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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – March 27, 2015

The award for the biggest comeback this week is not for interest rates. In what can only be described with the best hyperbole ever, it was announced earlier this week that X-files will be coming back, albeit briefly, for a six episode run. Perhaps the famous agents Mulder and Scully have been pulled in to try and decipher exactly when those interest rates will rise or why the departure of Zayn Malik from One Direction “coincided” with a downturn in markets. While they’re on the case, perhaps a greater mystery is what Canadian online brokerages have in store for April as many of them appear to be working on top-secret projects of their own.

In this week’s roundup we do a bit of detective work to investigate the Canadian online brokerage landscape for cues and clues as to what these brokerages are up to. First, we’ll take a look at the upcoming turn into a new month and what that means for the deals and promotions currently set to expire at the end of March. Next we’ll take a look at a brokerage that has never spent a lot of time in the shadows and, is in fact, finding itself increasingly in the spotlight. Another mystery that gets highlighted in this roundup is just how long it takes to get from one brokerage to another. For those looking for closer encounters of the investor education kind, we have a recap of two sessions held this week as well as the upcoming events in the event horizon. Finally, the whispers and chatter from investors in the ‘from the forums’ section are bound get people talking.

Deal Expiry

As March draws to a close, several discount brokerage promotions are poised to expire. Two promotions from BMO InvestorLine have had their deadline dates extended into April. There are, however, still five promotions from other brokerages that are on the chopping block. As of this edition of the roundup, TD Direct Investing’s 200 free trade promotion is poised to expire as we publish (March 27th).

The current deal count is still quite high and it is unlikely that several of the brokerages with offers set to expire will let their promotional strategy go quietly. Desjardins Online Brokerage, for example, has had their $300 commission credit running since October 2012 and even though it is scheduled to expire, they may have to throw it a retirement party given how long it has been around.

Two other online brokerages who have their deals set to expire are National Bank Direct Brokerage and Scotia iTrade. If history is any indicator, the latter may almost certainly renew their ‘refer-a-friend’ promotion and if they do let their headline offer expire, they will almost certainly be looking to be visible with another big number offer. National Bank Direct Brokerage, on the other hand, is historically less active in the deal space throughout the year. That said, it is still a prime season for online brokerages because of individuals looking to invest their income tax refunds.

We’re curious to see what the larger bank-owned brokerages will do and it seems like we’re not the only ones. It looks like the big bank-owned brokerages strategically timed their expiry dates to coincide with one another and perhaps a game of ‘wait and see’ is now underway between the largest players RBC Direct Investing and TD Direct Investing. The former extended its RSP-themed 20 free trade offer to end just after TD Direct Investing’s offer.

Another bank-owned brokerage to watch will be CIBC Investor’s Edge. Their commission-free ETF trading offer is also poised to expire at the end of March. Since their launch of the lowered commission pricing structure last fall, CIBC Investor’s Edge has been running aggressive promotions which have definitely caught the attention of investors looking for an online brokerage account incentive.

One way or another, the sprint to the finish of March will be exciting to watch. Stay tuned.

That’s Them in the Spotlight

For the past few months Questrade has been making some very big waves. From the launch of their Wealth Management division to the barrage of promotional offers and now most recently the official launch of their own line of ETFs, Questrade has been spending a lot of time in the spotlight.

With the launch of their new ETF line, Questrade looks and feels like a very different brand than it did last year at this time when it was “just” a discount brokerage. As of today they are able to proclaim that they are in the online brokerage business, the managed wealth business and also in the ETF business.

While it seems like they’re competing now across a number of different business lines, the fact of the matter is, Questrade appears to be strikingly in tune with millennial and generation Y investors. Questrade understands that in order to succeed as a brand within today’s (and tomorrow’s) world, they have to be present and be interesting.

For Canadian online investors – especially the younger segment, is that if there’s a channel you’re going to be on, they’ll be on it. Questrade has certainly been visible everywhere. From advertisements on BNN as well as online; on social media, in particular on Twitter and also in popular investor forums such as RedFlagDeals and Reddit, Questrade has a noticeable presence. The fact they’re being discussed here instead of their 13 other competitors is also proof that being interesting matters. In the marketing world it’s known as ‘earned media’.

This brings us back to the launch of Questrade’s ETFs this past week. Instead of a standard news release (which they provided), Questrade’s ETF launch got major coverage from an article in Moneysense magazine, they put together a YouTube video with their social media lightning rod Cabbie and they rocked up to the TSX to ring the opening bell (and clap for a really long time) and also hold an investor seminar with investment media personalities from BNN (and coverage in the weekly roundup probably doesn’t hurt either).

Despite all of the wisdom when it comes to investing that there should be little to no emotion involved, when it comes to financial services, there is a part of the decision to pick one provider over another that comes down to emotion. In an online brokerage field where pricing is ultra-competitive, getting people to notice you is hard enough but getting them to like you and talk about you means you not only have to be good but also do something special.

One of the hallmarks of success of US online brokerage pioneer Ameritrade (which was eventually acquired by TD to become TD Ameritrade) was to win ‘mindshare’ in order to win ‘market share’. What Questrade clearly understands is that if investors can spend time thinking about them, then there’s just simply less time to think about everyone else.

Hurry Up and Wait

Every so often after a bad experience with a brokerage, the thought of what else is out there crops up. Switching brokerages, however, is not as easy as it could be in today’s day and age. In last week’s roundup, the Globe and Mail’s Rob Carrick took a look at the issue from a cost point of view. This past week Moneysense Magazine took a look at the issue of switching brokerages from the point of view of how much time and money it takes to make the switch. The results were definitely eye-brow raising.

According to the article, which reported average transfer times between the large Canadian banks and a new entrant to the wealth management space Wealthsimple, the average wait time was 19 days. The speediest of the banks was Scotiabank, completing the transfer in 7 days whereas CIBC took 21 days.

It is important to note that transfers can depend on the complexity of the request. Large/complex portfolios with multiple accounts are likely going to require more effort than smaller ones. That said, it is an important data point for individuals to be aware of if they are thinking of making the switch to budget the time on the way out.

In Case You Missed It

Both TD Direct Investing and Questrade were tweeting away this past week from their respective investor education sessions.

TD Direct Investing held a session with Som Seif of Purpose Investments talking about #AssetAllocation. In case you missed it, the webinar was recorded and archives of it can be accessed here.

Questrade made yet another splash into the investor education (and information) landscape by organizing a forum on investing entitled Investing Trends 2015. The session featured panel members from some of Canada’s most recognizable names and faces from BNN, the Globe and Mail as well as members from the investment industry and tackled many popular topics related to the current investing environment. In case you missed it, below are the highlights captured in tweets from the session on March 26th.

Event Horizon

March will end with a bit of a whimper and April looks to be starting with a bang. We’ll be updating our events calendar shortly however here are some highlights of events coming up next week:

Stockscores Virtual Tour

Desjardins Online Brokerage’s educational partner, Tyler Bollhorn (founder of Stockscores) will be ramping up the investor education webinars in April and May. For more information on the full schedule, click here.

Scotia iTrade will feature a pair of sessions, one on the evolution of indexing and another on options trading. For more details, click here.

From the Forums

Questrade ETFs

Questrade’s new ETFs were on the minds of folks in RedFlagDeals’ investor forum. Click here to find out what DIY investors had to say about the official launch.

Cheap or Cheaper?

One of the recurring questions DIY investors confront is how much time or effort they need to put in to manage a portfolio, and, is it worth it to pay for a discounted product to do on their behalf. The debate on the best way to access TD e-series mutual funds is always a popular one. Click here to see how folks from the Reddit ‘Personal Finance Canada’ thread weighed in.

That’s it for this week’s roundup. We started the roundup on an extraterrestrial note at the outset, so it is fitting that we bring it back down to Earth for the ending. This weekend Earth Hour takes place at 8:30pm local time on Saturday. Whether or not you partake in the lights-out remember we’ve only got one planet to take care of us all (that anyone will officially admit to).

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – March 20, 2015

This past week heralded the strangest and rarest of events. No, it wasn’t the solar eclipse or an upset in the NCAA basketball tournament; it was actually the arrival of Spring – in theory.  It was fitting that the lead up into Spring saw a celebration of green for St. Paddy’s day at the beginning of the week and having the markets have a green day to end off the week. The shamrocks and markets weren’t the only green making waves this week, however, as a few ‘green’ discount brokerages were also busy making headlines.

In this week’s roundup, we start by looking at where discount brokerages are stepping up their game 140 characters at a time. Next we take a look at an article about Canadian brokerages and investors with commitment issues – just in time for wedding season. Of course, we’ve got another deal update to add to the list after which we’ll take a look at the upcoming investor education events and close out with a look across the investor forums.


As we reported several weeks ago, the social media presence of Canadian discount brokerages has started to ratchet up. Credential Direct and TD Direct Investing have stepped into Twitter in a noticeable way, joining Questrade, Scotia iTrade and Virtual Brokers.

This past week, however, discount brokerages on Twitter showed yet again that they’re evolving quickly to understand how this medium works and how to be relevant in an increasingly busy online medium.

Both ‘big green’ (TD Direct Investing) and little green (Questrade) were spotted getting some major attention from online DIY investors.

Starting first with Questrade and their “What Are You Investing For” contest. Looking at the number and types of responses that Questrade received from the Twittersphere, this recent promotion signals that people are paying attention to Questrade in a major way.  Of course, for their part, Questrade made it compelling by offering up the prize of an Asus tablet so naturally one might expect more interest than if Questrade simply asked the question without the possibility of a prize. One thing that does stand out, however, is that other brokerages aren’t (yet) doing the same thing.  In fact, when it comes to social media (including forums), there are few corners where Questrade does not have a presence (their career team is even on Instagram).

Another interesting angle in the brewing social media battle can be seen with activity this past week from TD Direct Investing.  Specifically, the power of reach.  Although TD Bank has a massive following on Twitter, TD Direct Investing does not have it’s own central account from which it tweets.  Instead, it has taken the rather unique approach of mobilizing a wide number of its employees to start broadcasting TD Direct Investing content.  This past week, TD Direct Investing held an investor education webinar on swing trading and landed a rather large crowd interested in the topic – almost 8,000 folks. While close to 300 attended the live event, what was interesting were the tweets leading up to, during and after the event.  There were interesting/pun-laden graphics ahead of the event, lots of TD folks tweeting about it, lots of people talking about and compliments dished out after it.

The big questions for most DIY investors comes back down to ‘so what?’ What does it matter if a brokerage is on Twitter or not?

In the case of all the discount brokerages currently on Twitter, they understand that responding to people on the social media channels provides a different kind of convenience and a transparent service that takes time to get right. For younger or more tech savvy users, Twitter is a great way to connect directly with a service provider to get an answer to a query or resolve an issue without having to stray far from a news feed or to use another screen (or, God forbid, the phone).

For DIY investors, whether or not they’re clients of a particular brokerage, the content being pushed out by these brokerages is free and accessible.  In the case of TD Direct Investing, finding out about these kinds of educational events via Twitter can help investors informed in a way that traditional media or Google news don’t quite do.  There’s also a whole other kind of research on client service that is possible now that was never really accessible to investors.  Seeing how each brokerage handles itself in the face of complaints or accolades is how consumers make their judgements.

While it might have taken some time for TD Direct Investing to get on board the #HashtagTrain, now that they are actively creating a presence for themselves, the brokerages already on Twitter will now have to (once again) step up their game. Those brokerages not on social media (and those on ‘autopilot’) have a real challenge ahead to step up.  For DIY investors, that kind of competition between brokerages is likely to result in a whole new level of content and creativity which will probably be worth tuning into, at least for a fleeting moment or two.

House of (Prepaid) Cards

Questrade has launched yet another promotion into its suite of current offers.  On the heels of the expired iPad mini promotion, Questrade has revived and slightly tweaked their prepaid Visa card promotional offer.  In their current offer there are now four gift card denominations (ranging from $50 to $250) that are associated with four tiers of deposit amounts ranging from $5,000 to $100,000.  While deposits are required in order to be eligible, it is also interesting to note that clients are also required to make at least one commission-generating trade in order to qualify for the gift card. Thus, while the face value of the gift card is $50, $75, $100 or $250, be sure to factor in the value of a commission-generating trade which can be anywhere from $4.95 to $9.95 (plus applicable fees).  Click for more details on Questrade’s most recent promotion and other online brokerage deals.

Mind the Exit

One of the considerations when choosing an online brokerage is what happens if or when things don’t quite work out. While most Canadian discount brokerages do impose a ‘transfer out’ fee for clients who ask to have their account transferred to another entity, ironically most brokerages are also willing to pay the transfer fee (of between $135 – $150) for clients transferring money into a new account.  Those most impacted by the transfer fees are individuals with less than $15,000 to $25,000, since these are typical deposit thresholds that individuals must be transferring into a new institution in order to qualify for a transfer fee rebate.

In a recent article (available to paid subscribers) by Globe and Mail personal finance columnist and leading voice on Canadian online brokerages, Rob Carrick, he discusses some of the important considerations about transfer fees that individuals should keep in mind when shopping for an online trading account.

One of the interesting points of the article was that if there is the opportunity to test drive a brokerage account via a free trial, it would offer a better idea of the platform and user experience of navigating the broker’s online interface.

Event Horizon

March 21:

Scotia iTRADE – Top Global Investment Themes for 2015 – Larry Berman Roadshow Niagara Falls, ON

March 24:

TD Direct Investing – Stock Talk

Scotia iTRADE – Options Trading For Beginners with Sarah Potter

TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Investing in Options

TD Direct Investing – Understanding Margin & Short Selling

March 25:

Desjardins Online Brokerage (Disnat) – Trading ETFs with Desjardins Online Brokerage

Scotia iTRADE – Options As A Hedging Strategy Using Call Options with Montreal Exchange

March 26:

TD Direct Investing – Evolution of Indexing

TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Investing in Options

From the Forums:

TD Waterhouse RRSP

Finding the right kind of account to get access to popular investment products is something that can be a tad confusing.  In this post on RedFlagDeals’ investing forum, one user gets a little help from the community when wondering how best to start off with a modest RRSP.

To BMO or not to BMO

Sitting on the fence about a brokerage is a common moment for many DIY investors.  In this post from the Canadian Money Forum, one new investor is looking to map out a path through mutual funds and ETFs and is wondering if BMO InvestorLine is the right option.  Check out the perspective of the other investors when it came to staying on board or jumping ship.

Drip by Drip

Slow and steady wins the race. Using dividends to build wealth over time is a tested strategy that many DIY investors buy into. In this post from Canadian Money Forum, one user wants to know a bit more detail about using DRIPs at Canadian discount brokerages.

That’s it for this week’s roundup.  To cap off the ‘social media’ theme, here is a great story of how spreading the message #OdinBirthday on social media gave one 13 year-old boy an awesome way to start the weekend and a birthday to remember. Enjoy the weekend!

Edited March 21/15

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – March 13, 2015

It’s Friday the 13th. Tomorrow is Pi Day (3/14). As Jerry Seinfeld might irrationally proclaim, what is the deal with all these numbers?

For DIY investors, however, keeping track of numbers is an integral part online investing.  And, with income tax filing deadlines around the corner, now is time of year that many folks will be reviewing numbers – so long as Netflix isn’t on.

In this week’s roundup, we start with an important message for Fraud Prevention Month regarding binary options.  Next we’ll take a look at some interesting numbers from the US brokerages that might add up to an interesting trend for brokerages here in Canada. Also, we’ll take a look at a recent ‘number themed’ promotion launched by one online brokerage in a very curious case of direct target marketing.  Upcoming investor education events will be next on the list and finally we’ll wind down with some interesting investor forum discussions.

A Bad Option

If you’ve ever tried to Google information on options trading, there’s no doubt that you’ve probably come across ads promoting binary options.  While binary options have evolved rapidly to look and feel like they’re legitimate trading alternatives, the disturbing truth is that they are, at best, gambling sites – many of which are unregulated, offshore companies simply out to separate internet users from their money.

Thankfully, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) issued an important bulletin warning Canadians of the murky world of binary options trading.  Although the bulletin named a large number of websites (37) as attempting to solicit Canadian investors, the list is far from exhaustive.

The lines between investing online and gambling are certainly blurry when it comes to ‘trading/betting’ on short term moves in markets.  In fact, the controversy stirred up by Michael Lewis’ book Flash Boys (which happens to be celebrating its 1-year anniversary) highlights how even the biggest financial institutions and best and brightest minds in quantitative finance are exploiting microsecond advantages. What unregulated operators would do in jurisdictions that give them free reign usually spells trouble for an unsuspecting visitor.

Barron’s Rates Interactive Brokers Best Online Brokerage

When it comes online brokerage rankings, the only number that matters is number one.  Interactive Brokers (US), managed to land first once again in the 2015 ranking by Barron’s Magazine, narrowly beating out online brokerage firms OptionsHouse and TD Ameritrade.

As with other rankings and ratings of online brokerages, it is important to understand how the rankings were devised and what components go into the evaluation.   Barron’s online brokerage ranking is one of the more thorough evaluations of brokerages in the US and, although this makes it of limited value for Canadian brokerages per se, it is interesting to see the features and trends available to US online investors (as well as those investors interested in using an online brokerage in the US).

The following 8 categories were evaluated as part of the ranking:

  1. Trading Experience & Technology
  2. Usability
  3. Mobile
  4. Range of Offerings
  5. Research Amentities
  6. Portfolio Analysis & Reports
  7. Customer Service & Education
  8. Costs

Among those categories, Interactive Brokers had the best showing by far when it came to costs.  While anecdotal, many Canadian DIY investors also state that when it comes to pricing Interactive Brokers is very difficult to beat especially for very active traders.  Active traders are particularly sensitive to cost and it is likely why Interactive Brokers is strategically pursuing this segment of the investor market (not to mention that active investors generate almost 10-fold the revenue of an average investor).

For most DIY investors, cost per trade is and remains to be a major deciding factor when it comes a brokerage so it is interesting to see cost being given equal weight to other items when it comes to scoring.  As with all rankings, the priority that individuals place on the particular features as well as the overall experience ultimately determine the right fit.

A Precise Promotion

While some discount brokerages are looking to selectively target particular types of clients, a recent promotion launched by National Bank Direct Brokerage, takes things to a whole other level – 10 decimal places in fact.

The latest promotion launched by National Bank Direct Brokerage targets engineers as well as engineering students and graduates with a 97.4874371859% discount (yes that’s how it is being marketed).

Instead of paying $9.95 per trade, NBDB is offering 25 trades for $0.25 each for a 3 month period for deposits of $20,000 or more (for engineers and engineering graduates) and 10 trades for $0.25 for deposits of $5,000 or more (for engineering students).  The extremely precise discount offer is good until the end of May.

On a side note, it is interesting that NBDB is looking specifically at this group for a special offer.  There is some anecdotal data regarding the kinds of occupations seen with DIY investors and engineers do tend to be more open to DIY investing.  Whether this particular promotion is connected to that data is speculative, however the precise demographic/occupational targeting may be something other online brokerages might be considering after seeing this kind of promotion.

Change of Guard

In an unrelated story, National Bank Direct Brokerage appears to be looking for a new President.  The outgoing President, Nancy Paquet, whom we interviewed late last year, has now taken on the role of VP Partnership with National Bank.  Interestingly according to the job posting, the new president of NBDB will also act as  VP for National Bank, splitting their time between the two roles.

Strategically, bank-owned brokerages such as National Bank Direct Brokerage, are able to compete by being able to tap into the pool of clients from the banking side and vice versa.  The new President appears to have this as part of the mandate coming in.

National Bank Direct Brokerage isn’t the only online brokerage that is seeing some change at the top.  Vancouver based Qtrade Financial Group saw its CEO Scott Gibner depart officially as of mid January.  Currently Qtrade Financial’s board co-chair Bill Packham is serving as interim CEO.

Event Horizon

Lots of learning options (about options) taking place this week.

March 14 – Scotia iTRADE – Top Global Investment Themes for 2015 – Larry Berman Roadshow (Montreal, QC)

March 15 – Scotia iTRADE – Trading with the Expert with Ziad Jasani 

March 17 – Scotia iTRADE – Basic Option Income Strategies with Pro Market Advisors

March 18 – TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Fundamental Analysis

TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Investing in Options

TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Weekly Options

Scotia iTRADE – Equity Strategies Using ETFs with iShares

March 19 – NBDB – Stop orders: A winning solution worth knowing – [Fr]

Scotia iTRADE – The Power Of The Put Option with AJ Monte

March 20 – Scotia iTRADE – Trading with the Expert with Ziad Jasani

From the Forums

A Superficial Situation

As we move into ‘tax season’ there are all kinds of discussions about some of the tax implications associated with investing.  One of the popular (and important) topics is the superficial loss rule and what that means for investors.  This post from the Canadian Money Forum shows one investor’s experience in navigating through their options and the impact of a superficial loss. Also, here’s another helpful link explaining how this rule works.

Urge to Merge

Having only one discount brokerage account is a reality for some and a dream for others.  While there are various reasons individual investors open up (or end up with) multiple investment accounts, consolidating them means making a commitment to a particular online brokerage.  In this post from the Red Flag Deals investing forum, it was interesting to read the responses to one user’s questions about which brokerage to single out.

That’s a wrap for this week’s roundup.  After a bit of a miserable week for those long markets, oil, the loonie, the weekend might offer a bit of a reprieve.  In keeping with our numbers theme, however, it was a pretty rough week for this groom who saw his wedding end because of a failed math question.   Of course nothing caps off a week like watching 14 silly kids just being. So here’s a more jovial send off.  Enjoy the weekend no matter what you’re counting!

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – March 6 2015

With daylight savings coming to an end, it’s time to spring forward.  Time is definitely on the minds of many this weekend as we let our smart devices put our microwaves and wall clocks to shame by self-updating, but also because of Apple’s big iWatch reveal on Monday.  Speaking of time, Canadian discount brokerages now have a bit more of it with RSP season now in the rear-view mirror.  The break won’t last too long, however, with tax season gearing up, we think Canadian discount brokerages will also be looking to roll out some big announcements of their own very soon too.

In this week’s roundup we rock up to a new month by taking a quick look at the new Spring line of deals and promotions. Next we check out a discount brokerage that got recognized for its call centre,  take a quick trip through the upcoming investor education events for March and finally cap off with some interesting discussions from the investor forums.

Deals March On

After the frenzy of offers in February, March has definitely slowed down in terms of discount brokerage deals and promotions. In our latest deals & promotions post, we take a look at what was left after the dust settled on the RSP-oriented offers.

Despite 8 deals having expired between the last week of February and first week of March, at least one brokerage extended an offer to the end of the month and two brokerages, Questrade and Qtrade, decided to replace expiring offers with new ones. For those keeping score at home that brings the deal tally to 17 (18 if you count the contest offering from Qtrade) at the time of writing which is considerably less than the 26 or so offers/promotions that showed up for February.

This past week one promotion from HSBC InvestDirect and two from Questrade expired.  RBC Direct Investing has chosen to extend their 20 free trade offer until March 31st, likely to compete directly against TD Direct Investing’s offer that runs until late March.

Look for March to be an interesting month for deals because so many offers are timed to expire at the end of the month.  While the most likely outcome is for offers to start getting extended, we can’t help but think that some sizeable promotions with longer deadlines will make an appearance before month’s end.  For more updates on the latest discount brokerage deals, be sure to check the deals & promotions section through the month.

Scotia iTrade Recognized for Call Center

In an announcement earlier this week, Scotia iTrade’s call center performance was recognized by call center research firm Service Quality Measurement Group (SQM).  The award received by Scotia iTrade was the “Gold” Call Center First Call Resolution (FCR) Best Practice Award. Winners of the “Silver” and “Bronze” for this category of award were Regence BlueCross BlueShield and Canadian Tire Financial Services/Millenium1 Solutions.  (click here to view a list of all the 2014 SQM Call Center Award winners)

The award received by Scotia iTrade is part of a broad set of awards given out by SQM to recognize strengths in key areas of running a call center.  In particular, the recognition for their “performance management system” was evaluated on how their management system (the structure by which Scotia iTrade tracks and measures call center performance) improves key metrics such as first call resolution (i.e. properly answering client questions on the first call) among others.

As with other brokerages who earn distinctions in certain categories, it is important to understand what the award actually means/recognizes and how that measure was determined.  In this case, according to the SQM website, submissions for this best practice award were evaluated by 6 subject matter experts.  Thus, while Scotia iTrade has been recognized for having strong call center client service operations, that does not necessarily translate into a better/worse performance relative to their online brokerage call center peers.

Event Horizon

There are a number of interesting investor education events taking place in March.  Scotia iTrade is holding a number of events in partnership with the Independent Investor Institute (headed by Larry Berman).  TD Direct Investing looks to be placing a focus on options education events.

March 7 – Scotia iTRADE – Trading with the Expert with Ziad Jasani

March 8 – Scotia iTRADE – Top Global Investment Themes for 2015 – Larry Berman Roadshow Markham, ON

March 9 – Scotia iTRADE – Trading with the Expert with Ziad Jasani

March 10 – NBDB – Take Advantage of Margin Accounts – [Fr]

March 10 – Scotia iTRADE – ETF Model Portfolios with Horizons ETFs

March 10 – TD Direct Investing – ETFs 101 – Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About ETFs

March 11 – Scotia iTRADE – Options Trading – A Directional Bias with Montreal Exchange

March 11 – Desjardins Online Brokerage (Disnat) – Options, Indispensable in Today’s Markets

March 11 – TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Investing in Options

March 12 – Scotia iTRADE – Top Global Investment Themes for 2015 – Larry Berman Roadshow Ottawa, ON

March 12 – TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Investing in Options

From the Forums

Bueller, Bueller

Sometimes asking a question to a busy forum such as Red Flag Deals actually nets no replies – even in spite of how many views a post may get.  This is a rare situation but perhaps interesting given the question that was asked regarding BMO InvestorLine’s AdviceDirect product.  BMO InvestorLine has been actively advertising to raise awareness of this product however as this forum post shows, there still might be a ways to go before investors are interested.

Bystander Effect

On the other end of the community wisdom spectrum, this post, also from Red Flag Deals’ investing section, demonstrates that sometimes asking a question instead of doing a little bit of searching first means that either the question isn’t appealing or, as was the case in this post, the question has been answered time and time and time again.

That’s a wrap for this week’s roundup.  With Apple bookending the weekend by with the announcement on Friday that they’re being added to the Dow Jones Industrial Average (and displacing AT&T in the process), and on Monday announcing more details on their iWatch, it seems like a sign of the times we live in. Who we use to communicate with isn’t as compelling as what we use to communicate with. Instead of reaching out and touching someone, it looks like the world is more about reaching out and touching a screen. On the bright side, at least the thing will update itself.

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Discount Brokerage Deals and Promotions – March 2015

*Updated March 21* March is finally here, and for many it couldn’t be here soon enough.  With it comes the promise of Spring, a time for change and new beginnings.  In an interesting twist, the Canadian discount brokerage deals and promotions landscape seems to be mirroring this phenomenon.

Heading into March, there are a number of deals and promotions geared towards the RSP contribution deadline (March 2nd) and as a result 5 out the 24 deals (21%) ended within the last few days of February.  With an additional four deals are scheduled to expire at the RSP contribution deadline of March 2nd and no new offers announced at the outset of March, the offers pool has thinned out significantly (for now).  So, while March will technically begin with 19 offers, within the first week of March this will drop to 14 promotions.

Perhaps the most interesting observation about the remaining discount brokerage deals is how many of them are set to expire within or at the end of March.  With the exception of six deals (3 of which are ongoing offers), and not counting the RSP offers,  9 out the 14 (64%) discount brokerage deals are scheduled to expire by month’s end.

What this means for DIY investors is that there is likely to be a lot of volatility in the deals and promotions space this month and next. Whether existing offers get extended out or replaced is the big question.

Online brokerages are still in a busy season (post RSP contribution deadline) as they will be looking to win business from DIY investors wondering where to put any potential income tax returns.

March madness will certainly be taking over NCAA basketball but for Canadian online brokerages, March is going to be filled with its own set of surprises, upsets and wildcards to stay on top of.  Stay tuned as this could be quite the ride into Spring.

Expired Deals

At the outset of March, there were five deals that expired from last month. The expired promotions included deals from BMO InvestorLine, CIBC Investor’s Edge, Questrade and Virtual Brokers.  Here are the specific deals that expired:

  • BMO InvestorLine – 5 Free Trades on Tablet
  • CIBC Investor’s Edge – Commission-free trades + cash back offer
  • Questrade – 10/100 commission-free trades; $50 prepaid Visa
  • Virtual Brokers – 50/100 commission-free trades


*Update March 7* RBC Direct Investing has extended their 20 free trade offer. The new deadline for this deal is March 31st, 2015.

There were no deal or promotion extensions noted at the outset of March.

New Deals

*Update March 21* Questrade continues to add to their list of promotional offers. Their latest offer is similar to a previous gift card-linked promotion however in its current form, this offer consists of four tiers of prepaid Visa card amounts ranging from $50 to $250 for deposits ranging from $5,000 to $100,000.

In addition to meeting the minimum deposit requirements, to be eligible for this promotion, individuals must also execute at least one commission generating trade within 60 days of funding the account. See the table below for additional information and be sure to read the terms and conditions associated with this offer and pay particular attention to the holding period conditions.

*Update March 7* Questrade has (re)launched a commission-free trade offer for new clients only.  The offer is for either 10 or 100 commission-free trades (good for up to 60 days) for clients who deposit either $1000 or $10,000. See table below for more details.

While there were no new deals announced at the time of publishing (March 1st), there were several offers that did appear mid-February worth mentioning.

In particular, Credential Direct stepped into the deals/promotions space with a commission-free trade/cash back offer.

Questrade launched a brief Chinese New Year themed offer (cash back + contest draw) as well as a 100 commission-free trade + subscription (to Motley Fool Stock Advisor Canada’s newsletter).

We’ll continue to monitor the deals through March and as always, if there are offers that you’ve spotted and would like to share with other DIY investors please let us know.

Discount Brokerage Deals

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Commission/Cash Offer/Promotion 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 with HSBC InvestDirect and you could be eligible to receive up to 50 commission-free equity/ETF trades for 88 calendar days. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for full details. n/a 50 commission-free trades 88 days (payout for rebate is within 90 days of end of free trade period) HSBC InvestDirect 2015 Winter Offer March 2, 2015 *expired*
BMO InvestorLine For individuals between 18 and 35 who open a new qualifying account with BMO Investorline, they may be eligible to receive 35 commission-free trades, an eBook on investing and potentially waived account minimum fees. Use promo code “New” when signing up. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more details on the offer. n/a 35 commission-free trades 90 days Youth Promotion March 31, 2015
Open a new qualifying account with RBC Direct Investing and you may be eligible to receive up to 20 commission-free trades. A promotion code is required for this offer; click on the the link for the promotional page to generate a code. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for full details on this offer. n/a 20 commission-free trades 1 year Terms & Conditions & RBC Direct Investing Trade Free for 1 Year Promotion Page March 31, 2015
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
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 registered account) with Questrade and deposit at least A)$1,000 or B)$10,000 and you may be eligible to receive A)10 commission-free trades or B)100 commission-free trades. Use promo code 100LOWCOM15Q3 when registering. Be sure to read the full terms and conditions for this offer. A)$1,000 B)$10,000 A) 10 commission-free trades B) 100 commission-free trades 60 days 100 free trades offer May 29th, 2015
Open a new TFSA, margin or registered account with Questrade and deposit at least A) $1,000 B) $25,000 or C) $50,000 to receive either A) 30 days B) 60 days or C) 90 days of unlimited commission-free stock & options trades. Use promo code UNLIMITEDW15 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) 30 days B) 60 days C) 90 days Questrade Unlimited Trading Offer March 2, 2015 *expired*
Open a new TFSA, margin or registered account with Questrade and deposit at least A) $1,000 B) $25,000 or C) $50,000 to receive either A) 30 days B) 60 days or C) 90 days of unlimited commission-free stock & options trades. Use promo code UNLIMITEDRSP 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) 30 days B) 60 days C) 90 days Questrade RRSP Promotion March 2, 2015*expired*
Open a new margin, or FX/CFD account with a deposit of at least $5,000 and place at least one commission-generating trade and you may be eligible to receive a cash back offer of $88.88 and an entry into a draw for a gold coin. Use promo code CHINESESNY2015. Be sure to read terms and conditions for full details on this offer $5,000 $88.88 cash back Cash rebate takes place up to 30 days after meeting eligibility Chinese New Year Promotion March 6, 2015 *expired*
Open a new account (TFSA, margin or registered account) with Questrade and deposit at least A)$5,000; B)$25,000; C)$50,000 or D)$100,000 in order to be eligible to qualify for a Visa gift card in the amount of A) $50; B) $75; C)$100 or D)$250. Clients must also place at least one commission-generating trade within 60 days. Use promo code VISA250 when signing up. Be sure to read terms and conditions for full details. A)$5,000 B)$25,000 C)$50,000 D)$100,000 A) $50 prepaid Visa card B) $75 prepaid Visa card C) $100 prepaid Visa card D) $250 prepaid Visa card Prepaid Visa cards may be issued up to 40 days after eligibility confirmed Prepaid Visa Promotion May 18, 2015
Open a new TFSA, margin or registered account with Questrade and deposit at least $10,000 dollars to be eligible to receive 100 commission-free trades and a three month subscription to Motley Fool Stock Advisor Canada newsletter. Use promo code 100FREEMFSUBwhen signing up. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more information. $10,000 100 commission-free trades 60 days Motley Fool Subscription Promotion April 30, 2015
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, 2015
Scotia iTrade Open and fund a new Scotia iTRADE account with at least A) $15,000 – $49,999, B)$50,000 – $99,999, C)$100,000 – $249,000, D) $250,000 – $499,999, E) $500,000 – $999,999, or F) $1,000,000+ and you may be eligible to receive a corresponding cash-back or commission rebate. For commission-free trades use code: WTT15 or for cash rebates use code: DL5RP. Be sure to read the terms and conditions carefully for rebate and cash back eligibility. This offer also includes a free ‘swing trading’ course with Larry Berman and 90 days free of FlightDesk. A)$15,000 – $49,999 B)$50,000 – $99,999 C)$100,000 – $249,000 D)$250,000 – $499,999 E)$500,000 – $999,999 F)$1,000,000+ A) 50 commission-free trades OR $50 cash B) 100 commission-free trades OR $100 cash C) 250 commission-free trades OR $250 D) 350 commission-free trades OR $350 E) 500 commission-free trades OR $500 F) 1000 commission-free trades OR $1000 180 days for commission-free trades Cash back to be deposited by November 30, 2015. 1000 Free Trade Offer March 31, 2015
Open a new account and fund it with at least (A) $20,000 or (B)$100,000 and NBDB may provide up to (A) $500 or (B) $1,000 in commission rebates for qualifying accounts. Use promo code “CashBack2015” when signing up. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for eligibility and refund dates. A)$20,000 – $99,999 B)$100,000+ A)$500 commission rebate B)$1,000 commission rebate 90 days (rebate of commissions depends on sign up date and is outlined on terms/conditions) Cash Back Offer March 31, 2015
Open a new account with Credential Direct and fund it with at least A) $25,000 B)$100,000 or C)$500,00+ to receive either A) 100 commission-free trades or $100 cash back; B) 200 commission-free trades or $200 cash back or C) unlimited commission- free trades or $500 cash back. Be sure to read terms and conditions for full details. A)$25,000 – $99,999 B)$100,000 – $499,999 C)$500,000+ A) 100 commission-free trade or $100 cash back B) 200 commission-free trades or $200 cash back C) Unlimited commission-free trade or $500 cash back Trades must be used by September 30, 2015 and will be reimbursed on October 15 2015. Cash back deposited October 15, 2015. Credential Direct Spring Promotion April 15, 2015
Open a new account with TD Direct Investing with at least A) $25,000 B) $50,000 or C) $100,000 and you may be eligible to receive rebates on up to A) 50 B) 100 or C) 200 equity and/or options trades. Be sure to read full terms and conditions A) $25,000 – $49,999 B) $50,000 – $99,999 C) $100,000+ A) 50 commission-free trades B) 100 commission-free trades C) 200 commission-free trades 60 days (commission rebates to be issued on Aug. 15/2015) TD Direct Investing Free Trade Promotion March 27, 2015
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, 2015
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). Contact InvestorLine for full terms and conditions. October 30, 2015
BMO InvestorLine Open and fund a new qualifying account at BMO InvestorLine with at least $100,000 in net new assets and you may be eligible to receive $300 cash back. Use the promo code RSP2015 when signing up for the account. Be sure to read full terms and conditions for eligibility and further details. $100,000 $300 cash back Payout occurs after 6 months RSP 2015 Promotion March 31, 2015
Open a new TFSA, margin or registered account with Questrade and deposit at least $100,000 to be eligible to receive an iPad mini. Use promo code IPADMINI15Q2 when signing up. Read the terms and conditions for more information about eligibility. $100,000 iPad Mini 2 (16gb wi-fi only) [retail value ~$370 including taxes] iPad Mini will be sent within 60 days of account being funded and 1 commission-generating trade being placed. iPad Mini Offer March 13, 2015 *expired*

Transfer Fee Deals

Company Brief Description Maximum Transfer Fee Coverage Amount Minimum Deposit Amount for Transfer Fee Eligibility Details Link Deadline
Scotia iTrade Transfer $15,000 or more to Scotia iTrade from another Canadian brokerage, and iTrade may pay up to $150 in transfer fees. $150 $15,000 1000 Free Trade Offer March 31, 2015
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
Qtrade Investor Qtrade Investor will reimburse your transfer fee up to $150 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. $150 $25,000 Transfer Fee Promo none
Transfer $25,000 or more from another brokerage and Credential Direct will cover up to $150 in transfer fees. Use promo code SWITCHME when signing up to qualify for the transfer promotion. $150 $25,000 Credential Direct Spring Promotion April 15, 2015
Move your brokerage account to Questrade and they’ll cover the transfer-out fee up to $150. $150 $25,000 Transfer Fee Promo none
Transfer $25,000 or more in equity to Virtual Brokers and they’ll cover the transfer-out fees up to $150. $150 $25,000 Transfer Fee Rebate Terms & Conditions March 31, 2015
Transfer $25,000 or more into a new TD Direct Investing account and they will cover up to $150 of transfer fees. $150 $25,000 TD Direct Investing Free Trade Promotion March 27, 2015
Transfer $25,000 or more into a CIBC Investor’s Edge account and they will reimburse up to $135 in brokerage transfer fees. Clients must call customer service to request rebate after transfer made. $135 $25,000 confirmed with reps. Contact client service for more info (1-800-567-3343) none
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
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, 2015