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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – December 22, 2017

For last minute shoppers, this is it – the mad sprint to the finish line ahead of Christmas next week. Interestingly enough, procrastinating gift-givers weren’t the only ones getting things done this week, as Canadian online brokerages were also busy making news and releasing features heading into the final few days of 2017.

In this holiday edition of the weekly roundup, we look at the latest published Canadian discount brokerage rankings and highlight one online brokerage that has had an eventful 2017 on the rankings podium. From there, we report on a new feature released this week at a non-bank-owned brokerage and report on an interesting promotional offer that crossed our radar from one of Canada’s largest online brokerages. Also worth having a glance at are the DIY investor tweets this week as multiple platform outages and customer service wait times highlight the downside of DIY investing. Finally, we’ll wrap up with a pair of interesting DIY investor forum posts.

Qtrade Investor continues a winning 2017

Qtrade Investor continues to shine in 2017, notching another win in the circuit of Canadian discount brokerage rankings. This past week, Qtrade Investor came out on top of the Surviscor online brokerage ratings and continued what has been a very positive year for recognition and awards in the Canadian online brokerage space..

This past summer, for example, Qtrade Investor won the title of best overall brokerage in Moneysense magazine’s online brokerage review (which were also based on Surviscor’s analysis). And, in September, Qtrade placed a close second place in the J.D. Power Investor Satisfaction Study, just behind Desjardins Online Brokerage, whose parent Desjardins Group also owns Qtrade Investor. While the latest edition of the Globe and Mail online brokerage rankings are still forthcoming, there’s a good chance that Qtrade Investor will continue its strong showing there as well. In 2016, Qtrade Investor also took top honours in that ranking, demonstrating a broad positive performance across several different rankings.

In terms of the latest Surviscor rankings, Qtrade Investor managed to outperform 12 other Canadian discount brokerages across over a number of different criteria including categories related to site functionality, features, pricing and user experience over all.

For Qtrade Investor, notching a score of 90% on the Surviscor rankings put it well out in front of the field.  For the remaining firms in the top 5, however, the race was much tighter. Questrade, which came in second overall, scored 79% while BMO InvestorLine and Scotia iTRADE tied for third place at 77%. RBC Direct Investing, which scored 72%, rounded out the top five. At the bottom of this year’s list was HSBC InvestDirect, which scored 55%.

Another interesting observation was that the big bank-owned online brokerages were relatively close in scoring to one another. The top bank-owned online brokerages in this survey (BMO InvestorLine and Scotia iTRADE) scored 77% while TD Direct Investing, which placed 6th, did so with a score of 70%.  The only outlier for the big Canadian bank-owned online brokerages was CIBC Investor’s Edge, which placed 11th at 59%.

While the percentage differences may seem small, in a hyper competitive and rapidly evolving landscape, every advantage matters. This past year the Canadian online brokerage space underwent some important changes that will make 2018 and beyond a challenge for all providers to maneuver around.

For example, HSBC InvestDirect dropped their commission prices on North American equity trades down to the lowest standard rate of any of the big bank-owned online brokerages ($6.88). Also, just last week, it was announced that Qtrade Investor and Credential Direct would be merging as part of the major merger deal taking place in the Canadian credit union space.

For Canadian DIY investors looking for an online investing account, the awards received by Qtrade Investor offer a compelling set of reasons to consider this discount brokerage. Nonetheless, the data from the latest Surviscor rankings also show that the difference between most of the firms in the top 5 is relatively small. As a result, DIY investors can afford to be picky with an online brokerage or find an online brokerage with whom banking/lending convenience is the deciding factor. Either way, it will be interesting to watch what innovation or new development “online brokerages” would tackle next.

Credit Max from Virtual Brokers

Although the end of 2017 is just around the corner, Virtual Brokers knows that the race between online brokerages is not slowing down any time soon. This past week, they quietly rolled out a new feature called ‘Credit Max’ which enables clients to link their TFSA to their margin account to provide additional buying power when trading.

Similar to Questrade’s “Margin Power”, this new feature by Virtual Brokers is geared towards somewhat active and sophisticated traders who want the benefits of dynamically managing TFSA accounts as well as a margin account.

With VB’s new offer, all of the same risk factors regarding margin trading and leverage still apply. Perhaps the important additional consideration that programs like this require investors to think about, is the fact that the TFSA regulations around contributions and withdrawals also still apply. So, if a position or trade doesn’t work out and assets from a TFSA are needed to cover a losing trade, the additional tracking of one’s TFSA is another layer of complexity to sort through.

That said, it will be interesting to see if this feature spreads to other online brokerages. Already, there are some interesting TFSA-focused features being deployed. The TFSA contribution tracker at Qtrade Investor (also Wealthsimple has a TFSA contribution tracking feature) suggests TFSA may start to grab more of the spotlight at Canadian online brokerages more than either the margin trading or RSP accounts have typically enjoyed.

Deals Updates

This past week an important deal from one of Canada’s largest online brokerages crossed our radar. TD Direct Investing is now offering up a competitive cash-back bonus in hopes of attracting new assets through the ‘RSP season’.

While the threshold to qualify for this promotion is much lower by historical standards (at $10,000) and lower by comparison to deals/promos offered by other bank-owned online brokerages, this deal does come with an interesting twist. In order to qualify for the cash-back bonus, at least five commission-generating trades need to be placed within the first 90 days of the account being opened and funded. What that means is that individuals have to spend close to $50 to see the benefit of the cash-back award.

Although this is not the first discount brokerage deal to have a trading activity threshold requirement, it is interesting to see an offer like this hit the market at this time and from the largest online brokerage in Canada. Ideally, DIY investors would not have to execute trades to qualify for a cash back bonus, however this deal will likely be more enticing to slightly more active investors, which is exactly one of the prized demographics TD Direct Investing are hoping to land as new clients.

As always, the lesson for DIY investors is to read the fine print before committing. Click here to view our latest discount brokerage deals section and to review the offer in more detail.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

It was a tough week for DIY investors faced with platform outages, and probably an even tough one for the social media teams helping to triage. Mentioned by Canadian DIY investors were BMO InvestorLine, Credential Direct, CIBC Investor’s Edge, Questrade, RBC Direct Investing, Scotia iTRADE, and TD Direct Investing.

From the Forums

Banking on a Brokerage

The convenience and security of a big-bank owned online brokerage are appealing to many DIY investors. In this post, from RedFlagDeals.com’s investing thread, polls ask community users for their thoughts on the best bank-owned Canadian online brokerage.

Building Wealth

When it comes to learning about building and managing wealth, asking all kinds of questions is a great way to help get insight on sometimes difficult/thorny concepts. In this post from reddit’s Personal Finance Canada thread, one user shares questions about passive investing strategies that many DIY investors typically want to know about. Worth a read for anyone getting started to invest on their own.

Into the Close

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Remember that stock markets are closed Monday (25th) and Tuesday (26th), but crypto markets are very much open. The weekly-roundup will return in the New Year with more exciting coverage of the Canadian online brokerage space. See you in the future!

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – December 15, 2017

Any fans of Die Hard know that just because it’s Christmas time, doesn’t mean there isn’t room for action to happen. In the online trading space, this also happens to be the case as December has proven itself to be filled with excitement, setting the stage for a very eventful 2018.

In this edition of the roundup, we look at a major merger that took place that will undoubtedly pose a challenge to the big bank-owned online brokerages. Following that story, we continue to cover how cryptocurrency, in particular, bitcoin, trading is making its way into the online brokerage space in the US. As always, we’ll close out by looking at what DIY investors were chatting about on Twitter and in the investor forums.

Joining forces: Merger of Qtrade Investor and Credential Direct

The restructuring of the Canadian discount brokerage industry continues to play out in 2017. Earlier this year (in September) Virtual Brokers’ parent company, BBS Securities, was acquired by CI Financial Corp, a move that added significant resource to the Virtual Brokers brand. And now, this week, there was yet another major structural development in the Canadian online brokerage space with the announcement that Qtrade Investor and Credential Direct would be combining thanks to a massive merger deal between Qtrade Financial Inc, Credential Financial Inc and NEI Investments.

The combined entity, which will be known as Aviso Wealth, will have more than 500,000 clients and manage about $55 billion in assets. With that kind of size, Aviso Wealth will pose a serious challenge to the bank-owned wealth management space. And, in the online brokerage sector, it effectively provides two small players with the kind of resources needed to compete against much larger and better funded competitors.

One of the major drivers behind this transaction was Desjardins Group, who will be a 50% owner of Aviso Group (Desjardins acquired a minority stake in Qtrade Financial in 2013, eventually taking a majority stake), with the other 50% ownership split between the CUMIS Group Ltd and five provincial credit unions.

Bill Packham, CEO of Aviso Wealth explains the merger on BNN

On a fun side note, just over 4 years ago I had a sit down with the head of an online brokerage talking about what might happen with the industry. I speculated at the time that a merger between firms aligned with the credit union network would make sense. Fast forward to 2017 and it makes even more sense for online brokerages to consider creative ways to gain efficiencies of scale, in particular those brokerages that are servicing the credit union networks.

As we referenced in the 2017 online brokerage year in review, technology development is on the minds of leadership at all online brokerages. With falling commission prices and DIY investors demanding more technologically advanced features, scale or massive technological advantage seem to be the only ways in which online brokerages can realistically navigate the future of online investing.

For DIY investors, even though there will be ‘fewer’ online brokerages to choose from, the important difference is that there will now be a brokerage that can operate at significant scale. With scale can hopefully come efficiencies, which in turn, can result in better value for clients.

While the merger is expected to take some time to close (Q1 of 2018 is the target), there are some outstanding issues to resolve from a branding/marketing point of view

For example, Qtrade Investor is very well known for its continuous strong performance on the Globe and Mail online brokerage rankings, as well as in the Surviscor/Moneysense rankings. Changing names or brands at this point might remove them from years of credibility they’ve earned with online brokerage reviews. Credential Direct, by comparison, is less well known, and it would almost certainly make sense to fold the Credential Direct brand into the Qtrade Investor one. Of course, this is all speculative – an entirely new online brokerage entity could emerge to help bring brand recognition and generate excitement over this new merger.

Another interesting angle is what happens to the smaller discount brokerage players (e.g. Questrade) in a space where competitors are now much bigger?

For almost two decades, Questrade has managed to hold its own alongside other larger financial service providers, but with the latest move by Desjardins, Qtrade Investor and Credential Direct, there seems to be a case for Questrade to consider how they can bulk up to navigate the next chapter in online-based wealth management.

We’ll continue to monitor this evolving situation; however, it appears that 2017 was finally the year that the dynamics of the Canadian discount brokerage industry caught up with participants. Whether the larger firms can provide the same service levels at scale that they were able to do as smaller entities is going to be interesting to watch. Larger organizations are notorious for being more complex and thus, slower to respond to changes in the market. Now that Qtrade Investor and Credential Direct are teaming up, they will have to navigate the culture change and manage to strike the right balance between giving clients stability and innovation. Suffice to say, however, they’re no longer going to be considered a ‘small’ online brokerage.

Back to the futures: Interactive Brokers enables bitcoin shorting

Like any good trader knows, don’t fight the market. This past week, Interactive Brokers changed its position from bearish to bullish on enabling clients to short bitcoin futures.

Granted, the official position of the CEO and founder of Interactive Brokers, Thomas Peterffy, is that shorting bitcoin futures would be “suicidal” he nonetheless walked back the restriction for anyone brave (or foolish) enough to do so.

For the first week of bitcoin futures trading, however, it looks like Interactive Brokers benefited handsomely, with close to half of the trading volume being processed through IB. With the CME Group set to launch its own bitcoins futures trading next week, it looks like even more opportunities to trade bitcoin are about to open up.

As we mentioned in last week’s roundup, Interactive Brokers won’t be the only online brokerage in the arena as TD Ameritrade will also enable clients to trade bitcoin futures. For TD Ameritrade clients, the minimum account balance to trade bitcoin futures is $25,000, with margin requirements for trading through TD Ameritrade set at 44%. Margin requirements at Interactive Brokers are also steep. Outright margin for long positions set at 50% of the prior day’s lead month settlement price and short-sellers required to put up an eye-watering five times the value of their futures contract.

With all of the hype surrounding the increase in value of cryptocurrency, a recent post from the Ontario Securities Commission’s Get Smarter About Money site seems timely. Interestingly – but perhaps not surprisingly – in a recent poll they found that 29% of males aged 18-34 had some exposure to cryptocurrency. This is reminiscent of the stock day trading that took place during the dot-com bubble when a lot of young trading ‘geniuses’ were created.

For DIY investors, the rise in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has already prompted requests for Canadian online brokerages to start enabling trading of these instruments. Which Canadian online brokerage will be ‘first’ to allow trading in bitcoin/cryptocurrency? It’s difficult to say, however the lessons from what’s happening in the US are going to be instrumental in making the case for trading here in Canada.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

Mentioned by Canadian DIY investors were BMO Investorline, Credential Direct, CIBC Investor’s Edge, Questrade, RBC Direct Investing, Scotia iTRADE, and TD Direct Investing.

From the Forums

Beyond the limit

Transferring from one online brokerage to another should be a straight forward process – at least in theory. In practice, this post from reddit’s Personal Finance Canada section, shows how transferring a TFSA account left a negative balance in place and a whole lot of questions. It’s a good read for those considering making a change.

Leftovers

What happens when your balance is too low to trade but still high enough to incur a fee? One user encountered this situation with a low balance in their RSP investing account in this post on reddit’s Personal Finance Canada thread. Find out what (mostly) helpful suggestions were put forward by other readers.

Into the Close

That’s it for another week of action. With markets continuing to push higher and cryptocurrency doing the same, it’s safe to say the only red this Christmas season will be coming from those who are trying to short either of these. Have a great weekend and best of luck fighting the crowds for the last few shopping days before Christmas!

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – December 8, 2017

If there are two things dominating the headlines the past few weeks, it’s bitcoin (or cryptocurrency) and America. While Canadian DIY investors have a chance to peek around the corner to see what online brokerages have coming in 2018, we also wanted to review what US discount brokerages were up to to see what else might be coming down the pipeline soon.

So, for this edition of the roundup, we take a look state side to note moves this past week by two US online brokerages that could help shape what new trading features could be available to Canadian DIY investors. From there, we’ll provide a snapshot of the latest tweets by DIY investors about Canada’s discount brokerages and we’ll cap off the roundup with highlights from the forums.

Interactive Brokers Hitting its Stride

As part of our exclusive review of Canadian online brokerages in 2017, one of the biggest trends that stood out was that online brokers are locked in a technological arms race. One online brokerage in particular, however, stands out from its peers in the way in which it has built up its business by betting big on technology and automation to lower its operating costs (thereby passing along savings to clients).

Interactive Brokers, parent company to Interactive Brokers Canada, released its monthly performance metrics at the outset of December and according to the numbers, they are having an exceptionally good year. Let’s have a quick look at some of the key numbers on a year over year basis:

  • 795 thousand Daily Average Revenue Trades (DARTs): 9% higher year/year
  • Client equity of $121.6B: 44% higher than prior year
  • 474 thousand client accounts: 25% higher than prior year

For greater clarity, a presentation given earlier this week at the Goldman Sachs US Financial Services Conference illustrates just how dominant Interactive Brokers has become in the US online investing market space:

Why this matters for other online brokerages – and perhaps for traditional financial service providers – is that Interactive Brokers has shown a consistent ability to make its technology work and to keep costs for traders so low that it is a natural contender for DIY investors – especially active ones. As such, their foray into traditional ‘banking’ services could signal the natural evolution of integrated financial services that might encroach on more than just the online investing space here in Canada.

While it’s difficult to extrapolate a straight line into the future, the performance of Interactive Brokers over the past year seems to signal that years of creating a technology driven culture positions them well to compete in the modern-day footrace to become an outstanding online brokerage, especially from the trade execution side.

For Canadian DIY investors, Interactive Brokers Canada is one of two online brokerages that might offer a conduit for innovative services in the online brokerage space in America to migrate north. The other, TD Direct Investing, may look to import ideas developed by TD Ameritrade into the Canadian space.

In either case, however, Interactive Brokers has made a compelling business case for other online brokerages to invest in automation and operational efficiency, and to do so at an accelerated pace.

Interactive Brokers, as well as online brokerage Robinhood, in the US have both demonstrated commission pricing can continue to come down. Another very compelling slide from the Interactive Brokers presentation deck shows how much lower Interactive Brokers’ commissions are for equity and, in particular options trading, relative to their US peers even after a significant commission price cut by the group of online brokerages earlier this year.

The bottom line for Canadian discount brokerages is to figure out how to offer their services faster and less expensively because Interactive Brokers Canada is likely to continue to attract more mainstream attention.

After the addition of RSP and TFSA accounts to Interactive Brokers Canada and the regular feedback from DIY investors to include Interactive Brokers Canada in the highly popular Globe and Mail online brokerage rankings, the combination of low pricing and popularity with DIY investors (at least the most active ones), might bode well for bringing Interactive Brokers Canada into the spotlight alongside the dozen or so other online brokerages regularly included in the review.

Interactive Brokers’ latest trading metrics and recent investor presentation paint a very interesting picture of how they continue to grow market share with active DIY investors – a highly prized segment in the online brokerage market.

Whether IB can disrupt the Canadian marketplace to the same degree that they have in the US remains to be seen, however the combination of global ambition, high degree of popularity with active DIY investors and a major emphasis on technology suggests Interactive Brokers Canada may find itself in the spotlight sooner than their peers would hope.

TD Ameritrade Betting on Bitcoin

One of the most intriguing things about the capital markets is that when there are buyers, there are inevitably people motivated to figure how to sell. Case in point: bitcoin.

The beyond-meteoric rise in the digital currency this year has continued to gain international attention, and likely drawn the interest of traders everywhere to figure out whether or not this would be a worthwhile risk to take on to trade.

And, while many folks (including the founder and CEO of Interactive Brokers) have warned against enabling futures trading of bitcoin, the green light has been given and one online brokerage in the US, TD Ameritrade, appears to be the first to move into the space to enable clients to trade these instruments.

It will be interesting to follow what happens with Bitcoin and in particular the institutions that enable trading of futures of Bitcoin. The fact that online brokerages in the US are now gearing up to participate in the trading of Bitcoin derivatives is, perhaps, a signal that a new product line will be coming soon to online brokerages that have traditionally dealt in equities and options.

We’re definitely keen to monitor this development starting on Sunday and naturally to see how Canadian online brokerages try to keep pace with investor interest (or fever) to participate in the cryptocurrency trading that is gripping the world.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

There was no shortage of heat coming from Twitter this past week as several Canadian online brokerages faced more than a few unhappy campers when outages and long phone line wait times drove DIY investors online to complain.  Mentioned by Canadian DIY investors were BMO InvestorLine, CIBC Investor’s Edge, Questrade, RBC Direct Investing, Scotia iTRADE, TD Direct Investing and Virtual Brokers.

From the Forums

It’s not easy getting green

Comparing one of Canada’s largest online brokerages (TD Direct Investing) with one of social media’s most popular online brokerages (Questrade) turned up some interesting posts this past week in the DIY investor forums. In this post, from reddit’s Personal Finance Canada thread, one user was looking to get the most mileage on saving fees and asked for the pros and cons of choosing a passive investing strategy at each of the two ‘green’ online brokerages.

Party in the TFSA

While that Miley Cyrus reference is upbeat and generally capture how investors perceive TFSAs, perhaps another song – Wrecking Ball might also describe the downside of TFSA. In this post from reddit’s Personal Finance Canada section, one user gets enlightened on the pluses and minuses of a TFSA when asking about a good online brokerage for TFSAs.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap on this edition of the roundup. This weekend will be a tense one as all eyes will be on what happens next with cryptocurrency. Of course, for a change of pace from fantasy money, there’s also fantasy football playoffs that have started. Best of luck on whichever screens you’re on!

 

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – December 1, 2017

Even though 2017 is in the final stretch, it appears there’s still quite a bit of activity in the Canadian online brokerage space. From awards to new deals crossing the wire, the last few weeks of the year will probably have a few more surprises to offer DIY investors.

In this week’s (shortened-because-it’s-coming-from-Mexico) roundup, we take a look at the latest ratings of online brokerage mobile experiences and what trends are emerging as brokerages race to improve trading on the go. From there, we’ll take a look at the latest crop of deals and promotions to cross the wire. As always we’ll track and close up this edition of the roundup with conversation of DIY investors on Twitter and what they were saying about Canada’s online brokerages this past week.

BMO InvestorLine sets the pace on mobile

This past week, the latest edition of the Surviscor mobile discount brokerage scorCard was released and BMO InvestorLine was crowned as Canada’s top discount brokerage for mobile customer experience.

For the second consecutive time in the survey’s history, BMO InvestorLine finished atop of 11 Canadian online brokerages reviewed for their mobile customer experience with a score of 76% (out of 100). Questrade (66%) and Qtrade Investor (61%) were ranked second and third respectively. In the previous set of mobile brokerage rankings, two out the top three online brokerages were bank-owned brokerages however in 2017, BMO InvestorLine stood out as the only bank-owned brokerage in the top three.

In addition to being ranked first overall in 2017, BMO InvestorLine also received four category honours, including the top scores in the “Getting Connected,” “Market Intelligence,” “Account Services” and “Mobile Transactions” categories.

 

Surviscor’s mobile brokerage assessment was first launched in 2015 and evaluates online brokerages using both Apple and Android mobile devices. The categories that the mobile brokerage analysis measures are:

  • Getting connected
  • Mobile usability
  • Account support
  • Market intelligence
  • Mobile transactions
  • Mobile resources

Glen Lacoste from Surviscor appeared on BNN (see video here) to provide his perspective on the latest set of online brokerage mobile experience results and noted that while most bank-owned online brokerages appear to be doing well on the banking side of their mobile applications, the DIY investing tools and resources are lagging.

Digital enhancements have been a big focal point for all of Canada’s online brokerages and it appears that the trend towards improving online experiences will only continue to strengthen.

In our exclusive look back on 2017,  Silvio Stroescu, President of BMO InvestorLine, highlighted several digital milestones that BMO InvestorLine achieved in 2017 and how “getting better at getting better” defines the new normal for financial services providers who want to come out ahead. While other online brokerages are also making strides to improve the innovation cycle, the latest recognition by Surviscor indicates that BMO InvestorLine is still the online brokerage setting the pace in Canada when it comes to overall mobile experience.

December deals and promotions update

Markets and cryptocurrencies aren’t the only reasons for DIY investors to be excited heading into the end of 2017. For anyone looking to open a new online investing account, whether it’s an RRSP, TFSA or margin trading account, there’s something for everyone.

As all seasoned traders know, higher prices lead to higher prices – at least for some stretch of time.  For all DIY investors, however, there seems to be an additional rule when shopping for online brokerages which is online brokerage deals lead to more online brokerage deals.

This month’s promotional landscape is a great example of that. The deals count heading into December is now at a very healthy 25, with a noteworthy comeback in the cash back and discounted commission price category of deals.

And, as investors continue to get excited about the crytopcurrency/blockchain and marijuana legalization stories, companies will almost inevitably come to the public markets in these sectors which in turn, will draw investors interested in capitalizing on these stories into the market.

The net result should line up for a very exciting December/January for DIY investors. As Canadian online brokerages prepare for the RRSP contribution deadline, those brokerages currently not offering a promotion (especially a cash back or discounted commission promotion) are likely to launch one.

Stay tuned in our deals/promotions section for what will undoubtedly be a fun finish to 2018.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

 

Into the Close

That’s a wrap on this week’s action. Being Friday and with the US markets heading into some very interesting turbulence, hopefully there will be a chance to relax – unless, of course, you happen to be on Twitter or watching any cryptocurrencies, in which case, buckle up. Have a great (and potentially profitable) weekend!

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Discount Brokerage Deals and Promotions – December 2017

*Update: Dec. 21* If there’s one thing that we love to share heading into the end of the year, it’s holiday cheer. And, heading into the end of 2017 there’s lots to be cheerful for if you’re a DIY investor looking to open an online trading account at one of Canada’s discount brokerages.

As the end of the calendar year (which is important for TFSA’s) and the RRSP contribution deadline (in March) tick closer, Canadian discount brokerages are gearing up for another busy season of DIY investors shopping around for the best deal on an online trading account.

Another reason online brokerages are looking to attract DIY investors is the meteoric rise in Bitcoin and and all things cryptocurrency as well as the interest in stocks/companies poised to benefit from legalization of recreational marijuana in Canada and beyond. Even though stock markets are at all-time highs, it seems that general investor sentiment is positive overall which in turn, attracts investors off the sidelines and into the online brokerage space.

So, fundamentally, it seems that now would be an opportune time for Canadian online brokerages to ramp up their incentive offers to win over DIY investors on the fence about choosing an online brokerage.

With that in mind, we’ll be keeping an eye out for offers that come to market between now and the end of 2018 and, as always, if you spot something that might be of value to other DIY investors, please place it in the comments below.

Expired Offers

There were no offers that expired heading into December.

Extended Offers

There were no offers that were extended heading into December.

New Offers

*Update: Dec. 21: Just in time for the holiday shopping season (and RSP season), TD Direct Investing has launched a very competitive cash-back offer through to the beginning of March 2018. This tiered offer starts at qualifying deposits (or asset transfers from another online brokerage) of $10,000 ($100 cash back) and goes to deposits of $500,000 or more ($1,000 cash back). See table below for more information.*

*Update: Dec. 9: Better late than never for the latest deal to cross our radar. HSBC InvestDirect is offering a trade commission rebate offer for up to 30 trades. This promotion follows their recent commission-price cut which we reported in October. For those interested in HSBC InvestDirect, the deadline for eligibility for this offer is December 15th 2017. See table below for more information.*

Virtual Brokers added a new promotion for discounted commission pricing. For a limited time, eligible individuals are able to receive up to 15 trades per month at $4.99 per trade for up to two months. The minimum deposit to be eligible for this offer is $5,000 and the offer is set to expire in March 2018.

Discount Brokerage Deals

  1. Cash Back/Free Trade/Product Offer Promotions
  2. Referral Promotions
  3. Transfer Fee Promotions
  4. Contests & Other Offers
  5. Digital Advice + Roboadvisor Promotions (new!)

Cash Back/Free Trade/Product Offer Promotions

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 Jitneytrade and receive access to their preferred pricing package. n/a Discounted Commission Rates none For more details click here none
Open and fund a new account with HSBC InvestDirect and you may be eligible to receive up to 30 North American equity trades commission-free. See terms and conditions for full details. n/a 30 commission-free North American equity trades 60 days (commissions will be reimbursed after 90 days). HSBC InvestDirect Fall Offer December 15, 2017
Open and fund a new account (TFSA, Margin or RRSP) with at least $1,000 and you may be eligible to receive $88 in commission credits (up to 17 commission-free trades). Use promo code SPARX88 when signing up. Be sure to read terms and conditions carefully. $1,000 $88 commission credit 60 days Access this offer by clicking here: $88 commission-credit offer . For full terms and conditions, click here. 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 December 31, 2017
Open and fund a new account with Virtual Brokers with at least $5,000 and you may be eligible to receive up to two months of trading at $4.99 per trade (maximum of 15 trades per month). Use promo code 499COM2017 when signing up to qualify. See terms and conditions for full details. $5,000 Up to 2 months of trading at $4.99 per trade (max 15 trades per month) Commissions will be reimbursed after June 30, 2018. For more details, click here March 31, 2018
Open and fund a qualifying account with TD Direct Investing with at least A) $10,000; B) $50,000; C) $100,000; D) $250,000 or E) $500,000+ and place at least 5 commissionable trades within 90 days of account opening and you may be eligible to receive either A) $100; B) $200; C) $300; D) $500 or E) $1,000 in cash back. Be sure to read full terms and conditions for eligibility for this offer. A) $10,000 B) $50,000 C) $100,000 D) $250,000 E) $500,000+ A) $100 B) $200 C) $300 D) $500 E) $1,000 Cash award will be paid to the client before the last day of the month following the conclusion of the qualification period (90 days). #RetireReady Promotion March 1, 2018
Disnat Desjardins Online Brokerage is offering new clients 1% of assets transferred into the new account in the form of commission credits (to a maximum value of $1,000). Minimum qualifying deposit is $10,000. To qualify, individuals will have to call 1-866-873-7103 and mention promo code DisnatTransfer or email: [email protected] See details link for more info. $10,000 1% of assets transferred in the form of commission-credits (max credits: $1,000) 6 months Disnat 1% Commission Credit Promo January 31, 2018
Transfer at least A) $25,000; B) $50,000; or C) $100,000 into a new or existing RRSP, spousal RRSP or TFSA at CIBC Investor’s Edge before March 1, 2018 and you may be eligible for a cash back offer of A) $100; B) $200 or C) $400. Be sure to read terms and conditions for full details. A) $25,000 B) $50,000 C) $100,000 A) $100 B) $200 C) $400 Cash back will be deposited the week of May 4, 2018 (for transfers received by Dec. 31, 2017) or July 3, 2018 (for transfers received after Dec. 31, 2017). CIBC Investor’s Edge Cash Back Promo March 1, 2018
Scotia iTrade Open and fund a new account with Scotia iTRADE with at least A) $25,000; B) $50,000; C) $100,000; D) $250,000; E) $500,000 or F) $1M+ and you may be eligible to receive a pre-paid Visa gift card worth A) $50; B) $100, C) $200; D) $300; E) $600 or F) $1200. Use code VISA18 when signing up. Be sure to read terms and conditions for full details. A) $25,000 B) $50,000 C) $100,000 D) $250,000 E) $500,000 F) $1M+ A) $50 B) $100 C) $200 D) $300 E) $600 F) $1200 pre-paid card should arrive by July 31st 2018 Scotia iTRADE offer March 1, 2018
BMO InvestorLine Open a new qualifying account with BMO InvestorLine or fund a qualifying existing account, with at least A) $50,000; B) $100,000 or C) $250,000+ in net new assets and you may be eligible to receive up to A) $50; B) $100 or C) $300 cash back. In addition, eligible individuals can receive an extra $50 as part of the refer a friend program. Use promo code SPARXCASH when signing up for the cash back offer. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more details on the offer. A) $50,000 B) $100,000 C) $250,000+ A) $50 B) $100 C) $300 Cash back will be deposited the week of Aug. 13, 2018. Fall cash back offer Phase 2 January 1, 2018

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Dec. 21, 2017 15:00 PT

Referral Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Incentive Structure Time Limit to Use Commission/Cash Offer Deposit Details Link Deadline
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
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 tbd
BMO InvestorLine If you (an existing BMO InvestorLine client) refer a new client to BMO InvestorLine and they open an account with at least $50,000 the referrer and the referee may both be eligible to receive $50 cash. To qualify the referee must use the email of the referrer that is linked to their BMO InvestorLine account. See terms and conditions for full details. $50,000 You(referrer): $50; Your Friend(referee): $50 Payout occurs 45 days after minimum 90 day holding period(subject to conditions). BMO InvestorLine Refer-a-Friend June 30, 2018

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Dec. 1, 2017 13:50 PT

Transfer Fee Promotions

Company Brief Description Maximum Transfer Fee Coverage Amount Minimum Deposit Amount for Transfer Fee Eligibility Details Link Deadline
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 $20,000 or more to a National Bank Direct Brokerage account and they will pay up to $135 plus taxes in transfer fees $135 $20,000 Transfer Fee Rebate 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
Transfer $25,000 or more to Qtrade Investor from another brokerage and Qtrade Investor may cover up to $150 in transfer fees. See terms and conditions for more details. $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 at least $25,000 or more in new assets to TD Direct Investing when opening a new account and you may qualify to have transfer fees reimbursed up to $150. Be sure to contact TD Direct Investing for further details. $150 $25,000 Contact client service for more information (1-800-465-5463). none
Transfer $25,000 or more to Virtual Brokers and they may cover up to $150 in transfer fees. $150 $25,000 Transfer Fee promo tbd
Transfer $25,0000 or more to Scotia iTRADE and they cover up to $150 in transfer fees. $150 $25,000 Transfer Fee promo March 1, 2018
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 information (1-800-567-3343). 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 DisnatTransfer. See details link for more info. $150 $50,000 Disnat 1% Commission Credit Promo January 31, 2018
BMO InvestorLine Open a new qualifying account with BMO InvestorLine or fund a qualifying existing account, by transferring in at least $200,000+ in net new assets and you may be eligible to have transfer fees covered up to $200. Use promo code SPARXCASH when signing up to also be eligible for cash back offer. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more details on the offer. $200 $200,000 Fall cash back offer Phase 2 January 1, 2018

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Dec. 1, 2017 13:50 PT

Other Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Required Details Link Deadline
Disnat Desjardins Online Brokerage, in conjunction with MoneyTalks, is offering 3 months of the “Inside Edge” investor information service to Desjardins Online Brokerage clients. Use promo code DESJ2016 during checkout to qualify. Be sure to read full terms and conditions for more information. n/a MoneyTalks Inside Edge Discount none
Disnat Desjardins Online Brokerage is offering $50 in commission credits for new Disnat Classic clients depositing at least $1,000. See terms and conditions for full details. $1,000 [email protected] 18-30 Promotion none
Scotia iTrade Scotiabank StartRight customers can receive 10 commission-free trades when investing $1,000 or more in a new Scotia iTrade account. Trades are good for use for up to 1 year from the date the account is funded. Use promo code SRPE15 when applying (in English) or SRPF15 when applying in French. Be sure to read full terms and conditions for full details. $1,000 StartRight Free Trade offer none

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Dec. 1, 2017 13:50 PT

Digital Advice + Roboadvisor Promotions

Robo-advisor / Digital advisor Offer Type Offer Description Min. Deposit Reward / Promotion Promo Code Expiry Date Link
Discounted Management Open and fund a new Questrade Portfolio IQ account with a deposit of at least $1,000 and the first month of management will be free. For more information on Portfolio IQ, click the product link. $1000 1st month no management fees KDKFNBBC None Questrade Portfolio IQ Promo Offer
Discounted Management Open a new account with BMO SmartFolio and receive one year of management of up to $15,000 free. See offer terms and conditions for more details. $5,000 1 year no management fees STSF January 2, 2018 SmartFolio New Account Promotion
Cash Back – Referral BMO SmartFolio clients will receive $50 cash back for every friend or family member who opens and funds a new SmartFolio account. Friends and family referred to SmartFolio will receive $50 cash back for opening and funding an account, plus automatic enrollment into SmartFolio’s mass offer in market at the time. See offer terms and conditions for more details. $5,000 $50 cash back (referrer) $50 cash back (referee) Unique link generated from SmartFolio required. None SmartFolio Website
Transfer Fee Coverage Transfer at least $25,000 into Virtual Wealth when opening a new account and you may be eligible to have up to $150 in transfer fees covered by Virtual Wealth. $25,000 up to $150 in transfer fees covered None None Contact customer service directly for more information.
Last Updated: Dec. 1, 2017 13:50 PT