Best Online Brokers in Canada 2019
With the advent of online brokers, Canadians now have more options than ever to access the stock market and put their money to work. No matter how much or how little cash you have to start with, and be you a seasoned investor or a newbie, don’t worry—there’s an online broker out there to suit you. But it’s not easy to choose from the best online brokers in Canada when there’s an overwhelming number of options! With that in mind, we’ve put together this guide to the top online brokers and the criteria you should keep in mind when ultimately making your pick.
What Is an Online Broker?
An online broker is a platform that lets you open investment accounts, often called brokerage accounts, to trade securities on the stock market. You need to have a brokerage account if you want to buy and sell stocks, bonds, and ETFs. While many traditional banks have their own brokerages, you can also choose an online brokerage in Canada that is independent of a bank.
Online Broker vs. Traditional Broker
A traditional broker, sometimes called a full-service broker, is a person that invests in the stock market on your behalf. You give them direction and insight into your risk tolerance and financial goals, and they recommend investments and execute trades for you. Traditional brokers are paid commissions that range from a few hundred dollars to a percentage of your portfolio. For this reason, traditional brokers best serve high net worth clients who want tailored investment advice for their portfolio.
An online broker, often called a discount brokerage in Canada, is a software platform that lets you access the stock market yourself. Instead of paying someone to give you investment advice and make trades for you, you are usually responsible for making all your trades yourself. An online broker is best for those with portfolios of less than $250,000 and who want to manage their investments themselves.
Canada’s Best Online Brokers
|Broker||Basic Trading Fees||Account minimum||Annual Fees|
|Questrade||$4.95 - $9.95||$1,000||$0|
|BMO InvestorLine Self-Directed||$9.95||No||$0-$15,000 = $100
$15,000+ = $0
|Qtrade||$8.75||No||$0-$25,000 = $100
$25,000+ = $0
|Virtual Brokers||$9.99||$1,000||$0-$25,000 = $100
$25,000+ = $0
|TD Direct Investing||$9.99||No||$0-$15,000 = $100
$15,000+ = $0
Questrade was one of the first, and still remains one of the most affordable, online discount brokerages. Trading commissions are only $5 to $6, and ETFs are free to buy. The Questrade platform is simplistic and straightforward, so it’s best for more experienced traders that don’t need a lot of guidance.
BMO InvestorLine Self-Directed
BMO InvestorLine Self-Directed is an award-winning platform geared toward traders that are comfortable making their own investments without external investment advice. The platform supports a number of investment types, including stocks, bonds, GICs and mutual funds.
Qtrade investor was previously known as Credential Direct. It offers a Young Investor Account that charges $7.75 per trade, has no quarterly fees and requires no account minimums for investors age 18 to 30.
Virtual Brokers lets you keep both USD and CAD in any account to avoid currency exchange fees. You need at least $1,000 to open a trading account with virtual brokers, and at least $5,000 to open a commission-free trading account.
TD Direct Investing
TD Direct Investing is a brokerage that can provide you with as much or as little help as you need, depending on your experience as an investor. New investors will find the WebBroker and TD app great for guided investing, but the Advanced Dashboard provides enhanced features for more active traders. Finally, their platform thinkorswim is for the savviest of investors trading US options.
One of TD’s unique tools is GoalAssist, which lets investors set a financial goal and then tracks and guides progress toward that goal. It’s a very useful feature whether you’re saving for retirement or building a nest egg.
Other Canadian Online Brokers at a Glance
BMO adviceDirect provides investors with guidance on their portfolio allocations based on their risk profile, though investors make the final decisions themselves. Portfolios are monitored and investors will receive alerts for any changes in risk or balance, as well as suggestions on how to get their portfolios back on track. If you’re looking to do your own investing, but still want some expert guidance, this type of platform is a good fit.
RBC Direct Investing
You can open a practice account and try out RBC Direct Investing’s platform while also getting a feeling for what it’s like to invest. RBC consistently delivers one of the most user-friendly interfaces for its banking platforms, and RBC Direct Investing’s user experience upholds that standard.
CIBC Investor’s Edge
CIBC Investor’s Edge offers a low-cost option relative to other bank-owned brokerages, charging only $6.95 per trade and no administration fees for registered accounts or unregistered accounts with balances greater than $10,000. If you’re looking to try more advanced investing strategies, like options trading, the CIBC Investor’s Edge Knowledge Bank resources can help you get started.
Interactive Brokers charges only $1 per trade, and waives account administration fees if you incur $10 USD in trading commissions per month. They also pay interest on your idle balance, so if you tend to keep cash in your brokerage account waiting for optimal investment opportunities, this is one of the few brokers that puts that money to work while it waits to be invested.
National Bank Direct Brokerage
National Bank offers commission-free ETF trading, and they also provide a strong learning and education platform, delivering seminars on topics like understanding TFSAs or building a portfolio strategy.
HSBC InvestDirect provides comprehensive access to international markets, allowing investors to trade on 30 domestic and international stock exchanges and in 10 currencies. They also offer no minimums to invest in ETFs, and let you trade both Canadian and US options.
Scotia iTrade has one of the most easily navigable and customizable trading platforms available, allowing users to specify the stock metrics they personally want to track. However, these features are reflected in their slightly higher trading fees.
|Minimum to Open an Account||Commissions & Fees|
|Questrade||$1,000||$4.95 - $9.95|
|BMO InvestorLine Self-Directed||$5,000||$9.95|
|Qtrade (formerly Credential Direct)||No minimum required for investors age 18 to 30||$6.95 to $8.95 per trade|
|Virtual Brokers||$1,000 or $5,000||$1.99 to $7.99 per trade|
|TD Direct Investing||$0||$7 to $9.99 per trade, plus a quarterly maintenance inactivity fee of $25|
|BMO adviceDirect||$0 (registered accounts) or $5,000 (unregistered accounts)||$750 to $3,750 annual fee|
|RBC Direct Investing||$0||$6.95 to $9.95 per trade, plus a $25 quarterly maintenance fee for accounts with less than $15,000|
|CIBC Investor’s Edge||$0||$6.95 per trade, no annual administration fee for registered accounts, or for balances greater than $10,000 in unregistered accounts.|
|Scotia iTrade||$0||$4.99 to $9.99 depending on trading activity. Also charge a low activity account administration fee for balances less than $10,000|
|InteractiveBrokers||$0||$1 per trade. No administration fees for accounts with balances greater than $100,000, or that charge more than $10 USD in commissions per month.|
|National Bank Direct Brokerage||$0||$6.95 to $9.95 plus $100 annual fee if you have less than $20,000|
|HSBC Invest Direct||$0||as low as $6.88|