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If you want to cut your investing fees to the bone, DIY investing with an online brokerage in Canada is your best bet. Compare the best trading platforms in Canada, including how to do commission-free trading in Canada.

Self-directed investing has exploded in popularity thanks to online brokers driving down costs and making it easy for investors to manage their own portfolio. Gone are the days of $29 trades. Today, investors can trade stocks and ETFs for free from their mobile device, or access robust market research tools and charts to help them trade like a pro.

An online broker lets you buy and sell stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds online within your trading account. They are often called “online brokerage” or “discount brokerage” because this method of trading is more cost-effective than a traditional brokerage.

Using an online broker, you’re the boss: you make the investment decisions and choose what to purchase. While you can purchase individual stocks and bonds through your online broker, most DIY investors opt to build their portfolios out of ETFs. This strategy lets you build a highly diversified portfolio without having to go to the trouble of purchasing dozens of individual stocks.

But with so many platforms out there, you may be asking: what’s the best online brokerage in Canada for you? To help you get started, we’ve put together a guide comparing the best online brokers in Canada, as well as some tips on how to choose the best trading platform in Canada for you.

Summary of the Best Online Brokerages in Canada 2021

BrandBest ForPromotion 
1. Questrade
Read On
Overall Best Trading Platform in Canada$50 in free tradesVisit Site
2. Wealthsimple Trade
Read On
Best for Commission-Free Trading in CanadaFor a limited time, get a $50 cash bonus when you open a Wealthsimple Trade or Crypto account and deposit and trade at least $150Visit Site
3. BMO InvestorLine Self-Directed
Read On
Best Big Bank BrokerageUse YTCASH promo code to get up to $2,000 Cash Back when opening a qualifying accountVisit Site
4. CIBC Investor’s Edge
Read On
Best for Stock TradingN/AVisit Site
5. Qtrade
Read On
Best for Customer ServiceN/AVisit Site
6. Virtual Brokers
Read On
Best for ResearchN/AVisit Site

1. Questrade: Overall Best Trading Platform in Canada

  • width=120Rating: 9.6/10
  • Account maintenance fees: $0 per year
  • Trading commission:  $4.95 – $9.95 + Free ETF purchases

Operating in Canada for 20 years, Questrade wins out as our top choice for the best trading platform in Canada. For starters, using this platform will save you a lot of money: there are no annual fees or inactivity fees, ETF purchases are free, and trading is $0.01 per share with a minimum charge of $4.95 and a maximum of $9.95.

Already got an investment account with another institution? Moving your investments to Questrade is easy: just fill out an online form and Questrade will handle the transfer. Plus, it covers any transfer fees up to $150 per account.

On the downside, the account minimum is $1,000. So if you’ve got less than that to invest, you might want to go with a commission-free trading platform (like Wealthsimple Trade) instead. Investors should also watch out for ECN fees, which are charged on buy/sell orders that are filled immediately (avoid these by placing limit orders).

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What we like:

  • Low trading fees for Canadian and US stocks
  • No annual fees or inactivity fees
  • Free ETF purchases
  • Pays transfer fees up to $150
  • Instantly deposit up to $3,500 into your Questrade account and start trading immediately.

What we don’t like:

  • Need a minimum of $1,000 in your account to start investing
  • ECN fees charged on buy/sell market orders
Start investing with Questrade and get $50 in free trades!

2. Wealthsimple Trade: Best for Commission-Free Trading in Canada

  • Rating: 9/10
  • Account maintenance fees: $0 per year
  • Trading commission:  $0

wealthsimple_210x100If you’re looking for the best commission-free trading platform in Canada, Wealthsimple Trade allows you to buy and sell stocks, ETFs, and even crypto without paying any fees. There are also no account minimums, annual fees, or inactivity fees. So you can test-drive the platform without getting hit with trading fees for each transaction.

If you’ve got investments at another institution, you can move them to Wealthsimple Trade using your desktop, mobile phone, or tablet. It also won’t cost you a dime to do this: Wealthsimple Trade also reimburses transfer fees for investment transfers that are greater than $5,000 in value. Now is a great time to sign up because Wealthsimple Trade is offering Young and Thrifty readers an exclusive deal: get a $50 cash bonus and $0 commission trades when you open a new Wealthsimple Trade account. All you have to do is deposit and trade at least $150.

The downside: Wealthsimple Trade currently only supports RRSP, TFSA, and non-registered account types and clients can only hold Canadian dollars.

Wealthsimple

What We Like:

  • Commission-free trading
  • Buy fractional shares
  • $0 annual fees
  • Offers crypto trading
  • Reimburses transfer fees for investment transfers that are greater than $5,000 in value

What We Don’t Like:

  • Limited account types (RRSP, TFSA, non-registered)
  • Can’t hold USD so clients pay FX fees when buying and selling US-listed stocks and ETFs.
Get a $50 cash bonus when you open a new Wealthsimple Trade account!

3. BMO InvestorLine Self-Directed: Best Online Brokerage with a Big Bank

  • Rating: 8.5/10
  • Account maintenance fees: $0-$100 per year
  • Trading commission:  $9.95

BMO_Wealth_210x100BMO Investorline Self-Directed is an excellent choice for anyone looking to get started with an online discount brokerage at a big bank who doesn’t want to pay commissions on ETF trades.

In 2021, BMO InvestorLine Self-Directed launched an impressive list of 80 commission-free ETFs for clients to trade (including Vanguard, iShares, and BMO ETFs).

BMO Investorline Self-Directed’s user-friendly portal, along with its impressive library of third-party research and solid customer service will help you invest with confidence whether you are a seasoned investor or a complete beginner.

BMO InvestorLine Self-Directed isn’t the least expensive discount brokerage, with fees on accounts under $25,000, but their zero minimum balance requirement, 80 commission-free ETFs, and award-winning platform are enough to overcome any drawbacks.

BMO

What We Like:

  • 80 commission-free ETFs to trade
  • Excellent online and mobile app
  • Hold USD and CAD in non-registered and registered accounts
  • Great third-party research
  • Excellent customer service
  • $0 minimum account balance for RRSPs and TFSAs

What We Don’t Like:

  • $9.95 per trade on stocks and ETFs that aren’t included in the 80 commission-free list
  • $100 for account balances less than $25,000
Start investing with BMO InvestorLine Self-Directed

4. CIBC Investor’s Edge: Best for Stock Trading

  • Rating: 7.5/10
  • Account maintenance fees: $0-$100 per year
  • Trading commission:  $6.95 per online equity trades only

width=300CIBC Investor’s Edge is the discount brokerage arm of CIBC Investor Services Inc. and a subsidiary of CIBC bank. Its newly redesigned website has given the platform a nice user experience.

CIBC Investor’s Edge offers flat fee commissions of $6.95 for stock and ETF trades. That’s the cheapest of all the big bank brokerages, although CIBC does not offer any commission-free ETF trading.

Clients won’t pay account fees when they hold more than $25,000 in their RRSP and more than $10,000 in a non-registered account (TFSAs and RESPs are free).

CIBC

What We Like:

  • Flat fee stock and ETF trading at $6.95 (lowest among all big bank brokers)
  • Newly designed website
  • Advanced quotes and research

What We Don’t Like:

  • Ranked dead last for customer service in Surviscor’s annual brokerage review
  • No commission-free ETFs
Learn more about CIBC Investor’s Edge

5. Qtrade: Best For Customer Service

  • Rating: 7/10
  • Account maintenance fees: $100 per year
  • Trading commission:  $8.75

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Qtrade is a good alternative to Questrade and has a reputation for amazing customer service, ranking in the top 1 or 2 in Surviscor’s annual brokerage reviews. The company is trustworthy too: operating since 2001, Qtrade has $11.5 billion in assets and is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada.

If you’re interested in purchasing mutual funds yourself, Qtrade is one of the few discount brokerages with the ability to do so – and you won’t pay any fees or commissions when buying them.

Maintaining an account with Qtrade is slightly more expensive than Questrade, but still very cost-effective, setting you back $100 per year for RRSPs and TFSAs with less than $25,000 in combined assets. You’ll pay $8.75 per trade with Qtrade, and there are no account minimums. If you incur fees when transferring your assets to Qtrade, they will cover up to $150.

To better understand what you get with Qtrade, read and compare Qtrade vs Questrade in our review.

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What We Like:

  • Reasonable fees
  • Free mutual fund purchases
  • Stellar customer service
  • Pays transfer out fees

What We Don’t Like:

  • Fees for accounts smaller than $25,000
  • Investment performance reporting could be better
Start investing with Qtrade

6. Virtual Brokers: Best Online Broker in Canada for Research

  • Rating: 7/10
  • Account maintenance fees: $0-$100 per year
  • Trading commission:  $1.99 to $7.99

VirtualBrokers_210x100Virtual Brokers is one of the best online brokers in Canada, with offerings on par with Questrade and Qtrade.

Virtual Brokers offers free ETF trades, which is perfect for index investors, and they charge 1 cent per share for stock trading (minimum $1.99, maximum $7.99). There is a $25 per quarter fee on accounts with balances under $5,000.

Virtual Brokers has several trading platforms to choose from and a huge research center to help you stay ahead of the curve when making trades.

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What We Like:

  • Free ETF purchases
  • Stock trades at 1 cent per share (minimum $1.99)
  • No fees for accounts over $5,000
  • Excellent research tools for beginner to advanced investors
  • Robust investment performance reporting options

What We Don’t Like:

  • $1,000 minimum account balance
Start investing with Virtual Brokers

Comparing the Best Online Brokerages in Canada

Online Investing PlatformAccount MinimumCommissions per equity trade Free ETF TransactionsMobile/Desktop TradingPaid Transfer Fees 
1. Questrade$1,000$4.95 - $9.95Yes (purchase only)BothUp to $150 per accountVisit Site
2. Wealthsimple Trade$0$0YesBothYes, for investment transfers greater than $5,000.Visit Site
3. BMO InvestorLine
Self-Directed
$0$9.9580 commission-free ETFsBothNoVisit Site
4. CIBC Investors Edge$0$6.95 per online equity trades onlyNoBothNoVisit Site
5. Qtrade$0$8.75100 commission-free ETFsBothUp to $150Visit Site
6. Virtual Brokers$1,000$1.99 - $7.99Yes (purchase only)BothUp to $150Visit Site

FAQs

Online brokers have democratized investing for investors who are willing and able to self-manage their own portfolios. Clients can build their own portfolio of stocks and/or ETFs online or from their mobile device. Trades can be made with a click (or tap) of a few buttons. Most importantly, online brokers have reduced trading fees to as low as zero in many cases, making it easy and cost-effective for investors to build and manage their own investments.

What is the benefit of purchasing your own investments directly and rebalancing manually when your investments slip out of their ideal asset allocation? There is one thing that draws in DIY investors: low fees.

The reason that most DIY investors choose to work with an online broker is to minimize the management expense ratio (MER) they pay on their investments. MERs are the management fees associated with individual funds. MERs are expressed as a percentage of your assets and vary depending on the style of investing you choose.

Mutual funds in Canada have some of the highest MERs in the world, at an average of 2.5%. Robo advisors offer a lower MER, usually less than 1%. DIY investing offers the lowest MER possible, with a portfolio of ETFs easily coming in at 0.25% or less.

The differences in these fees may not seem like much, but they can erode thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars from your portfolio, given a long enough time horizon.

Big bank brokerages typically have the highest trading fees at $9.99 per trade for stocks and ETFs. But many online brokers offer commission-free ETFs and low cost stock trading. Online brokers may charge other fees, such as an account fee for small balances, or an inactivity fee for accounts with no trades over a period of time.

Yes! Online brokers are members of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF), which protects your cash and securities in the event of a member firm’s insolvency. CIPF protection covers $1 million for combined general accounts (cash, margin, TFSA), $1 million for combined registered accounts (RRSPs, RRIFs, and LIFs), plus $1 million for all RESPs.

Our extensive research into Canada’s online brokers found that Questrade offers the best trading platform in Canada thanks to its free ETF purchases, no account fees, availability of every account type, and extensive trading tools.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to getting the most out of your portfolio, the best option is to invest your money yourself, cutting out the middle person and vastly reducing the fees you’ll pay over the lifetime of your investments. While using an online broker to invest your money may seem intimidating at first, a simple portfolio built out of ETFs will give you the growth needed to reach a comfortable retirement, while keeping you in the driver’s seat of your money.

All of the online brokers listed above are good choices, but each has strengths and areas for improvement. However, if you’re looking to take the hassle out of DIY investing plus save big on fees, Questrade is your best bet and our top choice for the best online brokerage in Canada. Ultimately, the right one for you depends on your financial situation, but it’s not a question of if you should switch to an online broker to manage your money – it’s when.

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