≡ Menu

Canadian Online Discount Stock Brokerage Comparison 2015

Notice: Although this Canadian online stock brokerage review/comparison is dated back to Dec 2006, the information below is updated regularly.

Are stock trading commissions eating away at your profits (or increasing your losses)? Ticked off at paying at least $29/trade at one of the big bank discount brokerages? Well there are some new players in town! They are MUCH cheaper and offer similar features. Who are we talking about? From my research, there are a number major (cheap) discount brokerages in Canada that are worth mentioning which include: E-Trade (now i-trade), Virtual Brokers, Qtrade, Interactive Brokers, and Questrade (voted #1 by Million Dollar Journey Readers).

As an update and side note, almost all discount brokerages are very competitive with low trading fees (under $10/trade).  In addition to trading fees, keep an eye on annual maintenance fees if you are below the minimum balance, and especially foreign exchange fees.  Most discount brokers will hide the fee in the exchanged amount.

Lets do a little table comparing all the features (last update January 4, 2015):

Broker RRSP / TFSA Mutual Funds USD RRSP Commission Comm Free ETFs Fees DRIP
Scotia i-Trade (formerly e-trade) Yes/ Yes Yes No (offer reduced FX rates) $24.99 or $9.99 /trade with $50k in assets or 30+ trades /quarter, $4.99/trade with 150+ trades /quarter Yes (select group) $25/ quarter for low activity. $0 if balance > $25k, $30/ quarter for US friendly RRSP. Yes
IB Yes/ Yes No Yes Min $1 /USD trade. Max 0.5% of trade value ($0.005/ share)Min $1/CAD trade. Max 0.5% of trade value ($0.01 / share) No $10 USD/ mo (only if you don’t trade $10 worth of commissions/mo, waived if $100k USD balance), $50/year annual RRSP fee.  Min $10k to open an account. No
Questrade Yes/ Yes Yes Yes $4.95 for up to 495 shares ($9.95 max), $9.95 per mutual fund trade. ETFs are free to buy, reg commission to sell. Yes (only when buying, selling is regular comm) $0, but $19.95/ quarter if balance < $5k Yes
BMO Investor Line Yes/ Yes Yes Yes $9.95/ trade no minimum balance No $100 / yr if less than $25k balance Yes
RBC Direct Investing Yes/ Yes Yes Yes $9.95/ trade no minimum balance, $6.95/ trade if 150+ trades / quarter No $25 / quarter if less than $15k balance Yes
CIBC Investors Edge Yes/ Yes Yes No (offer FX at spot rate within RRSP and TFSA) $6.95/ trade no minimum balance No $125 / yr if under $25k balance Yes
Credential Direct Yes/ Yes Yes No $8.88 / trade No None ?
TD Direct Investing Yes/ Yes Yes Yes $9.99/ trade no minimum balance, $7/ trade if 150+ trades / quarter. No $100 / yr if under $25k balance Yes
QTrade Yes/ Yes Yes Yes $8.75/ trade or $6.95/ trade if assets > $500k Yes (select group) $100/ yr admin fee if under $25k balance, $60/ yr for USD RRSP Yes
Virtual Brokers Yes/ Yes Yes Yes Three options; 1) $0.01/share with cap of $9.99. 2) ETFs are free to buy, $0.01/share to sell min of $0.99/trade. 3) $6.49/ trade + ECN fees Yes (only when buying, selling is regular comm) $50/ yr if under $15k balance, $50/ yr for USD RRSP  Yes*

Due to popular demand, below is the foreign exchange fee/spread charged by each of the brokerages to convert your CAD->foreign currency.

Brokerage Forex Fee/Spread (each way)
E-Trade 1.5% (not confirmed)
IB 0.01% + 2.50USD
Questrade 1.99%
BMO 0.90%
TDW 1.40%
BNS ~1%
CIBC 0.01% (approximately spot rate within RRSP/ TFSA)
RY ~1%
Qtrade 1.75% for < $10k, 1.60% for > $10k but < $25k
Virtual Brokers 0.75%

As you can see from the charts, there is no perfect brokerage that would suit everyone. However, there are some general guidelines:

  • If you are looking for a USD RRSP, for larger accounts (>$50k), I like RBC Direct Investing for USD RRSPs.  With a larger balance they offer relatively low trading commissions, no fees, and automatic journaling of shares (for the DLR/DLR.U trick) .  For smaller accounts, Questrade offers the best product.  With a small balance (greater than $5k), they offer no fees, ultra low commissions, commission free ETFs, and journaling of shares via online chat. Here is my Questrade Review that I’ve written.
  • If you want to keep everything in CAD, CIBC Investors Edge now charges very close to spot rate when buying USD stocks (but maintained in CAD).  This simply means that you don’t need to mess around with journaling etc to save money when converting CAD to USD.
  • For long term index investors who use ETFs only, then Questrade likely offers the best overall product.  No commission on buying ETFs, and a no fee USD RRSP for US based ETFs.
  • If you are looking for an RRSP account to invest in mutual funds, then you have 3 options, big bank, E-Trade, or Questrade (additional fee applies).
  • If you’re looking for an RRSP account (with little interest in mutual funds) that has no fees, low minimum deposit, low commissions and you trade less than 790 shares at a time and LESS THAN 50 trades/year, then Questrade is your best bet.
  • If you’re looking for an RRSP account but with a larger balance and typically trade greater than 790 shares at a time and MORE THAN 50 trades/year, then CIBC Investors Edge is best.
  • If you’re looking for a non-registered trading account with ridiculously low commissions and margin interest, then Interactive Brokers is a no brainer. There is a $10USD / month minimum fee with IB which means that if you spend less than $10USD in commissions in a month, they will charge the difference to your account. For example, if you spend $6 USD (6 USD trades) in commissions in a month, they will charge you an extra $4 USD. These monthly fees are tax deductible. IB also offers extremely cheap currency exchange. The biggest downside of IB is that you have to pay for your real time data. I use IB for my trading and my big bank brokerage for my real time quotes.
  • There is one feature that I like a lot about big bank brokerages and that is FREE dividend re-investments (DRIP). For example, if you buy enough shares of CIBC to pay you $100 in dividends / quarter (enough for 1 share), you can set it up so that your brokerage will automatically purchase more shares of the same company with the dividend payout.

I personally use a big bank for my RRSP and Interactive brokers for my non-registered trading account. I’m sticking with my big bank for now because of the free DRIP. Update Jan 10/07: E-Trade AND Questrade now offer free DRIP!

There you have it! A simple review of some of the discount brokerage options out there. I believe that it’s only a matter of time before the big bank brokerages start reducing their fees. In the mean time, look at your personal situation and see if any of the companies listed in my review suit you. You can potentially save a substantial amount of money.

If you are interested in stock trading, here are some free online stock trading tools that I have used and recommend.

Update Nov 2013: Lately, I’ve been more focused on reducing my forex charges which can add up over time.  This is especially the case when buying US stocks within a Canadian based RRSP.  To save on these fees, I wrote an article rating the top discount brokers that offer USD RRSPs.  For ETF index investors, a discount broker that offers commission free ETFs is a way to reduce trading fees when rebalancing and/or adding to the account.  Here is a review of discount brokers that offer commission free ETFs.

Update Feb 15/07: As you can see, I’ve added CIBC to the chart. With their new commission structure, you get 50 trades for $395/year. This works out to be around $7.90/trade with no limit to the number of shares you can buy. After the 50 trades are up, it gets even cheaper, $6.95/trade. What I REALLY like about this structure is that you can purchase the same stock as MANY times as you like during the day, and you’ll only be charged for 1 trade. The same applies for selling, you can sell the same stock as many times as you want during the day and be charged for only 1 trade. This still may not be the lowest cost solution for the small time investor, but once you start making bigger trades, CIBC has the lowest trading fee of all brokerages in Canada.. I commend CIBC for taking the initiative that the other big banks have not taken, that is to reduce trading fees for Canadians.

Update Feb 23, 2007: I have opened a new RRSP account with Questrade.

Update June 25, 2007: Here is a detailed Interactive Brokers Review.

Update July 10, 2007: Here is a CIBC Investors Edge Review.

Update July 17, 2007: Canadian Capitalist has written a review of RBC Direct Investing.

Update July 19, 2007: Here is a detailed E*Trade Canada Review (now i-trade).

Update July 23, 2007: Canadian Capitalist has written a review of TD Waterhouse.

Update Aug 7, 2007: Canadian Capitalist has written a review of BMO Investorline.

Update: Jan 2, 2007: IB now requires a minimum initial deposit of $10,000USD to open an account.

Update: April 8, 2008: We’ve written a review of TradeFreedom discount brokerage.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

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.

{ 440 comments… add one }

  • Nikolai February 23, 2015, 9:16 pm

    I have discovered an interesting thing about IB today. I have noticed that they now have iOS (and Android) apps for generating the login challenge responses. This eliminates the need for the smart card. I was able to activate it for two accounts without any issues.

    I have to say – these guys are really serious about the account security, something I like a lot.

    I am wondering how do they announce all these features? I do not remember receiving any emails from them – neither about RRSP/TFSA back in December, not about this security feature…

  • sunny February 23, 2015, 11:16 pm

    Hello,
    Has anyone ever seen such problem in tax filing?
    I am facing some trouble about reporting capital gain/ loss from investment in publicly traded shares. Individual tax filing has schedule 3 and T5008 that needs to be completed. After completing that I found entries from T5008 have added up in schedule 3 , making all figures appear twice than they were.
    I can call software developer. But I do not know if this is an error in program or should I use T5008 for 2014 tax year and cover the rest of gain/ loss of prior years in schedule 3? In that way it will not double.
    My question is: Why is there a duplication of data required and whether should I report in schedule 3 and in T5008 as well, and what about figures that are doubled. I am using Tax Studio as software.
    thanks

  • Nikolai February 27, 2015, 11:34 pm

    Interactive Brokers platform does not seem to be that stable….Right now I am facing some quite scary problems – all my positions have disappeared, I see only cash #8-(). Hopefully they resolve it soon. If they do some sort of maintenance – then they do it quire carelessly.

  • Nikolai March 3, 2015, 11:27 am

    One important tip for TD Waterhouse customers who transfer their accounts out of TDW. Once the account is transferred out they block your access to the account history. So, you lose all the online statements and confirmations for this account. Not too bad for registered accounts (unless you track your investments carefully as I do) but definitely a big issue for cash/margin accounts. Without some statements and confirmations you won’t be able to properly calculate ACB for tax purposes. Not to mention that sometimes they reclassify the dividends 1-2 year backwards…

    Better to download everything before moving the account + take the snapshot of the recent account history.

  • Rob March 6, 2015, 2:14 am

    As per the last message from Nikolai. Same thing happens to RBC Direct Investing. Once the account is transferred it disappears from RBC. You lose stetements, confirmations, etc
    FYI

  • Imtiaz March 8, 2015, 2:09 pm

    I have been a virtual brokers customer for more than 3 years and I would not recommend anyone to be with them. They have a horrible customer service. I was first of all charged US TFSA fees for two years 2013 and 2014 together in 2014. When I asked them why they said they forgot to charge it 2013. Second, I requested them to close my account and they said the interest charges are not charged yet. It took them 3 months to charge interest for one month and my account close request is still not processed. This has been the worst experience I have had with of the brokerages I have since 14 years of investing in Canada, Dont be fooled by their low commissions.

  • Nikolai March 12, 2015, 11:21 am

    Just discovered another little hiccup with IBC. I have noticed that one of my account transfers (to IBC) got stuck for too long. Tried to get some information from them…finally after two chat sessions I was told that they have a problem on their side with one of the securities that I have – STX (Seagate Technologies). It is “not set up correctly” in their database. Hmmm…Interesting. Hopefully they will fix it soon.

    As an paranoid IT person, all these troubles lead to one concern that started having recently – can we really trust our brokers 100%? Did it happen to anybody to lose a position (or part of it) because of a software bug? Honestly, I have no idea about how the broker’s backends and books are organized. Certainly, any software has bugs but some bugs are worse than others ;)

  • Tax_help March 12, 2015, 12:16 pm

    Does anyone know for Tax purposes under IB we simply fill out book value and disposition amounts in T5008 with the form IB provides? We don’t have to report based on trades right? The total figures should suffice?

  • Nikolai March 12, 2015, 4:43 pm

    @Tax_help

    I have found absolutely identical question here: http://canadianmoneyforum.com/showthread.php/11532-T5008-Interactive-Brokers-1%29-Aggregate-totals-2%29-trading-vs-investing-T123

    Personally I never entered individual stocks. I always do my own spreadsheets and always report complete amounts. At the end, I know that even if CRA challenges my numbers – I am right as long as there is no additional tax due. So, if you have 4 times $250 capital gain or you report $1000 capital gain – same thing.

    Also I never trust any forms from the brokers. From the mutual funds – yes, because only they have the raw data. I verify all the numbers the broker provides, I calculate the ACB according to the original trade confirmations and distributions (anyway, brokers do no track the things like ROC and reinvested dividends, for example). It is time-consuming and I am yet to find the best way to handle it, but at the end I am confident in my numbers.

  • Nikolai March 12, 2015, 4:46 pm

    @Tax_help

    …also, if you read the T5008 description it clearly says:

    “Box 20 – The amount in box 20 may or may not reflect your adjusted cost base (ACB) for the purpose of determining the gain or loss from the disposition of the security. You are required to make the adjustments, as needed, to the amount indicated in box 20, at the time of determining and reporting your gain or loss from the disposition.”

    and

    “This information slip does not have to be attached to your income tax return, but you have to keep it in case the CRA requests it.”

    To me this means that it is provided for reference purposes. As always, you may be asked to justify your numbers and you’d better be prepared to do so with the statements and trade confirmations in your hand.

  • John March 14, 2015, 8:32 am

    Thank you Nikolai – links/answers are very helpful

  • sunny March 15, 2015, 1:34 am

    @ Nikolai, @Tax_help
    I read your comment on MF, and ACB.
    Your broker sends a report every year for tax purposes, they carry out ACB calculation taking into consideration the reinvested dividend, apparently by using computer program (for their thousands of clients). Individual calculation would be very difficult. You may verify this.
    I do not want to boast but this year I entered almost 125 entries in CRA tax filing. It is not difficult, just little time consuming. Looking at report CRA knows it all.

  • Nikolai March 15, 2015, 11:44 am

    @sunny

    Maybe I misunderstood you, but when I was talking about the MF, I was saying that with MF you do not have a choice but to trust the MF reports, and that’s fine because: a) they are all Canadian anyway b) they take responsibility for these tax materials. For individual stocks and ETFs it is a different story. For example, U.S. ETFs often do distributions that are not just plain and simple dividends – they have ROC and reinvested dividends inside. Cannot speak for all Canadian discount brokers, but TDW was always simply taking the actual amount of distribution (before 15% US tax) in USD and providing both numbers in T3s – as foreign dividends and foreign tax paid (if I remember correctly).

    TDW could also simple decide and recalculate your dividends two years backwards sometime in March or so without even telling you. The only thing you would probably notice is a slight change in the cash balance and additional entries in the account history. The latter covers only few recent transactions. I have complained to them about it but they did not care at all.

    As for CRA, I simply do not use their worksheet because it is not detailed enough. I prefer my own worksheet and I do not like the idea of spending time and moving some numbers from my worksheet to theirs. So, I think, when the time comes and they decide to question my numbers I can either give them my worksheet which has it all, or give them their worksheet – depending on what will make them happier. If they can be happy at all ;)

  • sunny March 15, 2015, 9:32 pm

    @Nikolai,
    thanks for explaining and taking time.
    I understand that.

  • Nikolai March 21, 2015, 10:03 pm

    For those who are as paranoid as me ;) when dealing with the distribution, their tax characteristics, T3s etc…Just in case you do not know – you can access the original information submitted by the trusts (like REITs etc) here: http://services.cds.ca/applications/taxforms/taxforms.nsf/Pages/-EN-LimitedPartnershipsandIncomeTrusts?Open

  • Justin March 26, 2015, 10:48 pm

    @ Nikolai

    I know you were contemplating earlier in the thread – have you opened an RRSP with IB? Any issues encountered? Doesn’t look like annual fee of $50 is avoidable.

    If I am only planning to run a couch potato, would Questrade be a better choice than IB?
    Looks like even with the $50, you break even quite fast once you become an active trader – especially transacting in USD.

    Just want an opinion on user experience before I make a decision.

    Thanks

  • Nikolai March 27, 2015, 3:19 pm

    @Justin,

    I have moved two TFSAs and one RRSP so far to IB. The only technical issue I had (not really RRSP-specific) was about Seagate stock, but IBC has resolved it quickly. Well…quickly after I pointed out that the transfer process seems to be stuck after two weeks ;)

    I look at the annual fee from different perspective. I took my last year annual statement and got the amount of commissions I have paid to TDW. Then I roughly estimated how much would I pay to IBC. Then I have realized that even factoring in the annual fee I would be saving quite a bit IF I do same amount of transactions. And since the transactions are cheaper, quite possible I will do even more – which is a direct saving. There is still a big gap between me and anything that you may call “active trader” (and this is not a goal – BTW ;) ).

    I have also tried to convert some CAD to USD and realized that with IBC’s approach you may still relatively efficiently contribute USD to RRSP. Yes, double conversion etc – but it is not anywhere as bad as with the banks ;)

    One thing I am definitely missing in IBC user interface is a quick access to the recent history of the account. With TDW I could do it in one click. With IBC it means running a query and it just displays too much data :) I suspect I will do some coding in the future to address this shortcoming.

    The main disadvantage that I see comparing to the banks is the absence of commission-free index funds. Yes, commissions are low, but still – I was successfully using TD e-Series funds for part of my portfolio, rebalancing often enough or even trying to time the market a bit. With IBC you have to stick to the ETFs. I have not done the math yet to see what is the “sweet spot” in terms of how often you would trade EFTs to achieve the same efficiency as with e-Series funds. In many EFTs the MER is lower but you pay the commission. In funds the MER is higher but there is no commission – so I am sure there is a sweet spot somewhere. I do keep part of my account in index ETFs to reduce the volatility and control how much time do I spend managing it.

    I am about to move more accounts to them, but I really need them to raise that limit of 5 accounts per “family advisor”.

  • JD April 1, 2015, 2:06 am

    The fact that IB requires a $10 more minimum consolidated commission for the placeholder family advisor master account is very unfair…

  • Nikolai April 1, 2015, 12:28 pm

    @JD,

    I totally agree. I am OK for some kind of minimum expected commission per month for real accounts with securities – there is at least bookkeeping that needs to be taken care of. Plus, it is a barrier for small clients that IB does not want to see. Maybe unfair but still acceptable. However, the fee for a dummy “umbrella” account that cannot hold any securities…that’s really unfair. I believe they should be waiving this fee.

  • Justin April 1, 2015, 12:42 pm

    @ Nikolai

    Thank you for your response

    Are you currently running a Family Adviser account? I suspect they charge minimum commissions on EACH account

    I’m not nearly as active as you but the negative reviews above this post about Questrade for the past few years I decide I will go with IB for RRSP.

  • Nikolai April 1, 2015, 12:53 pm

    @Justin,

    I am and I am slowly transferring more family accounts to IB. As I said in one of the previous posts – I simply calculated my total commissions for my existing TD Waterhouse accounts for past years, calculated what minimums I will need to pay to IB for maintaining them and estimated my transaction costs. Even if I simply keep the same (relatively inactive) transaction pattern I save quite a bit of money with IBC.

    For the calculations, they have the process outlined on one of their pages. It is a bit unclear, but briefly it is like this: they calculate the total minimums for all accounts (plus the advisor one) and compare it to total amount of commissions they collect for all of these accounts in month. If they collected more than that minimum – you are off the hook ;) If it is less – then they go account by account and charge the difference between $10 and whatever you have paid for each account. And that’s how they calculate the additional charge. Of course they skip the accounts that have 100K – they are not subject to the minimum fee.

  • Nikolai April 4, 2015, 5:52 pm

    By the way, just found something interesting about IBC…I have noticed that they have charged me a mysterious “IRA Quarterly Fee” for both TFSA accounts. Either I misunderstood something, or they were not supposed to – this fee is only mentioned for RRSP accounts. Inquiring…

  • Justin April 4, 2015, 10:23 pm

    @Nikolai

    That is interesting, please keep us updated.
    So the umbrella “advisor” account actually counts as one account but you can’t trade in it. If you linked up 3 trading accounts, you need to generate $40 minimum if instead of $30?

  • Nikolai April 5, 2015, 12:26 am

    @Justin

    Yes, the advisor account adds another $10/month to the total required commission amount linked to it.

  • Nikolai April 7, 2015, 1:11 am

    Follow-up on IBC and TFSA quarterly fees – got the answer to my ticket. “These fees were charged by mistake, they will be reversed shortly.”. Good. However, it proves, unfortunately, one very simple thing I have learned in the past from other financial institutions: trust no one. Even the banks make mistakes. I prefer to think of them as mistakes – otherwise it would be too depressing ;)

  • jxg67 April 17, 2015, 2:43 pm

    Questrade is very bad. They have ECN fee hiden. I was charge $90 in one transaction for selling 100K penny stocks. Find another broker who doesn’t have hiden fee. Otherwise you’ll regret.

  • FrugalTrader January 2, 2008, 5:37 pm

    cebolao:
    1. Brokerages change their requirements all the time. You could contact IB directly and ask them to accept the old limit since you applied before the changes. However, with that said, if you’re with IB to strictly trade stocks, $10k isn’t a lot of initial money to start with. IB is covered under CIPF which guarantees your account up to $1 million in case IB goes belly up. When researching brokerages, make sure they have CIPF protection (all in the table are covered by CIPF).

    2. Other than looking at CIPF (http://www.cipf.ca/) protection, i’m not sure what other source you could use. Do some searching and you may find other reviews.

    I like IB for their extremely cheap commissions, forex spreads along with their login security (key fob). The biggest downside is that if you don’t trade, they charge you a min fee. I’m also with Questrade which charges a bit more / trade $4.95, but no minimum.

Leave a Comment

Pinterest
Email
Print