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BMO InvestorLine Review

Discount brokerages are a popular topic on this blog especially where I have compared the major online brokers against each other. The truth is that I have a number of discount brokerage accounts, Questrade, CIBC Investors Edge, Scotia iTrade and Interactive Brokers.  Not to forget a TD Mutual funds account for our family RESPs.

I am looking to simplify, but instead, I opened a new account with a different discount broker for my corporate trading account.  As my small business account is with BMO, I decided to keep my corporate assets with the same bank so I opened a trading account with BMO InvestorLine.  To my defense, I am in the process of closing my Interactive Brokers account as I don’t trade with that account anymore.

To focus on BMO InvestorLine, what has my experience been like thus far?  How does it compare to other discount brokers out there for Canadians?  Lets take a look under the hood.

Trading Fees

The online brokerage space is very competitive when it comes to trading fees.  Most of the big banks charge around $9-$10/trade and BMO is in that camp with $9.95 trading commissions.  Brokerages that have lower than average trading fees include CIBC Investors Edge, Questrade, Virtual Brokers and Interactive Brokers.

Maintenance Fees

  • Non-registered accounts, the fee is $25/quarter if your account balance is under $10,000.  This fee is waived if you make at least two trades every six months and/or you have a registered account with BMO.
  • RRSP (assume TFSA as well?), the fee is $100/year for balances less than $25,000.
  • RESP, the fee is $50/year for balances less than $25,000.

I’m not a fan of these fees. If you are just starting your investing journey, you may be better off starting off with a brokerage like Questrade (requires $5,000 to avoid fees), then switching over later as your balance grows.

Foreign Exchange

This is where BMO shines if you are willing to perform Norberts Gambit.  This strategy minimizes the cost to move money from one currency to another.  Typically, foreign exchange with a discount broker can cost you 1% to 2.5% surcharge depending on the broker.

The issue is that not all discount brokers are Norbert Gambit friendly.  This strategy involves buying an interlisted stock on one exchange and selling on the other.  The trick is that when you buy the stock on one exchange, the stock needs to be “journalled” to the other exchange so that it can be sold in the local currency.

Most discount brokers require that you call the trading desk to journal shares from one currency to another, but BMO InvestorLine is an exception where it will automatically journal your shares once you sell in your desired currency.

I understand that this can be a little complicated, so here is a detailed article on the process.


One aspect of BMO InvestorLine that is head and shoulders above other accounts that I have is the research that they offer.  They offer research from MorningStar, analyst ratings, and S&P top picks.  I use this feature on occasion to get details on specific company risks.   In addition, they offer news and reports for your specific holdings which is a feature that I appreciate.


Another strong suit of BMO InvestorLine is their reporting abilities.  Within the trading platform, users have the ability to view portfolio performance from previous years, current year to date, and benchmarked against major indices. Activity reports and eStatements can go back multiple years with an intuitive interface.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I can see why BMO InvestorLine consistently ranks highly against other discount brokerages.  They have competitive trading fees, the ability to auto journal your interlisted shares for cheap foreign exchange via Norbert’s Gambit, useful performance reporting, and relevant research.

The downside of this account is similar to other big bank brokerages, and that is the balance required to avoid annual fees.  If you are just starting out, to minimize these fees, it may be best to start with a company like Questrade which have lower balance requirements.  Then, if you must go with a big bank online broker, switch when your account size is larger.

If you are thinking about signing up, BMO usually offers sizable promotions, so wait until they offer a decent cash back incentive before taking the plunge.

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FrugalTrader About the author: FrugalTrader is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Peter Ally August 17, 2015, 1:34 pm

    I switched all my accounts with BMO Investorline (Margin, RSP, LIF and TFSA) about 2 years ago. I was please with their service and research material, but I was “very” pleased when they included a beautiful real-time platform, called BMO Market Pro. That tool is incredible! You can see all your accounts in one place, trade any stocks, ETFs, options of forex instruments.

    But above all, for technical analysts, the charting platform is awesome.

    I’m not payed by BMO, I’m just a retired guy trying to become the next guy in the milliondollarjourney saga :-)

    • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader August 18, 2015, 3:54 pm

      Thanks for your feedback Peter. Is there an account size minimum to access BMO market pro?

      • gail August 28, 2015, 5:04 pm

        To answer yr question to Peter Ally, yes, u have to be a Gold account holder to have access to the BMO market Pro. Also you can group all your individual accounts under one umbrella so that those under minimum amount can have their fees waved.

  • Gail Bebee August 18, 2015, 12:01 am

    Another feature I like, BMO Investorline (unlike RBC Direct Investing) offers mutual funds from fund companies with low fees and decent performance such as Mawer, Leith Wheeler and Steadyhand. If you want no effort investing and good returns, you can own what I think is the best all-in-one mutual fund in Canada – the Mawer Balanced Fund.

    • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader August 18, 2015, 8:47 am

      Thanks for stopping by Gail. Thanks for adding to the review, I’m not a big mutual fund investor but I do like the TD e-series and the Tangerine funds. Have you compared Mawer to Tangerine?

      • Gail Bebee August 26, 2015, 2:45 pm

        Hi Frugal Trader,
        In my personal finance course, I use the Tangerine Funds as examples of cheap all-in-one funds with different risk levels. I also mention the Mawer Fund which I will take any day over Tangerine based on lower MER 0.96 vs.1.07% and better performance: Mawer 5 yr return to Aug 25, is 12.17%, Tangerine Balanced is 8.51%. The limitation: Mawer requires a $5,000 minimum investment which can be a bit high for those just getting started.

  • BeSmartRich August 18, 2015, 3:27 pm

    Hi Frugal trader,

    Quick question, what are your major reasons why you want to close your interactive broker account? I have read your interactive broker 2015 update posting, by the way. I am asking that as I am thinking of opening interactive broker account to take advantage of their inexpensive margin. If that’s not too attractive and if there are some hassles that I should know before pull the trigger, please let me know. Thanks! Just wanted to let you know that I am a big fan of you and your blog. Keep up the great work!


    • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader August 18, 2015, 3:53 pm

      Thanks for the kind feedback. IB is a great platform, I just don’t use it anymore. I initially signed up for a trading account, now I’m trying to move most of my personal accounts under one discount broker (even if trading fees are higher). Personally, I think the biggest benefit of IB is the FX conversion. Basically spot rate.

      • BeSmartRich August 18, 2015, 4:43 pm

        Thanks for the quick response.
        Was there any inconvenience of using IB in terms of transferring funds?
        What would be your feedback on their margin account or managing accounts in general?



        • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader August 18, 2015, 8:18 pm

          No real problem with transferring funds. However, there may be a delay if you transfer funds from one currency and transfer out in another. In terms of margin, one thing to be weary of is if you become underwater. IB will liquidate assets automatically without any judgement to make sure your account stays onside.

          While IB has pretty advanced security features (electronic token etc), I actually find them to be a bit of a nuisance. Also, their trading platform isn’t intuitive for newbies.

          • BeSmartRich August 18, 2015, 8:41 pm

            Thanks so much FrugalTrader. One thing that I really like is their low margin rate and I hope to leave the account open to take advantage in case of major correction in the future (if any…). I may just stick to my TD direct investing account for now to keep my investing activities simple just as you said :) Thanks again!


  • The Follower August 20, 2015, 6:37 pm

    Just to clarify, there is likely no fee for the TFSA account as you were questioning. Every brokerage I’ve seen charges an annual fee only for RRSP accounts, usually if the balance is under $25,000.

  • Jess @ Best Credit Cards Canada August 27, 2015, 9:16 pm

    My husband and I both use Questrade. And while I find it a huge pain to set up my various accounts, now that they are set and we are trading, we’re very happy with it. I think the major perk is the low cost! Interesting to hear about one of the Top 5’s brokerage units.

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