirement for stock positions exceeding 1% of the published shares outstanding from its default to 100% (in other words, decreases the amount of money that can be borrowed against a stock position toward zero). At 5% concentration, positions have a 100% margin requirement.

End of Day SMA

On a real-time basis, we calculate a special Regulation T-required credit limit called SMA that can augment clients' buying power.

SMA refers to the Special Memorandum Account, which represents neither equity nor cash, but rather a line of credit created when the market value of securities in a Reg. T margin account increase in value. Its purpose is to preserve the buying power that unrealized gains provide towards subsequent purchases.

You'll see SMA when we show you how to monitor your margin in TWS a bit later in this webinar.


Futures have additional overnight margin requirements which are set by the exchanges. I'll show you where to find these requirements in just a minute. Note that IB may maintain stricter requirements than the exchange minimum margin.

Soft-Edge Margin

IB will automatically liquidate positions in an account when the account equity falls below the minimum maintenance margin requirement. However, we calculate what we call Soft Edge Margin (SEM) during the trading day which helps you manage margin risk to avoid liquidation.

To summarize Soft Edge Margin: If your account falls below the minimum maintenance margin, it will not be automatically liquidated until it falls below the Soft Edge Margin. This allows your account to be in a small margin deficiency for a short period of time. Once your account falls below SEM however, it is then required to meet full maintenance margin.

Margin Requirements

  • Tabbed pages display margin requirements each asset type
  • Multiple pages under each tab, often organized by region
  • Demonstrate menu use on stocks and options pages

Additional Margin Pages

  • Overview > Portfolio Margin page
  • Day Trading pages


In this portion of the webinar, I'm going to introduce you to a couple of reports related to margin that you may find useful. They are:

  • Margin Report
  • Stress Test Report

These reports like all our reports are available from within Account Management.

Margin Report

Margin reports show your margin requirements for single and combination positions, and display both available and excess liquidity as well as other values important in IB margin calculations. Each day at 16:15 ET we record your margin and equity information across all asset classes and exchanges.

Note that because information on your statements is displayed "as of" the cut-off time for each individual exchange, the information in your margin report may be different from that displayed on your statements.

Access margin reports by clicking Reports > Risk > Margin Report in Account Management.

Here is an example of a margin report:

Understanding IB Margin

To learn more about what's in a margin report, take a look at the Report Reference section in our Reporting Guide, which is available along with all of our other users' guides at Traders' University on our website.

Stress Test Report

Another report that may be of interest to you is the Stress Test Report (sometimes known as the Stress Test Summary Report). This report lets you see the change in the profit and loss of your positions if the underlying price of each of your positions declines by 3%, 5%, 10%, 20% and 30% and independently increases by 3%, 5%, 10%, 20% and 30%. The results are based on theoretical pricing models and do not take into account coincidental changes in volatility or other variables that affect derivative prices.

The report shows:

  • The Net Liquidation Value (NLV) of your account on the close, in your base currency.
  • The cash balance of your account.
  • Equity of all stock and derivatives, equity index derivatives and mutual funds, with P&L (displayed as "PNL" in the report).
  • Exposure, which is defined as the amount of money your portfolio will lose in that scenario in excess of the portfolio's Net Liquidation Value on the close of the report date.
Understanding IB Margin

Monitoring Tools

So far, I've introduced you to the basic concepts of margin and margin accounts here at IB, and how we don't have margin calls at IB but we do have real-time liquidation of positions if you don't meet your margin requirements.

Don't panic, however. Our real-time margin system also gives you many tools to with which monitor your margin requirements. Always use the margin monitoring tools to gauge your margin situation. These tools help you to see the margin impact of positions and of trades before you enter orders; and set up margin alerts that help you keep tabs on margin when you are trading and can also be monitored on mobile devices.

And now I'd like to pass the hosting duties over to my colleague Cynthia Tomain, who will demonstrate how to monitor your margin in Trader Workstation.

Preview Order / Check Margin

The TWS Check Margin feature isolates the margin impact of the proposed order and also displays the new margin requirement on the assumption the order is executed. Key margin balances including the Initial and Maintenance Requirements are reported as is the Equity With Loan Value.

  • In Mosaic use the Advanced button in the Order Entry window then select Check Margin.
  • In Classic TWS right click on the order row and select Check Margin from the drop-down menu. Also available in WebTrader.
Understanding IB Margin
  • Margin Impact for Option Combinations can be viewed before you submit the a combination order in the Options Strategy Builder, Probability Lab and Option Strategy Lab. The Margin Impact field displays in the Order Entry panel and updates when you modify any legs of the combination order.
Understanding IB Margin

Account Window

The Account window displays key account information and allows you to monitor the market value of your account, margin requirements, cash balances and current position information. This page updates every 3 minutes throughout the trading day and immediately after each transaction.

Understanding IB Margin

Real-time Balances

Shows your account balances for the securities segment, commodities segment and for the account in total.

  • Net Liquidation Value - the total of all assets (position value and cash deposited with IB) marked to market – the amount of cash you would get by liquidating all positions, now.
  • Equity with Loan Value - your Collateral - the cash balance combined with position market value. Note: Option market value is not used for the purpose of borrowing funds.

Margin Requirements

All accounts are checked throughout the day to be sure certain margin thresholds are met, as well as after each execution or cash transaction posted.

It's important to note that the calculation of a margin requirement does not imply that the account is borrowing funds, employing leverage or incurring interest charges. IB will only generate a margin loan in the event that the account does not have sufficient settled funds to support the purchase of additional securities or holding of existing securities. In situations where there is no margin loan, the reporting of a margin requirement on the trading platform is intended for monitoring the account's financial capacity to sustain a margin loan.

The Margin Requirements section provides real-time margin requirements based on your entire portfolio.

  • Current Initial and Maintenance Margin, plus Overnight requirements (Reg T 50% overnight, Cash settled contracts 100% overnight)
  • Look Ahead margin shows the change in margin values based on the next period change (End of trading session, start of trading session)
  • Post-Expiry Margin @ Open (predicted) & Post-Excess (predicted) provides projected "at expiration" values based on the soon-to-expire contracts in your portfolio.

    These fields display values at expiration and are highlighted in red. All other times the value is "0". The projected values in these fields include the anticipated account value including the expiring contract. To see just the projected margin and excess liquidity values for the expiring contract, double click the entry in the Account window.
Understanding IB Margin

Try Portfolio Margin

Portfolio Margin calculations are complex, specific to your account holdings – so if you are curious to see if Portfolio Margin can benefit you – use the TRY PM button in the TWS Account window for your current portfolio or try our TWS Portfolio Margin Demo to understand the impact of Portfolio Margin under different scenarios.

Read more about Portfolio Margining.

Available for Trading

  • Available Funds – (Equity with Loan Value less Initial margin) lets you know if funds are available to put on a new trade.
  • Excess Liquidity – (Equity with Loan Value less Maintenance margin) Lets you know if you are approaching liquidations
  • Buying Power – value of securities you can purchase without depositing additional funds. In cash accounts this is the settled cash. In a margin account, buying power is increased through the use of leverage using cash and the value of held stock as collateral. The amount of leverage depends upon whether you have a Reg. T Margin or Portfolio Margin account. Active traders can take advantage of reduced intraday margin for securities – generally 25% of the long stock value. But keep in mind this requirement reverts to the Reg T 50% of stock value to hold overnight.
  • Special Memorandum Account (SMA) represents neither equity nor cash but rather a line of credit created when the market value of securities held in a Reg. T margin account increase in value. Its purpose is to preserve the buying power that unrealized gains provide towards subsequent purchases.

    Transactions which serve to increase SMA include cash deposits, interest income or dividends received on a dollar for dollar basis – or when you sell a marginable security 50% of the net proceeds. For example $2,000 increase in securities market value would create SMA of $1,000 (at 50% margin rate).

    SMA must remain positive or positions are subject to liquidation.

    Please refer to the IB Knowledge Base for more information on what is SMA and how does it work?
  • Day Trades left – US securities regulations limit the amount of trading that can be done in accounts with less than $25,000 in equity. While Pattern Day Trading (PDT) is not technically a margin issue, it can cause an account to go into violation. (Note that the day trading rules only apply to securities positions and not commodity futures, options on futures or spot forex transactions.)

A day trade is when a security position is open and closed in the same day. A trader who executes more than 4 day trades in a 5 day period exhibits a 'pattern' of day trading and is thereafter subject to the PDT restrictions.

If an account has less than $25,000 in equity it is limited to 3 day trades within a 5 day period. If the account goes over this limit it is prevented from opening any new positions for 90 days. The IB system is programmed to protect the accounts that might "potentially" be flagged as day trading accounts by not allowing the 4th opening transaction within 5 days if the account has less than $25,000.

Margin accounts with balances greater than $25,000 have no restriction on the number of day trades placed. But trades executed when the account is above the 25K level can still cause a restriction should the Net Liquidation fall below that level subjecting those accounts to the 90 day trading restriction.

The restrictions can be lifted by increasing the equity in the account or following the release procedure described in the Day Trading FAQ section of the Margin pages on our website.

Note that an option exercise or assignment will count towards day trading activity as if the underlying had been traded directly.


The Portfolio section displays all your positions (also available in TWS on the Portfolio tab). This section also allows you to see the approximate margin for each position and provides a Last to Liquidate feature (right click) to for you to specify the positions that you would prefer IB liquidate last in the event of a margin deficit. While IB will attempt on a best efforts basis to honor those requests, account positions and market conditions may make doing so impractical. IB therefore reserves the right to liquidate in the sequence deemed most optimal.

Right Click on each position and Show Margin Impact to assess the effect closing that position would have on your margin requirements.

Understanding IB Margin

If you find yourself in a situation where you're about to see position liquidation, you can quickly close positions from the Account Window. Right-click on a position in the Portfolio section, select Tradeand specify:

  • Close Position – Creates the closing order which can be transmitted form either th Mosaic or the Classic Portfolio tab.e out the position.
  • Close All Positions – will close out ALL positions in your portfolio.
  • Close Portion of Positions – the percentage you enter will be applied to ALL of your positions

Margin Warnings

Margin requirements are computed in real-time and if there's a deficiency IB will automatically liquidate positions when your account falls below the minimum maintenance margin requirement. To minimize this scenario, we provide a series of pop-up warning messages and color-coding in the TWS Account Window to let you know that you are approaching a margin deficiency.

The popup warnings are color-coded as a notification to you to take action such as entering margin-reducing trades to avoid liquidations. The Account screen conveys the following information at a glance:

IB will generate a message when the margin cushion in an account reaches 5% and a margin deficiency is therefore approaching.

Understanding IB Margin
  • Yellow: Your cushion is at 5%. THIS is when you should take steps to prevent liquidation.
  • Orange: Your cushion is zero you have a short time to enter margin reducing trades before IB begins to liquidate positions to meet margin requirements.
  • Red: Your margin cushion is depleted and IB begins to liquidate positions to bring your margin back to an acceptable level.


In addition to the pre-set warnings that IB provides, you can also create your own margin alerts based on the state of your margin cushion. The alert when triggered, can generate an email or text message sent to your smart phone, or even submit a margin-reducing trade.

Understanding IB Margin

Option Exercise

While the purchase of an option generally requires no margin since the position is paid in full, once exercised the account holder is obligated to either pay for or finance the ensuing stock position. Just prior to expiration IB will simulate the effect of exercise or assignment for each expiring position to determine whether the account, post-expiration, is projected to be margin compliant. IB may liquidate positions in the account to resolve the projected margin deficiency for Accounts which do not have sufficient equity on hand prior to exercise.

Risks of Assignment

Expiration Related Liquidations

Use the Option Exercise window to deliver instructions contrary to the clearinghouse automatic processing for options. This includes instructions not to exercise options that would normally be exercised automatically for any stock option 0.01 or more in-the-money. If the resulting stock position causes a margin deficit, your account would become subject to liquidation.

Open the Option Exercise window from the Account menu (Classic TWS toolbar Trade menu). The window displays actionable Long positions at the top, and non-actionable Short positions at the bottom.

Understanding IB Margin

Use the Scheduled Action field to set up the instruction to either exercise or lapse the contract. (Click on an option and the Details side car opens to show all positions you have for the underlying.)

  • Exercise – select to exercise your entire position in that contract.
  • Partial – lets you identify a portion of the position to exercise or lapse.
  • Lapse – only available on the last trade date.

Your instruction is displayed like an order row. Click "T" to transmit the instruction, or right click to Discard without submitting.

Note: Future Options (FOP) exercises must be submitted via web ticket in Account Management. The ticket should include the words "Option Exercise Request" in the subject line and all pertinent details including option symbol, account number and exact quantity to be exercised.

Account Management Reports

Reports in Account Management can easily be accessed from the TWS Account menu.

Understanding IB Margin

Account Info in WebTrader and mobileTWS

Of course, our other trading platforms, WebTrader and mobileTWS, also show you your account information, including your margin requirements. Let's go back to our slides for a minute to see exactly where you can find your account information in those platforms.


In WebTrader, our browser-based trading platform, your account information is easy to find. After you log into WebTrader, simply click the Account tab. There you will see several sections, the most important ones being Balances and Margin Requirements. All of the important values, including your initial and maintenance margin, excess liquidity and net liquidation value, that you want to monitor are in those two sections.


On mobileTWS for your phone, touch Account on the main menu. You'll see that the Account information on mobileTWS is divided into several sections, including Balances, Margin and Funds. All of the important values, including your initial and maintenance margin, excess liquidity and net liquidation value, that you want to monitor are in those sections. Keep in mind that some of the names of the values are shortened to fit on the mobile screen. For example, Current Excess Liquidity is shorted to Current Excess. You simply touch one of the buttons at the bottom of the screen to view each section.

On mobileTWS for an iPad or Android tablet, tap the Account quick access button. Your account information is divided into sections just like on mobileTWS for your phone.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I tell if I am borrowing funds from IB?

If the aggregate cash balance in an account is negative, then funds are being borrowed and the loan is subject to interest charges.

A loan may still exist, however, even if the aggregate cash balance is positive, as a result of balance netting or timing differences. The most common examples of this include:

  • Long vs. Short Currency Balances – accounts holders may borrow cash denominated in one currency if it can be secured by a credit balance in another. As each currency is subject to a unique funding and reinvestment arrangement, the short balance would be subject to financing costs based upon its benchmark rate and tier. This cost may be offset by any interest earned on the long balance based upon its benchmark rate and tier.
  • Gross Balances by Segment – IB's Integrated Investment Account contains multiple segments, each of which holds positions and collateral which, for regulatory and customer protection purposes, may not be commingled. This separation does not allow for netting of balances across segments and a credit in one segment may therefore not offset a debit in another. Take, for example, an IB LLC account holding both securities and commodities positions with the securities segment maintaining a debit cash balance of USD 3,000 and the commodities segment a credit cash balance of USD 8,000. While the account holds an overall net credit balance of USD 5,000, the short balance would be subject to an interest charge which may be partially offset by any interest earned on the long balance.
  • Short Sales – a short sale is a margin transaction in which the account holder is borrowing stock rather than cash. While the proceeds from the short sale are credited to the cash balance of the account, these funds must be posted with the lender of the shares as collateral to secure their return. As a result, and in recognition of the fact that the loan transaction is subject to its own financing terms, the cash collateralizing the loan is excluded for the purpose of determining whether a margin loan exists.
  • Unsettled Funds – borrowings are determined based upon settled funds and the timeframe by which payment is due or received for a given transaction is product specific (e.g., stocks generally settle in three business days, spot currencies two and derivatives one). For statement and trading platform purposes, cash balances are reported on a trade date rather than settlement date basis, as if settlement has completed.

    As a result, an account reporting a credit cash balance may, in fact, still be carrying a margin loan if that balance includes proceeds from the sale of stock purchased with borrowed funds awaiting settlement. Similarly, an account may report a trade date based debit balance, but not yet incurring a margin loan and interest charges, as the trade has not yet settled.

    For additional information about interest calculations, refer to the Knowledge Base article How Interest is Calculated.

I am not borrowing money so why do I have margin requirements?

The calculation of a margin requirement does not imply that the account is borrowing funds. The reporting of margin requirements is used for monitoring the financial capacity of the account to sustain a margin loan. IB will only generate a margin loan in the event that the account does not have sufficient settled funds to support the purchase of additional securities or holding of existing securities.

What can cause my positions to be liquidated in a Reg T Margin account?

Anything that places your account in a margin deficit:

  • Your Margin Cushion (Excess Liquidity) is equal to or less than zero.
  • Your SMA balance is less than zero at the end of the trading day.
  • Your Securities Gross Position Value <= 50 * (Net Liquidation Value - Futures Options Value).
  • Your Total Settlement Value of All Unsettled FX Trades <= 250 * (Net Liquidation Value).
  • An expired USD option position results in an automatic exercise and the resulting stock position causes a margin deficit in your account.
  • Your account doesn't have enough equity to receive or deliver post-option expiration positions.

Risks of Assignment

Expiration Related Liquidations

What can cause my positions to be liquidated in a Portfolio Margin account?

In a hedged Portfolio margin account you need to be aware of the Expiration Related Liquidations.

Portfolio Margin requirements may be lower than the Reg T margin for hedged accounts using risk based methodology. But you must maintain at least a $100,000 balance equivalent in your account.

If your account is enabled for Portfolio Margining, and dips below $100,000 minimum balance requirement, your account will revert to Reg T requirements which generally affords less leverage than does Portfolio Margining, so a downgrade may lead to the automatic liquidation of positions to comply with Reg T fixed percentages.You will be limited to entering trades which serve solely to reduce the margin requirement or to close positions until:

  • The equity increases to above 100,000; or
  • The account holder requests a downgrade to Reg T style margining on the Account Type page in Account Management.

What is expiration exposure?

Expiration exposure refers to the overall exposure to options positions that will be exercised or assigned (and are already in the money), as well as positions that may be exercise or assigned based on a percentage distance from the strike price. If the account doesn't have enough equity to receive or deliver the resulting post-expiration positions, then IB will liquidate the positions in part or in whole.

This basically means that IB will prohibit the exercise of equity options and/or liquidate short option positions if the effect of the exercise or assignment would be to place the account in a margin deficit.

While the purchase of an option generally requires no margin since the position is paid in full, once exercised the account holder is obligated to either pay for the ensuing long stock position in full or finance the long or short stock position. Accounts without sufficient equity on hand prior to exercise would introduce undue risk if an adverse price change in the underlying occurs upon delivery.

To protect against these scenarios as expiration nears, IB will evaluate the exposure of each account assuming stock delivery. If the exposure is deemed excessive, IB will:

  • Liquidate options prior to expiration; or
  • Alow the options to lapse; and/or
  • Allow delivery and then liquidate the underlyin. In addition, the account may be restricted from opening new positions to prevent an increase in exposure.

Account holders may monitor this expiration related margin exposure in the TWS Account Window. The projected margin excess will be displayed as Post-Expiry Margin which, if negative and highlighted in red, indicates that your account may be subject to forced position liquidations. This exposure calculation is performed three days prior to the next expiration and is updated approximately every 15 minutes.

What happens if I'm assigned stock at expiration, but my account doesn't have the funds necessary to satisfy the margin requirement? Expiration related Liquidations (IBKB Article 1767)

If an expired USD option position results in an automatic exercise (the Options Clearing Corporation will automatically exercise any stock option which expired 0.01 or more in-the-money), and the resulting stock position causes a margin deficit in your account, your account would become subject to liquidation.

Given that the OCC processes the exercise and assignment after the expiration Friday close, liquidations in USD equities usually occur shortly after the open of regular trading hours (09:30 EST) on Monday or the next trading day.

You should be aware that any positions could be liquidated as a result of your account being in margin violation—the liquidation is not confined to only the shares that resulted from the option position. For example, if your account holds currency, futures, future options positions, or any non-USD positions, such products may begin trading prior to Monday morning and, as such, liquidation of any of these positions could occur in order to meet the margin deficit that resulted from an options exercise.

Are there any special margin risks related to offsets between options and futures?

Yes. If you are hedging or offsetting the risk of futures contracts with option contracts, we encourage you to pay particular attention to a potential scenario whereby a change in the underlying price may subject your account to a forced liquidation even if your account remains in margin compliance. This scenario is driven by a fundamental difference in which gains and losses are recognized in futures contracts vs. options contracts coupled with IB's requirement that the commodity segment of one's account maintain a positive cash balance at all times.

What other situations could cause position liquidation?

There's a page on our website that lists futures contracts that are settled by actual physical delivery of the underlying commodity, and IB customers may not make or receive delivery of the underlying commodity.

To avoid deliveries of expiring futures contracts as well as those resulting from futures options contracts, customers must roll forward or close out positions prior to the Start of the Close-Out Period. If a position exists at the Start of the Close-Out Period, the account becomes subject to an IB-generated liquidation trade. The liquidation trade will occur at some point between the Start of the Close-Out Period and the respective Cutoff.

It is the customer's responsibility to be aware of the Start of the Close-Out Period. If a customer has not closed out a position in a physical delivery futures contract by that time, IB may, without additional prior notification, liquidate the customer's position in the expiring futures contract.

Note that liquidations will not otherwise impact working orders; customers must ensure that open orders to close positions are adjusted for the actual real-time position.

An Account holding stock positions that are full-paid (i.e. no cash debit) remains susceptible to liquidation if the account falls into deficit and the loan value of the stock is insufficient to cover the debit.

  • This is often the case, for example, when a margin account holds positions subject to 100% margin and minimal or no cash.
  • In the event the account is assessed a fee, such as the monthly minimum activity charge or a market data subscription fee, a negative cash balance would result. IB would not be able to extend loan value against the securities in order to support the debit balance.
  • The account would therefore be subject to liquidation of positions to cover any cash deficit. Note that the value of positions liquidated may exceed the cash required due to minimum order size considerations (e.g., no odd lots).

Physically Delivered Futures

For More Information

Margin Pages on the IB Website

TWS Users' Guide

Account Management Users' Guide

Knowledge Base Articles