When I receive emails promoting a product, I typically hit the delete button assuming that it's SPAM.  This time though, the product was for a new discount brokerage offered in Canada, so I had to take a peak.  Note that this is NOT a sponsored post and MDJ is not affiliated with Think or Swim in any way.

When I first heard of Think or Swim, I thought it was a book title.  Do the words "Think or Swim" conjure up images of a discount brokerage to you?

This article will provide a preliminary view of the discount brokerage Think or Swim CanadaAs I don't have an account with them, I can only go by what it stated on their website.  I would be grateful if there are any users of Think or Swim to add their comments.

Trading Platforms

  1. thinkDesktop – a software based trading platform, I assume that it's the same idea as Interactive Brokers.
  2. webBasedTrading – their web based trading platform.
  3. thinkAnywhere – smartphone/pocketpc based trading platform.
  4. thinkMobile – regular cell phone trading for phones with mini browser capabilities.

Commissions/Fees for Trading Stocks (USD)

  • $0.015/share ($5 min) or
  • $9.95 / trade (5000 shares max).
  • No Additional fees for calling trading desk to make trade.

Commissions/Fees for Trading Options (USD)

  • $1.50 / contract with min of $7.50 / trade. 


  • All live data is free. 


  • Only USD is accepted with their accounts (What are they thinking?  How can they open a Canadian version of their brokerage without letting Canadians hold their local currency?)


  • Ability to call trading desk to make trades at no extra charge.
  • The additional options in trading platforms.  Although I wouldn't trade over my mobile browser, it is a nice option to have.
  • Low commissions.


  • Cannot hold Canadian currency within a Think or Swim Account.
  • No RRSP's.
  • No Canadian office.  All paperwork/cheques need to be shipped to their head office in Chicago.
  • No mutual funds.

Final Thoughts

As of right now, I don't think that Think or Swim is a particularly good choice as a Canadian discount brokerage.  If you compare them with other discount brokerages that I've reviewed, you'll see that they are lacking in a couple key areas.  The biggest being that the investor cannot hold Canadian cash within the account.

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No CDN$ is indeed strange. Maybe they don’t know that we have our own currency?? :)


OK, that’s insane.

I blast into US companies all of the time for not having any sense about Canada. One of my favorite magazines (Maximum PC), once stated that they couldn’t hand out contest prizes to Canadians b/c their legal advice had suggested that random draws weren’t legal in Canada!

Heck I’m working at a firm that’s still “globalizing”. One of the “big chiefs”, of a $200M+ company, was shocked to learn that Canada was part of the G-8 (yeah turns out we’re pretty big :)

Of course, in this case, Think or Swim just failed horribly. They should drop $100 in your account and ask you to try again in 2 months when they’ve got their head on straight.

TOS has one of the best customer service and platform amongst its brokers.

From a commission stand point IB is the cheapest, however there is a cancellation fee when you decide to make changes to the order.

If you are a professional trader then I would highly recommend it.

If anyone wants a detail explanation I could write a detail list on the pros and cons of TOS

Gates, you should ask your ‘big chief’ if he can name the largest trading partner of the US…

Gates, you should ask your ‘big chief’ if he can name the largest trading partner of the US…

Turns out it’s China :)

But trust me, we’re working on the “big chief”.

Re: the random draw legality in Canada … Maximum PC is not completely wrong. There’s a reason why every one of those things in Canada is called a “contest”, and why you have to answer a “skill-testing” question in order to claim your “prize”. On the plus side, we also always get the “No purchase necessary” clause to go with it.


Otherwise it’s a lottery, and the government runs/regulates those.

Not being able to hold canadian currency is indeed bizarre. As Gates stated above US companies don’t have much sense about their neighbors to the north. I work for a large US based company that has an office here in BC, and the policies they try and force down our throat here to make us conform to their way of doing things leave me shaking my head on a daily basis. I swear if it came down to the choice of being flexible to keep a customer, or to rigidly stick by company policy, they would let the customer walk away every time…

Zac: I’m totally aware of the rules regarding Canadian contests, what’s sad is that they don’t.

I actually contacted them directly with the information: “What, you don’t think we have any random draws in this country? It’s called a contest, you add a skill-testing question…”

But no dice. They don’t get it.

So far they are opening their branch in canada but don’t allow you to trade in cdn$.. So can you trade Canadian stocks through this platform or only US stocks? If not, maybe you can buy canadian companies listed on US exchanges..;-) That’s confusing..:-)


I am currently a customer with them. The broker works good for you only if you are willing to trade in US derivatives. If you are looking for Canadian stocks then you have to stick with other brokers.

They are currently working with Canadian regulators to get canadian stocks

Yesterday I read a post in a forum while doing some research, in which someone actually referred to Canadian dollars as monopoly money. (It was written a “few” years ago.) Generally I think smart companies are growing more respectful as they learn to do business online.

No $CDN? And they’re opening a “Canadian” branch? That’s nuts.

I think I’ll open a doughnut shop in Chicago and only accept Canadian dollars. Something tells me it’ll be a huge success…

If you’re operating in a country, you gotta accept the local currency. That’s just the way things work.

Interesting post.

No CAN$… No comments. If they are working on that, it seems to me they should have waited to open shop.

As for the biggest US partner, it is now China. Used to be Canada but that changed about 2 years ago or so. (Wife is an economist)

It seems Wiki is not always up to date.


China’s the biggest US trading partner primarily because of Wal-Mart, which purchases an absolutely massive amount of “stuff” from Chinese manufacturers.

One of the founders if Scott Sheridan, who does frequent tv spots on a Chicago business news show in the early am. He is a big time contrarian and so has been a bear for the last couple of years. However, although he always seems pessimistic, he typically explains himself well and gives good ideas about how to make money on trades no matter which direction the market is going, as well as how to limit risk and losses. Definately a trader’s trader, but fun to listen to none the less.

Real Investor- I don’t doubt that they are a good broker. I just find it very entertaining that they are opening a branch in Canada, without accepting C$. I agree with George that this is the same as opening a doughnut shop in Chicago and accepting anything but US dollars. With US dollar in free fall, maybe selling stuff un Us for other currency is not a bad idea..

TOS was at a financial convention in Toronto recently and I asked them about it. I’ve been using their software (papermoney only) and it’s robust.

They spent the last year or more working with the Canadian brokerage industry regulators to get licensed here. I assume they took so long to get it going because of red tape and (obviously) regulatory differences.

Anyway, the reason why they opened up without the Canadian content is that they were getting a lot of calls from Canadians asking why it was taking so long to get up here. They finally decided to just do it and open up even if it’s only US stocks and options (for now). However they are committed to Canadian currency and to RRSP accounts. Someone at the booth told me they have 100 programmers working on the system but it’s tricky for a lot of reasons I won’t get into here.

Anyway, maybe the end of spring we’ll see some Canadian content. It was a long conference but I think they said they’ll have mutual funds too. I don’t know the priority. I will tell you they have a new software release every couple of months.

Folks, TOS is superb – true pioneers – so take a closer look. You can download papermoney to check out what they have. The Help tab has a lot of flash tutorials so you can get the gist of the scope of the offering.

Hey Trizi, thanks for the information, but as a software developer, this quote raises a huge number of red flags for me:
Someone at the booth told me they have 100 programmers working on the system but it’s tricky for a lot of reasons I won’t get into here.

Surely they don’t have 100 people working on just the Canadian system. If that’s the case, it’ll never get done :)

Their 2006 annual report lists 650 employees, so I would believe that they have 100 developers in total across all of their products. But software is not their only income source, they also do training (from the looks of it).

Of course, having lots of developers tends to mean that work takes a very long time (even if this sounds counter-intuitive). Being anywhere in the financials industry and having to satisfy tighter government regulations means that changes tend to take a very long time.

Oh yeah, looks like the found a Canadian Security Services provider, but notice how the document is less than a month old.

They finally decided to just do it and open up even if it’s only US stocks and options (for now)

I’ll level with you, lines like this just give me the willies. If the work were being done by 5 guys in small office, I’d believe that it could be done next month. Give it a to team of 100 hundred people and it means that we’ll be lucky to see something this summer. Heck, check the investor section of their website, these guys haven’t even reported income for the 2007 yet.

Hopefully they send you an updated e-mail when they get there, I’m now holding USD on top of my Canadian stuff, so it’s good to hear about people who support both.

Folks, don’t be so hard on Think Or Swim. In the US, they are one of the fastest growing discount broker amongst pro traders and pioneers in many ways. If I’m right they are really appreciated for their options trading.

IB also ranks high but usually people complain a lot about their software platform. I’ve watched some demos a while ago at ThinkOrSwim and was absolutely impressed by their software platform, though they weren’t accepting canadian customers back then (regulatory hurdles mostly as they told me). I was one of the folks who sent them a few emails to see if they were going to allow that at some point.

Read the reviews if you don’t believe on Elite Trader, a big forum for pro traders in US:


for IB:

I think this is a good first step and am sure that if TOS said they would do it, it will happen. Once they get CAD money and stocks available I may very well switch there, or at least open an account and consider switching.

Think or Swim is perhaps the only discount broker in Canada that let you use a conditional order method. Try anyone else in Canada (goodluck) just kiss your money goodbye

[…] have done many discount brokerage reviews, from the good to the not so good.  I thought that we had most of the brokerages covered, but after some comments from readers, […]



To be honest, I personally think it’s great that they don’t accept Canadian dollar deposits. At least, that is if your primary (or in my case, ONLY) investing is in US equities, it makes a lot of sense. I recall in the early days of “online” brokerages when I would have given anything to access the rates and commission structures of the US internet brokerages. When considering the outrageous commissions involved in using a Canadian mainstream bank, I look at TOS as a wonderful and much needed alternative. And remember if you invest through Questrade (as an example) there are currency conversion fees associated if you invest in US equities using Canadian currency. I’m not fully up to speed on the cost consequences, but it is certainly something to consider. With TOS, assuming it is as described, the process is just, well, tidier. As an aspiring equity investor, transacting somewhat infrequently, I appreciate tidy.

I am not yet a member of ThinkOrSwim for the only reason that they are not yet available in Quebec. According to their site:

“Only Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan residents can open accounts at this time.”

However, I emailed them to see if and when they would be available in Quebec, and they replied a few minutes later (although it was about 9pm) saying that they hope to receive approval in Quebec and Nova Scotia in the near future.

I also asked if I could use their papermoney software in the meantime to get familiar with it, and they sent me a username and password the next day. So I downloaded the software and have just started to use it several days ago. I agree with the posts above that say this is a very robust software, with lots of features, including live graphs, and lots of video tutorials in three formats on the Help page.

Like Ashleah, I don’t mind if all the trades are done in US currency. Canadian users only pay the exchange rate, then it’s all US money from there.

I can’t wait for them to open their site to Quebec residents.

I was hoping to get some feedback from some of you more experienced guys. I am just finishing university and would like to get into the stock market. I don’t know a lot yet, but am trying to learn.

My dad is with TDW and if I joined him we would just break the 100K and could trade at 9.95. However, if either of us buys some stocks and the price drops a bit, we wouldn’t make the 100K anymore and trading goes up to 29 or something.

I don’t know how active I will be, but I can’t imagine 30 trades/month – at least not yet. I imagine buying between 100 – 500 stocks and much closer to the 100 – 200 range.

I looked at Questrade, but didn’t like the UI for QuestraderWeb – it just didn’t feel smooth and easy to use. I saw a post for ThinkorSwim and liked the UI. The company looks solid and I live in BC so I could open an account – but I don’t know what to think about sending CDN money and getting it converted into US and trading.

My idea was to buy and sell pretty quick. Try making $70 between a buy and sell. Since the profits aren’t huge, it will take quite a while till I can buy another 100 stocks if the stock is $20 or even say $50. So I basically looked at the profits as a small “allowance” and would take my gf to the movies or something like that.

Is ThinkorSwim something that is worth looking it? Does anyone have opinions on the Questrade UI? Should I go to a big bank like TDW and try and make the 100K w/ my dad?

Sorry to ask so many questions. I have been looking at the discount brokers for like a month and I just don’t know what to do because of a lack of experience.

Thanks guy,

I’ve been using ToS for the past few months and really love their features.

The few downsides I found were the following:
a) Not being able to trade in CAD – So only my US trades are done on the account
b) Not being able to trade on the TSX and Montreal Exchanges
c) Not having access to an RRSP account
d) Not being able to use direct bank transfer

I spoke with a representative face-to-face two weeks ago and all of these should be coming “in a few months”. I’d personally check back in 1/2 a year if that’s all that’s holding you back from trying them. I truly doubt it is their software team that is preventing them, more like red tape. For example, we apparently have one securities regulator in each province and approval has to go through each before the citizens of that province can trade with TOS.

Their desktop software is the best I’ve seen yet, although I have yet to try IB but I’m also trading with a small trading account (<$5000) which IB doesn’t allow. TOS also doesn’t charge you extra for their software or require you to have a minimum number of trades or funds in your account, unlike other companies (e.g. E*Trade and Questtrade). That pretty much sold me in the first place. You are always treated like a first class client by them.

Other bonuses. They don’t charge fees for cancellations of orders. If you want to fund an account today just write your cheque and send it to them via FedEx and they’ll pick up the bill. They also allow complex orders like one-cancels-other (OCO) orders.

I have 2 accounts

I’ve been with TOS for about 6 months now, started out very small, about 8k US, hovering around 13K now (and I can tell you 13K US now is worth more then 13k US 4 months ago in terms of CA$… needless to say my RRSP account at TDW is in US as well)

What I love about TOS:

A free platform that is user friendly, it works on my Mac, I haven’t seen any glitches yet. I have access to free Prophetcharts (for those who don’t know, IMO it’s the best charting for a technical analysis available on the web). They have free CNBC news, you can listen to the news live without any commercials, or just look up a stock symbol and it will list all related news, so you can just spend 5-10 min doing your research per stock… if that… TRADING COST IS CHEEP. If you have to call and the few times that I did it was pleasant. How I started the account I just went on my Presidents Choice bank account, added a bill account with the word “Pension”, made a payment to it, and the money was there in about 2 business days, and I can add to it if I want to at anytime. You can place trades on the phone for no additional cost.

My RRSP account with TDWaterhouse… slightly larger yet still small, about 50K… I can’t stand them, “if you’re not rich you pay” is their approach, if you have money, they’ll make it very cheep for you to stay with them, you’re only important if you have 100K + otherwise you’re quite insignificant. Website is very complicated and archaic, doesn’t always allow you to do what you need or want to do… so you have to call them, by the time they figure out what was wrong your buy price is no longer available or better yet, twice in 4 months by the time they were done figuring out that I did have enough money in my account to place my trade, 13 & 17 min later respectively, the market is closed, so they ask you if you want it for the next day…. if the website doesn’t let you do a trade and you call them to let them know what happened, make sure to remind them not to charge you extra because you couldn’t do it on the website otherwise you get slapped with broker commissions (higher). Because I want to keep my account in US $, after every trade I have to call in and ask them to wash my trades, if I don’t it gets converted back to CA$, and you almost always loose on the exchange, especially if you plan on buying US securities next time…. all they had to do is ad a check box for a wash…

As you can see I can b@#!$ about TDW for hours but my TOS are great, they will start holding CA$ accounts when they get approval to operate by all provinces in Canada, after that they will start holding RRSPS… and I can’t wait for that to happen so I can tell TDW to go….. If you have any issues call them and ask for yourself, don’t just go by what I’m saying or anyone else for that matter.


Dan again here

I live in Nova-Scotia now, but was in ON when I opened my account, and now they are available in NS.

When I did the transfer of funds from presidents choice to TOS, I sent CA$ and they did the conversion, so you can fund it in CA$… and did I mention I love the platform that works on my mac, with streaming cotes…. So I don’t have to go back and forth between tablinks and refresh to place an order, go to a different screen to find out if it has been filled, if it hasn’t then keep refreshing your window till it does, and then wait until the next business day to find out what my market value is or start calculating on my own, all this I put-up with on the TDW Webbroker… not for long I hope!

me again

I wanted to ask… where did you guys hear they have order cancelation charges? it’s inaccurate, I make on average of 1-2 cancelations per trade… never been charged anything…

I was at a Think or Swim presentation over the week-end. It is true about US Dollars. The Rep did also indicate that RRSP’s and Mutual funds should be available by end of Nov 08

With TOS, isn’t your actual account held in the US not Canada, so you are subject to US tax on your earnings, and then have to claim a credit on your Canadian return. Doesn’t this complicate matters and cost you more than just working with an actual Canadian broker that holds your money in Canada??

I’m a TOS customer that ONLY uses their web-based trading platform. After several month, today I have had enough. I’m tried of the web-based trading platform and I’m leaving to go back to my previous broker. The reason is that the order entry is soooo very slow and often causes the MS Internet Explorer to crash.

My beefs are many… but here are a few. I usually trade 1000 share lots do some nearly every day. On the web based order page, whether you’re changing the Side (Buy/Sell), Quantity, Price, Order (Limit, Market, Stop, etc) – it refreshes from the TOS server for each one… making is so very slow. If you’re too fast it can cause it to crash and then you have to log back in. Again—when you change from buy to sell it refreshes to server. Then when you change Quanity it refreshes to server; then when you change price it goes to server, then when you change the order… it again goes to the server and the when you hit the CONIRM+SEND and get the confirmation page it give you two commission rates: “Per Share Commission $15.00 or Flat Fee Trading $9.95” Of course it defaults to the high rate and order to change it to the $9.95 rate you have to click another bottom… but now the Order Confirmation and Analysis page blocks the price and so you hit the SEND ORDER only to find that the market is way gone from where it was when you where setting the order up. NOW you have to change pages, go to the MONITOR page and check the WORKING ORDER status and then do a REPLACE and back to the TRADING tab to do it all over again. OMG it shouldn’t be this hard to make a trade.

Was considering TOS till Jeff’s post. Wonder why these issues weren’t mentioned in any of the previous posts. This sounds like a very slow and archaic refresh proccess. Seconds cost.

I would love for someone to write a detailed pros/cons list on TOS site for me… Just interested, you can send it to my email address! THanks! dariusmoj@hotmail.com

Jeff, stop using their web based platform and use thinkDesktop. You’ll see a world of difference.

I too am looking for anyone who has info, both pro and con, on TOS Canada. As well as the tax implications of having the funds held in the US. Please post.

On January 8th, 2009 TD AMERITRADE to acquire thinkorswim. For more information, please see letter from TD AMERITRADE, the press release, and FAQ for thinkorswim customers.

I have been using ThinkorSwim since Jan. 2009 when I first got into the market. I found TOS through Barron’s a weekly investing and financial magazine. For three out of four years, Barron’s has rated TOS 1st or 2nd. In 2009, TOS was rated #1 discount brokerage.

Personally, I really like it. I live in the US and want to hnave the opportunity to trade in Canada.

I contacted in 2008 thinkorswim canada for an expected date of the TSX trading availability and got for response “end of March / begin of April”.

I recently asked and update and the TSX trading platform was delayed to the summer, around June, probably due to the recent acquisition by TD.

I’m a Yank, and I have been using TOS brokerage for 10 months now. I am a beginning trader with a small cash account, averaging a balance of around $3500. I have been using their Web-Based Trading service because their trading platform complexity (as would most others probably) intimidates my non-techy mind.

Thursday last, I exited trade before the close at a $30 gain because I could see that it was going to go against me. I thought that I had executed the closing order properly. Friday I discovered that I had inadvertently purchased a shorting position on the very Call I was intending to exit! You would think that when you click on your position and select “closing order” it would take you directly to your position and present an order command module, right? By the time I got through the order page confusion, my $30 gain had devolved into a $200 loss!

I got after the trade desk personnel. I learned that the WBT feature has design problems! And is not reliable to enter/exit trades. I was advised that I ought to be using the trading platform to execute trade orders. Here I thought that my 2009 execution fumbling losses of approximately $1000 was due to my own ineptitude! In a few instances, TOS reversed the commissions, but that was only pennies on the dollars I lost. Relatively small dollars in the big picture, but when looked upon as a percentage of my financial capacity, it is quite significant.

Other than this story of frustration, I will say that their day-to-day customer service is friendly. But, the the story speaks to a major issue of integrity.

TOS Canada doesn’t allow new accounts to be open because of the merger,

they said “soon” a couple of months ago

anyone know what soon means ?

Anyone hear of any updates on this? Website still says “temporarily not accepting new accounts”

I call them about once a month to check on the status. Earlier this month they said possibly this spring.

Anyone know if ThinkorSwim has the TFSA trading account?


No they do not currently have TFSA/ RRSP. All choices for Canadians are in US at the moment

use to be great, but picture yourself in a 5 mini open position and your broker goes “offline”, twice in two weeks. Ever since they got bot by TD, I think its pretty much like Pespi bying Burger KIng. Rather go to Big Macs