Canadian Online Discount Stock Brokerage Comparison 2021

As we enter into a new decade of dividend and index investing, I thought it was time for an update to our Canadian online broker article (whose first version dates back as early as 2006).  Use the table of contents below to dig into our criteria and comparisons as we look at the Best Canadian Online Discount Brokerages in 2021. 

 If you want to trace the unique evolution of Canada’s best discount brokerages over the years, our comment section dates back to when Dani California was a hit new song!

Best Online Brokerage in Canada: Quick Comparison

Broker

MDJ Score

ETF Comissions

Trading Fees

Best For

Promotions

Learn More

Qtrade logo

Qtrade

5/5

FREE buying and selling of 100+ ETFs

$8.75 ($6.95 elite accounts)

#1 Rated Broker in Canada

$50-$2,000 Visa Gift Card

Questrade logo

Questrade

5/5
Free BUY of ETFs (full trading prices apply to ETF sales)

$4.95-$9.95

Lowest Overall Cost

$50 in Free Trades

BMO Investorline logo

BMO Investorline

4.5/5
$9.95 per ETF trade

$9.95 ($7.95 elite accounts)

Best Big Bank Brokerage

Up to $2,000 cash back (use promo code MDJCASH)

RBC Direct Investing logo
RBC Direct
4/5

$9.95 per ETF trade

$9.95 ($6.95 elite accounts)

Great Mobile + Desktop Platforms

None


Best 2021 Broker Promo – Up to $2,000 Visa Gift Card

Open an account with Qtrade today and invest at least $25,000 to get a $50 Visa gift card – plus up to $150 in Qtrade credit to offset any transfer-out fees charged to you by your current online broker!

Deposit more than $25,000 by March 2021 and get up to $2,000 on your Visa gift card! Bonus amount grows incrementally based on deposit. Read our Qtrade review for exact terms, or sign up using the button below.

Qtrade is MillionDollarJourney’s #1 rated Canadian broker.

Intro – What is an “Online Discount Brokerage” or “Discount Stock Broker”?

Before we dive into this topic, let me take a minute and explain what an online discount brokerage, or a discount stock broker is. An online discount broker is essentially a way for you to trade stocks, bonds, ETFs, and a few other types of more niche investments, online.

group business people in office.

However, there’s no “middle man” like the old movie idea of “stock broker” when you use an online discount brokerage.  You don’t get a person or company to do the buying or selling for you. You are the one in charge.

A discount stock brokerage account operates in the same way as traditional brokers do in that these platforms allow investors such as you and me to buy and sell assets such stocks, bonds, mutual funds, GICs, and ETFs. However, as mentioned above, with an online discount brokerage it is you, the investor, calling the shots.

This DIY-type of approach comes with a significantly lower commission cost than what you would pay to a traditional Canadian stock broker (leaving more money to compound as your investments grow!) making it a very attractive option for those willing to do a very small amount of leg work.

TL;DR Best Stock Broker for Canadians In 2021 – Why Qtrade?

While there are a few discount brokerages worthy of your attention – at the top there can be only one!

Qtrade is simply Canada’s Best Overall Online Brokerage in 2021.

Don’t take our word for it… longtime Canadian personal finance veteran, Rob Carrick of the Globe and Mail says that:

Qtrade logo

No other broker is good in so many different areas and no other broker makes such consistent year-by-year improvements.

The discount brokerage comparison chart above shows that there are several reasons why Qtrade has consistently been ranked so highly by all of the impartial Canadian personal finance experts over the years. 

Their ability to innovate new aspects of their platform, as well as to flawlessly integrate these new ideas – all while keeping their fees amongst the lowest in Canada – mean that Qtrade has shown its best-in-class stripes over the long term.

In past years we have ranked Questrade slightly above Qtrade in our Canadian discount broker rankings, chiefly on the basis on their lower fees – and while Questrade certainly remains an excellent alternative, and a solid #2 overall option – we have decided that Qtrade has overtaken them this year based on the following criteria.

Why did we decide to rank Qtrade above its primary rival, Questrade?

  • During the pandemic, our MDJ inbox was filled with a constant flow of messages complaining about Questrade’s customer service standards.  Wait times of 4+ hours for both phone and online chat options showed what the price of the lowest fees in Canada are.  Qtrade on the other hand has consistently held the highest standards for their customer service according to our readers, the Globe and Mail, and Moneysense Magazine.  For many Canadians this commitment to customer service makes a huge difference in their trust of a company.
  • Qtrade’s free ETFs represent a nice little upgrade on Questrades “free to buy – but to not sell” ETFs.
  • The current Qtrade promotion is simply the best promotion that we’ve ever seen for a discount brokerage.  The ability to snag an instant $2,000 visa gift card (although most account openings will be in the $50-$200 range) is a really nice little door prize!
  • Finally, we just think that Qtrade’s overall investor education package, combined with the app and desktop platforms they have refined give them a slight edge on what Questrade has put out there.

Qtrade isn’t the unchallenged leader in every single category – but they have no glaring weaknesses, and absolutely shine when it comes to free ETFs, elite customer service, and unparalleled access to information and education tools. See our in-depth Qtrade Review for more information, or this Questrade vs Qtrade comparison.

February 2021 Update: The newest edition of the Globe and Mail (with the help of Dalbar Canada) discount brokerage rankings just came out and once again ranked Qtrade as the best discount brokerage in Canada: 

“Any broker can fill an order to buy stocks, exchange-traded funds, mutual funds, bonds and more. Qtrade helps you build a well-constructed portfolio and then monitor it to ensure it continues to work for you.” and, “They may be the king of steady year-by-year improvement.”

When they looked back at the market turmoil in 2020 and early 2021, Dalbar’s findings matched our own anecdotal evidence: Canada’s online brokers struggled with the increased demands put on their trading platforms.  This confirms our own intuitive heavier weighting when it came to the customer service advantage that Qtrade enjoyed over their lower-cost competitor at Questrade.

Lowest Cost Canadian Discount Brokerage – Questrade

Questrade logo

Questrade is the lowest cost Canadian brokerage for everything besides ETFs (which Qtrade offers free buying and selling of).

Technically, Wealthsimple Trade, Wealthsimple’s DIY brokerage, has lower costs than Questrade, that platform has some gaping holes in it – not to mention their buggy mobile app.  While they might be worth following in the future, for the time being, if you want to go with Wealthsimple, check out their robo advisor solution at Wealthsimple Invest.  Wealthsimple Trade is simply an unfinished product that isn’t comparable to the rest of this list. You can also check out my article comparing Wealthsimple vs Questrade to understand the differences better.

When it comes to a truly-usable discount brokerage that cuts costs to the bone, look no further than Questrade.  Questrade charges a penny-per-share-traded (bought or sold) – but with a minimum of $4.95, and a maximum of $9.95.  Personally, I’ve never bought more than 495 shares of a stock or unit of an ETF before – but I’d like to have an account big enough to try it some time!

In any case, when it comes to per-trade costs for the average investor, Questrade can’t be beat.

There are no annual fees (no matter the size of your account, though there is an account minimum of $1,000) and no fees charged when you buy ETFs.

It’s not like the rest of the Questrade package is lacking something major, it’s simply a tribute to how far some of the other brokerages have come, that we no longer rank them #1.  The Questrade app and website have seen tremendous upgrades in the last couple of years, and the vast majority of people that we have recommended Questrade to over the years have been quite happy with them.

That said, there is no doubt that customer service emerged as a weak spot for the quickly-growing company during the pandemic.  Several of the writers on this website saw wait times of over four hours for both the online chat and call-in options.  Emails went over a week between response times at various points.

This customer service element is where Qtrade has really worked to distinguish themselves over the years.  They have consistently been ranked at the top in this category by both the Globe and Mail rankings and the Moneysense Magazine rankings.  

“We congratulate Qtrade Investor for its convincing win…and for its commitment to innovation and unmatched service levels.” — Glenn LaCoste, President of Surviscor

Of course, if you’re not the “customer service” type, and simply want access to a great platform at the lowest price – then Questrade makes a ton of sense for you. Check out our full Questrade Review for more information.

Most Convenient Big Bank Brokerage – BMO Investorline

Canadians love their big banks.  Their names grace our sports stadiums, and many of us opened our very first bank accounts at their in-person locations – and then never looked back.

Here’s the thing – it can just be really really nice to have all your banking and investing in one place.

BMO Investorline logo

There is no denying that there is a bit of tradeoff when it comes to price – as BMO’s trading fees are higher than those of Questrade and Qtrade – but for many Canadians, a hundred or two hundred bucks a year in trading fee differences are simply worth it to not have to worry about mixups in transferring money or having paperwork with several different companies.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with deciding to be on one side of that tradeoff or the other!  

It’s simply a matter of being an informed consumer so that you can get the most value for your personal needs.

Using one of Canada’s oldest and most trusted big banks can not only make the logistics easier to handle, it might help you negotiate some nice perks on your chequing account, elite credit card fee, or even knock a few hundreds of a percent off your next mortgage rate.  Obviously the bigger your investment account, the more leverage you have.

While all of the Big 5 banks have competitive brokerages, we simply find that Investorline has the best user experience, and a slight edge when it comes to investor education materials.

Check out our full BMO Investorline Review for more information, or sign up by clicking the button below and using the code MDJCASH to enjoy our exclusive promotion:

Other Canadian Online Brokers

Even though Qtrade and Questrade are practically neck and neck for the title of the best online broker, and BMO represents the best compromise option when it comes to using a discount brokerage that Canadians are familiar with, that doesn’t mean they are the only viable choices. Luckily, we Canucks have plenty of good options available if you want to see if there is a better fit.

Below, I will present those I deem as “the best of the rest” and try to highlight each one’s main advantage, as well as how it stacks up when compared with Qtrade. We also have detailed reviews for all of those companies which will be linked from the relevant part of text – so if you want to learn more about a specific one you can simply click the review link and get all the added info you need.

RBC Direct Investing – 2nd Best Mobile App (After Qtrade)

Rbclogo

As mentioned above, all of the big banks trading platforms are quite comparable and could all be classified as ‘elite products’. The biggest upside is of course the fact that if you already bank with them, opening a brokerage account with a specific bank becomes easier and much more convenient. In that regard, RBC is no different.

RBC Direct Investing offers you the same trade-off as other big banks do – you pay higher fees and in return enjoy an excellent platform and a lot of account options to choose from. In RBC’s case, their biggest advantage is their mobile app, which has the best ratings out of all the options listed on this page.

TD Direct Investing – Great platform

Td Direct Investing Logo

If it weren’t for the fact they neither have an ongoing promotion, nor offer free ETF trading, TD Direct might well have been placed higher on our list. With the TD Webbroker, they have arguably the best trading platform in Canada – at least for desktop users. While their mobile app isn’t the best, it is also a very good product and overall user reviews are very positive.

If you already bank with TD, or if you know you are going to make a lot of use of their excellent trading platform, then signing up with TD Direct Investing can’t be a bad decision ever. That said, even though their software might be a little bit better – they simply can’t compete with the value one might get from Qtrade’s low fees or BMO’s excellent promo offer.

Virtual Brokers – Competitive Fees + Extra Consideration for Canadian expats

Virtual Brokers Logo

Virtual Brokers is a very good option for active investors and Canadians who are living overseas. They are one of the bigger and most well known brokers in Canada and have been in business since 2009 and are now backed up by CI Direct Investments, giving them solid stability going forward.

This broker is ideal for Canadians who live overseas but prefer to keep their portfolios back home. Unlike other companies on this list – other than Questrade – Virtual Brokers don’t shy away from expat clients and will assist you with all the necessary paperwork. Not only that, but there will be no added charges for that! The only requirement is a $25,000 account minimum.

VB’s fees are comparable with Questrade as some of the industry’s best. The reason it falls short of a top spot for me is because the platform over there is quite outdated and hard to use – the mobile app in particular is really not polished enough. Add to that the fact they currently have no promo on offer, and they simply fall short of being the best choice for most Canadians.

Scotia iTrade –  Excellent for Traders Who Like Scotiabank

Scotiabank Logo

Like most of the big banks, Scotia’s trading product is an elite one. The platform is modern and integrates very easily with all other Scotia products so you get a very good ‘all in one’ solution for your financial needs. 

Scotia iTrade is particularly attractive for those who want to deposit large amounts of money and be very active with their accounts. If you do that, then it somewhat mitigates the higher fees and the overall convenience and ease of use really shines through.

Scotia’s trading fees are higher than the top brokers on this list, but are on par with all the other big banks. The only real major downside is their mobile stock trading app – it got abysmal reviews and hasn’t been updated in a long while.

Top Discount Brokerage Promo Offer Codes for 2021

Qtrade Promo:

Open an account today, invest $25,000 and get a $50 Visa gift card + up to $150 in credit to offset any transfer-out fees charged by your current broker!

Deposit more than $25,000 by March 1st, 2021 and get up to $2,000 on your Visa gift card!

BMO Promo:

Use our exclusive BMO Investorline promo offer code: MDJCASH to receive cash back offers based on your initial deposit:

For the minimum deposit of $50,000 you will get $100 cash back, with tiered bonuses going all the way to $2000 cash back for deposits of $1M or more.

Questrade Promo:

Sign up with Questrade to get $50 in free trades. 

When combined with Questrade’s free purchasing of ETFs (notably not free selling as well) Questrade continues to be the low-cost leader, and one of the best brokers in Canada.

Are These Canadian Stock Brokers Safe?

When it comes to managing your finances online, there are always questions about safety. Doing anything online comes with some risks, including identity theft, malware or viruses, phishing schemes, and data breaches.

Obviously, all of these risks are quite serious business – especially when it comes to your personal information and money! However, you can rest easy knowing that all of Canada’s online brokers go to great lengths to protect both their websites, as well as their clients.

Common online broker security measures include the following:

  • SSL encryption
  • Ultra-secure servers
  • Two-step authentication process when logging in
  • Automatic logout
  • Regular system monitoring

Of course, it’s not just up to the online broker. You need to be cautious as well. If you are investing online (or sharing any personal information online, really), you should take the following steps to better protect yourself online.

Recommended Steps

  • Install anti-virus and anti-spyware programs on your computer
  • Use strong passwords that are hard to guess
  • Take advantage of two-factor authentication when offered
  • Always be mindful of who is around when you are entering your account information. As much as possible, this should be done when you are alone at home. If you need to step away from the computer, make sure to log out first.

At the end of the day, yes, investing online does have risks, it’s not typically seen as a risky activity. As mentioned above, there are plenty of security measures in place and procedures you should be following as well. It’s really just about being smart and cautious with your personal information.

Are Qtrade and Questrade as safe as BMO?

I think most Canadians understand intrinsically that a company like BMO is safe.  After all, the massive bank has been around for over two hundred years, and is one of the biggest businesses in Canada.  People assume that their money will be safe.

Fewer Canadians have heard of our top choice for 2021.

The bottom line is that Qtrade has all of the internet safety measures that are described above, but additionally, they have the same CIPF-insurance backed accounts that BMO and other big banks enjoy (read Qtrade review here).

What is the CIPF you might ask?  The Canadian Investor Protection Fund is essentially an insurance coverage that the Canadian government has in place in case a brokerage company goes bankrupt (aka “insolvent”).  It covers each Canadian investment account up to $1 Million.  That’s per account.  So you could have a $1 Million TFSA, $1M RRSP, $1M non-registered, etc.  

So even if the company was in trouble (which it isn’t – since it’s owned by Canadian financial conglomerate Avisio Wealth), your personal assets would still be safe – just like BMO, TD, RBC, Questrade, and any other online broker in Canada.

Qtrade is in exactly the same boat.

Now, it shouldn’t need stating, but I’m going to say it here anyway: No brokerage account or financial advisor can protect you against basic investment risk!

The Canadian online broker can keep your information safe from being hacked, there are steps that can be taken to minimize vulnerability to fraud, and the CIPF will protect your assets from a company that is in trouble – but there are no guarantees when you invest in stocks, bonds, ETFs, or commodities.  Again, this might be obvious to you – but you wouldn’t believe the questions that end up in our inbox sometimes!

Comparing Canadian Stock Broker Trading Fees for ETFs and Stocks

Everyone is looking for low investing fees in Canada, and there’s no doubt that online discount brokerages offer the best rates relative to mutual funds and even robo advisors. But, just how much better off are you with a discount broker? Let’s take a look.

Fees to Trade ETFs:

When it comes to ETFs we need to remember that even though a few of the online brokerages mentioned in this article offer free ETFs to buy, you do need to pay a fee to sell. Here’s a breakdown of ETF fees among our selected discount brokerages.

  • Qtrade: $0 – Free to buy or sell the top 100
  • Questrade: $0 to buy, $4.95-$9.95 to sell
  • BMO InvestorLine: $9.95 to buy and sell
  • TD Direct Investing: $9.95 to buy and sell
  • RBC Direct Investing: $9.95 to buy and sell

ECN Fees:

Another fee that you will want to keep in mind are ECN fees. So, what exactly is an ECN fee? ECN stands for Electronic Communication Network and these fees are essentially service charges that you will pay on your trades, although they can sometimes be avoided. Here’s what you can expect to pay in ECN fees with each respective online broker.  

  • Qtrade Investor: $0
  • Questrade: $0.0008- $0.004 per trade
  • BMO InvestorLine: $0
  • Wealthsimple Trade: $0

I think it’s also worth mentioning that Canada has some of the highest investment fees in the world. This 2017 global study compared the investment fees and expenses in 25 different countries around the world. So, where did Canada fall on the scale? 

At the bottom. 

We paid the highest investment fees out of all the other developed countries on this list.  When you read or hear stats like that, it’s really no wonder that more and more Canadians are becoming interested in taking the proverbial bull by the horns and getting into trading themselves rather than paying others to do it for them. After all, the end goal is to make money, not flush it away on unnecessary expenses.  

Bottom Line: If you’re a passive investor or prefer to diversify through ETFs, you really can’t beat Qtrade’s free ETF policy.  If dividend stocks or other individual stocks are more your thing then Questrade wins the cost battle.

Ultimate Summary of Canadian Discount Brokerages Fees and DRIP Options

In addition to trading fees, keep an eye on annual maintenance fees if you are below the minimum balance, and especially foreign exchange fees.  Most discount brokers will hide the fee in the exchanged amount. 

Some investors also like the simplicity of a Dividend Reinvestment Plan (DRIP), and while it shouldn’t be a primary comparison point, we’ll including that in the feature table below as well (last update Dec. 28, 2020):

BrokerFeesFree ETFs?Drip
Questrade
(Rated #1)
$4.95 for up to 495 shares ($9.95 max) $9.95 per mutual fund trade ETFs are free to buy, reg commission to sellYes (for buying)$0 for balance above $5k $19.95/ quarter if balance < $5k
Qtrade$8.75/ trade or $6.95/ trade if assets > $500kYes (both selling and buying) Both Canadian and U.S. DRIPS are offered free of charge
Scotia i-Trade (formally e-trade)$24.99 or $9.99 /trade with $50k in assets or 30+ trades /quarter, $4.99/trade with 150+ trades /quarterYes (select group)Yes
IBMin $1 /USD trade. Max 0.5% of trade value ($0.005/ share)No$10 USD $50/year annual RRSP fee Min $10k to open an account
BMO InvestorLine$9.95/ trade no minimum balanceNo$100/ yr if balance < $25k
RBC Direct Investing$9.95/ trade no minimum balance $6.95/ trade if 150+ trades / quarterNo$25 / quarter if balance < $25k
TD Direct Investing$9.99/ trade no minimum balance $7/ trade if 150+ trades / quarterNo$100 / yr if balance < $25k
Virtual Brokers$0.01/share with cap of $9.99 + ECN feesYes (for buying)$50/ yr if balance < $15k, $50/ yr for USD RRSP

Online Brokers by Foreign Exchange Fees

Due to popular demand, below is the foreign exchange fee/spread charged by each of the brokerages to convert your CAD->foreign currency.

BrokerageForex Fee/Spread (each way)
i-Trade1.5% (not confirmed)
IB0.01% + 2.50USD
Questrade1.99%
BMO0.90%
TDW1.40%
BNS~1%
CIBC2%
RY~1%
Qtrade1.75% for < $10k, 1.60% for > $10k but < $25k
VB0.75%

The Best Discount Brokerage Mobile App in Canada

While I prefer to use my online brokers website platform, I know that several of Canada’s discount brokerage mobile apps got redesigned in 2020 and 2021 in order to meet demand for cutting-edge usability.  There is a fine balance to be struck when it comes to providing brokerage app users with a high number of features, but also a simple & clean user experience.  

Once again we see Qtrade come out as the best Canadian online brokerage app, as they have yet again refined their already-best-in-class offering from last year.  Qtrade’s app has the best ratings in the app store for good reason, as they offer a smooth user experience combined with the ability to view and trade from all of your accounts in a simple intuitive manner.

Read our full stock broker app comparison here.

Who Should Use an Online Trading Platform?

The promise of low investing fees is attractive to everyone, but the concept of doing your own trading can also be quite intimidating. 

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be!

Part of what makes online trading platforms so enticing is that they really can work for everyone due to the fact that they are so customizable. Online trading platforms can work well for both active and passive investing. For those who are unsure of the difference between the two, active investing is a much more hands-on approach.  

An active investor will try to pick and choose which stocks or bonds will perform best and trade accordingly. Passive investing, on the other hand, involving having a little piece of every company or bond in a market, rather than relying on a select few.

Passive investors usually rely on index investing (the couch potato strategy) when it comes to their investments and is seen as an effective long-haul investment strategy.   For those interested in active investing, you will essentially have to become your own portfolio manager.

Alternative to Online Brokers in Canada: Robo Advisors

I should take a second to point out that if you really want the ultimate in low-maintenance hands-off investing (like many of my friends do) then the Wealthsimple robo advisor platform has really distinguished itself from the rest of the pack when it comes to instant portfolio solutions, and is rated our best robo advisor in Canada.  You’ll pay more in fees than you would with a discount brokerage account, but it is still less than 25% of what you’d be paying with a typical Canadian mutual fund. They’ll even give you $50 cash when you open an account!

Canadian Online Broker Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best online broker in Canada?

Qtrade is our overall pick for the best online broker in Canada.  Their combination of low prices, elite customer service, and constant innovation is simply the best in class. 

That said, the best online brokerage account for YOU is the one that you are most likely to use.  So if low costs are your priority, then Questrade or Wealthsimple Trade might be a better bet. 

If keeping things simple and convenient by using a big bank is your preferred banking strategy, then we recommend BMO Investorline, with RBC and TD coming in 2nd and 3rd respectively.  See our above comparison for more detailed information.

Are Online Brokers and Buying Stocks Online Safe in Canada?

Yes.  If you read the section above on all of the ways online brokers keep your investments safe, then you are likely reassured that you will not be at risk of losing money to a broker’s fraud or the brokerage going bankrupt.  There are very strict Canadian regulations on all of this stuff, and being a member of the IIROC, all the Canadian discount brokerages adhere to high safety standards.

Of course, we’re discussing safety from non-investment risk factors here.  Please keep in mind that there nothing any investment platform can do to protect you from inherent investment risk.  Your investments can obviously go down in value, and this has nothing to do with which brokerage you choose. 

What Canadian online broker has the best customer service?

Qtrade consistently ranks as the best broker for customer service, followed by the big bank brokers at BMO, TD, RBC and Scotia.  Of course, it’s not easy to quantify exactly what “great customer service” looks like, but we feel confident in stating Qtrade is at the top of the Canadian brokerage rankings due to the large number of emails and comments we get at MDJ, plus our constant reviews of both Moneysense magazine’s, and the Globe and Mail’s new broker comparisons each year. 

Never has customer service been more important to consumers as in 2021 as we have seen many online brokerages really struggle with 4 hours+ delays in responding to online and phone inquiries.  This is one of the key reasons we decided to rank Qtade above Questrade as our overall #1 Canadian discount brokerage this year.

Which bank is the best for stock trading in Canada?

While Qtrade is our best stock trading brokerage in Canada for 2021, if you feel the need to keep your financial life simple, and stick to one of the big banks, then we recommend the BMO Investorline brokerages over its competitors offerings at TD, BMO, RBC, and especially CIBC.

How to buy stocks online in Canada?

If you’re sick of terrible mutual fund options and want to take matters into your own hands by buying stocks online, you must first open a discount brokerage (which is likely how you ended up at this article).  After that, the exact steps will depend on which brokerage you choose, but the key steps would be to transfer money from your chequing account to your brokerage account, and then make your first stock buy. 

If you want to keep things as simple as possible, just look up the price of the stock or ETF you wish to purchase, then divide the amount of money that you want to invest, by the price of the share.  Then type in that amount into the quantity section, and use a “Market” order to purchase at whatever the going rate is.  For more detail see our article on how to buy stocks and sell shares online.

What portfolio should I build with an online broker?

If you want to prioritize simplicity, we recommend an all-in-one ETF, whereas if you want to prioritize cashflow we are big fans of dividend investing.  Check out our article on the best dividend stocks in Canada for 2021 for more information.

How do I open a brokerage account in Canada?

While it used to involve emailing signed documents back and forth to open a brokerage account in Canada, the last few years have seen more and more brokerages adopt online signatures in order to speed the account opening process. 

It’s now easier than ever to sign up with a Canadian online broker and begin buying and selling stocks online.  You simply need to input your basic personal information (including your SIN), choose your account (RRSP, TFSA, Non-registered, margin, etc.) and then use the digital sign up for the platform.  Processing times can vary depending on the brokerage and the time of year.

Can you buy stocks on a mobile app?

Yes, buying stocks on mobile apps has never been easier or more convenient.  While I personally still prefer to use my desktop, the brokerages have been steadily improving their apps over the last decade. 

Our #1 ranked mobile app for Canadian discount brokerages is Qtrade, but the major banks (TD in particular) have also poured significant resources into improving their usability over the last few years.

Final Words of Wisdom About Canada’s Discount Brokerages

Becoming a successful active investor requires knowledge and understanding of the stock market. It also involves you needing to do your own research. It will take time and effort; however, if this is the strategy you wish to use and you are confident in your abilities, then using an online trading platform instead of a traditional financial planner can save you a lot of money. That being said, you don’t need to be an active investor to make an online trading platform work for you.

You can also use them for passive and index investing which doesn’t require the same amount of expertise or commitment. If you want to copy the same index investing strategy as a robo advisor, you absolutely can; no one will stop you. That being said, using an online trading platform will require slightly more time and effort than a robo would but, again, you are saving yourself money in terms of the fees so it just might be worth your time. 

Using an online trading platform does not necessarily mean you need to be trading on a regular basis; 4 times a year is enough if that’s your preferred strategy. However, you do need to be interested and disciplined enough to keep up with your research, as nobody else will step in to help you if you take this approach.

Make sure you have read our stock broker comparison above carefully, delved into our stock broker reviews, and if you have decided to sign up with any broker, whether from our list of Best Canadian Online Brokers or not, make sure you are utilizing its promotional welcome offers.

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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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PracticalFIRECanada
1 month ago

I’m not just singling out this article, because all brokerage comparisons seem to omit margin charges. There is quite a variation on the margin account interest rates. A difference of 2% would make a difference of $2,000 annually on a $100,000 margin balance.

I would also like to see comparisons of how hard it is to get money in and out of accounts. This is particularly important for the online-only brokerages that are not the banks.

Bob MacDougall
1 month ago

For frequent traders National Bank should be mentioned. I think its 6.95 a trade BUT frequent traders over 100 trades per quarter its only 99Cents!!!

Simon
5 months ago

Hold & read this before you open any account with Qtrade, or you will be robbed blind as we just experienced when moving, transferring or closing your account. The fee published on its website is misleading to say the least. The real cost is much higher as we just found out in late 2020. The total fee to transfer my RRSP account was more than $500! It included $150 for CAD RRSP, plus CA$350 for USD RRSP account, even though I asked Qtrade and was told specifically “It will be $150 and it will only be charged once and not per account.” in their own online message! The USD RRSP fee includes US$150 for transferring, US$100 for closing the account, which is obviously a greedy double dip (or actually triple dip considering they said they would only charge once for all accounts), and all plus GST. This is highway robbery. Unless you want to be robbed like this, stay as far away from Qtrade.ca as possible!

Ivan
5 months ago

How up to date is the foreign exchange fee/spread table ? Also, for QTrade there is no spread % listed for > $25k. Is it unknown ? I doubt it’s 0%.

Farhan
5 months ago

I am curious if you have looked at National Bank Discount Brokerage (NBDB). I switched from TDW to NBDB and so far pretty happy. The major drawback is that they don’t have a mobile app, which is not a deal breaker for me.

I also opened a Chequing account with them, so I get a flat rate for $6.95 per stock trade. ETFs buy and sell are commission free as long as at least 100 shares are traded ($6.95 if less than 100). Their website may not be as refined as others but since I do my research outside of brokerage and currently only investing in ETFs, NBDB works for me. They have even cheaper rates for young investors.

Another refreshing change for me coming from TDW is that NBDB support secure messaging through the website so non-critical items like enabling or disabling DRIP can be taken care of through a message and there is no need to call (huge time saver these days).

In summary, I would highly recommend NBDB to any passive ETF investor who don’t care about mobile app or “fancy research and tools” provided by other brokerages – there is no need for all that fancy stuff for passive investors.

Editor
Kyle Prevost
5 months ago
Reply to  Farhan

We have a National Bank review in the hopper – long story story, they are middle of the pack for me personally. I still think Questrade, Qtrade, and VB are tough to beat.

Editor
Kyle Prevost
5 months ago
Reply to  Farhan

I love the incredible array of options that IB brings to the table – all at a low price point Barbara. The problem is… all the options they bring to the table. A lot of people find their platform overwhelming. The other negative is that they are HQ’d in the USA. There are some interesting semi-tested rules out there around US-domiciled assets and inheritance taxes. Just enough to dissuade me and have me staying closer to home!

Barbara
5 months ago
Reply to  Kyle Prevost

Thanks for your response. Will have to look further into the last part of your response however my initial feeling is that as inheritances will be left to people outside of Canada (some in the US) I do not believe that this would be an issue.

Besides IB there is only one other brokerage I could find that did fractional shares and their prices/fees are ridiculous.

Again thank you.

Barbara Wallace
5 months ago

Hi, I’m very happy to have accidentally found this site.
Seems like IB is not on your list for your top brokerages. I am looking for a brokerage that does fractional shares and I’m wondering what you think about IB for this? ShareOwners is expensive from what I’ve seen. I will be trading quarterly at the least and most likely more frequently as I will also be doing options.

Will be reading more and also following your site. I need to learn more about the withholding taxes as I will be buying several US dividend paying stocks.

Thank your and I look forward to a response.

Barbara

KimberyAsh
8 months ago

I’ve had a joint cheq/sav account and a HELOC with BMO for the last 12 yrs. I don’t make more than 6 or 7 trades a year, but since the fee’s are waived – as my balance is well over the minimum – and the price per transaction is pretty competitive, I haven’t had the need to switch. Been pretty happy with them providing my primary banking needs for some time.

Rommel
8 months ago

I’m from Canada. Is Wealthsimple Trade good for a beginner like?

Editor
Kyle Prevost
8 months ago
Reply to  Rommel

It really depends what you want to do with a discount brokerage account Rommel. If you want to day-trade stocks (which I don’t recommend) then no. If you’re looking for a cheap/free way to invest in index funds – then yes!

Samantha
1 year ago

I got to move to Questtrade, because I’m tired of paying $10 to RBC for small ETF purchases.

Mohammad Usman
10 months ago
Reply to  Samantha

Can someone help me which brokers can I register with to trad on Canadians TSX

sunny
10 months ago
Reply to  Mohammad Usman

Mohammad Usman,
There are several brokering companies that can provide you with a self-directed trading account. You can search for discount brokers in Canada, all result is ready.
You can also check their commission and fees, comparison of.
Qtrade, Questrade, CIBC investor Edge, TD, RBC, SCOTIA – all of them provide services to that end.

Mike
1 year ago

Curious why CIBC Investor’s Edge didn’t even make the list of also-rans. $6.95 per trade and no charge to set up DRIPs. No annual fees if you maintain a decent balance. They do charge to buy ETFs but so do others who made the list. I’ve been with them for years – very happy. They offer a large array of mutual funds. I’m not an active trader so I don’t often use their research tools but they’re fairly complete – symbol lookup, charting, news, financial details, etc. Oh well.