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If you want to cut your investing fees to the absolute bone, then a Canadian online brokerage is the road you must travel. Compare the best trading platforms in Canada!

Whether you’re investing using a robo advisor or financial advisor, you probably realize that you’re paying a chunk of change in fees and add-ons.

To cut costs, you can manage the money yourself by signing up with one of the best online brokerage in Canada like Questrade (which is our top pick).

To help you get started, we’ve put together a handy guide detailing Canada’s best online brokers, as well as some tips on how to choose the best one for you.

What is an Online Broker?

An online broker lets you buy and sell stocks online within your trading account. They are often called “online brokerage or discount brokerage” because this method of buying and selling stocks is more cost-effective than a traditional brokerage.

How Do Online Brokerages Work?

Online brokers operate on the same principle of investing for growth as mutual fund managers and robo advisors. Online brokers offer investment options that are both higher risk and higher return than savings accounts or GICs, and these higher returns help you save for retirement over the long term.

Where online brokers differ from mutual fund managers and robo advisors is how they deliver that service. Mutual fund salespeople and robo advisors rely on a questionnaire and sometimes an in-person meeting to help them determine your ideal asset allocation, and then build a portfolio for you.

It’s all DIY with online brokers. Online brokers leave asset allocation and portfolio building to you, and instead of offering oversight and advice, they offer a low-fee environment for you to invest your money.

Online brokers are ideal for investors who follow the Couch Potato Portfolio strategy because it lets them build their ideal portfolios easily with a handful of low-cost ETFs. You can use your online broker as little as four times per year to build your portfolio and rebalance your asset allocations.

Summary of Best Online Brokerages in Canada 2021

BrandBest ForPromotion 
1. Questrade
Read On
Best for Low Fees$50 in free tradesVisit Site
2. Wealthsimple Trade
Read On
Best for New InvestorsGet a $50 cash bonus + $0 commission trades when you open a new Wealthsimple Trade accountVisit Site
3. Qtrade
Read On
Best for Customer ServiceN/AVisit Site
4. Virtual Brokers
Read On
Best for ResearchN/AVisit Site
5. BMO InvestorLine Self-Directed
Read On
Best for User-Friendly Trading InterfaceN/A
6. Scotia iTrade
Read On
Best for Larger DepositsN/AVisit Site
7. TD Direct Investing
Read On
Best for Passive Investing ApproachN/AVisit Site

1. Questrade: Best for Low Fees and Best Trading Platform in Canada Overall

QuestradeQuestrade is one of the lowest cost online brokerages in Canada. They charge no annual fees no matter what your account size, and you don’t pay any fees to purchase ETFs.

This means that you can build an ETF based portfolio for $0 by using Questrade. Their other trading fees range from $4.95 to $9.95, and their account minimum is $1,000.

When you move an investment account from another brokerage, Questrade will reimburse transfer fees up to $150 per account.

Questrade offers a variety of platforms to help you trade, along with a mobile app that is responsive and easy to use. The Canadian Investment Protection Fund covers Questrade, so your money is in safe hands.

Questrade has been operating in Canada for 20 years, and with more than 50,000 online account sign-ups in 2019, they’re one of Canada’s fastest-growing brokerages. It’s why Questrade is our top pick for the best overall online brokerage in Canada.

Read our full Questrade review.

What We Like:

  • Lowest trading fee
  • No Annual Fees
  • Free ETF purchases
  • Pays transfer fees
  • Multiple trading platforms
  • Solid reputation in Canada
  • $0 inactivity fee: Questrade no longer charges inactivity fees.
  • Young & Thrifty’s promo: Start investing and get $50 in free trades

What We Don’t Like:

  • Need a minimum of $1,000 in your account to start investing
Start investing with Questrade

2. Wealthsimple Trade: Best for New Investors

wealthsimple_210x100Wealthsimple is best known as Canada’s top robo advisor, but they’re quickly making a name for themselves in the discount broker space with the launch of their mobile trading platform, Wealthsimple Trade.

Its unique selling proposition is commission-free stock and ETF trading. That’s right, you can buy and sell stocks and do ETFs trading on any North American exchange, free of charge.

This is ideal for new investors who want to make smaller, frequent contributions without getting hit with trading fees for each transaction.

Wealthsimple Trade does not have an account minimum, so you can open an account for free and add funds when you’re ready.

Wealthsimple Trade accounts are CIPF-protected for up to $1,000,000. The platform currently supports RRSP, TFSA, and non-registered accounts.

Now is a great time to sign up because Wealthsimple Trade is offering Young and Thrifty readers an exclusive deal: get a $50 cash bonus and $0 commission trades when you open a new Wealthsimple Trade account. All you have to do is deposit and trade at least $250. Sign-up today to take advantage of this exclusive offer. 

Read our full Wealthsimple Trade review.

Wealthsimple Trade

What We Like:

  • Commission-free trading
  • $0 Annual Fees
  • Seamless account sign-up
  • Reimburses transfer fees for investment transfers that are greater than $5,000 in value
  • Beautifully designed and easy to use

What We Don’t Like:

  • No web platform (mobile only)
  • Limited account types (RRSP, TFSA, non-registered)
Start investing with Wealthsimple Trade

3. Qtrade: Best For Customer Service

Qtrade is a good alternative to Questrade and has a reputation for amazing customer service. The company is trustworthy too: operating since 2001, Qtrade has $11.5 billion in assets and is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada.

If you’re interested in purchasing mutual funds yourself, Qtrade is one of the few discount brokerages with the ability to do so – and you won’t pay any fees or commissions when buying them.

Maintaining an account with Qtrade is slightly more expensive than Questrade, but still very cost effective, setting you back $100 per year for RRSPs and TFSAs with less than $25,000 in combined assets. You’ll pay $8.75 per trade with Qtrade, and there are no account minimums. If you incur fees when transferring your assets to Qtrade, they will cover up to $150.

To better understand what you get with Qtrade we suggest to read and compare Qtrade vs Questrade in our review.

What We Like:

  • Reasonable fees
  • Mutual fund purchases
  • Stellar customer service
  • Pays transfer out fees

What We Don’t Like:

  • Fees for accounts smaller than $25,000
Start investing with Qtrade

4. Virtual Brokers – Best for Research

VirtualBrokers_210x100Virtual Brokers is one of the most competitive discount brokerages in Canada, with offerings on par with Questrade and Qtrade.

Virtual Brokers offers free ETF trades, which is perfect for index investors, and they charge $9.95 for trades on regular stocks. There is a $25 per quarter fee on accounts with balances under $5,000.

Virtual Brokers has several trading platforms to choose from and a huge research center to help you stay ahead of the curve when making trades. Read full review

What We Like:

  • Free ETF purchases
  • No fees for accounts over $5,000
  • Excellent research tools for beginner to advanced investors

What We Don’t Like:

  • $1,000 minimum account balance
Start investing with Virtual Brokers

5. BMO InvestorLine Self-Directed – Best for User-Friendly Interface

BMO InvestorLineBMO_Wealth_210x100 is an excellent choice for anyone looking to get started with an online discount brokerage but wants an intuitive and informative online and mobile platform.

’s user-friendly portal, along with their impressive library of third-party research and solid customer service will help you invest with confidence whether you are a seasoned investor or a complete beginner.

BMO InvestorLine isn’t the least expensive discount brokerage, with fees on accounts under $25,000, and fees to purchase ETFs, but their zero minimum balance requirement and award-winning platform are enough to overcome the drawbacks. Read full review

What We Like:

  • Excellent online and mobile app
  • Great third-part research
  • Excellent customer service
  • Zero minimum account balance for RRSPs and TFSAs

What We Don’t Like:

  • Fees on ETF purchases
  • $100 for account balances less than $25,000

6. Scotia iTrade – Best for Larger Deposits (Over $50,000)

Scotia iTrade is the online brokerage arm of the Bank of Nova Scotia and is a good choice for investors who want to keep money with an institution with name recognition. The bank has a long history in Canada dating back to 1837 and has hundreds of brick-and-mortar branches.

Scotia iTrade recently re-structured its fee system, making it way more affordable than it used to be.

The new fees start at $9.99 per trade and are reduced to $4.99 per trade if you make more than 150 trades per quarter.

You’ll also pay account fees when you open RRSPs and TFSAs through Scotia iTrade. Expect to pay $100 until your accounts reach a $25,000 balance; higher balances pay no fees.

You can build a portfolio of ETFs with Scotia iTrade using their 49 commission-free ETFs.

This platform isn’t the most cost-effective for investors with small account balances.

What We Like:

  • Part of an esteemed Canadian bank
  • Good customer service
  • Fees are manageable for balances over $50,000
  • Scotia iTrade ETFs are commission-free

What We Don’t Like:

  • Trading fees eat into smaller accounts (under $50,000)
Start investing with Scotia iTrade

7. TD Direct Investing – Best for Passive Investing  Approach

TD_Bank_210x100Another big player in the online brokerage market is TD Direct Investing, a division of TD Bank.

This platform offers an excellent way to build a low-cost passive investing portfolio also offers trading fees that are in line with the smaller online brokerages. Also, their customer support has gotten rave reviews.

TD Direct Investing has a lower minimum account threshold than other large online brokerages, meaning that an account balance of $15,000 will waive the $100 account fees.

There is no minimum account size when opening a TD Direct Investing account, and you’ll pay basic trading fees of $9.99 per trade. Read full review

What We Like:

  • Excellent for couch potato investors
  • Moderate trading fees

What We Don’t Like:

  • $25 per quarter on accounts smaller than $15,000
Start investing with TD Direct Investing

Comparing the Best Trading Platforms in Canada

Online Investing PlatformAnnual FeesFree ETF TransactionsBasic Trading FeesPaid Transfer Fees 
1. Questrade$0Yes$4.95 - $9.95Up to $150 per accountVisit Site
2. Wealthsimple Trade$0Yes$0Yes, for investment transfers greater than $5,000.Visit Site
3. Qtrade$0-$25,000 = $100
$25,000+ = $0
Up to
100 trades =$0
$8.75Up to $150Visit Site
4. Virtual Brokers$0-$25,000 = $100
$25,000+ = $0
Yes$9.99Up to $150Visit Site
5. BMO InvestorLine
$0-$15,000 = $100
$15,000+ = $0
6. Scotia iTrade$0-$25,000 = $100
$25,000+ = $0
Limited$4.95 - $9.99NoVisit Site
7. TD Direct Investing$0-$15,000 = $100
$15,000+ = $0
No$9.99Up to $150Visit Site

How to Choose a Portfolio with an Online Brokerage

When using an online broker, you’re the boss: you make the investment decisions and choose what to purchase. While you can purchase individual stocks and bonds through your online broker, most DIY investors opt to build their portfolios out of ETFs. This strategy lets you build a highly diversified portfolio without having to go to the trouble of purchasing dozens of individual stocks.

These Canadian couch potato model portfolios can help you get started. Each includes different asset mixes, and you can pick one that’s best suited to your risk tolerance. For instance, you could build a portfolio with ETFs that is 60% equities and 40% fixed income:

  • BMO Aggregate Bond Index ETF (40%)
  • Vanguard FTSE Canada All Cap ETF (20%)
  • iShares Core MSCI All Country World ex Canada Index ETF (40%)

If you invest your money through an online broker in these three ETFs, you will have a globally diversified balanced portfolio.

Investing During a Market Crash

We’re big fans of passive investing, meaning we prefer to invest in index funds or ETFs that track broad market indices. As passive investors, we learn to accept that earning market returns, minus a small fee, is the best way to grow your portfolio over the long-term.

Unfortunately, during periods of extreme volatility like we’re experiencing during the COVID-19 global pandemic, markets have crashed 30% or more – taking passive investors along for a stomach-churning ride.

If you’re new to investing, now is a great time to start building a passive investing portfolio in a self-directed portfolio using ETFs, or with a robo-advisor using their personalized portfolio of index funds. Smart investors stand to profit during a market downturn: think of the market as being “on-sale” right now, and as a net buyer of stocks for the next few decades, you’ll be taking advantage of today’s discounted prices.

Current investors are getting a real-time look at their risk tolerance as they watch their portfolios drop in value. Here are two things I’m doing to keep my wits and stick to my plan:

  • Avoid checking my portfolio too often: It’s tempting to sneak a peek at your portfolio value, especially after a bad day in the market. But it can be psychologically draining to see your portfolio lose money. I use Wealthsimple Trade, which is a mobile-only platform. I hide the app in a folder I rarely use on my phone to limit the temptation to check on my investments.

  • Set-up automatic monthly contributions: You’re probably hearing all kinds of strategies during these tumultuous times, from selling everything and waiting out the storm, to backing up the truck to go all in with your investments. As for me, I’m sticking with my regular investing schedule by having my contributions automatically taken from my chequing account. By doing this, I’ll avoid any regret that might come selling or buying too much during this market crash.

Bear markets don’t last forever. As a long-term investor, learn to tune out the noise and stick to your investing plan.

Why Open a Brokerage Account?

What is the benefit of purchasing your own investments directly and rebalancing manually when your investments slip out of their ideal asset allocation? There is one thing that draws in DIY investors: low fees.

The reason that most DIY investors choose to work with an online broker is to minimize the management expense ratio (MER) they pay on their investments. MERs are the management fees associated with individual funds. MERs are expressed as a percentage of your assets and vary depending on the style of investing you choose.

Mutual funds in Canada have some of the highest MERs in the world, at an average of 2.5%. Robo advisors offer a lower MER, usually less than 1%. DIY investing offers the lowest MER possible. The portfolio above has a MER of 0.14%.

The differences in these fees may not seem like much, but they can erode thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars from your portfolio, given a long enough time horizon.

What to Look For in an Online Brokerage

When choosing an online broker, it’s important to consider how you’ll use the online broker and choose the broker that will best suit your needs. Here are some examples of factors to consider:

Trading Fees

If you plan to build a passive index investing portfolio using only ETFs, choose an online broker that offers commission-free trades or free ETF purchases and low overall fees. In contrast, if you are planning to be a high-volume trader, making up to the minute decisions on which stocks to purchase, a discount brokerage with high-quality software platforms and access to third-party research should be a priority.

Account Fees

Consider your account size when choosing an online broker. If you have a portfolio that is already over $25,000, you’ll be unlikely to pay fees at any of the brokerages listed. If you are just starting out and only have $500 to invest, some online brokers will not be an option due to account minimums, while others will eat into your returns with steep quarterly fees.

Customer Service

If you’re new to investing online, choosing an online broker with excellent customer service and an easy to use interface should be a priority since you’ll probably have a few questions at the beginning. Seasoned investors may be able to forgo good customer service in favour of excellent research and trading platforms.

Per Trade ETFs

If you’re planning to build your portfolio using ETFs, it’s important to pay attention to how much you’ll pay every time you make an ETF trade. Keeping your per trade fees low is key to minimizing your overall fees, especially if your portfolio is small.

Per Account Fees

Many online brokers charge quarterly fees on smaller accounts, usually around $25 per quarter on accounts smaller than $25,000. If you have a modest nest egg, you should choose an online broker that does not charge these fees, because they will significantly erode your annual returns.

Free ETF trades

For portfolios built with ETFs, the ideal scenario is an online broker that does not charge for ETF purchases. There are several online brokers on this list that offer free ETF purchases, and some offer free ETF trades on certain ETFs. Usually, you’ll still have to pay to sell your ETFs, but you’ll usually only need to do this a maximum of two or three times per year.

Reimbursed transfer fees

When you transfer an investment account from another financial institution to an online broker, the original institution will often charge a transfer fee to move your money. Some online brokers will pay these fees. For instance, you can transfer almost any type of investment account over to Questrade—for any amount and for as many accounts as you like. Questrade will cover the transfer-in fees, for up to $150 per account.

ECN fees

ECN fees are fees that you pay when you place an order with an online broker for either stocks or ETFs, and that order is fulfilled immediately instead of waiting for the price of the stock or ETF to reach a certain point. The fees originate from the exchange networks that fulfill the orders and are usually a fraction of a cent per share. ECN fees vary from broker to broker and could add a few cents to a few dollars on your purchases. For average investors, ECN fees are not significant, and you shouldn’t worry about them.

Financial Advisor vs. Online Broker vs. Robo Advisor

Preference/SituationWhich to ChooseWhy should you choose this digital platform?
You like doing your own research on investingOnline brokerageWhile online brokerages have customer service lines to assist with using their trading platform, you won’t receive investment advice if you go the DIY route. Some online brokers offer market research and investment monitoring, but that functions to help you make better investment decisions – not to make that decision for you.
You have a small amount of money to investOnline brokerage or robo advisorSome robo advisors and most online brokers have low or no account minimums, while financial advisors can require account minimums of $5,000 or more.
You need a high level of personal interactionFinancial advisorFinancial advisors offer a high level of personal interaction that many Canadians find comforting and usually involves a 30-minute conversation in person at a brick and mortar branch or office. But keep in mind that human interaction has a higher price tag.
You like a little personal interaction and/or investing adviceRobo advisorWith a robo advisor, you’ll complete a questionnaire to identify your financial needs and goals, and you can book a free call with one of their wealth advisors if you need that extra hand-holding. But there is no brick and mortar branch, and you won’t have an assigned wealth advisor.
Low fees are your #1 priorityOnline brokerageLow fees are the primary driver behind the popularity of online brokers
You have a unique financial situation or goalsOnline brokerage or financial advisorOnline brokers are highly customizable since you’re the boss, but choosing the right investments will require some research on your end. A financial advisor is trained to take special circumstances into account and choose the right portfolio for you – but that comes with higher fees.
You are comfortable with  re-balancing your portfolio at least four times a yearOnline brokerageIf you’re comfortable with re-setting your portfolio back to the original asset allocation in your plan, then go with an online brokerage. If not, a robo advisor can do it automatically for you.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to getting the most out of your portfolio, the best option is to invest your money yourself, cutting out the middle person and vastly reducing the fees you’ll pay over the lifetime of your investments. While using an online broker to invest your money may seem intimidating at first, a simple portfolio built out of ETFs will give you the growth needed to reach a comfortable retirement, while keeping you in the driver’s seat of your money.

All of the online brokers listed above are good choices, but each has strengths and areas for improvement. However, if you’re looking to take the hassle out of DIY investing plus save big on fees, Questrade is your best bet and our top choice for the best online brokerage in Canada. Ultimately, the right one for you depends on your financial situation, but it’s not a question of if you should switch to an online broker to manage your money – it’s when.

Disclaimer: Young & Thrifty has entered into a referral and advertising arrangement with Wealthsimple US, LTD and receives compensation when you open an account or for certain qualifying activity which may include clicking links. You will not be charged a fee for this referral and Wealthsimple and Young and Thrifty are not related entities. It is a requirement to disclose that we earn these fees and also provide you with the latest Wealthsimple ADV brochure so you can learn more about them before opening an account.

Article comments

Matril says:

How do you not mention Interactive Brokers. They have the cheapest margin rates, cheapest fees on stocks and options. They should be best overall

Rody Larose says:

True this is a problem for the US account, I have several issues with WS, they don’t offer options trade, the second one the market data feed is delay by 15 minutes and if you want to become a day trader, your account might be suspended. I was hoping WS will an excellent alternative to Questrade and others brokerage that charges high fees.

Max says:

Beware of Us stock trades on WealthTrade platform… they dont have US $ accounts… this each buy / sell involves a currency exchange costing you appx 2%

Michael Quinn says:

I have waited for over 30 minutes each and every time I have attempted to contact Qtrade. The online registration process never worked smoothly for me and I waited several weeks to transfer my portfolio because nobody at Qtrade was aware that the initial transfer request had been lost.
I don’t know where you get that Qtrade has great customer service. I have not experienced that. Only after I get really pissed off when I reach them does anything happen.
Now I am getting the runaround about transferring another account to them. I followed all their directions, actually went to First Ontario to get the correct form and still the transfer was declines. No explanation, no phone call, nothing.
I have been at this game a few years and I have yet to find a professionally run online trading organization in Canada.
I used Fidelity previously in the USA and never had a communication issue that could not be solved quickly but they are not allowed to operate as an online trader in Canada. Pity.

David says:

Does anyone know if i can manage DRiP stocks via the BMO online interface? I Currently use TDW but whenever i purchase a new dividend stock I have to call in (and sit on hold for up to two hours) to set up the DRiP with a broker as their software wont allow me to do it online?
BTW am grateful to this site and the break down of Canadian banking investment options. Thank you.

Bob says:

it is the same thing with BMO IL, you will have to call them for DRIPs.

Jason says:

Why do these lists never mention Desjardins Online Brokerage? Everybody’s in love with Questrade and I don’t understand it. I’ve been using Desjardins for the last 9 months and they are great! Fully Canadian, and if you’re a day trader, rates are only $0.75/trade!! Seriously, this should be added to the list. They are easily the cheapest broker in Canada.

Sam T. says:

Best secret is Interactive Brokers of Canada, bigger than any above, better customer service than any above and lowest commissions like US Brokers, $0.005 per share max to $1 in US stocks, ETF and options, no one can beat this. Dont waste your money, I had paid over $20K commissions at QuestTrade in 2020, dont be like me, open an account in Interactive Brokers of Canada.

Andrew says:

I don’t understand why Questrade doesn’t offer email notifications for deposits…That seems like a very simple feature and it would save me a bunch of time logging in to check whether funds are ready for investing when I manually deposit funds, when dividends are paid out, when RESP grant funds arrive, etc…

Do any of the other discount brokerages offer this seemingly obvious feature?

Robb Engen says:

Hi Andrew, Wealthsimple Trade does notify you by email when your deposit is available (although they seem to hold your deposit for a few business days, which is annoying). I’ve found that by banking with the same institution as your discount brokerage account (say TD Bank and TD Direct Investing) gives you instant access when you make a deposit to your investment accounts. Questrade takes 1-2 business days, and WS Trade is 2-3 business days.

Brian says:


Their customer service is absolutely abhorrent. You can spend literally hours on hold for them. I have run every portable phone in my house of battery while on hold with them (one single time, switching phones as each one ran out of battery).

It takes literally months for them to respond to their “Secure Messaging” platform, if you get any response at all.

For a period of several weeks I couldn’t even trade MacKenzie mutual funds because they screwed up the fund symbols and took literally weeks to fix them.

I’m still waiting for my call from a supervisor that I requested at the end of May.

Seriously. Stay as far away from this mis-run organization as you can.

Robb Engen says:

Hi Brian, sorry to hear about your experience with Scotia iTrade. I know many of the discount brokerages had long wait times during the start of the pandemic as they adjusted to new protocols. Still, it’s shameful to have to wait months for a call back.

Tim Thomas says:

Hi Robb, I note that you suggested a pro of dealing with iTrade is their good customer service however the one Thing iTrade is famous for is how absolutely horrendous their customer service is. A quick read of any review makes that blatantly obvious. That makes me question the validity of this entire article.

Robb Engen says:

Hi Tim, it’s easy to find a negative review of any bank or investing platform. Who writes nice reviews of their experience? I don’t know of any. Instead we have to look collectively at call wait times, online experience, availability of secure email and online chat, all of which Scotia iTrade performs decently compared to its peers. BMO doesn’t even have online chat, which I’d consider a must-have feature in 2021.

Mahfuz says:

Thanks Jordann for the article. I am planning to open an account with Questrade once I move to Canada. However, do you know if I can buy shariah compliant ETFs in Canadian stock markets?

Robb Engen says:

Hi Mahfuz, you can purchase Halal / Sharia compliant ETFs through Questrade. Just Google the Halal ETFs and you’ll see a number of them from iShares and other fund providers. Youo could also look at the robo advisor Wealthsimple’s Halal Portfolio.

AL says:

Questrade has a significant issue with customer support. No phone access (wait times of >2 hours on good days) and emails take days to respond to if at all. Wonder if its on its way out as a company so make sure you don’t exceed CIPF in cash and securities with these guys.

Robb Engen says:

AL, that’s a completely false statement. Questrade has been growing in leaps and bounds over the past decade or more. It’s not going anywhere. It rates quite positively for customer service, and I can say first hand how good the online chat feature has been whenever I’ve had a question or an issue to resolve.

Remember we’re in a pandemic, people are working from home, and companies are adjusting their service levels to cope with it all. Not to mention the markets have been incredibly volatile this year, which inevitably leads to more customer calls and longer wait times. Try to exercise some patience and kindness.

Sam T. says:

Come on, you sound like you are working for them, anytime a call waiting time is over an hour, and most of the time, it drops you after 45 minutes waiting on hold, experienced many times, chat the same, gives 25 in line, just coming to 10, it logs out. Terrible service.

Candy says:

I’m not seeing much about RBC Direct. Are their some red-flags that I should be aware of before setting up an account with them?

Robb Engen says:

Hi Candy, I don’t have personal experience with RBC Direct but it is a strong platform that has many advantages. One of the best is how RBC handles Norbert’s Gambit, which is a complicated foreign currency manoeuvre to save on fees. RBC can execute it in the same day for investors, while platforms like Questrade take 2-3 business days.

The only downside is that, like all the big bank brokerages, you’ll pay $9.99 per trade. But, if you’re an RBC customer and like having all of your accounts in one place, it’s not a bad option.

Robert John Gray says:

Would there be any advantage to having accounts in both Questrade and WSim? I am a new DIY trader looking to set up an account. I’ll probably need some help at the beginning (Who knew?).

Robb Engen says:

Hi Robert, it all depends on how you use the accounts. If your trading needs are pretty simple and you’re just contributing new money every month to an RRSP, TFSA, and/or non-registered (taxable) account, then WS Trade is great. If you have more complicated needs, want to trade more frequently, are looking for real-time market data, want desktop access, and need to open account types like an RESP, LIRA, or Corporate Investing account, then Questrade would be a better bet.

I have accounts at WS Trade, Questrade, and TD Direct. They all serve different purposes and work for me.

Trai Ho says:

Hi Wealthsimple trade ,How can I buy stock in US fee free???

Abdul R says:

Hello, Are there any brokers in Canada that allow pre and post trading from 4:00AM – 8:00PM? I know questrade does from 7:30AM – 9:30AM and from 4:00PM – 5:30pm, I’m looking to trade outside of Questrade’s allowed time. I know in the States they have a few brokers that allow trading from 4:00AM and all the way down to 8:00PM.
Please advise. Thank you

Robb Engen says:

Hi Abdul, my understanding is that you can do this with TD Direct Investing. You need to use a limit price and then select Day + EXT markets. I’m not 100% sure on the allowable times, though.

James says:

Which of these brokers offer custodial accounts? My 14 year-old son wants to get started in online investing.

Robb Engen says:

Hi James, you can open an individual informal trust account at Questrade. There’s no trust agreement required, so you can trade on behalf of a minor, there’s no restrictions on the types of investments, and no legal set-up costs.

Basically, you can invest in an account for the benefit of your child, with no formal documentation.

Nicole says:

TD Direct Investing is HORRIBLE! They’re the only broker in Canada that does not allow basic option trading such as buying calls/puts. Which makes absolutely no sense, every other country in the world allows you to use the thinkorswim platform with a cash account. If you want to use the thinkorswim platform in Canada they require 25k USD or 25k margin account just to beable to use the platform, which is around 35k CAN. The customer service is awful, they act like know it alls and have no clue about the rules in other countries. I spoke to TD Ameritrade in the US for thinkorswim and they only require cash for level 2 buying calls and puts which is very fair seeing how your loss is limited and you’re not short selling. Same goes for my trading friends in Asia and Europe are both allowed to buy calls/puts with a cash account no problem. Beware!!!!

Jim says:

TD certainly allows basic option trading. You just have to ask for it.

L. Arnold says:

If one wants to make a charitable donation of shares traded on TSX, how easy / hard., fast / drawn out is the
process ? What fees are there ?

Robb Engen says:

Hi L. Arnold, you’d need to speak with a tax professional work together with the intended charity to set up the donation of shares. It’s done all of the time, so I can’t imagine it’s all that complicated.

Denis says:

I was checking TD Waterhouse and BMO Investorline minimum account requirements today, May 25.
Both charge $25 quarterly for accounts under $15,000.
You’ve stated BMO charges $100 (I assume yearly) for accounts under $25,000.
Just wanted to clarify.

Robb Engen says:

Hi Denis, it looks like they’ve brought their minimum account size down to $15,000. That’s good news, and hopefully it goes away entirely soon. We’ll update the article to reflect this.

Erika says:

You are missing one of the best low-cost, excellent brokerage firms available to Canadians – Interactive Brokers Canada. I love the platform. The fees are even lower than Questrade. You need to put it into your comparisons for Canadian brokerage firms

Robb Engen says:

Hi Erika, you’re right that Interactive Brokers is a great platform for more experienced investors. It does compare favourably to Questrade in some areas, but falls short in others. If you know what you’re doing, IB is great. If you’re a newbie investor, IB will confuse the hell out of you.

That said, it’s a good idea to add it to the comparison for future years.

Sam T. says:

No different than QT, it is not complicated. if anyone can not figure that out, should not bother to trade.

Simon says:

I have been active trader w Scotiaitrade for over 5 years. This is one important concern on their platform. They do have all the bells and whistles in trading and charting, BUT it does not have Bracket/Conditional order type. Please let me know if any brokers that do. thank you.

Robb Engen says:

Hi Simon, that’s surprising. Two brokers that offer these conditional order types are Questrade and Interactive Brokers.

For anyone reading the comments and wondering what a bracket or conditional order type is, Questrade defines it as such:

Suppose you want to buy stock XYZ for the first time at $20 per share, sell when it reaches $25, and let it go if it dips below $18. Bracket orders give you the tools to set all these parameters within a single order entry window.

joel says:

Anyone used or have experience with interactivebrokers dot ca
I understand its more for professional traders but looks like they very low fee’s

Nat says:

I love IBKR. Been with them for 10 years. The interface(s) are more professional; but easy to use. Lacks research, and you have to pay for real time quotes. If you have another brokerage account you can use that for real time quotes. Also no access to Mutual funds. Great new Web interface and decent IOS apps.

rgz says:

Are there any discount brokers that will sell F-series mutual funds?

Robb Engen says:

Hi rgz, F-series mutual funds are only available through a fee-based advisor. Self-directed investors like you and me cannot access these funds.

Eloh says:

Rgr, don’t listen to Robb, he doesn’t know anything. Virtual brokers will let you buy F class mutual funds. It’s a big part of their business model.

Ryan says:

Can you provide me with all companies that will allow Canadians to trade in Grey Market Stocks? Thanks in advance for your help with this.

Robb Engen says:

Hi Ryan, I’m not sure if there’s a list available but the ones I know of who allow investors to trade in OTC (over-the-counter) or grey market stocks are Questrade, Interactive Brokers, and Virtual Brokers. The big bank brokerages like Scotia iTrade, TD Direct, BMO, and RBC also allow you to trade OTC stocks but their trading fees might be prohibitive unless you’re under a different (frequent) trading plan.

Dillan Brown says:

I have been talking with a financial planner regarding my investments and would like to use the SWP strategy (systematic withdrawal program). Wondering if you you know if I can still do this through ETFs and following the couch potato method or is this something that is only available through mutual funds and the access financial planners have to the market through large funds? I believe it is a CRA thing but not sure I can accomplish it doing self directed investing?

Robb Engen says:

Hi Dylan, you can certainly follow a similar method with a portfolio of ETFs. Without an advisor there to automate it for you though, you’d just have to trigger the sales yourself. So if your portfolio consisted of 60% equities and 40% bonds, perhaps you’d sell the bonds to generate cash flow, and then replace the bonds by selling some of your equities.

One strategy to consider is to move to Wealthsimple. Their WS Black portfolio is available to investors with more than $100,000 and it includes advisor support.

I worked through a case study with them a few years ago where they explained how they work with retirees to generate retirement income from their portfolios, taking a holistic approach across all accounts. It’s probably much cheaper than a bank or wealth management advisor (0.40% management fee, plus about. 0.15% for the ETFs), plus you get access to a professional portfolio manager to assist in the withdrawals. Not a bad deal!

Russell Mitcham says:

With Wealthsimple Is there away of opening a account and buy and sell stocks without having a Android phone ?
I have a I Phone and PC lap top…..

Lisa Jackson says:

Hi Russell,

Just download the Wealthsimple Trade app onto your iPhone. That’s all you need.

Russell Mitcham says:

Hi, So with Questrade there’s no fee’s buying or selling ETF’S……with Qtrade no fee’s buying or selling mutual funds…..no annual fee’s on most brokers as long as your balance meets there minimum…..highest stock trade cost is $9.99 and least at wealthsimple $0.00….did I get that right ? Russ

Robb Engen says:

Hi Russ, not quite.

Questrade = free ETF purchases. You’ll pay $4.95 – $9.95 for ETF sales, and for stock purchases and sales (technically $0.01/share with min. $4.95 to max. $9.95). Young & Thrifty promo gets you $50 in free trades.

WS Trade = zero commission buying and selling of stocks and ETFs. No fees, period.

QTrade = commission free trades for 100 qualifying ETFs (buying or selling). This includes all-in-one ETFs like XGRO and XBAL (but not Vanguard’s VGRO or VBAL). All other ETFs, and all stocks, cost $8.95/trade to either buy or sell.

Wayne says:

Short of building a portfolio of ETFs, if I still want to invest in Mutual Funds, but without the embedded commission which pays a trailer commission (despite going discount which means NOT getting any advice), do any or all these platforms permit you to invest in the MF Series at the given company which does NOT include the embedded trail commission (ie. is it Class F, where F is for Fee, and if fee is 0 then you are good to go )

Robb Engen says:

Hi Wayne, the best (and cheapest) way to do this would be to purchase TD’s e-Series index mutual funds. For years, you could only get e-Series funds directly through TD but as of Aug 2019 these e-Series funds can now be purchased through other online brokerages such as BMO InvestorLine, Scotia iTRADE and RBC Direct Investing.

Note they are available at Questrade as well but interestingly Questrade charges commissions ($9.95) on mutual fund purchases but not on ETFs. So, if you go with Questrade then it’s best to stick with a one-ticket ETF portfolio (VBAL, VGRO, XBAL, XGRO).

F-class mutual funds are only available through fee-based advisers who charge a percentage fee based on your total assets invested with them. They’re not available to buy through self-directed platforms.

M.Jancewicz says:

TD e-series charge trail commission fees. It is embedded into MER despite they do not provide any advice. I know because I invested for years in e-series TD mutual funds.I phone them about it by the customer service gave me a lame excuses about it. I heard that in Ontario there was class action preceding due to this issue but I do not know the outcome.

Aleksandar Vuletic says:

Is there a platform that trades from 4am to 8pm in canada

Robb Engen says:

Hi Aleksandar, yes you can use Questrade to trade during pre and post market sessions. You’ll find the specifics on how to do so here: https://questrade-support.secure.force.com/mylearning/view/h/Investing/Pre-and-post-market-sessions/

MStar says:

I surprised you don’t have highest margin interest rate as a con for questrade. I get you have an affiliate program with them but this is an important omission. Qtrade charge north of 7% on margin accounts – that’s a rip off!

Arnaly says:

Questrade is definitely NOT the best in the market. At least with the new customers. I have been waiting for a week to get my account activated. Everything is sent and confirmed. The only thing is they are waiting to verify my documents. I made the mistake of sending the funds so that when the documents are verified, I could start trading right away and it has taken them one whole week to verify them and they give me a different timeline every time I communicate with them. They say they are flooded with requests and have not been able to handle them. If that is how they treat their new customers, I would not want to be there in case of having any issues with the platform. I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS PLATFORM AT ALL. THEY DO NOT KNOW HOW TO HANDLE CUSTOMERS.

Robb Engen says:

Hi Arnaly, I’m sorry to hear about your frustrations getting set up with the Questrade platform. Please know these are extraordinary times, both with the pandemic and people working from home, and with the incredible downturn in the markets last month (not to mention tax season as well). All brokers are busy and doing what they can to service both new and existing clients.

I know it’s frustrating but you need to be patient and know that this is not a typical experience for any Questrade customer in normal times. Hang in there!

Dave Chambers says:

I have recently moved my RRSP’s and non registered accts from Mutual Funds with TD and taken the responsibility to do my own trades. Getting TD to do this “seamlessly” is nothing short of a joke. It’s been over a month, they have only moved some of the funds, and it appears to me that they want to hold the funds as long as they can so they can apply charges. They have only moved less than 30% of my assets, and that’s over a month now, very frustrating. I do like the platform, but at 9.99/trade, they are making more money than I am with zero risk! I am very close to moving all my assets to another platform, so this article is a worthwhile read, thanks for posting it.

Hunter says:

Are any of these better suited for dividend investing, such as automatically reinvesting dividend payouts into Fractional shares and whatnot?
I’ve looked at M financial which is just available in the US right now I think. It is nicely tailored for dividend portfolio growth.

Robb Engen says:

Hi Hunter, most brokerages will set up an automatic DRIP for your dividend stocks, provided that the dividend payment covers at least one share. However, Interactive Brokers will allow you to DRIP fractional shares – which is certainly appealing!

Andrew says:

Unfortunately I have not found dividend reinvesting not very good in Canada.
BMO will not reinvest US dividends and not all Can stocks.
Wealthsimple doesn’t reinvest dividends. Questrade does reinvest dividends on US and Can stocks.

Robb Engen says:

Hi Andrew, you’re right that it’s probably hit-and-miss across different brokerages. My experience is with TD Direct, when I invested in dividend stocks, and I just had to enrol each stock in the DRIP. Your mileage may vary at different brokerages.

On the plus side, it might be more beneficial to receive the dividend in cash anyway and control where you reinvest that money.

Scott P says:

Have to disagree with Scotia iTrade having excellent customer service. Simply not true!! I have tried to call them 4 to 5 times and have never had them pick-up the phone. I have been on music hold for at least 40 minutes each time and maxing out at 1 hour 50 minutes. I sent them an email to complain and it took them days to respond and they simply admitted to having problems with call volumes. I decided to open an account with Questrade which I now regret. They don’t offer the level of free market research and data that Scotia iTrade does. Questrade showed different dollar amounts for my accounts depending on which page I was on which is highly disconcerting! I put an order in to buy stock and was expecting a sub $10 trading fee but it indicated something like $28. I decided to cancel my orders and I’m now wanting out. I’m intrigued by Wealthsimple and some of the user comments included.

C.Stotz says:

i have tried all of them in canaduh i can say that for me BMO is the best here is why:
1 execution – when i see a price of 3.29 and want to buy it i get 3.29 filled 99% of the time this is key for me
2 service – i never have to wait more then maybe 2 minutes to get through to someone and i get answers from their traders and service reps when i ask them. they are always there to help and explain things you may not entirely understand which is great for me not being a pro
3 interface and amalgamating of accounts is great since i can log in and see rrsp tfsa and non-reg trading accounts

there are a few cons like their charts and of course market prices being delayed 20mins etc. but i get my info and charts from elswhere anyway – i would like a longer watchlist for keeping eyes on my favorites and potentials etc and the phone app could be a little better but trading and execution wise they are the best ive use in canaduh

Burke B says:

This is a no brainer…. Wealthsimple Trade is far and away the best online brokerage, if only for the ZERO $ commission trades. I will admit that it does have it’s short comings (and no shortage of them) but is a HUGE step in the right direction. We in Canada have been robbed by unreasonably high trading fees for way too long. Hopefully the others will follow suit and sharpen their pencils when they start losing business to WST, as it will only get better with time and customers. Once again……….FREE TRADES!!!!!!!

Gary C says:

I find WS adequate but very limited. They have no U.S. account option. Every time I buy a US based stock and sell the same day I get dinged on both ends of the exchange rate. If they had a US account option, my money would simply stay in the US account without being automatically converted back to CDN when I sell.

Max says:

This is huge!! As high as 2% on each buy and each sell….

John C says:

Please include more information on options trading! Scaling commissions, min account balance for strategies, P&L tools etc.

Ray says:

The Scotia itrade pricing is incorrect. Their fee is $9.99 standard and high-balance/active trader fee is $4.99

Lisa Jackson says:

Hi Ray,

Thanks for alerting us! The fees that are listed in the article are from about a year ago. The new fees do indeed start at $9.99 per trade and are reduced to $4.99 per trade if you make more than 150 trades per quarter. I’ll update our article. Thank you!

Gary Cralle says:

Are there any discount Canadian web brokers that will hold warrants, debentures and non-traded BCFs as part of a portfolio?

Lisa Jackson says:

Hi Gary,

Questrade allows you to trade warrants and rights, notes and debentures, and non-DTC eligible securities. Here’s a link to the page on their website that lists these items and their cost: https://www.questrade.com/pricing/self-directed-commissions-plans-fees/transaction

Teceng says:

Hi, Thanks for the great information. I have a TD web broker account and I think 9.99 a trade is too much. Also on top of that paying a $30 monthly fee to get the advance screen (trade less than 30 trades a month). I am looking in to in Questtrade and HSBC. Can you please give your thoughts. And if you can you comment on streaming package, level II us and Canadian packages, prices, etc.
Thank You,

Lisa Jackson says:

With Questrade you can access level 2 quotes and data (Canada and U.S.) for $89.95 per month. You get a full rebate if you spend more than $399.95 in trading commissions, though.

Jason says:

Good write-up — but what about Interactive Brokers Canada? I’m with BMO IL but as I understand it, IB has a smoking deal on currency conversion. Example: say you have $50,000 CAD and you want to convert that into USD. With BMO and other banks you would pay 1.6% or $800 CAD. IB on the other hand charges you 1*0.2 basis points or $2 USD, whichever is greater, so the FX fee is = 0.0001*0.2*$50,000 CAD = $1 CAD, therefore the minimum $2 USD charge would apply in that situation.

Lisa Jackson says:

Hi Jason,

Yes, Interactive Brokers does have a terrific deal on foreign currency conversion rate at 0.2 bps.

Their platform is more appropriate for advanced, frequent traders but the FX deal is intriguing.

The one challenge is that it can take some time to wire money to IB to perform the currency conversion and then wire it back to your main brokerage. A lot can happen with the markets in that time, which could far outweigh any savings on currency conversion.

A better option would be to use a broker that allows you to perform Norbert’s Gambit on the same trading day to reduce the risk of markets making a big move while your transaction is waiting to settle.

Roy says:

Hi , can you Norbert’s Gambit onQuestrade?

Robb Engen says:

Hi Roy, yes you can perform Norbert’s Gambit on Questrade. Note that it usually takes 2-3 days for the trade to settle and funds to appear in your CAD or USD account. Some brokers, such as RBC Direct Investing, can handle the entire Gambit process in the same trading day.

Erika Londono says:

Hi, can you Norbert’s Gambit on wealthSimple?

Lisa Jackson says:

Hi Erika,

Unfortunately, you cannot do the Norbert’s Gambit manoeuvre on Wealthsimple Trade. You need a USD account to perform Norbert’s Gambit and at this time Wealthsimple Trade does not offer USD accounts.

Since WS Trade is a commission-free platform, exchanging foreign currency is the primary way they make money. So, I would not recommend purchasing USD stocks through WS Trade, as the currency conversion fees will offset any potential cost savings.

C. Baron says:

Just so you know, RBC no longer allows Norbert’s Gambit (got this in writing from them today); so clearly won’t be done on the same day!
BMO allows it, but you have to do it by calling (online NG not allowed anymore).
TD allows it online.
Not sure about National Bank or ScotiaTrade.

Kumar A says:

which platform to use to purchase Mutual Funds and Index Funds ?

Kumar A says:

Can I invest in Mutual Funds also through these platforms ?

Lisa Jackson says:

Hi Kumar,

Yes, you can purchase mutual funds through these platforms but before you do it’s important to understand the way mutual fund fees work in Canada.

Most mutual funds come with built-in trailer fees – ongoing commissions paid to a dealer representative (bank advisor) and the mutual fund company. For an equity mutual fund this is typically around 1% – and this drives up the total MER of your mutual fund to around 2% (average in Canada).

The trailer fee is meant to pay for the cost of ongoing advice from your advisor, but in reality many Canadians are not getting ongoing financial advice. In effect, they’re paying the fee for no advice or service.

Enter the discount brokerage. Here you can buy and sell stocks for fairly cheap (and no ongoing commissions), and buy ETFs for free (with Questrade) for a very small fee.

What you don’t pay is a trailer fee for ongoing advice because a discount brokerage assumes you’re a do-it-yourself investor and don’t need advice.

All that said, you CAN buy mutual funds through these platforms, but understand that you’re paying an embedded trailer fee for advice that you will never receive.

Rose Gale says:

I am looking for a discount Canadian broker that deals with Canadian stock exchanges and has no minimum deposit. Is there such a thing?

Anthony wolseley Wilmsen says:

I´ve been a client of Questrade for years. I like their platform, but now I am disgusted they are proposing to charge me a $25 inactivity fee if I do
not trade for 3 months. I like to make my investment decisions on fundamentals, not on having to avoid charges. I´m looking for a new broker
that understands that. As there are none in Canada, maybe now is the time for me to transfer to Asia or USA.

Lisa Jackson says:

Hi Anthony,

FYI, you can avoid Questrade’s inactivity fee if you have at least $5,000 in combined equity in your account. I hope this helps!

R Nalluri says:

Hi, Virtual Brokers Changed their fee structure. Please see
Simple Commissions
with an added Bonus
We offer a standard commission plan for beginner and intermediate investors. Pay as low as $1.99 per trade with our new commission structure. But what makes us a great choice is that we offer ALL ETF’s Free to purchase!

Courtemc says:

Hi Jordann, thanks for the timely article.

Wanted to share my experience with Virtual Brokers as it may serve as a cautionary tale for other DIY investors.

I built my portfolio using TD Waterhouse. It is all ETF’s super low cost. Given my portfolio size there were no annual fees, just buy/sell costs. I rebalance twice a year so I pay ~$500 a year in fees. I’d read so much positive press on Virtual Brokers, I thought I’d transfer my accounts there as they do not have ETF buy/sell charges.

I initiated the process on Feb 24th, tick tock, tick tock. As of today, though all the accounts are set-up at VB (me RSP, LIRA, TFSA, investment + hubby RSP and TFSA = 6 accounts), only two of the six are transferred.

The service at TD was excellent. The service at VB though very polite is highly ineffective, and I qualify for their Premier service. Was the service at TD worth $500 a year? I am starting to think maybe it was.

Jackie W. says:

I have had a QTrade account for several years and thier customer service USED to be exceptional – however since they were purchased it has been absolutely atrocious. I am really disappointed and am planning on moving my account somewhere with at least average customer service. This really should be updated in future reports because it has been bad for a while now.

Peter says:

I could not agree more

G. Carline says:

According to CIPF’s website, QTrade is no longer a member as of 2018-07-01

Lisa Jackson says:

Credential Qtrade Securities Inc. is listed as a member on the CIPF’s website.

Jacques LaFitte says:

I’m a QTrade client. If QTrade is best for customer service them the Canadian online brokerage world must be in a sorry state.

Jessica says:

Thank you so much for such a great article and helping me understand different types of Online Brokers !

Does a person have to be a resident of Canada
a citizen of canada

to join one of the brokerages above?

Lisa Jackson says:

In general, you must be a Canadian citizen, Canadian resident, or have a valid Canadian visa to invest using the above brokerages.