National Bank Direct Brokerage Review

National Bank Direct Brokerage Review
  • Trading Fees
  • Annual Fees
  • Account Options
  • Customer Service
  • Platform and App
  • Account Opening
2.8

National Bank Direct Brokerage Review Summary:

National Bank Direct Brokerage is not typically listed as one of the top discount brokerages in Canada. Rob Carrick over at the Globe and Mail gives it one of the lower rankings in the country. It lacks many of the elite platform options and usability that several of our other top-ranked Canadian discount brokerages have incorporated.

That said, NBDB broke big news in August 2021 when they became the first big bank online broker to go with $0 trading fees in Canada. Ready to dig in? Below is our full National Bank Direct Brokerage review.

Pros

  • No Fee Trades
  • Good brick-and-mortar presence if you live in Quebec

Cons

  • No Mobile App
  • Poor Portfolio Analysis Tools
  • $100 Account Fee
  • No Sign Up 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

Although we applaud NBDB for their recent low-fee effort, they still have a long way to go. In the last couple of years they have been ranked as a middle of the road online broker by Moneysense and J.D. Power. We’ll take a deep dive into the details in our National Bank Direct Brokerage review and try to uncover just why that may be.

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-$6.95 for Canadian or US stock trades, $0 for ETF trades

$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

$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
Platform is poorly designed and known to perform slowly
lite,easy to use search function and easy to execute multiple order types
Customer Service
Very poorly rated, difficult to set up an account
Top rated telephone and email response

Sign up Promo

None

Up to $2,000 in Cashback

Sign Up

While at first glance, Qtrade’s higher trading fees put you off, don’t worry. The reason the cost is higher is because of the quality their customers receive in the form of consistent improvements to their platforms, high quality of investor education tools, and excellent customer service. 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
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 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:

National Bank Direct Brokerage Review: Platform and Customer Service

In many ways, you get what you pay for when it comes to brokerages in Canada. While NBDB is a solid step up on Wealthsimple trade (their free-trade brethren) when it comes to their desktop platform, they are still a far cry from leaders in the field such as Questrade, Qtrade, or even BMO Investorline

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.

National Bank Direct Brokerage has improved their customer onboarding over the last year as they finally moved to a digital setup. For years the company had stuck with the old school “paper-and-mail-it” setup that put it light years behind its peers. Now that it has recently went digital, you can skim various online reviews to find out that many are still having a difficult time accessing the platform if they are a new customer, and even opening new accounts if they were already members of NBDB.

While National Bank Direct Brokerage does have some basic research tools available if you make more than fifteen trades per month, they simply do not offer the suite of products that our preferred online brokers include as part of their platform. The portfolio analyzer tool that Qtrade has pioneered for example is a pretty neat little value add.  That type of innovation has been typical of the company over the past decade-plus that they have sought atop Canada’s brokerage rankings.

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? 

National Bank Direct Brokerage is a solid choice for two types of investors.

1) Canadians (mostly in Quebec) who have their normal banking with National Bank and prefer the simplicity of keeping everything under one roof.

2) People looking to cut a few dollars per year off of their non-ETF trading fees.

While our MDJ editorial team appreciates the commitment to low trading fees, the $100 account fee, low Globe and Mail ranking, and outdated platform (as well as the complete lack of mobile app) mean that we believe there are simply better options out there. 

Qtrade is our preferred brokerage for the majority of Canadians due to their excellent platform and elite record of customer service established over many years. To get the full details on why we rank this online broker #1, check out our in-depth Qtrade Review.

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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