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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – June 14, 2021

Taking a Moment

There’s a lot that goes into the production of a Weekly Roundup that many readers don’t see. Looking back on the week that was is as much a habit as knowing which letters to capitalize in an online brokerage’s name. Despite the hundreds of times having done this, occasionally something happens in a week that forces a pause from business as usual.

This past week there was a terrible tragedy that took place in London, Ontario. Four members of a family were murdered simply for looking and being different than what someone decided was appropriately Canadian. They were murdered because they were Muslim.

Like many Canadians, it is hard to find words to capture how thoroughly awful and traumatic this event was. And so, we are left with yet another heavy but necessary exercise: to not turn away from the terrible news but this time to watch and engage.

The news cycle will move on before the people will. A young boy will be left to figure out the rest of his life without his parents and sister beside him. Muslims and other religious and ethnic communities across Canada will forever be slightly less trusting that everything will be OK.

Before getting back to business as usual, I wanted to call attention to Islamophobia and the responsibility all of us bear to call out prejudice when and where we see it.

Please take a moment and either watch or read about this family.

All of us have a part to play in looking out for each other.

A Tale of Two Tables: 2021 MoneySense Online Brokerage Rankings Released

It’s hard to believe, but the DIY investor datapalooza (or datastravaganza?) that is characterizing 2021 continues to chug along well into June.

Earlier this month, a popular Canadian investment publication, MoneySense magazine, published their 2021 Canadian online brokerage rankings, essentially capping off the last of the major discount broker rankings for the summer.

Even though the fall feels far away, online brokerages are undoubtedly at work planning for their ramp up at the end of the year. These latest Canadian online brokerage rankings will ultimately prove to be a big part of what will help online investors shape their perceptions and decisions around which online broker they choose to go with, and ultimately impact how online brokerages market and talk about themselves for the rest of the year.

Why is this Online Brokerage Ranking Important?

Now in its ninth year, the MoneySense rankings have become a go-to resource for many DIY investors curious about the online brokerage marketplace in Canada. As the landscape evolves for online brokerages and self-directed investing, so too do these rankings.

Helping MoneySense stay on top of those changes is Surviscor, a financial services research firm that evaluates Canadian online brokerages across a number of different parameters.

Frequent readers of the Weekly Roundup will already be familiar with the research and in particular, the online brokerage rankings, produced by Surviscor. For a timely throwback, be sure to check out our Look Back/Look Ahead series featuring Glenn LaCoste, President and CEO of Surviscor, and the author of this year’s MoneySense online brokerage rankings.

With yet another online brokerage ranking appearing this year, it’s a lot for online investors to digest. The MoneySense rankings in particular offer an interesting way to see the importance of defining what’s “best” when it comes to online brokerages. Also, in digging through the data, we uncovered an interesting relationship between a major driver of investor decision making, cost of services, and the performance on measures of investor experience – like service.

There’s lots to dig into, so grab some caffeine and get ready to scroll.

Methodology

Online brokerage rankings and evaluations help to make sense of the often-confusing question: “which online brokerage is best?”

With several Canadian online brokerage rankings available for online investors to consult, it is important to come back to a familiar concept – that each online brokerage ranking measures the idea of what’s best in a different way.

The MoneySense online brokerage rankings are often cited as a resource to evaluate almost all of Canada’s online brokerages. Like most of the other comprehensive rankings, information is published annually, and as a result, the data takes a snapshot of the past year or so in the world of DIY investing at Canadian online brokerages.

It is important to note that the data for the MoneySense online brokerage rankings comes from financial services research firm Surviscor. Specifically, according to the methodology, the MoneySense rankings are based on a combination of the following Surviscor reviews:

1. Online experience

2. Mobile experience

3. Cost of services experience

4. Service experiences

Points were assigned to each online brokerage according to a points-based system in which each brokerage received a score based on its ranking within the seven sections of the review:

1st = 5 points

2nd = 4 points

3rd = 3 points

4th = 2 points

5th = 1 point

The overall score was the sum of the awarded sections and reported as points.

In addition to reporting on the points earned by each brokerage as part of this review, the MoneySense rankings also reported the “Best online brokers” by category. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Best online broker for fees
  • Best online broker for customer service
  • Best online broker for ETF investing
  • Best online broker for stock investing
  • Best online broker for financial literacy
  • Best online broker for market data
  • Best online broker for customer onboarding
  • Best online broker for mobile experience

Within each of these categories, the top two firms were reported.

Strengths & Limitations

One of the strengths of the review is that there is lots of data reported for investors to consider, and it has been published in a way that identifies the top two firms in each of the stated categories. This saves a lot of time for investors or readers who simply want or need a quick answer from a reputable source.

A big plus this year is that there is a companion publication on the Surviscor blog which dives into detail on the scores and provides more context on the process.

In terms of limitations, presenting this volume of information can be a challenge. For example, the methodology stated:

“Each firm was assigned a score based on its ranking within the seven sections of review (5 points for first; 4 for second; 3 for third; 2 for fourth; and 1 for fifth), and the overall score was the sum of the awarded sections.”

Given that there are eight reported categories (noted above), it was not immediately clear which seven sections of the review were being referred to, and as a result, validating the math or seeing how scores varied across sections would have added important context to rankings.

For example, one of the immediate questions that jumps to mind with the points system is what the maximum possible score would be?  Without that information, it is hard for the reader to get a sense of just how good a particular brokerage is. And, when the scores are close, or tied, the value of points and how they get calculated becomes even more important to contextualize results.

Results

The results for the 2021 MoneySense online brokerage rankings are shown in the following table.

FirmMoneySense PointsMoneySense Rank
Questrade361
National Bank Direct Brokerage312
TD Direct Investing253
Qtrade Direct Investing224
BMO InvestorLine95
Scotia iTRADE66
RBC Direct Investing57
Desjardins Online Brokerage48
Wealthsimple Trade48
Virtual Brokers48
Canaccord Genuity Direct48
CIBC Investor’s Edge212
HSBC InvestDirect113
Laurentian Bank Discount Brokerage014

Questrade took the top spot in this year’s rankings with a total of 36 points, followed closely by National Bank Direct Brokerage (31 points), and TD Direct Investing in third place (with 25 points). Again, without a maximum score, it is difficult to know exactly how well any one brokerage could have done.

The methodology states that there are seven “sections” and a five-point maximum which would imply a maximum score of 35. However, Questrade has clearly exceeded that score, hence some confusion.

Data outside of the top five brokerages was not published in the MoneySense rankings, however, it was available on the Surviscor site, which helped identify additional context on how the entire field of online brokerages performed this year.

One of the first noteworthy items is just how sharp the drop off is from fourth to fifth place in these rankings. Qtrade Direct Investing placed fourth with 22 points. However, BMO InvestorLine, with just nine points, managed to make it into the top five.

Even though on a relative basis, a top five finish may not sound so bad, in the case of this year’s ranking, the distance between fourth and fifth is materially different.

Another interesting observation about the data is the number of firms who tied for eighth place. CG Direct, Desjardins Online Brokerage, Virtual Brokers, and Wealthsimple Trade are very, very different firms, and yet each tied for eighth place with four points.

Somewhat stunning are the positions of CIBC Investor’s Edge and HSBC InvestDirect, who placed 12th and 13th respectively. In the case of the former, being a “Big Five” bank-owned brokerage should in theory enable it to have the resources to score better, but with a score of two points, it implies that Investor’s Edge was rarely a top five brokerage in any of the evaluated categories. Similarly, HSBC InvestDirect scored one point, and it too barely placed in a top five finish in any of the categories measured.

Surviscor’s “behind the scenes” look at the MoneySense rankings also provided some additional context and important takeaways when it came to this year’s analysis. The following five statements were made in reference to the data and the items that online investors (and online brokerages) should pay attention to.

  • Beware the marketing when it comes to fees
  • Firms never get a second chance to make a first impression
  • Financial literacy is weak
  • Mobile experience is still not where it needs to be
  • $0 commission is not always worth it

With so much data to crunch, it can be a challenge for DIY investors and industry analysts alike to form a “big picture” of what’s going on in the online brokerage space.

Surviscor’s multiple studies to measure online brokerages got us curious, so we compiled the ranking data from each of the four online brokerage analyses cited in the MoneySense rankings, and crunched the numbers to see what the correlation would be between the combined rankings of each evaluation and the MoneySense ranking data.

Methodology, Part Deux

First a(nother) note on methodology. The rankings in each of the four different Surviscor evaluations used in the MoneySense ranking were averaged out and reported along with a standard deviation. The computed rank is one that we generated based on the average rank across each of the evaluations.

 To try and get as close to an apples-to-apples comparison of how different online brokerages ranked against each other in each of the four evaluations, it was necessary to make some minor adjustments to the data.

In the Service Experiences, Interactive Brokers was actually evaluated, so for the sake of consistency across comparisons, they were excluded from the data and the ranks of other brokerages adjusted upwards by one. Wealthsimple Trade was assigned the lowest value for not having been able to be measured. For the actual service experience scores, check the link here.

Adjustments were also made in the Online Experience and Mobile Experience rankings. Laurentian Bank Discount Brokerage and CG Direct were assigned the lowest rank since they did not offer anything that could be evaluated using those tools.

Results

One of the first things to stand out is that the top four brokerages in the 2021 MoneySense online brokerage rankings are the same four online brokerages when computing scores across the four Surviscor evaluations, however, the order in which they appear is different.

In the computed rank, the measure that we calculated, Qtrade Direct Investing came in first, followed by National Bank Direct Brokerage, Questrade, and TD Direct Investing, respectively. What also stood out in the top three is that the average rank between Qtrade Direct Investing, National Bank Direct Brokerage, and Questrade is very close, ranging between 4.0 and 4.8. Having the standard deviation handy (shout out to the stats profs who drove home the point about standard deviations) as a measure of consistency, however, adds a bit more nuance to the top three online brokerages.

Specifically, Qtrade Direct Investing has a relatively low standard deviation (2.3) indicating their ranking is relatively consistent from one evaluation to the next. By comparison, Questrade has the highest standard deviation of the group (5.7), which points to the remarkably poor ranking they received in the Cost of Services evaluation (they ranked 13th). Having the context of all the data helps to illustrate where exactly the top three online brokerages excel relative to each other, and to see how consistently (or inconsistently) online brokerages are scoring.

Consistency cuts both ways, however.

RBC Direct Investing had the lowest standard deviation (1.2) of all of the rankings, implying a fairly consistent score across different evaluation studies. Their average rank was sixth, and the computed rank put them in fifth place overall.

By comparison, Virtual Brokers also had a very low standard deviation score (relatively speaking) at 2.1, but their average rank of 9.8 landed them with a computed rank of 13th overall. This implies that Virtual Brokers has consistently performed poorly on the four Surviscor evaluations for 2021.

It was also intriguing to note that after about eighth place in the MoneySense ranking, the divergence between these scores and the computed rank became more pronounced. In particular, CIBC Investor’s Edge ranked 12th in the MoneySense ranking but ninth in the computed ranking, only slightly behind Scotia iTRADE and Desjardins Online Brokerage.

Takeaways

Being able to step back and take a big picture view of the data provides a unique window into how the different evaluations generated by Surviscor come together, and how they compare to the MoneySense rankings.

When placed side by side, the combined Surviscor studies used in the MoneySense ranking show that firms that are strong on experiential factors, such as online, mobile, and service, tended to do better overall in the rankings.

Interestingly, with the exception of National Bank Direct Brokerage, firms that tended to do well on pricing had a negative correlation to performance on the MoneySense or combined Surviscor rankings. This points out that perhaps there is an inverse relationship between the cost of services and the experience of online investing.

Thus, having the additional data presented in a big picture format does help illustrate what exactly online investors would have to trade off. For example, in choosing between Questrade and National Bank Direct Brokerage, investors can see that the tradeoff might be one of “cost of services” versus “online experience.”

Clearly there is lots of data to explore, which can be both a pro and a con for online investors looking for a quick answer to “which online brokerage is best?”

The reality is that rankings help to compress a lot of the analysis into an easy to digest number. However, as illustrated above, how one defines “best” – even when using the same underlying data – can impact how specific brokerages are perceived and reported on by media, online brokerages themselves, and other DIY investors.

What is evident in looking at the big picture of this data is that the field of Canadian online brokerages is crowded, and with even more new entrants poised to add to the numbers, keeping on top of the evolving space is an ongoing challenge. For those that want to avoid the spreadsheets and comparisons, rankings offer a quick shortcut. But like everything else when it comes to investing online, it pays to do your homework.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap on this week’s Roundup. It’s been a difficult week but here’s hoping we can look for, find, and create the good in the week ahead.

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – February 16, 2021

It’s fitting that after so much discussion about “shorts” in the news, we also now have a short(er) trading week upon us. With one fewer trading day, it also means the deadline for RRSP contributions is ticking closer, adding to the pressure that is evidently already building at Canadian online brokerages this month.

In this edition of the Weekly Roundup, we take yet another look at the customer service angle at Canadian online brokerages, this time zeroing in on another recent set of rankings that measure digital interactions. From there, we dive into some exciting new features being launched by Canadian brokerages that will help take some of the guesswork out of investing before and during retirement. As always, we’ll serve up a generous helping of investor commentary from Twitter and the investor forums.

Canadian Online Brokerages Struggle at Delivering Service Online

The drumbeat for better customers service among DIY investors in Canada is getting louder by the day.

Increased coverage among high-profile financial writers in Canada, as well as a number of studies by financial research firms, validates what we have been seeing for many months on social media: Most Canadian online brokerages are falling short on providing timely customer service experiences.

While data has been emerging this year that puts the issues faced by online brokerages in the spotlight, it is somewhat confusing for online investors since different studies measure different aspects of the “service” experience.

Both the actual wait times experienced by Canadian DIY investors and the unpredictability of what users can expect when reaching out as either a customer or an interested consumer have potentially far-reaching consequences to the industry as a whole. And, as the data shows, if these issues are not addressed, the recent online brokerage challenges taking place in the US could spill over to providers here in Canada.

The Story in Numbers

At the end of January, a couple of important Canadian online brokerage rankings were published. We covered The Globe and Mail’s online brokerage rankings in detail earlier this month, with a significant amount of time spent diving into the wait times that were measured at Canadian online brokerages in January (2021).

Online BrokerageWait Times (min)
BMO InvestorLine87
CIBC Investor’s Edge101
Desjardins Online Brokerage170
HSBC InvestDirect125
Interactive Brokers66
National Bank Direct Brokerage69
Qtrade Investor28
Questrade128
RBC Direct Investing90
Scotia iTrade179
TD Direct Investing58
Virtual Brokers7

For a quick refresh, the table above contains the average wait time data reported as part of the online brokerage rankings among the 12 firms that were reviewed. Interestingly, in a post by DALBAR on LinkedIn, additional information about the wait times was provided that illustrates the range of wait times at each firm. Readers of the Weekly Roundup post in which these numbers were thoroughly examined can appreciate why average values, on their own, might not convey the full picture. The study data cited by The Globe and Mail rankings reported the average wait times, but the graphic below adds additional context around those average values.

Aside from the 25x difference between the average of the lowest wait times (Virtual Brokers) compared to the highest average wait times (Scotia iTrade), one of the most striking trends to jump out is variation in wait times that occurred as online brokerages took longer to respond. At the far right of the chart shown above, five firms in particular stand out with highly variable wait time ranges:

Of these firms, it was most evident that Questrade had the highest range of wait times, which stretched from about 50 minutes to just under 300 minutes, with an average of 128 minutes. By comparison, HSBC InvestDirect had an average of 125 minutes but a much narrower range of wait times, stretching from just over 60 minutes to about 210 minutes. When ranges this wide are part of the service experience, it is essentially a gamble for DIY investors as to exactly how long they are going to have to wait before connecting with a service agent.

Another striking feature of the data on the chart is where Qtrade Investor landed in terms of wait times. Their “worst” wait time (of about 50 minutes) was approximately the best wait time that any firm behind them could achieve.

These data points are also important because of how they compare against another set of online brokerage rankings that focused specifically on service levels. Financial services research firm Surviscor also released online brokerage service rankings at the end of January and concluded that there were clear and persistent shortcomings in the response times of most Canadian online brokerages.

Unlike the DALBAR study, which took a snapshot of one week’s worth of telephone data in January 2021, Surviscor conducted 163 service inquiries per online brokerage between January and December of 2020 on contact forms, emails, and social media channels.

FirmResponse Time (hours)
Questrade2.90
Qtrade Investor4.02
Canaccord Genuity Direct11.15
National Bank Direct Brokerage29.38
RBC Direct Investing39.17
TD Direct Investing39.27
Interactive Brokers52.28
Laurentian Bank Discount Brokerage62.30
BMO InvestorLine76.10
HSBC InvestDirect77.55
Desjardins Online Brokerage89.75
Virtual Brokers91.68
Scotia iTrade94.20
CIBC Investor’s Edge104.17

The average industry response time in 2020 ended up being 55 hours, which was actually an improvement over 2019, in which response times across the industry averaged out to 62 hours. One of the most compelling points observed in the Surviscor analysis of service response times, however, was that service has been trending in the wrong direction for many years now, and although COVID-19 can certainly be considered a contributing factor, the data shows that even before the pandemic, meeting customer response times online was a challenge.

Change the Channel or Channel the Change

When comparing the data from the Surviscor and DALBAR studies, it’s clear that the kind of service experience a consumer can encounter with a Canadian online brokerage depends on the channel used, which is a big problem on a number of levels.

First, and perhaps most ironic, is that when it comes to online capabilities for service touchpoints at Canadian online brokerages, in spite of the hairpulling wait times, it is still faster (in most cases) to wait on the phone than it is to send electronic correspondence.

In fact, when comparing the magnitude of the difference between the phone and online channels, the range went from 1x (Questrade) to 786x (Virtual Brokers). Excluding the outliers, the average factor difference was 39x between phone and online interactions. One clear standout in both the digital and telephone categories was Qtrade Investor, which had the shortest wait time on the phone and the second-fastest response time online.

To Surviscor’s point, the digital interactions may have been deprioritized compared to phone channels because customers would be more likely to use the phone channels; however, as far as making a first impression count, most Canadian online brokerages would not get a flattering response.

A second important consideration is that for the financial services industry as a whole, trust is an integral part of consumer confidence.

Granted, DIY investors are flocking to the markets in droves because of perceived generational opportunities to build wealth, but when those same investors are hitting roadblocks to getting issues addressed or questions answered, confidence takes a hit. If you add issues of platform stability to that, then individual investors lose faith that financial services firms are up to the task of safely and reliably providing the opportunities for wealth creation that much of the marketing suggests is possible.

With just a few weeks to go until the RSP contribution deadline for 2020, this is prime time for DIY investors looking to online brokerages for RSP options. It is against this backdrop that the wait times experienced by Canadian investors stand out as something that could ultimately become a much more important component to online brokerage selection than has been the case in the past. Deeper than that, however, the notion of lag time is anathema in the age of online investing.

The recent Robinhood debacle that resulted in trading in certain securities being restricted has been blamed on wait times for trade settlement – a stunning vulnerability in the year 2021. For DIY investors in Canada, the clear and present risk to consider is an online brokerage’s capacity to meet a respectable service delivery standard, especially during times of market volatility or heightened interest (which is arguably when those systems are needed the most).

For Robinhood, not only did they suffer a blow in the court of public opinion, but they are also going to have to answer tough questions from lawmakers and face the wrath of an increasing number of lawsuits. Other than the growing chorus of complaints from Canadian consumers and financial media, there isn’t anyone holding online brokerages accountable for their service standards.

Ironically (again), the longer Canadian online brokerages take to address these service gaps, the more likely it is that the industry will find themselves taking centre stage in a mass media story or, worse, the focal point of a Reddit wave. Make no mistake, the clock on this story is most certainly ticking.

New Features From Online Brokerages Chip Away at Guesswork

After talking at length about where Canadian online brokerages are struggling, it’s a nice change of pace to shift the focus to areas in which they’re looking to innovate and deliver additional value to clients as well as to DIY investors more broadly.

Readers of SparxTrading.com know that we regularly engage with Canadian online brokerages on a number of new features and developments (case in point: our Look Back / Look Ahead series). Two interesting features that were brought to our attention from Canadian online brokerages are worth highlighting to readers.

BMO InvestorLine Launches a Checkup for Portfolios

With a tsunami of new investors joining the stock market, one of the biggest challenges many of them face is understanding how to answer a very basic question: “Am I on the right track?”

Fortunately for DIY investors, BMO InvestorLine recently announced a new online tool that helps investors analyze their current portfolios against a set of investor profiles, to see whether or not their portfolios are in line with their desired investment objectives.

The adviceDirect Portfolio Health Check tool is interesting for a number of reasons, but chief among them is that it is freely available to the general public to use, and it is both simple and fast to complete.

Individuals can enter details about their financial picture (no personally identifiable information is captured) and assess it on four key parameters: asset allocation, diversification, security ratings, and risk. In about three steps, users can quickly see where they measure up to their “personality” type and also see what they may want to consider changing in order to bring their portfolio in line with their respective investing personality type.

In terms of who might be interested, this tool appears to be built around investors (rather than traders) who are interested in taking a portfolio approach to building wealth. This means that the tool is likely to have mass appeal, and it serves as a great starting point to the conversation about whether or not the composition of a portfolio is on target.

From a business development standpoint, this is also an interesting and savvy move by BMO InvestorLine to be part of the conversation about wealth management. Analogous to mortgage calculators helping potential homeowners understand some of the mechanics around house purchases and borrowing, the adviceDirect Portfolio Health Check tool is a timely resource for anyone wanting to get a digital “second opinion” on how their investments stack up. This is entirely in line with their adviceDirect offering, which enables investors to consult with a licensed investment professional about recommendations but leaves the actual work up to the investors themselves to implement.

In a crowded landscape of online brokerages that would normally be focusing on commission pricing, this public-facing tool will enable BMO InvestorLine to be visible to the right kinds of investors at the right moment and, because it is free, for the right price.  

Looking in the RRIF-View Mirror

Against the backdrop of service enhancements at Canadian online brokerages, one important feature launched at the end of 2020 will help clients of RBC Direct Investing who are thinking about income when retiring.

Starting in December 2020, RBC Direct Investing enabled clients with Registered Retirement Income Fund accounts (such as RRIFs, LIFs, LRIFs, RLIFs, PRIFs) to be able to view payment details online, without needing to call or wait for a letter. In light of the wait times on the phone channel, this is a timely development.

To help navigate the most important details of a RRIF, the “RRIF View” provides a snapshot of a client’s plan, with information on the required minimum annual withdrawal amount and scheduled payment dates.

While this is a small development, it is an interesting example of a feature that is important to users who have this kind of account – it got a quick highlight as part of the Navigators series that publishes updates at RBC Direct Investing.

At this time of year, there is a lot of discussion about contributing to RRSPs, but there isn’t nearly as much information available on the next steps of funding retirement, in particular the variety of options available to individuals with an RRSP.

Fortunately, RBC Direct Investing also has a fairly good guide explaining RRIFs, which is helpful for individuals needing to navigate this new account type. With this new feature, RBC Direct Investing might also have the opportunity to spark a conversation about online brokerage platforms and the ease with which RRIF account holders can stay on top of key information.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

From the Forums

Timing the Market

A potential investor asks in this post whether they should wait until after the stock market crash – or at least massive correction – that many experts predict is imminent, in order to buy stocks at rock-bottom prices. Fellow Redditors share their strong opinions about the value of time in the market versus trying to time the market.

Up, Up & Away

From boredom to FOMO to a record bull market, there are many reasons that retail investing is surging in Canada right now. In this post, hundreds of Redditors discuss meme stocks, cryptocurrency, market bubbles, crashes, index funds, interest rates, and a whole lot more.

Into the Close

With the combination of Lunar New Year, Valentine’s Day, and Family Day, there have been many reasons to celebrate this past week, and Friday being that much closer certainly adds one more item to the list. There’s a lot of gripping drama playing out in the US this week, with the GameStonks trade under the microscope. With snow and cold showing up just about everywhere, including Texas, this is going to be a weird one. Hang in there.

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Discount Brokerage Deals & Promotions – February 2021

Just because the month is short, doesn’t mean we can’t be long on fun! From Lunar New Year to Valentine’s Day to Family Day, there is much cause for celebration – with safe social distancing in mind, of course. Another reason for DIY investors to rejoice: there’s still time to meet the RRSP contribution deadline for 2020!

Amidst the recent stock market volatility, there is one constant to look forward to at this time of year: a steady stream of promotions from online brokerages ahead of the RRSP contribution deadline. With over 30 kinds of promotional offers in the mix, there’s bound to be something available from most Canadian brokerages.

For all those looking for sweet deals during this rosy month, be sure to keep reading for all the latest promotions from Canadian online brokerages for February. We forward to a month filled with new surprises, and we will continue to monitor and provide updates on new online brokerage deals throughout the month. 

In the spirit of Lunar New Year, we wish everyone an upcoming year filled with good luck and great prosperity – we’re hoping it will start with finding your perfect online brokerage deal here! 

Expired Deals

No expired deals to report at this time. 

Extended Deals

No extended deals to report at this time. 

New Deals

No new deals to report at this time. 

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
  6. Offers for Young Investors

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 a new RBC Direct Investing account by March 31, 2021 and fund it with at least A) $5,000; B) $25,000; C) $50,000; D) $100,000; E) $250,000; F) $500,000 or G) $1M+ by May 31, 2021 and you may receive a cash back of A) $50; B) $100; C) $200; D) $300; E) $500; F) $1,000 or G) $2,000; plus 10 free trades to be used by August 31, 2021. The fund must be from a non-RBC investment account. Use promo code WCMP2 during account opening and be sure to review the full Terms and Conditions. A) $5,000 B) $25,000 C) $50,000 D) $100,000 E) $250,000 F) $500,000 G) $1M+ Cash Back: A) $50 B) $100 C) $200 D) $300 E) $500 F) $1,000 G) $2,000 Plus 10 free trades Free trades must be used by August 31, 2021. Cash Rebate and Free Trades March 31, 2021
Scotia iTrade Scotia iTRADE is offering two choices for new investors who open accounts before March 1, 2021 and fund it with at least A) $5,000; B) $10,000; C) $25,000; D) $50,000; E) $100,000; F) $250,000; G) $500,000 or H) $1M+: Option 1: you can use promo code C21 to receive cash reward of A) $25; B) $50; C) $100; D) $200; E) $400; F) $750; G) $1,000 or H) $1,500; plus a discounted commission of $6.99 per trade until June 30, 2021. Option 2: Use promo code FT21 and you may be eligible for A) 10; B) 20; C) 50; D) 100; E) 200; F) 300; G) 400 or H) 500 free trades to use for 90 days after the account is funded. See terms and conditions for full details. A) $5,000 B) $10,000 C) $25,000 D) $50,000 E) $100,000 F) $250,000 G) $500,000 H) $1M+ Cash Back: A) $25 B) $50 C) $100 D) $200 E) $400 F) $750 G) $1,000 H) $1,500 or Free Trades: A) 10 B) 20 C) 50 D) 100 E) 200 F) 300 G) 400 H) 500 Free Trades: 90 days Scotia iTRADE’s Cash Back or Free Trade Offer March 1, 2021
Fund your new or existing CIBC Investor’s Edge account before March 2, 2021 with at least A) $10,000; B) 25,000; C) $50,000; D) $100,000; E) $500,000 or F) $1M+ and you may be eligible to receive a cash back reward of up to A) $50; B) $100; C) $200; D) $500; E) $1,000 or F) $2,000. To qualify, the fund must be from outside CIBC. No promo code required. See terms and conditions for full details. A) $10,000 B) 25,000 C) $50,000 D) $100,000 E) $500,000 F) $1M+ Cash Back: A) $50 B) $100 C) $200 D) $500 E) $1,000 F) $2,000 Program Page March 2, 2021
BMO InvestorLine Open a new qualifying account at BMO InvestorLine with new assets worth at least A) $15,000; B) $50,000; C) $100,000; D) $250,000; E) $500,000 or F)$1M+, and you may be eligible to receive a cash back reward of up to A) $150; B) $250; C) $500; D) $800; E) $1,000 or F) $2,000. Use promo code SPARXCASH when registering to qualify. Be sure to read full terms and conditions. A) $15,000 B) $50,000 C) $100,000 D) $250,000 E) $500,000 F) $1M+ Cash Back: A) $150 B) $250 C) $500 D) $800 E) $1,000 F) $2,000 Winter 2021 Cashback Campaign March 3, 2021
Open a new TD Direct Investing account by March 1, 2021 with promo code INVESTNOW and fund it with new assets worth at least A) $15,000; B) $25,000; C) $100,000; D) $250,000 or E) $500,000, and you may be eligible to receive a cash back reward of up to A) $100; B) $200; C) $300; D) $500 or E) $1,000. The fund must be deposited to the account by April 30, 2021 and at least one trade is placed by June 30, 2021. In addition, you may also be eligible for another $100 cash reward by setting up a Monthly Contribution Plan (min. $100 per month) with the first contribution occur before April 30, 2021. The maximum reward one could receive is $1,100. See terms and conditions for full details. A) $15,000 B) $25,000 C) $100,000 D) $250,000 E) $500,000 Cash Back: A) $100 B) $200 C) $300 D) $500 E) $1,000 TD Direct Investing Cash Back Promotion March 1, 2021
New clients who open and fund a new Qtrade Investor account before March 01, 2021 with at least A) $25,000; B) 50,000; C) $100,000; D) $500,000; E) $1M or F) $2M+ may be eligible to receive a pre-paid Visa gift card of up to A) $50; B) $100; C) $250; D) $800; E) $1,500 or F) $2,000. Only the first 500 customers are eligible. Please use promo code VISA2K. See terms and conditions for full details. A) $25,000 B) $50,000 C) $100,000 D) $500,000 E) $1M F) $2M+ Cash Reward: A) $50 B) $100 C) $250 D) $800 E) $1,500 F) $2,000 Up to $2,000 Visa Gift Card Offer March 1, 2021
New accounts opened between Jun 22 and Dec 31, 2020 will be awarded 100 free online trades in one year. This promotion applies to new and existing NBDB clients who use the code “FREE2020” to open new accounts. There’s no minimum funding requirement, however some other restrictions may apply. $0 100 Free Trades 1 year Please refer to the full details of the deal. December 31, 2020
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, 2021
Open a new RBC Direct Investing account by December 31, 2020 and fund it with at least $5,000 by March 5, 2021 and you will receive commission rebates for 25 trades that occur within 1 year of account opening. Be sure to use promo code NTBW2 during account opening. You will be charged regular commissions on the trading date, and the rebate will be deposited back into your account after 3-5 business days. If you are an existing customer to RBC DI, the type of the new account being opened must be different from the account types that you current have. $5,000 25 commission-free trades for a year 1 year 25 commission-free trades December 31, 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, 2021

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Feb. 1, 2021 16:00PT

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 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
You may receive $10 cash incentive for each new client that you refer to Wealthsimple Trade. They must use your unique referral link during account opening and make a trade value of at least $100. The referred friend will also get $10. $100 You and the referred friend will each get $10. n/a Referring a Friend to Wealthsimple Trade none
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
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 6, 2022

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Feb. 1, 2021 16:00PT

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: Feb. 1, 2021 16:00PT

Other Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Required Details Link Deadline
The minimum commission per equity trade ($1.99) is waived for new accounts from account opening till December 31, 2020. As a result, your commission is just 1¢/share (max $7.99). However, this offer does not apply to Odd Lot orders (i.e. orders with quantity less than 100 shares if price >= $1 or price < $0.10; or less than 500 shares if price in the $0.10 – $0.99 range). Please be reminded that at Virtual Brokers ETFs are always free to buy. $0 No Minimum 2020 – Terms & Conditions December 31, 2020
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 200 commission-free trades and discounted trading commissions. Be sure to read full terms and conditions. n/a Hardbacon Free Trade Promo none
Open a new Non-Registered trading account and fund it with at least $100 by December 18, 2020 and you may receive a random cash bonus ranging from $1 to $4,500. The cash bonus amount will be equivalent to the value of one of the fifteen stocks that have been selected by Wealthsimple Trade for this program. Please refer to the Terms and Conditions for more details. $100 Wealthsimple Trade Free Stock Promotion December 18, 2020
Disnat Desjardins Online Brokerage is offering 5 commission-free trades for new 18-30 years-old 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
Be one of the first 100 clients to open and fund an account with a minimum of $10,000 at Qtrade Investor using the promo code TRADE695 and you may be eligible for 100 trades at a preferred commission rate of $6.95 for 6 months. See terms and conditions for more details. $10,000 100 Discounted Commission Trades March 1, 2020

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Feb. 1, 2021 16:00PT

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 a new SmartFolio account and fund it with at least $1,000 and you could receive 0.5% cash back up to $1,000. Use promo code SFJAN1000 when opening a new account. See terms and conditions for full details. This offer is limited to new SmartFolio clients only, and can be combined with the refer-a-friend promotion. $1,000 0.5% cash back to a maximum of $1,000. SFJAN1000 March 2, 2021 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: Feb. 1, 2021 16:00PT

Offers for Young Investors

Brokerage Offer Type Eligible Age Range / Client Segment Offer Description Min. Deposit Expiry Date Link
Student pricing Clients with CIBC Smart™ Account for students $5.95 per trade and zero annual account fees not required None CIBC Student Pricing
[email protected] 18-30 18-30 years old Benefits: * 5 free transactions (Minimum deposit of $1,000 required) * No inactivity fees * No asset minimum to maintain for free registered accounts * Exclusive events * Disnat Mobile App $1,000 None [email protected] 18-30
Offers for professionals & students Students in selected fields of study Professionals and students in the below fields can benefit from a reduced pricing structure: * Engineering students * Legal, accounting and business students * Healthcare students * Health sciences students * Nursing students Benefits: * $5.95 commission on equities * $0 commission on ETFs * $0 annual administration fee not required None NBDB Student Pricing
Young investors offer 18-30 years old Accounts holders who are 30 years old or younger are offered 10 free trades each year. After the free transactions, a commission rate of $4.95 per transaction will be applied (which is just half of the regular price). not required None Young Investor Offer
Young investor pricing 18-30 years old Benefits: * $7.75 commissions for stock and ETF trades * No account minimums * No quarterly admin fees min. $50 a month through pre-authorized contributions. None Young Investor Pricing
Waiver of account maintenance fee Clients who have RBC Student account, currently or in the past 5 years. The Maintenance Fee ($25 per quarter) is waived, regardless of the account balance. not required None Zero Account Management Fee
Young investors offer Clients 26 years old and under Low activity account administration fee and the RSP account administration fee are waived. not required None Young Investors Offer
Waiver of account administration fee Clients younger than 26 years old The account administration fee ($24.95 per quarter) is waived. not required None $0 Account Administration Fee
Last Updated: Feb. 1, 2021 16:00PT

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – February 01, 2021

So. Much. To. Unpack. Unlike most pundits this week, we’re not going to talk about GameStonks, at least not in the kind of depth we normally would. No, for the moment we’ll save the commentary for the forum chatter and DIY investor feedback from Twitter.

There’s plenty on the menu for this edition of the Roundup. In fact, there’s so much to say about the latest online brokerage rankings from Rob Carrick at The Globe and Mail that we’ve decided to focus this edition on the wealth of data and insights the latest edition has delivered. To keep things on point with the conversations happening online, we’ve also included highlights from the forums and on Twitter. Get comfy – this is going to be a long (but fun) ride.

The Unsettled Elephant in the Room

We can safely say this up front: This current market is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

Specifically, the mobilization of massive waves of investors pouring into stocks that are heavily shorted and being able to generate shockwaves through the capital markets. Never before, or at least not in recent memory, have so many people learned so much about shorting, squeezing, margin, clearing, and settlement as they have in this past week.

Moreover, the lesson in what matters most to online investors – content and community – came courtesy of Reddit, a website that eschews modern aesthetics.

An almost incalculable number of lessons are to be learned from the time we’re living through (especially as DIY investors), so we won’t be covering these in this edition of the Roundup because there’s simply not enough time and space this week for all of it. In fact, in compiling the reactions online to the Canadian discount brokerages via Twitter, the software we use crumbled under the sheer volume of the conversation, taking with it hours of work sifting through visceral and convulsive reactions by online investors (traders) to the trading of GameStop, AMC, Blackberry, and others.

For now, it’s sufficient to leave this video as a tongue-in-cheek summation of events.

Rest assured, as the dust settles (probably faster than trades from Robinhood – had to do it), the spotlight will move to the seismic shift in trading behaviour we’re witnessing right now.  

2021 Canadian Online Brokerage Rankings: Spotlight on Service

Now in its 22nd edition, The Globe and Mail online brokerage rankings, authored by Rob Carrick, are one of the most popular rankings available for Canadians who are shopping around for a new online brokerage or are simply interested in making sense of trends in the DIY investing space.

This past week, the latest edition of the rankings was published, and this one is by far one of the most interesting editions yet.

Fair warning, this post is going to be a long one, in part given the historic nature of current market conditions but also because of additional data added to this year’s review that doesn’t ordinarily appear in it.

What Goes Into the Online Brokerage Rankings?

Over the past two decades, there have been numerous changes to the review, ranging from what time of year it gets published, to the criteria used to evaluate brokerages, to the accessibility of the reviews themselves. These small changes make comparing absolute performance from year to year a challenge, so as a result, one of the best ways to understand the meaning of these reviews is on a relative basis. Contextually, there are important changes or factors that arise over time that make up part of how online brokerages get evaluated.

An important factor to note in the assembly of the rankings is that this review is based on data from the prior year. Or at least that’s how things used to operate. While the bulk of the 2021 online brokerage rankings are based on data from 2020, there is a significant addition to this year’s results: telephone customer service wait times that were collected in mid- to late-January of 2021. The data, which was supplied by financial research firm DALBAR Canada, tested the telephone wait times at all Canadian online brokerages.

It bears mentioning that the likely reason behind including telephone customer service experience stems from the many (many) complaints from online investors over the past year and especially in the latter portion of 2020 (and early 2021) concerning reaching an online brokerage by phone. If there is one thing that Rob Carrick’s reviews and commentary on the online brokerage space in Canada have evolved into, it’s a barometer for some of the most salient issues (and frustrations) faced by DIY investors.  

With some important context out of the way, let’s dive into the results themselves to see what the scores looked like across the board this year, who was included (and who was not), as well as some of the important drivers of success in this year’s rankings.

Results from the 2021 Canadian Online Brokerage Rankings

To help put this year’s results into context, the table below compares the most recent set of scores to those of the past two years (2020 and 2019).

Online Brokerage202120202019
BMO InvestorLineBB-B
CIBC Investor’s EdgeC+CC
Desjardins Online BrokerageCCC-
HSBC InvestDirectD+D+C-
Interactive BrokersB+B+B+
National Bank Direct BrokerageBBB-
Qtrade InvestorAA+A
QuestradeB+B+A-
RBC Direct InvestingBB+B
Scotia iTradeBA-A-
TD Direct InvestingA-AA
Virtual BrokersBB+A

One of the first things that jumps out is in relation to first place in these rankings and which online brokerage scored the best: Qtrade Investor.

For the past three years, Qtrade Investor has achieved the highest score in this ranking and, in 2019, had to share that accolade with Virtual Brokers and TD Direct Investing. Since 2019, however, Qtrade Investor has handily outscored its rivals – including last year, when it scored an A+ rating. This year, Qtrade did earn the highest mark, an A, but it was a lower score than last year. No stranger to the podium, Qtrade Investor has been voted best online brokerage by The Globe and Mail 12 times in the 22-year history of the rankings.

Coming in second this year was TD Direct Investing, which is one of Canada’s largest and most popular online brokerages. As with Qtrade Investor, TD Direct Investing saw their score in 2021 drop from 2020, in this case falling to an A- from an A.

Third place, interestingly, was a tie between Interactive Brokers and Questrade, both of whom received grades of B+. One of the reasons this is an interesting result is because Interactive Brokers was, for many years, not included in The Globe and Mail rankings since they primarily catered to more active investors and traders (as opposed to the “everyday investor”) and they lacked an RRSP offering, which they now currently do offer. Since 2019, Interactive Brokers’ score has remained fairly level at B+, but Questrade has seen their score slip slightly, from an A- in 2019 to B+ in both 2020 and 2021. This year, however, that B+ was good enough to tie for third place.

While the middle-of-the-pack experience has largely remained intact, HSBC InvestDirect has consistently remained at the bottom of the rankings for the past three years. Despite their low commission rates, international access, and award-winning client service, several factors that matter more to these ratings, such as mobile accessibility, impacted the scores.

Also of note this year, only two of the 12 Canadian online brokerages covered this year improved in their scores relative to last year. BMO InvestorLine raised their score from a B- to a B, and CIBC Investor’s Edge improved from a C to a C+. In contrast, five online brokerages dropped in scoring compared to last year, the most notable among them being Scotia iTrade, which went from an A- to a B. Another interesting negative trend showed up for Virtual Brokers. In 2019 they tied for the highest score, an A that year, with Qtrade Investor and TD Direct Investing. In 2020, however, they slipped to a B+, and in 2021 they scored a B.

Not on the list of Canadian online brokerages reviewed for this ranking was Wealthsimple Trade – a notable absence given both the visibility and the popularity with younger investors. This is not the first review that the newest kid on the online brokerage block has had to sit out. However, in the context of Wealthsimple Trade’s features, pricing, and volume of interest, not to mention sheer growth in numbers, DIY investors are likely curious about how the brokerage would fare in the rankings framework.

As far as grades go, a comparison to 2019 shows that performance across the board has, on a relative basis, worsened. The strongest drivers for scoring on The Globe and Mail brokerage rankings have always leaned toward the experiences of “everyday investors” rather than more-active traders. This year, the ranking criteria are based on:

  • Convenience and security
  • Cost
  • The investing experience
  • Tools

Importantly, a big part of the convenience and security component of this year’s results included phone access, something that has been a major pain point throughout 2020 but especially into the end of the year.

Call Options

To address this timely topic, in addition to relying on data generated from 2020, this year the online brokerage rankings included telephone wait time data supplied by financial services research firm DALBAR Canada – and those results were also fascinating.

One of the first, and most glaring, results from that snapshot is that wait times in January at online brokerages averaged out at 92 minutes, with a standard deviation of almost 52 minutes. The importance of reporting the standard deviation here is clear because, while an average wait time of 92 minutes is bad enough, it doesn’t accurately convey how bad things are right now for DIY investors trying to contact customer service.

For a more accurate view, there’s going to be a little bit more math required.  

What the overall average of wait times doesn’t convey is that the data has a couple of very clear outliers at both the short and the long ends of wait times. To help put this into perspective, the shortest wait time average was 7 minutes (Virtual Brokers), and the longest was 179 minutes (Scotia iTrade). That works out to almost 26x more time spent waiting to speak to someone at Scotia iTrade than at Virtual Brokers.

Online BrokerageWait Times (min)
BMO InvestorLine87
CIBC Investor’s Edge101
Desjardins Online Brokerage170
HSBC InvestDirect125
Interactive Brokers66
National Bank Direct Brokerage69
Qtrade Investor28
Questrade128
RBC Direct Investing90
Scotia iTrade179
TD Direct Investing58
Virtual Brokers7

These two extreme data points suggest they were outliers, and outliers tend to add noise or skew the more realistic picture. The next outlier in the data was Qtrade Investor, with an average wait time of 28 minutes – which is still long by most reasonable standards but is significantly lower than the next highest online broker, TD Direct Investing, where telephone wait times were 58 minutes on average.

Excluding the wait times of Virtual Brokers and Qtrade Investor as outliers, the average wait times at 83% of the Canadian online brokerages worked out to be 107 minutes, more than double what it would be if Virtual Brokers and Qtrade Investor were included in the analysis. Even more telling, the standard deviation drops to 42 minutes. At the upper end of the wait time range, if we exclude Scotia iTrade, with a wait time of 179 minutes, and Desjardins Online Brokerage, with a wait time of 170 minutes, a much more accurate view of wait times emerges.

The average wait time drops from 107 minutes to 91 minutes (about a 15% decrease), and the standard deviation drops from 42 minutes to 26 minutes (a 38% decrease). This represents 66% of the data, or eight out of 12 online brokerages.

Wait TimesAverage (mins)Standard Deviation
 (mins)
% of Brokers Represented
All Brokerages9252100
Shortest Outliers Excluded1074283
All Outliers Excluded912666
3 of Big 5 Banks (outliers excluded)93725

In light of the above data (that excludes outliers at the upper and lower extremes), and assuming a normal distribution, 68% of the time, calling an online brokerage in Canada in January would have resulted in a wait time of between 65 and 117 minutes. And 95% of the time, or 19 times out of 20, the wait time for a DIY investor would have been between 39 and 143 minutes. And 99.7% of the time, a Canadian DIY investor would have waited between 13 and 169 minutes. In other words, getting served quickly would be more because of good fortune than because of the system working as it should.

Let that sink in for a moment. These are private, profit-driven, million- or billion-dollar brands (in some cases) that are posting these kinds of numbers. For illustration, three out of the big five Canadian bank-owned online brokerages posted a remarkably consistent range of wait times: 93 minutes with a standard deviation of 7 minutes. On a peer-to-peer basis, this highlights how far ahead TD Direct Investing’s scores (with wait times of 58 minutes) would be relative to the others and how far behind Scotia iTrade sits. In either of these two cases, these would be considered so far outside of a statistical norm that it is not by accident that they’re achieving these numbers.

Imagine the frustration, dropped calls, and erosion in trust that occurs when an on-demand world meets a two- or three-hour wait time. And this doesn’t even factor in waiting by online chat.

It naturally raises the question: What are Virtual Brokers and Qtrade Investor doing so well, which causes them to be able to answer the phone so fast (relatively speaking), and what are Scotia iTrade and Desjardins Online Brokerage doing so poorly? One possible conclusion points to a capability of being ready to scale up, as pointed out in the Influencer Edition of the Look Back / Look Ahead series.

Now, to be clear, these numbers do not indicate whether or not issues were resolved, just how long it took for someone to answer the phone. Also, these are snapshots in time, and there is no comparable data taken from similar time periods to benchmark against. The fact that these tests added to the caller queue means they affected wait times, even if the impact was slight, so the numbers do need to be treated with some caution.

Even so, it is cause for concern for DIY investors to see that wait times can be meaningfully measured in hours instead of minutes. Coming into the peak season for RRSP contributions, it means that volume will only increase, as will frustration levels. If there are any outages, huge rallies or crashes in the market, or other market-moving events, then RRSP contributions via telephone are going to be nearly impossible at most Canadian online brokerages. 

Of course, telephone service isn’t a major selling point for a lot of online investors. In fact, many will never have to deal with a client service rep on the phone, but there are some things that can happen only by talking to a representative. For a portion of the DIY investor population, that translates into being forced to wait.

That said, there are indications that this is clearly an issue of concern to certain online brokerages and that relief may be on the way.

Relief for Long Wait Times

First, in an interesting interview by Preet Banerjee with BMO InvestorLine’s president, Silvio Stroescu, there were some fascinating insights on the impact of the past year on this online brokerage. According to Stroescu, the huge influx of demand for online investing accounts, as well as from investors looking to “upgrade” their accounts, took customer service wait times from an average of five minutes in early 2020 to about 40 minutes in 2021.

The numbers reported by Stroescu for 2021 are still much higher than he was happy with, and in the interview he did explain a number of steps that BMO InvestorLine is undertaking to close the service gap. In fact, as early as this past summer, Stroescu mentioned that BMO InvestorLine undertook significant hiring and ramp-up to provide additional service support. Nevertheless, the observed results of DALBAR’s numbers and reported numbers of Stroescu all point to a significant wait time for online investors calling in.

Another interesting piece of news came from Questrade, in advance of the RSP season rush, in the form of a client email. In that email, they acknowledged that “longer wait times are the norm with all brokerages at this time,” that over the past year they have doubled the number of client service specialists, and that in the “coming weeks” they are slated to add over 100 customer service agents.

Putting the Pieces Together

Clearly, there’s much to digest from the data in this year’s edition of the Canadian online brokerage rankings by The Globe and Mail’s Rob Carrick.

So much of the story that started in March of 2020 was about the volume of activity as well as the influx of individuals who wanted to trade on the market. The impact on Canadian online brokerages, in terms of service as well as stability, has been clear. The statistics point to a systemic lack of capacity to be able to address the surge in interest in online investing coupled with technology and operational shortfalls.

What, as a DIY investor, is especially worrisome about the online brokerage experience is that it has taken so long to remedy the capacity issues. Markets rely on confidence, and confidence comes from certainty. The relative stability of scores in the Canadian online brokerage space points to a “business as usual” pace that was moving far too slowly, or did not plan adequately, for the kind of strain that ultimately emerged over the past year. That said, at certain online brokerages, the persistent wait times point to a much deeper issue and lack of prioritization of client service. Conversely, some other brokerages have clearly shown the capacity to keep up somewhat reasonable wait times.

The qualitative commentary this year was in line with previous years; however, one of the great features for investors trying to get a quick answer on comparing features is toggling comparisons for key items like commission-free ETFs, high-interest savings ETFs, and performance reporting.

As much as we have said about this year’s rankings, there’s also a lot that we haven’t yet covered, including the reactions of investors to this data. This year’s rankings generated almost immediate reactions by readers, with the dominant theme being wait times at various brokerages.

With the latest rankings data in hand, it won’t just be hedge funds feeling the squeeze this year. The online brokerages in Canada now have added pressure to solve the customer service wait time issue and win back the trust of investors. Failing to do so quickly would almost certainly, at this point, raise the prospect of additional regulation and compliance to mandate accessibility and accountability.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

From the Forums

Up & Up & Up

After so many years of the markets doing well and interest rates dropping, one investor wonders in this post if a market downturn is now unlikely, if not impossible. Other Redditors share their strong opinions on whether the stock market can stay up forever.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap on just one of the several big events that transpired this past week. Looking forward, there’s a new month, which means a deals update is on its way, and there will likely be no letup from the buying army of retail investors who’ve firmly locked into all sorts of shorted stocks, including silver. Buckle up for volatile times ahead.   

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Discount Brokerage Deals & Promotions – January 2021

*Update: January 8* Cheers to 2021! While 2020 marked a year full of surprise and change – both inside and outside the DIY investing space – we believe it is safe to say we are all ready for a fresh start. To help you ring in the new year and celebrate in (financial) style, Sparx Trading has rounded up the latest deals and promotions from Canadian discount brokerages. 

With 2021 officially here, RRSP season is now officially in full swing. Whether it is a personal New Year’s resolution of yours or not, make sure you do not fall victim to procrastination this year. The deadline for contribution to RRSPs to count for the 2020 tax year is March 1st, 2021.

Scroll on to learn more about all the current online brokerage deals and promotions for January – including a new offering and a few that are set to expire at the very start of the month.

As always, we will continue to monitor the deals space and provide updates on new discount brokerage developments, so make sure you check back throughout the month. In the meantime, if you discover any new deals that you believe would be of interest to fellow DIY investors, please let us know in the comments below. 

Expired Deals

The stroke of midnight not only signified the beginning of a new year, but it also signified the end of several online brokerage deals. Optimistically, we expect that after the holiday, various online brokerages will be updating their sites and long-standing offers which technically happened to expire might be given a new lease on life. That said, here’s what officially expired as of January 1st, 2021.

  • National Bank Direct Brokerage’s 100 free online trades 
  • Questrade’s 5 commission-free trades and month-long commission-free trades/advanced data (now back)
  • RBC Direct Investing’s 25 commission-free trades
  • Virtual Brokers’ “No Minimum 2020” promotions all expired on December 31st, 2020

During the month of December, we also saw a rather creative cash back offer from Wealthsimple Trade quietly expire.

Looking ahead, three promotions are scheduled to expire on January 5th, 2021: BMO SmartFolio’s cash back promotion, BMO InvestorLine’s refer-a-friend campaign, and BMO InvestorLine’s Fall 2020 cash back campaign. See tables below for full promotion details and eligibility requirements.

Extended Deals

*Update: Jan. 8 – Questrade’s promotion section is now up to date as their entry level five commission-free trade offer makes a comeback. Also back, is the 30 days of unlimited commission-free stock and option trades in the form of commission rebates, plus one free month of an advanced data package, when opening a new account. Both deals will expire on December 31st. See the full terms and conditions in the tables below.*

New Deals

*Update: Jan. 8 – RBC Direct Investing has launched a new cash back promotion that will run until the spring. Set to expire on March 31st, this new deal offers cash back and commission-free trades to investors who open a new account and transfer funds from a non-RBC investment account to their new account. See the table below for full terms and eligibility details.

BMO InvestorLine has also launched a new cash back promotional offer which is set to expire on March 2, 2020. This new promo is a tiered promotion and qualifying deposit levels start at $15,000. Scroll down to see the full promotion terms and conditions.*

Though not technically new, we are adding the Wealthsimple Trade referral promotion to our coverage. DIY investors can receive cash towards their next trade each time a new client signs up for an account using their referral link. For more details, including eligibility requirements, please see the table below. 

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
  6. Offers for Young Investors

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 a new RBC Direct Investing account by March 31, 2021 and fund it with at least A) $5,000; B) $25,000; C) $50,000; D) $100,000; E) $250,000; F) $500,000 or G) $1M+ by May 31, 2021 and you may receive a cash back of A) $50; B) $100; C) $200; D) $300; E) $500; F) $1,000 or G) $2,000; plus 10 free trades to be used by August 31, 2021. The fund must be from a non-RBC investment account. Use promo code WCMP2 during account opening and be sure to review the full Terms and Conditions. A) $5,000 B) $25,000 C) $50,000 D) $100,000 E) $250,000 F) $500,000 G) $1M+ Cash Back: A) $50 B) $100 C) $200 D) $300 E) $500 F) $1,000 G) $2,000 Plus 10 free trades Free trades must be used by August 31, 2021. Cash Rebate and Free Trades March 31, 2021
Scotia iTrade Scotia iTRADE is offering two choices for new investors who open accounts before March 1, 2021 and fund it with at least A) $5,000; B) $10,000; C) $25,000; D) $50,000; E) $100,000; F) $250,000; G) $500,000 or H) $1M+: Option 1: you can use promo code C21 to receive cash reward of A) $25; B) $50; C) $100; D) $200; E) $400; F) $750; G) $1,000 or H) $1,500; plus a discounted commission of $6.99 per trade until June 30, 2021. Option 2: Use promo code FT21 and you may be eligible for A) 10; B) 20; C) 50; D) 100; E) 200; F) 300; G) 400 or H) 500 free trades to use for 90 days after the account is funded. See terms and conditions for full details. A) $5,000 B) $10,000 C) $25,000 D) $50,000 E) $100,000 F) $250,000 G) $500,000 H) $1M+ Cash Back: A) $25 B) $50 C) $100 D) $200 E) $400 F) $750 G) $1,000 H) $1,500 or Free Trades: A) 10 B) 20 C) 50 D) 100 E) 200 F) 300 G) 400 H) 500 Free Trades: 90 days Scotia iTRADE’s Cash Back or Free Trade Offer March 1, 2021
Fund your new or existing CIBC Investor’s Edge account before March 2, 2021 with at least A) $10,000; B) 25,000; C) $50,000; D) $100,000; E) $500,000 or F) $1M+ and you may be eligible to receive a cash back reward of up to A) $50; B) $100; C) $200; D) $500; E) $1,000 or F) $2,000. To qualify, the fund must be from outside CIBC. No promo code required. See terms and conditions for full details. A) $10,000 B) 25,000 C) $50,000 D) $100,000 E) $500,000 F) $1M+ Cash Back: A) $50 B) $100 C) $200 D) $500 E) $1,000 F) $2,000 Program Page March 2, 2021
BMO InvestorLine Open a new qualifying account at BMO InvestorLine with new assets worth at least A) $15,000; B) $50,000; C) $100,000; D) $250,000; E) $500,000 or F)$1M+, and you may be eligible to receive a cash back reward of up to A) $150; B) $250; C) $500; D) $800; E) $1,000 or F) $2,000. Use promo code SDCASH2000 when registering to qualify. Be sure to read full terms and conditions. A) $15,000 B) $50,000 C) $100,000 D) $250,000 E) $500,000 F) $1M+ Cash Back: A) $150 B) $250 C) $500 D) $800 E) $1,000 F) $2,000 Winter 2021 Cashback Campaign March 2, 2021
Open a new TD Direct Investing account by March 1, 2021 with promo code INVESTNOW and fund it with new assets worth at least A) $15,000; B) $25,000; C) $100,000; D) $250,000 or E) $500,000, and you may be eligible to receive a cash back reward of up to A) $100; B) $200; C) $300; D) $500 or E) $1,000. The fund must be deposited to the account by April 30, 2021 and at least one trade is placed by June 30, 2021. In addition, you may also be eligible for another $100 cash reward by setting up a Monthly Contribution Plan (min. $100 per month) with the first contribution occur before April 30, 2021. The maximum reward one could receive is $1,100. See terms and conditions for full details. A) $15,000 B) $25,000 C) $100,000 D) $250,000 E) $500,000 Cash Back: A) $100 B) $200 C) $300 D) $500 E) $1,000 TD Direct Investing Cash Back Promotion March 1, 2021
New clients who open and fund a new Qtrade Investor account before March 01, 2021 with at least A) $25,000; B) 50,000; C) $100,000; D) $500,000; E) $1M or F) $2M+ may be eligible to receive a pre-paid Visa gift card of up to A) $50; B) $100; C) $250; D) $800; E) $1,500 or F) $2,000. Only the first 500 customers are eligible. Please use promo code VISA2K. See terms and conditions for full details. A) $25,000 B) $50,000 C) $100,000 D) $500,000 E) $1M F) $2M+ Cash Reward: A) $50 B) $100 C) $250 D) $800 E) $1,500 F) $2,000 Up to $2,000 Visa Gift Card Offer March 1, 2021
New accounts opened between Jun 22 and Dec 31, 2020 will be awarded 100 free online trades in one year. This promotion applies to new and existing NBDB clients who use the code “FREE2020” to open new accounts. There’s no minimum funding requirement, however some other restrictions may apply. $0 100 Free Trades 1 year Please refer to the full details of the deal. December 31, 2020
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, 2021
Open a new RBC Direct Investing account by December 31, 2020 and fund it with at least $5,000 by March 5, 2021 and you will receive commission rebates for 25 trades that occur within 1 year of account opening. Be sure to use promo code NTBW2 during account opening. You will be charged regular commissions on the trading date, and the rebate will be deposited back into your account after 3-5 business days. If you are an existing customer to RBC DI, the type of the new account being opened must be different from the account types that you current have. $5,000 25 commission-free trades for a year 1 year 25 commission-free trades December 31, 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, 2021

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Jan. 10, 2021 18:00PT

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 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
You may receive $10 cash incentive for each new client that you refer to Wealthsimple Trade. They must use your unique referral link during account opening and make a trade value of at least $100. The referred friend will also get $10. $100 You and the referred friend will each get $10. n/a Referring a Friend to Wealthsimple Trade none
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
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 6, 2022

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Jan. 10, 2021 18:00PT

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. 01, 2021 10:00PT

Other Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Required Details Link Deadline
The minimum commission per equity trade ($1.99) is waived for new accounts from account opening till December 31, 2020. As a result, your commission is just 1¢/share (max $7.99). However, this offer does not apply to Odd Lot orders (i.e. orders with quantity less than 100 shares if price >= $1 or price < $0.10; or less than 500 shares if price in the $0.10 – $0.99 range). Please be reminded that at Virtual Brokers ETFs are always free to buy. $0 No Minimum 2020 – Terms & Conditions December 31, 2020
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 200 commission-free trades and discounted trading commissions. Be sure to read full terms and conditions. n/a Hardbacon Free Trade Promo none
Open a new Non-Registered trading account and fund it with at least $100 by December 18, 2020 and you may receive a random cash bonus ranging from $1 to $4,500. The cash bonus amount will be equivalent to the value of one of the fifteen stocks that have been selected by Wealthsimple Trade for this program. Please refer to the Terms and Conditions for more details. $100 Wealthsimple Trade Free Stock Promotion December 18, 2020
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
Be one of the first 100 clients to open and fund an account with a minimum of $10,000 at Qtrade Investor using the promo code TRADE695 and you may be eligible for 100 trades at a preferred commission rate of $6.95 for 6 months. See terms and conditions for more details. $10,000 100 Discounted Commission Trades March 1, 2020

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Jan. 01, 2021 22:00 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 a new SmartFolio account and fund it with at least $1,000 and you could receive 0.5% cash back up to $1,000. Use promo code SFJAN1000 when opening a new account. See terms and conditions for full details. This offer is limited to new SmartFolio clients only, and can be combined with the refer-a-friend promotion. $1,000 0.5% cash back to a maximum of $1,000. SFJAN1000 March 2, 2021 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. 08, 2021 10:00PT

Offers for Young Investors

Brokerage Offer Type Eligible Age Range / Client Segment Offer Description Min. Deposit Expiry Date Link
Student pricing Clients with CIBC Smart™ Account for students $5.95 per trade and zero annual account fees not required None CIBC Student Pricing
[email protected] 18-30 18-30 years old Benefits: * 5 free transactions (Minimum deposit of $1,000 required) * No inactivity fees * No asset minimum to maintain for free registered accounts * Exclusive events * Disnat Mobile App $1,000 None [email protected] 18-30
Offers for professionals & students Students in selected fields of study Professionals and students in the below fields can benefit from a reduced pricing structure: * Engineering students * Legal, accounting and business students * Healthcare students * Health sciences students * Nursing students Benefits: * $5.95 commission on equities * $0 commission on ETFs * $0 annual administration fee not required None NBDB Student Pricing
Young investors offer 18-30 years old Accounts holders who are 30 years old or younger are offered 10 free trades each year. After the free transactions, a commission rate of $4.95 per transaction will be applied (which is just half of the regular price). not required None Young Investor Offer
Young investor pricing 18-30 years old Benefits: * $7.75 commissions for stock and ETF trades * No account minimums * No quarterly admin fees min. $50 a month through pre-authorized contributions. None Young Investor Pricing
Waiver of account maintenance fee Clients who have RBC Student account, currently or in the past 5 years. The Maintenance Fee ($25 per quarter) is waived, regardless of the account balance. not required None Zero Account Management Fee
Young investors offer Clients 26 years old and under Low activity account administration fee and the RSP account administration fee are waived. not required None Young Investors Offer
Waiver of account administration fee Clients younger than 26 years old The account administration fee ($24.95 per quarter) is waived. not required None $0 Account Administration Fee
Last Updated: Jan. 01, 2021 10:00PT

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Discount Brokerage Deals & Promotions – December 2020

*Update: December 18* After what has simultaneously felt like the fastest yet slowest year ever, we have finally made it to December! In true holiday fashion, Sparx Trading is here to spread old-fashioned cheer and merry updates as we take a (cautious and socially distanced) step into the final month of 2020. 

Bargain-hunting DIY investors can rejoice. Just because Black Friday and Cyber Monday have concluded, this doesn’t mean there aren’t still great deals to be had. The past month saw an influx of new deals and promotions from Canadian discount brokerages, which are slated to run until the end of 2020 or into early 2021.

Last month, our radar picked up on numerous commission-free trade and cash-back offers from various bank-owned brokerages, including BMO InvestorLine, TD Direct Investing, CIBC Investor’s Edge, Scotia iTRADE, and RBC Direct Investing. Wealthsimple Trade also joined in on the deals action, with a free stock promotion that expires on December 18th. 

Scroll on to learn more about all the current online brokerage deals and promotions for December. We’re keeping a close eye on the deals space, so don’t forget to check back throughout the month for more jolly updates. And if you find an offer that would be great for other DIY investors to know about, please let us know in the comments.

Expired Deals

*Update: Dec. 18 – Wealthsimple Trade’s trade free stock promotion ends on today, December 18th, 2020. Be sure to open an eligible account by 11:59:59 PM EST today to qualify. Full details can be found in the table below.*

Extended Deals

National Bank Direct Brokerage’s 100 free online trades promotion has been extended! The new deadline for this huge free trade offer expires December 31st, 2020. 

New Deals

*Update: Dec. 18 – Qtrade Investor has just launched a promotion for new clients who open an account by March 1st, 2021. Clients who open a new account are being offered two rewards to choose from: a cash reward or preferred pricing trades. See the table below for more details on the promotional rewards, as well as full terms and conditions.*

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
  6. Offers for Young Investors

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
Scotia iTrade Scotia iTRADE is offering two choices for new investors who open accounts before March 1, 2021 and fund it with at least A) $5,000; B) $10,000; C) $25,000; D) $50,000; E) $100,000; F) $250,000; G) $500,000 or H) $1M+: Option 1: you can use promo code C21 to receive cash reward of A) $25; B) $50; C) $100; D) $200; E) $400; F) $750; G) $1,000 or H) $1,500; plus a discounted commission of $6.99 per trade until June 30, 2021. Option 2: Use promo code FT21 and you may be eligible for A) 10; B) 20; C) 50; D) 100; E) 200; F) 300; G) 400 or H) 500 free trades to use for 90 days after the account is funded. $5,000 Cash Back or Free Trades 90 days Scotia iTRADE’s Cash Back or Free Trade Offer March 1, 2021
Fund your new or existing CIBC Investor’s Edge account before Mar 2, 2021 with at least A) $10,000; B) 25,000; C) $50,000; D) $100,000; E) $500,000 or F) $1M+ and you may be eligible to receive a cash back reward of up to A) $50; B) $100; C) $200; D) $500; E) $1,000 or F) $2,000. To qualify, the fund must be from outside CIBC. No promo code required. $10,000 Cash Back Program Page March 2, 2021
Open a new TD Direct Investing account by Mar 1, 2021 with promo code INVESTNOW and fund it with new assets worth at least A) $15,000; B) $25,000; C) $100,000; D) $250,000 or E) $500,000, and you may be eligible to receive a cash back reward of up to A) $100; B) $200; C) $300; D) $500 or E) $1,000. The fund must be deposited to the account by April 30, 2021 and at least one trade is placed by June 30, 2021. In addition, you may also be eligible for another $100 cash reward by setting up a Monthly Contribution Plan (min. $100 per month) with the first contribution occur before April 30, 2021. The maximum reward one could receive is $1,100. $15,000 Cash Back TD Direct Investing Cash Back Promotion March 1, 2021
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) $100; B) $250; C) $450; D) $950 or E) $2,000. Use promo code SDCASH2000 when registering to qualify. Be sure to read full terms and conditions. $50,000 Cash Back Fall 2020 Cashback Campaign Jan 5, 2021
New clients who open new Qtrade Investor accounts before Mar 01, 2021 have 2 options: (1) Fund your new Qtrade Investor account with at least A) $25,000; B) 50,000; C) $100,000; D) $500,000; E) $1M or F) $2M+ and you may be eligible to receive a pre-paid Visa gift card of up to A) $50; B) $100; C) $250; D) $800; E) $1,500 or F) $2,000. Only first 500 customers are eligible. Please use promo code VISA2K. (2) The first 100 clients who use promo code TRADE695 may be eligible for 100 trades at a preferred commission rate of $6.95 for 6 months. Minimum deposit $10,000 is required. $10,000 Cash Reward or Preferred Pricing 6 months Up to $2,000 Visa Gift Card Offer 100 Discounted Commission Trades March 1, 2021
New accounts opened between Jun 22 and Dec 31, 2020 will be awarded 100 free online trades in one year. This promotion applies to new and existing NBDB clients who use the code “FREE2020” to open new accounts. There’s no minimum funding requirement, however some other restrictions may apply. $0 100 Free Trades 1 year Please refer to the full details of the deal. December 31, 2020
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
Open a new RBC Direct Investing account by December 31, 2020 and fund it with at least $5,000 by March 5, 2021 and you will receive commission rebates for 25 trades that occur within 1 year of account opening. Be sure to use promo code NTBW2 during account opening. You will be charged regular commissions on the trading date, and the rebate will be deposited back into your account after 3-5 business days. If you are an existing customer to RBC DI, the type of the new account being opened must be different from the account types that you current have. $5,000 25 commission-free trades for a year 1 year 25 commission-free trades December 31, 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

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Dec. 22, 2020 13:56PT

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 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
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: Nov 30, 2020 14:30PT

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: Nov. 30, 2020 14:13PT

Other Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Required Details Link Deadline
The minimum commission per equity trade ($1.99) is waived for new accounts from account opening till December 31, 2020. As a result, your commission is just 1¢/share (max $7.99). However, this offer does not apply to Odd Lot orders (i.e. orders with quantity less than 100 shares if price >= $1 or price < $0.10; or less than 500 shares if price in the $0.10 – $0.99 range). Please be reminded that at Virtual Brokers ETFs are always free to buy. $0 No Minimum 2020 – Terms & Conditions December 31, 2020
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 200 commission-free trades and discounted trading commissions. Be sure to read full terms and conditions. n/a Hardbacon Free Trade Promo none
Open a new Non-Registered trading account and fund it with at least $100 by December 18, 2020 and you may receive a random cash bonus ranging from $1 to $4,500. The cash bonus amount will be equivalent to the value of one of the fifteen stocks that have been selected by Wealthsimple Trade for this program. Please refer to the Terms and Conditions for more details. $100 Wealthsimple Trade Free Stock Promotion December 18, 2020
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: Nov 30, 2020 14:16PT

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 a new SmartFolio account and fund it with at least $1,000 and you could receive 0.5% cash back up to $1,000. Use promo code SFNOV1000 when opening a new account. See terms and conditions for full details. This offer is limited to new SmartFolio clients only, and can be combined with the refer-a-friend promotion. $1,000 0.5% cash back to a maximum of $1,000. SFNOV1000 January 5, 2021 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: Nov. 30, 2020 14:30PT

Offers for Young Investors

Brokerage Offer Type Eligible Age Range / Client Segment Offer Description Min. Deposit Expiry Date Link
Student Pricing Clients with CIBC Smart™ Account for students $5.95 per trade and zero annual account fees not required None CIBC Student Pricing
[email protected] 18-30 18-30 years old investors Benefits: * 5 free transactions (Minimum deposit of $1,000 required) * No inactivity fees * No asset minimum to maintain for free registered accounts * Exclusive events * Disnat Mobile App $1,000 None [email protected] 18-30
Offers for professionals & Students Students in selected fields of study Professionals and students in the below fields can benefit from a reduced pricing structure: * Engineering students * Legal, accounting and business students * Healthcare students * Health sciences students * Nursing students Benefits: * $5.95 commission on equities * $0 commission on ETFs * $0 annual administration fee not required None NBDB Student Pricing
Young Investors Offer 18-30 years old investors Accounts holders who are 30 years old or younger are offered 10 free trades each year. After the free transactions, a commission rate of $4.95 per transaction will be applied (which is just half of the regular price). not required None Young Investor Offer
Young investor pricing 18-30 years old investors Benefits: * $7.75 commissions for stock and ETF trades * No account minimums * No quarterly admin fees min. $50 a month through pre-authorized contributions. None Young Investor Pricing
Waiver of account maintenance fee Clients who have RBC Student account, currently or in the past 5 years. The Maintenance Fee ($25 per quarter) is waived, regardless of the account balance. not required None Zero Account Management Fee
Young Investors Offer Clients below 26 years old Low activity account administration fee and the RSP account administration fee are waived. not required None Young Investors Offer
Zero Account Administration Fee Clients below 26 years old The account administration fee ($24.95 per quarter) is waived. not required None $0 Account Administration Fee
Last Updated: Nov. 30, 2020 14:25PT

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Discount Brokerage Deals & Promotions – November 2020

*Update: November 27* Daylight isn’t the only thing being saved this as we enter the month of November. It seems like DIY investors are also in for some savings too.

Like adjusting the clocks back, it’s going to take some getting used to online investing in November. With the US presidential election likely to shape the rest of the month, online brokers and investors alike are uncertain as to what the fallout will be.

Heading into a new month there is a mixed picture for promotional offers. On a down note, the 60-day commission-free trade offer from HSBC InvestDirect concluded at the end of October. On the plus side, however, Questrade rolled back the clock on inactivity fees, taking them back to zero. While technically not a promotion, it is a piece of good news for DIY investors looking to park their money without penalty.

Another bit of good news for DIY investors is November is historically a big month for online brokerage offers coming to market. We expect that several big names will be launching new offers in anticipation of RRSP season and the heightened activity around TFSAs and markets heading into the end of the year.

So, don’t forget to check back throughout the month for any updates. The US election is expected to heavily impact investor behaviour and in turn, the discount brokerage space. As always, we’ll continue to monitor and provide new developments on discount brokerage promotions as they arise but if you hear about any offers that would be interesting to fellow DIY investors, feel free to drop a comment below.

Expired Deals

The 60-day free online equity and ETF trading promotion from HSBC InvestDirect concluded on October 30th. 

Extended Deals

No extended deals to report at this time. 

New Deals

*Update: Nov. 6 – Brokerage promotions for November are heating up, with four online discount brokerages unveiling new cash back deals at the start of this month. BMO InvestorLine, BMO SmartFolio, and TD Direct Investing are all offering cash back bonuses for clients who open a new qualifying account, while CIBC Investor’s Edge is offering cash back for clients who fund a new or existing account. See the table below for full details, including eligibility requirements, applicable promo codes, and deadlines.*

*Update: Nov. 13 – Despite it being Friday the 13th, luck is on the side of DIY investors, as two online brokerages have recently unveiled new promotions. Scotia iTRADE launched a deal that allows new clients to choose from bonus cash back or free trades, and RBC Direct Investing is offering 25 commission-free trades to clients who open new accounts.  For full promotion details and eligibility requirements, see the table below. *

*Update: Nov. 27 – Our radar has picked up on a new deal, just in time for Black Friday. Wealthsimple Trade is offering a free stock promotion for clients who open and fund a new Non-Registered trading account by December 18th. See the table below for full terms and conditions. *

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
  6. Offers for Young Investors

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
Scotia iTrade Scotia iTRADE is offering two choices for new investors who open accounts before March 1, 2021 and fund it with at least A) $5,000; B) $10,000; C) $25,000; D) $50,000; E) $100,000; F) $250,000; G) $500,000 or H) $1M+: Option 1: you can use promo code C21 to receive cash reward of A) $25; B) $50; C) $100; D) $200; E) $400; F) $750; G) $1,000 or H) $1,500; plus a discounted commission of $6.99 per trade until June 30, 2021. Option 2: Use promo code FT21 and you may be eligible for A) 10; B) 20; C) 50; D) 100; E) 200; F) 300; G) 400 or H) 500 free trades to use for 90 days after the account is funded. $5,000 Cash Back or Free Trades 90 days Scotia iTRADE’s Cash Back or Free Trade Offer March 1, 2021
Fund your new or existing CIBC Investor’s Edge account before Mar 2, 2021 with at least A) $10,000; B) 25,000; C) $50,000; D) $100,000; E) $500,000 or F) $1M+ and you may be eligible to receive a cash back reward of up to A) $50; B) $100; C) $200; D) $500; E) $1,000 or F) $2,000. To qualify, the fund must be from outside CIBC. No promo code required. $10,000 Cash Back Program Page March 2, 2021
Open a new TD Direct Investing account by Mar 1, 2021 with promo code INVESTNOW and fund it with new assets worth at least A) $15,000; B) $25,000; C) $100,000; D) $250,000 or E) $500,000, and you may be eligible to receive a cash back reward of up to A) $100; B) $200; C) $300; D) $500 or E) $1,000. The fund must be deposited to the account by April 30, 2021 and at least one trade is placed by June 30, 2021. In addition, you may also be eligible for another $100 cash reward by setting up a Monthly Contribution Plan (min. $100 per month) with the first contribution occur before April 30, 2021. The maximum reward one could receive is $1,100. $15,000 Cash Back TD Direct Investing Cash Back Promotion March 1, 2021
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) $100; B) $250; C) $450; D) $950 or E) $2,000. Use promo code SPARXCASH when registering to qualify. Be sure to read full terms and conditions. $50,000 Cash Back Fall 2020 Cashback Campaign Jan 5, 2021
New accounts opened between Jun 22 and Nov 30, 2020 will be awarded 100 free online trades in one year. This promotion applies to new and existing NBDB clients who uses the code “FREE2020” to open new accounts.There’s no minimum funding requirement, however some other restrictions may apply. $0 100 Free Trades 1 year Please refer to the full details of the deal. November 30, 2020
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
Open a new RBC Direct Investing account by December 31, 2020 and fund it with at least $5,000 by March 5, 2021 and you will receive commission rebates for 25 trades that occur within 1 year of account opening. Be sure to use promo code NTBW2 during account opening. You will be charged regular commissions on the trading date, and the rebate will be deposited back into your account after 3-5 business days. If you are an existing customer to RBC DI, the type of the new account being opened must be different from the account types that you current have. $5,000 25 commission-free trades for a year 1 year 25 commission-free trades December 31, 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

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Nov. 12, 2020 17:35PT

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 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
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: Oct 30, 2020 14:40PT

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: Nov. 30, 2020 14:36PT

Other Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Required Details Link Deadline
The minimum commission per equity trade ($1.99) is waived for new accounts from account opening till December 31, 2020. As a result, your commission is just 1¢/share (max $7.99). However, this offer does not apply to Odd Lot orders (i.e. orders with quantity less than 100 shares if price >= $1 or price < $0.10; or less than 500 shares if price in the $0.10 – $0.99 range). Please be reminded that at Virtual Brokers ETFs are always free to buy. $0 No Minimum 2020 – Terms & Conditions December 31, 2020
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 200 commission-free trades and discounted trading commissions. Be sure to read full terms and conditions. n/a Hardbacon Free Trade Promo none
Open a new Non-Registered trading account and fund it with at least $100 by December 18, 2020 and you may receive a random cash bonus ranging from $1 to $4,500. The cash bonus amount will be equivalent to the value of one of the fifteen stocks that have been selected by Wealthsimple Trade for this program. Please refer to the Terms and Conditions for more details. $100 Wealthsimple Trade Free Stock Promotion December 18, 2020
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: Nov 24, 2020 16:16PT

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 a new SmartFolio account and fund it with at least $1,000 and you could receive 0.5% cash back up to $1,000. Use promo code SFNOV1000 when opening a new account. See terms and conditions for full details. This offer is limited to new SmartFolio clients only, and can be combined with the refer-a-friend promotion. $1,000 0.5% cash back to a maximum of $1,000. SFNOV1000 January 5, 2021 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: Oct. 30, 2020 14:38PT

Offers for Young Investors

Brokerage Offer Type Eligible Age Range / Client Segment Offer Description Min. Deposit Expiry Date Link
Student Pricing Clients with CIBC Smart™ Account for students $5.95 per trade and zero annual account fees not required None CIBC Student Pricing
[email protected] 18-30 18-30 years old investors Benefits: * 5 free transactions (Minimum deposit of $1,000 required) * No inactivity fees * No asset minimum to maintain for free registered accounts * Exclusive events * Disnat Mobile App $1,000 None [email protected] 18-30
Offers for professionals & Students Students in selected fields of study Professionals and students in the below fields can benefit from a reduced pricing structure: * Engineering students * Legal, accounting and business students * Healthcare students * Health sciences students * Nursing students Benefits: * $5.95 commission on equities * $0 commission on ETFs * $0 annual administration fee not required None NBDB Student Pricing
Young Investors Offer 18-30 years old investors Accounts holders who are 30 years old or younger are offered 10 free trades each year. After the free transactions, a commission rate of $4.95 per transaction will be applied (which is just half of the regular price). not required None Young Investor Offer
Young investor pricing 18-30 years old investors Benefits: * $7.75 commissions for stock and ETF trades * No account minimums * No quarterly admin fees min. $50 a month through pre-authorized contributions. None Young Investor Pricing
Waiver of account maintenance fee Clients who have RBC Student account, currently or in the past 5 years. The Maintenance Fee ($25 per quarter) is waived, regardless of the account balance. not required None Zero Account Management Fee
Young Investors Offer Clients below 26 years old Low activity account administration fee and the RSP account administration fee are waived. not required None Young Investors Offer
Zero Account Administration Fee Clients below 26 years old The account administration fee ($24.95 per quarter) is waived. not required None $0 Account Administration Fee
Last Updated: Oct. 30, 2020 14:41PT

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Discount Brokerage Deals & Promotions – October 2020

*Update: October 30* October is generally a spooky month for several reasons: The weather is colder, the sky is gloomier, and, of course, there’s Halloween at the end of the month. 

 In true 2020 fashion, October is predicted to unveil some more than a few tricks and even a few treats from Canadian discount brokerages, making it more uncanny than usual. This month, not only will there be a rare Halloween blue moon, but the markets are shaping up to become increasingly volatile as the US presidential election nears. 

As online brokerages brace themselves for what looks to be a bumpy ride, DIY investors who want to brave the impending instability and do some trick-or-treating for investments can scroll on for the most current deals and promotions from various Canadian online discount brokerages.

For those hunting for an online trading account, be sure to check back again during the month. We will continue to monitor and provide updates on new discount brokerage deals, and look forward to a month filled with all kinds of surprises.

Expired Deals

*Update: Oct. 30 – HSBC InvestDirect’s 60-day free online equity and ETF trading promotion has officially ended on October 30th.*

Extended Deals

National Bank Direct Brokerage extended their commission-free trade offer which was launched in the summer. This deal was originally slated to expire on October 30th, but has now been extended until November 30th. See the table below for full details regarding the promotion and eligibility. 

New Deals

No new deals to report at this time.

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
  6. Offers for Young Investors

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
HSBC InvestDirect is offering 60 days of free online equity and ETF trading (up to 60 transactions) for new accounts opened during the promotional period. There is no minimum funding requirement for the accounts; however, the fund must be from outside HSBC InvestDirect. Trading commissions will initally be charged but will then be credited back to the customer’s account within 120 days after the free trading period ends. $0 60 days of free trading 60 days Please refer to the full Terms and Conditions October 30, 2020
New accounts opened between Jun 22 and Nov 30, 2020 will be awarded 100 free online trades in one year. This promotion applies to new and existing NBDB clients who uses the code “FREE2020” to open new accounts.There’s no minimum funding requirement, however some other restrictions may apply. $0 100 Free Trades 1 year Please refer to the full details of the deal. November 30, 2020
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
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

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Sep. 30, 2020 9:20PT

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 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
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: Sep 30, 2020 10:16PT

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: Sep. 30, 2020 10:25PT

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: Sep 30, 2020 11:19PT

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: Sep. 30, 2020 10:31PT

Offers for Young Investors

Brokerage Offer Type Eligible Age Range / Client Segment Offer Description Min. Deposit Expiry Date Link
Student Pricing Clients with CIBC Smart™ Account for students $5.95 per trade and zero annual account fees not required None CIBC Student Pricing
[email protected] 18-30 18-30 years old investors Benefits: * 5 free transactions (Minimum deposit of $1,000 required) * No inactivity fees * No asset minimum to maintain for free registered accounts * Exclusive events * Disnat Mobile App $1,000 None [email protected] 18-30
Offers for professionals & Students Students in selected fields of study Professionals and students in the below fields can benefit from a reduced pricing structure: * Engineering students * Legal, accounting and business students * Healthcare students * Health sciences students * Nursing students Benefits: * $5.95 commission on equities * $0 commission on ETFs * $0 annual administration fee not required None NBDB Student Pricing
Young Investors Offer 18-30 years old investors Accounts holders who are 30 years old or younger are offered 10 free trades each year. After the free transactions, a commission rate of $4.95 per transaction will be applied (which is just half of the regular price). not required None Young Investor Offer
Young investor pricing 18-30 years old investors Benefits: * $7.75 commissions for stock and ETF trades * No account minimums * No quarterly admin fees min. $50 a month through pre-authorized contributions. None Young Investor Pricing
Waiver of account maintenance fee Clients who have RBC Student account, currently or in the past 5 years. The Maintenance Fee ($25 per quarter) is waived, regardless of the account balance. not required None Zero Account Management Fee
Young Investors Offer Clients below 26 years old Low activity account administration fee and the RSP account administration fee are waived. not required None Young Investors Offer
Zero Account Administration Fee Clients below 26 years old The account administration fee ($24.95 per quarter) is waived. not required None $0 Account Administration Fee
Last Updated: Sep. 30, 2020 11:17PT

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Discount Brokerage Deals & Promotions – September 2020

*Update: September 18* Although it feels like we’ve barely had enough time to enjoy the simple pleasures of summer this year, the end of the season is now just around the corner. As 2020 progresses, DIY investors continue to be met with market volatility. In fact, as we release this month’s discount brokerage deals and promotions update, stock market indices are continuing their push into record territory. 

Despite September’s chillier weather, the Canadian online brokerage space appears to be heating up this month. After a few quiet months devoid of new promotions, Canadian discount brokers have recently begun to gradually unveil new deals, signaling the return of some sense of “normalcy” in the world of discount brokerages. 

Heading into this month, a pair of new commission-free trade offers from two bank-owned discount brokerages have appeared on our radar. Scroll on to learn more about these recently launched promotions, as well as other deals that are currently being offered by Canadian discount brokerages. 

Be sure to check back throughout September, as we continue to monitor and provide updates on new discount brokerage deals. Here’s hoping these updates will keep you warm as the fall season approaches! 

Expired Deals

No expired deals to report at this time. 

Extended Deals

*Update: Sept. 18 – National Bank Direct Brokerage’s recently launched commission-free trade offer has been extended. Previously set to end on October 30th, this deal will now expire one month later on November 30th. See the table below for full details regarding the promotion and eligibility.*

New Deals

DIY investors looking for free trade promotions can rejoice. National Bank Direct Brokerage launched a commission-free trade offer this summer that is set to run until October 30th. Also, HSBC InvestDirect has jumped into the deals pool with a commission-free trading offer of their own. See the 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
  6. Offers for Young Investors

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
HSBC InvestDirect is offering 60 days of free online equity and ETF trading (up to 60 transactions) for new accounts opened during the promotional period. There is no minimum funding requirement for the accounts; however, the fund must be from outside HSBC InvestDirect. Trading commissions will initally be charged but will then be credited back to the customer’s account within 120 days after the free trading period ends. $0 60 days of free trading 60 days Please refer to the full Terms and Conditions October 30, 2020
New accounts opened between Jun 22 and Nov 30, 2020 will be awarded 100 free online trades in one year. This promotion applies to new and existing NBDB clients who uses the code “FREE2020” to open new accounts.There’s no minimum funding requirement, however some other restrictions may apply. $0 100 Free Trades 1 year Please refer to the full details of the deal. November 30, 2020
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
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
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 December 14, 2020 BMO InvestorLine Cash Back Offer Details June 1, 2020

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Sep. 18, 2020 10:28PT

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 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
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: Aug 31, 2020 15:56PT

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: Aug 31, 2020 14:25PT

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: Aug 31, 2020 14:29PT

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: Aug. 31, 2020 15:51PT

Offers for Young Investors

Brokerage Offer Type Eligible Age Range / Client Segment Offer Description Min. Deposit Expiry Date Link
Student Pricing Clients with CIBC Smart™ Account for students $5.95 per trade and zero annual account fees not required None CIBC Student Pricing
[email protected] 18-30 18-30 years old investors Benefits: * 5 free transactions (Minimum deposit of $1,000 required) * No inactivity fees * No asset minimum to maintain for free registered accounts * Exclusive events * Disnat Mobile App $1,000 None [email protected] 18-30
Offers for professionals & Students Students in selected fields of study Professionals and students in the below fields can benefit from a reduced pricing structure: * Engineering students * Legal, accounting and business students * Healthcare students * Health sciences students * Nursing students Benefits: * $5.95 commission on equities * $0 commission on ETFs * $0 annual administration fee not required None NBDB Student Pricing
Young Investors Offer 18-30 years old investors Accounts holders who are 30 years old or younger are offered 10 free trades each year. After the free transactions, a commission rate of $4.95 per transaction will be applied (which is just half of the regular price). not required None Young Investor Offer
Young investor pricing 18-30 years old investors Benefits: * $7.75 commissions for stock and ETF trades * No account minimums * No quarterly admin fees min. $50 a month through pre-authorized contributions. None Young Investor Pricing
Waiver of account maintenance fee Clients who have RBC Student account, currently or in the past 5 years. The Maintenance Fee ($25 per quarter) is waived, regardless of the account balance. not required None Zero Account Management Fee
Young Investors Offer Clients below 26 years old Low activity account administration fee and the RSP account administration fee are waived. not required None Young Investors Offer
Zero Account Administration Fee Clients below 26 years old The account administration fee ($24.95 per quarter) is waived. not required None $0 Account Administration Fee
Last Updated: Aug. 31, 2020 15:57PT

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – August 24, 2020

It’s funny that gravity is often associated with apples falling. This week, we’re seeing Apple as the symbol of defying gravity. Of course, the iconic tech brand isn’t the only one defying gravity with markets hitting new highs – and apparently, some online brokers are too.

In this edition of the Roundup, we review some interesting news related to an increasingly popular online brokerage that has decided to flex their recently growing muscles against their competitors. From there, we highlight an interesting online investor education event for options enthusiasts who might just find an extra reason to show up to class in September. As always, we cap things off with some colourful commentary from DIY investors on Twitter and in the investor forums.

Robinhood Finds Riches with Latest Raise

Of the many twists that nobody really saw coming in the online brokerage space in 2020, having the most financially successful year (possibly ever) would not have been one of them. And, yet, here we are.

With just a few more months left in the year, it is hard to characterize 2020 as anything but a runaway success for many online brokerages in Canada and the US, especially for Robinhood – who has firmly locked in their status as the breakout star of the online brokerage world.

This month, Robinhood, which is not publicly traded (yet), decided to flex by reporting its June trading metrics. Robinhood customers racked up a staggering 4.3 million trades per day during June – higher than all of the major existing online brokerages and, in some cases, by a lot. TD Ameritrade, which came in second behind Robinhood in terms of DARTs, saw clients place 3.84 million trades per day; Interactive Brokers and Schwab both clocked in at 1.8 million trades and E*Trade at 1.1 million trades.

Why Robinhood chose to release these figures now is a bit of a mystery. However, they may be laying the groundwork for their eventual plans to IPO and what better way to demonstrate value to the marketplace than with the core metric that many online brokerages are evaluated against. Perhaps not coincidentally either, Robinhood also successfully closed another round of financing (series g) this year, raising 200 million dollars and vaulting their company valuation to 11.2 billion dollars from 8.6 billion just a few months ago.

What does this mean for the industry as a whole and for Canadian discount brokerages in particular?

First, it reinforces the notion that the path to success in the online brokerage industry points in one clear direction: scale. Without it, the machinery of the online brokerage business model simply cannot achieve the level of activity required to generate profitability. Relevancy is measured in how many accounts you have, the assets under management and how much trading activity takes place on your platform. Other metrics, however, which were also released by Robinhood on social media, point to the strength of their content infrastructure which puts them well beyond the reach of any of their peers.

Second, user experience is a big picture concept – pricing has to match the platform. Robinhood was built around and for a defined audience. It was built mobile first. It was built for younger investors first. The kinds of services and experiences these younger investors found more appealing were the areas in which they focused. Perhaps more impressive than their rise in numbers has been the fact they managed to create a powerful brand. The recent purchases of TD Ameritrade ($26 billion) and E*Trade ($13 billion) reflect a price that includes the value of the brand. The most recent valuation of Robinhood reflects a brand that has room to run. And, with a brand, it enables a premium to be paid to belong to the ‘club’ that is Robinhood.

Third, there is a clear disconnect in the online brokerage industry around the “zero commission” brokerages like Robinhood (and in Canada, Wealthsimple Trade) and whether they can be considered peers/competitors to online brokerages.

This past week, for example, financial information publisher Kiplinger released its online brokerage rankings in the US and surprisingly, despite the numbers of users on the platform, Robinhood was left off the list of online brokerages in the US that were considered for part of the review. The reason Robinhood was not included was “the mobile-first brokerage doesn’t offer trading of bonds or mutual funds—key investment vehicles for many of our readers.” A similar tone appeared in reference to Wealthsimple Trade in the latest Moneysense online brokerage rankings of Canadian discount brokers. According to the Moneysense review, “Wealthsimple Trade, which has been wrongly labelled by many as an online brokerage firm as it only offers a mobile application with limited functionality, resources, account types, product, market information and services expected of a Canadian discount brokerage firm.”

The view that the ‘mobile first’ approach or limited feature set are not as “traditional” may be true but it is precisely why they are as popular as they are. Further, if these firms are not ‘discount’ brokerages in the truest sense when the commission rates per trade are now as low as possible, then it begs the question – what are they?

Popular media, for better or worse, has already decided these trading apps belong to the same category of financial service as an online brokerage. Clearly, consumers are not shying away from the limited feature set either. Valuations, media mentions, metrics and consumer sentiment are all pointing in the same direction with what Robinhood has produced thus far. For any existing online brokerage or ranking to exclude firms like Robinhood or Wealthsimple Trade from their planning, seems like they do so at their own peril.

Options Education Day Goes Virtual

With September just around the corner, so too is chatter of back-to-school. While the annual ritual of heading back to class is mired in controversy because of COVID-19, there exists a pretty clear alternative to meeting in person for educational activities.

For those looking to learn about options trading, the good news is that the Montreal Exchange is taking their one-day Options Education Day workshop into an online format for the second time this year. Filled with interesting content for beginners and intermediate investors, Options Education Day is typically a great way to learn about options and interact with other like-minded investors. Another standard feature of the event is the opportunity to interact with the sponsors, who in this case, are largely made up of Canadian discount brokerages.

The next session of the virtual Options Education Day will be taking place online on September 12th from 12pm to 3:30pm ET.

Canadian discount brokerages sponsoring this event include:

While most of these sponsors are fairly regular faces at these events, one relatively surprising online broker on this list is HSBC InvestDirect. For the most part, HSBC InvestDirect has flown under the radar when it comes to a lot of the activities that other brokerages typically do, so while this may be a fairly low-profile event, it is nonetheless interesting to see HSBC InvestDirect stepping forward to participate, in particular, at an event focused on options trading.

Given the high levels of investor interest and volatility in the market, options trading – while complex – represents a very profitable revenue source for many online brokerages in terms of trading commissions, even more so than with trading stocks.

With Options Education Day moving to a virtual format, attendees from across the country will be able to connect simultaneously, so in some ways, it will be an opportunity to connect with a larger audience than would be possible in person. Online brokerages stand to save quite a bit of money in terms of travel expenses and materials.

One underreported perk for attendees of these events is that there can be online broker specials offered for new account sign-ups. While there is no guarantee of a deal showing up, there’s a decent bet that the brokerages sponsoring will want to provide something to entice the attendees.

Check out the Options Education Day registration page for more information.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

From the Forums

Too Much of a Passive Thing?

A Redditor poses the question of what the impact of the popularization of passive investing might be in this post. Fellow forum users weigh in, discussing what this means for the market and for active traders.

Reimbursting a Bubble

Security is serious business for all Canadian online brokerages. This post on Reddit caught the attention of a lot of readers who were interested to learn about reimbursement fine print at a popular Canadian brokerage.

Into the Close

That’s it for a very heady week in the markets, from markets continuing to push higher and Apple continuing to make trillion-dollar market caps seem normal, to all kinds of showdowns looming on the political front and sports in hyperdrive. Wherever your focus happens to be, here’s hoping you get a better view of where things go next.