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How to Choose an Online Discount Broker

With over 15 discount brokerages in Canada to choose from, picking the best online discount broker can seem like a daunting task.  We’ve tried to make that task a lot simpler by putting together a comprehensive comparison and review section on the Canadian discount brokerages.

One of the most important factors in choosing a discount brokerage firm is definitely the cost. Whether you are an advanced day trader or a beginning investor, cost always matters.  What we at Sparx Trading understand, however, is that for those who are starting out, understanding what questions to ask and, more importantly, how to understand the answers is key to making an informed choice.

More than anything, knowing what your needs are before you go shopping around will make for a far less time-consuming experience.  In the links listed below, we’ve tried to break down the process of choosing an online discount brokerage into ‘bite-sized’ pieces so that you can get the relevant information without getting overwhelmed.  We hope you find this useful and please let us know your feedback by sending us a note.


Part 1:  Introduction

Part 2:  What is an Online Discount Brokerage?

Part 3:  Account Types

Part 4:  Commission Pricing I

Part 5:  Commission Pricing II

Part 6:  Beyond Commission Pricing


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On Demand Webinar & Seminar Videos

seminar webinar

Below is a list of “on demand” educational seminars and webinars from a variety of Canadian discount brokerages on a variety of investing-related topics.  To access them, simply click on the video links.  As this list will be constantly reviewed and updated, check back for more links/videos.

Title Category Length Company Host url Description Registration Required
Investing Ideas: Research Tips for Dividend Investors Dividends 0:06 TD Waterhouse Bob Gorman video link Learn why investors use dividend-paying stock strategies in their portfolios during low interest rate environments. And, see how Do-It-Yourself (DIY) investors use the Screener tool in WebBroker Markets & Research to find the right dividend-paying stocks. N
Discover Exchange-Traded Funds Exchange-Traded Funds n/a National Bank Direct Brokerage Daniel Trempe video link This webinar will introduce the main fund families, their unique characteristics and advantages N
Turning Equity Volatility into Yield Exchange-Traded Funds 0:52 Scotia iTrade Horizons ETFs video link Discover how to implement alternative strategies to reduce downside risk in a portfolio while generating attractive monthly income with Horizons Actively Managed enhanced income solutions. This innovative approach provides investors with reduced cost and increased tax
Portfolio Drivers: Investing in Gold, Natural Gas & Other Broad Commodities Exchange-Traded Funds 0:53 Scotia iTrade iShares video link We introduce investors to the options, benefits and reasoning behind commodity investing. Discussion topics will include how to access commodities through different vehicles as well as the structural intricacies behind each method. This includes direct investing through the physical commodities, accessing contracts and equities.
Converting Market Volatility Into Income Using ETFs Exchange-Traded Funds 0:32 Scotia iTrade Horizons ETFs video link Currently we see a great deal of volatility in the markets. Join us to learn how to effectively use Exchange Traded Funds to turn market ups and downs into income.
Income Investing Using ETFs Exchange-Traded Funds 0:34 Scotia iTrade Horizons ETFs video link There has been a great deal of growth in the ETF market recently allowing individual investors a great deal of choice when tracking a particular market. Did you know that ETFs can also be used to effectively generate income? Join us to learn about ways to use ETFs to produce an income stream within your portfolio.
Bonds, The Better Investment Fixed Income 0:57 Scotia iTrade Scotia iTrade video link There’s misconceptions around bonds – investors are often unsure of how they work. Joey Mack will provide some surprising facts about bond market returns, and provide guidance over how investors can participate in the top performing asset classes in Canada.
Educational Summit Investing 1:55 Scotia iTrade Scotia iTrade video link Featuring presentations by recognized industry speakers, AJ Monte of The Market Guys who will discuss Managing Risk in today’s markets and Marcus Schlechta of iShares who will discuss how ETFs can help support your investing objectives.
Take advantage of margin accounts Margin 0:34 National Bank Direct Brokerage Daniel Bonilla video link This webinar is an introduction of the characteristics and function, as well as the advantages, of margin accounts. N
Contract Selection Options 0:58 Scotia iTrade The Montreal Exchange video link Find out which option contracts are best suited to meet your specific objectives and how you can apply some simple rules to make contract selection easier.
The Power of the Put Option Options 1:00 Scotia iTrade AJ Monte of The Market Guys video link AJ Monte of The Market Guys will cover key strategies you can implement when markets take a downturn which will appeal to both traders and investors at all skill levels.
Investing Ideas: Investing with Covered Calls Options 0:05 TD Waterhouse Dino Bourdos video link Learn more about the covered call options strategy as our TD Expert highlights some basic risk and rewards involved in the strategy and why investors may consider using it in a low interest rate environment. Also, see how Do-It-Yourself (DIY) investors use WebBroker to implement a covered call strategy. N
Five mistakes that options traders make Options n/a Questrade InvestView video link Options can be a good strategy for leveraging your portfolio. However, many new options traders (and, frankly, many seasoned options traders) make the same mistakes over and again. Sign up for this webinar to learn how to avoid the five most common mistakes:
Advanced Options Strategies: Straddles & Strangles Options 0:57 Scotia iTrade The Montreal Exchange video link The purchase of a call and a put simultaneously on the same underlying security allows the investor to take advantage of a volatile move in share price in either direction. Learn which market conditions favour this strategy, what types of stocks to look for and which strike prices and expiration months are
How to Manage Risk in Volatile Markets Risk Management 0:54 Scotia iTrade AJ Monte of The Market Guys video link Join The Market Guys as they describe strategies you can use to limit the downside risk while protecting profits in your stock portfolio.
The Science of Setting Stops Risk Management 0:59 Scotia iTrade AJ Monte of The Market Guys video link Come prepared to join The Market Guys for a REAL-TIME stock charting session where you are invited to provide your own stock symbols for analysis.
How to Manage Risk Using the 1% Rule Risk Management 0:58 Scotia iTrade AJ Monte of The Market Guys video link Join us as Rick and A.J. talk about protecting your downside in these volatile markets
Profit from Knowing the Best Times to Trade Risk Management 0:46 Scotia iTrade video link Many professional traders pick & choose their spots to trade because they know what periods of the day are most likely to lead to profits. Let Fausto teach you the “rhythms” of the market from his decades of experience.
The 10 Most Frequent Mistakes Traders/Investors Make Risk Management 1:00 Scotia iTrade AJ Monte of The Market Guys video link Join AJ Monte of The Market Guy as he covers the major repetitive errors made by traders and investors alike and how to avoid them in your own portfolio.
The Market Guys Risk Management Strategies for Traders Risk Management 1:00 Scotia iTrade AJ Monte of The Market Guys video link We kick off the first of 3 Risk Management sessions this month with one of the top teachers in the industry. Join us to learn how to protect your stock and ETF positions using various methods. Presented by AJ Monte of The Market Guys.
Stay Out of Market Maker Traps – and Watch Your Profits Grow Risk Management 0:48 Scotia iTrade AJ Monte of The Market Guys video link Learn about common market maker set-ups and how to identify traps from a distance & avoid them to enhance your profits. Presented by: Fausto Pugliese, Founder & President of Cyber Trading University.
Mechanics of a Short Sale Short Selling <10 min Interactive Brokers Interactive Brokers video link The Mechanics of a Short Sale is a tutorial that is designed to show you the inner workings of how a Short Sale works.
Short Selling Short Selling 0:33 National Bank Direct Brokerage Daniel Bonilla video link This webinar is an introduction of the characteristics and function, as well as the advantages, of short selling accounts N
Charts & Patterns (a picture is worth 1000 words) Strategy 0:58 Scotia iTrade AJ Monte of The Market Guys video link Join The Market Guys as they give you the tools you need to identify patterns and simplify charting.
Trading Strategies to Consider for 2012 Strategy 1:01 Scotia iTrade AJ Monte of The Market Guys video link It’s a new year with new beginnings and new challenges. What new ideas can you place in your trading and investing toolbox for 2012? Let AJ Monte explore some possibilities with you.
Combining Technical & Fundamental Analysis Strategy 0:53 Scotia iTrade AJ Monte of The Market Guys video link Far too many investors and traders make the mistake of preferring one method of stock analysis over the other. Join The Market Guys as they show you how and why you need to use both.
Benefit from investing in the U.S. Strategy 0:05 BMO Investorline video link N
Key Strategies for a Bear Market Strategy 1:00 Scotia iTrade AJ Monte of The Market Guys video link Have past market downturns made you shy away from investing? Does today’s market volatility have you scratching your head over what to do? Let AJ Monte show you how to position yourself in order to take advantage of a market downturn. This session will be followed by an open Q&A session on Aug. 20th where you can volunteer stocks for analysis.
Picking Profitable Stocks in Volatile Markets Strategy 1:01 Scotia iTrade AJ Monte of The Market Guys video link Does volatility scare you as as investor? Wish you could understand how trends can influence the future possible direction of the markets? Join AJ Monte as he shows you how to make volatility your best friend in the markets by teaching you how to “Follow The Money”.
Bollinger Bands Technical Analysis n/a Questrade InvestView video link Bollinger bands are a powerful indicator for measuring volatility, which is essentially price movement. Register for InvestView?s Bollinger bands webinar and learn how to effectively use this important tool in your technical analyses.
Introduction to Technical Analysis Technical Analysis 0:25 Interactive Brokers Interactive Brokers video link The Technical Analysis Tour explains the important role of the chart analyst and how technical and fundamental analyses differ. In this introductory tour, you will learn how to identify areas of support and resistance on a chart, the role of different time frames, and how to interpret basic trend formation
Introduction to Technical Analysis with Recognia Technical Analysis 1:04 National Bank Direct Brokerage Kathryn Griffiths – Recognia video link This webinar provides an overview of technical analysis and how it can be used to help make investment and trading decisions. It includes a review of actual patterns and charts as they are identified by the Recognia system and made available to clients on National Bank Direct Brokerage’s transactional website. N
ETFs best practices Exchange-Traded Funds 0:40 Disnat John Gabriel – Morningstar video link John Gabriel from Morningstar discuss ETF best practices, how investors should use ETFs and how to make them part of your portfolio.
The five pillars of evaluating mutual funds Mutual Funds 0:41 Disnat Nick Dedes – Morningstar video link Nick Dedes, Mutual Fund Analyst at Morningstar to discuss the five pillars of evaluating mutual funds.
Stockscores Canadian Active Trader Expo (SCATE) – 2012 Strategy 0:56 Disnat Tyler Bolhorn – Stockscores video link Tyler Bolhorn from Stockscores explains the basics of stock analysis and trading at the 2012 Stockscores Canadian Active Traders Expo (SCATE)
How to Make a Living Trading the Stock Market  Strategy 0:12 Disnat Tyler Bolhorn – Stockscores video link Tyler Bolhorn from Stockscores explains how to make trades holding stocks for minutes or days. This is a video to watch if you want to quit your day job to become a full time trader
Manage Your Retirement Portfolio in Only Minutes a Day Strategy 0:20 Disnat Tyler Bolhorn – Stockscores video link Tyler Bolhorn from Stockscores explains how to manage your retirement portfolio in only minutes a day using Stockscores, stops and technical analysis.
How do you limit your losses? Use options to hedge your portfolio Options 0:51 Disnat Jason Ayres – Montreal Exchange video link This recorded webinar explains the safe usage of options as a means to hedge a portfolio against market risk. Learn to use options to help maintain profits and limit losses.
Emotion Control & Trading – The Mindless Investor Strategy 0:21 Disnat Tyler Bolhorn – Stockscores video link Tyler Bolhorn from Stockscores explains to investors how to manage their emotions and risk. Taking emotion out of trading is probably the most important element a trader as to obtain to be successful at stock trading.
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Technical Analysis

Technical Analysis

With so many people talking about technical analysis and using stock charts to help make trading and investing decisions, here are some good tutorials to get your feet wet with some of the key concepts and terms used in technical approaches.

Top marks go to the folks at Interactive Brokers for preparing this handy introduction to technical analysis:


This is a great tutorial on charting prepared by Marketwatch explains many terms and concepts used by investors and traders and  can be found here:

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Short Selling – Two Perspectives


Ever wondered how shorting a stock works? A couple of handy tutorials help explain this often misunderstood approach to trading:

The first is a bit of a technical explanation prepared by Interactive Brokers on how a short sale works:


A simpler version prepared by the Khan Academy can be found here:

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Know your customers and your competition

It almost seems so obvious that businesses should know who their customers are. In the real world, many small businesses can get to know their customers’ buying habits and taste, and they even might get to be on a first name basis with them. As companies get bigger, they don’t see customers per se, they see statistics about their customers, such as what gender they are, where they live, what kinds of products are they buying and at what times. Big or small, it pays to know who your customers are and what they want so that, as a great trader (read: middle man or middle woman), you can more effectively exchange your goods for your customer’s cash. An interesting ‘quirk’ of the stock market is that your customer can also be your competitor.

Even though knowing exactly who your customer is just as crucial for the do-it-yourself investor as it is for any other business, the reality of online trading makes this infinitely more challenging. Your “customers” are just numbers and letters on a screen. You have no idea on who they are or what their buying habits are. All you really see are share prices either rising or falling, and from there you can infer that there is either increasing interest in a stock or decreasing interest at any particular price on any given day. And as unsatisfying as that is, millions of people around the world base their stock trading decisions simply on what they are inferring from movements in stock prices. What separates the great traders from the rest of the herd is the understanding what their customers are looking for.

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Sugar and Spice, and Everything Price, That’s What Markets are Made of

Most people know of a co-worker, a friend or even a family member who is actively involved in the stock market – maybe that person “made a killing” or “lost their shirt”. The greatest feature of the stock market is also its greatest hazard: namely that anyone with capital can participate. One of the biggest advantages that great traders have over beginners is that great traders understand that a market is actually an arena of opinions and beliefs.

In this article, we want to expand upon the idea of markets as competitive arenas. Specifically we want to show you that when thinking about trading, it is very important to understand that price is just a reflection of beliefs about a particular stock.

Pick a price, any price

In one of our previous articles, we described the market as a “price discovery mechanism” – that is, through the actions of buyers and sellers of a good (in this case a stock), the market price of that good can be established. In the highly complex world that we now find ourselves in, money – or more accurately purchasing power, is critical to keeping the world going. Having a mechanism to ensure we know how much ‘things’ are worth is absolutely essential to allow people to exchange the right amount of money for those things.

When you see a price quoted for a stock, it is actually slightly misleading in the sense that it leads you to believe that a stock has only one price, when in fact the price for a stock could be one of three prices.  In stock trading language, the price a buyer wants to buy at is known as the “bid price”; the price a seller wants to sell at is known as the “ask price” and the price they ultimately settle on is known as the “last price”.  It is the “last price” that is often quoted as the “market price”.

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An Intro to Markets

What makes a market?

If there’s one thing that you can guarantee about the stock market, it’s that everyone has an opinion. At first blush, it seems fairly obvious that with so many different people participating in the market, there’s bound to be differences of opinion.

What many observers and inexperienced investors/traders don’t do, however, is to look deeper at what it is they’re actually saying by admitting that there are so many different opinions. By acknowledging the differences of opinion in the market, the most profound insight is that not everyone can be right at the same time. In other words, somebody has to be right and somebody has to be wrong. It is this very disagreement, in fact, that makes a market.

Two’s company but three’s a market?

So why is this seemingly trivial piece of information actually incredibly valuable? To understand why, we have to take a step back and understand first where a “market” comes from.

Simply put, a market arises because a buyer wants to buy something and a seller wants to sell something. Where they have to come to some agreement on is price. It is for that reason that markets are sometimes referred to as “price discovery mechanisms”.  One of the favourite questions Sparx encourages beginner traders to ask is: “how much is something worth?” Think about that for just a moment. The answer is “whatever someone is willing to pay for it”. Without both a buyer AND a seller, there is NO market.

Markets are born out of disagreement; they are built on one party believing one thing and another believing the exact opposite. For this reason, buyers and sellers compete directly with one another in what some call a “zero-sum” game meaning that the “winner” wins at the expense of the “loser”. While this is mostly true, there are also slews of “middle men” or brokers that facilitate buyers and sellers’ transactions (more on that in another article).