The best online brokerages in Canada for 2021
Take investing into your own hands and trade stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and more with a low-fee online brokerage.
better choices made
to Canada’s top financial institutions
If you rely on a financial advisor to invest for your future, odds are, you’re spending more on fees and add-on costs than you should. A bitter pill to swallow when considering Canadians already pay some of the highest fees in the world to invest their money.
Fortunately, online brokerages are here to help by empowering you to ditch your financial advisor, take investing into your own hands, and save a ton on fees in the process.
Best online brokerages in Canada for 2021
Questrade was an online brokerage before it was cool, and has made a name for itself in DIY investing circles as one of the lowest cost online brokerages in Canada.
When it comes to fees, Questrade has cut theirs to the bare minimum. There are no annual fees for Basic Accounts and purchasing ETFs are free, which allows you to build a passive index investing portfolio for almost $0. Questrade also low trading fees for stocks (starting from 1 cent per share with a minimum of $4.95 up to a maximum of $9.95 per trade), a low minimum account balance ($1,000), and an easy sign-up process. For a detailed overview of Questrade's products, read our Questrade review.
Fact sheet (+/-)
Best for: U.S. equities (+/-)
Wealthsimple Trade is a new entrant to the online brokerage market, having just launched their mobile-only platform in March of 2019. An extension of the popular robo-advisor, Wealthsimple (from Superbowl ad fame) Wealthsimple Trade lets you buy and sell stocks and ETFs for $0.
Fact sheet (+/-)
Best for ETFs (+/-)
Scotia iTRADE is ideal for people who like the security and dependability of knowing that their brokerage firm is backed by one of Canada’s Big Five banks.
You can put your money into a variety of investment types, including equities, ETFs, mutual funds, bonds, IPOs, Options, GICs, and even precious metals. Furthermore, with Scotia iTRADE, you can hold your investments in several kinds of accounts, such as personal, TFSAs, RRSPs, RRIFs, and more.
There is no minimum amount needed to open an account and there is even a “practice account” option for those learning the ropes of do-it-yourself investing as well as a suite of educational content and market analytics tools to inform your investment strategy.
Note, there is a base trading fee of $9.99 for equities (there are cheaper alternatives), though active investors making at least 150 trades per quarter will see their fees drop to a competitive $4.99. Plus, for a limited time until June 30, 2021, you could pay as low as $6.99 in commissions on equities*. Purchasing mutual funds is commission-free.
It’s worth highlighting there is a low activity fee of $25 charged per quarter, however, it can be waived for registered accounts (including TFSAs and RRSPs), anyone under the age of 26, when you maintain a minimum balance of $10,000, or make at least one trade per quarter. Additionally, there’s a $100 annual fee for registered and unregistered accounts, but it can also be waived depending on the size of your balance (at least $25,000), your age (under 26), and how many commission-generating trades you make per year (at least 12).
Scotia iTRADE currently has an enticing welcome offer. You can get up to $1,500 cash (depending on how much you invest) and $6.99 equity commission pricing or up to 500 free equity trades when you become a Scotia iTRADE client*.
Fact sheet (+/-)
Looking to invest but don't want to trade individual stocks and ETFs yourself?
A low-fee robo advisor provides a hands-off and automated investment experience.
Qtrade Investor has been operating in Canada since 2001 and has built its reputation on excellent third-party research availability and stellar customer service.
Qtrade Investor’s base product is a little more expensive than some other online brokerages on this list, but they also allow you to buy mutual funds at no extra, which is less for a discount brokerage not lined to a big bank.
Fact sheet (+/-)
Best for: mutual funds (+/-)
TD Direct Investing is TD Bank’s (one of Canada’s five largest banks) DIY investing platform. TD Direct Investing has been available for a long time and is one of the personal-finance community’s go-to options to build a low-cost passive investing portfolio.
Their customer support is excellent, and you can visit their branch to open your account.
Fact sheet (+/-)
BMO InvestorLine Self Directed is not the cheapest option for online brokerages, but it has some of the best customer service in the business and an award-winning online platform.
If you’re new to investing, BMO InvestorLine also has a beginner-friendly option called adviceDirect, that combines DIY investing with personalized recommendations from a registered advisor.
Fact sheet (+/-)
What is an online brokerage?
What are online brokerages used for?
What are the advantages of online brokerages?
What are the disadvantages of online brokerages?
Mikael Castaldo, Senior Business Manager Everyday Banking
Things to consider when choosing an online brokerage
The main benefit to using an online brokerage is the money you’ll save on fees, but low fees are not the only factor you should consider when choosing the right online broker for your needs.
Not all online brokerages charge the same fees, and the fees can change depending on the type of investment you plan to purchase, and how frequently you make trades. If you are planning to build a passive portfolio out of ETFs, then you should look for an online brokerage with free ETF purchases. If you are planning to purchase stocks and bonds individually, and trade at a higher volume, you should prioritize an online brokerage that has high-quality trading platforms and access to third-party research.
Most online brokerages also charge administrative account fees determined by the assets you hold in a single account or the size of your portfolio across all accounts. If you have a smaller portfolio, these fees will heavily erode your returns, so it’s best to choose a brokerage that doesn’t charge those smaller portfolio fees.
Some online brokerages also have account minimums, usually around $5,000. If your portfolio is small or you are investing in Canada for the first time, your choices in online brokerages may be limited.
If you’re new to investing online, there will be a learning curve when you begin building your portfolio and making your first trades. An online brokerage with a good customer service track record will ensure your questions are answered quickly. If you’ve been investing in Canada on your own for a while, stellar customer service is less important.
When you move your money from your financial advisor or robo advisor to an online brokerage, the original financial institution will often charge you transfer fees in the range of $150. Some online brokerages will pay these fees for you. Canadians are not limited to online brokerage options. Below are Canada's top thirteen online brokerages. Each selection is chosen considering the aforementioned section, primarily focusing on fees, minimums, and customer service.
Alternative investing options
Looking for alternative methods of wealth management? Look no further. Below are several popular alternatives to online brokerages.
- Robo-advisors are suitable for beginners or people with little investing knowledge. Similar to (human) financial advisors, a robo-advisor uses an algorithm to invest and manage money on behalf of the client. Fees tend to be higher than self-directed investing, but are still cheaper than financial advisors.
- Financial advisors are licenced professionals who manage money and investments for a number of clients. They also provide advice to their clients. In return, the financial advisor’s clients pay a fee. Though the client’s investments receive more attention with a financial advisor, they tend to be more expensive.
Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs) are low-risk investments that provide interest over the course of the investment's term. They are incredibly safe and secure but do not promise very high returns. They are also inaccessible until the term is complete.
We help you find better financial products for your specific needs. Whether you need a mortgage, credit card, savings account, or insurance coverage, we get you the information you need to choose better.
How does Ratehub.ca make money?
Financial institutions pay us for connecting them with customers. This could be through advertisements, or when someone applies or is approved for a product. However, not all products we list are tied to compensation for us. Our industry leading education centres and calculators are available 24/7, free of charge, and with no obligation to purchase. To learn more, visit our About us page.