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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – June 26, 2015

Heading into the last weekend of June, it looks like trading action is everywhere. NHL’ers & NBA’ers are trading players, politicians are trading blows and it even looks like Vancouver and Toronto have traded weather. For all the trading going on everywhere, Canadian discount brokerages are hoping DIY investors feel inspired to trade during the typically sluggish summer season.

This week’s roundup will be an aptly attired short edition. On the grill will be a look at one brokerage’s ongoing ‘quest’ to beat other discount brokerages at the deals & promotions game; a quick look at some headline making brokerages and trading technology from the US; some of the interesting social media observations, and finally, what DIY investors are talking about in the investor forums.

Questrade Launches Deal for Canada Day

Whether it was in anticipation of all the deals set to expire at the end of June or if it was timed just around Canada Day, Questrade continued to keep the deal produce fresh by rolling out their latest ‘Canada Day’ themed promotion. In their latest promo, Questrade is willing to provide 25 commission free trades which are good for use for the rest of the year or about six months for individuals who deposit at least $25,000.

The clever copywriters in the Questrade marketing department have pitched the offer as ‘trade free for the rest of the year’. And, while it is definitely not the first time this hook has been used, it is also a good example of a ‘made you look’ message. Questrade is not alone in this department as other discount brokerages try to grab the headlines with large numbers of free trades or cash back offers for very large deposit amounts. Remember, always check the fine print.

With eight deals set to expire at the end of June, it should be interesting to see which, if any, promotions will be extended and whether other discount brokerages will be looking to make a summer splash with an offer in July. Stay tuned.

Wrist vs. Reward

As an informal scientific poll, the next time you happen to be walking down the street – have a look around at how many folks are holding onto or even looking down at a screen. (If you happen to be reading this while on one of those screens, don’t forget to look up and around every once in a while!) Chances are pretty good that most younger folks are attached to some kind of smart device.For the more tech-savvy or tech-addicted traders and investors, the new ‘wearable’ technologies that are emerging will add yet another layer to how investors scan, research, monitor and buy/sell securities.

In this article from, there is an interesting breakdown of the possible impact of watch-based trading platforms on investors as well as some interesting data on how investors are using the different devices now available to them. While most Canadian brokerages have yet to deploy a dedicated Apple Watch trading app, there are some interesting lessons to learn from the early winners and losers in the race going on in the US.

Blunder Down Under

Endeavouring to become a truly global discount brokerage is an ambitious undertaking. Sometimes, however, things can go slightly off the rails as they did for Interactive Brokers in Australia. This past week Australia’s securities regulator halted Interactive Brokers from trading currencies because they did not have the appropriate licensing to do so. While not a large part of their overall business, going offline in any market is no fun for anyone involved and a lesson to DIY investors to do some extra legwork to ensure their provider isn’t on anyone’s naughty list – least of all the securities regulator.

Event Horizon

Just as many elementary students are going into summer vacation, the investor education offerings also have thinned out considerably going into the upcoming holiday week. Investor education event coverage will pick up again going into the 2nd week of July where there is much more activity to look out for.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

This week on Twitter, the chatter from DIY investors about discount brokerages highlighted some of the hiccups that mobile trading technology can face. Sometimes it’s just one person, other times it’s a much bigger issue. It looks like Questrade had a minor issue with their mobile trading however they weren’t the only brokerage to be bit by a technology bug. A user on Scotia iTrade’s app also found a bit of glitch with accuracy of quotes. Interestingly this week there were a few discussions on price – with CIBC Investor’s Edge getting a nod as well as the independent brokerages Questrade and Virtual Brokers. Click below to read more.

From the Forums

Advisors Getting the Boot

With the upcoming changes to the way in which financial advisors will have to start disclosing their fees to clients, there were a couple of interesting posts that might be ‘canaries in the coal mine’ for many advisory services. In this post, from Canadian Money Forum, one user was curious to know whether going it alone on CIBC Investor’s Edge was worthwhile and in this post, from reddit’s Personal Finance Canada section there was a detailed explanation behind the pros/cons of going it alone.

House of Shorts

The old adage of being greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy comes to mind when listening to the hype around Canadian real estate. While its not normally something we cover here, the conversation has shifted to how some investors would look to short Canadian real estate in the same way that some folks did in the US prior to their housing bubble bursting. Check out this interesting post on reddit’s Personal Finance Canada section for more.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap for this edition of the roundup. For the traders out there, remember that Canadian markets will be closed on July 1st (Wednesday) in observance of Canada day and that US markets will be closed on July 3rd (Friday) in observance of Independence Day. In the words of the new (and well played marketing ploy) Eh Moji’s:


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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – June 19, 2015

As June quickly draws to an end, there is something that a lot of the little kids out there may be celebrating or dreading. No, it’s definitely not dinosaurs nor is it Donald Trump announcing his candidacy for US President. Nope, if there’s something that discount brokerages and students can commiserate about at this time of year it is getting report cards.

In this week’s roundup we take a look at some the interesting moves being made by two online brokerages in separate social media spaces. Following that we take a look at a recent report card on mobile trading platforms that was less than flattering for almost all Canadian discount brokerages. Of course, with all the fun that summer entails, we close out the roundup with a quick spin through the upcoming investor education events, discount brokerage tweets of the week (there are some interesting ones in there) and of course the forum chatter. Oh and a cute animal video just for kicks at the end.

The Missing Link

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been tracking some of the interesting developments of brokerages on social media. This past week, social media was again on the radar with two discount brokerages making some important moves on LinkedIn and YouTube respectively.

Earlier in the week, Scotia iTrade announced on LinkedIn that they are winding down their company page on July 6, 2015 and instead publishing company updates and content on their showcase page.

Screenshot from Scotia iTrade LinkedIn page.

For most self-directed investors, there will likely be no noticeable difference between the two however, for Scotia iTrade, the switch may be a lot more noticeable.

With three weeks to go before they switch over, the difference in follower count between the two different pages is almost ten-fold. Scotia iTrade’s soon to be shuttered company page has amassed 1767 followers (at the time of writing) whereas their new showcase page has 143. As a financial services provider, building a community of followers online, especially on social media, is no easy feat.

There are several active competitors on LinkedIn which each have similar content strategies. BMO Wealth Management, Credential, National Bank Direct Brokerage, Qtrade Financial and Questrade are also actively producing and sharing investor focused content. As in the ‘real world’ the social media space is a lot more crowded than it was just a few years ago.

I Screen, You Screen

The other online brokerage ramping up production of investor-focused content is Qtrade Investor. Just this week they officially launched a YouTube account and published their first video – an investor education piece on ‘how to diversify your portfolio beyond Canada.’

While Qtrade Investor is not the only discount brokerage to have a YouTube channel (see table below), their choice to focus on investor education out of the gate is an interesting one. Typically, other online brokerages have been using YouTube to share information about their services, post commercials and a few have actually provided education-only videos.

As with other social media sites, the table below shows that Questrade is out in front by a wide margin on YouTube. They have been on the medium longer, have a larger subscriber base and have more views that the other brokerages combined. That said, they have also produced and released more videos than their peers.

One of the most interesting observations for the data shown in the table is that for the amount of time and resources spent, there aren’t a lot of folks eagerly waiting and watching to see what a brokerage puts out next. And that’s basically the challenge confronting most brokerages when it comes to building content. Most discount brokerages, and financial services providers, are much better at focusing on providing brokerage services than they are at consistently producing content that investors are drawn to.

While Qtrade Investor is likely not the last to step into the social media pool, especially on YouTube, the challenge in front of them will to be to keep things fresh, frequent and most importantly, interesting.

Select Canadian Online Brokerages on YouTube
Brokerage Subscribers Total Views Year Joined # Videos
Questrade 2788 1140720 2007 150+
Scotia iTrade 312 61594 2010 39
Qtrade 2 14 2015 1
Virtual Brokers 70 40518 2010 24

A Platform for Change

This past week BMO InvestorLine’s mobile (i.e. tablet and smartphone) platforms were recognized by financial service rating firm Surviscor as being ‘the best’ amongst the Canadian discount brokerages.

As this was the first year this analysis was performed, it was interesting to note just how far apart first place was from everybody else.

BMO InvestorLine scored a 91% on the ranking whereas 2nd place Scotia iTrade was given a 57%. The company that fared the worst in this ranking was National Bank Direct Brokerage which Surviscor rated at 14%. In fact, the average score for the 11 discount brokerages measured worked out to 42% with a standard deviation of about 22%. For the stats keeners, there’s definitely something strange in the mobile trading neighbourhood.

Surviscor Canadian Discount Brokerage Mobile Trading Ratings
Brokerage iPhone iPad Android SmartPhone Android Tablet BlackBerry Touchscreen Score Rank
BMO InvestorLine B+ A B+ B+ B+ 91% 1
Scotia iTrade C+ B- C+ C+ C+ 57% 2
Questrade C+ C+ C+ B- C+ 54% 3
RBC Direct Investing C+ C+ C+ C+ C+ 51% 4
Qtrade Investor B- C+ B- D B- 49% 5
TD Direct Investing C+ C C C+ C 43% 6
CIBC Investor’s Edge C C C C C 33% 7
Credential Direct B- N/A C+ N/A C+ 25% 8
Virtual Brokers C- C- C- C- C- 25% 8
Desjardins Online Brokerage C+ D- C+ D C+ 21% 10
National Bank Direct Brokerage C D- C D C 14% 11
source: Surviscor

As we’ve mentioned on several occasions with all brokerage rankings and ratings, the importance of understanding what is being measured and the method by which it is measured is key to really understanding what these numbers mean.

In the case of these latest rankings & ratings, it is the presence or absence of certain features and functionality on smartphones and tablets. Exactly what those features were was not elaborated on in the press release or Surviscor site, however, the following “categories” were assessed:

  • Getting Connected
  • Application Design
  • Customer Support
  • Market Intelligence
  • Mobile Transactions
  • Mobile Resources

According to the figures presented, BMO InvestorLine’s app is somewhat of a black swan in the pond of other mobile trading apps. An alternative interpretation would be that there’s something particular about the test construction that is rendering these results. In fact, it may be a combination of the two.

BMO InvestorLine may have a feature-rich app, however individual investors may not consider having all of the features important – especially if the app becomes an intensive user of device resources (i.e. battery life). Surviscor’s assessment, on the other hand, bases the scoring of the mobile experience in large part on what’s available on a brokerage’s full website. As such, some brokerages may be designing their mobile experience to be intentionally different than the full web experience which would, in turn, help account for some of the differences observed between the mobile and desktop website.

In reality, some discount brokerages and DIY investors may believe there are certain features that are better suited to bigger screens. There is only so much filtering, charting or technical analysis one can effectively do with ones thumbs or with swiping. Thus, a distinction should be made between having a feature (which is a yes or no question) and having it work effectively (which is matter of degree).

While it is undeniable that many DIY investors are embracing the ability to stay on top of their investments ‘on the go’ or simply without having to power up a laptop or desktop, exactly what makes for a quality mobile experience, especially for DIY investors, is still a moving target.

Given how fast the definition and technologies associated with “mobile” are changing, it will likely be the responsiveness of brokerages’ IT departments as well as their websites or apps that determines who will lead the pack.

Event Horizon

June 23

Scotia iTRADE – Introduction to Bonds with Scotia McLeod

TD Direct Investing – Understanding Margin & Short Selling

TD Direct Investing – Generating Income in a Low Rate Environment

June 24

Scotia iTRADE – Options Fundamentals with Montreal Exchange

June 25

TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Technical Analysis

#DiscountBrokerage Tweets of the Week

The chatter about and to discount brokerages on Twitter this week featured BMO InvestorLine, Questrade, RBC Direct Investing, Scotia iTrade and brief mention of TD Direct Investing.

From the Forums

Taking an Interest in GICs

With talks of interest rates rising on the horizon, it will be ‘interesting’ to see if/when more folks start asking about GICs. In this post from RedFlagDeals’ forum, one user wants to find out whether a big bank-owned online brokerage or independent brokerage offers direct access.

For Better or Worse

Now that summer is here, RRSP season may be in the rear view mirror but for a lot of folks it also happens to be ‘wedding season’. In this post, from Canadian Money Forum, spousal RRSP contributions are the focal point at one bank-owned online brokerage.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap for this week’s roundup. For all the dads out there, here’s to a very happy Father’s day filled with tools, ties, socks and stocks! (ok maybe not that last one). Have a great weekend – although perhaps not as great as this little rascal.

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – June 12, 2015

It happened in Toronto. It happened in Vancouver. Transit ground to a halt at the worst possible moments. And, if you read the tweets and forum posts from active investors and traders, it occasionally happens to discount brokerages, major data providers and stock exchanges across the information superhighway. When technology that carries people or financial information goes offline, it seems that the new normal is for people to turn online (are you taking notes #SnoopforCEO?). For many discount brokerages, the issue of how to navigate this tech-fueled new normal filled with hyperconnected ‘millennials’ as well as their expectations of how things ought to run is an all too familiar challenge. Alas, there is no turning back.

In this week’s roundup we try to get things ‘on track’ by first looking at one discount brokerage-sponsored investor challenge that wrapped up and what it means for investors looking to learn about investing. Next, we take a look at an important announcement from the Federal Government on their strategy for improving financial literacy. Following that, we report on the quick scan of the small screen that yielded some interesting segments on ‘guys chatting about investing’ followed by the conversations about DIY investing in the discount brokerage tweets of the week. Finally we close out with the upcoming investor education events, forum chatter and one very cool internet video that highlights the importance of paying attention to the big picture.

And it was supposed to be a slow month…

It Pays to Play

Successfully timing the market has always been met with some degree of skepticism. That’s real life. Still it is a fascinating exercise to observe what happens when contestants using ‘virtual money’ are challenged to perform as best as they can.

This past week, the “Biggest Winner 5” trading competition from Horizons ETFs and National Bank Direct Brokerage announced that Calgarian Daniel Tsang was crowned the champ for netting a 20.99% return over the course of the six-week contest. First prize in this ETF-only virtual stock market challenge was $7,500 followed by the second prize of $2,500 which went to Nancy Kelly of Cobourg, Ontario who reached a healthy 18.68% return.

So what was the secret to scoring the quick wins? According to Howard Atkinson, President of Horizons ETFs, it was the “effective use of leveraged ETFs.” Indeed, when the focus is short term, it is the combination of luck, timing, volatility and leverage that many professional traders recognize govern their fortunes. Of course it also helped that junior’s university fund was not on the line when making some of the big directional bets on oil and natural gas that provided a large portion of the results.

While the prize money and recognition were potent incentives, it was great to see that over 1600 individuals took part, including a continuing trend of increased participation by women investors.

It would have been interesting to see what the average performance was over that time, especially considering the performance of various benchmark indices, as well as what the distribution was of the 20,000 or so trades that were made.

Regardless of the outcome, the good news for DIY investors is that paper trading is a great way to learn and practice different investment strategies. Several discount brokerages such as Interactive Brokers, RBC Direct Investing, and TD Direct Investing (specifically the US Trading Platform aka ThinkOrSwim) even offer practice accounts which can be used to test and learn. That said, the Biggest Winner contest offers up a number of cash prizes which just makes getting it right that much more fun. Congrats to the winners and participants!

Making Financial Literacy Count With #CountMeInCA

This past week the Federal Government formally announced the launch of their National Strategy for Financial Literacy called “Count Me In”.

As has increasingly been the case since 2009, resources are continuing to be committed to improving financial literacy across the general population and specifically to vulnerable populations. While the formal commitment by government agencies has taken time to mobilize, other organizations and individuals have been filling the void.

Fortunately many of the resources have been organized into a database on financial literacy (explained also in the following video).

For quite some time and to this day, however, DIY investors have relied upon Canadian investor forums such as the personal finance section of Reddit, RedFlagDeals, Canadian Investor Forum or the Financial Wisdom Forum as well as sites such as and a host of independent personal finance writers to help navigate the world of investing online.

Discount brokerages have also recognized the need and opportunity in providing investor education on specific areas of interest related to investing. Four of the biggest providers of investor education include Desjardins Online Brokerage, National Bank Direct Brokerage, Scotia iTrade and TD Direct Investing.

Fortunately, the number of resources for learning about investing (as a component to personal financial literacy) continues to grow and with the appointment of a Financial Literacy Leader and the formation of a concrete strategy, it appears even more resources will be mobilized and coordinated to bring the awareness of personal financial literacy into the everyday purview of most Canadians.

Given the high levels of personal debt, irrational housing prices and demographical shifts there is clearly a need and urgency to better educate and empower Canadians to manage their finances wisely.

It comes as little surprise, therefore, that the three primary goals of the National Strategy on Financial Literacy are to help Canadians:

  1. Manage money & debt wisely
  2. Plan & save for the future
  3. Prevent & protect against fraud and financial abuse

For those beginning on their journey into learning about personal finance and investing, or for those who get asked by beginners about some good resources, it is encouraging that in addition to the good books about investing, forums and websites that there are now going to be some better resources to turn to.

To keep track of the latest developments of the “Count me in” strategy, follow the hashtag #CountMeInCA or visit the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada website here.

Channel Surfing

There’s just something about two guys talking about investing – or so it seems that it was the case with a pair of video clips that caught our attention.

The first is a commercial for Interactive Brokers’ new ‘marketplace’ which we mentioned in last week’s roundup. In the commercial there’s an amusingly scenic moment of two guys fishing in a river set to some wholesome ‘folky’ music.

Getting back to the theme of financial literacy, the second clip is from a BNN interview featuring Doce Tomic, President & CEO, Credential Financial discussing financial literacy tips for millennials.

Over the past few years and increasingly over the last few months it seems that “millennials” has become the buzzword of choice to describe a new category of being. Like the Gen Y’s, Gen X’s and Baby Boomers, the millennials have become a talking point, especially in the world of finance, where there has been lots of energy expended trying to understand, cater to and capture the business of this demographic cohort.

The Google Trends graph below shows just how ‘hot’ a topic millennials have become. Interestingly, the stock charts of several companies that cater well to this demographic also seem to follow a similar trend, which may help explain why the discount brokerages and financial services firms are hoping to find the right recipe for connecting to this group very quickly.

#DiscountBrokerage Tweets of the Week

In this week’s tweets, there was an interesting shift in the pattern of the past few weeks. While there were definitely a handful of questions relating to customer service issues, there were a number of not so flattering conversations that Scotia iTrade found themselves the center of. While the social media representative handled the exchanges professionally, it was revealing to see what some of the concerns were with this online brokerage.

Event Horizon

Here are the upcoming investor education seminars and webinars for the week ahead:

June 16

Scotia iTRADE – Volatility – Friend or Foe with Pro Market Advisors

June 17

TD Direct Investing – Technical Analysis – Candlestick Charting

TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Fundamental Analysis

Scotia iTRADE – Building Diversified Portfolios Using ETFs with iShares

June 18

TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Investing in Options

Scotia iTRADE – Charts and Patterns 101

From the Forums

Shorts Weather

In this post from the Canadian Money Forum, one user highlights some of the challenges encountered with going short on a stock at Scotia iTrade. Check out what the community had to say about some of the other alternative discount brokerages mentioned and why having a brokerage that has a big inventory can make the difference on a quick trade.

Interesting Gambit

One of the more popular techniques for exchanging Canadian funds into US funds is via Norbert’s Gambit. This past week there were a couple of interesting threads concerning the importance of keeping track of any interest charges that may be incurred as well as the shift that might be taking place with one bank-owned brokerage now potentially charging a little more to get that done.

Into the Close

That does it for this edition of the roundup. Hard to believe that the middle of June is almost here but with it come the (gasp) finale of Game of Thrones for another season. Of course, there’s lots to do outside but for those that would rather watch other people outside do entertaining things, this tribute to television theme songs is good training for that day you end up on Jeopardy. Have a great weekend!

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – June 5, 2015

Even though summer is technically still coming, for Game of Thrones fans, winter looks like it’s finally arrived. While Canadian discount brokerages may not have to worry about a horde of the undead or flying dragons, they do have to keep an eye out on each other.

In this week’s discount brokerage roundup, we take a look at the latest battleground for brokerages – deals and promotions – and the newest challenger that has stepped on the field. Next we take an in-depth look at one independent online brokerage that happens to be crushing their account growth numbers and what that might mean for DIY investors in Canada. Following the trend from the last several roundups, we’ll take a look at the latest discount brokerage tweets to see what was lighting up social media before closing out with upcoming investor education events and some enlightening chatter from the investor forums.

Deals updates

With a new month, it’s that time again to check on the deals and promotions being offered by Canadian discount brokerages. While the deal activity seemed like it was going to quiet down heading into summer, June was barely a few days old when the deals and promotions space took an interesting turn.

At the outset of the month there were 15 deals we spotted, with one new offer by Questrade included in that count. By the end of the first week, however, two more deals had joined the list: one from Questrade as well as one from HSBC InvestDirect.

Those offering promotions included the ‘usual suspects’ of Questrade, Scotia iTrade, BMO InvestorLine and Desjardins Online Brokerage, however it was HSBC InvestDirect’s offer that got our attention.

The deal itself is not groundbreaking – it is 30 commission-free (equity) trades that are good for 60 days, something that is similar to what other brokerages have offered. What is noteworthy is the lack of required minimum deposit to qualify and the fact that HSBC InvestDirect has decided run this offer from June through to the end of August as a “summer” promotion, perhaps hinting at deals that may be coming in future seasons.

In terms of activity level for promotions, HSBC InvestDirect has run/advertised very few. Aside from offers that were timed around their win of various Dalbar client service awards, HSBC InvestDirect has largely been on the sidelines with promotions. Clearly something has prompted a change.

Alongside the launch of HSBC InvestDirect’s latest promotion was Questrade’s revival of their Amazon gift certificate offer. Questrade’s addition of yet another promotion means that of all the Canadian brokerages, Questrade is offering the largest number of promotions (7 out 17 that we’re tracking).

Another noteworthy observation was that Virtual Brokers extended their commission-free trade offer until the end of June.

June should prove to be an exciting moment for promotions/deals as just about half of the 17 offers have expiry dates scheduled for the end of this month. If the rest of this month continues at this pace, it seems like a little bit of volatility might be in order – something that may play out in the favour of DIY investors in the market for an online trading account. Stay tuned.

IBKR kicking butt and taking names

As we do from time to time, we keep an eye out as to what is happening in the US space and in particular with what’s happening at Interactive Brokers (since they have a Canadian subsidiary as well).

This past week, it was interesting to see what the US discount brokerages were up to at the recent Sandler O’Neill Global Exchange and Brokerage Conference that took place in New York.

Although there were interesting presentations from E*Trade and TD Ameritrade, as well as some pot shots at the Toronto Maple Leafs making the Stanley Cup finals (apparently even Americans know that factoid about Canada even if they don’t really know our geography ) it was the presentation from Interactive Brokers’ founder & CEO Thomas Peterffy that caught our attention. For those diehard fans/followers of the online brokerage space – the session can be accessed here.

One of the biggest takeaways is that Interactive Brokers has experienced a blistering pace of account and asset growth, and, show no real signs of slowing down. According to their CEO it was a series of long-term commitments to automation that have enabled them to compete so effectively on pricing. Their ambitions extend well beyond the US markets and so it is interesting to see the moves taking place within Canada that will enable them to compete against brokerages here.

Coinciding with their appearance at the Sandler O’Neill Global Exchange and Brokerage Conference was the announcement by Interactive Brokers of the launch of their investor marketplace – something that shows once again that they are looking ahead of the curve. In case you missed it, here’s a commercial from earlier this year, which comically points out how this new feature would speak to investors or advisors.

While it is hard to know what from the US will make its way to Canadian DIY investors, it’s hard to argue with the growth figures of Interactive Brokers.

Within Canada, it appears that Interactive Brokers is chipping away at the DIY investor market. With their recent introduction of registered accounts, it should be interesting to see them start to appear on the major discount brokerage rankings now that this qualifying feature is in place.

On the horizon, however, their new marketplace may offer an integrated way to access advisors, or even robo-advisors, that have captured so much interest of late. All this while staying under the “Interactive Brokers” umbrella.

As the momentum with Interactive Brokers continues to pick up in the US, there is a strong chance that Canadians will start to hear and see them being talked about if not through commercials, then by the growing crowd of traders from the US and internationally who are clearly flocking to Interactive Brokers.

#DiscountBrokerage Tweets of the Week

In this week’s discount brokerage tweets of the week, there were an assortment of vents, apologies and pointed remarks that make the world of DIY investing such a colourful one to follow.

As has been the case over the past several weeks, Questrade continues to be the most active on Twitter amongst the Canadian discount brokerages. Other online brokerages may be online, but as the tweets below show, few of them capture much attention other than when things go awry for clients.


Event Horizon

June 8

Scotia iTRADE – Trading Psychology Part 2 with Stefanie Kammerman

June 9

Scotia iTRADE – Sources of Income and Yield Using ETFs with Horizons ETFs

TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Investing in Options

June 10

TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Investing

TD Direct Investing – Options as an Income Strategy

NBDB – International Investing – [Fr]

June 11

TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Technical Analysis 

From the Forums

When is a TFSA not a TFSA

From time to time there have been stories of fabled, almost mythological, balances of TFSAs. The news that the CRA is looking into a limited number of individuals’ “very high” TFSA balances is concerning to DIY investors on a number of levels. In this post from the reddit Personal Finance Canada section, a fascinating discussion of how these balances may have gotten so big and what the CRA may or may not be able to do highlights how important getting clarity on the rules about TFSAs are.

Breaking up is Easy to Do

For many Canadian investors, having a financial advisor is one way to help manage and navigate the complex world of investments and investment products. For the DIY investor crowd, however, there is very little love for the ‘typical’ financial advisory. In this post from the Canadian Money Forum, readers chime in on one individual’s question as to how to go about breaking things of with an advisor they’re just not that into.

Questrade VS RBC Direct Investing

An independent brokerage that advertises low commission prices or a big bank that kicked of the ‘fee-asco’ of falling commission rates. It’s a question many investors wrestle with. In this post from reddit’s personal finance Canada section, there was an interesting debate about the merits and drawbacks of picking one brokerage over the other.

Into the Close

That does it for this week’s roundup. Whether it’s Game of Thrones, the Stanley Cup or a frosty beverage on a patio (or all of the above), however the ice makes its way into your weekend, we hope it keeps you cool!

For those of us who hate to pay fees for seemingly small requests, this is an entertaining real-life example of some batman like drive and applied math in action to beat one airline’s administrative fees.

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Discount Brokerage Deals and Promotions – June 2015

*Updated June 16*

With summer now just around the corner, June should prove to be an interesting month for discount brokerage deals and promotions.

On the one hand there has been a pullback in the number of deals as we head into the summer, however the same core group of discount brokerages continue to run active promotions. In particular, BMO InvestorLine, Questrade and Scotia iTrade each have multiple offers, with Questrade aggressively putting forward 6 of the 15 offers at the outset of June.

What is interesting to observe is that 50% of the current offers are timed to expire at the end of June. This signals that DIY investors can expect some deal turnover to happen through and towards the end of this month.

Another interesting observation is that the latest offers from Questrade and Scotia iTrade have deadline dates well into the end of August or mid-September.

We’ll definitely be monitoring June closely to see what’s going to unfold.

Expired Deals

There were five noteworthy discount brokerage deals that expired at the end of May. In particular there were three concurrent offers from Scotia iTrade that consisted of cash back and/or free trades that expired and were replaced by the deal referenced below.

Questrade also saw their $250 prepaid Visa offer expire as well as one of their 100 free trade offers.

Extended Deals

Not wanting to be excluded from the deal pack, Virtual Brokers extended the deadline for their “25 commission-free trade for a year” from the end of May through to the end of June.

New Deals

*Updated June 16:

After taking a bit of a break, National Bank Direct Brokerage has stepped back into the deals & promotion pool with a new offer linked to their ‘InvestCube’ service. Until August 31st, NBDB is offering up either a 16gb iPad Mini (estimated value $329 CAD) or $300 cash back for a minimum deposit of $50,000 into a new InvestCube account. See table below for additional details.*

*Updated June 3:

There are sometimes in life when a Ron Burgundy quote seems entirely appropriate. In this case, it’s that things ‘escalated quickly’ with regards to deals and promotions at discount brokerages in June. Although it was quiet to start off June, barely 3 days into the month there are two new offers that have launched.

The first is from a very unlikely candidate – HSBC InvestDirect, who has kicked off the summer with a commission-free trading promotion. This offer is for 30 commission free trades that are good for use within 60 days. Check out the table below for full details.

The second offer is yet another promotion being launched by Questrade. In their latest promo, Questrade has revived the Amazon gift certificate deal although this time it is aimed at smaller depositors than their previous one. Questrade is now offering a $50 Amazon gift certificate for deposits of at least $5,000. More details below.*

In keeping with their ongoing strategy of offering up multiple promotions, Questrade launched a smart(watch) offer in May and has resurrected another headline grabbing deal for June.

Midway through May, Questrade made a timely decision to capitalize on the interest in the Apple Watch by launching a promotion with the smartwatch as a theme.

Digging into the fine print, the offer was actually for a $500 Apple Store gift card for deposits of at least $100,000. While it is technically just enough to land the base model of the Apple Watch, the $500 Gift Card offer is still a pretty substantial offering for the $100,000 deposit.

There were more than a handful of tweets and forum posts that highlighted that Questrade has their fingers on the pulse of what their key demographic of clients is hungry for.

In addition to their new shiny promotion, starting this month Questrade is bringing back their “3 month unlimited trading” offer. Specifically, this promotion offers individuals one, two or three months of unlimited commission-free trading based on deposits of at least $1,000; $25,000 or $50,000. As a note, commissions are charged at the time of trading and then reimbursed within 10 business days. See table below for more details.

Finally, Questrade has recently changed their refer-a-friend offer away from commission credits and replacing it with a substantially lower cash back offering. We’ve updated the table below with the new referral code info. For individuals interested in using this promotion, be sure to read the terms and conditions as there are requirements for minimum balance amounts to held for minimum periods of time.

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
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, $50 cash back and potentially waived account minimum fees. Use promo code “YOUNG” when signing up. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more details on the offer. A) for commission free trades: n/a B) for cash back: $25,000 A) 35 commission-free trades B) $50 cash back + 35 commission-free trades 90 days Youth Promotion June 30, 2015
Open a new account with HSBC InvestDirect and you may be eligible to receive up to 30 equity trades (North American listed equities only) commission free. Only trades placed within the first 60 days of account opening will be eligible. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for full details on this offer. n/a 30 commission-free trades (commission will be rebated within 90 days after 60 day trading period) 60 days HSBC InvestDirect Summer Promotion Terms & Conditions August 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 $25 cash back and they receive either A) $25; B) $50; C) $75; D) $100; or E) $250 depending on the amount deposited amount. Enter code: 476104302388759 during account sign up to qualify. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for eligibility and additional bonus payment structure and minimum balance requirements. A) $1,000 – $9,999 B) $10,000 – $24,999 C) $25,000 – $49,999 D) $50,000 -$99,999 E) $100,000+ $25 cash back (for referrer per referral; $50 bonus cash back for every 3rd referral) For referred individuals: A) $25 cash back B) $50 cash back C) $75 cash back D) $100 cash back E) $250 cash back Cash deposited into Questrade billing account within 7 days after funding period ends (90 days) Refer a friend terms and conditions; Code Number: 476104302388759 none
Open a new account (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 100FREEML15Q3 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/multileg offer June 30, 2015
Open and fund a new account at Questrade with at least A)$1,000, B)$25,000 or C)$50,000+ and you could be eligible to receive either A)1 month, B) 2 months or C)3 months of commission-free trading. Use offer code UNLIMITED2015 when opening an application to qualify. Be sure to read full terms and conditions on this offer. A)$1,000 B)$25,000 C)$50,000 A) 1 month commission-free trading B) 2 months commission-free trading C) 3 months commission-free trading (*note trading commissions will be rebated within 10 business days of trade execution) A) 1 month B) 2 months C) 3 months Unlimited Trading Promotion August 31, 2015
Open and fund a new account at Questrade with at least $5,000 and complete at least one commission-generating trade and you may be eligible to receive a $50 gift certificate from Amazon. Use promo code AMAZON2015 when signing up to qualify. Be sure to read the terms and conditions associated with this offer. $5,000 $50 Amazon gift certificate Gift certificate emailed within 30 days of eligibility requirements being met. Amazon gift certificate promotion July 30, 2015
Open a new account with Questrade and deposit at least A)$5,000 or B)$25,000 and you may be eligible to receive A)$50 cash back or B) $75 cash back. At least one commission-generating trade must be executed in order for cash back to apply. Use code TFSA2015 when registering to qualify. Be sure to read the full terms and conditions for this offer. A)$5,000 B)$25,000 A)$50 B)$75 Cash rebates applied within 60 days of funding eligibility and trade execution confirmation. 100 free trades offer June 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 June 30, 2015
Open and fund a new account at Virtual Brokers with at least $15,000 and you could be eligible to receive up to 25 commission-free stock or ETF trades good for use for up to one year. Use promo code “TRYUS2015” when signing up to qualify. Be sure to read full terms and conditions carefully. $15,000 25 commission-free trades 365 days Free trades for one year promotion June 30, 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 – $249,999; D)$250,000 – $499,999; E) $500,000 – $999,999 or F)$1,000,000+ you may be eligible to receive a corresponding cash back or commission rebate. For commission-free trades use code: THSP15 or for cash rebates use code: RNYDMN. Be sure to read the terms and conditions carefully for rebate and cash back eligibility. Contact Scotia iTRADE for full details on this offer. A) $15,000 – $49,999 B) $50,000 -$99,999 C) $100,000 – $249,999 D) $250,000 – $499,999 E) $500,000 – $999,999 F) $1,000,000+ A) 50 commission-free trades OR $50 cash back B) 100 commission-free trades OR $100 cash back C) 250 commission free trades OR $250 cash back + KeeneOnTheMarket Subscription D) 350 commission-free trades OR $350 cash back + KeeneOnTheMarket Subscription E) 500 commission-free trades OR $500 cash back + KeeneOnTheMarket Subscription F) 1000 commission-free trades OR $1,000 cash back + KeeneOnTheMarket Subscription 120 days for commission-free trades Cash back to be deposited by February 13, 2016. $1000 or 1000 free trade offer September 13, 2015
Scotia iTrade Open a new Scotia iTRADE account with at least $15,000 by June 30, 2015 and you could be eligible to receive up to 100 online trades commission-free (equities, options, ETFs). Use promo code HUN-SP when registering to qualify. Be sure to carefully read full terms and conditions. $15,000 100 commission-free trades (+ free trial of FightDesk platform for 60 days) 60 days 100 Free Trades Offer June 30, 2015
Disnat Disnat is offering new & existing clients $500 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 1-866-873-7103 and mention promo code Disnat500. See details link for more info. $50,000 $500 commission credit 6 months Disnat $500 Commission Credit Promo June 30, 2015
National Bank Direct Brokerage is offering either A) a 16GB iPad Mini or B) $300 cash back to new clients who sign up for the InvestCube service and deposit at least $50,000. Use either promo code “Mini2015” for the iPad or “Cash2015” when signing up to be eligible for this offer. Be sure to read the terms and conditions of this promotion carefully. $50,000 A) iPad Mini (16GB) B) $300 cash back Within 45 days of the eligibility date either A) the order for the tablet will be processed or B) cash back will be credited to the account. InvestCube Tablet or Cash Back Promotion August 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 – $249,999 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). BMO InvestorLine Refer-a-Friend October 30, 2015
Open a new account (registered, margin, or FX & CFD) with at least $100,000 in new assets and execute at least one commission-generating trade and you may be eligible to receive an Apple Gift Card worth $500.00. Use promo code APPLEWATCH2015 when registering. Be sure to read the full terms and conditions on this offer. $100,000 $500 Apple Store gift card Apple Store gift card will be emailed within 30 days of eligibility requirements being met. Apple Gift Card Promo August 31, 2015
BMO InvestorLine Open and fund a new qualifying account at BMO InvestorLine with at least A)$100,000 – $249,999; B)$250,000 – $499,999 or C)$500,000+ in net new assets and you may be eligible to receive either: A)$250 cash back OR 125 commission-free trades; B) $500 cash back OR 250 commission-free trades; C)$1000 or 500 commission-free trades. Use promo code 5CASH for cash back promotion or 5TRADE for commission-free trade promo. Be sure to read full terms and conditions for eligibility and further details. A) $100,000 – $249,999 B) $250,000 – $499,999 C) $500,000+ A) $250 cash back OR 125 commission-free trades B) $500 cash back OR 250 commission-free trades C) $1000 or 500 commission-free trades. Cash back: 6 months – 7.5 months Commission-free trades: 90 days (note: commission fees rebated within 45 days after 6 month credit period) Five Star Promotion June 30, 2015
Last Updated: June 3, 2015 10:00 PT

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 or $1000 Cash Back Offer September 13, 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
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 Transfer Fee Rebate none
Qtrade Investor Qtrade Investor will reimburse your transfer fee up to $150 when transferring a balance of $10,000 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 Rebate 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
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 1-866-873-7103 and mention promo code Disnat500. See details link for more info. $150 $50,000 Disnat $500 Commission Credit Promo June 30, 2015