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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – February 28, 2014

inconvenient power outageLess than a week after skiers and snowboarders were making their way down the slopes, a different set of peaks and valleys are now confronting investors. At the peak, the S&P 500 chased a new all-time high this week. Down in the valley is bitcoin because of the loss of a major exchange to a possible theft.

Canadian discount brokerages were also busy navigating their own ups and downs this past week. In this roundup we look at a major Canadian online brokerage that went temporarily offline, roll outs of a new set of US Dollar registered accounts, the continued ripple effect of standard commission price drops, a couple of interesting educational resources and finally, some insightful threads from the Canadian investor forums.

TD WebBroker Goes Offline

As one of Canada’s largest bank-owned discount brokerages, clients of TD Direct Investing had a rough couple of days this week when WebBroker (and EasyWeb) went offline due to technical difficulties.  The cause of the outage was not disclosed however the outage caught the attention of investors on social media, forums and mainstream media.

The outage is an important example of what can sometimes go wrong when trading online and also where traders can turn when something unknown happens. Active traders that had open positions or trades going against them were likely in for a white-knuckle ride as they were forced to wait and watch the market unfold.  For others who were looking to contribute into their RRSP accounts ahead of the deadline, the downtime was understandably frustrating.

While it is cold comfort to investors or traders who are unable to access their account, the fact is that technical glitches can happen to any online brokerage, exchange or data providing member in the convoluted pathway between buyer and seller. Part of trading online means preparing for and accepting these hazards.

Even though TD did apparently broadcast the service interruption, it was interesting to note that on Twitter there were a number of messages from users indicating the issue first arising, escalating and finally being resolved.  The use of Twitter as a way to stay informed about what’s happening in near real-time comes in handy when other channels aren’t providing much information.

USD Registered Accounts Quietly Rolling Out

US dollar registered accounts are great feature for those who do a great deal of trading in US listed equities and options. While several bank-owned online brokerages do offer this, some of the major brokerages such as TD Direct Investing, have yet to bring this feature to clients.

A comment left by visitor ‘Jin’ earlier this week brought to light that National Bank Direct Brokerage is quietly offering existing and prospective clients USD TFSAs and RRSPs. Upon following up with a client rep from NBDB, they explained that these accounts are being rolled out as part of a multi-phase plan and that currently they are about 2/3 of the way through this process.  What this means for investors is that, for the moment, these registered accounts can accept deposits in USD and clients can trade (and hold) USD equities, however withdrawals from the account will result in a currency conversion back into CAD.   We’ll continue to monitor this as more information becomes available.

Price Drops Continuing to Make a Splash

While Canadian discount brokerages commission pricing still has plenty of room to fall when compared to brokerages in the US (such as Robinhood which doesn’t charge any commissions on a trade) the recent moves by bank-owned online brokerages are continuing to make waves with investors. This article from the Toronto Star is a perfect example of the spotlight now shining on pricing.  For those considering the new lower commission costs, it is also important to consider any other costs that still may be associated with the account, such as inactivity fees or minimum balance fees. The second of our two-part series (released this week) looks at the commission-price drops at bank-owned online brokerages and in particular at some of these fees.

Know Your Options

One of the new ‘battlegrounds’ for the deep discount brokerages is in options trading.  Recently Virtual Brokers released a new promotion that offers free data for their PowerTrader Pro platform for clients who make one or more complex options trades.  Earlier today, Questrade released a free guide to options trading which explains some of the complex trade types that can be placed using the Questrade IQ platform.  To download a free copy of the guide, click here.

Another interesting story readers may be interested in tracking is a special by CBC Marketplace this Friday (tonight). This story is the result of a mystery shop exercise at Canadian financial firms (including Canada’s big 5 banks) to see what kind of financial advice was being dished out by the firms’ “financial advisers”.

From the Forums

This week’s forum threads  capture the outage at TD described above (and the lessons other investors can draw from this situation) as well as an instructive post on how to convert from USD to CAD using Interactive Brokers.

Murphy’s Law

The forums were alight with users of TD Direct Investing not being able to access their accounts.  Check out the following posts on Canadian Money Forum and Red Flag Deals as a sobering reminder that as DIY investors there’s a lot more that can go wrong when trading online.

Crossing the Border

For those curious about using their brokerage to convert between USD and CAD, there have been a number of different approaches.  This post on RedFlagDeals’ forum provides a concise ‘how to’ for users of Interactive Brokers.

That does it for this February-ending edition of the weekly roundup. Have a safe and warm weekend!


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Ten is the New Thirty: A Review of Price Drops at Canadian Bank-Owned Online Brokerages – Part 2

In part one of this series, we looked at the recent moves by Canadian bank-owned online brokerages to reduce their standard commission fees.  Since standard commission fees are just part of the fee picture, part two focuses on how to evaluate the other fees that clients may still be on the hook for.

Small Stack

For individuals with less than $50,000 combined in their investment accounts, the access to better commission pricing is most certainly welcomed.  That said, there are still minimum account balance thresholds (between $10,000 and $20,000 depending on the brokerage) that can result in fees being applied against an account.

Fortunately, all of the online brokerages promoting sub-$10 standard commissions offer some type of option to have these additional fees waived.  The current options fall into the following three categories:

  1. Executing a certain number of trades per month, per quarter or per year
  2. Contributing a certain amount per month to a pre-authorized investment plan
  3. Holding additional accounts with the same discount brokerage/parent bank

In deciding on whether doing something to save on a fee is a sound strategy, it is important to first understand the cost of ‘doing nothing’.

Maintenance Costs

In comparing the current sub-$10 commission fee offers, the administrative fees (also called custody fees, maintenance fees or account minimum fees) that are charged by the four bank-owned brokerages are about the same when compared on an annual basis.  Across the board, the annual fee works out to $100 per year although how this is calculated varies from brokerage to brokerage.

Three online brokerages (BMO InvestorLine, RBC Direct Investing and TD Direct Investing) assess this fee ($25) on a quarterly basis. National Bank Direct Brokerage, however, evaluates trading activity on an annual basis and charges $100 per year for those that don’t meet the activity/balance minimums by a specified cut-off date each year.

Strategy 1: Trade to Save

Each bank-owned discount brokerage currently offering sub-$10 trades allows  clients to trade a certain number of times (e.g. quarterly, semi-annually, or annually) to avoid the maintenance fee.

While each offer may vary in the time frame over which they require trading, annualizing the cost of trading in order to qualify for fee exemption allows for comparison between plans and also presents an interesting result.

As shown in the chart below, at three out of the four brokerages (BMO InvestorLine, TD Direct Investing and National Bank Direct Brokerage), it is actually cheaper to trade the minimum activity than it is to pay the maintenance fee.  At RBC Direct Investing, however, trading to avoid the maintenance fee is actually more expensive than paying the maintenance fee because clients have to trade at least 3 times per quarter to qualify for an exemption.

Canadian Online Brokerage Commission Fee Comparison

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – February 21, 2014

Posts matterThis past week in the Canadian discount brokerage space seemed about as quiet as the US Women’s Olympic hockey team dressing room after that most spectacular win by Team Canada.   The silence on the brokerage front, however, is likely indicative of the planning and ‘strategizing’ by marketing and product teams as the battle for brokerage supremacy heats up.  In fact, there are whispers around the discount brokerage industry are that there will be additional deals and price drops in the very near future. For the present though, this roundup will take a look at the next brokerage to join the sub-$10 per trade club , the results of an interesting survey about RRSPs as well as a selection of interesting conversations from across the Canadian investor forums.

If a Commission Drops in the Forest…

This past week National Bank Direct Brokerage became the fourth bank-owned brokerage to drop its standard commission fee to under $10. Interestingly the response on either forums or social media didn’t generate much interest.  On our end, however, we did ensure that NBDB’s pricing drop did not go unnoticed. Today we launched part 1 of the two part series looking at all of the bank-owned online brokerages’ recent commission lowering moves, including National Bank’s.

Stash First, Save Later

In addition to their commission announcement, National Bank Direct Brokerage also announced the results of a survey that looked at opinions of Quebec internet users 18 and older regarding RRSP contributions.  The findings of the study were interesting in terms of the amounts that individuals disclosed they thought would need as a minimum in order to contribute to their RRSPs.  According to the survey the average contribution amount turned out to be $2750 suggesting that individuals may have a preference for contributing lump-sum amounts versus making smaller, regular contributions.

Coincidentally, with the latest commission price drops, at least two bank-owned brokerages (TD Direct Investing and RBC Direct Investing) have made pre-authorized contributions to an account or having an RRSP account part of the criteria that can help those with modest or small portfolio balances not incur quarterly maintenance/account fees.

Around the Forums

As we edge closer to the RRSP contribution deadline for 2013, the conversations around the forums are definitely starting to reflect both tax and RRSP type of questions.  Of course, some folks are already anticipating what to do with their income tax refunds by getting prepared to invest and so online trading account questions are also popping up.  This week there’s a couple of interesting posts that reflect some of the nitty gritty that DIY investors typically encounter when investing online.

For Whom the Border Tolls

The Olympic spirit may be all about bringing different countries together, but investing in stocks from different countries can cause all kinds of ‘quirky’ issues.  The following post from Canadian Money Forum details the woes of holding American Depository Receipts (ADRs) (i.e. shares in foreign company) and the coordination of dividends that come from them.

A Taxing Problem

In the following post, a forum user has to figure out what to do with all the money they’ve made in a margin account. Oh, it sounds like a tough life.  For investors, however, when things do go the right way there are important tax considerations that fellow forum members provide some perspective on.  Of course, nothing beats the advice of a qualified accounting professional in these cases.

That wraps things up for this week.  The Olympics are coming to an end next week and it looks like Canada’s done a smashing job.  Congratulations to all of the Canadian athletes and good luck to the men’s hockey team as they face-off against the Swedes.  Also, February is officially coming to an end next week so be sure to check the deals and promos section to see which deals are also going to wrap up.   Have a great weekend and #GoCanadaGo!

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Ten is the New Thirty: A Review of Price Drops at Canadian Bank-Owned Online Brokerages – Part 1

New Discount Brokerage Commissions are $10For Canadian discount brokerages, 2014 has already been an eventful year. It has now been just over a month since RBC Direct Investing announced the lowering of their standard trading commissions and in that time, the predicted response from several other bank-owned online brokerages has materialized. Since the RBC announcement, BMO InvestorLine, TD Direct Investing and National Bank Direct Brokerage have all lowered their standard equity commission pricing with more bank-owned brokerages expected to follow suit.

Going forward, there are two important reasons why do-it-yourself investors will have to pay extra attention to the online trading account plans being pitched to them. First, in the short term, expect pricing to continue to change as more brokerages adjust to the new ‘standard’ fee at below $10 per trade.  Second, discount brokerages will be marketing even harder to communicate what makes one brand better than another. For consumers, the upside is that they can likely expect more promotions, however the downside is that they will likely have to untangle a lot of clever marketing and read the fine print much more closely on any offers presented by Canadian discount brokerages.

In this two part series, we take a look at the bank-owned discount brokerages and the recent shift in standard commission pricing to uncover what this means for self-directed investors and for the discount brokerage industry in Canada.

Catch a Falling Star*

The priority self-directed investors place on commission pricing is an open secret amongst discount brokerages big and small.  As a case in point, several of the discount brokerage rankings that use cost as part of their measurement framework typically weight cost among their top categories. Considering the competitive dynamics of the industry, however, it is understandable why price is a popular battleground between competing firms.  While having a major bank-owned brokerage such as RBC Direct Investing lower its pricing,  there may have been other forces at play too. The presence of deep-discount brokerages such as Questrade and Virtual Brokers may have also helped to accelerate the pricing cuts. Whatever the case, it is clear that consumers were growing impatient with prices and other providers were able to gain traction with that dissatisfaction.

Judging by the consumer reactions online to the commission price cut as well as the speed with which other major bank-owned online brokerages have followed RBC’s move, two things are clear:  competition amongst discount brokerages remains high and pricing matters to consumers.

Bank-Owned Online Brokerages Lowering Commission Prices

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – February 14, 2014

On this Valentine’s Day edition of the discount brokerage weekly roundup, romance is definitely the air for many folks.  Yes, it appears more bank-owned discount brokerages are lining up to show just how much they love their self-directed investor clients by offering lower commissions.   Courting self-directed investors, however, is going to take more than just price cuts.  As one low-cost brokerage showed this past week, getting fancier bells & whistles may be part of what’s needed to woo investors their way. In addition to ‘stuff’, another brokerage took to winning the ‘hearts and minds’ of investors by timing an Olympic themed promo.  Finally, this week’s review rounds out with some interesting education events being offered and a great forum thread on RESPs.

The Three Bank Bobsled Team

This past week, BMO InvestorLine became the third Canadian online brokerage to lower their standard commission fee down to $9.95 (click here to read the press release).  While not quite a race to the bottom, it seems that the banks are willing to match one another on their standard pricing. For self-directed investors this is definitely welcome news as the pressure will certainly be mounting on those remaining online brokerages with high (and complicated) standard fees to drop them. On a related note, there was an interesting article in the Globe and Mail regarding the move by bank-owned online brokerages to lower their fees as a strategic move to bring in revenues from sources other than the banking services.

Getting the Power

Not content to sit idly by as the bank-owned online brokerages drift into their pricing territory, this past week Virtual Brokers took aim at the platform and data category by rolling out their PowerTrader Pro platform in a bundle with free streaming data (with a catch of course).  For those brokerages that’ve been chasing the lucrative active trader segment, platforms and data fees (in addition to commissions) have always been a sore point.   The PowerTrader Pro platform, however, is built on the Sterling Trader Pro platform so it has definite appeal to active traders.  To that end, Virtual Brokers is offering free streaming data with the platform for those making complex options trades.  This package and platform take aim at TD Direct Investing’s US Trading Platform (aka ThinkorSwim), Interactive Brokers’ Trader Workstation and Questrade’s IQ platforms as well as those web based or desktop based platforms that don’t have the fancy scanners, charts and trade planning.

Metals for Medals

An interesting Olympic-themed promotion is being offered by Questrade.  Until February 24th, Questrade is offering 50% off precious metal commissions.  To boot, they are also offering a special promo every time Canada wins either a gold or silver medal.   For the physical precious metals bugs, it is but one more reason to cheer on the stellar performance of this year’s Canadian Olympic effort.

Investor Education Events

With all the talk of athletes and fitness, the couch potatoes out there also have something to cheer about.  Credential Direct announced this past week that they are holding a webinar with Dan Bortolotti aka the Canadian Couch Potato.  This webinar will be about building the “perfect” ETF portfolio and yes, attendees can join this webinar from the comfort of their couches.

Continuing on in the investor education theme, Desjardins Online Brokerage (Disnat) is holding a week-long series of education sessions Montréal & Québec City.  The events are free and topics cover a number of themes for self-directed investors.  Of note is that there are a couple of interesting sessions on taxation for investors/traders.  Check out our investor education calendar for more information.

From the Forums

Given the time of year, there is an increase in the number of questions about registered accounts of all kinds (RRSPs, RESPs and TFSAs).  One thread in the RedFlagDeals forum in particular stood out as being an interesting look at RESPs at discount brokerages – specifically on the point of joint subscribers.  Click on the post below to learn more about what folks had to say about RESPs at Canadian discount brokerages.

RESPs at Discount Brokerages


That does it for this week’s roundup.  Hope everyone has a great weekend and just as a reminder, Canadian and US stock markets will be closed on Monday – perfect timing given the release of the new House of Cards!

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – February 7th 2014

If there’s one thing that the world can agree on, it’s that those little asterisks can be a pain in the…well you know where.  Many self-directed investors have come to accept them.  Even the opening ceremonies for the Olympics certainly weren’t immune to bad case of the unexpected asterisk.

This past week, however, another major Canadian online brokerage followed the lead of RBC Direct Investing by dropping the asterisk from their standard commission fees.   In this week’s roundup we’ll look at the offer as well reactions from investing community about the latest commission-price move.  The investing community was also a part of another online brokerage’s focus – specifically the Quebec investing community.   Finally, we’ll cap off the week with a selection of interesting discussion threads.

Two Discount Brokerages and Counting

Although we knew it would be inevitable, it was certainly anybody’s guess as to which bank-owned brokerage would follow RBC Direct Investing’s move of lowering and simplifying standard commission trading fees.

That mystery was solved early Friday morning when the official announcement was made by TD Direct Investing that they too were lowering their standard commission fees from $29+ down to $9.99.   Interestingly, however, the rumours about the move were swirling on the forums a day ahead of the announcement apparently when clients were tipped off by client service reps that the move was coming.  Nonetheless, with the official announcement, TD Direct Investing also updated their fee & commission guide to reflect the change in pricing.  Here are some of the details:

First, standard commission rates for all TD Direct Investing account holders goes to $9.99.

Inactivity fees (or as they call it “Custody Fees”) of $25 per quarter are charged for non-registered accounts that have less than $15,000 in combined assets across all TD Direct Investing accounts. There are, however, several ways in which the fees can be waived.

For those with less than $15,000, inactivity fees can be waived if:

  1. They have a TD Direct Investing Registered Account
  2. More than 2 commissionable trades are made within 6 months
  3. A preauthorized savings/investment/contribution program is established with a minimum contribution of $100/month

While other brokerages, big and small, are doing anything but cheering, it appears that Canadian retail investors are celebrating the move by TD. Investment forums and Twitter lit up with (mostly) cheers from consumers regarding the move.

Investing Online in Quebec

National Bank Direct Brokerage released results of a survey they conducted regarding self-directed investors in Quebec.  This announcement provided a useful window into the DIY investing crowd in Quebec, specifically showing the percentage of individuals interested in managing their own portfolios.   The survey data show that 38% of those aged 18-34 invest independently and that almost half of this group expect to manage their assets themselves five years in the future.    Interestingly, almost all (96%) of those surveyed did research across multiple information sources before investing.

This data is interesting to compare with the findings from a BMO InvestorLine study from August 2013. Although the BMO InvestorLine study looked more broadly across Canada at the information sources consulted (and ‘trusted’) by Canadians, financial websites seemed to be consulted less in the BMO study (~29%) than in the National Bank Direct Brokerage study (54%).  While difficult to compare these studies directly, it is an interesting difference between the two.

From the Forums

Amidst the hubbub about TD’s commission price drop announcement, there were still a number of interesting conversations on the major Canadian investing forums.

I Heard a Rumour

Of course, we’ve included the link to the TD Direct Investing thread on RedFlagDeals where readers can check out the full conversation from rumour to announcement.

Banking on Change

This forum post shows that price alone may not be enough to keep an investor from looking for greener pastures.  Apparently features also matter. Check out what the community had to say when one RBC Direct Investing client starts shopping for another brokerage to go to.

That does it for this week’s roundup.  It’s now time to cheer for your favourite Olympic teams – good luck to all the athletes especially the Canadian crew.  In case you missed the SparxTrading February newsletter that went out earlier this week (which you can sign up for in the sidebar), here is the featured image – appropriately themed of course.

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Discount Brokerage Deals & Promotions – February 2014

*Updated Feb. 27th 2014*

Now that February is here, the RSP contribution deadline (March 3rd) is in the crosshairs of many investors.  Canadian discount brokerages have already stepped up the deals & promotions activities with last month seeing over 20 deals offered.   The most active of all the discount brokerages was Questrade followed by BMO InvestorLine however RBC Direct Investing’s commission lowering announcement also had brokerages scrambling to provide offers to get investors’ attention.

With 7 of the deals set to expire within the first few days of March, the sprint to the RSP deadline is on.   Given the combination of news from RBC and the scramble for new client assets at this time of year, February should hold its own fair share of surprises.  Be sure to check back regularly for updates or follow @SparxTrading on Twitter for announcements of deal/promo updates.  So, without further ado, here’s the discount broker deal rundown at the beginning of February.

Expired Deals:

Most of the deals that expired in January did so at the beginning of the month. These deals included:

  • Questrade’s Boxing Day Promo
  • RBC Direct Investing’s 25 Free Trade offer
  • BMO InvestorLine’s 250 free trade promo

Interestingly, a deal that was a bit of a ‘flash’ offer from CIBC Investor’s Edge that started and finished in January.  They were offering $400 + 50 free trades for $50,000 deposits and $200 + 25 free trades for $25,000 deposits.  It has been quite some time since CIBC has offered a special however given the changes going on in the marketplace, it may not be long until we hear from them again.

Extended Deals:

There was one deal that had its deadline extended out: Scotia iTrade’s refer-a-friend offer.  This promotion now expires at the end of March.

New Deals:

Updated Feb. 27/14: HSBC InvestDirect has launched a promotion for new and existing clients to celebrate their performance on Dalbar’s direct brokerage service evaluation.  The promotion offers clients 30 days of unlimited commission-free equity trading of North American and international equities (including ETFs).  Commissions generated from this 30 day period will be refunded within 90 days.  The terms and conditions are very manageable to get through and there is a well prepared FAQ document that explains how the deal works.  This promotion is set to run until March 31/2014. See table below for more info.

Technically this is the section for ‘new deals’ however Scotia iTrade’s 100 free trade + Flight Desk offer has been substantially modified to warrant placing it in the ‘new’ section.  It appears that Scotia iTrade has reduced the deposit amount required to qualify for this deal from $25,000 to $15,000 and has extended the deadline from the end of March until the end of June.  For those considering the deal, be sure to note the change in promo code also.

Discount Brokerage Deals

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Commission/Cash Offer Type Time Limit to Use Commission/Cash Offer Details Link Deadline
Jitney Trade A Sparx Trading exclusive offer! Use the promo code “Sparx Trading” when signing up for a new account with Jitney and receive access to their preferred pricing package and a massive 45% discount on the Real Tick trading platform. n/a Discounted Commission Rates none For more details click here none
Open a new account at HSBC Invest Direct by March 31st, 2014 and receive 30 calendar days of free equity (including ETF) trading of North American and International equities. This offer is open to new and existing HSBC InvestDirect clients. Be sure to read the terms and conditions and the FAQs for more details. $0 Unlimited equity trades (commissions to be rebated within 90d) 30 days HSBC Dalbar Award Offer Terms & Conditions. For FAQ information, click here March 31, 2014
Open a new account with RBC Direct Investing before March 3, 2014 and they will offer 20 commission free trades that are good for use for up to 90 days. Use promo code: 20W17 when opening the account. Be sure to read the offer page and the terms and conditions page for full information. $0 20 free trades (equity & etf) 90 days For the offer page, click here and for the terms and conditions, click here March 3, 2014
Open a new account (TFSA, Margin or RRSP) and receive $50 commission credit . Use promo code: kdkfnbbc $1,000 $50 commission credit none none none
Open an account with Virtual Brokers with a deposit at least $1,000 and Virtual Brokers will offer 25 commission free trades which can be used for up to 1 year. Use promo code “25FTNE” when signing up. This offer is open to new clients only. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for full details on this offer. $1,000 25 commission-free trades 365 days 25 free trades offer March 31, 2014
Refer a friend to Questrade and when they open an account you receive $100 and they receive $50. To receive this deal you must be an existing client with an equity account and refer a person that does not reside with you and who has not previously opened a Questrade account. $1,000 $50 commission credit (friend) $100 commission credit (referrer bonus) 60 days Refer a friend none
Open a new account (TFSA, Margin or RRSP) by March 1 2014 A) $1000 or B) $10,000 to receive either A)10 commission-free trades or B)100 commission-free trades. The promo code QT100 must be used at time of account opening. There are many conditions attached to this offer so be sure to read the details link for more information. A)$1,000 B)$10,000 A)10 free trades B)100 free trades 60 days 100 commission-free trades March 1, 2014
Open a new TFSA, margin or registered account with Questrade and receive either A) 31 days B) 62 days or C) 90 days of unlimited commission-free stock & options trades. Use promo code UNLIMITEDW14 when signing up. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more information. A)$1,000 B)$25,000 C)$50,000 Unlimited commission-free trades during associated period. A) 31 days B) 62 days C) 90 days Questrade Unlimited Trade Promo March 3, 2014
Scotia iTrade If you refer a friend/family member who is not already a Scotia iTrade account holder to them, both you and your friend get a bonus of either cash or free trades. You have to use the referral form to pass along your info as well as your friend/family members’ contact info in order to qualify. There are lots of details/conditions to this deal so be sure to read the details link. A)$10,000 B)$50,000+ A) You(referrer): $50 or 10 free trades; Your “Friend”: $50 or 10 free trades (max total value:$99.90) B) You(referrer): $100 cash or 50 free trades; Your “Friend”: $100 cash or 50 free trades (max total value: $499.50) 60 days Refer A Friend to Scotia iTrade March 31, 2014
Deposit $5,000 into an RSP and $5,000 into either a cash or TFSA account and Credential Direct will waive the $50 administration fee for the RSP account. Be sure to contact their customer service to clarify the exact terms & conditions. $10,000 ($5000 into RSP + $5000 into TFSA/Cash account) $50 admin fee waived none 5+5 Promotion March 3, 2014
Scotia iTrade Open a new account with Scotia iTrade and fund it with at least $15,000, and you can receive 100 commission-free trades, 60 days of FlightDesk and be entered into a contest for a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals or one of 5 runner-up prizes of iPad Air (64gb). Use Promo code RS13-SCE when opening the account. Existing clients must call customer service to qualify for contest entry. There are lots of terms, conditions, and rules/regulations so be sure to read them for more details. $15,000 100 free trades ($999 max value @ 9.99 commission rate) 60 days Stake Your Claim to the Stanley Cup Promotion March 24, 2014
Transfer $15,000 from another institution into an HSBC InvestDirect account and receive 5 commission-free equity trades. This deal also offers a transfer-fee rebate of up to $150 per account transferred. $15,000 5 commission-free equity trades Trades valid for use until May 31, 2014 HSBC InvestDirect Transfer Fee Promo February 28, 2014
Open a new account before March 31, 2014 with at least a)$20,000 or b)$100,000 and National Bank Direct Brokerage will offer up to a)$500 or b)$1000 in commission fee credits. Use the promo code “CASHBACK2014” when signing up to qualify for this offer. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for this offer especially the refund dates for commission credits. A)$20,000 B)$100,000 A)$500 commission credit B)$1000 commission credit 90 days Invest and get cash back offer March 31, 2014
Scotia iTrade Open and fund a new Scotia iTRADE account with at least $25,000 before March 31, 2014 and the commissions associated with your first 100 trades placed within 60 days of the date the account is activated and funded are free. Also, the new FlightDesk platform is being offered for free for 60 days. Use promo code HUN-SP. See details link for further terms and conditions. $15,000 100 commission-free trades ($999 value @ $9.99 commission rate) 60 days Scotia iTrade 100 free trades + FlightDesk June 30, 2014
Open and fund a new account at CIBC Investor’s Edge with either A)$25,000 or B)$50,000 and receive either A)$200 + 25 free equity trades or B)$400 + 50 free equity trades. This is an in-branch promotion so contact either customer service or a branch for specific terms and conditions. A)$25,000 B)$50,000 A)$200 + 25 commission-free equity trades B)$400 + 50 commission-free equity trades 1 year Must visit branch to qualify February 1, 2014
BMO InvestorLine Open and fund a new RSP or TFSA account with BMO InvestorLine with either A)$25,000 or B)$50,000 and they will pay either A)$100 or B)$250 cash back. The promo code for the $100 cash back is “SELECTR100” and for the $250 cash back offer is “SELECTR250”. Be sure to read the terms & conditions for more information. A)$25,000 B)$50,000 A)$100 B)$250 Payout occurs after 6 months Registered Account Cross Sell Campaign March 31, 2014
BMO InvestorLine Open and fund a new Cash, Margin, or RSP account with BMO InvestorLine with $25,000 or more and receive $88 cash back. The promo code for the $88 cash back offer is LUNAR2014. Be sure to read the terms & conditions for more information. $25,000 $88 Payout occurs after 3 months 2014 Lunar New Year Promotion February 22, 2014
Disnat Disnat is offering new & existing clients $300 in commission credits which can be used for up to 6 months. To be eligible, new/existing clients need to deposit $50,000 into a Disnat account. You’ll have to call 1 800 268-8471 and mention promo code Disnat300. See details link for more info. $50,000 $300 commission credit 6 months Disnat $300 Commission Credit Promo March 31, 2014
BMO InvestorLine If you refer a new client to BMO InvestorLine and they open an account with a)$50,000 – $249,999 or b)$250,000+ the referrer and the referee will both receive cash. The new account must be opened with the referral code specific to the referrer. A) $50,000 – $249,000 B) $250,000+ A) You(referrer): $200; Your Friend(referee): $50 B) You(referrer): $300; Your Friend: $100 Payout occurs after 60 days (subject to conditions). Refer A Friend Terms & Conditions October 31, 2014
BMO InvestorLine [Main offer]Open a new account or deposit new funds of $100,00 or more and you can be eligible for cash rebates of $250 and 250 commission-free trades (Promo code: RSP250). [Bonus Offer] If you open a new account or fund another account you could also be eligible for an additional $50 and 50 commission-free trades (Promo code ADD50). Be sure to read the full details & terms of this offer. $100,000 (main offer) $5000 (bonus offer) [main offer] $250 cash back + 250 commission-free trades (max value $2500) [Bonus offer] $50 + 50 commission-free trades 90 days $300 + 300 trade offer March 10, 2014
Open a new account or transfer new assets of $100,000 or more and choose between receiving either a)A 16GB iPad Mini or B)$250 cash back. Be sure to choose the appropriate code (IPADMINIW13 for the iPad Mini and CASH250W13 for the cash back offer) for each offer. There are several important conditions so be sure to read the terms and conditions for this offer. $100,000 A) iPad Mini (16 GB) [~$270-320 value] B) $250 Cash Payout/iPad delivery occurs after 30 days. iPad Mini or $250 Cash Back March 1, 2014

Transfer Fee Deals

Company Brief Description Maximum Transfer Fee Coverage Amount Deposit Amount for Transfer Fee Eligibility Details Link Deadline
Transfer in $15,000 or more into an HSBC InvestDirect account from another institution, and HSBC will cover up to $150 of transfer fees per funded account. $150 $15,000 HSBC InvestDirect Transfer Fee Promo February 28, 2014
Transfer $15,000 or more to RBC Direct Investing and they will pay up to $135 in transfer fees $135 $15,000 Transfer Fee Rebate Details none
Move your brokerage account to Questrade and they’ll cover the transfer-out fee up to $150. $150 $25,000 Transfer Fee Promo none
Virtual Brokers will cover transfer fees from your transferring institution to a maximum of $150 per account. This offer is only applicable to accounts opened with at least $25,000 in equity before March 31, 2014 $150 $25,000 Transfer Fee Promo March 31, 2014
Transfer $25,000 or more to a National Bank Direct Brokerage account and they will pay up to $135 plus taxes in transfer fees $135 $25,000 Transfer Fee Rebate none
Qtrade Investor Qtrade Investor will reimburse your transfer fee up to $125 when transferring a balance of $25,000 or more. For reimbursement, please mail or fax a copy of your statement from the transferring institution that shows the transfer charge to Qtrade Investor at 604.484.2627 and indicate your Qtrade Investor account number. $125 $25,000 Transfer Fee Promo none
Disnat Disnat is offering up to $150 to cover the cost of transfer fees from another institution. To be eligible, new/existing clients need to deposit $50,000 into a Disnat account. You’ll have to call 1 800 268-8471 and mention promo code Disnat300. See details link for more info. $150 $50,000 Disnat $300 Commission Credit Promo March 31, 2014
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RBC Direct Investing: Lowering Commissions and Raising the Stakes

For many years, observers of the Canadian discount brokerage marketplace as well as the discount brokers themselves have all understood that the online brokerage business is a highly competitive space. Despite the many trends in products, services and pricing that have occurred over the last decade the standard commission rates at bank-owned brokerages have remained largely high and untouched. After a bold move by RBC Direct Investing, however, all that is set to change.

10 is the New 30

With the announcement by RBC Direct Investing that they were lowering (and simplifying) their standard commission fee from $28.85+ down to $9.95 flat, they have set the wheels in motion for one of the most potentially disruptive moves to happen in this space in a very long time.

With this pricing adjustment, not only does RBC Direct Investing now get out in front of their bank-owned brokerage peers in terms of pricing, they also have taken a shot directly at the traditionally lower cost online-only brokerages such as Questrade and Virtual Brokers. The ‘flat’ in the pricing means that ECN fees which some deep discount brokers pass along on their standard plans makes them more expensive than RBC Direct Investing on certain market orders of over 995 shares.

Standard Commission Rates Assets Required for Discounted Commission Rate Discounted Commission Rate
RBC Direct Investing $9.95 (flat) Not required Not required
Scotia iTrade $24.99+ $50,000 $9.95 (flat)
CIBC Investor’s Edge $28.95+ $50,000 $9.95 (flat)
National Bank Direct Brokerage $28.95+ $50,000 $9.95 (flat)
BMO InvestorLine $29+ $50,000 $9.95 (flat)
TD Direct Investing $29+ $50,000 $9.95 (flat)

Keeping it Simple

While the announcement about pricing is a headline-grabbing way to kick off 2014, observers of RBC Direct Investing will note that over the past 3 years there have been a number of steps RBC has taken to bring their products, platform and services to a more competitive level with their peers. Whether it was the streamlining of their administration fees, the introduction of the “community” investing feature, their practice account or the lowering of minimum investment amounts of the Series D mutual funds, RBC Direct Investing has been steadily deploying investor-friendly features and pricing.

One of the individuals who is, in part, responsible for these tactical maneuvers is Michael MacDonald, Vice-President of Strategy for RBC Direct Investing. We spoke to Mr. MacDonald regarding the recent changes to RBC Direct Investing’s pricing and what his thoughts were on the impact these changes will have on the industry as well as to retail investors.