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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – January 27, 2020

2020 is off to one heck of a start. Coronavirus, impeachment trials, airliner tragedy and now news of Kobe Bryant. There is no shortage of bad news to start the new year; however, for markets and investors, the focus on the future might offer a reprieve from the current storm clouds.

In this edition of the Roundup, we highlight some shining stars in the customer service department that are making things challenging for the bank-owned discount brokerage crowd. Of course, that’s not the only challenge facing Canadian banks and bank-owned brokerages, as we cover a financial services firm that’s flipping the script on bank-owned brokerages and likely touching off a wave of new competitive response from Canadian banks. As usual, we’ll close out with investor commentary from forums and on Twitter.

They Serve, They Score: Canadian Discount Brokerages Outshine Banks for Service

With commission rates for online brokerages in the US falling to zero, there is growing pressure on Canadian online brokerages to revisit commission pricing. Already, the past three months have seen two online brokerages in Canada drastically reduce their rates. It begs the question though, when rates fall, what else will DIY investors do to evaluate the experience at an online brokerage?

One important category – especially around RSP season – is service. With many DIY investors either inquiring about or actively going about opening and/or funding RSP accounts, volume at customer service touchpoints is much higher than it is at other points in the year. That said, there are limits to the patience of investors – even Canadian DIY investors – when it comes to having to politely wait their turn to speak to a customer service agent regarding their account.

This past week, financial analysis firm Surviscor, published their latest rankings on the service experience at banks and online brokerages in Canada, and it provided some startling results for the customer service component of these service providers.

Starting first with the good news: Qtrade Investor was ranked the best in terms of service for the fifth consecutive year of these rankings. This is an impressive feat, especially as many other online brokerages appear to be under resourcing this key driver of the service experience. Even more impressive, Qtrade scored 98% on their service assessment – a near perfect in terms of the evaluation criteria.

Another interesting observation from these rankings is that two of the top four firms in terms of service are online brokerages. Questrade, a popular discount brokerage, placed third in these rankings with a respectable score of 90% (Questrade tied for third place with First Calgary Financial). The closest big-bank owned online brokerage was RBC Direct Investing which ranked 8th, scoring 79%. Amazingly, online brokerage is outperforming the banking services providers when it comes to connecting with customers quickly and appropriately.

Drilling deeper into the results reveals even more fascinating clues to the current state of customer service at Canadian online brokerages. The following figure shows the scores of the discount brokerages that were assessed during this ranking period. Of the 14 firms that were assessed, the biggest takeaway when looking at the field as a whole is just how far apart service experiences can be. The rankings ranged from 98% (at Qtrade Investor) to 4% (at Canaccord Genuity Direct). In fact, only five brokerages managed to score above 50%, and even then, after the second place score of 90%, scores depleted rapidly.

What really stood out from these scores, however, was the transition from fifth place Interactive Brokers (62%) to sixth place National Bank Direct Brokerage (35%). When asked on Twitter about the steep drop-off, Surviscor explained that “The calculation is based on a firm’s performance versus industry peers. The lower % indicates that a firm has a tough time being a top 5 at any point and probably sits in the 60-80 hour response range. The high scores mean some downs at times but mostly ups which is acceptable.”

For Canadian DIY investors, the harsh reality is that expecting a speedy response from an online brokerage is more the exception than the rule.

In looking at the top two firms, and in particular their commission rates, the position that ‘you get what you pay for’ doesn’t really seem to account for the fact that Questrade is able to deliver a standard of customer service well above almost all other online brokerages even though their standard commission pricing is lower (on average). In other words, high commission prices don’t equate to better customer service.

Unlike an online platform or a commission price, however, customer service may not be a feature that many clients ever really need to turn to. This explains why, for example, on the JD Power Investor Satisfaction survey, customer service does not factor heavily into the overall score. That said, long wait times, ‘inaccessibility’ or the perception of slow service are things that can drive clients who experience them to look for new business elsewhere.

That these rankings are scored on a relative basis is doubly challenging for the entire field of online brokerages chasing Qtrade Investor’s service delivery model. Rankings such as these point out definitive leaders in this category of feature, so much so that service can be (and is) a key differentiator for Qtrade Investor. Further, service is not easy to change overnight, which means Qtrade Investor is likely to enjoy a decent shot at keeping their win-streak alive next year. At this point, only Questrade appears to be giving them a run for their money in the service category according to these rankings. And, unless online brokerages competing with the two Q-named firms don’t want to see customers start losing faith in the service capabilities of their online brokerage, these rankings are a great wake-up call for change. Let’s hope that call isn’t left waiting on hold for too long.

Wealthsimple’s Cheque-Mate to Canadian Banks

Up until 2020, the combination of online investing and personal banking was tidily summed up by the title ‘bank-owned brokerage.’ This year, however, it seems like we’re going to have to come up with both a new term as well as find out what happens when online investing gets into banking.

This past week, Wealthsimple took yet another dig at the traditional financial service providers in Canada by offering a high interest savings account (2.4%) that now has a card that you can spend directly from. This brings Wealthsimple one step closer to being a brokerage-owned bank – something that doesn’t yet exist in Canada or the formal vocabulary of the financial services conversation. And it is big news to be sure.

Not content with just rolling out a high interest rate, the new account from Wealthsimple, named “Cash,” is also going to have a pretty slick-looking card and bring a whole new level of aesthetic experience to the ultimately forgettable, plastic debit card. Made out of tungsten, this is the kind of insta-worthy object millennials can’t wait to get their hands (and phones) on, which means that the marketing snow ball is going to go full avalanche once this goes entirely live. 

A great case in point is from Robinhood in the US. The rollout of a high interest savings/chequing feature from Robinhood, paired with a very classy looking card, has shown to be a hit with younger audiences. For Wealthsimple, this foray into banking represents their strategy to simplify and democratize finance.

In addition to collecting interest and being able to make purchases with the card, here are some other features that sound remarkably familiar to what keeping your money with a bank could do:

  • Direct deposit
  • Bill pay
  • Interac e-transfers

It’s also compatible with Google Pay and Apple Pay, has no foreign exchange transaction fees, and will refund ATM fees.

So, even though Wealthsimple started out as a ‘robo-advisor’, it has clearly got bigger plans in mind to handle financial services well beyond investing.  At some point, there will be an integration with Wealthsimple Trade and Wealthsimple, however, with the fact that Wealthsimple is leading the charge of being able to do what the banks do except cheaper.

Really at this point, the most elegant way to summarize what’s about to happen is that this is likely going to be a ‘shut up and take my money’ moment.

Wealthsimple just took the market for their services from Canadians interested in investing, to Canadians interested in earning. What a seismic shift in messaging, and the fact they have labelled this as just the beginning begs the most sacred question of great marketing, which is what are they going to come up with next?

We’re staying tuned to find out.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

From the Forums

Model Material

Redditors weigh in on the yearly model investment portfolio check-in released by the popular blog, Canadian Couch Potato. Click here to learn about some important changes, the removal of an individual three-ETF option, the debates over discount brokerage choice, and much more.

Getting Ready for the Big Gain

A curious user asks fellow Redditors to venture a guess about what the next big, unexpected, “once in a lifetime” stock opportunity may be. Answers range from water to niche biomedical technology to mushrooms lead into lively discussions in this post.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap on the week that was. It’s tough to close out the Roundup and open the week with a loss. But, as all traders eventually come to know, losses are part of the journey. Still, some sting more than others.

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – January 20, 2020

There’s snow doubt about it, winter definitely showed up in Canada this past week. Of course, for those fortunate or wise enough to have been prepared, weathering the storm just seemed like just a matter of time.

Speaking of time, curling up by a cozy fire to read this edition of the Roundup is a great way to get up to speed on a few interesting developments that took place amidst all the wild weather this past week. To kick things off, we look at the latest (and long-awaited) update to a mobile app for one online brokerage. From there, we provide an update to the deals & promotions being offered by Canadian discount brokerages as a familiar cast member makes a re-appearance just in time for the RSP season. Also, the race to the top of the online brokerage mountain in the US is providing some interesting clues to online brokers here in Canada. Finally, we welcome back the comments and critiques from DIY investors on Twitter and in the forums.

Virtual Brokers Unveils New Mobile App

With more investors turning to their mobile devices for just about everything, having a strong mobile app experience for online brokerages is no longer becoming a ‘nice to have’ feature. In fact, with brokerages like Robinhood (in the US) and Wealthsimple Trade going ‘mobile first’ with their online investing experiences, there is little room for error for existing online brokerages when trying to retain clients.

After a long-awaited update, Virtual Brokers has begun rolling out their new mobile app for both iOS and Android. The new app, which replaces their existing Power Trader Mobile app couldn’t have come any sooner for many clients.  Power Trader Mobile, which has been around since 2013, managed just 2 stars out of 5 on both Google’s Play Store and the Apple App Store.

So, hopefully, with a new year there’s a new start to the mobile experience. Already the early reviews on the App Store paint a picture of a better experience. Although there are only 2 reviews, the score of 4.5 from what look to be beta testers, looks promising.

The features on the new mobile app enable users to trade stocks and mutual funds – including get stock quotes; view account and transaction details; review orders and positions; withdraw and deposit funds, as well as view basic charts.

The interface of the new app also appears to be much more modern looking and easier to navigate. Screen shots available on the App Store highlight a refreshed look and improved user experience.

Like the refresh of a website, the launch of a new trading platform isn’t going to generate a lot of news or waves for DIY investors. Yes, it is something that is probably going to be appreciated by the scores of patient clients who were waiting for something better but the current release of the mobile app by Virtual Brokers is not so much a game changer as it is something that brings them back into contention with other brokerages.

One of the bigger challenges facing Virtual Brokers in the highly competitive online brokerage space in Canada is to get online investors to pay attention to this and any new features they roll out. While the online brokerage rankings offer a great way to showcase Virtual Brokers to the readership of the Globe and Mail, there is a lot of ground to cover to compete against their traditional rivals, Questrade, and the bank-owned brokerages in terms of brands that investors will talk about or tune into. Features like a mobile app launch are important but to truly stand out, pricing and innovation are key elements that should take centre stage. 

New (Reappearing) Deal for RBC Direct Investing

As we tick closer to the RSP contribution deadline, there is yet another discount brokerage deal announcement crossing the wires. Making a reappearance to the deals and promotions section this month, and in time for the RSP season, is a familiar commission-free offer from one of the most popular online brokerages – RBC Direct Investing.

Their 25 commission-free trade offer is back. With trades that are good for up to one year, a minimum deposit of $5,000 to qualify and an expiry date well after the contribution deadline, there is a low hurdle to qualify for this promotion at this bank-owned online broker.

With the re-entry of RBC Direct Investing to the premiere tier of offers for DIY investors, the major bank-owned online brokers are now all offering something substantial this RSP season. In fact, there are really only a handful of online brokerages who don’t have a major offer in this category at this time – notably Virtual Brokers and HSBC InvestDirect. With the bigger or better-known providers now offering up something substantial, there is not going to be any better time for those on the sidelines to launch an offer that can compete with the other online providers.

Schwab Rallies Despite Earnings Miss

If there’s one thing that investors pay attention to when it comes to stocks, it’s earnings. And, generally when earnings don’t meet expectations, prices usually fall. Of course, when they don’t, there is always a pretty good reason behind the gravity-defying behaviour and often it comes back to a bet on something bigger on the horizon.

Such was the case for the largest online brokerage in the US (and planet), Charles Schwab, who reported quarterly earnings this past week. While the reported earnings per share fell short of estimates by a few pennies, the eye-popping numbers that also accompanied this earnings report demonstrates just how big of a juggernaut Schwab has become on the heels of their decision to go to zero-commission equity trading and to acquire their large rival TD Ameritrade.

One big stat to pay attention to in their latest earnings announcement was the drop of commission revenues of 58% (down to $86 million dollars US). Nonetheless, the bigger news is that client assets under management ballooned 24% higher in the year to cross the $4 trillion dollar (US) mark – a new record high for the online brokerage.

For the share price to rise by almost 3% to end the week is signal by investors that they’re looking at the future for this online brokerage with optimism. Indeed, the assets that continue to get accumulated by Schwab are a great reminder that sustainability for online brokerages is going to be linked either to scale, operational efficiency, or irresistible innovation. For Canadian online brokerages, it’s tough to point to any brokerages right now that are winning based on personality (although Wealthsimple is certainly putting on a clinic as far as marketing is concerned), so it’s either go big, go fast, or go home. And as far as the market’s concerned, it seems that go big is the winning option for now.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

From the Forums

Age-Old Tips

A user wonders if their plan of allocating “my age minus 10 to bonds” is considered wise and fellow Redditors weigh in on a potentially outdated, and overworked, practice. Read more here.

Lights, Camera, Class-Action

When it comes to being in the spotlight ahead of RSP season, the Canadian financial service industry invests quite a bit to be top of mind. In this Reddit post, however, there is a significant storm brewing in the form of a class-action lawsuit over the way mutual funds were recommended to investors.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap on another bumpy week in the markets. In spite of the of volley of news stories of various degrees of shocking, equity markets in the US are sloping higher than a Newfoundland snow drift and Canadian equity markets are also pushing to new heights. If there’s solace or good news to be found anywhere, right now it’s in market momentum. And a Superbowl featuring the 49ers and Chiefs.

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – January 13, 2020

Welcome to 2020! Lots has happened while the Weekly Roundup has been on hiatus, however much like the snow blanketing rooftops all across the country (including Vancouver), there’s lots of news to shovel through and remarkably a lot to look forward to for DIY investors this RSP season.

In this first edition of the Weekly Roundup in 2020, we highlight the biggest story so far of the new year, the launch of new deals for DIY investors. From there, we report on the latest commission price drop from a turf war in Quebec that might actually start spilling over into the rest of the Canadian online brokerage market. Also, we’ll cover a neat feature for DIY investor clients of one bank-owned online brokerage that will start a new kind of streaming war (that doesn’t feature a baby Yoda unfortunately). Alas to make room for some extra stories, we’ve sidelined the sardonic tweets and put investor forum commentary on ice, but they’ll be back next edition.

New Year, New Deals

What better way to start the new year than with news of big deals and promos for DIY investors eager to open an online investing account. This year, there appears to be quite the battle between bank-owned online brokerages.

With 9 cash back or free trade promotions for Canadian DIY investors to now choose from, this isn’t the highest number of offers we’ve seen in this category, however what does stand out is the number of bank-owned online brokers in the category as well as the type of offers in play.

The new month has already seen deals from BMO InvestorLine launch and as of publication of the Roundup, a new promotion from Qtrade Investor.

Most of Canada’s online brokers have come to market with cash back offers which suggests they mean business when it comes to getting the attention of DIY investors.

In particular, the battle between bank-owned brokerages CIBC Investor’s Edge, Scotia iTRADE, and BMO InvestorLine is a fierce one with the latest offer by BMO InvestorLine narrowly edging out competitor deals in each of the deposit tiers except for the $500,000 mark (at which point they’re tied with Scotia iTRADE).

For the non-bank-owned online brokerages as well as the smaller bank-owned online brokers, however, competing against the bigger players is going to be especially difficult. In the absence of blockbuster features (like the one that RBC Direct Investing rolled out at the end of 2019), the options for competing online brokerages are limited. Nonetheless, Qtrade Investor’s latest offer appears to hold its own in several deposit tier categories – and even is higher than the largest online brokerage in Canada, TD Direct Investing.

Of course, for those that are on the sidelines, there is always the ‘nuclear’ option of dropping commission prices substantially to get attention this RSP season. As we’ve witnessed already this year (in 2020) there is one online brokerage that has dropped commission rates lower AND offered up a commission-free trading bonus, so it is possible to do both, however the first challenge of getting on the radar of investors is a unique hurdle that less popular online brokerages have to overcome.

With the RSP contribution deadline now just a few more weeks away, it will be interesting to see if any online brokerages not currently offering up either a cash back or commission-free trade offer will step forward and what they will step forward with. It is highly likely that we will see more offers in the next few weeks so we’ll keep monitoring this increasingly active space.

Desjardins Online Brokerage Drops Commission Prices

Snow and temperatures aren’t the only things falling to start 2020, prices for online trading are also coming down. Even though it took a while for them to respond (they also may have been dealing with that whole data breach thing too), Desjardins Online Brokerage finally found a way to counter the incredible commission price drop launched last year by their crosstown rival National Bank Direct Brokerage.

To start, the standard commission for Desjardins Online Brokerage has been reduced from 9.95 per trade down to 6.95 per trade. Compared to National Bank Direct Brokerage, this works out to a slightly better deal since only National Bank clients receive the $6.95 per trade pricing. Standard pricing at National Bank Direct Brokerage is still $9.95 per trade.

For active investors, however, Desjardins Online Brokerage really dropped the gloves on National Bank Direct Brokerage by beating them the commission price for this lucrative customer. For active investors, defined at Desjardins Online Brokerage as those who trade at least 30 times per month, commission pricing has dropped to $0.75 per trade. At National Bank Direct Brokerage, the rate for active investors (defined as those who trade at least 100 times per quarter) is $0.95 per trade. Thus, on both the cost per trade as well as the hurdle to qualify, Desjardins Online Brokerage has come out ahead – at least for equities trading. For options trading, however, the required minimum charge for active investors at National Bank Direct Brokerage is $8.20 which is cheaper than the minimum charge at Desjardins Online Brokerage at $8.75.

For investors aged 30 or younger, National Bank Direct Brokerage still holds an edge over Desjardins Online Brokerage. NBDB offers younger investors a $4.95 per trade commission rate as well as 10 commission-free trades per year. By comparison, Desjardins Online Brokerage has their “[email protected] 18-30” offer which has 5 commission free transactions (one time). Clearly, there is still some work to do for Desjardins Online Brokerage to catch up to National Bank Direct Brokerage for the younger investor segment. However, this latest series of price reductions by Desjardins Online Brokerage highlight another important storm brewing in the Canadian online brokerage space.

While it is an open secret that no major Canadian online brokerage wants to be the first to lower their commission rates to zero, the reality is that the price brawl between Quebec’s largest online brokers could spill over into other parts of Canada too. The price drops for active investors make sense as a starting point, since active investors will certainly be inclined to trade more volume but also subscribe to data packages and trading platforms as well as to dabble in options trading. Keeping these customers happy is crucial as they are the most savvy of what’s going on in the online brokerage world. Ultimately, however, it is a matter of time before mainstream investors get access to lower standard commission rates.

With Desjardins Online Brokerage lowering their active trading commission rates down to $0.75 per trade, the Canadian discount brokerage industry is plumbing new lows for commission rates (Wealthsimple Trade excluded). While the major Canadian online brokerages are still likely to take a wait and see approach, the smaller players are already flashing signs of what is needed to compete in a world where zero commission stock trading is a reality for millions of investors.

Lowering prices may not be fun for Canadian online brokers, but the price of leaving commission prices higher than everyone else seems like it’s going to be more costly in the long run.

RBC Direct Investing Gets Real

An investor is going to be only as good as the information they receive. When it comes to DIY investing, one of the biggest challenges investors face is finding convenient access to the prices of stocks they’re invested in and those they’re following. For most DIY investors, delayed quotes or ‘snap quotes’ (the kind you get from hitting refresh on your browser) were the norm unless you were prepared to pony up significant fees for streaming data.

Last month, however, RBC Direct Investing unveiled an incredibly valuable feature for DIY investors – streaming real-time quotes – at no additional cost and with no trade minimums required to access this feature for free.  Unlike most of their peer firms, streaming real time quotes are not part of the standard offering. Interestingly, as a shift has taken place in website formats to only display a minimum amount of information on websites, finding information on platforms and data has become a bit more challenging than it historically used to be. One possible reason for this is because “most” users aren’t really active traders and it would therefore be less of a prominent feature to talk about or make space for on a ‘minimalist’ design website. Nonetheless, a quick scan of other online brokerages shows that TD Direct Investing offers snap quotes as does Questrade, however the streaming option at both of these brokerages will cost extra. On top of providing free access to streaming quotes, one nice touch that cuts down on the amount of paperwork is that there aren’t any additional agreements that are required to be signed with the exchanges from which data is being pulled. This simply means it’s easier to get going for existing clients and potential new clients who wouldn’t really have wanted to go through the hassle of a feature they wouldn’t likely use.

Of course for Canadian DIY investors, the upside here is that while RBC Direct Investing’s commission prices are still at the standard levels, there is certainly more value to be gained with these features now in place. It is unlikely that the ultra-active investors or day traders will need or want to sign on to RBC Direct Investing for this kind of feature, but for moderately active or curious passive investors, this is certainly a ‘nice to have’ feature that can provide additional context on investing opportunities.

Certainly, features that improve the ability of investors to make better-informed decisions are welcomed. Of course, it is equally important for any investors who now have more convenient access to the flashing numbers and colours that accompany real-time information to exercise caution and discipline when pursuing a trading opportunity.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap on the reboot to the Weekly Roundup. There’s lots of action taking place for investors to digest to start the new year. A heads up to investors in Vancouver to check out the annual Vancouver Resources Investment Conference for a look at mining-related investment opportunities as well as for some fun investor content. Stay warm out there and for those contemplating account openings, this is the time of year to go shopping for a bargain. Good luck and have a profitable start to 2020!

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Discount Brokerage Deals & Promotions – January 2020

*Update Jan. 21* It’s a new year, a new decade and what better way to ring it all in than with some new discount brokerage deals for online investors looking to find a new home for their hard-earned investment dollars. The past year was a time of significant change in the online brokerage space – most notably in the US – but also in Canada as the field of online brokerages continued to evolve along with investor preferences for DIY investing.

Fortunately, deals and promotions for Canadian online investors remain healthy at the start of the new year and this being the busiest stretch in the year for online brokerages, there aren’t that many brokerages that will be sitting on the sidelines for too long. If the “RSP season” rush wasn’t enough of a motivating factor, TD Direct Investing launching a new offer would certainly change the priority for other brokerages. As the largest online brokerage in Canada, TD Direct Investing has a lot of folks paying attention to when promotions take place, and their latest offer (described below) is sure to get some of their peers to act ahead of the RSP contribution deadline.

With a few offers also set to expire in early January, the month will undoubtedly provide some surprises and it will be worth tuning in through the month to see what surfaces. Of course, if there are any promotions that would benefit other DIY investors, feel free to let us know in the comments below.

Expired Deals

*Update: Jan. 21 – Desjardins Online Brokerage’s 1% commission credit promotion came to an end earlier this month.  Not to worry, however, as several other brokerages are also offering new clients commission-free deals at the moment. Scroll down to our tables below to find other similar promos currently available.*

The start of another year is often the chance to start anew. Of course, that means being ready to say goodbye to the things that no longer fit for a new future. Case in point is one of the longest standing offers in the discount brokerage deals & promotions section – the commission discount from Jitneytrade. This offer is finally being retired as Jitneytrade has been acquired by Canaccord Genuity and the online trading service is now known as CG Direct.

Another notable name in the online brokerage space also bid adieu to their commission-free promotion in mid-December. RBC Direct Investing’s 25 commission-free trades deal expired last month. With a minimum deposit threshold of $5,000 it was one of the more accessible offers from a bank-owned online brokerage.

Extended Deals

*Update: Jan. 21 – Those who missed BMO InvestorLine’s Refer-a-Friend promotion can rejoice, because the brokerage has extended this deal for an additional year. The referral promo benefits both the referrer and referee, providing a cash back incentive for both parties, and expires on January 5, 2021. See table below for additional details.*

While there were some deals that didn’t make the leap from 2019 to 2020, it was great to see two different offers from Questrade find their way into the new year. Questrade’s five commission-free trades, a staple offer for low balance account openings, has now been extended out to the end of 2020 as has their active trader program promotion.

New Deals

*Update: Jan. 14 – Qtrade Investor has launched a new tiered cash back offer for DIY investors. Investors who open and fund a new Qtrade account with at least $25,000 in new assets by March 31, 2020 and may be eligible to receive a cash credit ranging from $75 up to $2,000. Individuals who contribute more than $1,000 through pre-authorized contributions by December 31, 2020 may also be eligible to receive an extra $50. See table below for more details.*

*Update: Jan 8 – With RSP contribution season now in full swing, BMO InvestorLine has launched a new tiered cash back offer that is set to compete aggressively against its bank-owned online brokerage peers. BMO InvestorLine’s new offer ranges from $250 cash back for deposits of $50,000 to $2,000 cash back for deposits of $1M or more. See table below for more details. *

Of course, the biggest deal news of 2020 (so far) is the launch TD Direct Investing’s latest tiered cash back offer. With five deposit tiers ranging from $15,000 to $500,000 or more, this cash back promotion is a tactical deal for TD Direct Investing and shows it has carefully weighed which segments of investors it wants to appeal to the most. The lowest tier, which requires a minimum deposit of $15,000, is in and of itself a unique tier compared to other brokerages that have either $10,000 or $25,000 as cutoff points for deposits. At the $15,000 level TD Direct Investing is offering up the most generous cash back amount at $100. In fact, for deposits ranging between $15,000 and $50,000, TD Direct Investing has the highest cash back bonus. Also, for deposits of $500,000 to $1M, TD Direct Investing’s offer of $1,000 cash back is tied with Scotia iTRADE as being the highest cash back bonus. One important note, which is found in the deal terms and conditions, is that in order to qualify for the cash back bonus, at least one commission-generating trade needs to be made by June 30th 2020. See table below for more information and link to terms & conditions.

Interestingly, there was another promotion that surfaced last month from National Bank Direct Brokerage who is offering 20 commission-free trades for users that submit their information via the Hardbacon app website. The free trades are valid for up to 12 months and apply to the first 20 trades on stocks, options and ETFs. Of particular interest, there also appears to be a commission discount from the standard commission of $6.95 per trade to $4.95 per trade for the duration of the offer once the free trades have been used up. See table below for more details.


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

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
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, 2020
Scotia iTrade Open and fund a new Scotia iTrade account to be eligible for up to $1,500 in cash back and $6.99 commission pricing, or up to 500 free equity trades. The amount of cashback and free trades are dependent on the funding of your account. Take a look at the offer details link for further information. $5,000 Cash + discounted commissions, or free trades. $6.99 trades available until June 30, 2020; Cash or commission rebate for free trades available until July 31, 2020. iTrade Offer Details February 29, 2020
Open a new RBC Direct Investing account by March 27th and you may be eligible for 25 commission-free equity and ETF trades. You must deposit or transfer $5,000 in your account by May 8th, 2020 to be able to use this promotion. Make sure that the offer code MFTC2 is applied during account opening. As always, be sure to take a look at the terms and conditions for further details. $5,000 25 commission-free trades 1 year Commission-Free Offer Details March 27, 2020
Open and fund a qualifying new or existing account at TD Direct Investing with at least A) $15,000; B) $25,000; C) $100,000; D) $250,000 or E) $500,000 or more and you may be eligible to receive a cash back reward up to A) $100; B) $200; C) $300; D) $500 or E) $1,000. Use promo code RSPCash20 when applying online. Be sure to read full terms and conditions. A) $15,000 B) $25,000 C) $100,000 D) $250,000 E) $500,000 A) $100 B) $200 C) $300 D) $500 E) $1,000 Cash back will be deposited by Aug. 16, 2020. TD Direct Investing Promotion February 29, 2020
Open and fund a new qualifying account with at least $25,000 and you may qualify for one month of unlimited commission-free trades and up to one month free of an advanced data package. Use promo code ADVANTAGE14 when opening a new account. Be sure to read terms and conditions for full details. $25,000 commission-free trades for 1 month + 1 month of advanced data. 1 month Active Trader Program December 31, 2020
When you transfer funds from another account into a CIBC Investor’s Edge account with assets worth at least A) $25,000; B) $50,000; C) $100,000, you may be eligible to receive A) $100; B) $200; or C) $400 in cash back. A) $25,000 B) $50,000 C) 100,000+ A) $100 B) $200 C) $400 Cash back will be deposited between May 18 – September 17, 2020. CIBC Cash Back Offer Details March 4, 2020
Open and fund a new Qtrade account with at least A) $25,000; B) $50,000 C) $100,00; D) $500,000; E) $1M or D) $2M+ in new assets by March 31, 2020 and you may be eligible to receive a cash bonus of A) $75; B) $150; C) $400; D) $800; E) $1,500 or F) $2,000. Individuals who contribute more than $1,000 through pre-authorized contributions by December 31, 2020 may also be eligible to receive an extra $50. Use promo code QTRADECASH at sign up to qualify. Be sure to read full terms and conditions for more details. A) $25,000 B) $50,000 C) $100,000 D) $500,000 E) $1M F) $2M+ A) $75 B) $175 C) $400 D) $800 E) $1,500 F) $2,000 The cash award will be credited to your cash/margin account in the week of October 30, 2020. Qtrade Investor Q1 2020 Cash Back Offer March 31, 2020
BMO InvestorLine Open a new qualifying account at BMO InvestorLine with new assets worth at least A) $50,000; B) $100,000; C) $250,000; D) $500,000 or E) $1M+, and you may be eligible to receive a cash back reward of up to A) $250; B) $450; C) $800; D) $1,000 or E) $2,000. Use promo code SPARXCASH when registering to qualify. Be sure to read full terms and conditions. A) $50,000 B) $100,000 C) $250,000 D) $500,000 E) $1M+ A) $250 B) $450 C) $800 D) $1,000 E) $2,000 Cash back will be deposited week of October 12, 2020 BMO InvestorLine Cash Back Offer Details March 3, 2020

Expired Offers

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 8, 2020
Last Updated: Jan. 16, 2020 14:16 PT

Referral Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Incentive Structure Time Limit to Use Commission/Cash Offer Deposit Details Link Deadline
BMO InvestorLine If you (an existing BMO InvestorLine client) refer a new client to BMO InvestorLine and they open an account with at least $5,000 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. $5,000 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 January 2, 2020
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 B) $10,000 C) $25,000 D) $50,000 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
If you (an existing Qtrade Investor client) refer a new client to Qtrade Investor and they open an account with at least $1,000 the referrer and the referee may both be eligible to receive $25 cash. See terms and conditions for full details. $1,000 $25 cash back (for both referrer and referee) Cash deposited at the end of the month in which referee’s account funded Refer A Friend to Qtrade Investor none
You can send an invitation link from your Interactive Brokers profile to friends or business contacts for a chance to receive up to $200 reward for each successful referral. The referee needs to maintain $10,000 or more in their account. Please read the full terms and conditions. $10,000 Your can get 30% of the commission generated by each referred account for up to $200.00. Referred clients must maintain at least $10,000 or USD equivalent in their account. 1 year from the account opening date. Interactive Brokers Referral Program none
BMO InvestorLine If you (an existing BMO InvestorLine client) refer a new client to BMO InvestorLine and they open an account with at least $5,000 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. $5,000 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 January 5, 2021

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Jan. 21, 2020 11:12 PT

Transfer Fee Promotions

Company Brief Description Maximum Transfer Fee Coverage Amount Minimum Deposit Amount for Transfer Fee Eligibility Details Link Deadline
Move your brokerage account to Questrade and they’ll cover the transfer-out fee up to $150. $150 n/a Transfer Fee Promo none
Transfer $15,000 or more to RBC Direct Investing and they will pay up to $200 in transfer fees. $200 $15,000 Transfer Fee Rebate Details none
Transfer $15,000 or more into a new HSBC InvestDirect account and you may be eligible to have up to $152.55 in transfer fees covered. $152.55 $15,000 Confirmed via email contact with HSBC InvestDirect Rep. Contact client service for more information. none
Transfer $15,000 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 $15,000 Transfer Fee Rebate 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 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 Transfer Fee Promo Contact client service for more information (1-800-465-5463). 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 information (1-800-567-3343). none
BMO InvestorLine Open a new qualifying account with BMO InvestorLine or fund a qualifying existing account and you may be eligible to have transfer fees covered up to $200. Contact client service for more details. $200 Contact client service for more information Contact client service for more information (1-888-776-6886) none

Expired Offers

Disnat Desjardins Online Brokerage is offering up to $150 to cover the cost of transfer fees from another institution. To be eligible, new/existing clients need to deposit $10,000 into a Desjardins Online Brokerage account. You’ll have to call 1-866-873-7103 and mention promo code DisnatTransfer. See details link for more info. $150 $10,000 Disnat 1% Commission Credit Promo January 8, 2020
Last Updated: Jan. 16, 2020 14:45 PT

Other Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Required Details Link Deadline
Submit your information via the Hardbacon website to be referred to National Bank Direct Brokerage. Open and fund a qualifying account and you may receive up to 20 commission-free trades and discounted trading commissions. Be sure to read full terms and conditions. n/a Hardbacon Free Trade Promo 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: Jan. 2, 2020 16:30 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. $1,000 1st month no management fees KDKFNBBC None Questrade Portfolio IQ Promo Offer
Cash Back Open and fund a new or existing SmartFolio account with at least $1,000 and you could receive 0.5% cash back up to $1000. Use promo code PROMO1000 when opening a new account. See terms and conditions for full details. This offer can be combined with the refer-a-friend promotion. $1,000 0.5% cash back to a maximum of $1000. PROMO1000 January 2, 2020 SmartFolio Cash Back Promo
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. $1,000 1 year no management fees STSF April 30, 2019 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. $1,000 $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: Jan. 16, 2020 14:55 PT