Best in class

We picked two overall “best in class” winners. Which ones were they?

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From the June 2014 issue of the magazine.

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Best in class brokeragesTop picks overall: BMO InvestorLine, Scotia iTRADE

Honourable mention, bank-owned: RBC Direct Investing

Honourable mention, independents: Qtrade Investor

      Play: Dan Bortolotti talks best brokerages with 680 News’ Mike Eppel

 
There’s no single one-size-fits-all discount brokerage, but this year’s overall title goes to BMO InvestorLine for its strong showing in all our categories. It’s strong everywhere from efficient account opening to a strong suite of online services and planning tools.

Scotia iTRADE is a close second with solid offerings that keep improving—although we’d like to see commissions lowered on smaller accounts.

Honourable mentions: RBC Direct Investing does almost everything well and should be the first place to look if you already do your banking at RBC. And as the only independent brokerage in our winners circle, Qtrade Investor didn’t rank number one in any individual category, but was in the top four in almost all of them.

Still confused about which brokerage is right for you? Flip the page for our fully updated comparison table that summarizes the key features of the major online brokerages.


For a look at the top performers in each category, see “Canada’s best discount brokerages.”


Brokerages At A Glance



BMO InvestorLine CIBC Investor's Edge Credential Direct Desjardins Online Brokerage HSBC InvestDirect Laurentian Bank Discount Brokerage National Bank Direct Qtrade Investor Questrade RBC Direct Investing Scotia iTRADE TD Direct Investing Virtual Brokers
Annual fee for RRSP and other retirement accounts $100 if under $25K $100 if under $25K $50 if under $15K $100 if under $15K $100 if under $25K $75 if under $25K $100 if combined accounts under $20K or under five trades per year $50 if under $15K $0 (subject to inactivity fees) $100 if combined accounts under $15k $100 if combined accounts under $25k $100 if under $25K ($25 for Basic RSP) $50 if under $15K
Annual fee for Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) $0 $0 $0 $0 (subject to inactivity fees) $0 $50 if combined accounts under $100K unless two trades per year $100 if combined accounts under $20K or under five trades per year $0 $0 (subject to inactivity fees) $100 if combined accounts under $15k $0 $0 $0
Annual fee for Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) $50 if under $25K $0 $0 $50 if under $15K $50 $50 $100 if combined accounts under $20K or under five trades per year $50 if under $15K $0 (subject to inactivity fees) $100 if combined accounts under $15k $25 if under $25K $50 if under $25K $25
Annual fee for non-registered account $100 if under $10K, waived with registered account or two trades made in six months $100 if under $10K, waived with registered account $0 $100 if under $15K, waived with registered account or two trades made in 12 months $100 if under $10K, waived with registered account or one trade made in three months $80 if under $10K, waived with two trades made in six months $100 if combined accounts under $20K or under five trades per year $0 $0 (subject to inactivity fees) $100 if combined accounts under $15k $0 (subject to inactivity fees) $0 (may be subject to custody fee) $0
Minimum account size $5,000 (no minimum for TFSAs) None None ($2,000 margins in accounts) $1000 None None None None $1,000 None None None $1000
Basic online equity commission* $9.95 $9.95 $19 or 2¢ per share if over 1,000 shares $9.95 $9.88 $9.95 $9.95 $9.95 1¢ per share ($4.95 min., $9.95 max) $9.95 $9.99 $9.99 $6.49
Are lower or higher commissions charged in different circumstances? No $6.95 if over $100K in CIBC products; $28.95 in accounts under $50K $9.95 if over 10 trades per quarter As low as $5 on active platforms (other fees apply) $6.88 for Premier banking clients; $28.88 or 3¢per share if under $50K No $6.95 if 30 trades per quarter $7 if 150 trades per quarter Several structures, inlcuding 1¢ per share (max$6.96 $6.95 if 150 trades per quarter $4.99 if 150 trades per quarter; $24.99 or 3 ¢ if account under $50K $7 if 150 trades per quarter Several structures, including 1¢ per share (max 99¢)
Basic options commission (1) $9.95 + $1.25 per contract $9.95 + $1.25 per contract $19 + $1.25 per contract $1.25 per contract (min $8.75) $9.88 + $1.25 per contract $9.95 + 1.25 per contract $9.95 + $1.25 per contract $9.95 + $1.25 per contract $9.95 + $1.25 per contract $9.95 + $1.25 per contract $9.99 + $1.25 per contract $9.99 + $1.25 per contract $9.99 + $1.50 per contract
Are commission-free ETFs available? No No No No No No No Limited menu with no commissions to buy or sell All ETFs free to buy (commission charged upon sale) No Limited menu with no commissions to buy or sell No All ETFs free to buy (limited menu also free to sell)
Can you hold U.S. dollars in registered accounts? Yes No No No No No Yes (call to arrange) Yes ($50 annual fee) Yes Yes No (U.S.-friendly RRSP is $120) No Yes ($50 fee)
Does the brokerage provide personal rates of return? No No No No No No Yes No Yes Yes No No No
Can you purchase an inventory of bonds and GICs online? Both Both Bonds only Bonds only Both Bonds only Bonds only Both Neither Both Bonds only Bonds only Both
What can be traded using apps or mobile browser? Equities, options, mutual funds Equities Equities, options, mutual funds Equities, options, mutual funds Nothing Nothing Equities Equities, options, mutual funds Equities, options Equities, options, mutual funds Equities, options Equities Equities
What extra benefits are available to active traders? Added services, better data (30 trades per quarter) Lower commissions (150 trades per quarter) Lower commissions (150 trades per quarter) Lower commissions, better data (with fee) Lower commissions (30 trades per quarter) None Lower commissions (30 trades per quarter) Lower commissions (150 trades per quarter) Lower commissions, better data (with fee) Lower commissions, better data (30 trades per quarter) Lower commissions (150 trades per quarter) Lower commissions (150 trades per quarter) Lower commissions, better data (with fee)
Are there advanced platforms for active traders? No No No Disnat Direct No No Market Q Qtrade Streamer Multiple platforms for equities, forex and options No Trading Desk, FlightDesk Active Trader, U.S. Trading Platforms Multiple platforms for equities and options
How long does it take to respond to a general email?** 17 hours 15 hours < 1hour 1 hour 12 hours 56 hours 3 hours 2 hours 42 hours 36 hours 1 hour 4 hours 19 hours
Does the site have live chat or call-back service? Live chat Live chat No No No No Call-back service Live chat and call-back Live chat and call-back Live chat in some areas; screen-sharing feature Live chat and call-back No No
Best features 5 Star Program for large accounts, AdviceDirect, model portfolios $6.95 commissions if $100K in CIBC products Good resources for all investors, not just active trades Sophisticated platforms for active traders Allows overseas trading and accounts in multiple currencies Low account fees, simple commission structure Powerful Market-Q platform for active traders Free ETFs, customer service, Qtrade Streamer market data No account fees, low commissions, multiple platforms Performance analysis, banking integration, Royal Circle for large accounts Clean design, FlightDesk for active traders, banking integration Market intelligence; global trading; TD e-Series funds Innovation, low commissions, multiple platforms
Buyer beware Minimum account size; no platform for active traders High commissions on accounts under $50K High commissions on accounts for non-active investors No online applications; outdated website No online applications; high costs for small account holders Badly outdated website is difficult to navigate Old website design with limited resources $4 commission for limit orders; ECN fees (3) $9.95 commission on mutual funds, data fees, ECN fees*** Poor email support, few resources for active traders High commissions on accounts under $50,000; inactivity fees No online applications; old-school website design Data fees, uneven customer service, ECN fees (3)

*Equity and options commissions may vary according to the size of the investor’s account and/or the frequency of trades. We’ve assumed the investor has at least $50,000 and makes fewer than two trades per month.
**Email response time was measured over multiple emails between January and March 2014 using the Surviscor Customer Email Responsiveness (CER) program.
***Electronic communication network (ECN) fees are charged in both Canadian and U.S. markets on some order types. This can add up to $0.004/share to the regular commissions.

3 comments on “Best in class

  1. Personally I do not believe any brokerage account should have extra fees if an investor does not make any trades in a year. Investing in the majority is for a period of time to be able to realize a goal/profit. How many, or not, is up to the investor & should not be held hostage to a requirement to make a trade.

    Reply

  2. It is difficult to view the table when you scroll and lose column and row headings. Please fix!

    Reply

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