Best Trading Platforms in Canada - 2021 Guide

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Andrew Goldman

Andrew Goldman has been writing for over 20 years and investing for the past 10 years. He currently writes about personal finance and investing for Wealthsimple. Andrew's past work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek, New York Magazine and Wired. Television appearances include NBC's Today show as well as Fox News. Andrew holds a Bachelor of Arts (English) from the University of Texas. He and his wife Robin live in Westport, Connecticut with their two boys and a Bedlington terrier. In his spare time, he hosts “The Originals" podcast.

Which trading platform is the best? Probably the one that meets your specific needs and goals. Account fees, including possible maintenance fees or management fees, and the interface might be important to some while others might value desktop trading and a wide variety of stocks to choose from. To help you choose the best online broker for your needs, we compare some of the main online brokerages that operate in Canada. Our comparison includes key features, account types, and pricing. Your trust is important to us. That’s why we always do our best to be fair and provide complete and accurate information. To complete your homework, we recommend visiting our competitors’ sites to continue your research.

Overview and pricing of Canadian trading platforms

Online stock brokers were first introduced in Canada in 1996 when TD Bank unveiled WebBroker, Canada’s first online brokerage platform. Since then, there’s been a slow but steady growth of online trading platforms and now, every single one of Canada’s “big six” brick and mortar banks have launched self-directed trading platforms and their accompanying mobile apps. Today, Canadians have more than a dozen online trading platforms to choose from, a fact that makes this a great time for consumers because there’s unprecedented competition bringing trading prices down. But it can make for a tough selection process. To help you decide, we’ve prepared the following table which outlines some of the key differences between seven of the most popular trading platforms in Canada.

Trading platformApple App Store ratingCommission per equity tradeAccount MinimumMobile/Desktop TradingCommission-free ETF trading
BMO InvestorLine1.8 stars$9.95-$29.00$15,000BothNo
CIBC Investor's Edge3.3 stars$4.95 -$6.95$10,000BothNo
RBC Direct Investing3.4 stars$6.95-$9.95$15,000BothNo
Qtrade Investor2.3 stars$6.95-$8.75$25,000BothYes, for 100 specific ETFs
Scotia iTRADE1.4 stars$4.99-$9.99$10,000BothYes, for 49 specific ETFs
TD Direct Investing4.6 stars$7.99-$9.99$15,000BothNo
Wealthsimple Trade4.6 starsNoneNoneMobile onlyYes, on all trades

Apple App Store ratings are scored by users. The rating mentioned is the average rate. The best possible rating is five stars. The account minimum listed is the required balance to avoid inactivity fees on non-registered accounts.

About online trading platforms in Canada

Here is a little primer on the seven trading platforms we’ve analyzed in the above chart:

1. Wealthsimple Trade

Wealthsimple Trade is the online trading app created by Toronto-based investment manager Wealthsimple. Wealthsimple Trade, which is mobile-only, debuted in March, 2019 offering unlimited commission-free trades and no account minimums, which immediately set Wealthsimple Trade apart in the market. Since its 2014 founding, Wealthsimple, led by CEO Mike Katchen and majority held by Power Financial, has expanded its base to 175,000 clients across Canada, the United States, and the UK.

Get started with Wealthsimple Trade. Sign up today and start building your portfolio with a free stock.

2. BMO InvestorLine

Founded in 1817, the Bank of Montreal is the fourth largest Canadian bank by assets. BMO launched its self-directed investing service for clients in 1988. Then, in 2000, BMO put its service online.

3. CIBC Investor’s Edge

CIBC Investor’s Edge is the brokerage division of CIBC. According to its official history, CIBC, or the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, was the product of the “largest merger” of chartered banks in Canadian history, a union that took place in 1961 and united The Canadian Bank of Commerce (established 1867) and the Imperial Bank of Canada (established 1875). CIBC has been active in building its brokerage business, acquiring a majority stake in Wood, Gundy & Co. in 1988, then picking up Merrill Lynch & Company’s Canadian retail brokerage business in 2001.

4. Qtrade Investor

Vancouver-based Qtrade has been operating since 2001 and is formally known as Credential Qtrade Securities Inc. Qtrade is a division of Aviso Wealth, which describes itself as an “integrated financial services company, with over $57 billion in assets.” Aviso Wealth is a fairly new company, formed in 2017, a merger of three older independent financial players, the Credit Union Centrals, The CUMIS group, and Desjardins.

5. RBC Direct Investing

RBC Direct Investing is the brokerage division of the Royal Bank of Canada, or RBC, the largest bank in Canada by market capitalization. RBC is one of the oldest banks in Canada. Its roots go all the way back to 1860, when it started as the Merchants’ Bank of Halifax.

6. Scotia iTRADE

Scotia iTrade is Scotiabank’s online brokerage. In 2007, Scotiabank acquired the boutique brokerage TradeFreedom Securities Inc., and the following year bought ETrade Canada from the troubled American startup, ETrade. Though both TradeFreedom and E*Trade were favoured by active investors, iTrade has expanded its business to cater to all clients. Scotiabank was formerly known as the Bank of Nova Scotia, and was founded in 1832.

7. TD Direct Investing

TD Direct Investing is the online brokerage for Toronto Dominion Bank, the largest Canadian bank by assets. The name TD Direct Investing only goes back to 2012, but TD has had a brokerage since 1984, though it was originally called Greenline Investor Services. In 2005, the American discount brokerage Ameritrade acquired TD Waterhouse USA, jointly owned by TD Bank, and the Canadian brokerage kept the name TD Waterhouse, until it rebranded to TD Direct Investing in 2012.

Other trading platforms available in Canada

Since the seven trading platforms above are far from the only available, here’s five more dark horses, arranged alphabetically, that you might want to consider. For simplicity’s sake, we’ve included some information about them including their per trade commission rates.

8. Desjardins Online Brokerage

The brokerage arm of the large hundred-year-old Quebec financial cooperative was founded in 1991, and offers trading platforms for both occasional and active investors.

Per trade commission: $9.95/as low as $5.00 for active traders

9. HSBC InvestDirect

The online brokerage arm of the London-based multinational bank HSBC (the largest bank in Europe) and an offshoot of its HSBC Direct online banking platform.

Per trade commission: $39.00 + 2¢/share US equities; $35.00 + 6 ¢/share CDN Equities; $6.88 per trade with $100,000 balance; $4.88 per trade for 150+ trades per quarter

10. Interactive Brokers

The Canadian branch of Interactive Brokers, the Greenwich, Connecticut based discount brokerage firm was founded by Hungarian-born billionaire Thomas Peterffy. One of the earliest online brokerages, Interactive Brokers has long been favoured by active traders owing to its low trading costs.

Per trade commission: “Flat rate” of $0.01/share with a minimum charge of $1.00 per trade and a minimum activity fee of $10 USD per month (assessed as a fee if the account is inactive any given month.)

11. National Bank Direct Brokerage

The brokerage arm of the National Bank of Canada, Quebec’s largest bank, which is also known as Banque Canadienne Nationale and was founded in 1859. As of July 31, 2019, the National Bank of Canada boasts $276 billion in assets.

Per trade commission: $9.95 per trade regular pricing/6.95 for National Bank of Canada customers/6.95forNationalBankofCanadacustomers/.95 for active traders with 100+ trades per quarter

12. Virtual Brokers

Founded in 2009 as a division of BBS Securities, the Toronto-based Virtual Brokers was the first in Canada to offer commission-free trading.

Per trade commission: Per share commission structure means equity trades will cost between $1.99 and $7.99/$3.99 for active traders with 150+ trades per quarter.

Methodology

The information on this page was originally compiled by Wealthsimple in November 2019 and has since been updated for accuracy. In order to uncover competitor information, we looked at our competitors' websites, press releases, and third-party sites. The information collected relates to features, accounts, and pricing. The guide is only intended for Canadian investors. It's important to note that the general information within this guide is not specific to your personal situation. Some brokers requested that we not cover them in our content and those brokers have been excluded.

Last Updated June 8, 2021

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