National Bank Direct Brokerage Review

National Bank Direct Brokerage Review
  • Trading Fees
  • Annual Fees
  • Account Options
  • Customer Service
  • Platform and App
  • Account Opening
3.2

National Bank Direct Brokerage Review Summary:

National Bank Direct Brokerage – also known as NBDB – was the first of Canada’s big banks to offer free trading. This was a pretty big move considering how notorious big banks are for being on the more expensive side when it comes to investing.

As part of the National Bank of Canada, NBDB offers security as well as a wide range of investment options. On their platform, users can trade stocks, ETFs, bonds and more.

While NBDB does have some clear advantages over other big bank brokerages, when it comes to DIY investment, competitors such as Qtrade, Questrade and Wealthsimple Trade definitely give NBDB and the other big banks a run for their money.

Plus, when it comes to convenience and accessibility, NBDB has some work to do before it can compete with the best of them.

In our National Bank Direct Brokerage review, we’ll be breaking down the fees, account types, investment options, platform and more. Read on to find out if NBDB is right for you, or if you might be better off taking your money to one of Canada’s best online brokers instead.

Pros

  • No fee trades
  • Good brick-and-mortar presence if you live in Quebec
  • Safety and security

Cons

  • No mobile app
  • Poor portfolio analysis tools
  • $100 account fee
  • no sign pp promotions
  • Poor overall platform rating
  • Long customer service wait times

While NBDB’s free trades look good on paper, the trading platform is lacking in several areas. No mobile app, poor customer service, and no welcome bonus means that NBDB still needs to up its game to rank amongst our top Canadian Brokers.

Visit NBDB

NBDB has made changes over the last two years to make their fee structure competitive among other discount brokers, and have now dropped their commission fees altogether for those trading on their online platform. It seems as though they have taken customer feedback to heart and made improvements to make those customers want to stay as well as attract new ones.

In 2019 they were ranked dead last, 8 out of 8, by J.D. Power, but merely one year later in 2020, they moved up considerably to 4th out of 8. The Globe and Mail also took note of NBDB’s improvements since 2018 when they were graded a C+, but in 2020, The Globe and Mail increased their rating to a B. 

We’ll take a deep dive into the details in our National Bank Direct Brokerage review and try to uncover the reasons behind their rankings and see if they just might be worth a second look.

NBDB vs. Qtrade Quick Comparison

Long time readers know we strongly recommend Qtrade, and for good reason. Let’s take a look at how they compare to NBDB.

National Bank Direct Brokerage

Qtrade

National Bank Brokerage Logo
Qtrade Logo

Trading Fees

$0 for Canadian or US stock trades, $0 for ETF trades for purchases made online

$8.75 for Canadian or US stock trades, $0 for ETFs, $0 for mutual fund purchases

Account Fees

$100 per year if account holds less than $20,000 or makes fewer than 5 trades per month. Can be waived if you are a young investor or have an InvestCube account.

$100 ($25 per quarter), waived for accounts holding less than $25,000 or that set automatic transfer of $100 into the account each month.

Young Investor Benefits

Yes, annual fee can be waived
Yes, annual fee can be waived
Mobile App
User Experience
Improved platform and addition of resources and tools have improved user experience.
Simple interface that is easy to use and execute multiple transactions.
Customer Service
Improved customer service experience over the years. Help is available by phone and live chat.
Top rated telephone and email response

Sign up Promo

None

50 Free Trades (Worth $500)

Sign Up

While at first glance, Qtrade’s higher trading fees put you off, don’t worry. Qtrade customers pay a bit more for excellent customer service, a commitment to excellence and innovation, high quality investor education tools, and excellent customer service.

However, NBDB is giving Qtrade and other discount brokerages in Canada by offering zero cost trading, a rarity among the big banks.

That being said, for long-term investors serious about growing their wealth, Qtrade trumps NBDB. Read our Qtrade review to see exactly why we consider it the best broker in Canada.

National Bank Direct Brokerage Fees and Pricing

In 2021, National Bank Direct Brokerage cut their per-trade fees down to $0, becoming the first big bank brokerage to do so. Here is a quick look at some of the fees we haven’t already covered.

ItemCost
Options Trades$0 commission + $1.25 per contract (min. fee of $6.25), or for a value less than $2,000, $0 commission + $1.25 per contract (max. fee of $19.95)
RRSP3, RRIF or LIF withdrawal$50
Withdrawal from TFSA, RESP, RDSP$0
Internal transfer between registered accounts$100
NSF cheque$45
Excess contribution reimbursement$100
Wire transfer$75
Total or partial transfer to another institution (+ commissions if applicable)$150/account
Portfolio statements by mail$6 per quarter
Trade confirmations by mail$2 per trade (billed monthly)
Administration of restricted shares (plus commissions if applicable) $250/transaction
Custodial services for a client$30/security/month
Donation or substitution of securities Max $150
Registration/delivery of certificate$50/operation
Registration/delivery of certificate (rush)$200/operation
Deposit of a stock certificate$100/operation
Estate settlement $200/estate

These fees can all add up over time, taking precious funds away from your bottom line. 

Other brokers like Qtrade offer free services such as LIF, RIF and LRIF scheduled payments and electronic funds transfer. Another one of our top choices, Questrade, offers things like free CAD electronic fund transfer (EFT) up to $50,000.00. 

In 2022, with so many online discount brokerages getting rid of their account fees, it just doesn’t make sense to pay for a DIY service. So, in terms of costs and fees there is some work for NBDB to do to catch up to the rest.

Interest rates for margin accounts

Debit balanceCADUSD
$0–$9,9993.85%      4.50%
$10,000–$99,9993.75%      4.50%
$100,000 or more2.75%      4.25%

There is no denying that with their new $0 price tag for ETF and stock trading National Bank Direct Brokerage has set themselves apart from the pack when it comes to pricing. The real question then becomes, is saving a few bucks per year in stock trading commissions worth the use of a sub-par platform? For some it might be, but for others, the sacrifice just won’t make sense.

Is National Bank Direct Brokerage the Cheapest?

There are plenty of discount brokers in Canada offering free ETF purchases, topped by no annual fees. View our entire selection below:

NBDB Review: Platform & Tools

The online platform is one area NBDB has had to consistently work on improving to stay competitive as a top online brokerage in Canada. 

Recently it has invested in developing a new online platform that is more user-friendly, as well as offers more bells and whistles than their former platform. 

Now NBDB’s platform offers customization, comparison tools, help users easily track their top performing investments, allows for the creation of up to 10 watchlists, and access a wealth of tools from their Trading Central section.

Trading Central offers customers 3 tools for no annual fee. You will have access to NBDB’s Value Analyzer, with which you can look at valuation and company data, which can give you insight into potentially undervalued companies.

The technical insight section allows you to screen stocks and create alerts so you won’t miss out on a potential opportunity. Finally, the Strategy Builder tool helps you decide what stocks will best fit your criteria, plus you will have access to model investment strategies created by experts.

Other tools, such as Market-Q for day traders, ETF Centre, and Decision-Plus allow for even more ways for you to learn, strategize, trade and earn.

Last year NDBD partnered with OptionsPlay, which could be an attractive add for options traders.

nbdb review platform tools screenshot
Image Source: nbdb.com

While these improvements are a move in the right direction, at the end of the day, without a mobile app, NBDB will find it hard to attract a certain customer base that will automatically expect an app from their brokerage.

National Bank Direct Brokerage Review: Customer Service

NBDB was having a difficult time keeping up to customer service requests before they went to their $0 trading model (as evidenced by their consistently low scores on the Globe and Mail rankings by Rob Carrick year after year, as well as the general emails and comments that we’ve anecdotally received here at MDJ complaining about wait times). 

There is no reason to believe that more resources will be dedicated to supporting new customers now that revenues have been sliced down.

Perhaps their Big Bank resources have made it possible to make improvements in this area. Only time will tell if they can stay on top of this over time. In fact, National Bank Direct Brokerage was recognized as #1 in Investor Satisfaction with Self-Directed Brokerage Firms in 2021 by J.D. Power. We have to admit, that is a pretty impressive accomplishment given where they stood only a few years ago.

National Bank Direct Brokerage TFSA, RRSP, and Other Accounts

As with the other big names in discount brokerages in Canada, National Bank Direct Brokerage offers a variety of different accounts including the following:

  • TFSA
  • RRSP/RRIF
  • Spousal RRSP/RRIF
  • RESP
  • Non-registered accounts (cash, margin, and short selling)
  • Individual Pension Plan
  • LIRA
  • LRSP
  • LIF
  • Estate accounts
  • In trust account
  • Investment club account

National Bank Direct Brokerage also offers accounts for corporate entities.

National Bank Direct Brokerage FAQ

Who is National Bank Direct Brokerage Best For? 

We have to hand it to NBDB for diving into the no fee trading game, and for making improvements to their platform and customer service. If you are already a National Bank of Canada customer, using their brokerage service might make sense for you.

Finding the best broker in Canada means looking at the fine print and digging into the details. When you do look into the nitty gritty of what NBDB offers, you can find that there are better deals elsewhere. 

If you are looking for the absolute best all around brokerage in Canada, take a look at our top pick, Qtrade. In our Qtrade review, we’ll explain why we choose them over NBDB and other 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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Steven Martini
3 months ago

I just opened a “joint” account with NBC Direct Brokerage account and the sign up process is clunky. You need to fill out forms and send them by snail mail. I signed up with a National Bank line of credit, but when I tried to use this account, my transfers got rejected with no information as to why. I had to call customer service to get an answer that only a checking account can be used to transfer funds. In order to add a new account, you need to once again fill out a form and send it by email including a void cheque. After 2 days, I still have no information as to how long it will take for this account to be linked so I can start using the NBC Direct Brokerage platform to do trades. The customer service call agents are a very pleasant and helpful. I have both a Wealthsimple and Questrade account and linking a new account is a piece of cake and they both accept my National Bank line of credit to transfer money to/from. I would have expected the process to be much simpler, especially considering that I am already and National Bank customer. Also in order to create a user/pw to access your account online you need to call customer service for joint accounts.

Last edited 3 months ago by Steven Martini