Best Trading Accounts for Canadians

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There are many options today for Canadians to get involved in the stock market. Previously, most Canadians would have had to go through their financial advisors in order to buy and sell stocks – a slow and expensive process. Today, Canadians have access to a range of cost-effective and easy-to-use solutions that allow you to have complete control over your own investments. You can now buy assets ranging from bonds, commodities, precious metals, stocks, and other types of derivatives and asset subclasses online. All the top banks now offer their own direct investing platforms: TD Direct Investing, BMO InvestorLine, Scotia iTrade, and more. There are also discount brokers like Questrade and Qtrade that are dedicated investment platforms and often offer lower commissions than their big bank counterparts. There is no single best option for all cases; it is up to you to decide which is the best depending on your own personal situation. 

Making a Choice

How you plan to invest determines the best platform for you. If you don’t plan on buying or selling often and invest large amounts at a time, commissions may not be that important for you. As well, if you already have all your savings and investments at one of the top banks, it may be simpler to stick with your bank’s own investing platform. On the other hand, if you are an active trader and want access to real-time data and research, you may need a platform that has a more professional interface and resources available. 

Remember that you don’t have to invest in stocks directly; you can consider Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). ETFs are large baskets of assets like stocks or bonds that are traded on the stock market; they can offer diversification at a very low cost, and many investment platforms offer free trading of ETFs. In fact, investing in a low-cost index fund ETF was even recommended by Warren Buffet, and is a great way to participate in the stock market without the risk of individual stock investments. 

Overview of Popular Options

Here are some of the best and most popular online brokerages in Canada:

Questrade

Questrade’s Online Interface

Questrade is a discount broker and dedicated investment platform. They allow you to invest in a range of assets from stocks to bonds to mutual funds and even FX and CFDs. Their user interface is considered to be one of the best in Canada and they are often ranked number one in user rankings. While they don’t offer real-time data for free, they have unlimited free snap-quotes (a single snapshot of the most recent prices) and have advanced data packages for more involved traders. They are great for both active and passive investors, but because they are a separate platform, transfers to and from your accounts will take a number of business days. 

Account minimum: $1,000.
Account fees: $24.95/quarter. Waived if >$1,000 in investments/cash or at least one trade.
Stock trades: $0.01/share. Min $4.95 to max $9.95.
Option trades: $9.95 + $1/contract
ETFs: Free to buy. $0.01/share with min $4.95 to max $9.95 to sell.
Mutual funds: $9.95

Qtrade

Qtrade is a discount broker that was ranked the Best Online Broker of 2020 by The Globe and Mail. Similar to Questrade, they offer a number of investment options. They offer free real-time quotes and charts as well as research reports and technical analysis. Stock trades commissions are fixed at $8.75 and no ECN fees are charged, which can be helpful for investors in lower-priced stocks. In addition, they waive commissions for a list of 100 ETFs, which can make investing in smaller amounts or active trading more attractive on Qtrade’s platform. They offer a free Investor Plus program for investors with over $500,000 in assets or who make over 150 trades per quarter that offer discounted commissions and dedicated phone support. 

Account minimum: $1,000.
Account fees: $25/quarter. Waived if >$25,000 in investments/cash. 
Stock trades: $8.75.
Option trades: $8.75 + $1.25/contract
ETFs: $8.75. There are 100 that are free to buy and sell. 
Mutual funds: Free

TD Direct Investing

TD’s WebBroker Interface

TD Direct Investing can be a great option if you are already a TD client. They offer free real-time market data as well as exclusive research reports while charging commissions that are competitive with those of discount brokers. They have a wide range of digital platforms with both simple and intuitive designs for the casual investor as well as professional layouts for active traders. Their think-or-swim platform (powered by TD Ameritrade) is widely known in the US and can benefit any investor looking to trade in US equities and options. However, they have no free trading options and charge $9.99 for all stocks and ETF trades. If you plan on active trading, they have an Active Trader program after you reach 150+ trades per quarter that offers discounted commissions. While they may not be the best option for small-time and passive investors, their platform offers significant advantages for active traders. 

Account minimum: None.
Account fees: $25/quarter. Waived if >$15,000 in investments/cash. Can be combined with other accounts as part of a household.
Stock trades: $9.99
Option trades: $9.99 + $1.25/contract
ETFs: $9.99
Mutual funds: Free

BMO InvestorLine

BMO InvestorLine is BMO’s in-house direct investment platform. They offer a basic platform for casual investors with real-time quotes as well as a professional platform for active traders. Like TD Direct Investing, they do not offer free ETF trades and charge a flat commission on all stock and ETF trades. You can still buy and sell mutual funds for free but may have to pay additional fees depending on the situation. If you have a significant amount to invest, you may qualify for their 5 Star Program that gives you free access to more detailed quotes, discounts on commissions, and exclusive support, research and IPO access. If you already have an account at BMO, this could be a good option for you, but otherwise, BMO InvestorLine offers no advantages over other competing platforms. 

Account minimum: None.
Account fees: $25/quarter. Waived if >$15,000 in investments/cash.
Stock trades: $9.95
Option trades: $9.95 + $1.25/contract
ETFs: $9.95.
Mutual funds: Free

Scotia iTrade

Scotia iTrade is Scotiabank’s own investment platform. Like TD Direct Investing and BMO InvestorLine, they offer a fully integrated service with advanced tools and research resources. They charge a fixed fee for stock and ETF trades. If you’re already a Scotiabank customer, Scotia iTrade allows you to see and manage your investment and savings account all from your Scotiabank dashboard as well as easily transfer funds between accounts online. In addition, if you have over $250,000 or $1,000,000 invested, you can get access to their Gold and Platinum iClub, which gives you priority service, discounted commissions, and access to their more advanced trading platform. 

Account minimum: None.
Account fees: $25/quarter. Waived if >$15,000 in investments/cash.
Stock trades: $9.99
Option trades: $9.99 + $1.25/contract
ETFs: $9.99.
Mutual funds: Free

Interactive Brokers

Interactive Broker’s Client Portal

Interactive Brokers is the go-to for high-frequency traders. They are an international brokerage platform that offers an advanced trading platform and some of the lowest commissions in the industry. In addition, they also have some of the lowest margin interest rates and programs like their Stock Yield Enhancement Program that shares with you the fees that other investors pay when they borrow your stocks. Unlike other brokerages in Canda, they offer you an all-in-one platform to access a range of investments from stocks to futures to forex in markets all over the world. Their interface can be challenging for beginner investors, however, and the high minimum makes their platform less attractive for passive investors. 

Account minimum: None.
Account fees: $10/month. Waived if >$100,000 in investments/cash or enough commissions generated.
Stock trades: $0.005 ~ $0.01 per share. Minimum of $1.00 and a maximum of 0.5% to 1.0% of trade value. 
Options trades: Varies from $0.25 to $1.25 per contract. No fixed-fee.
ETFs: Same as stocks. Exclusions apply that are free to trade.
Mutual funds: Lesser of 3% * Trade Value or $14.95. Exclusions apply that are free to trade.

Wealthsimple Trade

Wealthsimple Trade is the new kid on the block and is backed by Wealthsimple, a leading robo-advisor platform. They are Canada’s version of Robinhood (a US discount broker). They offer a mobile-first interface that offers no-commission trading on Canadian stock exchanges. Their integration with Wealthsimple Cash and Wealthsimple Invest makes them an all-in-one platform for guided and self-directed investing as well as savings. For now, they only offer stock and ETF trading, and there may be a few stocks that are not available on the platform. They do not have a USD account but allow you to trade and hold US-listed stocks and ETFs. If you trade in USD, there is a significant conversion fee that will be charged in order to convert CAD to USD, and vice-versa. They also don’t offer any of the advanced tools or features of other platforms. If you want to play around with trading or plan to stick to Canadian stocks and ETFs, Wealthsimple Trade can be a great way to start out. They are constantly developing, so stay tuned for new changes.

Account minimum: None.
Account fees: None.
Stock trades: Free.
Options trades: Not available.
ETFs: Free.
Mutual funds: Not available.

Comparison of Canadian Investment Platforms

CategoryQuestradeQtradeBanksInteractiveWealthsimple Trade
Account Minimum$1000$1000NoneNoneNone
Stock Trading$0.01/share.
Min $4.95 – max $9.95
$8.75$9.95/99Starting from $0.005
Min of $1.0
Free
Options Trading$9.95
+ $1/ea
$8.75
+ $1.25/ea
$9.95/99
+ $1.25/ea
$0.25 ~ $1.25/contractNot Available
Free ETFsYes100NoLimitedYes
Mutual Funds$9.95FreeFreeLesser of 3% or USD 14.95Not Available
Professional PlatformYesYesYesYesNo
Other AssetsYesYesYesYesNo

Alternative Investments

Other than stocks and bonds, there are also other types of investments. These can include precious metals, commodities, and real estate. Investing in real estate can be extremely worthwhile, with leveraged returns far beyond those of even equity investments. You don’t need the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to buy a property either. You can find out more about how you can invest in real estate with as little as $10,000 in our guide to real estate investing.

You can even invest in real estate through the stock market in the form of REITs.

Disclaimer

Please refer to the official documentation of each platform for their features and up-to-date commissions pricing. We have simplified some of the commission schedules here and it may not be indicative of your own experience. While we attempt to have the most up-to-date info, the information on this page may not accurately reflect that of the platform. All views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Savings Hippo or WOWA Leads, Inc. Always consult a licensed financial advisor. Neither the publisher nor the author shall be liable for damages that occur as a result of this article.

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