Our Top Picks for Online Brokerages in Canada

The Motley Fool Canada’s personal finance content is reader-supported: we may earn a commission from offers on this page. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation.

On this page, you’ll find our top picks for 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.

The Motley Fool Canada's top online brokers at a glance:

BrokerBasic trading fee
Qtrade$8.75
Questrade$4.95 to $9.95
Wealthsimple Trade$0.00
CIBC Investor's Edge$6.95 (for online equity trades)

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

Qtrade

Qtrade
Apply Now On Qtrade’s secure website
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.
  • Pros & Cons
  • Fees & Charges
  • Sign-up Offer

Pros

  • User-friendly platform
  • 105 commission-free ETFs
  • Strong suite of research and tools

Cons

  • Platform is not fully commission free
  • Charting tools are not as robust as those on some competing platforms
  • 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.
  • Up to $2,000 in cashback for opening new accounts, based on funding at least $5,000. $50 in cashback for new clients for funding just $1,000. Use promo code CASHBONUS2023. Offer ends March 1st, 2023.
  • Up to $150 in transfer fees rebated when you transfer $15,000 or more to Qtrade
This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. For more information on why and how we work with partners, click here.

Good for: Lower cost trading without sacrificing functionality

Questrade

Questrade
Apply Now On Questrade’s secure website
Trading Commission $4.95 to $9.95
Account Maintenance Fee None
  • Pros & Cons
  • Fees & Charges
  • Sign-up Offer

Pros

  • No annual or monthly account management fees
  • Commission free ETF purchases (normal fee for selling)
  • User-friendly platform

Cons

  • No restrictions on what kinds of stocks can be purchased so high-risk trading options are available
Trading Commission: $4.95 to $9.95
Account Maintenance Fee: None
  • 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).
This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. For more information on why and how we work with partners, click here.

Good for: No-commission investing

Wealthsimple Trade

Wealthsimple Trade
Apply Now On Wealthsimple’s secure website
Trading Commission

$0.00

Account Maintenance Fee

None

  • Pros & Cons
  • Fees & Charges
  • Sign-up Offer

Pros

  • No trading commissions
  • No account maintenance fees
  • No account minimum

Cons

  • 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.
Trading Commission: $0.00 Account Maintenance Fee: None  
  • 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.
This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. For more information on why and how we work with partners, click here.

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

CIBC Investor’s Edge

CIBC Investor's Edge
Apply Now On CIBC Investor’s Edge’s secure website
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.
  • Pros & Cons
  • Fees & Charges

Pros

  • Lower-than-average commission fees
  • Lower threshold to avoid account maintenance fee on non-registered accounts
  • No commissions for mutual funds

Cons

  • Basic user interface
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.
This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. For more information on why and how we work with partners, click here.

Our methodology for reviewing online brokerages

Our top brokerage picks are based on the factors we believe are most important to the average user of brokerage accounts in Canada.

Here are the elements we focused on in choosing our featured brokerage:

  • Fees – In general, we prefer the lowest fees possible. We evaluated each broker’s platform and trading fees, fund charges, and overseas dealing charges and rewarded the brokers with the lowest fees.
  • User friendliness – An easy-to-use broker makes navigating the site, placing trades and managing your portfolio simple and straightforward. We awarded points for platforms that nailed this.
  • Platform features – Stock screeners, market news and third-party research can help investors find new shares to invest in. We gave extra points to those share dealing accounts that have better research and screening tools.
  • Introductory offers – We love an extra boost, so it’s great when a broker offers that in the form of free trades or discounted trades for some period of time after you open your account.

Why you can trust The Motley Fool Canada to compare brokers

The Motley Fool has been helping investors around the world — from Canada and the U.S. to Australia and Germany — for more than 25 years. Our company’s goal is to make the world smarter, happier, and richer by taking the often confusing and complex financial world and simplifying it for readers just like you.

In our reviews specifically, we’re looking for the best financial products on the market and objectively outlining the pros and cons of each product to help you make the best decision for you. And while we may have affiliate relationships with some of our recommended partners, we can assure you our evaluations aren’t influenced by compensation. If you’re curious, you can read more about our partner philosophy.

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 investing 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.

How to open a brokerage account

Opening a brokerage account is fairly easy. Here are the three main steps:

1. Research your options

Take a moment to compare the brokerage accounts listed above. Look closely at trading fees, the transactions that are allowed, and the types of accounts you can open (such as RRSPs, margin, or TFSA). A sign-up bonus can be icing on the cake, but don’t choose a brokerage by bonus only: make sure it truly fits your needs.

2. Submit your application

You’ll need to provide personal information on your application, such as your name, address, and Social Insurance Number (SIN). You may also need to attach a photo of a valid government-issued ID. 

3. Link your bank account

Once your application is approved, you can start depositing money into your account. Depending on your brokerage, you may need to always hold a minimum amount of cash. Once you’ve deposited some funds, you can start buying and selling investments.

Another look at our best brokers:

BrokerBasic trading fee
Qtrade$8.75
Questrade$4.95 to $9.95
Wealthsimple Trade$0.00
CIBC Investor's Edge$6.95 (for online equity trades)

About the Author

Matt Koppenheffer is a 14-year veteran of The Motley Fool and a former advisor and analyst for multiple Motley Fool services. Matt’s articles and analysis have been published around the world and his views have been cited in worldwide publications from the Financial Times and The New York Times to the Toronto Star and Germany’s Focus Money. Matt is the co-author of The Astonishing Collapse of MF Global as well as the creator and former co-host of The Motley Fool’s Industry Focus podcast.


Some offers on The Motley Fool are from our partners — it’s part of how we make money and keep this site going. But does that impact our reviews? Nope. Our commitment is to you. If a product isn’t any good, our review will reflect that, or we won’t list it at all. Also, while we aim to feature the best products available, we do not review every product on the market.

Frequently Asked Questions

Online brokers act as an intermediary between you and a stock exchange. Basically, you request a trade (to buy or sell an investment), and the broker will carry it out. Some online brokers may also offer investing advice, though you might have to hire a financial advisor to get customized advice for your portfolio.
Yes, online brokers are safe. Much like bank accounts, many brokerage accounts are covered by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC) for up to $1 million in held cash, securities, and other assets.
Online brokerages make money off trading and administrative fees. They might also make money off interest or lending fees for margin trading, or fees for upgraded accounts.