BMO Investorline Review 2022

BMO Investorline Review
  • Trading Fees and Pricing
  • Account Options
  • Customer Service
  • Platform Options
  • Overall Banking Convenience
  • Promotional Offers
3.8

BMO Investorline Review Summary:

While BMO Investorline makes our list of the Best Canadian online brokers, it doesn’t take the top spot.

If you’re the type of person that needs to have their mortgage, savings account, and investment brokerage all in one place, you could do a lot worse than BMO.

If you want to compare with our top pick, read through this BMO Investorline review and then check out our in-depth Qtrade review. We’ve got you covered on BMO Investorline fees, features, ETF trades, and more.

Pros

  • Best bank-owned broker
  • 80+ Free ETFs
  • Strong app
  • Trust and reputation of 200+ years
  • Great consumer education

Cons

  • Higher fees than discount brokerages such as Qtrade or Questrade
  • More suited towards large portfolios

BMO InvestorLine is excellent for large portfolios, but with high trading fees and no welcome bonus it falls behind in the race for Canada’s Best Broker.

See Other, Better Rated Online Brokers in Canada

Is BMO Investorline Safe and Trusted?

In a word, YES.

As one of Canada’s oldest and most trusted companies (founded in 1817) the Bank of Montreal is as safe, trusted, and legit as you can get. 

InvestorLine has been around longer than the internet – BMO introduced self-directed trading way back in 1988 before moving online in 2000. That’s an impressive history!

BMO InvestorLine is IIROC regulated and CIPF insured. They use 128-bit encryption and multi-factor user authentication to keep your data safe. While any online financial transaction has some risk, BMO is as safe as they get.

BMO InvestorLine Review – Mobile App & Software

BMO has a strong online platform that’s convenient and simple to use. Its mobile app ranked the highest of the big banks in our list of the Best Stock Trading Apps in Canada

The online platform’s dashboard is streamlined and easy to navigate, but still gives you access to all the tools you need. It’s also extremely customizable, meaning you can hide any tools or features that you’re not interested in seeing regularly. This is a great feature for novice investors or people with simple portfolio needs. 

The MDJ editorial team appreciates the ability to get a bird’s eye view of a portfolio on a single screen. This allows users to better understand their asset allocation and make important investment decisions that can help them meet their goals faster. 

For the more research-inclined, the BMO platform also gives users access to plenty of industry-leading tools and market data. 

The mobile app offers flexibility and convenience. Users report that it’s slightly less comprehensive than the online platform, but it gets the job done. Making trades and moving your money is easy, quick, and secure.

BMO Investorline Free ETF Trading – $0 Commissions

In June 2021, BMO became the first of the big bank brokerages to offer a list of ETFs that are completely free to trade (providing that you hold on to them for at least one day).

This has turned out to be a real game-changer as far as offering value to discount brokerage customers, with other banks such as Scotia iTrade and Desjardins joining in the fun. Qtrade and NBDB also offer completely free buying AND selling of ETFs, with Questrade offering free ETF purchases only.

Sometimes when a bank offers free trades on ETFs, they mean free trades on their own ETFs (looking at you, TD Easy Trade). But there’s no bait and switch when it comes to BMO’s commission-free ETFs, which has some excellent names on the list. My personal favourites include:

  • VCN – Vanguard FTSE Canada All-Cap Index ETF
  • VFV – Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF US 
  • VIU – Vanguard FTSE Developed All -Cap   ex-North America Index ETF 
  • VAB – CA Vanguard Canadian Aggregate Bond Index ETF
  • All of the Vanguard and BMO all-in-one-ETFs are available
  • Several ESG index ETFs are available 

It is excellent to see that creating ultra-diversified, super-simple portfolios just keeps getting cheaper and cheaper for Canadians!

Day traders should remember that the trades are only free if you hold onto the ETF in question for at least 24 hours.

BMO Works Best for Large Portfolios

The BMO InvestorLine 5 Star Program is the bank’s lure for high net-worth individuals and/or active traders. Most of Canada’s discount brokerages have some version of this break for top-tier investors.  

The 5 Star Program doesn’t cost anything – users are automatically enrolled if they meet the eligibility requirement: a $250,000 account balance or at least 15 trades in a 3-month span. Here’s a look at the perks that you’ll enjoy at all three levels:

Diamond Star

($5M+ OR 180+ trades per quarter)

Gold Star

($250,000+ OR 15-74 trades per quarter)

Platinum Star

(2M+ OR 75-179 trades per quarter)

Discounts

5-15%

10-20%

20%

Dedicated Exclusive Customer Support

BMO Market Pro Lite (real-time market quotes)

BMO Market Pro (real time Level 2 quotes)

Capital Markets TSX 60 Research

Exclusive IPO Allocation Options

Access to Private Banking Options

The basic idea of BMO’s 5 Star Program is that if you generate substantial trading fees or have a large amount of money invested with BMO, you’ll get a small break on the $9.95 fee, and you’ll get access to some elite trading information streams, plus portfolio analysis, custom watchlist updating and so on.

With over 12 Million worldwide customers and nearly $900 Billion in assets managed, BMO certainly has the resources to compete with the features that any other Canadian brokerage account brings to the table.

BMO Investorline Review: Trading Fees and Prices

When we look at BMO Investorline’s Self-Directed trading and account fees, it’s important to keep in mind that major Canadian banks such as BMO and their competitors over at RBC, Scotia Bank, CIBC, and TD, aren’t trying to offer the cheapest products on the market. Instead, the general aim of their products is to be cost-competitive, but to prioritize the following:

  • Ultra-safe products backed up by centuries of banking experience.
  • A large customer service and technology team.
  • Elite usability and design.
  • Maximum user customization options.

BMO Investorline Self-Directed Account Fees

While there are no minimum deposits needed to open a BMO InvestorLine Self-Directed account and get started, you’ll be charged quarterly account fees of $25 if your non-registered account balance is under $15,000 or if your registered accounts are under $25,000. 

Obviously if you open an account and deposit more than these amounts you will not owe any account fees at all.

BMO Investorline Self-Directed Trading Fees

When it comes to Investorline’s trading fees, you will pay a flat $9.95 fee per trade when you buy or sell stocks. No matter how many shares you buy or sell, this transparent fee will be applied. 

Say you build your portfolio out of stocks only, keep $25,000 in your TFSA and RRSP account, and make 20 trades per year. You would avoid the account fee but rack up $199/year in trading fees.

That’s significantly pricier than a discount broker like Qtrade or Questrade – but you do have the advantage of the BMO name, information resources, and customer service. For some people it’s worth the trade-off.

After that example, you can see why BMO’s offer of 80+ commission-free ETFs is a huge step forward – because ETFs used to incur the same fees. Now, if you build your portfolio out of ETFs that are eligible for commission-free trading, you can skip the commission fees altogether (as long as you hold onto any specific ETF for at least 24 hours between buying and selling). 

With a portfolio of approved ETFs and $25,000 in a TFSA and RRSP, you would pay…nothing. No account fees, no trading fees. That’s an impressive offer.

Note: There are no ECN fees when using BMO InvestorLine

BMO Investorline Self-Directed Options Trading Fees

Personally, options trading isn’t a part of my investment portfolio, but if you’re into the adrenaline rush of shorts, hedging, etc., then Investorline is going to charge $9.95 per trade + $1.25 per contract. This is the standard rate across all of Canada’s large banks.

BMO Investorline Account Types: TFSA, RRSP, Non-Registered

As one of Canada’s top online brokers, BMO Investorline gives you access to essentially every type of investable account in Canada, including:

  • Non-registered accounts (both CAD and USD)
  • Margin Accounts
  • RRSP (both CAD and USD)
  • Spousal RRSPs
  • TFSA (both CAD and USD)
  • RESP
  • RRIF
  • Spousal RRIFs
  • LIF
  • LIRA
  • Corporate Accounts
  • Non-Profit Organization Accounts
  • Estates and Formal Trust Accounts

This is one advantage of a big bank platform: you might pay more in commissions to use BMO InvestorLine Self-Direct, but you’re going to absolutely have access to all of the accounts that you could ask for as a Canadian investor. And again, if you go with ETFs from their commission-free trading list, you’re not even paying more at all.

BMO Investorline Review: What Is adviceDirect?

We’ll take a deeper dive into the unique service known as AdviceDirect in a separate review, but we thought we’d mention it here briefly. 

AdviceDirect is a nice little mid-point between a full-service financial advisor model, and a completely hands-off DIY product. 

If you want the flexibility and responsibility of using a discount brokerage to manage your own investments, but also feel that you could use some help in selecting specific investments or staying on top of your portfolio, then you may want to look closely at the BMO adviceDirect account.

AdviceDirect’s services include: 

  • Automated portfolio monitoring
  • Unique information flows
  • Exclusive investor education options
  • A dedicated team of licensed financial advisors

As active investing goes, a premium service like adviceDirect is a solid choice. It gives you access to financial experts – at a much lower price point than traditional mutual fund channels. The MER on mutual funds is usually about 2.5%, while adviceDirect is only 0.75%, with a maximum fee cap per year. That’s an excellent value.

BMO InvestorLine and BMO adviceDirect may complement one another, but they’re two separate products with different applications and services. So while you definitely do NOT need to subscribe to adviceDirect in order to use the BMO InvestorLine brokerage, it could possibly be a better option depending on your experience level and desire for expert support.

You can sign up to adviceDirect by clicking the button below. Make sure you use MDJ’s unique promo code ADMDJ to get between $500 and $2500 credited to your account.

BMO InvestorLine Review FAQ

Who Is the BMO InvestorLine Discount Broker Best for?

If you’re willing to put up with higher fees, worse customer service, and a choppier user experience – in order to get all of your financial life under one roof – then BMO Investorline is a great “Big Bank” choice.

We’ll take Qtrade or Questrade every time in an overall comparison, but BMO has certainly made the competition closer with their 80+ commission-free ETFs.

For more broker analysis like this BMO Investorline review, make sure to check out our Ultimate guide to Canadian Online Brokers.

FT

FT 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.
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Andrew
1 year ago

Being a BMO investorline client I am generally pleased. Their platforms are pretty good but could some additional data such as what is your Div rate on shares you have held for years.
Biggest issue is they don’t offer a drip on all Cad shares which is a pain. Also they do not drip any US equity. (Synthetic DRIP at BMO)

Freeman
4 years ago

I have tried quite a number of different vendors over the years, ameritrade, e-trade, price waterhouse, option express, questrade to name a few, finally settle down with InvestorLine. Here are my 2 cents.
Individual brokers tends to have lower commissions than the bank owned ones, however, they charge ecn fees. No big deal if you only buying 100 shares. But if you are like me, buying in the lot of 2000-5000 shares or more, the advertised $4.95 commission (questrade) will quickly turn into $20+, substantially higher than any bank.
The second reason I switched to InvestorLine was that I have grown my portfolio to 500,000 since, I can now access the market Pro feature which basically live data. You will need to be a frequent trader or pay a substantial fee with companies like questrade.
That being said, you definitely should stay with the individual brokers if you have a small portfolio, to avoid account fees.
As far as customer service, there are always bad apples regardless companies. I’m not happy with InvestorLine, so is questrade, and I don’t think there is much difference between all these brokers. The key is to set up everything properly so you can minimize the chance of calling for support. After all, these online brokers are all for diy.

Dave
4 years ago

Stay away from Investorline. Make sure you read the contract very carefully. They change terms without notifying you and their customer service is non-existent. You can literally be on hold for hours before speaking to someone and in this day and age they can’t even give you an indication of how the long the wait will be? Honestly, check out TD. Talk to people – they will tell you the same thing. BMO is not customer focused and does not value your business- look elsewhere

Nevin
5 years ago

I use both BMO Investorline and RBC Direct. While they both have their strengths and weaknesses, and while BMO does have some good research tools, BMO is simply terrible with customer service and with outside resources such as morningstar giving just as good analysis as what’s offered in the platform, I would say this should be a defining red flag issue.

Jess @ Best Credit Cards Canada
7 years ago

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.

The Follower
7 years ago

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.

BeSmartRich
7 years ago

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!

BeSmartRich

BeSmartRich
7 years ago
Reply to  FT

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?

Thanks!

BeSmartRich

BeSmartRich
7 years ago
Reply to  FT

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!

BeSmartRich

Gail Bebee
7 years ago

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.

Gail Bebee
7 years ago
Reply to  FT

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.
Gail

Peter Ally
7 years ago

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 :-)

gail
7 years ago
Reply to  FT

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.