Compare the Best Online Brokers in Canada
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Best Online Brokers in Canada 2022

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Last updated on August 25, 2022 Comments: 27

With the advent of online brokers, Canadians now have more options than ever to access the stock market and put their money to work. And if you’re like most of us right now, freaking out over your stocks as a result of the current pandemic, debating an online broker might not be an option.

No matter how much or how little cash you have to start with, and whether you are a seasoned investor or a newbie, you don’t need to worry—there’s a virtual 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! To help you decide, 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 (Exchange Traded Funds). While many traditional banks have their own brokerages, you can also choose an online brokerage in Canada that is independent of a bank.

Comparing the Best Trading Platforms in Canada

BrokerAccount MinimumBasic Trading FeesQuarterly Fee
Questrade$1,000$4.95–$9.95N/A
Wealthsimple TradeNone$0$0
BMO InvestorLine Self-DirectedNone$9.95$0-$15,000 = $25 (*can be waived)
$15,000+ = $0
Qtrade InvestorNone$6.95–$8.75$0-$25,000 = $25 (*can be waived)
$25,000+ = $0
TD Direct InvestingNone$7–$9.99$0-$15,000 = $25 (*can be waived)
$15,000+ = $0

Questrade

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Questrade was one of the first, and still remains one of the most affordable online discount brokerages. Trading commissions are only $4.95 to $9.95, and ETFs are free to buy, so you can try the platform out by building an entirely free portfolio consisting only of ETFs. Account types offered include TFSAs, RRSPs, and RESPs, and these registered accounts can hold both USD and CA$, which can help you avoid paying currency conversion fees when trading US stocks and ETFs.

Those who open a new Questrade account with at least a $1K account balance will get $50 in free trades, and Questrade will also rebate up to $150 in outgoing transfer fees for each account transferred to the Questrade platform. Additionally, Questrade’s Instant Deposit feature allows you to securely and instantly transfer up to $3,500 into your account to start trading right away. Its overall affordability convinced us to name Questrade our the Best Online Broker in Canada for 2020.

Questrade is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF), and also holds additional private insurance, so investments are covered up to $10M in the event of Questrade’s bankruptcy.

You can get a feel for Questrade’s user experience by checking out this video about buying stocks with the Questrade platform:


Open an account
 or learn more by reading our complete Questrade review.

Wealthsimple Trade

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If your attitude is, ‘the fewer fees, the better,’ then Wealthsimple Trade could be a good choice for a discount broker.

Wealthsimple Trade has no trading fees (it’s the only discount brokerage firm in Canada that’s commission-free) and offers access to a huge selection of Canadian and US stocks and ETFs via a personal, TFSA, or RRSP account.

Trades are unlimited and there’s no minimum deposit, making Wealthsimple Trade technically the most inexpensive online Canada broker. Wealthsimple Trade will even reimburse an outgoing administrative transfer fee of up to $150 on investment account transfers valued at more than $5,000.

The platform makes money via a 1.5% currency conversion fee. Investors need USD to trade US-listed securities, and as Wealthsimple Trade only supports deposits in CA$, this means you will effectively pay a 1.5% fee on every American stock and ETF trade. It’s worth noting, however, that most brokers charge a conversion fee of 2%, so Wealthsimple Trade is still a fantastic deal.

The Wealthsimple Trade interface is quite simple and its stock analysis tools are less in-depth than what other online brokers offer. It also doesn’t offer a full array of U.S. and Canadian ETFs and stocks, though the selection is still impressive and sufficient for the average DIY investor. Additionally, Wealthsimple’s no-frills approach might be beneficial for those who are relatively new to online stock trading, as they won’t be overwhelmed by an intricate interface. But more advanced traders might feel limited by the information the platform provides.

Securities held in a Wealthsimple account are insured up to $500K.

For a limited time, get a $25 cash bonus when you open a Wealthsimple Trade account and fund at least $150. Sign-up today to take advantage of this exclusive offer!

 

Open an account or learn more by reading our complete Wealthsimple Trade review.

BMO InvestorLine Self-Directed

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BMO InvestorLine Self-Directed is an award-winning platform geared toward Canadian traders that are comfortable making their own investments without external investment advice.

The platform supports a number of investment types, including trading stocks, bonds, GICs and mutual funds, and trades are $9.95 each.

Though there is a $25 quarterly fee for non-registered accounts with balances below $15K, the fee is waived for registered accounts or for clients that make at least two commissionable trades within a 6-month period.

BMO InvestorLine is a member of the CIPF, so an account’s investments are insured up to $1M.

Those who like the idea of having external advice to guide their trades, but still want to make final trading decisions autonomously, might consider BMO’s adviceDirect platform.

BMO InvestorLine adviceDirect is a hybrid of both a self-lead broker with personal, objective recommendations from an investing expert. The platform warns you when you are about to make trades that would deviate from your self-defined profile, reminds you to rebalance your portfolio when it goes off-kilter after a market swing and gives you access to BMO Investment Specialists if you’d like more detailed investment advice.

 

Open a BMO Investorline Self-Directed account

Qtrade Investor

Qtrade Investor was previously known as Credential Direct, and it can be a particularly cost-effective broker for frequent traders and young investors.

Its regular $8.75 fee for trading equities and options is on the high-ish end compared to some of its competitors, but this fee drops to $6.95 for those who make 150 or more trades per quarter, or for investors between the ages of 18 to 30.

Users can trade mutual funds for free and can trade from a list of 100 select ETFs for free as well. Overall it’s a very intuitive platform, and you can get a glimpse of it via this video about the simple process of selling a stock with Qtrade:

Qtrade Investor’s quarterly $25 fee is on the high side, but this is waived for those with account balances of $25K or more.

Another downside is that Qtrade Investor charges a $100 fee for closing an account within one year of opening, so it’s not a very feasible option if you’re looking to test the waters to see if self-directed trading suits you.

Qtrade Investor is a member of the CIPF.

TD Direct Investing

TD Direct Investing TD Direct Investing is one of the pricier online brokers on our list, but it may be worthwhile for those that want a platform specifically tailored to their level of experience and trade volume. TD offers different dashboards for different investor profiles and provides a substantial amount of information about the stocks its users trade.

The Markets and Research Centre closely tracks tradable companies’ earnings and dividends, and TD has an extensive library of online investing tutorials, webinars, and informative videos available to users, like the one below about setting financial goals within TD Direct Investing’s most commonly used dashboard, WebBroker:

Canadian and U.S. stocks and options cost $9.99 per trade with TD Direct Investing, but this is reduced to $7 per trade for investors that make at least 150 trades per month, and trading mutual funds is commission-free.

Online Brokers vs. Traditional Brokers

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 might be paid per-trade fees of a hundred dollars or more, or they might charge their clients a percentage of their total portfolio assets. For this reason, traditional brokers best serve high net worth clients who want tailored investment advice for their portfolios.

An online stock 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 independently.

An online broker is best for those with portfolios of less than $250,000 and who want to manage their investments themselves.

Online BrokerFull-Service Broker
Investor independently makes trade decisions based on personal judgementInvestor’s choices are guided by the stockbroker’s research, experience, and consultation
Trades are executed by the investor via the broker’s online trading platformTrades are executed by the stockbroker
Trades can be executed at any timeTrades can be executed only during the broker’s availability
Usually provides limited or no additional financial consultation services to the investorMay provide additional financial consultation services to the investor, like retirement planning and tax preparation/sheltering strategies
Fees are charged per trade, per currency conversion, and/or per quarter Fees may be charged per trade or as a percentage of an investor’s assets
Fees are lower than those charged by full-service brokersFees are high and take a proportionally higher cut of an investor’s returns
Best suited for portfolios below $250K in valueBest suited for portfolios above $250K in value

Investing Literacy

Though some online brokers may provide investment education materials for their users, they generally do not provide personal consultation with the investor.

Investors who do not have the time, patience, or interest needed for responsible self-directed trading and the regular research and autodidactic education it requires might be better off with either a full-service stock broker or a robo-advisor. Check out our list of the best robo-advisors in Canada if you prefer a ‘set it and forget it’ investing approach.

Service Cost

Though fee amounts and structures may vary from one online broker to the next, they save an enormous amount on overhead by being based primarily online, and will invariably be less costly overall than what you will pay with a full-service broker.

There’s no hard and fast rule as to what portfolio value you need before it makes financial sense to work with a full-service broker, but a rule of thumb is that those with combined assets of $250,000 or more should at least consider moving away from online or discount brokers and robo-advisors toward working with a traditional stockbroker.

Emotionality and Broker Bias

Market volatility can make investors prone to rash, emotionally driven decision-making, and it’s easier to give in to that when you can make trades with a single click.

Working with a full-service broker can serve as a rational counterpoint to any knee-jerk decisions you might make independently. Conversely, some full-service brokers may receive financial compensation for selling a specific mutual fund or stock, which can compromise the impartiality of the trading advice they give you.

When you make your own trades, you are making decisions based solely on your own best interest.

How do Online Brokerages Work?

Online discount brokerages work by facilitating the buying and selling of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, and other forms of investment through various stock exchanges. Investors can sign up to use a brokerage’s trading platform, and the brokerage charges the investors fees based on trading volume, activity/inactivity levels, and currency exchange. Investors autonomously choose when to buy or sell their investments. 

What are the Downsides of Investing with an Online Brokerage?

While online brokers have many advantages (convenience, little to no commission fees, and easy access to trends and company information to name a few), there is one major downside to online trading — you may find yourself easily addicted. The ability to make a trade with just the click of a button may become distracting, preventing you from fulfilling other important activities. Keep this in mind before you begin using an online brokerage and set rules for yourself!

How to Choose an Online Broker

It’s easy to be seduced into signing with the online broker that offers the lowest trade fees, but you should consider more factors than that before making your choice.

User Interface

Get a feel for an online broker’s platform by checking out some of its preview videos. Do the account management and trading interfaces seem simple and user-friendly? Is the platform available on both mobile and desktop? Is the provided amount of stock info scanty, overwhelming, or just enough?

Keep in mind that some online brokers update stock trading quotes in real-time, but others have a lag, which could be problematic for high-volume traders, like day traders.

Investor Education

Those who are trading independently for the first time might opt for an online discount broker that has extensive investor education resources in the form of tutorial videos, blog articles, FAQs, etc.

Some online brokers might also offer a combination of autonomous trading with personalized advice from investing experts, akin to working with a full-service broker. This might be an attractive option for those who are new to investing, but it could be unnecessary for experienced traders.

If you’re new to investing, you’re strongly encouraged to read our Investing in Stocks 101 article, which serves as a good primer for learning about the different ways you can gain income from stocks; the risks associated with trading; the questions to ask yourself before you start trading, and more.

Account Minimums

Some online brokers require no minimum investment to open an account; others require a minimum investment of several thousand dollars. Keep the amount you’d like to start investing with in mind when researching brokers and make sure it isn’t below the minimum of a broker you’re interested in.

Commissions/Fees

Fees aren’t the only factor to consider, but they are certainly one of the most important. Consider the types of investments you plan to make—stock trading, options, ETFs, mutual funds, bonds, etc.—and check out the different commissions each broker charges on those.

Keep in mind that a broker might charge not only fees for each trade, but also fees for account maintenance, currency conversion, inactivity, and closing/transferring out an account. Some brokers may offer commission-free trades or reduced fees for investors that make a minimum number of trades per month. If you plan to trade frequently, or if you have ambitions to become a day trader, you might opt for a broker with a trading fee structure that incentivizes frequent trading.

Sign-Up Bonus

If you find yourself stuck between two options that have a seemingly even number of pros and cons, check with both to see if one of them might offer a special sign-up bonus that you may not have noticed, like cashback.

Some online brokers, particularly those administered by banks, might also incentivize the use of other financial products, like savings accounts or credit cards, in tandem with their investing platform.

Day Trading

Many day traders use online brokerages in order to execute their quick exchanges within the same trading day, due to the little to no trading commission fees that come along with many online brokerages. All of the above online brokers can be used for day trading, with Questrade being one of the top favourites, as it offers discounts if you’re an active trader.

How to Open a Brokerage Account

  1. Start by checking if the broker you’re interested in has a minimum investment requirement, and compare that with how much you can afford to invest.
  2. If you meet your new broker’s minimum investment requirement you can fund the account by transferring money from a bank account or another broker into your new online broker. This process should take anywhere from a few days to a week or so.
  3. Document any fees charged to you for moving money out of your bank account or previous broker into your new broker, as your new broker might have a policy in which it will reimburse you up to a certain fee amount.
  4. Go through any tutorials offered by the broker that might explain how to use its online platform and review any investor education materials it offers as well.
  5. Start buying stocks, ETFs, bonds, and mutual funds to your heart’s content!

Which Online Brokerage is Best For Beginners?

Questrade, Wealthsimple Trade, BMO InvestorLine Self-Directed, Qtrade Investor, and TD Direct Investing are all great options for beginner stock traders. Due to the fact that Wealthsimple Trade offers no basic trading fees and no annual account fee, this is an ideal choice for younger investors and those who simply wish to try their hands at trading.

Divest from High Commissions

Are you unsure if you’re ready to take the leap to make your own trades during this trying time? You’ll never know until you try. Test out an online broker that has no account closure fee or even commission-free trades and then fund the account with the minimum amount required.

That way the stakes are relatively low, and the errors you make while learning the ropes of self-directed trading will have a minimal effect on your financial future. But one thing is certain no matter which online broker you open an account with: Responsible self-directed investing can dramatically increase your overall level of investing knowledge and seriously cut down the fees you would otherwise pay to a robo-advisor or full-service broker, thus increasing your overall return on investment.

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Author Bio

Bridget Casey
Bridget Casey is the award-winning entrepreneur behind Money After Graduation, a Canadian financial literacy website aimed at 20 and 30-somethings. She holds a BSc. from the University of Alberta, and an MBA in Finance from the University of Calgary. She has been featured as a millennial financial expert by Yahoo! Finance, TIME Magazine, Business Insider, CBC and BNN. Bridget was recognized as one of Alberta's Top Young Innovators in 2016.

Article comments

27 comments
Barry R Huycke says:

I want to work with pink sheets, penny stocks but live in Alberta Canada and can’t find a broker that i can do that with. The only province in Canada that’s dictated to by IIROC

Daniel from GreedyRates says:

Hi Barry,
Give Questrade a try using a margin account. That should get you what you’re looking for. Good luck!

Fred Mago says:

Better do research on National bank… ZERO means ZERO

Daniel from GreedyRates says:

Hi Fred,
Indeed an interesting and welcome market entry. Will keep our eyes on it. Appreciate your feedback.

Ehsan says:

It’s completely free (stock, ETF, mutual funds). I moved from RBC to NBDB, a perfect website design, easy and comfy. I transferred from Wealthsimple; their app and website froze a lot. Questrade made a mess recently. When I moved RESP from RBC to Questrade, the booking cost changed! Let say your booking cost varied from $4 to $1.8!!!! What’s wrong! It does not matter for the number of shares, but for bookkeeping and keeping track of your performance, it’s a disaster. I will transfer my kids’ RESP from Questrade as well by the end of the year.

Daniel from GreedyRates says:

Hi Ehsan,
Thanks for sharing your experience and glad to hear that the service is working as advertised!

Jason says:

You need to add Desjardins Online Brokerage to your list. I’ve used them for the last 9 months with they’re great. They’re Canadian, I have full Level 2 access, all the charts and indicators I want, and cost is only $0.75/trade! Way cheaper than Questrade and far more features than the free WealthSimple Trade (which I used for a couple months when I started out).

Aaron Broverman says:

Wow Jason,
That sounds great. We’ll have to look into Desjardins Online Brokerage and perhaps add it to a revision of this article. In the meantime, thanks for the comment. I’m sure our other readers will take advantage of your advice.

Sam T. says:

I believe someday, they have to do the same like US Brokers, go free trading, the first company will go belly up will be QuestTrade at that time, already Interactive Brokers offers much better service and lowest fees $0.005 per US stocks max $1. Same with options and free ETF buys. Anyone wth QT must be feeling bad that thay have to pay $4.99 for the same shares, InterActive Brokers are licenced and registered witjj all the necessary assurances like any other Broker and actually traded in NQ as well.

Daniel Deilgat says:

Just curious. How come Interactive Brokers is not on your list?

Aaron Broverman says:

Hi Daniel,
While I’m not the writer of this article and I didn’t ask them, I can think of a number of reasons Interactive Brokers didn’t make the list off the top of my head. While the trade experience at Interactive Brokers is rated highly and there are many options as far as how you can invest and in what, the usability leaves something to be desired, They’ve only started making their platform easier to use recently and in my opinion, they still have further to go compared to other online brokers on this list. I would say though that the major knock against them is the cost. There seems to be a cost to everything and their fees are quite high compared to other brokers on this list. Also a factor is the fact that even though they operate in Canada, most of their press and attention comes from the U.S. Interactive Brokers is also based in the U.S. and Greedyrates is a Canadian site. Since Canada is a small part of Interactive Brokers operation, the firm is a small fish here, at least when compared to the other candidates on this list. Finally, the writer’s opinion is her opinion.

Sam T. says:

All these brokers are thieves IMO. Only InterActiveBrokers have the lowest fees. US stocks $0.005 per share maximum to $1, options are same, ETF buys free, the best decision I have done, paid thousands of dollars in commissions to QT, (in 2020 over $20K) and yet they are not cancelling the market data order even it was notified 3 days ahead.

Simon Joe says:

Hold & read this before you open any account with Qtrade, or you will be robbed blind as we just experienced when moving, transferring or closing your account. The fee published on its website is misleading to say the least. The real cost is much higher as we just found out in late 2020. The total fee to transfer my RRSP account was more than $500! It included $150 for CAD RRSP, plus CA$350 for USD RRSP account, even though I asked Qtrade and was told specifically “It will be $150 and it will only be charged once and not per account.” in their own online message! The USD RRSP fee includes US$150 for transferring, US$100 for closing the account, which is obviously a greedy double dip (or actually triple dip considering they said they would only charge once for all accounts), and all plus GST. This is highway robbery. Unless you want to be robbed like this, stay as far away from Qtrade.ca as possible!

Aaron Broverman says:

Oh Man, Simon. I am sorry to hear you had this experience.
Thanks for the warning to our readers. Did you ever follow-up with Qtrade and ask them why it ended up being so much after you were told and quoted otherwise? If so, what was their explanation?

Bill Stewart says:

Hi
I looked at your site because I will be receiving $500K to invest in the very near future. I am experienced at on-line investing, and will be making a limited number of dividend stock trades ….I’m trying to find out who offers the best sign-up bonus. Thanks

Aaron Broverman says:

Hi Bill,
Unfortunately investment promotions for online brokerages don’t seem to be as plentiful in Canada as they are in the u.S. with many of the best online brokerages in Canada not offering them at all. The most I was able to find was $50 in free trades from Questrade. Wealthsimple Trade also offers a $10 cash bonus. Hope that helps.

Sam T. says:

Go for Interactive Brokers, lowest commissions and fees and you can get $200 if you get someone to sign up.

Aaron Broverman says:

Hi Sam,
I can’t help but notice you push interactive brokers like you’re working for them. Inquiring minds want to know, were you paid to leave these comments? Not that Interactive Brokers is bad or anything, but this doesn’t seem like a genuine comment. You seem like a bit of a shill for them. It doesn’t seem natural.

iLevel Management Inc. says:

Really Appreciative Article. I am glad to read this article. Thanks for sharing.

Aaron Broverman says:

You’re very welcome.

John says:

I have been with Questrade since they started. Now i am getting a little tired of their ECN fees as my share trade volumes increase. They advertise if you don’t take away liquidity then there will be no ECN fee, so i do not buy or sell at market, but still get dinged for $30 to $60 each trade. Staff cannot explain how to place an order that will not incur ECN fees. Very frustrating and i am looking at transferring to another broker.

Aaron Broverman says:

Thanks for letting the readers know John. Good luck on your search.

Hamza says:

Very intersting article, thank you very much.
Question: For long time invetors, see even buy and hold forever, which one would you recommend ?
Low fees are certainly attractive, but I imagine the inactivity fees would be someting to take into consideration as well

paul says:

March 25th, 2020: I have been a customer of TD Waterhouse for many years but they are currently having extremely serious technical problems with little evidence of any progress on a solution. It’s so serious that customers have had problems with basic account access, order execution and reaching customer service by phone!

Note that TD’s problems have nothing to do with COVID-19 and the current market volatility, it’s there own web access and technical issues. I have personally lost thousands and thousands of dollars because I can’t access my own account! Please do not even consider doing business with this company as you are risking the loss of significant amounts of money.

See the other posts, on various websites, describing TD Waterhouse’s problems…

Dave says:

I use RBC Direct Investing. Unfortunately, getting an account opened at RBC Direct Investing can be a month or more long QUEST of ‘on hold for 70min’ phone calls – I’m on my fourth now after I was promised my account would be open three weeks ago in the next 24hrs. So, I called again a week later and was promised it would be open in the next 24hrs. So, I called again a week later and was promised it would be open in the next 24hrs. They advertise 24hr account opening, so I wonder if this is just something they’re supposed to say? I’ve been a client since 1977!!! They have all my info. Ridiculous. I’m thinking it’s easier to start fresh with TD Waterhouse at this point. Save yourself the administrative burden/headache and check out one of the top brokerages on this list. RBC Direct Investing admin is DREADFUL!!! What if there was an emergency and prompt responses were required? Not from RBC Direct Investing, I’ll tell you that much!

Bianca says:

Something must have changed at RBC Direct Investing, I opened an account on online this week, it was easy and ready to go in less than 2 days. I’m brand new to online trading, so the video tutorials were very helpful and the research insight is greatly appreciated for a newbie like me!

Aaron Broverman says:

Glad you liked it Bianca. Hopefully this article helped you make an informed choice.