Best Discount Brokers In Canada

May 27, 2023
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We explored the five top contenders for the best discount brokers Canada offers: Questrade, Wealthsimple Trade, Qtrade, National Bank Direct Brokerage, and TD Direct Investing. Questrade stands out with its low trading fees, while Qtrade impresses with its extensive research tools and competitive pricing. National Bank Direct Brokerage offers the convenience of being backed by a reputable bank and offers zero-commission trades. While TD Direct Investing may have higher fees, it appeals to traders seeking a sophisticated platform with advanced tools and technical analysis capabilities.

However, Wealthsimple Trade provides a fee-free trading experience, making it an attractive choice for beginners and cost-conscious investors. Overall, we firmly believe Wealthsimple Trade to be the best choice for most Canadian investors looking for a discount broker.

If besides stocks you also want to trade CFDs, commodities, indices and other types of assets, Capital may also be a great option. This commission-free broker also has low non-trading fees and is one of the best brokers in Canada.

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The rise of online discount brokerages has revolutionized the investment landscape, making it easier and more affordable for Canadians to invest their money. In the past, investors had to rely on full-service brokers who charged hefty fees. Online discount brokers offer a lower-cost alternative, with many platforms now offering commission-free trades on ETFs. This makes it possible for investors to build diversified portfolios of investments without breaking the bank. That's why we've researched and compiled a list of the best discount brokers in Canada.

Here are our top picks:

#1 Wealthsimple Trade—Best Overall

Wealthsimple Trade, introduced in March 2019 as a self-directed investment platform, has quickly emerged as a prominent player in the Canadian brokerage industry. Founded by Wealthsimple, a leading online investment management company, it aims to demystify investing and provide a user-friendly platform for DIY investors.

With its no-minimum and zero-commission model, Wealthsimple Trade has disrupted the traditional brokerage landscape by allowing Canadians to trade ETFs and stocks without incurring fees.

As part of the Wealthsimple ecosystem, Wealthsimple Trade stands out for its simplicity and accessibility. It boasts a sleek and intuitive mobile app, allowing users to easily navigate their investment portfolio and execute trades on Canadian and U.S. exchanges.

Features Of Wealthsimple Trade

  • Zero-commission trading: Wealthsimple Trade allows you to buy and sell ETFs and stocks without incurring transaction fees, making it a cost-effective option.
  • Fractional shares: You buy a portion of a stock or ETF rather than a whole share, allowing you to diversify your portfolios with smaller investment amounts.
  • Integration with other Wealthsimple products: As part of the Wealthsimple ecosystem, Wealthsimple Trade seamlessly integrates with other Wealthsimple products, such as Wealthsimple Cash (a savings account with payment capabilities) and Wealthsimple Crypto (a cryptocurrency trading platform), offering you a comprehensive suite of financial services.
  • Simplified account types: The platform offers a limited number of account types, making choosing the most suitable option for your needs straightforward.
  • A simple and user-friendly interface: Wealthsimple Trade is designed to be intuitive and easy to use, particularly for beginners. Its sleek mobile app provides a streamlined experience, allowing you to navigate your portfolios and execute trades efficiently.

Pros Of Wealthsimple Trade

  • With access to Canadian and US markets, Wealthsimple Trade offers a wide selection of stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrencies, allowing you to build a diversified portfolio tailored to your investment goals.
  • You can start investing with any amount, as Wealthsimple Trade doesn’t require a minimum account balance or minimum initial investment.
  • Wealthsimple doesn’t charge fees for withdrawing funds or maintaining an inactive account, which provides flexibility.
  • You can set price alerts for specific stocks or ETFs, ensuring you stay informed about market movements and make timely investment decisions.
  • It offers a robo advisory service for investors who prefer the hands-off approach.
  • Currently offers a great referral program that lets you earn $50 by signing up with a referral code.

Cons Of Wealthsimple Trade

  • Limited investment options: Wealthsimple Trade primarily focuses on stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrencies. You must explore alternative brokerage platforms to invest in other asset classes like mutual funds, bonds, or options.
  • Lack of advanced trading tools: Wealthsimple Trade has a simple design to provide beginners with a user-friendly trading experience. Therefore, it lacks advanced features and tools that more experienced traders might prefer.
  • Delayed market data: Wealthsimple Trade's stock quotes have a 15-minute delay, which means you may not have access to real-time market data. This delay can disadvantage active traders who rely on up-to-the-minute information for their investment decisions.
  • Limited international market access: Wealthsimple Trade only allows trading on Canadian and U.S. exchanges. To invest in global stocks or international ETFs, you should explore alternative brokerages that provide broader market access.

Wealthsimple Trade Pricing

As stated above, Wealthsimple Trade doesn’t charge fees for buying and selling stocks and ETFs.

  • Opening or closing a Wealthsimple Trade account, withdrawing funds, receiving electronic statements, and maintaining an inactive account are all free of charge. However, if you prefer to receive paper account statements, a $20 fee will apply.
  • Wealthsimple Trade has a base conversion fee plus a 1.50% charge for USD trades on regular Trade accounts.
  • You can subscribe to Wealthsimple Trade Plus at $10 monthly to avoid the charge on USD trades, which also gives you access to real-time market data (snap quotes), unlimited price alerts, and the ability to make instant deposits of up to $5,000.

Best For

Wealthsimple Trade is perfect for you if you’re a beginner because it lacks minimum fees, has a user-friendly interface, and is fee-free.

#2 Questrade—Best For Low Fees

Best Discount Brokers In Canada

Founded in 1999, Questrade quickly became one of Canada's leading online brokerages. With its low-cost fee structure, innovative features like commission-free purchases of North American ETFs, and user-friendly platforms, Questrade has gained popularity among Canadian investors. The platform is known for its excellent customer service, providing support via live chat and email. Additionally, Questrade offers a variety of educational resources, making it a suitable choice for both experienced and beginner investors. Questrade continues to provide a reliable and cost-effective solution for Canadian investors as a trusted and rapidly growing online brokerage.

Features Of Questrade

  1. Commission-Free ETFs: Questrade provides commission-free trading on a wide selection of ETFs, allowing investors to build a diversified portfolio without incurring trading fees.
  2. Various Investment Types: Questrade allows trading in stocks, ETFs, options, mutual funds, bonds, GICs, international equities, IPOs, new issues, and precious metals.
  3. Wide Range of Account Types: They offer popular account types, including RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan), TFSA (Tax-Free Savings Account), RESP (Registered Education Savings Plan), and Individual Margin Trading. They also offer other account options like Spousal RRSP, LIRA (Locked-In Retirement Account), Family RESP, and more.
  4. Robo-Advisory: Questrade also offers a robo-advisory service called Questwealth Portfolios, which provides automated investment management tailored to investors' goals and risk tolerance. This option is ideal for investors who prefer a hands-off approach to investing.
  5. Tax-Free First Home Savings Account (FHSA): Questrade introduced the FHSA, a registered savings account designed to help individuals save up to $40,000 tax-free for their first home purchase.

Pros Of Questrade

  • Questrade has some of the lowest fees in the industry.
  • They offer a demo account and trading platform tutorial for a user-friendly experience.
  • Excellent customer service with fast response times and various support channels.
  • They have various research tools, including news, fundamental data, and chart pattern tools.
  • They have a user-friendly and well-designed mobile trading platform.
  • Their free withdrawals and no free deposit can save on costs.
  • Offers a $300+ Signup bonus.

Cons of Questrade

  • Live data requires a paid subscription.
  • Lack of clear fee reports.
  • Slow withdrawal process and high fees for wire withdrawals.
  • It requires a minimum investment of $1,000 to open an account.

Questrade Pricing

Here's a summary of the fees and commissions on Questrade:

ProductFeeMinimumMaximum
Stocks1 cent per share$4.95 per trade$9.95 per trade
ETFs (Purchase)Free (commission-free)
ETFs (Sale)1 cent per share$4.95 per trade$9.95 per trade
Mutual funds$9.95 per trade
GICs and BondsFree with a $5,000 minimum purchase
International equities1% of the trade value
IPOs and new issuesFree with a $5,000 minimum purchase
Precious metalsUSD 19.95 per trade
Options$9.95 + $1 per contract

For active traders, Questrade offers two pricing plans: Fixed and Variable.

Pricing planStocksOptionsETFs FX and CFDs
Fixed Pricing$4.95/trade$4.95 + $0.75/contractBuy: freeSell: $4.95/tradePips as low as 0.8
Variable Pricing1 cent/share$6.95 + $0.75/contractBuy: freeSell: 1 cent per share up to a maximum of $6.95/tradePips as low as 0.8

Additional fees, such as ECN and ATS, may apply for certain transactions.

Best For

Questrade is best for the average trader (not a beginner but not a pro) who doesn’t mind the $1,000 minimum requirement.

#3 Qtrade— Best For Young Investors

Best Discount Brokers In Canada

Qtrade Direct Investing is a leading online brokerage service based in Vancouver, Canada. It’s a Credential Qtrade Securities Inc division and part of Aviso Wealth. Qtrade is renowned as one of Canada's top online brokerage platforms, with a history of winning awards. It offers a user-friendly web interface and a convenient trading app for Android and iOS devices. As a regulated Canadian stockbroker, Qtrade provides access to various asset classes, including stocks, ETFs, bonds, and mutual funds, with low trading fees. It also offers Qtrade Advisor for investors seeking professional investment advice. Qtrade's affiliation with Aviso Wealth, backed by the Desjardins Group, further solidifies its position in the market. While its products primarily cover the Canadian and US markets, Qtrade Direct Investing stands out for its educational tools, making it an attractive choice for beginner and seasoned investors.

Features Of Qtrade

  • Commission-Free ETFs: Qtrade offers many commission-free ETFs, making them more accessible to investors and providing cost savings.
  • Young Investor Offer: Traders aged 18-30 can access reduced trading commissions ($7.75) by setting up a recurring monthly deposit of $50 or more.
  • Account Fee Waiver: You can avoid account fees by meeting specific requirements, such as maintaining a balance of $25,000 or more, meeting minimum trade requirements, or making a recurring monthly deposit of $100 or more.
  • Investor Plus Program: Qualified members of the Investor Plus program enjoy a reduced commission fee of $6.95, access to USD registered accounts without fees, and a dedicated hotline for personalized service.
  • Portfolio Management Tools: Qtrade offers innovative portfolio management tools, including a portfolio score for risk assessment, a portfolio simulator for performance simulation, and a portfolio creator for developing risk-resistant ETF portfolios.
  • Investor Education Materials: Qtrade provides comprehensive educational materials, including trial accounts and a weekly Market Pulse newsletter, catering to investors of all experience levels.

Pro Of Qtrade

  • Transfer Fee Reimbursement: Qtrade will reimburse you for up to $150 in transfer fees when you transfer assets of $15,000 or more to their platform.
  • Variety of Products: Qtrade offers a wide range of investment products, including stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds, options, and more.
  • Qtrade offers various account types, including registered and non-registered accounts (TFSA, RRSP, RESP).
  • Excellent Customer Service and Support: Qtrade is well-ranked for its customer service and support, having won awards for its exceptional customer service.
  • Canadian and US Dollar Accounts: Qtrade offers Canadian and US dollar accounts, allowing you to conveniently trade in Canadian and US markets.

Cons Of Qtrade

  • While Qtrade's trading commissions are reasonable, they may be considered average compared to other platforms offering cheaper or no-fee trading options.
  • Qtrade's quarterly maintenance fee of $25 can increase investment costs, particularly for those with smaller account balances.

Qtrade Pricing

Qtrade offers competitive trading fees, although higher compared to no-commission brokers.

  • Standard fees include $8.75 per trade for stocks and ETFs, with options trading incurring an additional fee of $1.25 per contract.
  • Mutual fund trades are free, and fixed-income trades have a fee of $1 per $1,000 of face value.
  • Active traders (those making 150 or more trades per quarter) enjoy discounted fees, with stock trades costing $6.95 and certain free ETFs.
  • Young investors aged 18-30 who contribute at least $50 monthly receive a $1 discount on stock and ETF trades.
  • Qtrade waives the quarterly administration fee for eligible investors (active traders).
  • A 1% fee (minimum $45) may apply to mutual funds sold or switched within 90 days.

 

Best For

Qtrade is best for young active traders (or those aged 18–30) as they can benefit from discounted fees and the potential to qualify for further commission discounts.

#4 National Bank Direct Brokerage—Best For National Bank Customers

National Bank Direct Brokerage (NBDB) is a division of National Bank Financial Inc. It is part of the National Bank, one of the largest commercial banks in Canada. As a well-established securities broker providing self-directed trading opportunities for various investment products, NBDB has a strong reputation and extensive industry experience.

NBDB's recent decision to eliminate trading commissions on stock and ETF trades sets it apart, making it the first bank-owned brokerage in Canada to do so. This move has positioned NBDB as a competitive player in the market, offering zero-commission trades for these assets (with a nominal fee of $1.25 per options contract). Additionally, NBDB stands out by requiring no minimum account balance to open an account, providing accessibility to a wide range of investors.

Features Of National Bank Direct Brokerage

Some key features of National Bank Direct Brokerage include:

  • Commission-Free Trades: NBDB offers zero-commission trades for stocks and ETFs, making it an attractive option for cost-conscious investors. This eliminates the burden of trading fees, allowing you to maximize your returns.
  • Wide Range of Investment Products: NBDB provides access to various investment products, including stocks, ETFs, options, GICs, and bonds. This diverse selection allows you to build a well-rounded portfolio tailored to your investment goals and preferences.
  • Account Types: NBDB offers a range of account types to cater to different investment needs. You can choose from various account options, including cash accounts, margin accounts, and registered accounts such as RRSPs, TFSAs, RESPs, and RRIFs.
  • User-Friendly Trading Platform: NBDB offers a user-friendly trading platform that provides a seamless trading experience.
  • Research and Educational Resources: NBDB provides research reports, educational resources, and market analysis tools to assist you in making informed investment decisions and staying updated on market trends.

Pros Of NBDB

  • Zero commission on stock and ETF trades allows cost-effective trading.
  • Affiliation with a reputable banking institution provides a sense of security and trustworthiness.
  • No minimum deposit requirement, making it accessible for investors with varying budget sizes.

Cons Of NBDB

  • The annual inactivity fee can burden accounts with moderate activity levels.

NBDB Pricing

Here is a summary of the National Bank Direct Brokerage fees.

Service FeeMinimumMaximum
Stocks/ETFs No trading fees
Options trading$1.25 per contract$6.25 per trade$19.95 for transactions under $2,000
Mutual funds Commission-free–management expense ratios (MERs) apply $1,000
Account Administration $100 per year if the account balance falls below $20,000 or specific qualifying requirements are unmet.
RRSP, RRIF, or LIF withdrawal$50
Excess contribution reimbursement$100
Account transfer $150
Paper statements$6 per quarter
NSF cheques$45 per cheque
Estate settlement$200 per estate
Gains/losses report$50 per item

Best For

NBDB is best for self-directed investors looking for commission-free trades and seamless integration with National Bank for convenient fund management.

#5 TD Direct Investing—Best For Advanced Investors

Best Discount Brokers In Canada

TD Direct Investing is the online brokerage service for Toronto Dominion Bank (TD Bank), which has established itself as a versatile trading platform in Canada. Due to the strong presence of TD Bank, TD Direct Investing is often recognized as one of the leading options among the Big Five banks. It also operates as TD Ameritrade in the United States, further emphasizing its prominence.

While it's true that TD Direct Investing's trading fees may not be as competitive as some other platforms, such as Questrade and Wealthssimple, it's essential to consider the broader picture when choosing a brokerage account. You should also consider available investment products, account types, trading platform features, and customer support.

Despite its trading fees, TD Direct has earned a solid reputation and remains a popular investor choice. Its affiliation with Toronto Dominion and its presence in the financial market contribute to its credibility and attractiveness as a trading platform.

Features Of TD Direct Investing

  • Diverse Investment Options: TD Direct Investing offers many investment options, including stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, bonds, options, GICs, etc. This allows investors to build a diversified portfolio tailored to their investment goals and risk tolerance.
  • Account Types: TD Direct Investing provides a variety of account types to suit different investor preferences and goals. This includes registered accounts such as Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSA), Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSP), and non-registered accounts.
  • Multiple Trading Platforms: TD Direct Investing provides various trading platforms to cater to different investor needs. The WebBroker platform offers a user-friendly interface with advanced trading tools and research resources; the Thinkorswim provides sophisticated charting analysis tools and real-time data for active traders. They also have a mobile application (Android and iOS) for trading on the go.
  • Research and Education: The platform offers extensive research and educational resources to help you make informed decisions. This includes market analysis, company research reports, educational videos, webinars, and access to third-party research from reputable sources.
  • Portfolio Management Tools: The platform provides tools to help you track and analyze your investments. This includes performance tracking, asset allocation analysis, and goal-setting features to assist in managing and optimizing investment portfolios.
  • Integration with TD Bank: As part of the TD Bank family, TD Direct Investing offers seamless integration with TD Bank accounts, allowing for easy transfers between accounts and a unified banking and investing experience.

Pros Of TD Direct Investing

  • There is no minimum investment to open an account.
  • You get reimbursed up to $150 for account transfers of $25,000 or more.
  • You can set up dividend reinvestment plans (DRIP) and pre-authorized purchases for mutual funds.
  • Active trader discount ($7.00 per trade instead of $9.00).
  • Backed by a prominent banking institution with a widely recognized brand.
  • Opportunity to pool household assets to waive the quarterly $25 account maintenance fee.

Cons Of TD Direct Investing

  • High fees compared to other brokers on our list ($9.99 per trade).
  • No free ETF trades.
  • A quarterly Maintenance fee of $25 increases investment costs for accounts under $15,000.

TD Direct Investing Pricing

TD Direct Investing fees are known to be higher compared to low-cost trading platforms. Here is an overview of their standard trading fees:

Standard PricingActive Trader PricingTelephone Trades
Stocks$9.99 per trade$7.00 per tradeMinimum $43 fee
Options$9.99 per trade$7.00 per trade plus $1.25 per contractMinimum $35 fee plus $1.50 per contract

Commissions for bonds, GICs, and term deposits are included in the quoted prices, with a possible minimum purchase amount requirement.

When it comes to mutual funds, there are no commissions to buy or sell. However, if you hold the fund for less than 30 days, a short-term redemption fee of 1% of the redemption value or $45 (whichever is greater) is applied, in addition to mutual fund company fees.

For gold and silver bullion trades, there are separate fees:

  • Gold bullion: $30 plus $1 per ounce (quoted in USD)
  • Silver bullion: $30 plus $0.10 per ounce (quoted in USD)

You pay a $25 maintenance fee per quarter if your total asset balance is less than $15,000.

Best For

TD Direct Investing is best for advanced investors looking for sophisticated trading tools. It could also be a great option if you already bank at TD Bank.

What Are Discount Brokers?

Discount brokers are online brokerage firms that provide self-directed trading services to investors at reduced commission rates compared to traditional full-service brokers. Initially, they focused primarily on delivering low-cost trading options. They expanded their offerings to include various investment products such as stocks, ETFs, options, mutual funds, and more.

Discount brokers are relevant for investors who prefer to take control of their investments and make their own trading decisions. They offer cost-effective solutions for individuals who want to manage their portfolios actively and have the flexibility to execute trades at their convenience. With technological advancements, discount brokers have also enhanced their platforms, providing intuitive interfaces, real-time market data, and educational resources to support investors in making informed investment decisions.

Factors To Consider When Choosing A Discount Broker In Canada

Choosing the best discount broker in Canada requires careful consideration of various factors.

#1 Fee And Commissions

Minimizing costs is crucial for optimizing long-term returns. Assess the fees and commissions the broker charges. Look for commission-free ETF trading options and consider any quarterly inactivity fees or account balance requirements.

#2 Account Minimums

If you plan to invest smaller amounts, a broker with a high minimum threshold may not be suitable. Therefore, we recommend determining the minimum deposit required to start trading.

#3 Investment Needs

Ensure the broker offers the investment assets you intend to trade, such as stocks and ETFs. Verify the availability of different investment account types and order types (market, limit, stop orders), the range of trading tools, and real-time market data availability.

#4 Customer Service

If you trust a broker with your money, you must be sure you will reach them quickly when you have a query. Check if they offer convenient means of contact, such as email, phone, or chat, to address any possible inquiries or issues.

#5 User-Friendliness

You need to consider the user interface of the trading platform. Look for an intuitive design, and if they offer demo accounts to try out their platform, even better. Also, read reviews and ratings from other users to gain insights into the platform's usability.

#6 Security

Ensure that IIROC and CIPF regulate the broker to guarantee investor protection in the event of bankruptcy. Besides that, you should consider brokers that offer extra security features like 2-factor authentication to safeguard your account.

#7 Other Features

Some financial institutions, such as TD Bank, provides comprehensive banking services, including investing (through TD Direct Investing), high-interest savings accounts, and portfolio management. Consolidating your accounts in one institution may provide convenience.

In Summary

Price is just one factor when it comes to choosing the best broker. Other factors include account minimums, customer support, and the security measures provided by each broker. Therefore, you should consider your investment needs and budget before choosing the best discount broker in Canada.

TD Direct Investing can be a compelling choice for a sophisticated trading platform with advanced tools and technical analysis capabilities. For those who fall somewhere between beginner and professional traders and desire a balance between advanced tools and moderate fees, Qtrade and National Bank Direct Brokerage can be the ideal solutions.

However, if you're a beginner investor looking for a low-fee and user-friendly platform or an average investor looking for a flexible platform with no fees and account minimums, Wealthsimple Trade is an excellent option.

If besides stocks you also want to trade CFDs, commodities, indices and other types of assets, Capital may also be a great option. This commission-free broker also has low non-trading fees and is one of the best brokers in Canada.

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Best Discount Brokers Canada FAQs

Should I use a full-service broker or a discount broker?

The choice between a full-service and discount broker depends on your investment needs and preferences. Full-service brokers typically offer personalized advice and a wide range of services but with higher fees. However, a discount broker may be better if you prefer more control over your investments and lower costs. Consider your level of investment knowledge, desired level of involvement, and budget when making this decision.

Do discount brokers charge a flat fee?

No. Discount brokers do not have a flat fee. Most of them usually have a fee structure based on a per-trade or per-contract basis. For example, most discount brokers charge a specific amount for each trade or options contract you make. On top of that, some may also have additional fees for certain services or account features, such as inactivity/maintenance fees, withdrawal fees, and more. You should review the fee schedule of the discount broker you are considering to understand their pricing structure.

Are discount brokers free?

No. Discount brokers are not free. While some offer commission-free trading for certain investment products, there are still underlying costs involved in trading, such as regulatory fees, exchange fees, and spread costs. Additionally, certain services or account features may have associated fees.

What is the best online discount brokerage in Canada?

With a versatile trading platform, competitive trading fees, various investment accounts, access to market data packages, a wide selection of investment products, and insurance coverage, Questrade provides a robust and comprehensive brokerage experience for any investor. However, Wealthsimple Trade stands out as Canada's best online discount broker due to its comprehensive range of offerings coupled with a no-fee, no-account-minimums service model.

What is the best online discount brokerage for beginners in Canada?

Wealthsimple Trade is a top choice for beginners in Canada because of its fee-free schedule for Canadian stocks and ETFs, making it budget-friendly. Additionally, it has no minimum account requirement, so you can start trading with just $1 making it accessible for investors of all levels. Besides that, with an intuitive interface, beginners can easily navigate the platform and execute trades without feeling overwhelmed.

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