Posted on Leave a comment

Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – August 28, 2015

Source: Giphy

This past week saw such a crazy mix of sell-off and rally it could have easily been characterized as a McWhopper of a trading week. For Canadian discount brokerages, however, volatility is more than just food for thought; it looks like it may just be the main course.

In this week’s discount brokerage roundup, we start with an in-depth look at the back-to-school battle brewing between brokerages in the RESP space. Next we check out the deals that are on the chopping block heading into September and then take a look at how the volatile markets rattled online brokerages in the tweets of the week. On the final approach we look at upcoming investor education events and close out with some interesting brokerage chatter from the forums.

Back to School Battles

With back-to-school on the minds of many parents, it looks like several online brokerages are taking the opportunity to promote their RESP account offerings. While the RESP doesn’t typically get a lot of attention, it was interesting to take a deeper dive into the different approaches taken to pricing this account by Canadian brokerages.

The Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) is staple registered account type and as such is offered by almost all Canadian online brokerages. These past few weeks, however, two big bank-owned brokerages, CIBC Investor’s Edge and TD Direct Investing, have posted messaging on their homepages referencing these account types, and another non-bank owned brokerage, Questrade, has been talking about upcoming changes to its RESP pricing.

While the messaging from CIBC Investor’s Edge and TD Direct Investing was fairly standard, it was the move that Questrade was making that caught our attention.

In a note to its DIY investor clients this past week, Questrade announced that starting November 1st, its fees for RESPs are going up for certain clients. Specifically, clients with less than $15,000 in assets (across all Questrade accounts or less than $15,000 in combined assets with a myFamily program), will be subject to a $50 annual charge for their RESP account.

Given the fierce competition between brokerages, especially on commission pricing, it is interesting to see Questrade once again start to raise its non-commission fees, especially since they have historically competed on ‘low cost’.

So just how does Questrade’s new $50 annual charge for an RESP stack up?

Within the Canadian discount brokerage space, RESP account fees typically range between $0 and $100 per year depending on the brokerage. As the charts below show, however, account fees only tell part of the story – the other part has to do with the size of assets required to qualify to have those fees waived.

When it comes to RESP account fees, CIBC Investor’s Edge has the lowest fee ($0) regardless of balance size or activity level. It is interesting to note that they are the only Canadian discount brokerage for whom that is true.

Also interesting to note is that the size of the brokerage doesn’t necessarily translate into what an RESP costs. That is to say, of the five brokerages that charge administration charges of $100 per year (currently the highest administration charge), two of them are non-bank owned (Credential Direct and Qtrade) brokerages.

Fig. 1 Annual RESP account fees at Canadian discount brokerages
Fig. 2 Minimum assets or account balance required to waive RESP fees at Canadian discount brokerages

Conversely, two of the brokerages that typically compete on commission cost, Questrade and Virtual Brokers, don’t have the cheapest fees for RESPs.

For Questrade, the newly announced fee of $50 per year requires at least $15,000 in order to be waived. For Virtual Brokers, on the other hand, their pricing page states that the annual fee for their Canadian dollar RESP is $25 per year, regardless of balance.

With regards to the big bank-owned brokerages, both BMO InvestorLine and TD Direct Investing require the highest asset minimums to have fees waived at $25,000. RBC Direct Investing and Scotia iTRADE, on the other hand, have lower thresholds at $15,000 but have higher fees than BMO InvestorLine and TD Direct Investing for not meeting those minimums.

Thus, for individuals hunting for a low-cost provider for online brokerage services, the lesson is to understand what your total needs are as an investor.

Brokerages that might offer a break on commission-fees may not offer the same low-cost when it comes to administration fees or thresholds to have those fees waived.

In the case of Canadian online brokerages offering RESPs, for those with less than $15,000 in assets, the least expensive provider is CIBC Investor’s Edge followed by Virtual Brokers. Those with $25,000 or more in assets don’t really need to worry about fees unless they’re with either HSBC InvestDirect or Virtual Brokers. Given that Virtual Brokers appears in both types of categories indicates that there are certain balance conditions in which it may be advantageous relative to most other brokerages and others where it less competitive.

On the other hand, the fact that CIBC Investor’s Edge can offer the bank-owned convenience factor as well as low trading commission cost poses a genuine challenge to other providers of this account type.

With Questrade now raising fees and other providers not yet moving in this space, CIBC Investor’s Edge looks like they’re sitting at the head of the RESP class.

Deals on a Roll

As the markets have shown heading into September, summer is not about to go quietly. And, it appears, neither are the advertised discount brokerage deals and promotions.

Although there are 16 advertised offers currently in play, 7 of those are scheduled to expire at the end of August. Online brokerages including BMO InvestorLine, HSBC InvestDirect, National Bank Direct Brokerage, Questrade and Virtual Brokers all have offers set to end signaling a lot more volatility in the promotions space about to take place.

Of particular interest is the group of offers for individuals depositing at least $50,000 or $100,000 as this prized segment has attracted some very competitive offers from BMO InvestorLine, National Bank Direct Brokerage, Questrade and Scotia iTRADE.

While it is difficult to predict which offers, if any, will be renewed or extended, the odds are good that BMO InvestorLine, Questrade and Virtual Brokers will have promotions in play beyond the end of August deadline.

Historically the fall season is when DIY investors perk up and start paying attention to markets. This year the recent market volatility has certainly caught the attention of many and perhaps kick-started the comparison shoppers.

Online brokerages have almost certainly noticed more interest from DIY investors kicking the tires on new accounts. For savvy DIY investors, however, the forecast for deals and promotions heading their way looks favourable.

Be sure to check out the deals and promotions section next week and throughout September as many of the major financial institutions will be sprinting towards their fiscal year end (end of October) and hopefully tossing in a few extra deals to finish on a high note with.

Tweets of the Week

Markets weren’t the only ones seeing red this week. With the sharp uptick in volatility taking equity prices across the globe for a joyride, there were many investors that either tried to get into or out of (or both) positions via their online trading accounts. Unfortunately for many of them, more than a few brokers saw trading platforms and feeds choke on the volume. But the pain didn’t stop there.

When platforms or data feeds go down, most DIY investors know that the only lifeline for an order is to make a phone call. As this week showed, however, even the biggest bank-owned brokerage call centres couldn’t handle the swell, with phone lines flashing busy as traders rushed to try and place their orders.

This week’s tweets offer a great example of how discount brokerages big and small can get overwhelmed when markets move quickly, especially to the downside. And, just in case readers think this was a Canadian brokerage issue – it most certainly wasn’t. Major US brokerages such as TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab also saw trading interruptions as a result of technology being overwhelmed.

Event Horizon

Options trading, short selling and technical analysis are just a few of the topics being covered by different online brokerage investor education teams next week. Click the links below for more details.

September 1st

Scotia iTRADE – Getting Started with Options with Pro Market Advisors

September 2nd

NBDB – Short Selling – [Fr]

September 3rd

Scotia iTRADE – How to Balance Risk and Reward Trading Options with Sarah Potter

September 4th

Scotia iTrade – Combining Technical and Fundamental Analysis with AJ Monte

From the Forums

With the markets moving around so much this week, there was also an uptick in the level of conversation about what the markets were doing and whether the sudden and sharp sell-off was the beginning of the end or the buying opportunity of the year.  In the talk of market tops and bottoms, here are a couple of interesting finds related directly to discount brokerages.

Byte the Hand that Feeds

In this brief exchange on’s investing forum, one new user to Interactive Brokers is looking for a little more information on which data feeds to consider when using IB’s trading platform.

A Better Option?

Options trading continues to grow in popularity with DIY investors. While many trading platforms have yet to really keep pace with the user experience of options trading, ThinkOrSwim typically stands out as one platform options traders like. In this post from’s investing forum, the cost of Interactive Brokers is pitted against the user performance of ThinkOrSwim. Find out what folks had to say about each.

Into the Close

With the wild ride of this past week, many investors are glad to be heading into a weekend of relaxation. For die hards like this Japanese trader that apparently raked in $34 million this past week, there’s a reminder that while most folks are out relaxing, there are some that keep on grinding away looking for opportunity. However you end up charting out your weekend activities, have a great final weekend of August!

Posted on Leave a comment

Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – August 21, 2015

Source: Giphy

It seems that nowhere was safe from the bears this week. Not stock markets or commodities or even swimming pools. While the bears are out having a pool party, Canadian online brokerages are racing to see who’ll be the ‘last one into the pool’ when it comes to upgrading their website.

In this week’s roundup, technology dominates as we take a look at the latest brokerage to release a new trading. Next we take a look at new platform features being launched by an independent brokerage. Finally we take a look at the commentary about brokerages on Twitter, check out the upcoming investor education events and finally close out with some interesting forum threads for some leisurely reading.

Credential Direct Launches New Trading Website

This past week Credential Direct joined the growing number of Canadian online brokerages undertaking website refreshes and redesigns. Specifically Credential Direct has overhauled their website back end – the area where users would log in to make trades, manage their account and conduct research.

As with many newer websites, Credential Direct has redesigned the back end to be more responsive and adjust to different screen sizes. While the majority of ‘trading’ users will be on a desktop, those who are occasional investors will increasingly find themselves checking in to their accounts on either a mobile phone or a tablet.

Credential Direct already has a dedicated mobile-friendly site so it was interesting to see them style their primary site back end as if it were a mobile-friendly site. While the ‘responsive’ functionality looked promising, when tested on an iPhone 4s safari browser their newest design was substantially less mobile-friendly than their dedicated mobile site which does render well on mobile.

Nonetheless the design refresh has resulted in a less cluttered appearance and new left-of-screen navigation menu. Information within the site appears easier to find and view, especially on a larger monitor. Below is a promotional video by Credential Direct on their new website back end.

The design choice to keep things simple means that users get a functional experience. That said there are some features that indicate the website is still a work in progress, especially from a user experience point of view.

Items in the Plan sub-menu, for example, contain various handy calculators however when clicking on the links users get taken out of the website to a third-party set of tools. Similarly, clicking on the education section takes users back to the front end of the website.

While it’s not a make-or-break feature, from a user experience perspective it is a bit jarring to move from one set of design layouts and navigation to another.

For DIY investors, getting used to different technologies, websites and trading interfaces comes with the territory. More and more, however, the transition between devices using online software is being made to feel ‘seamless’ (amiright Netflix?) so brokerages undergoing redesigns now have the added challenge to get this right.

As online trading platform user comments from across social media this past week have suggested, however, there’s a fine line between form and function that discount brokerages need to pay attention to. Trading online comes down to performance and good looking websites that can’t do what DIY investors need or want are sure to earn ire instead of inspiring awe.

Overall, it is interesting to see how Credential Direct has tackled the multi-screen world that DIY investors now expect to function in. Specifically, the fact that their latest redesign does not offer a truly multi-device responsiveness means that users are exposed to different ways of navigating depending on the device they choose to access.

Fortunately, smaller screens may be on their way out and for now Credential Direct has a mobile site that works well for those screens. That said, the look, feel and organization of the new full site and the mobile site are just different enough to make navigating between devices feel fragmented.

With a busy fall season filled with new brokerage website releases, we’ll certainly be glued to all of our screens to see what the other discount brokerages come up with next.

Questrade Livin’ on the Edge

In keeping with the platform and technology upgrades theme, Questrade also officially announced a number of interesting upgrades to their online trading platform IQ Edge.

Designed for power users and those that want the equities ‘trader’ feel, IQ Edge is the most feature-rich of the entire suite of Questrade’s platform family which consists of four platforms: IQ Essential, IQ Web, IQ Edge and IQ Mobile.

With the latest features, however, Questrade’s platform offering has gotten even more powerful and will start to make other discount brokerages scramble to deploy some upgraded bells and whistles.

Here’s a quick overview of some of the new features:

  1. Integration with StockTwits
  2. Order management directly from charts
  3. New categories and filters in the market movers window (great for active traders)
  4. Cross zero orders
  5. Options rollovers (apparently coming soon)

For the xylophone loving crowd, Questrade has put together a video that shows some of the new features being integrated into their IQ trading platform. For more details on the release, Questrade’s blog post explains it further.

The integration of social media streams into the trading platform and the category filters are certainly getting some folks excited. That said, with any technology change or upgrade there are bound to be hiccups (we saw a few Twitter users chime in on this in our tweets of the week below).

Overall, Questrade appears to be firing on all cylinders when it comes to technology upgrades. Just a few weeks ago they also announced a soon-to-be released revamp of their trading platforms into a new ‘trading experience.’

Questrade has clearly recognized that one of their biggest user bases, younger investors, are on different screens all the time and creating a seamless experience in a trading platform is a priority. Whether or not Questrade succeeds will be seen over time, however the early reveal shows that they’re up for the challenge.

Clearly technology upgrades and user experience upgrades are high on the list of what Canadian discount brokerages are concerned about – and with good reason. Websites, screens, devices and technology that four or even two years ago were passable are now deemed to be antiquated.

With technology moving as fast as it is, one of the metrics DIY investors will certainly be factoring in is not only how responsive websites are but how responsive to change their online brokerage is or isn’t.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

This week on Twitter it was interesting to observe what happened when both Questrade and Credential Direct released some shiny new bells and whistles.

In the case of Questrade, the reaction from their user base was generally positive, unprompted and noticeable. They also let people know that the changes were there which might have helped things along.

For Credential Direct, on the other hand, the reaction was more subdued. Perhaps the most interesting part, however, was that they elected not to broadcast the new release via their social media account – at least not yet.

Mentions this week were at a minimum however tweets from and about Credential Direct, Questrade and Scotia iTRADE still make for some colourful reading.

Event Horizon

Heading into the end of August there’s still more than a few interesting investor education events to check out. Topics include options, ETFs as well as fundamental and technical analysis. Click below for more info.

August 25th

NBDB – Introduction to Call Options – [Fr]

TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Investing in Options

TD Direct Investing – ETFs 101 – Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About ETFs

August 26th

Scotia iTRADE – Options as a Hedging Strategy with Montreal Exchange

TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Fundamental Analysis

August 27th

TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Technical Analysis

From the Forums

Ask and Ye Shall Re-See

As any IT or tech support operator knows, sometimes folks ask for help only to find out the answer themselves. In this post from the reddit Personal Finance Canada thread, it was interesting to see one user ask about transferring funds from one institution into their online brokerage account only to find an answer on their own. The lesson, however, is one in modern human behaviour: having access to forums and a community to ask is a preferred way for some people to navigate the world.

Give them a Toe

As they don’t often get much conversation time or coverage, it is interesting to see what folks have to say about Qtrade. In this post from RedFlagDeals, one user was curious about getting started with ETFs via Qtrade. Naturally those that can buy ETFs for free wondered aloud what was worth more than the commissions.

Into the Close

That does it for this week’s roundup. Heading into one the last weekends of the summer, there are folks that are looking for pools filled with water and pools filled with NFL football talent. Yes, in addition to da Bears, there will also be Giants, Packers, Seahawks and more on the minds of some. In the meantime, here’s some fun footage of actual bears enjoying the summer.

Posted on Leave a comment

Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – August 14, 2015

This week provided yet another reminder to traders big and small of the value that data plays in the market place. From the news of the arrest of hackers taking advantage of press releases, to frustrations of receiving delayed (or worse) data to the growing chatter among DIY investors about algorithmic trading, the message is simple, better data gives marketplace participants an edge. Interestingly, this message also rang true for Canadian discount brokerages trying to navigate their own competitive landscape by getting better information as well as having to figure out how to ensure they’re providing ‘good’ data.

In this edition of the roundup, we’ll take a deep dive into a recent study by one bank-owned online brokerage into the state of Canadian investor psychology. Following that we’ll look at an interesting article from the US on an emerging trend among the new breed of DIY investors. Next on the list will be a fascinating look at the action on Twitter, a quick scan of the upcoming investor education events and finally the chatter from the Canadian investor forums.

Fear Factor

Some interesting results of a survey sponsored by BMO InvestorLine were released earlier this week that pulled back the curtain on Canadian investor psychology. What the survey found was equal parts fascinating and concerning all at once.

Despite a common perception of Canadian investors being largely the same from one region to the next, the data tells a very different story. One point of interest was how vastly different attitudes towards market volatility vary depending on where an investor resides.

For example, when looking at the percentage of individuals who reported being anxious about how market volatility would impact their portfolio performance, the difference in absolute terms ranged from a low of 21% (in Quebec) to a high of 46% (in Alberta) with a national average of 33%.

Fascinatingly, provinces west of on Ontario seemed to be much more sensitive to market volatility than the provinces east of it. In relative terms, however, these numbers suggest Western Canadian investors are nearly twice as sensitive to volatility as those east of Ontario.

The most interesting finding, however, is that despite the finding that investors are unanimously anxious (97% on average) and confused (90% on average) about investing, all of the individuals polled invested anyway.

While all surveys should be treated with some degree of caution, the picture these results paint are particularly puzzling and also a bit troubling.

Specifically, the question raised by these results is why would so many individuals invest despite being so anxious or as confused as they are?

Are they feeling compelled to invest out of fear, persuasion, social pressures or some other reason? Or, is it greed – a fear of a different kind – that perhaps they’re missing out? Perhaps experiencing “investment anxiety” or being “generally confused about investing” aren’t as bad as they sound?

Whatever the case, if (and it is a big if) the surveyed individuals are representative of the investing public, then this survey is bound to provoke some uncomfortable conversations.

In particular, these results force the investment industry as a whole to dig further into the issues uncovered. They may need to ask whether enough has been done to explain and educate the general public on what investing entails and what individual investors are getting themselves into.

Given the extent of the findings, it will be interesting to see how or if other investment industry observers respond. If the results of this survey don’t prompt further action, then that ought to be a cause for anxiety or, at the very least, confusion.

Pros & Quants

It seems that every day that goes by stories about advances with robots are becoming part of the normal news stream. In the world of online investing and trading, robots have made a big splash in recent years as high-frequency traders and now as advisors. While the latter has certainly made waves with the retail/DIY investor, algorithmic trading has largely been the focus of a small subset of DIY investor – the tech enthusiast – which may be changing.

An interesting piece from the Wall Street Journal this past week shed light on another facet in which robo-trading could start to make its way more and more into the ‘retail investor’ crowd. Specifically, the article explored the way in which individual investors (or small groups of retail investors) are setting up their own trading algorithms and trading bots via online brokerage firms to go up against the professional market wizards who are the subject of Michael Lewis’ Flash Boys.

For Canadian DIY investors, there are only a handful of brokerages that are really equipped (so far) to offer the kind of setup that enables this algorithmic (algo) trading. Among them are Interactive Brokers, Jitneytrade and, most recently, Questrade.

Although the evidence is scattered, the interest in the practice of DIY algo trading is growing and can be seen in this week’s ‘From the Forums’ section as well as in a nascent conversation threads on how to solve programming challenges for different brokerage APIs.

While Canadian DIY investors have largely been limited to the Interactive Brokers platform (which has had automated trading capabilities for quite some time) early ‘tinkerers’ are getting on board with Questrade’s new API.

Since most Canadian discount brokerages are still wrestling with the Robo-advisor question or working to update and modernize their websites or backend, don’t expect there to be a flood of traditional online brokerages offering up DIY robo-trading any time soon.

Innovation, it seems, may come from younger firms that are less beholden to legacy technology platforms.

For example, the rise of the robo-advisor firms in Canada has been possible because they can build new, streamlined IT systems from the ground up. Online brokerage Robinhood has gone from concept to international company in just a few years, and, could seemingly be capable of enabling technology to help supplement human trading. Even Interactive Brokers, one of the leaders in the DIY algorithmic trading space, could (and appears likely to) grow their business in this area by offering some interesting off-the-shelf scripts and algorithms.

While only time will tell, the emerging picture shows that those firms that have a head start in the DIY robo-trading space are likely to capture this very lucrative group of traders. It also seems to show that humans are going to have to adapt to a very different trading landscape to be able to trade around the growing number of machines on the playing field.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

Markets weren’t the only reason investors were seeing red this week. A couple of discount brokerages, Scotia iTrade in particular, found themselves having to put out some very public fires regarding technical issues. The interaction between Scotia iTrade and one options trading client of theirs was especially fascinating and instructive on a number of levels. For instance, the new service dynamic between clients and providers that exists on Twitter showcases in somewhat real-time and full view how exciting and/or deflating (there’s a Tom Brady plug in there) the client resolution experience can be. This is not only a sign of the times, but also a huge shift in the way that financial services firms have to run and manage client service.

Event Horizon

August 17

Scotia iTRADE – Bonds Investment Strategies

August 18

Scotia iTRADE – Day Trading with Pro Market Advisors

NBDB – Take Advantage of Margin Accounts – [Fr]

TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Fixed Income

August 19

Desjardins Online Brokerage (Disnat) – Trading ETFs

TD Direct Investing – Top 10 Retirement Mistakes

Scotia iTRADE – Taking Your Portfolio Around The World with iShares

August 20

TD Direct Investing – Building a Fixed Income Strategy

Scotia iTRADE – Combining Technical and Fundamental Analysis with AJ Monte

From the Forums

Refreshing Problem

In a world with high-frequency trading bots working to take advantage of every nanosecond, this post from’s investing forum about trading data speed almost seems quaint. While human traders can still navigate the markets, speed and accuracy of data are crucial to making the crucial decision to buy, sell or hold. It’s an interesting read for those considering the Interactive Brokers Trader Work Station (TWS) platform.

Importer Exporter

In another data-themed post, this time from the Financial Wisdom Forum, one user asked an interesting question about exporting of trading data from online brokerages. For those curious about how to get information out of their brokerage and which brokerages offer some data export capabilities, it’s a good read.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap for this week’s roundup. With this time in August roughly coinciding with the Perseids meteor shower, if you happen to be outside keep an eye out for any shooting stars. Of course, if you happen to be in Toronto, you may just be seeing a ball or two being knocked skyward. Go Jays Go!

Posted on Leave a comment

Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – August 7, 2015

What a week in and around the equity markets. While investors are starting to see more red than green show up, Canadians are also starting to see more action from the red, blue and now orange of the various political parties jockeying for supremacy in the upcoming election. Politicians aren’t the only ones thinking about gathering support and looking eagerly towards October – discount brokerages are also in the same boat as the road to supremacy in the fall begins with lots of campaigning (not so much baby kissing…yet).

In this edition of the roundup we take a look at a deal that one online brokerage has relaunched to keep things interesting through the final stretch of summer. Next, we’ll take a peek at some more data from a US discount brokerage that paints a promising performance picture for DIY investors. From there we’ll take a look at the latest cheers and chirps on Twitter, provide a highlight of the upcoming investor education events and close out with some very interesting forum thread discussions.

Stacking the Deck

As we had mentioned last week, August is slated to be a busy month for deals and promotions. This past week, Questrade added yet another offer into the crowded deals arena by re-introducing their prepaid Visa card promotion.

The promotion offers up a $50 prepaid Visa for individuals depositing at least $5,000. Of course with all offers, it’s important to read the fine print as sometimes the larger print paints a different picture. In this case the landing page for the offer has the following pitch:


While Questrade states that there four steps to obtaining the $50 prepaid visa, there are few things that it conveniently left out when comparing these four steps to the full description on the terms and conditions.

Specifically, that individuals need to make at least one commission-generating trade in order to qualify for the prepaid Visa card.


Another step not mentioned is the wait time between the deposit and when the card will arrive.

Questrade now has 14 concurrently advertised offers on their promotions page, which is substantially higher than any other discount brokerage. Digging a bit deeper, the offers reflect a diversity of attempts by Questrade to appeal to different potential clients. From ebooks to contests to gadgets to the more traditional free trades and cash back offers, Questrade is certainly casting a wide net when it comes to promotional activity.

Other discount brokerages, especially the independent brokerages and less-popular bank-owned brokerages, have their work cut out for them in the promotional mix. Trying to compete against Questrade’s promotional machinery will certainly be a challenge given their experience in this area. At the other end of the spectrum, competing against the well-established brands of the larger bank-owned brokerages who not only have deeper pockets but also much greater followings, won’t come cheap.

With a busy September on the horizon for many brokerages, it would not be at all surprising to see other brokerages starting to launch multiple concurrent offers as they ante up alongside Questrade for getting DIY investors’ attention.

Trading the Trend

Many seasoned traders know the phrase ‘the trend is your friend until it ends’. For Interactive Brokers, it looks like they’re still pretty chummy with the trend pushing their business value up and to the right.

Once again Interactive Brokers published its performance figures for the month that just passed (July) and once again there was a solid year-over-year increase in trading metrics.

Aside from the fact that they saw a year over year increase in daily average revenue trades (DARTs) of 23% to 652 thousand, what really stood out was that they grew their account base to 314 thousand, up 18% year-over-year and 1% higher than the previous month. In other words, Interactive Brokers continues to crush it when it comes to growing their client base, especially amongst the active trader segment.

Here is a screenshot of their average commissions and order sizes for those willing to indulge in a little bit of commission-price envy:


For Canadian DIY investors considering Interactive Brokers, it’s often a challenge to find coverage of them in many of the different rankings and ratings. Until somewhat recently, Interactive Brokers Canada did not offer registered accounts nor was the user base sufficiently high for many of the major rankings/surveys of Canadian discount brokerages. Going forward, however, there might be more coverage as a result of the new account offerings.

That said, there are indirect data points such as Interactive Brokers’ financial and performance metrics show that quarter after quarter, traders keep coming to Interactive Brokers at a rate faster than they’re leaving. That is a trend traders looking for an online brokerage may want to pay attention to.

Event Horizon

It looks to be somewhat of a quiet week ahead for discount brokerage-sponsored investor education events. Here are a couple of upcoming sessions that may be of interest to dividend enthusiasts, as well as those interested in technical analysis and trading strategies.

August 11

Scotia iTRADE – Dividends Are The Cake, Not The Icing with Horizons ETFs

NBDB – Introduction to Technical Analysis – Moving Averages – [Fr]

August 13

NBDB – Trading Plan and Investment Strategy for Mid and Short Term Traders – [Fr]

Scotia iTRADE – Using Volatility To Trade Options with Sarah Potter

NBDB – Introduction to Technical Analysis: Oscillators – [Fr]

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

In this week’s discount brokerage tweets scan, it appeared that brokerages were offered a bit of a break from the usual barrage of technical and account issues. While there were still a few technical issues that got folks tweeting, the conversations seemed relatively tame and there were definitely fewer threats of people “going to take their business elsewhere”. Of interest, there was a posting from a recent winner of the Scotia iTrade selfie contest that offered a lucky break to the contestant. The original contest terms and conditions stated that there was only one movie pass to be awarded per person and it looks like they got two.

From the Forums

While Twitter may have been quiet there were more than a handful of very interesting posts from the Canadian investing forums. It was tough to cut any of the shortlist out so here is the “director’s cut” version of interesting reads.

Cookie Monster

If only the adorable Sesame Street monster were behind the scenes with browser cookies, the world would certainly seem like a less creepy place. Alas, in today’s online landscape nearly every digital touchpoint has some kind of tracking cookie or technology enabled. In this forum post from, Questrade is singled out as having a number of interesting tracking and measurement features that are keeping tabs on user behaviour.

Money in Motion

Qtrade Investor is not a name that a lot of forum users typically talk about, so it was interesting to spot this post from the reddit personal finance Canada section. What started out as a question about moving a large sum of money into the account turned into some intriguing insights as to why some investors look to Qtrade Investor as an online brokerage of choice.

Voicing a Concern

While we typically stay away from the drama filled commentary of disgruntled clients, sometimes it can be instructive to those looking around for an online brokerage to be able to separate the fact from the opinion with user reviews. Despite a relatively negative experience being shared about Questrade, it was interesting to see this post from RedFlagDeals’ investing thread in which the comments from other users of this online brokerage volunteer their satisfaction with this brokerage.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap for this week’s roundup. Timing in comedy and markets is everything. This past week was also the final show for one very great comedian and pundit Jon Stewart. As we head into yet another maelstrom of election nuttiness, his voice and vigilance for picking up on the nonsense will be missed. Here’s hoping we’ve all been good students to avoid learning some painful lessons.

Posted on Leave a comment

Discount Brokerage Deals and Promotions – August 2015

*Updated August 8, 2015* It’s hard to believe that August is already here. That’s right, 146 days left until Christmas, 142 left until winter and just a paltry 53 days until the beginning of fall. For Canadian discount brokerages, however, the ramp up to a busy fall and winter promotions session has already begun and time is definitely not on their side.

As far as discount brokerage deals and promotions go, August is shaping up to be an important month. Of the 15 16 deals now in play, just under half (47% 44%) are set to expire at the end of the month. At the outset of August, it is interesting to see that even deals that showed up later in July were still scheduled to expire at the end of August.

In addition to the standard cash back and commission free promotions, there are also some promotions going on that don’t usually end up in the deals tables but which we can mention here.

The first is Questrade’s Portfolio IQ contest in which individuals can enter for the chance to win a $5,000 professionally managed portfolio. Another interesting promotion, this one from Scotia iTrade, offers 10 commission-free trades to clients of Scotiabank’s StartRight program for newcomers to Canada. Finally, BMO InvestorLine (as part of a contest run by BMO) is offering students the chance to win up to $10,000 towards tuition and $500 towards books.

With so much poised to change heading into September and with so much activity already underway at Canadian brokerages, it will be interesting to watch how the discount brokerage deals unfold through this month. As always if there are any promotions that we’ve missed drop us a note or post in our online brokerage deals discussion thread.

Expired Deals

Heading into August, only one discount brokerage, Questrade, had offers that officially expired. The two offers from Questrade that were retired were the Amazon gift card promotion and the 25 commission-free trade offer.

Extended Deals

Although it technically expired at the end of June, Virtual Brokers did bring back their 25 commission-free trade offer towards the end of July and bumped the expiry date to August 31, 2015. For that reason it is not being listed as a new deal, but rather an extended one. The deal is identical to that listed in June’s deals – the minimum deposit to qualify is $15,000 and individuals receive 25 commission free trades (valued at $6.49 per trade) to use for up to 1 year from the time their account is open and funded.

New Deals

The two brokerages with new offers this month are Questrade and BMO InvestorLine.

Starting first with Questrade. Their latest promotion offers new or existing clients 5 commission-free trades for opening an account with at least $1,000. On the surface, it may not seem like a very exciting offer however it is nonetheless interesting for two reasons.

First, the offer is set to expire at the end of 2016. That is an interesting signal that this is going to be a standing offer. The second reason this promotion is interesting is because there are other offers that appear to be slightly more compelling that are directly competing with this.

The $50 commission credit offer, for example, has no deadline and can be good for up to 10 trades (depending on the structure of the trade and the commission charge). This latest offer by Questrade (the 5 free trade promotion) is good for 5 trades of up to $9.95 each and has a window of 60 days within which these bonus trades can be used.

BMO InvestorLine’s latest promotion (the “summer promotion”) is a reincarnation of their 5 star offer with some key differences. The most significant component to BMO InvestorLine’s new deal is that it takes at least $100,000 to qualify for the offer and there are cash back offers based on deposit tiers that go beyond the historically high $500,000 deposit mark and up to the $1 milllion+ dollar deposit range.

The only other brokerage in recent memory (and currently) to have a promotional offer geared to these higher deposits is Scotia iTrade. For more details on the BMO InvestorLine offer see the table below.

*Updated August 8, 2015

Questrade has relaunched its $50 Visa gift card promotion, which was last seen in May of this year. To qualify for the $50 Visa gift card, individuals must deposit a minimum of $5,000 of net new assets into a new online trading account (registered, margin or FX and CFD are eligible) and make at least one commission-generating trade within 60 days.  This offer is currently set to expire at the end of October. Read the table below for additional details.*

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 August 31, 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 and fund a new account (TFSA, Margin or RRSP) with at least $1,000 and you may be eligible to receive 5 commission-free trades. Use promo code 5FREETRADES when signing up. Be sure to read terms and conditions carefully. $1,000 5 commission-free trades 60 days 5 commission-free trade offer August 31, 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 a new online trading account (registered, margin or FX and CFD) with Questrade and deposit at least $5,000 in order to be eligible to qualify for a $50 prepaid Visa gift card. Clients must also place at least one commission-generating trade within 60 days. Use promo code VISA502015 when signing up. Be sure to read terms and conditions for full details. $5,000 $50 prepaid Visa card Prepaid Visa cards will be mailed after clients complete eligibility requirements. Prepaid Visa Promotion October 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 September 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
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 August 31, 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 September 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 a new qualifying account with BMO InvestorLine, and fund it with either A)$100,000 – $249,999; B)$250,000 – $499,999; C)$500,000 – $999,999 or D)$1 million+ in net new assets and you may be eligible to receive either A)$200; B)$500; C)$750 or D)$1,000 cash back. Be sure to use the appropriate promotion code for the corresponding cash back tier when signing up. For the $200 cash back use DISC200; for $500 cash back use DISC500; for $750 cash back use DISC750 and for $1000 cash back use DISC1000.Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more details on the offer. A) $100,000 – $249,999 B) $250,000 – $499,999 C) $500,000 – $999,999 D) $1,000,000+ A) $200 B) $500 C) $750 D) $1000 Cash award will be paid the week of April 11, 2016. Summer Offer Promotion August 31, 2015
Last Updated: August 8, 2015 17:40 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 September 30, 2015