The Best Online Brokerages in Canada

The Best Online Brokerages in Canada
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The Motley Fool Canada’s top online brokers at a glance:

Broker Basic trading fee Rating
Qtrade $8.75
StarStarStarStarStar
Questrade $4.95 to $9.95
StarStarStarStarStar
TD Direct Investing $9.99
StarStarStarStarStar
Wealthsimple Trade $0.00
StarStarStarStarEmpty Star
BMO InvestorLine $9.95
StarStarStarStarEmpty Star
Scotia iTRADE $9.99
StarStarStarStarEmpty Star
CIBC Investor’s Edge $6.95 (for online equity trades)
StarStarStarStarEmpty Star


Qtrade

Good for: All-around great platform and features for beginners and experts alike

Our Rating:

StarStarStarStarStar

5.0 stars

Open Account

On Qtrade’s secure website.

Top Perks
  • User-friendly platform
  • 100 commission-free ETFs
  • Strong suite of research and tools
Sign-up offer
  • Limited time! (until March 1, 2022) Use promo code CASHBACK2000 and new accounts get up to $2,000 in cash back when opening an account and transferring in or depositing at least $15,000 in net new assets.
  • Up to $150 in transfer fees rebated when you transfer $15,000 or more to Qtrade

Open Account

On Qtrade’s secure website.

What we like

Qtrade offers a solid platform that can be a good fit for beginners or more experienced investors. Commission fees are competitive and there is a good selection of commission-free ETFs. There is an account maintenance fee, but there are a variety of easy ways to get that waived (see below) like having $25,000 or more in assets or having made two or more commissioned trades in the past quarter. Read our full Qtrade review.

Trading commission:

$8.75

Account maintenance fee:

$25/quarter
Waived if: it is less than one quarter since account opening, you have $25,000 or more in assets, completed 2 commissioned trades in the last quarter, completed 8 commissioned trades in the last 12 months, set up a $100/mo recurring deposit, qualify for the Young Investor offer.


Questrade

Good for: Lower cost trading without sacrificing functionality

Our Rating:

StarStarStarStarStar

5.0 stars

Open Account

On Questrade’s secure website.

Top Perks
  • No annual or monthly account management fees
  • Commission free ETF purchases (normal fee for selling)
  • User-friendly platform
Sign-up offer
  • Up to $150 in transfer fees rebated when you transfer an account to Questrade from another financial institution (no minimum).
  • 5 commission-free trades (terms apply, use promo code 5FREETRADES).

Open Account

On Questrade’s secure website.

What we like

Questrade is a great option for investing online and lowering your investing fees all without compromising on platform or service. There are no monthly or annual account maintenance fees and trading is $0.01 per share with a minimum charge of $4.95 and a maximum of $9.95. You can purchase ETFs with no fee, though you do have to pay a fee when selling. Read our full Questrade review.

Trading commission:

$4.95 to $9.95

Account maintenance fee:

None


TD Direct Investing

Good for: Investors of all types looking for lots of market data

Our Rating:

StarStarStarStarStar

5.0 stars


Top Perks
  • Top-notch platform and market data
  • High marks for customer service
  • Owned by TD Bank
Sign-up offer
  • Up to $150 in transfer fees rebated when you transfer $25,000 or more to TD


What we like

TD Direct Investing could be a great choice for data-hungry investors and traders, as this platform is known for the breadth and quality of the data it provides users. The data and tools make this a good platform for experienced investors, but it’s also user-friendly enough for beginners. Trading commissions are on the higher end of the market and there is an account maintenance fee, but the latter fee is waived with a comparatively low $15,000 in assets.

Trading commission:

$9.99

Account maintenance fee:

$25/quarter
Waived if: you are in the first 6 months from account opening, your household accounts have $15,000 or more in combined assets, you have a monthly recurring $100 deposit, your household completed 3 or more commissioned trades in the last quarter.


Wealthsimple Trade

Good for: No-commission investing

Our Rating:

StarStarStarStarEmpty Star

4.5 stars

Open Account

On Wealthsimple’s secure website.

Top Perks
  • No trading commissions
  • No account maintenance fees
  • No account minimum
Sign-up offer
  • Readers of The Motley Fool can get $50 when they open a Wealthsimple Trade or Crypto account and deposit and trade $150 (use the “Open Account” link here for this offer). Up to $150 in transfer fees rebated if you transfer more than $5,000 to Wealthsimple Trade.

Open Account

On Wealthsimple’s secure website.

What we like

If you’re looking for low cost, it doesn’t get lower than $0 per trade and no account maintenance fees. With Wealthsimple Trade you don’t get the robust platorm, data, and educational tools that you will get with some other brokers, but some investors don’t need that. And did we mention the $0 trade commission? Investors do have to pay an exchange rate fee when trading USD-denominated stocks (the corporate exchange rate + 1.5%), but that’s not unusual for any Canadian broker. Do note though Wealthsimple allows trading in most U.S. stocks, it doesn’t have complete coverage, so if you have or plan to have an extensive U.S.-equity portfolio, this may not be your best choice.

Read our full Wealthsimple Trade review.

Trading commission:

$0.00

Account maintenance fee:

None


BMO InvestorLine

Good for: Easy online interface

Our Rating:

StarStarStarStarEmpty Star

4.5 stars


Top Perks
  • User-friendly platform
  • No fees for trading mutual funds
  • No minimum balance
Sign-up offer
  • Up to $2,000 cash back for new accounts (tiered offer based on how much you invest in the account).


What we like

BMO InvestorLine is among the pricier brokers on this list, but keep in mind that commission fee isn’t everything. If you’re investing for the long term, you’re not paying a commission fee that often. So the important thing is to find a platform that supports you making good investment decisions. The easy-to-use platform and research that includes BMO Capital Markets, Morningstar, and S&P Global Ratings can help you do just that. And note that there are no commissions when buying and selling mutual funds.

Trading commission:

$9.95

Account maintenance fee:

$25/quarter
Waived if: you have $15,000 or more in assets, you also have an InvestorLine registered account, you completed 2 or more commissioned trades in the past 6 months.


Scotia iTRADE

Good for: Investing with a big-name bank

Our Rating:

StarStarStarStarEmpty Star

4.0 stars


Top Perks
  • Investing education and tools
  • No fee for buying and selling mutual funds
  • Low thresholds to avoid maintenance/activity fees
Sign-up offer
  • None


What we like

Scotia iTRADE, part of the massive Scotiabank, could be a great choice for investors looking for educational resources and tools on a platform offered by a trusted name in banking. Stock trading fees are at the higher end of the scale, but there is no cost for buying and selling mutual funds and it’s easier to avoid account maintenance fees than some competing brokers.

Trading commission:

$9.99

Account maintenance fee:

$25/quarter
Waived if: you are in the first 6 months from account opening, you have one commissioned trade in the past quarter, have $10,000 or more in assets.


CIBC Investor’s Edge

Good for: Lower cost trading from a big-bank platform

Our Rating:

StarStarStarStarEmpty Star

4.0 stars

Open Account

On CIBC Investor’s Edge’s secure website.

Top Perks
  • Lower-than-average commission fees
  • Lower threshold to avoid account maintenance fee on non-registered accounts
  • No commissions for mutual funds
Sign-up offer
  • New!
    From November 1, 2021 to March 1, 2022, get up to $2,000 cash back when you transfer $10,000 or more into a CIBC Investor’s Edge account.


What we like

CIBC Investor’s Edge offers lower-cost trading than many competitors, in particular other big-bank platforms. In addition, it’s easier to avoid the typical account maintenance fee for non-registered accounts, since you only need $10,000 in your account to have the fee waived. The platform itself doesn’t tend to get rave reviews, but for investors at ease with doing their own research and placing trades, the lower fees could make up for that. Read our full CIBC Investor’s Edge review.

Trading commission:

$6.95 (for online equity trades)

Account maintenance fee:

$100/year for non-regiestered accounts
Waived if: market balance of your account is greater than $10,000.

 


There’s a step 1 for everything. And when it comes to building wealth through investing in stocks, that step 1 is opening a brokerage account.

Of course, choosing a broker isn’t just step 1. It may also be a step 5 or step 10. Because even if you’re no longer a beginner investor, you may want a new broker to lower fees, get more tools and research, or access a wider selection of stocks.

The Motley Fool has been helping investors around the world — from Canada and the U.S. to Australia and Hong Kong — for more than 25 years. And over that time we’ve learned a thing or two about what makes a great online broker.

On this page, you’ll find our picks for the best online brokerages in Canada to help you start your investing journey, or improve your investing and ideally put you on an even faster path to stock-market success.

What is an online stock broker?

An online stock broker is an online company that facilitates the process of buying and selling stocks and, typically, other types of investments.

For most of the history of buying and selling shares of companies (stocks), transactions were facilitated by a live broker. This broker would help connect a buyer of stock to a seller, or vice versa. The problem for most people was that it was expensive to use a broker, and therefore expensive to own shares of stock.

Broker fees declined over time, but nothing changed the game quite like the introduction of online brokers. Brokerage companies set up shop online and used computers and software to drastically cut the cost of stock trading. This allowed many more individuals, at various levels of wealth, to become investors. Today, it’s easy to find any number of online brokers that will help you buy or sell stocks at less than $10 per trade. There are even some brokers that charge nothing at all!

What makes a great online broker?

A great online broker is one that meets your needs. In a sense, it’s a simple as that.

That said, there are some features that you should pay attention to when choosing an online broker to help you make a choice that will be more likely to support you building wealth over time, rather than hindering it. Here are a few of the specific things to look out for:

  • Low trading fees – The less you pay to buy and sell stocks, the more you keep in your account. And thanks to the magic of compounding, every little bit that you keep will grow over time. It’s important to remember that trading fees aren’t the only thing to consider, but all else equal, lower trading fees are better.
  • Platform ease of use – Some online broker platforms are set up to be very intuitive and pretty much anyone can find their way around without much effort. Finding information and placing trades on these platforms is quick and easy. Others have much more stripped-down interfaces, and while they may be more “powerful” in some ways, they leave new users scratching their heads. Having the most user-friendly interface may not be important to more experienced investors, but this is crucial for a new investor.
  • Platform features and research – Online brokers can vary considerably on how many bells and whistles come with their platform. In some cases, there are full-featured stock screeners, piles of company data, and even analyst research. Other platforms are more stripped down and allow you to trade stocks, but may not have a lot of additional tools or outside research.
  • Customer service – If you’re a new investor, a broker with great customer service may be a must. But even if you’re a veteran investor, there are inevitably times that you’ll have to get in touch with your broker’s service team. Having good options for getting in touch — like phone, email, and online chat — and quick response times can make your life a lot easier when you do need help.
  • Investment selection – Access to investments can vary considerably from one online broker to the next. When using a major Canadian online broker, you should expect to be able to invest in major Canadian companies (Shopify, Royal Bank of Canada, Canadian National Railway, etc.) and major mutual funds and index funds. In most cases, you should be able to invest in smaller Canadian stocks and major U.S. stocks. However, whether you can buy and sell other assets like smaller U.S. stocks, stocks outside of Canada/the U.S., bonds, cryptocurrency, and stock options depends on the specific broker.
  • Low-cost or free fund trading – Many brokers offer lower-cost or even no-commission options for buying and selling index funds, ETFs, and/or mutual funds. The terms differ from one broker to the next, as does the selection of funds that qualify, but if you are a funds-focused investor, or have funds as part of your overall strategy, paying no commissions on your fund investments is obviously a big plus.

What makes a great trading platform?

At The Motley Fool, we are big fans of long-term investing as a way to build wealth. Trading, which typically refers to shorter-term bets on stocks and higher-volume activity, we’re not as keen on. That said, we do want to make sure that everyone is armed with the knowledge to pick a great online broker, whether that means they’re going to be investing for the long-term, trading, or doing some combination of both.

Most of what we highlighted as important for an online broker above is just as important for someone looking for a trading platform more geared towards trading stocks. However, there are a few platform elements that will be more important for traders.

  • Low trading fees – Low commissions are important to investors, but it’s doubly so for traders. When your buying and selling activities go up, you’re paying commissions that much more often. So the difference of just a single $1 per transaction can make a big difference over time. For that reasons, traders should especially focus on commission rates.
  • Data access – Shorter-term trading typically relies heavily on access to good and fast data. Lagging price quotes, for instance, will be a nonstarter for most traders and they’ll typically look for access to a wide variety of indicators that update in real time.
  • Charting tools – Whereas investors focus on fundamental analysis for making investment decisions, traders often focus on charts for deciding their next move. Therefore a trading platform with plenty of options for creating and manipulating charts is a must, and specifically tools related to the specific indicators you focus on.
  • Quality mobile app – If speed is of the essence for traders, then it’s helpful to have access to a way to trade when you’re not at your desk. Most online brokers these days have apps, but not all of them are full-featured or provide the kind of interface that a trader will want in order to place on-the-go trades regularly.
  • Access to trading products – Certainly you can trade stocks and ETFs, but there are a lot of products that are highly oriented towards traders and may not be carried on every trading platform. These products include options, currencies, precious metals, natural resources, and other futures products.

Do you need an online broker or a trading platform?

Again, at The Motley Fool, we believe that long-term investing has been proven out as an ideal strategy for individuals to build their wealth over time. But for those who do prefer trading, or want to do some combination of long-term investing alongside shorter-term trading, there may be a concern over whether a more “standard” online broker is the right choice, or whether they should seek out a more dedicated trading platform. Meanwhile, those who do stick to long-term investing may wonder whether it’s bad if they sign up for a broker that markets itself more as a trading platform than an investment broker.

The short, but unsatisfying answer is: it depends.

For investors, looking at brokers marketed more as trading platforms can have advantages. The primary advantage is that trading-oriented brokers tend to keep trading commissions lower — low trading fees is a big deal for traders because of higher levels of activity. And low fees are great whether you’re an investor or trader. Trading platforms often have access to more products, which can also be a benefit to investors.

However, trading platforms often have specialized interfaces that are geared towards trading. This can be confusing for new investors and a learning curve for even experience investors. Trading platforms also may require that you have certain levels of activity — trades per month — in order to get the best commissions or to not have to pay a fee for the platform. And the tools and information that a trading platform provides may naturally be oriented more towards trading and focus on data and charting rather than screening and research.

So while it may not be bad for an investor to choose a trading platform for their primary broker, they may be better served by choosing an online broker that’s more focused on investing.

It’s very similar for traders. A more investing-focused online broker can be a fine choice for a trader, as these days most brokers offer real-time data to some extent, even if it’s just prices. And even more investing-focused brokers may offer lower commission rates for those who place more than a certain number of trades per month or quarter.

But, investing-focused brokers will be more likely to offer research and stock-screening tools as opposed to higher volumes of data and charting. They are also less likely to allow you to trade things like currencies or futures. And the more general-purpose interface of the typical online broker may not be the kind of war-room type of interface that a more dedicated trader expects.

If you’re looking for the quick-and-dirty final answer on this question, it likely breaks down like this:

  • If you’re new to investing, your best bet is likely one of the bigger name investing brokers (like the ones listed on this page).
  • If you’re an experienced investor, you’re probably also best served by an investing-focused online broker. Though if you’re using your broker just for executing trades (as opposed to researching as well), then you may be able to save money via a low-cost trading platform.
  • If you’re a dedicated trader, a more dedicated trading platform is likely what you need.
  • If you dabble in a bit of both — investing and trading — there’s less of an easy answer. In this case, dive into the details of the brokers on the market to see which one best meets your needs.

What about mutual funds and ETFs?

An online brokerage isn’t just about investing in individual stocks. For many investors, using mutual funds or ETFs (exchange traded funds) can be the easiest and best way to invest.

Mutual funds and ETFs are very similar, in that they’re both collections of stocks that you can purchase all at once, rather than ownership in just a single company. Both can be a great way to quickly and easily diversify your portfolio, and many are also low-cost as well.

The a primary difference between the two are the two words at the beginning of “ETF”, namely “exchange traded”. ETFs are traded throughout the stock-market trading day just like regular stocks, whereas mutual funds trade just once per day, after market close. ETFs are also passively-managed funds — that is, they tend to track an index like the TSX 60 or the S&P 500. Mutual funds can be passive index trackers, but can also be actively managed and aim to “beat the market”.

An active trader may also have their eye on ETFs, as these can also be traded on a day trading basis or in longer-duration trading approaches.

Canadian investors shouldn’t have any trouble finding a discount brokerage that allows them to invest in (or trade) mutual funds or ETFs. All of the major discount brokers offer some form of fund-trading options.

However, not every brokerage offers the same selection of mutual funds and ETFs, nor do they offer the same no-commission options. That’s right, some discount brokers offer no-commission funds that allow you to buy and sell without the fees. But at each broker the selection of these no-fee funds is different, so it pays to look into which specific funds are in this category and whether they meet your investing needs.

Here’s another look at The Motley Fool Canada’s picks for the best online brokerages:

Broker Basic trading fee Rating
Qtrade $8.75
StarStarStarStarStar
Questrade $4.95 to $9.95
StarStarStarStarStar
TD Direct Investing $9.99
StarStarStarStarStar
Wealthsimple Trade $0.00
StarStarStarStarEmpty Star
BMO InvestorLine $9.95
StarStarStarStarEmpty Star
Scotia iTRADE $9.99
StarStarStarStarEmpty Star
CIBC Investor’s Edge $6.95 (for online equity trades)
StarStarStarStarEmpty Star

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