Desjardins Review (2022 Update – Free ETFs + Stock Trading)

Desjardins Brokerage Review
  • Online Fees and Pricing
  • Account Options
  • Customer Service
  • User Friendly Platform & App
  • Inactivity Fees and ETFs
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Desjardins Review Summary:

Desjardins Online Brokerage, aka Disnat, was one of the first discount brokerages in Canada and continues to have its fans. However, its overall performance is less than impressive when compared to Canada’s best online brokers.

Disnat was awarded a “C+ rating” by Rob Carrick in the latest breakdown of Canada’s best discount brokerages for the Globe & Mail. Desjardins’s addition of free ETF and stock trading gave them a boost from their previous “C” grade, but their platform and app still keep them from being a true contender in our books.

Our Desjardins Online Brokerage Review will give you the scoop on this veteran DIY broker. We’ll give you all the details and show you how its fees compare to Questrade and Qtrade, our most recommended online brokers.

By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll have a good idea of whether you should keep Disnat on your list of brokers to consider—or whether you’ll be better off looking elsewhere.

Pros

  • All major account types available
  • Free ETF trading
  • Better fees for young investors
  • No commission on ETFs, stocks, and most mutual funds
  • Plenty of perks such as events and training sessions

Cons

  • Quarterly inactivity fees
  • Lack of educational tools and resources
  • Outdated platform and buggy mobile app

Desjardins isn’t our recommended broker, there are simply much better ones out there.

View Alternative, Better Rated Brokers

What is Desjardins Online Broker?

When it comes to Canadian online brokers, Desjardins Online Brokerage isn’t typically one of the first names that comes to mind. That being said, in the spirit of providing a full selection of broker reviews, our MDJ editorial team looked under the hood of one of Canada’s original discount brokerages.

Desjardins is best-known among those living in Quebec and Ontario; however, it’s also active in western Canada as well. It often goes by the name “Disnat” and has been around since 1982. In 1983, Disnat was the very first Canadian company to offer discount brokerage for Canadian securities. 

Desjardins Online Brokerage does have some die-hard users, especially those from Ontario and Quebec, where the bank’s first locations opened. Those who do their regular banking with Desjardins may choose it as their online brokerage in order to keep all their financial services under one roof. 

We still feel that they’re sacrificing quality for convenience – but we’re also keeping an eye on Disnat as recent changes cause customer satisfaction to increase (more on this later).

Is Desjardins Online Brokerage Safe and Trusted?

With a pedigree that spans almost 40 years, Desjardins Online Brokerage is as trustworthy as any of the major Canadian banks. 

Disnat uses 128-bit encryption, plus industry-standard firewalls, secure session management, and 2-factor authentication. Desjardins is also a member of the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) and the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF).

While any financial investment carries some risk, Desjardins Online Brokerage works hard to ensure that any risk you incur is purely due to your personal investment decisions. 

Desjardins Online Brokerage Review: Fees and Pricing

Desjardins’ pricing structure has become more competitive overall, but it has disappointingly maintained its inactivity fee, which is currently $30 per quarter. While there are ways to avoid this fee, such as making sure to complete at least 6 trades a year, holding a registered account (RESP, RRSP, RRIF), or having at least $15,000 in your trading account, it’s still a factor to consider. 

Sure, a few leading brokers also charge some kind of inactivity fee (see our Qtrade review or Questrade review for comparison) – but those can easily be waived by buying even a single ETF.

Not only that, but leading online brokers usually have some kind of a welcome bonus. These promotions do a lot to mitigate any unexpected costs you might incur while getting yourself familiar with a new platform and experimenting, trying to find the best long-term portfolio. Unfortunately, as of this moment Disnat does not offer any promotions to new users.

Desjardins Online Brokerage: Commission-Free Trading (ETFs, Stocks, and Mutual Funds)

No-fee ETFs are quickly becoming the standard for discount online brokerages, and now Disnat is no exception. But Desjardins went a step further and eliminated trading fees on stocks as well, joining National Bank Direct Brokerage (NBDB) to offer almost entirely commission-free trading. 

The Desjardins Online Brokerage offers no-commission trading on most mutual funds, although there are some exemptions. Personally, we’re not big fans of mutual funds even as a long-term safe investment, so this doesn’t really add a lot of value in our opinion.

Commission-free trading of stocks as well as ETFs is a possible game-changer, though. It led to a surge in Disnat customer satisfaction following the announcement. Desjardins is now ranked #3 in JD Power’s Customer Satisfaction Study. 

We’re keeping an eye on the situation to see if we need to reconsider our assessment. 

Desjardins Online Brokerage Fees: Disnat Classic and Disnat Direct

Desjardins has two different self-directed investment platforms: Disnat Classic and Disnat Direct.

Disnat Classic is for all traders, both new and experienced, but takes a more simplified approach. It’s meant for those who do a couple of trades per month. Disnat Direct, on the other hand, is for those who are more aggressive, active traders.

The commissions for stocks and ETFs, options trading, mutual funds, and fixed income securities) are the same for both Disnat Classic and Disnat Direct clients, as you can see in the chart below. The difference lies in the platforms and the access to market data – which we’ll look at next.

Commissions on online security tradesDisnat ClassicDisnat Direct
Equities and ETFs$0$0
Options$1.25 per contract (minimum $8.75)$1.25 per contract (minimum $8.75)
Mutual Funds$0 (on most)$0 (on most)
Fixed Income securities$50/trade$50/trade 

Disnat Platform Fees

As mentioned above, Desjardins Online Brokerage has two different platforms. Disnat Classic and Disnat Direct.

Disnat Classic is free of charge. Clients have access to real time quotes and market data on a streamlined and easy to navigate platform. It’s meant for those who want simple but modern analysis tools that won’t overwhelm them with data. 

Disnat Direct is a high performance platform for those looking for more customizable options. There are three pricing options of varying capacity for watch lists and market depth of quotes. Prices at each level depend on how many trades you make per month. See the chart below for the different price points. 

Streaming Quotes Level 1$35/month if less than 10 trades. $0 per month if 10+ trades
Streaming Quotes Level 2$105/month if less than 41 trades. $0/month if 41+ trades

Admin and Account Fees

Disnat account holders should be aware that Desjardins Online Brokerage has inactivity fees of $30 per quarter. These will be waived on the following condition:

  • You have made 6 or more trades in the preceding 12 months
  • Your portfolio value is $15,000 or more
  • You hold a registered account (RRSP, RRIF, RESP)

Please note that these admin and account fees are the same for both Disnat Classic and Disnat Direct clients.

Desjardins Online Brokerage Fees and Pricing Summary: How Does Disnat Stack Up?

We always encourage our readers to compare before they trade, and what we know about Desjardins has given us a lot to think about. Now that they have zero commission ETF and stock trades, it does make them more competitive compared to other online brokers. But is it enough?

Let’s take a look at how Disnat compares to Questrade and Qtrade.

ETFsMutual FundsOptions Account Fees
Disnat $0/tradeMost commission-free$1.25 per contract/$8.75 minimum A number of fees including inactivity fee, and account registration fee
Questrade$0 ETF buy, sell at $0.01/share (min. $4.95 to max. $9.95)$9.95/trade$0.75 per contract/$4.95 minimum$0 monthly account fee
Qtrade100+ free ETFs$0/trade$8.75 + $1.25 per contract, or $6.95 + $1.25 per contract for investor plus$25 per quarter for non-registered accounts (waived if certain conditions are met), and $15 per quarter for registered accounts

As you can see, just focusing on fees alone, the switch to commission-free trading has made Desjardins fairly competitive. Paying the lowest possible amount in fees can make a huge difference to your bottom line, especially if you are actively day trading.

However, fees aren’t the only thing that make a great DIY broker. If you’re looking for a more balanced choice with very competitive trading fees, free ETFs and a world class platform to boot, then Qtrade is still the best online broker in our books, and definitely trumps Desjardins Online Brokerage any day.

Disnat Brokerage Platform and App

Desjardin’s most popular platform, Disnat Classic, offers clients a simple and easy to use platform to trade stocks, options, bonds, mutual funds and new issues. It’s accessible online via your desktop, laptop, or mobile device. It’s relatively straightforward and intuitive, but our principal complaint is that it lacks some of the extras that other online platforms have.

desjardins screenshot
Images courtesy of Disnat.com

Built for active investors, Disnat Direct offers more advanced trading tools, customizable charts and watchlists, and streaming market data. It’s a web-based platform, making it easily accessible from either Mac or PC.

disnat direct

Both platforms offer free webinar training and access to a representative by phone during business hours. However, they do not offer the wealth of research options or tools that other brokers do.

Disnat Mobile App Review

The app reviews are far from stellar, with a 2.9-star ranking and plenty of 1-star reviews on the Apple App Store. Users report frequent crashing and not being able to access real time transactions. 

When the app is working, you should be able to see an overview of all of your accounts and assets in one place, easily place orders on stocks and options, get quotes and trade immediately, access a range of market indexes and graphics, and view your watch list.

From the sounds of it, the app could be passable if you’re only using it 1-2 times per month for basic transactions, but probably no more than that. We’ll need to see significant improvement here before we consider recommending Desjardins Online Brokerage to our readers. 

desjardins mobile app
Source: Apple App Store

Disnat Brokerage Review: Young Investors

If you are a young investor between the ages of 18-30, you can take advantage of a special offer with Desjardins Online Brokerage. The Broker@age clients will receive:

  • 5 free transactions
  • No inactivity fees     
  • No asset minimum for registered accounts

We always appreciate offers that help motivate young would-be investors to get started, but again, this offer falls short when compared to Qtrade’s young investor program for example.

Desjardins Online Brokerage Accounts 

Desjardins Online Brokerages offers both regular and registered accounts. Most of the accounts are available for both Disnat Direct and Disnat Classic clients. Account options include the following:

  • RRSP
  • TFSA
  • RESP (Disnat Classic only)
  • LIRA
  • RIF
  • LIF
  • Cash Accounts (Disnat Classic only)
  • Margin Accounts
  • Margin Options Accounts
  • Short-selling accounts

The Desjardins Online Brokerage Prestige Program

The Desjardins Prestige Program is a nice little perks program for those that hold “substantial assets” with the Quebec-based bank. The basic idea is that there are three different “prestige tiers”.  

  1. Bronze: $250,000 – $499,999
  2. Silver: $500,000 – $999,999
  3. Gold: $1 Million+

As you climb the prestige ladder you can get access to elite perks such as IPO access, preferred lending rates, personalized customer service help, preferred fixed income rates, and no-fee online education events.

Overall, it’s quite similar to most “high net worth” packages that the various brokers offer. While it doesn’t have a ton of value in our view, you could see it being another checkmark in the, “I’ve always banked with Desjardins, and all things being equal, I’d prefer to keep my online broker with my other financial services” column.

Desjardins Discount Brokerage and HardBacon Partnership

A match made in Quebec – Canada’s oldest securities trading platform found a willing partner in their own backyard when they recently partnered with the Hardbacon app.

Hardbacon has garnered some interesting headlines in 2021 as it looks to go public and supercharge their quest to help Canadians cut investing fees.  Their partnership with Disnat should help that quest, with all members of the Desjardins online broker platform getting a 3-months subscription to the app, as well as access to online education opportunities.

While the partnership doesn’t really “move the needle” as far choosing an online broker, it is a nice little value-add for the two companies.

Desjardins Review FAQ

Who is Desjardins Online Brokerage Best For?

In the end, our Desjardins Online Brokerage review reveals that it is really only a good fit for clients who already bank with Desjardins and prize keeping all of their financial activities “under one roof”. 

It’s not that Disnat is a dysfunctional online broker – it’s simply a matter of having better options available whether you’re a dedicated index investor or a high-frequency day trader.

There are plenty of mixed Desjardins brokerage reviews out there. Yes, the Globe and Mail review only gave it a C+ grade recently, however, it was the runner up for customer service back in 2017, according to the MoneySense rankings. It also jumped to #3 on JD Power’s Customer Satisfaction Study for 2022. It looks like its customer service standards have remained strong.

Considering the inactivity fees, as well as some of the other fees, plus the less than stellar app reviews and comparative lack of resources, Desjardins Online Brokerage wouldn’t be a broker we would use. When you compare Disnat vs Qtrade or Questrade, the latter two clearly come out on top.

To read up on our comparison between the top two choices Canadian DIY investors have, take a look at our Questrade vs Qtrade comparison, and for more details on why we recommend Qtrade as our overall #1 online broker in Canada, please check out our Qtrade review.

Jordan

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michael
1 year ago

Desjardins is following in National Bank’s footsteps: it eliminated commissions on stocks and ETF’s.