RBC Direct Investing Review 2022: Fees, ETFs, Account Options and More

RBC Direct Investing Review Summary:
  • Online Broker Fees and Pricing
  • Account Options
  • ETF Trading Fees
  • User-Friendly Platform and Mobile App
  • Customer Service
  • Overall Banking Convenience
3.8

RBC Direct Investing Review Summary:

RBC Direct Investing, the self-directed investment arm of the Royal Bank of Canada, launched back in 1989, way before online investing was available to the general public. As times have changed, RBC stayed committed to to providing clients with the tools and information they need to invest with confidence.

RBC Direct Investing (like other Big Bank brokerages) doesn’t offer the lowest prices out there, but many RBC clients find that the convenience of having all of their financial services in one place is worth the extra expense.

That being said, convenience isn’t everything and RBC Direct Investing is not a top pick on our list of the best online brokerages in Canada, either overall or out of the big banks.

In our RBC Direct Investing review, explore why that is. We’ll give you all the details on this online trading platform, from fees to investor tools. Then we’ll put it head to head with BMO InvestorLine (our top pick out of the Big Bank online brokerages) and Qtrade (our number one recommended online brokerage) so you can see how it stacks up.

Pros

  • User friendly, advanced platform
  • Solid mobile app
  • Easy to set up if you bank with RBC
  • Practice accounts available
  • Safe and trustworthy company

Cons

  • Higher fees compared to leading online brokers
  • No commission-free ETFs
  • Falling levels of customer service

RBC Direct Investing is not rated as one of the best Canadian brokerages: Their fees are too high and they offer no signup bonus.

View Alternative, Better Rated Canadian Brokers

What is RBC Direct Investing?

The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) was one of the first banks in the country to pioneer DIY investing for the everyday investor.

With RBC Direct Investing, you can trade Canadian and US stocks, ETFs, mutual funds and bonds. You can fund and manage your registered investment accounts (TFSA, RRSP, RRIF, RESP and more) and access a variety of investing tools to help you make informed decisions.

If you already have an account with RBC, then opening an RBC Direct Investing account might appeal to you, as it will make the process more seamless and efficient. 

If you’re not already an account holder, then it’s definitely worth considering other options. As far as the Big Banks go, we prefer BMO’s InvestorLine. BMO offers the same reliability you’ll find with RBC – along with $0 trading commissions on select stocks and ETFs.

You can check out our full BMO InvestorLine Review for more information about why we prefer it over RBC Direct Investing.

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rbc app screenshot
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Is RBC Direct Investing Safe and Trusted?

RBC is the largest of Canada’s Big 5 Banks and has a history spanning over 150 years. It’s Canada’s largest chartered bank and financial institution, trusted by millions worldwide. It’s as trustworthy as a bank can get (and that’s exceptionally trustworthy). 

RBC is regulated by the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) and is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF). The platform has the standard security features we look for in a reliable online investing platform, including:

  • 128-bit encryption
  • Firewalls
  • Optional multi-factor authentication
  • Anti-virus protection and data verification programs

RBC Direct Investing is so committed to online security that they offer a 100% reimbursement for any direct losses incurred through unauthorized transactions (terms and conditions apply, as you would expect, but it’s still a bold offer). 

Any investment transaction carries some risk, but RBC Direct Investing (like all of the Big Bank brokerages) is as safe as they come. Your investment decisions are your own responsibility.

RBC Direct Investing Review: Trading Fees and Prices

When it comes to RBC Direct Investing’s fees and trading commissions, it’s important to understand that RBC (and all of Canada’s large banks, for that matter) rarely seek to be the cheapest option available.

They entice you with a great platform, the safety of being one of Canada’s most trusted companies, and the convenience of keeping all of your banking under one roof. Value isn’t one of their selling points.

While we don’t recommend choosing an online broker based solely on price, it does help to know which high-quality option saves you the most. There are a number of brokers that offer stock and ETF trading at a lower cost or even for free. Meanwhile, RBC Direct Investing charges $9.95 per trade.

Compare that to Qtrade and Questrade, which feature lower trading fee for stocks ($8.75 with Qtrade, and as low as $0.01 per share with Questrade) as well as $0 cost on many ETFs, and it’s clear where you’re going to keep more of your money and add to your bottom line.

RBC Direct Investing Review: Account and Transaction Fees

While RBC has a $0 minimum deposit (which is great!), it does come with other fees you may incur. RBC Direct Investing charges a quarterly maintenance fee of $25 ($100 annually). However, you can avoid this fee if you do any one of the following:

  • Are a new client (opened your account less than 6 months ago).
  • Have $15,000 or more in your combined RBC Direct Investing accounts.
  • Set up a minimum pre-authorized contribution plan of $100 per month or $300 per quarter.
  • Pay for three trades during any quarter.
  • Have an RBC student banking account (or have had one in the last five years).
  • Have an RBC VIP banking package, or qualify for the RBC Direct Investing Royal Circle program (more on this later).

Below is a quick chart of the more common RBC Direct Investing transaction and account fees that you might run into.

Possible Account Maintenance Fee $100 Annually ($25 per quarter)
Inactivity Fee$0
Deposit Fee$0
Brokerage Account Withdrawal Fee$0
RRSP Withdrawals$50
TFSA Withdrawals$0
Home Buyers Plan & Life Long Plan Withdrawals$25
Wire Transfers (to North America)$45
Cheque Requests$10
Confirmation Replacement$2
Statement Replacement$5
Research Account Inquiries$40 per hour (Min. $20)
Certificate Registration $50
Transfer Out$150
Internal Transfers (third party)$25
Estate Account Processing$175 – $350 per account

It is worth noting that if you are an RBC account holder, you may pay lower fees, or even no fees on certain transactions that non-RBC account holders pay full price for.

RBC Direct Investing Stock Trading Fees

As we’ve said, when it comes to the RBC Direct Investing trading fees, you’re going to pay $9.95 per transaction (including ETF trades). You can trade on any North American stock market  and there are no ECN fees when using RBC Direct Investing.

ETF Trading Fees

Unlike Questrade, Qtrade, Virtual Brokers, and a few big bank brokerages like BMO, Scotiabank’s Scotia iTrade and National Bank of Canada, RBC Direct Investing does not offer free ETF purchases or sales.  Buying an ETF is treated exactly the same way as buying a stock/share, and incurs the same hefty $9.95 price tag (or $6.95 if you’re one of the day-trader types).  

Online Discount BrokerPer Transaction Cost to Buy ETFsPer Transaction Cost to Sell ETFs
RBC Direct Investing$9.95$9.95
Questrade$0$5
Qtrade$0 – $8.75$0 – $8.75

Options Trading Fees

Options trading isn’t really my thing, but the RBC Direct Investing options trading fees follow the same philosophy as their stock trading fees. Most people are looking at $9.95 per trade + $1.25 contract fee. 

Most options traders are substantially more active in their account than everyday ETF index investors, so these fees really add up in comparison to low-cost discount brokerages.

RBC Direct Investing Bond Trading Fees

When it comes to purchasing bonds, it’s not surprising thatRBC Direct Investing is not the most cost-effective option. You’ll be charged $18.80 for each US Treasury bond trade. For Canadian bonds, you’ll pay commission depending on the transaction amount, which starts at $25 per transaction.

RBC Direct Investing: RBC Active Trader Program

Like many of the Big Banks, RBC Direct Investing offers active traders special discounts and extra resources. Investors who make 30 or more equity or options trades each quarter automatically qualify for the Active Trader Program. 

RBC Active Trader features include: 

  • Level 2 quotes with detailed insights into stock prices
  • Premium research from Morningstar and RBC Captial Markets

In addition, traders who make 150+ trades per quarter qualify for a special lower commission on all trades ($6.95 instead of $9.95). 

These perks can make a difference to active traders—but lower cost, fully featured online brokers would help even more.

RBC Direct Investing: Royal Circle Membership

The RBC Royal Circle is RBC Direct Investing’s special offer for large accounts and/or the most active traders. To qualify, you must have a month-end balance of $250,000 or more for 4 consecutive months or accumulate over $5000 in trading commissions annually. 

RBC Royal Circle Membership perks include: 

  • Exemption from certain fees including quarterly maintenance fees, RSP withdrawal fees, and statement/confirmation replacement fees.
  • Priority service from the most experienced representatives for the member and any other investors in their family.
  • Premium research from Morningstar and RBC Captial Markets.
  • Preferred margin rates for your investment borrowing needs

RBC Direct Investing Account Types: TFSA, RRSP, Non-Registered

Like all of the leading Canadian discount brokers these days, RBC Direct Investing offers all of the usual accounts including:

  • Non-registered accounts (both CAD and USD)
  • Margin Accounts
  • RRSP (both CAD and USD)
  • TFSA
  • RESP
  • RRIF
  • LIF
  • LIRA

Make no mistake, you may pay a bit more with the RBC online broker vs some of the lowest-cost Canadian brokerages, but you will get the platform and the account selection that go with investing through one of Canada’s largest companies. Whether that trade-off is worth it is up to you.

RBC Direct Investing Platform & Tools

RBC Direct Investing offers both a web-based and app-based platform, both of which come with solid tools and resources.

For example, users can access information from sources such as Morningstar and RBC Research through either platform. These industry-standard tools are great, but may not be of great use to less experienced investors.  

rbc direct investing platform
Source: https://www.rbcdirectinvesting.com

An excellent resource for RBC Direct Investors is the analyze and rebalance tool. This tool can save users the guesswork of trying to make sure they have the best balance for their investment strategy, and even give them suggestions of how to improve it if needed.

In 2018, RBC launched RBC InvestEase, a robo-advisor that compliments its banking and brokerage services, offering a cost-effective tool to its customers who want the benefits of having an advisor without the high cost. We’ve got more information for you over at our RBC InvestEase Review if you’d like to learn more about this service.

RBC Direct Investing also offers analyst-built screeners by Refinitiv, which are screening tools that can help investors find specific stocks that fit their criteria in terms of risk, industry, potential dividend earnings, and more.

rbc stock screener
Source: https://www.rbcdirectinvesting.com

RBC Direct Investing Practice Accounts

RBC Direct Investing is one of a handful of brokers that offer practice investment accounts. RBC’s practice account is integrated into the actual investing site, which means that you get a realistic trading experience with $100,000 in fictional assets. 

You can “buy” and “sell” ETFs, stocks, and options, all risk free. You can also try out RBC Direct Investing’s tools and resources and track your performance over time before you invest a cent of your own money. 

RBC Direct Investing practice accounts are available to all RBC clients, regardless of whether they have an investment account, which means you can give the service a real test drive before committing (and can track your fees to see how much of a difference RBC’s pricing would make for your bottom line). 

Overall, RBC has made a solid attempt to keep up with industry standards when it comes to its online platform, its functions and its tools. 

RBC Direct Investing Mobile App Review

rbc mobile app

These days, most investors expect a mobile app from their online broker, and RBC Direct Investing delivers on that front. The app is available for both iOS and Android. 

The RBC Mobile app has received spectacular 4.8 stars from over 206,000 ratings on the Apple App store. Through the app, you can access all of your RBC accounts as well as use it for your investment needs. It has all of the features you would expect from a decent investing app, such as:

  • Safety and security with biometric sign-in 
  • Easy to navigate system 
  • Access to market information
  • Clear and simple account monitoring interface
  • Fast transactions
  • Tracking of your investment performance 

Want to see how RBC’s mobile app measures up to the competition? Check out our full Best Stock Trading Apps Review for a list of the apps we prefer.

RBC Direct Investing Review: Customer Service

While RBC prides itself on strong customer service, we’ve received an alarming number of negative comments here on our RBC Direct Investing Review in the last few years. We understand that people who have negative experiences are more likely to tell other people about it – but still, it’s concerning. 

While all of Canada’s brokerages have experienced some growing pains recently, it appears that RBC has had an especially difficult time. We’ll continue to keep tabs on this trend moving forward, but it doesn’t appear to have improved since our last update.

You can reach RBC customer services from 7AM-8PM ET during the work week at 1-844-208-0258.

RBC Direct Investing vs. Qtrade

Now that you have a good idea of what RBC Direct Investing has to offer, let’s look at it in comparison to other self-directed investing option – Qtrade, our top recommended online broker. We’ve mentioned them both throughout this article, but it’s helpful to see their information side by side.

RBC Direct Investing

Qtrade

ETF Fees

$9.95

$0 - $8.75

Mutual Fund Trade Fee

1% of total trade, up to $50 to buy/switch, $0 to sell

$0

Account Fees

$25 per quarter, can be waived if certain requirements are met
$25 per quarter, can be waived if certain requirements are met

Tradable Assets

Stocks, ETFs, Mutual Funds, Options, Fixed Income Securities

ETFs, Equities, Exchange-traded Debentures, Fixed Income, Mutual Funds, Options

User Experience

Practice account, good investor tools, user-friendly platform, highly rated mobile app
Easy to use mobile and online trading platform and moderate app ratings

Customer Service

Some customer service complaints from our readers in the past 2+ years
Highly rated customer service

Promo

None

$50 Bonus + Up to $2,000 Cash Back

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RBC Direct Investing Review: FAQ

Who Is RBC Direct Investing Discount Broker Best for?

After our MDJ editorial team weighed all of the pros and cons in our RBC Direct Investing Review, and compared it to the many other Canadian online brokerages there are to choose from, our conclusion is that it’s not bad—but not good enough to recommend

We tend to expect an elite level of service and highly competitive products from the Big Banks. A premium price should mean a you get a premium service, but that’s not what you get when you sign up with RBC Direct Investing.

Your best bet is to find a premium service that really delivers what it should for the higher costs, like BMO. See our BMO Investorline Review for more information on why it’s our favourite Big 5 Bank Brokerage.

For a more cost-effective option that provides you with the same great investment opportunities, responsive customer service, an easy to use platform, and the same safety and security you get from a Big Bank, we recommend Qtrade.

Justin Bouchard

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dalik
1 year ago

RBC direct investing customer service wait time is always more than one hour. I sent beneficiary information few times. Accounts did not get updated. I would give two stars to Customer Service.

Jennifer Wilson
1 year ago

I do not recommend RBC. I have been a client for more than 25 years. I tried to open an account, 1 week went by and finally I get an email saying call them. I tried for 4 days their line so busy it actually says you cannot hold. I message them. Two weeks goes by and I get a response (finally) saying take a day off work and go into the bank to fill out a form to prove its me. I do that and they send it in. A week goes by and I message them and say what is going on, its been 5 weeks. My partner opened one with TD in less than an hour. That was almost 3 weeks ago and still no response and no account. Go with TD because anyone that cannot get their crap together in this long cannot manage our money.

MB5
2 years ago

If I am not mistaken RBC Direct Investing doesn’t allow holding Mawer mutual funds any longer. I was with them at one point and this made me move. Not sure if other mutual funds are in that situation with them. Everyone else allows Mawer. Mawer is one of the few decent mutual funds left, and that sucked.

Dropthenickel
2 years ago

I wouldn’t give RBC Customer Service 4.5 stars. Over the years, they have missed getting my kids RESP government match, US dividend tax withholding forms, and they often buy at the highest price on my stock purchases. Overall they have a lot of improvement to be done.

AnotherLoonie
2 years ago

Really happy to see a review of one of the less popular brokerages (well, less popular in the DIY community). I use Questrade, but it’s interesting to see how it compares to RBC and others. I’m suprised RBC doesn’t pass along discounts if you have your banking or mortgage with them. Seems like it would be a great opportunity. For example, free ETF trading if you had a chequing account with them.