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Look Back / Look Ahead: A Review of Canadian Online Brokerages in 2021 & Preview of 2022

If there’s one thing that all self-directed investors have in common, it’s that they pay attention to trends. This year, we officially crossed the 10-year mark at Sparx Trading, and if there’s one thing that we can speak to after a decade’s worth of data and analysis, it’s being able to spot trends in the Canadian online brokerage industry. 

Taking stock (pun intended) of the past year and a half, it’s fair to say that we’re living through events unlike anything we’ve ever witnessed before. And yet, one of the most striking features of the Canadian online brokerage industry, even in the face of such dramatic events, is the ability of the Canadian market to sustain firms that move at paradoxically different speeds when it comes to innovation. That world, however, is about to change. 

In this fifth iteration of the Look Back / Look Ahead magazine, it’s abundantly clear that the Canadian self-directed investing industry sits at the cusp of a major transformation. 

From the launch of commission-free trading by National Bank Direct Brokerage, to a structural shift in demographics of investors who entered the online trading world, 2021 was a year that online brokerage executives told us challenged them to establish a new normal when it comes to delivering outstanding experiences for Canadian self-directed investors. 

Drastic change was also prevalent at SparxTrading.com this year. Our choice to completely overhaul our website and lean into refining our brand identity appears to be in line with where leaders in the industry are as well. And we, too, have some incredibly ambitious projects slated for the next year that we can’t wait to share more about, especially the launch of Sparx Trading Pro.

After 10 years of consistently producing content on the Canadian online brokerage landscape, it’s remarkable to reflect on the breadth of audience that we serve. 

Analysts, journalists, executives, enthusiasts, and investors turn to Sparx Trading for in-depth insights and newsworthy developments, as well as puns, gifs, and fun artwork. In today’s parlance, we’ve helped to democratize online investing by providing industry-grade content and insights to all. Today, investors have more technology, platforms, products, providers, and pricing options than they have ever had before, which means our place in the DIY investor ecosystem is even more important today than it was a decade ago when we first launched. 

On behalf of the exceptionally talented Sparx team, I would like to thank our loyal readers, supporters, and, especially, the online brokerage community for 10 years of wonderful memories, and for keeping things interesting. 

Where the next 10 years takes us all, we’re not sure. But we’re excited all the same, especially if where we’re going next won’t need roads. See you in the future!

Click below to learn more about what each individual online brokerage had to say about 2021 and what’s coming up in 2022:

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – October 25, 2021

Halloween is just around the corner, and it’s not just ghouls and goblins that are causing a fright around online brokerage circles. Apparently, the specter of zero-commission trading is a bit of a phantom menace on both sides of the border.

In this edition of the Roundup, we reveal (yet) another new commission-free online brokerage setting its sights on coming to Canada and what that could mean to existing online brokerages’ plans to keep commission rates where they are. Next, we review one US online brokerage’s move to put account funding in the fast lane and dive into what it could mean for active traders here in Canada who want to get going as fast as possible. Finally, we cap off this week’s news with some fascinating commentary from self-directed investors in the investing forums.

TradeZero Coming to Canada

Last week we mentioned the news that TradeZero announced they would be going public. A fun fact about going public is that there is usually a pitch deck for investors to buy into your company, and in the case of TradeZero, there were several interesting nuggets of information about their intent as an online brokerage.

Buried in the TradeZero investor presentation deck was the revelation that TradeZero intends to launch in Canada sometime in 2022. Although they had officially registered in Canada as far back as June of this year, the investor presentation put a timeline and target on what the opportunity for them in the Canadian market could look like. It appears that TradeZero is using its launch in Canada as part of a series of launches in different countries and regions over the next few years.

Perhaps the most interesting angle in terms of their expansion is that TradeZero is positioning itself to compete directly against Interactive Brokers for the ultra-active retail trader. Of all the segments of investors, the active trader is highly prized but comes with the highest expectations for quality of experience, platform stability, capability for complex trading, and competitive pricing.

Although it is unclear as to what they will launch in Canada, it’s a safe assumption that the products will be aligned to active traders, and according to their investor presentation, options, and cryptocurrency trading, are likely candidates alongside equities to be a part of the go-to-market offering. The timeframe to achieve the scale they’re looking for, namely some percentage of the 160,000 accounts, is also unclear. For comparison, account opens cited by other media sources peg Questrade as opening 200,000 accounts per year, and while there very well may be a large number of accounts in the total addressable market in Canada, hitting their target number won’t come easy.

It begs the question, who would TradeZero’s competitors be in Canada?

At the top of the list would be Interactive Brokers; however, based on their target demographic and the active trader profile, there are several other firms whose lunch TradeZero would try to eat. These would include CG Direct (the legacy business from Jitneytrade), Wealthsimple Trade (because of crypto and US equities), and it’s fair that Questrade and TD Direct Investing would be in the mix too because of their active trader offering, especially on the options side.

Then, there is the branding issue. While active traders might be more inclined to trial or check out a new technology or brokerage, being a new online brokerage in the Canadian market is generally met with some suspicion, regardless of the offer. A great case in point is the fact that despite having low standard commissions and offering a lot of the perks of being bank-owned, both HSBC InvestDirect and National Bank Direct Brokerage have yet to see the kind of traction from price sensitive online investors that would have been expected. Even with zero commission trading now available from National Bank Direct Brokerage, it is surprising to read how many investors are willing to stay with their existing brokerage in hopes that commission rates will drop at their broker.

In order to ramp up to the addressable market that TradeZero is targeting for Canada, there will almost certainly be a significant investment in marketing and advertising to let people know who they are and what they do best – perhaps better than the alternatives. And, to make matters more challenging, they will also be doing this alongside at least two if not three other new entrants into the Canadian online trading landscape – the most directly challenging one being Tastyworks.

Of course, Interactive Brokers is also no slouch and is unlikely to simply allow a new entrant to directly compete for high value clients. The product mix, especially with regards to account types such as RRSPs and TFSAs, are crucial to the “convenience factor” even for ultra-active traders. The benefits of TFSAs and RRSPs for wealth creation are simply too high to not try to take full advantage of, hence clients who wish to “trade fast” with TradeZero will have to maintain another relationship with another online brokerage to do the “slow stuff,” thus opening the door to being courted away.

To TradeZero’s credit, despite the hurdles, they are clearly ambitious in their desire to expand their brand globally and into the highly regulated areas of securities trading. The fundamental business case is certainly there; however, so is the competition. There are pain points among users of Interactive Brokers, such as a steep learning curve of the trading platform and lackluster customer service, so TradeZero does have a foothold if they can improve the client experience of active retail traders.

The consequences for the Canadian online brokerage landscape may not be felt right away, especially given the segment that TradeZero will be pursuing. That said, with a name like TradeZero and an offering of commission-free trades, there is almost certainly going to be increased pressure on incumbent online brokerages to drop their commission prices. It is already happening a few times per week in investor forums and discussions and will likely only ramp up as each new commission-free brokerage comes on stream.

Canadian investors and traders alike might just find the pace of change at their own online brokerage slow enough that they’d be willing to at least try TradeZero, and at that point, it’s a slippery slope as to whether they switch brokerages. Those are the odds that perhaps TradeZero is banking on.

Interactive Brokers Puts Payments on Rails

Payments were an interesting thread of discussion at Interactive Brokers this past week. In the first instance, there were some intriguing remarks made by founder and Chairman of Interactive Brokers, Thomas Peterffy, regarding payment for order flow (PFOF), the (now) controversial practice that enables zero-commission online brokerages like Robinhood to sell the orders their clients place to buy and sell stocks to a third party.

An industry veteran, it is always fascinating to hear Peterffy’s take on the mechanics of online trading, and in an interview last week with Yahoo! Finance, it was his position that despite the increased scrutiny from the US financial regulators, the reality is that the practice of selling orders would likely still persist although under a different pathway. In short, even if PFOF was clamped down on, online brokerages would find another way to monetize the trade execution.

Another interesting talking point about Interactive Brokers this past week was an announcement that they are launching a real-time payment solution that will enable clients to make instant deposits to their accounts. The rollout of this feature in the US is starting with clients who have accounts with Chase; however, given the desire for fast money traders to be able to move money around just as fast, this is a huge step forward.

Getting funds from point A to point B is remarkably longer than it should be in 2021, especially among online brokerages who aren’t bank-owned. The ability for individuals to open an account and essentially fund the account instantly removes a major friction point from being able to quickly jump into hot trading opportunities.

In the case of real-time funding of accounts, among Canadian online brokerages that are not bank-owned, this has been a significant stumbling block to individuals who are looking to get started as quickly as possible. Earlier this year, we reported on Questrade launching instant deposits (up to $3,500) and Wealthsimple (Trade) too, with the latter raising deposit limits significantly since they first launched and tying the ability to send more (up to $1,000) to their premium service. For Interactive Brokers in Canada, the funding time listed on their website states up to four business days for funds to be available, depending on the funding method chosen.  

As the launch of the real time payments option in the US is still in the early stages of a roll out, there is likely some time before Canadian self-directed investors can benefit. That said, it is a sign of a trend already in place whereby the faster an online investor can fund their account, the more likely they are to choose that brokerage to get up and running with. It’s not enough to have instant or fast account approvals if the ability to trade opportunities – especially fast-moving ones – is limited. Clearly, other online brokerages in Canada have figured this out, so it is now a bit of a race for others, including Interactive Brokers, to ramp this feature up quickly or risk being derailed by whatever the next big wave of new trading opportunities brings.

From the Forums

Trade Interrupted

If there’s one thing that all seasoned DIY investors know, it’s that online trading is not without its risks. One active investor learned the hard way about the risk of a platform not working as intended, and shared their experience in this post on reddit. Find out what fellow online investors had to say about what happened as well as the aftermath.

Hold On, For One More Day

Being told to wait is rarely music to any investor’s ears. In this post on reddit, one self-directed investor pointed out that the new hold music (or lack thereof) at TD Direct Investing was an unusual experience. Find out what fellow online investors had to say about this small but interesting detail of the customer service experience.\

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – December 21, 2020

The phrase that’s been a mantra for many of us in 2020 – aside from “You’re on mute” – has been “Is it over yet?” Finally, it’s a lot closer to being true than at any previous point in the year. Thank goodness. In keeping with the sentiment of a very long year, this end-of-year edition of the Weekly Roundup is itself longer than usual. Unlike 2020, however, it is intentionally long because so many interesting things took place.

Packaging so many big developments into one post was a challenge. So, for this final edition of the Roundup for the year, we offer up an homage to a movie franchise that seems to go on just about as long as 2020 has. This Fast and Furious edition of the Roundup recaps the year one quarter at a time. Keep reading for high-octane stories that powered the Weekly Roundup for the past year, including important feature releases, interesting trends, and the stories that were kind of a big deal.  In true Weekly Roundup form, we roll the credits on 2020 with DIY investor chatter from Twitter and the forums.

Buckle up, it’s going to be a wild ride.

Q1 2020: Everything Was Normal Until It Wasn’t

Looking back on the beginning of the year, the start to 2020 in the Canadian online brokerage space seemed pretty “normal” by most accounts.

One theme early in the year was pricing drops. Desjardins Online Brokerage, for example, significantly dropped their commission rates, especially for active investors, to under $1 per trade. Similarly, HSBC also teed up an offer for active investors: zero-commission pricing between April and December 2020. Although these two firms aren’t as well known in the Canadian online brokerage space as other mainstream firms or the big-five bank-owned online brokers, it was clear that commission pricing in 2020 would continue to be under pressure as smaller firms looked to gain market share. These moves were also timed around the start of the year because of the heightened interest in RSP accounts, and, as such, there would be a much larger audience of investors willing to consider these new pricing features. Interestingly, the rest of the Canadian online brokerage industry did not immediately move to lower commission prices. As it turned out, once the tsunami of investor demand for online brokerage accounts took hold, commission prices stayed largely untouched until the latter part of 2020.

Another important theme early in the year (prior to COVID-19 hitting with full force) was the release of online brokerage reviews and rankings. Both The Globe and Mail and Surviscor released their respective rankings of Canada’s online brokers in order to coincide with the time in the calendar when many DIY investors hunt out new online investing accounts and offers.

What stood out about the 2020 edition of The Globe and Mail online brokerage rankings (which happened to be the 21st edition of these rankings) was that a number of firms scored a respectable grade (B or better), but of the top three firms by letter grade, two of them were bank-owned online brokers: TD Direct Investing and Scotia iTrade. The firm that reappeared at the top of these rankings was Qtrade Investor, which earned an A+ rating overall. Ironically, TD Direct Investing suffered from a trading interruption (something that would become a lot more commonplace across the industry in 2020), and Scotia iTrade continued to face challenges responding to clients in a timely fashion over the phone.

In the Surviscor rankings, Qtrade Investor also took top spot, edging out Questrade and TD Direct Investing. Not to be outdone, Questrade earned a DALBAR award for client service, providing additional points for their brand in a year that started off strong in terms of rankings progress.

Of course, the major story during the first quarter of 2020 was COVID-19, and specifically how it roiled markets and caused a massive shock to trading systems, online brokerages, and DIY investors. For some, it was catastrophic, but to others, the opportunity of a lifetime. It was this latter group that won the day, however, as new investors jumped at the chance to invest in household-name stocks at incredible prices. Further, the “Robinhood effect” was cited as another reason the volatility seemed to skyrocket. The US online brokerage had moved to a largely commission-free model, and, as such, investors could “scalp” trade – making small and frequent trades – with no real downside (in terms of commission pricing). It turned out, however, that most online brokerage systems were not equipped to handle the surge in interest in trading combined with market volatility.

Some weird things happened. Among them, Wealthsimple Trade having to effectively halt new clients from being able to trade on their platform.

Major online brokerages also suffered trading platform downtime, slammed telephone reps, and the biggest surge in online brokerage account opening since the bitcoin craze in 2018. Oh, and they had to contend with all of this while being transitioned to a work-from-home model.

Also strange, people deciding to hoard toilet paper.

Q2 2020: Outages & Outrage

The start of the second quarter picked up right where the first ended, as things went from weird to certifiably insane. Volatility and trading volumes managed to take down trading systems at multiple Canadian bank-owned online brokerages, but that would not even be the weirdest thing to take place in April. As it turns out, prices for commodities, like barrels of oil, could not only fall to zero but also go negative.

Unfortunately for traders – and especially for Interactive Brokers clients – the oil contract price going negative wound up impairing (if not wiping out) a significant number of traders, and that was because of a programming glitch on Interactive Brokers’ platform that didn’t account for prices of contracts being able to turn negative. All told, Interactive Brokers ended up taking a $90 million loss because of the exceptionally rare move to reimburse traders caught offside by this issue. Of course, while embarrassing for Interactive Brokers, these were truly unusual times, and there were other traders who didn’t see it coming.

Nonetheless, Interactive Brokers also had a huge silver lining after the oil futures contract fiasco: They experienced record-breaking new-account growth. As the canary in the coal mine, Interactive Brokers telegraphed exceptionally strong account openings (+22% year over year) and revenue gains from the sheer volume of activity taking place. In fact, there were more accounts opened at Interactive Brokers in April 2020 than in the last six months of 2019 combined.

Against the backdrop of market volatility, another online brokerage ranking was published, this time from J.D. Power. The Self-Directed Investor Satisfaction Study was revealing in that even before many of the issues that came to light during the heavy volatility in the markets, the Canadian online brokerage industry was starting to slip in terms of investor satisfaction. The report card showed that online brokerages fared worse in 2020 than they did in 2019 when it came to overall satisfaction.

Questrade managed to take top spot in the rankings for 2020, an accolade that is the result of a long journey of constant improvement. Conversely, the bottom four online brokerages in Canada, according to J.D. Power, were from the big five: RBC Direct Investing, TD Direct Investing, CIBC Investor’s Edge, and Scotia iTrade, respectively, were the firms that scored the lowest on the 2020 edition of this ranking. One telling stat was that website stability and accessibility were areas where online investors felt underserved, with 46% of those polled experiencing a problem with their provider’s website.

Finally, the major development in the second quarter of 2020 (outside of COVID-19) was the death of George Floyd and the igniting of social justice movements in North America (and across the world) to a point not seen since the US Civil Rights movement. Though the stock markets were largely insulated from the headline risk, major names in the public markets (like Nike) took very public stands on the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement. One potentially coincidental shift that we noted in the websites of two online brokerages at this time was the use of more inclusive and diverse imagery. What a DIY investor was “supposed to look like” changed in terms of the imagery used on the websites of Interactive Brokers and Virtual Brokers. Other online brokerages in Canada had already made the shift to more inclusive imagery, so it was nice to see these online brokers take a step in the right direction when it comes to representation.

Another important note on Virtual Brokers emerged during this time, which was that the parent company, CI Financial, had opted to consolidate the “Virtual Brokers” name under CI Direct Investing along with another key name in the digital investing space: WealthBar. Although no definitive timetable was published on this move, it means that a long-standing name in the online brokerage space will disappear, and DIY investors will have to learn another new name. To make matters even more challenging, the new online brokerage that formed from the acquisition of Jitneytrade by Canaccord is named CG Direct. These two names are bound to confuse DIY investors even more than the current challenge of sorting out Qtrade Investor and Questrade.

Q3 2020: Sun and Shade

With the nicer weather and relative calm in stock markets, it seemed like an opportune moment for several online brokerages to make big announcements and feature enhancements/changes. And there were a few.

Starting in June, TD Direct Investing announced updates to its mobile app that focused on enhancements to investor education. Interestingly, as it came to be seen later in the year, this move toward bolstering investor education was both a timely one, given the number of new investors coming into the stock market, and a well-calculated one, supporting the big reveal that would come in Q4. The trend of improvements to mobile trading experiences was something that surfaced several times in the year, notably with RBC Direct Investing as well as Virtual Brokers.

One of the biggest announcements to cross the tape was that Wealthsimple Trade would be launching cryptocurrency trading in Canada. Offering trading in both Bitcoin and Ethereum, this move by the “zero-commission” online broker in Canada was yet another step to appeal to a younger, more tech-savvy audience who wanted both an easier way to access these digital currency instruments and a more user-friendly way. This pilot program will ultimately help to inform whether cryptocurrency trading can be properly regulated by financial authorities in Canada. In 2020, Wealthsimple Trade continued to lean into its identity as a “Robinhood Canada,” given the success of the US online brokerage in winning over new investors to its platform.

One big feature roll-out that didn’t quite go as planned was from CIBC Investor’s Edge. Unfortunately, the feature upgrade’s first attempt resulted in trading interruptions that, in turn, prompted the online broker to offer commission-free trades to those who were impacted by the outage. Eventually, however, a new online trading experience was rolled out – in part – and set the stage for further improvements to the user experience.

After a very quiet stretch, signs of life in the deals and promotions section started to appear. National Bank Direct Brokerage launched a sizable commission-free trade offer, and, interestingly, Wealthsimple Trade launched a contest with a draw for $5,000 in cash. What made the latter offer stand out is that it was an early signal that despite offering zero-commission trades, Wealthsimple Trade also had to undertake some further effort to entice new clients to their platform (something that showed up again in Q4).

Q4 2020: A Few Good Mends

It’s hard to believe that the fourth quarter was actually just one quarter, given how much happened. The resurgence of COVID-19 via the “second wave,” the huge rally in the stock market to set new highs, and the US federal election all would have been massive stories on their own but, combined, they made it nearly impossible to keep from watching the news.

Despite all of the negative headlines, what did emerge for online brokerages and DIY investors was an interesting convergence of events.

While the first portion of the year showed unprecedented strength of interest by online investors to open up accounts and trade, by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, things had levelled off somewhat. Nevertheless, Canadian online brokerages, much like their US counterparts, were seeing elevated trading activity and, unlike their peers in the US, were generating significant revenue as a result. The fourth quarter in the year is also the time when online brokers in Canada typically start their ramp-up to campaigns for RSP season. What resulted from these events taking place simultaneously was that the deals and promotions activity in November just exploded. Offers came to market from all major online bank-owned brokerages as well as most other Canadian online brokers in one way or another. Even Wealthsimple Trade managed to jump into the deals and promotions fray, once again taking their cues from Robinhood and launching a promotion to give away cash in an amount equivalent to a particular popular stock.

Deals were just one part of what the fourth quarter of 2020 had to offer. Also on deck for the end of the year was a huge announcement from TD Direct Investing, which launched their new commission-free ETF trading platform, GoalAssist. While the platform only allows commission-free trading for TD-branded ETFs, it is a huge step in moving the needle forward on commission-free trading for Canadian DIY investors. Already ETFs are free to buy (at Questrade and Virtual Brokers) or free to buy and sell (all ETFs at National Bank Direct Brokerage and a limited selection at Scotia iTrade and Qtrade Investor). So, for TD Direct Investing, one of the biggest names in Canadian DIY investing circles, to launch this product (and in a mobile-only format to boot) means that they are directly going after the commission-free trading offering by Wealthsimple Trade.

Ironically, it appears that in the fourth quarter, Wealthsimple Trade was already at work to challenge the traditional Canadian online brokerage offering of a “desktop experience.” Prior to this year, Wealthsimple Trade had been available in mobile-app format only – something that ultimately ended getting Wealthsimple Trade disqualified from being included in some of the Surviscor online brokerage rankings.

As of the fourth quarter, however, Wealthsimple Trade has launched a desktop version of their web platform that is being tested by users. Given that fewer people are actually going into an office or are on the go to and from an office, more and more users are spending time on their laptops or desktop computers. So, this highly sought-after feature is another shot across the bow aimed at the online brokerage industry indicating that Wealthsimple Trade is getting up to speed on the features that online investors want.

New features didn’t stop there for Canadian online brokerages, however. BMO InvestorLine rolled out a 2.0 version of their online trading experience, which significantly streamlines their existing web interface, though it is still being updated in terms of features. At first blush, it looks like the trend among online brokerages has shifted away from completing all features before launch, moving instead to an “agile” model of shipping features out and enhancing/optimizing over the product lifecycle. Another big announcement from an online broker regarding features was from National Bank Direct Brokerage, which officially rolled out OptionsPlay as part of their offering to clients. This platform is intended to assist individual investors in manoeuvring through trading options.

Finally, one more noteworthy milestone took place in the quarter, as the Sparx team launched the fourth edition of the Look Back/Look Ahead series. This publication featured in-depth coverage of several of Canada’s most popular online brokerages, which offered a unique glimpse at how 2020 unfolded for them as well as what features and trends they’re looking to in 2021. In addition to the online brokerage space as a whole, the magazine also offered a sneak peek at the new SparxTrading.com website coming in 2021.

Even summarizing it a quarter at a time, this year had lots of other stories that we didn’t get a chance to highlight in the Roundups as well as in this ultimate year-end review of stories that shaped 2020 in the Canadian (and US) online brokerage industry.

2020 being what it is, there’s still room for some kind of unplanned surprise that could impact investors – whether it’s a new deal or feature launch – however, the good news is that with just a few more days until the official end of the year, online brokerage employees are going to be in holiday mode, too. As such, we don’t anticipate more feature releases going live just yet.

So, on that note, we’ll be doing something different and signing off for the Weekly Roundup for 2020 for the final stretch of December. We will be rebooting in early January, with a few other surprises to mention right out of the gate, as well as more exclusive content. Unless, of course, 2020 drops a story too big not to cover in the online brokerage space.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

From the Forums

A Sure Thing?

In this post, one investor asks for recommendations of stable, secure American companies to invest in for the next 10 to 15 years. The advice pours in, covering ETFs, the couch potato strategy, Canadian versus American stocks – and why you should avoid taking advice about specific stocks from random people on the internet.

Live and Learn

An investor who knows very little about their own investments asks about the best way to learn about the topic. Redditors share their favourite books, websites, courses, podcasts, and more, along with their personal financial journeys.

Into the Close

That’s it for the final Roundup for 2020. With vaccines now in place and hope on the horizon, there is lots to look forward to in the coming months. The next few weeks will be the most challenging; however, to pull a (final) line from the Fast and Furious franchise, “We do what we do best, we improvise.”

Stay safe, healthy, and connected, and see you again in 2021.

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – May 25, 2020

It’s likely a sign of the times, but what we see and hear on the news is so vastly different depending on where we live. And, even though we are all living through the collective experiment of lifting restrictions, we are starting to learn more about the unforeseen consequences of COVID-19 as well as the fact that in spite of it all, the world continues to move and people in it continue to want to push forward.

In this edition of the Roundup, there is a lot of news to digest. Up first is a continuation of the wave of information that continues to wash ashore treasures of data that reveal why online brokerages in both Canada and the US may be busier than they’ve ever been, in spite of the economic mayhem playing out on both sides of the border. Though that is a hard act to follow, there is even bigger news that broke this past week in the Canadian online brokerage space, as two new brands get set to enter the discount brokerage pool, making it ever harder for Canadian online brokers to safely keep their distance from one another. As always, we’ll close out by highlighting chatter from across the DIY investing forums and from Twitter.

Chequing the Data: Why Discount Brokerages are So Busy

After being sheltered in place for several weeks, cities and economies across North America are cautiously venturing back into a “new normal.”

While most organizations and individuals are looking forward to getting things back on track, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the experience of social distancing was not evenly experienced across the economy. Although many companies found themselves having to shut down, there were others that were able to continue via “remote work” and which fared much better than expected.

For online brokerages, it has been busier than ever during the market turmoil and accompanying shutdowns. The reopening of many economies may represent the end of historic participation by investors in the markets, and as a result, trading levels may drop off. Of course, what led to this level of activity is starting to become clearer, although the consequences remain to be fully understood.

While it is difficult at the best of times to know exactly what drives investors into the market, in the recent market run-up from March lows, a theory gaining steam is that the jump in investor participation is a combination of more people working from home (or being forced to stay home), a lack of major sporting events to bet on, and, perhaps most ominously, government support cheques.

Data gathered by a story published in the Financial Times explains much of what we have been covering over the past several weeks: that online brokerages in the US have seen record growth in the number of new accounts as well as in trading volume. What was especially interesting in this article, however, was what appeared to be motivating individuals trading in the markets in both the US and Canada.

On the US side of the border, the FT article cited examples of prominent sports-betting personality Dave Portnoy, who founded Barstool Sports, jumping into stock trading with E*Trade. The fact that he commands a significant social media following and was also featured on CNBC serves as an indicator for a much more common persona of “investor” at this time. The portrait of the “everyday” investor stuck at home with nothing else to do and making lots of money is a tempting (and familiar) trope of the stock market.

It was a mention of what was happening in the Canadian market, however, that is likely to raise more than a few eyebrows.

Below is the excerpt from the FT article. What stands out from this passage is that there are Canadians who are jumping into online trading and potentially using government stimulus to do so. To boot, the online brokerage happened to be RBC Direct Investing.

In fact, this article isn’t the first or only source to suggest this. Another reference to this behaviour was cited in an article by popular financial personality Garth Turner several weeks ago.

It’s not just in Canada, either, that stimulus cheques are being used to jump into the stock market. A recent report mentioned on CNBC about where stimulus cheques received by Americans ended up getting spent found that individuals with incomes between USD $35K to $75K increased their spending on stock trading by over 90% compared to the week before they received their stimulus cheques. The article went further to state:

“Exact reasons for that surge in interest is unclear. Most analysts chalk it up to the attractiveness of the market comeback, but it appears the stimulus money at least played a part.”

Regardless of the source of coverage, there seems to be a consensus that there have been investors participating in the stock market who might not have the same depth of understanding of risk management as traditional investors would. As a result, the “experts” forecast greater volatility ahead as either more investors pile into a rally at its later stages or retreat at the first sign of weakness.

For online brokerages on either side of the border, COVID-19 has generated a substantial level of trading activity and interest in trading online. The unintended consequences of the emergency relief funding provided by governments have resulted in a number of DIY investors in both countries opening new accounts or funding existing accounts.

While there have been cycles in the past where stock market run-ups have attracted fast money (in particular from younger investors/traders), it does beg the question as to what online brokerages will be doing to prepare for the inevitable fallout.

Almost 20 years ago, day trading met its match in the dot-com bubble. Ten years ago, there was an enormous financial crisis that ingrained skepticism among a generation of investors. This time may not be different in terms of investors getting ahead of fundamentals, but there will almost certainly be tough lessons to learn considering who has been drawn into the market and what they have been drawn into it with.

Newish Kids on the Block: More Discount Brokerages to Choose From

The Canadian online brokerage space is undoubtedly a crowded one when it comes to providers for online trading. With 13 brokers serving a relatively small population of investors, the business case for online brokers is a challenging one. It is likely the reason why, outside of one or two online brokerages in Canada, the current suite of providers are subsidiaries of much larger financial firms. In the online brokerage business in Canada, scale is essential to survive.

These past few months, it has been interesting to observe who among the online brokers in Canada was actively attending to the “growth” functions of their business and who was not.

For example, we’ve been watching who has been launching new features, updating their website with important messaging related to COVID-19, advertising online as well as creating content for investors. Despite the calm and perhaps lack of movement on the front end, this past week revealed a lot about why activity appeared to have dwindled at a couple of Canadian online brokers.

The first big story announced this past week was that CI Financial is going all in on acquiring the popular roboadvisor WealthBar (in which they had already held a 75% stake). CI Financial acquired BBS Securities, parent to Virtual Brokers, in 2017 and since then has been working on an important digital-transformation business initiative, which means the development of the front end and brand of Virtual Brokers has been slower than has historically been the case. Interestingly, the reason for the reduced pace of activity may now become clearer as the announced acquisition also revealed that CI Financial will be launching CI Direct Investing, which will ultimately replace Virtual Brokers.

Taking what has been a household name (Virtual Brokers) and rebranding it into a new entity will be a challenge and likely require a considerable investment of marketing resources. However, with a diverse wealth-management offering that now includes the roboadvisor and direct-investing services in combination with a significantly sized parent company, bank-owned brokerages will undoubtedly have to adjust course. Slides from an investor presentation earlier in the month reveal the new look and organization of the self-directed investing arm at CI Financial as well as motives as to what drove the decision.

Another big story that broke last week was the news that Morgan Stanley will be launching a wealth-management business in Canada that will include, among other services, a self-directed investing platform – aka discount brokerage.

Earlier this year, Morgan Stanley also made a bid to acquire online brokerage E*Trade Financial, and while still awaiting regulatory approval, this could set the stage for the return of this online brokerage to Canada. Interestingly, as part of its strategy to broaden its wealth-management offering in Canada, Morgan Stanley will be working with Canaccord Genuity as its local platform provider that will be delivering clearing, custody, and wealth-management solutions. It is worth noting that Canaccord Genuity acquired online brokerage Jitneytrade last year and launched a rebranded online brokerage Canaccord Genuity (CG) Direct.

With new online brokerage brands in play in the Canadian discount brokerage market, it is going to once again push existing online brokers to accelerate their plans to innovate and to create experiences and incentives to attract DIY investors’ attention (and loyalty).

Though CI Financial is certainly a formidable wealth-management entity, there will be challenges to break into the DIY investor market, especially via the Virtual Brokers brand and experience. On the other hand, the return of an iconic online brokerage brand like E*Trade would make a huge splash in DIY investor circles.

Many Canadian DIY investors, young and old, have heard of both E*Trade and Morgan Stanley, which will pose a serious challenge to existing Canadian online brokerages – including the bank-owned brokers. And, it is worth mentioning that E*Trade offers commission-free trading, which, if they do come to the Canadian market at that price point, would be a watershed moment for commission pricing for Canadian DIY investors.

Despite what appeared to be a slowdown in activity on the front end of certain online brokers, there clearly have been major developments taking place behind the scenes. For existing online brokerages, the race is now on to contend with at least two new incarnations of serious competitors. Of course, it doesn’t stop there, either. Morgan Stanley’s moves won’t go unnoticed in the US wealth-management space, and there will be a number of other providers who may be running their own assessment of competing against the financial giant on Canadian soil. So, as big a story as this is, these new developments could spark an even more volatile time for the Canadian online brokerage space. Talk about a new normal.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

From the Forums

Gold-Oriented

In this post, a curious DIY investor looks to the big picture to determine whether or not gold is a solid investment, and fellow forum users weigh in on the story that the numbers might be telling.

Just Deserts

A Redditor turns to the forum to ask the question “What would be your desert island ETF?” in this post.

Into the Close

With all that has already happened in just a few months of 2020, it’s hard to believe that there are any more surprises left. And yet, here we are. Just a few days away from the end of May, and even against the backdrop of pandemic lockdowns, the online brokerage space in Canada is poised to radically transform yet again in the year ahead. While the news is certainly focused on what’s taking place in the near term, there are already rumblings of a second wave. Given everything that has surfaced about the DIY investor market this past week, the only advice at this point is to enjoy whatever calm takes place. It doesn’t seem like it’s going to last for too long.

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Discount Brokerage Deals & Promotions – January 2020

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

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

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

Expired Deals

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

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

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

Extended Deals

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

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

New Deals

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

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

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

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


Discount Brokerage Deals

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

Cash Back/Free Trade/Product Offer Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Commission/Cash Offer/Promotion Type Time Limit to Use Commission/Cash Offer Details Link Deadline
Open and fund a new account (TFSA, Margin or RRSP) with at least $1,000 and you may be eligible to receive $88 in commission credits (up to 17 commission-free trades). Use promo code SPARX88 when signing up. Be sure to read terms and conditions carefully. $1,000 $88 commission credit 60 days Access this offer by clicking here: $88 commission-credit offer . For full terms and conditions, click here. none
Open and fund a new account (TFSA, Margin or RRSP) with at least $1,000 and you may be eligible to receive 5 commission-free trades. Use promo code 5FREETRADES when signing up. Be sure to read terms and conditions carefully. $1,000 5 commission-free trades 60 days 5 commission-free trade offer December 31, 2020
Scotia iTrade Open and fund a new Scotia iTrade account to be eligible for up to $1,500 in cash back and $6.99 commission pricing, or up to 500 free equity trades. The amount of cashback and free trades are dependent on the funding of your account. Take a look at the offer details link for further information. $5,000 Cash + discounted commissions, or free trades. $6.99 trades available until June 30, 2020; Cash or commission rebate for free trades available until July 31, 2020. iTrade Offer Details February 29, 2020
Open a new RBC Direct Investing account by March 27th and you may be eligible for 25 commission-free equity and ETF trades. You must deposit or transfer $5,000 in your account by May 8th, 2020 to be able to use this promotion. Make sure that the offer code MFTC2 is applied during account opening. As always, be sure to take a look at the terms and conditions for further details. $5,000 25 commission-free trades 1 year Commission-Free Offer Details March 27, 2020
Open and fund a qualifying new or existing account at TD Direct Investing with at least A) $15,000; B) $25,000; C) $100,000; D) $250,000 or E) $500,000 or more and you may be eligible to receive a cash back reward up to A) $100; B) $200; C) $300; D) $500 or E) $1,000. Use promo code RSPCash20 when applying online. Be sure to read full terms and conditions. A) $15,000 B) $25,000 C) $100,000 D) $250,000 E) $500,000 A) $100 B) $200 C) $300 D) $500 E) $1,000 Cash back will be deposited by Aug. 16, 2020. TD Direct Investing Promotion February 29, 2020
Open and fund a new qualifying account with at least $25,000 and you may qualify for one month of unlimited commission-free trades and up to one month free of an advanced data package. Use promo code ADVANTAGE14 when opening a new account. Be sure to read terms and conditions for full details. $25,000 commission-free trades for 1 month + 1 month of advanced data. 1 month Active Trader Program December 31, 2020
When you transfer funds from another account into a CIBC Investor’s Edge account with assets worth at least A) $25,000; B) $50,000; C) $100,000, you may be eligible to receive A) $100; B) $200; or C) $400 in cash back. A) $25,000 B) $50,000 C) 100,000+ A) $100 B) $200 C) $400 Cash back will be deposited between May 18 – September 17, 2020. CIBC Cash Back Offer Details March 4, 2020
Open and fund a new Qtrade account with at least A) $25,000; B) $50,000 C) $100,00; D) $500,000; E) $1M or D) $2M+ in new assets by March 31, 2020 and you may be eligible to receive a cash bonus of A) $75; B) $150; C) $400; D) $800; E) $1,500 or F) $2,000. Individuals who contribute more than $1,000 through pre-authorized contributions by December 31, 2020 may also be eligible to receive an extra $50. Use promo code QTRADECASH at sign up to qualify. Be sure to read full terms and conditions for more details. A) $25,000 B) $50,000 C) $100,000 D) $500,000 E) $1M F) $2M+ A) $75 B) $175 C) $400 D) $800 E) $1,500 F) $2,000 The cash award will be credited to your cash/margin account in the week of October 30, 2020. Qtrade Investor Q1 2020 Cash Back Offer March 31, 2020
BMO InvestorLine Open a new qualifying account at BMO InvestorLine with new assets worth at least A) $50,000; B) $100,000; C) $250,000; D) $500,000 or E) $1M+, and you may be eligible to receive a cash back reward of up to A) $250; B) $450; C) $800; D) $1,000 or E) $2,000. Use promo code SPARXCASH when registering to qualify. Be sure to read full terms and conditions. A) $50,000 B) $100,000 C) $250,000 D) $500,000 E) $1M+ A) $250 B) $450 C) $800 D) $1,000 E) $2,000 Cash back will be deposited week of October 12, 2020 BMO InvestorLine Cash Back Offer Details March 3, 2020

Expired Offers

Disnat Desjardins Online Brokerage is offering new clients 1% of assets transferred into the new account in the form of commission credits (to a maximum value of $1,000). Minimum qualifying deposit is $10,000. To qualify, individuals will have to call 1-866-873-7103 and mention promo code DisnatTransfer or email: [email protected] See details link for more info. $10,000 1% of assets transferred in the form of commission-credits (max credits: $1,000) 6 months Disnat 1% Commission Credit Promo January 8, 2020
Last Updated: Jan. 16, 2020 14:16 PT

Referral Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Incentive Structure Time Limit to Use Commission/Cash Offer Deposit Details Link Deadline
BMO InvestorLine If you (an existing BMO InvestorLine client) refer a new client to BMO InvestorLine and they open an account with at least $5,000 the referrer and the referee may both be eligible to receive $50 cash. To qualify the referee must use the email of the referrer that is linked to their BMO InvestorLine account. See terms and conditions for full details. $5,000 You(referrer): $50; Your Friend(referee): $50 Payout occurs 45 days after minimum 90 day holding period (subject to conditions). BMO InvestorLine Refer-a-Friend January 2, 2020
Refer a friend to Questrade and when they open an account you receive $25 cash back and they receive either A) $25; B) $50; C) $75; D) $100; or E) $250 depending on the amount deposited amount. Enter code: 476104302388759 during account sign up to qualify. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for eligibility and additional bonus payment structure and minimum balance requirements. A) $1,000 B) $10,000 C) $25,000 D) $50,000 E) $100,000+ $25 cash back (for referrer per referral; $50 bonus cash back for every 3rd referral) For referred individuals: A) $25 cash back B) $50 cash back C) $75 cash back D) $100 cash back E) $250 cash back Cash deposited into Questrade billing account within 7 days after funding period ends (90 days) Refer a friend terms and conditions Code Number: 476104302388759 none
Scotia iTrade If you refer a friend/family member who is not already a Scotia iTRADE account holder to them, both you and your friend get a bonus of either cash or free trades. You have to use the referral form to pass along your info as well as your friend/family members’ contact info in order to qualify. There are lots of details/conditions to this deal so be sure to read the details link. A) $10,000 B) $50,000+ A) You(referrer): $50 or 10 free trades; Your “Friend”: $50 or 10 free trades (max total value:$99.90) B) You(referrer): $100 cash or 50 free trades; Your “Friend”: $100 cash or 50 free trades (max total value: $499.50) 60 days Refer A Friend to Scotia iTrade tbd
If you (an existing Qtrade Investor client) refer a new client to Qtrade Investor and they open an account with at least $1,000 the referrer and the referee may both be eligible to receive $25 cash. See terms and conditions for full details. $1,000 $25 cash back (for both referrer and referee) Cash deposited at the end of the month in which referee’s account funded Refer A Friend to Qtrade Investor none
You can send an invitation link from your Interactive Brokers profile to friends or business contacts for a chance to receive up to $200 reward for each successful referral. The referee needs to maintain $10,000 or more in their account. Please read the full terms and conditions. $10,000 Your can get 30% of the commission generated by each referred account for up to $200.00. Referred clients must maintain at least $10,000 or USD equivalent in their account. 1 year from the account opening date. Interactive Brokers Referral Program none
BMO InvestorLine If you (an existing BMO InvestorLine client) refer a new client to BMO InvestorLine and they open an account with at least $5,000 the referrer and the referee may both be eligible to receive $50 cash. To qualify the referee must use the email of the referrer that is linked to their BMO InvestorLine account. See terms and conditions for full details. $5,000 You(referrer): $50; Your Friend(referee): $50 Payout occurs 45 days after minimum 90 day holding period (subject to conditions). BMO InvestorLine Refer-a-Friend January 5, 2021

Expired Offers

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

Transfer Fee Promotions

Company Brief Description Maximum Transfer Fee Coverage Amount Minimum Deposit Amount for Transfer Fee Eligibility Details Link Deadline
Move your brokerage account to Questrade and they’ll cover the transfer-out fee up to $150. $150 n/a Transfer Fee Promo none
Transfer $15,000 or more to RBC Direct Investing and they will pay up to $200 in transfer fees. $200 $15,000 Transfer Fee Rebate Details none
Transfer $15,000 or more into a new HSBC InvestDirect account and you may be eligible to have up to $152.55 in transfer fees covered. $152.55 $15,000 Confirmed via email contact with HSBC InvestDirect Rep. Contact client service for more information. none
Transfer $15,000 or more to Qtrade Investor from another brokerage and Qtrade Investor may cover up to $150 in transfer fees. See terms and conditions for more details. $150 $15,000 Transfer Fee Rebate none
Transfer $20,000 or more to a National Bank Direct Brokerage account and they will pay up to $135 plus taxes in transfer fees. $135 $20,000 Transfer Fee Rebate none
Transfer at least $25,000 or more in new assets to TD Direct Investing when opening a new account and you may qualify to have transfer fees reimbursed up to $150. Be sure to contact TD Direct Investing for further details. $150 $25,000 Transfer Fee Promo Contact client service for more information (1-800-465-5463). none
Transfer $25,000 or more into a CIBC Investor’s Edge account and they will reimburse up to $135 in brokerage transfer fees. Clients must call customer service to request rebate after transfer made. $135 $25,000 Confirmed with reps. Contact client service for more information (1-800-567-3343). none
BMO InvestorLine Open a new qualifying account with BMO InvestorLine or fund a qualifying existing account and you may be eligible to have transfer fees covered up to $200. Contact client service for more details. $200 Contact client service for more information Contact client service for more information (1-888-776-6886) none

Expired Offers

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

Other Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Required Details Link Deadline
Submit your information via the Hardbacon website to be referred to National Bank Direct Brokerage. Open and fund a qualifying account and you may receive up to 20 commission-free trades and discounted trading commissions. Be sure to read full terms and conditions. n/a Hardbacon Free Trade Promo none
Disnat Desjardins Online Brokerage is offering $50 in commission credits for new Disnat Classic clients depositing at least $1,000. See terms and conditions for full details. $1,000 [email protected] 18-30 Promotion none
Scotia iTrade Scotiabank StartRight customers can receive 10 commission-free trades when investing $1,000 or more in a new Scotia iTrade account. Trades are good for use for up to 1 year from the date the account is funded. Use promo code SRPE15 when applying (in English) or SRPF15 when applying in French. Be sure to read full terms and conditions for full details. $1,000 StartRight Free Trade offer none

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Jan. 2, 2020 16:30 PT

Digital Advice + Roboadvisor Promotions

Robo-advisor / Digital advisor Offer Type Offer Description Min. Deposit Reward / Promotion Promo Code Expiry Date Link
Discounted Management Open and fund a new Questrade Portfolio IQ account with a deposit of at least $1,000 and the first month of management will be free. For more information on Portfolio IQ, click the product link. $1,000 1st month no management fees KDKFNBBC None Questrade Portfolio IQ Promo Offer
Cash Back Open and fund a new or existing SmartFolio account with at least $1,000 and you could receive 0.5% cash back up to $1000. Use promo code PROMO1000 when opening a new account. See terms and conditions for full details. This offer can be combined with the refer-a-friend promotion. $1,000 0.5% cash back to a maximum of $1000. PROMO1000 January 2, 2020 SmartFolio Cash Back Promo
Discounted Management Open a new account with BMO SmartFolio and receive one year of management of up to $15,000 free. See offer terms and conditions for more details. $1,000 1 year no management fees STSF April 30, 2019 SmartFolio New Account Promotion
Cash Back – Referral BMO SmartFolio clients will receive $50 cash back for every friend or family member who opens and funds a new SmartFolio account. Friends and family referred to SmartFolio will receive $50 cash back for opening and funding an account, plus automatic enrollment into SmartFolio’s mass offer in market at the time. See offer terms and conditions for more details. $1,000 $50 cash back (referrer) $50 cash back (referee) Unique link generated from SmartFolio required. None SmartFolio Website
Transfer Fee Coverage Transfer at least $25,000 into Virtual Wealth when opening a new account and you may be eligible to have up to $150 in transfer fees covered by Virtual Wealth. $25,000 up to $150 in transfer fees covered None None Contact customer service directly for more information.
Last Updated: Jan. 16, 2020 14:55 PT
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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – December 9, 2019

With the holiday season just a few short weeks away, gifts and presents are top of mind for many folks. Fortunately for Canadian DIY investors, there are some early presents that have arrived courtesy of some of the newest online brokerages in Canada – and the timing couldn’t be better.

In this edition of the Roundup, we keep things all Canadian (for a change) with a look at the newest online brokerage to roll out in Canada – including the challenges and opportunities they face in a crowded field. From there we’ll review the latest feature being rolled out by another relatively new online brokerage, and how their newest feature can be both a blessing and a curse. As usual, we serve up some interesting chatter from DIY investors on Twitter and in the investing forums.

CG Direct Rolls Out as Canada’s Newest Online Brokerage

This past week, an important and long-awaited shift took place in the Canadian online brokerage space. Jitneytrade, the online brokerage in Canada that is heavily focused on the active trader, and which was acquired in 2018 by Canaccord Genuity, officially wound down their website and transitioned to the new online brokerage segment at Canaccord called CG Direct.

In keeping with the acquisition trend in the Canadian online brokerage space, the smaller independent discount brokerages such as Virtual Brokers, Qtrade Investor, and Credential Direct have been snapped up by larger wealth management players. In the case of Virtual Brokers, it was CI Financial and for Qtrade Investor and Credential Direct, it was Desjardins. And, although the figures related to these transactions weren’t made available, the deal for Jitneytrade was, and came in at $14.8M in June 2018.

The key takeaway: independent online brokerages in and of themselves are not sufficiently profitable to be commercially sustainable in Canada. They need to be part of a spectrum of wealth or financial management services in order to have a chance of competing in the ultra-crowded online investing segment.

So, what would possess Canaccord to wade into a very crowded online brokerage space in Canada? Like most deals, it’s likely driven by ROI.

According to Canaccord’s FY 2019 annual report, the acquisition “serves to support the Company’s mid-market growth strategy by enhancing its market share of equities trading and providing access to new areas of growth through accelerating its development of an enhanced fintech product offering.”

What a positive return looks like for Canaccord is not just growth in revenues from commissions but also a deepening of relationship with their existing (and wealthy) managed wealth client base. With the acquisition of an online brokerage, no longer does Canaccord have to step aside while their private wealth clients who want to “dabble” on their own take assets to another firm or online broker. Instead, Canaccord can now keep those clients “in the tent” and create a stronger case for bringing assets located elsewhere into Canaccord.

Of course, growing assets from within is only one facet of the ROI picture. Another component to the possible return on this purchase will be the extent to which they can win new clients. In this regard, things are going to be considerably more difficult for Canaccord to successfully execute on.

While Jitneytrade may be a name more familiar to professional traders, among most retail investors it is not. This creates two distinct challenges: one is carrying over the Jitneytrade “brand” to the active trader segment, and the second is translating the Canaccord brand into something retail investors believe is compelling.

In the case of the first challenge, retaining existing Jitneytrade clients under a new banner of CG Direct will likely not be too difficult assuming service and pricing stay relatively close to where they were pre-merger. Interestingly, digging into the details of the deal, there was a category of the transaction labelled “intangible assets” which was valued at $1.9M, which specifically related to the value of customer relationships. Indeed, the ultra-active and professional trader segment is a high-touch client, which simply means that while pricing is key, relationships matter (a lot). Going forward under a new banner of CG Direct, growing the brand among the active trader community will now require selling the merits of CG Direct as the destination for active traders. It will have to compete directly with Interactive Brokers in this regard.

The second challenge will clearly be attracting business in the retail investor segment in an already crowded discount brokerage field.

With a new brand, there are inherent hurdles to clear (such as: Who is this firm? Can they be trusted?) and out of the gate, there are already some clear stumbling blocks to winning the attention battle for CG Direct. Perhaps the biggest challenge will be the “differentiator” among the other players.

For new entrants to the Canadian online brokerage space, pricing is one of the biggest drivers of attention among DIY investors. The pricing for CG Direct – at least for the equity commissions – is at the industry standard $9.99 per trade (plus any ECN fees), which pits it against the larger online brokerage competitors. When it comes to options, though, pricing is a bit more competitive (or even better) than most of the online brokerage peers. CG Direct will be charging $1.00 per options contract with a minimum commission of $10.

On the technology front, the retail web-based trading platform for CG Direct, called DirectFolio, will be up against incredibly tough competition. While the core business of an online brokerage is order execution, the “standard” offering for most online brokerages when it comes to platform is to deliver a relatively feature rich experience. As an extension of that, the current website and digital experience of CG Direct is not the kind of wave-making experience that something like Wealthsimple Trade has been.  In particular, there is a sense that CG Direct is a “desktop” brand versus a “mobile” one, suggesting that the pace of growth in the retail investor segment is going to be limited by the ability of CG Direct to appeal to the newer, tech-savvier generation of investor who all the competitors are working very, very hard to attract.

When an online brokerage can focus its identity on a segment – e.g. if CG Direct were purely for active traders – it becomes easier for consumers to understand what CG Direct does and when the right time would be to engage them as an online brokerage. In this case, however, with CG Direct going after two segments of the market, it will be an uphill battle to structure communications to be appealing to both.

One component of the story that we have not yet dove into is the potential for robo-advisory services to also emerge from this transaction. In addition to Jitneytrade, Canaccord acquired Finlogik – a company also started by the founder of Jitneytrade. The Finlogik side of the deal also brings with it the software platform that could be used for the deeper push into the digital wealth management experience (e.g. robo-advice) and the web-based trading platform for the self-directed investor.

Ironically, as online brokerages, their core business comes down to execution. In this case, success of the CG Direct brand will undoubtedly come down to execution on the value proposition and brand promise.

For active investors and traders, this means CG Direct needs to continue to execute well on the “bespoke” pricing and service experience that Jitneytrade was known to offer. And, in wading into ultra-competitive waters on the retail investor side, delivering on the value that online investors expect from a discount brokerage (pricing, platform, ease of use, service, resources, etc.) will be crucial if the online brokerage arm of Canaccord is going to be more than a retention tool for existing clients.

Wealthsimple Trade Transfers Now Active

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In the road to bringing even lower commission costs to Canadian DIY investors, Wealthsimple Trade has been slowly moving forward on its plans to be a genuine competitor to other Canadian online brokerages. This past week, the social media feeds for Wealthsimple Trade highlighted another important step that the zero-commission brokerage has taken to make it easier to do business with them: enable account transfers.

DIY investors can now request a transfer of their eligible registered and/or registered accounts to Wealthsimple trade. Among the accounts users can transfer over to Wealthsimple Trade are TFSAs, RRSPs and non-registered accounts.

As an added bonus, if the amounts being transferred over are greater than $5,000, then Wealthsimple Trade is willing to cover the transfer fee that the existing brokerage will likely charge on the way out.

There is still no way to directly transfer between Wealthsimple and Wealthsimple Trade, however the fact that it is now possible to go from one institution directly into Wealthsimple Trade without having to sell a portfolio into cash first is a big plus for DIY investors who want to take a dive into the zero-commission experience.

For other online brokerages, even though the changes that are taking place at Wealthsimple Trade are still small enough not to be too concerning, the ability to have investors transfer funds and securities away from their brokerage is one which undoubtedly raises some eyebrows.

The addition of account transfer capability was undoubtedly an important feature to get rolling just before RSP season ramps up to full speed, however, this particular feature is not without its risks.

Unlike many of its peers, Wealthsimple Trade (and its parent, Wealthsimple) have made significant strides to redefine user experience in the financial and wealth management space. Their websites, apps and even content are very much the envy of other wealth management firms and as such, the Wealthsimple brand has earned a substantial degree of goodwill with consumers, in particular millennials.

Of course, aesthetics aside, when it comes to people and their money, emotions inevitably factor in and expectations around reliability, stability and speed are also crucial. Why this matters in the context of account transfers is because unlike account opening (which can be completed in minutes online) the account transfer process can take anywhere from two to four weeks (and in many cases, even longer). This pits the ultra-fast, low-friction experience and promise of Wealthsimple Trade against the realities of the financial network between online brokerages in Canada today. And, for anyone who reads the financial forums and tweets about online brokerages on a regular basis, it’s clear that account transfers make up a unique category of frustration among DIY investors.

So, as widely anticipated as this feature is for Wealthsimple Trade, it is almost one of those “be careful what you wish for” situations as well.

Not only is the risk (based on ample evidence from other DIY investors’ brokerage transfer experiences) of mistakes incredibly high, the consequence and subsequent optics of delays that stretch into the weeks and months are terrible. If Wealthsimple Trade manages to generate enough interest, they could be the victims of their own success when it comes to having too much volume of transfer activity taking place, which would also strain their internal resources. Add to that the very high likelihood that their target client is on social media in some way shape or form, and the magnitude of the mistake or delay – even if it is not on Wealthsimple’s end – would be outsized relative to their peer firms.

When it comes to trading and markets, timing is really everything. In the case of Wealthsimple Trade’s new transfer capabilities, it may be a question of investors waiting and seeing as to whether or not the two to four week window is realistic or if it is something even longer. If there’s one thing worse than paying bad fees, it’s enduring the uncertainty of exactly who has your entire nest egg while it’s being moved. Trading markets is fun, trading brokerages – at least from what is written about online – not so much.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

From the Forums

No Time for Bonds

A DIY investor questions the advantages of bonds over HISAs. Fellow forum users weigh in, providing insight on situations in which each type of investment would prevail. Read more here.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

A 45-year-old, self-employed Redditor wants to start investing and turns to the forums for guidance on where to begin. Read the advice that fellow forum users gave this new DIY investor here.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap on another eventful week. Fortunately this week there was lots taking place in the Canadian online brokerage space. Just like the shopping habits of many consumers, the online brokerage space still might have a few last-minute surprises left before the end of 2019. With a new decade just around the corner, some new discount brokerages starting to make waves here in Canada, there’s lots for DIY investors to look forward to in 2020. To anyone braving the malls to shop, hats off to you and wishing you lots of great parking karma!

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Discount Brokerage Deals & Promotions, December 2019

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday landing so close to the beginning of December, deal hunting is going to be top of mind for DIY investors heading into the final month of the year. Fortunately, there are deals to be had with a number of cash back and commission-free trade promotions going on to round out the final month of 2019.

Of course, like many offers taking place in the lead up to Christmas, there is a time limit to take advantage of them.

December looks to be an interesting month for deals activity because there are offers – such as the RBC Direct Investing commission-free offer – which are scheduled to expire just before the middle of the month. Questrade has a pair of longstanding offers which are set to expire at the end of the month too.

In addition to promotions that are scheduled to end in December, there are also competitive dynamics at work which might make it more likely for other brokerages to step up with an offer sooner rather than later. The addition of Scotia iTRADE and their commission-free trades or cash back offer to the deals pool last month basically sets the stage for more offers to come to market.

Given everything that’s happened in the US market with commission-free stock trading, Canadian DIY investors are anxiously awaiting the same to happen here in Canada with the mainstream online brokers. While it is unlikely to go to zero across the industry soon, price drops are in the forecast.

Looking ahead at the promotions picture, the reality is that it is more competitive than ever before in the Canadian online brokerage space so to win consumers. Online brokerages have to get even more creative (and they are starting to) and the fastest way to get on the radar of value-conscious DIY investors is through promotional offers. By that measure, we’re expecting to see brokerages roll out some interesting promos into the end of 2019 or into early 2020.

Those brokerages that are still on the sidelines in terms of offers won’t be there much longer. With RRSP season just around the corner and additional room for TFSA contributions coming at the beginning of the year, it will be an equally limited time offer to get the attention of DIY investors.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on the deals space but if you find an offer that would be great for other DIY investors to know about, let us know in the comments.

Expired Deals

No expired deals.

Extended Deals

No extended deals to report at this time.

New Deals

There were no new deals to report at the beginning of December however there was a deal that came to market at the tail end of November from Scotia iTRADE. The latest promotion from this popular bank-owned online brokerage is sure to raise some eyebrows from competitors as it offers a potent combination of cash back and discount standard commission pricing or commission-free equity trades. To boot, iTRADE has also made this a multi-tiered offer that ranges from entry level investor/portfolio to high net worth portfolio, so there’s something for just about every stripe of investor here. With iTRADE now in the mix, the list of bank-owned online brokerages without an offer is becoming smaller than the list of bank-owned brokerages with an offer.

Discount Brokerage Deals

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

Cash Back/Free Trade/Product Offer Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Commission/Cash Offer/Promotion Type Time Limit to Use Commission/Cash Offer Details Link Deadline
Jitney Trade A Sparx Trading exclusive offer! Use the promo code “Sparx Trading” when signing up for a new account with Jitneytrade and receive access to their preferred pricing package. n/a Discounted Commission Rates none For more details click here none
Open and fund a new account (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, 2019
Scotia iTrade Open and fund a new Scotia iTrade account to be eligible for up to $1,500 in cash back and $6.99 commission pricing, or up to 500 free equity trades. The amount of cashback and free trades are dependent on the funding of your account. Take a look at the offer details link for further information. $5,000 Cash + discounted commissions, or free trades. $6.99 trades available until June 30, 2020; Cash or commission rebate for free trades available until July 31, 2020. iTrade Offer Details February 29, 2020
Disnat Desjardins Online Brokerage is offering new clients 1% of assets transferred into the new account in the form of commission credits (to a maximum value of $1,000). Minimum qualifying deposit is $10,000. To qualify, individuals will have to call 1-866-873-7103 and mention promo code DisnatTransfer or email: [email protected] See details link for more info. $10,000 1% of assets transferred in the form of commission-credits (max credits: $1,000) 6 months Disnat 1% Commission Credit Promo none
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, 2019
When you transfer funds from another account into a CIBC Investor’s Edge account with assets worth at least A) $25,000; B) $50,000; C) $100,000, you may be eligible to receive A) $100; B) $200; or C) $400 in cash back. A) $25,000 B) $50,000 C) 100,000+ A) $100 B) $200 C) $400 Cash back will be deposited between May 18 – September 17, 2020. CIBC Cash Back Offer Details March 4, 2020
BMO InvestorLine Open a new qualifying account at BMO InvestorLine with new assets worth at least A) $250,000; B) $500,000; C) $2M or D) $5M+, and you may be eligible to a cash back reward of up to A) $400; B) $800; C) $2,000 or D) $5,000. Use promo code SPARXCASH when registering to qualify. Be sure to read full terms and conditions. A) $250,000 B) $500,000 C) $2M D) $5M+ A) $400 B) $800 C) $2,000 D) $5,000 Cash back will be deposited week of Aug. 17, 2020 BMO InvestorLine Cash Back Offer Details January 6, 2020

Expired Offers

Open a new RBC Direct Investing account by December 13th and you may be eligible for 25 commission-free equity and ETF trades. You must deposit or transfer $5,000 in your account by February 14th, 2020 to be able to use this promotion. Make sure that the offer code MCFT1 is applied if you wish to qualify for this deal. As always, be sure to take a look at the terms and conditions for further details. $5,000 25 commission-free trades 1 year Commission-Free Offer Details December 13, 2019
Last Updated: Dec. 20, 2019 15:35 PT

Referral Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Incentive Structure Time Limit to Use Commission/Cash Offer Deposit Details Link Deadline
BMO InvestorLine If you (an existing BMO InvestorLine client) refer a new client to BMO InvestorLine and they open an account with at least $5,000 the referrer and the referee may both be eligible to receive $50 cash. To qualify the referee must use the email of the referrer that is linked to their BMO InvestorLine account. See terms and conditions for full details. $5,000 You(referrer): $50; Your Friend(referee): $50 Payout occurs 45 days after minimum 90 day holding period (subject to conditions). BMO InvestorLine Refer-a-Friend January 2, 2020
Refer a friend to Questrade and when they open an account you receive $25 cash back and they receive either A) $25; B) $50; C) $75; D) $100; or E) $250 depending on the amount deposited amount. Enter code: 476104302388759 during account sign up to qualify. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for eligibility and additional bonus payment structure and minimum balance requirements. A) $1,000 B) $10,000 C) $25,000 D) $50,000 E) $100,000+ $25 cash back (for referrer per referral; $50 bonus cash back for every 3rd referral) For referred individuals: A) $25 cash back B) $50 cash back C) $75 cash back D) $100 cash back E) $250 cash back Cash deposited into Questrade billing account within 7 days after funding period ends (90 days) Refer a friend terms and conditions Code Number: 476104302388759 none
Scotia iTrade If you refer a friend/family member who is not already a Scotia iTRADE account holder to them, both you and your friend get a bonus of either cash or free trades. You have to use the referral form to pass along your info as well as your friend/family members’ contact info in order to qualify. There are lots of details/conditions to this deal so be sure to read the details link. A) $10,000 B) $50,000+ A) You(referrer): $50 or 10 free trades; Your “Friend”: $50 or 10 free trades (max total value:$99.90) B) You(referrer): $100 cash or 50 free trades; Your “Friend”: $100 cash or 50 free trades (max total value: $499.50) 60 days Refer A Friend to Scotia iTrade tbd
If you (an existing Qtrade Investor client) refer a new client to Qtrade Investor and they open an account with at least $1,000 the referrer and the referee may both be eligible to receive $25 cash. See terms and conditions for full details. $1,000 $25 cash back (for both referrer and referee) Cash deposited at the end of the month in which referee’s account funded Refer A Friend to Qtrade Investor none

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Nov. 29, 2019 13:39 PT

Transfer Fee Promotions

Company Brief Description Maximum Transfer Fee Coverage Amount Minimum Deposit Amount for Transfer Fee Eligibility Details Link Deadline
Move your brokerage account to Questrade and they’ll cover the transfer-out fee up to $150. $150 n/a Transfer Fee Promo none
Transfer $15,000 or more to RBC Direct Investing and they will pay up to $200 in transfer fees. $200 $15,000 Transfer Fee Rebate Details none
Transfer $15,000 or more into a new HSBC InvestDirect account and you may be eligible to have up to $152.55 in transfer fees covered. $152.55 $15,000 Confirmed via email contact with HSBC InvestDirect Rep. Contact client service for more information. none
Transfer $15,000 or more to Qtrade Investor from another brokerage and Qtrade Investor may cover up to $150 in transfer fees. See terms and conditions for more details. $150 $15,000 Transfer Fee Rebate none
Transfer $20,000 or more to a National Bank Direct Brokerage account and they will pay up to $135 plus taxes in transfer fees. $135 $20,000 Transfer Fee Rebate none
Transfer at least $25,000 or more in new assets to TD Direct Investing when opening a new account and you may qualify to have transfer fees reimbursed up to $150. Be sure to contact TD Direct Investing for further details. $150 $25,000 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
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 $50,000 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 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

Last Updated: Nov. 29, 2019 13:37 PT

Other Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Required Details Link Deadline
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. 29, 2019 13:38 PT

Digital Advice + Roboadvisor Promotions

Robo-advisor / Digital advisor Offer Type Offer Description Min. Deposit Reward / Promotion Promo Code Expiry Date Link
Discounted Management Open and fund a new Questrade Portfolio IQ account with a deposit of at least $1,000 and the first month of management will be free. For more information on Portfolio IQ, click the product link. $1,000 1st month no management fees KDKFNBBC None Questrade Portfolio IQ Promo Offer
Cash Back Open and fund a new or existing SmartFolio account with at least $1,000 and you could receive 0.5% cash back up to $1000. Use promo code PROMO1000 when opening a new account. See terms and conditions for full details. This offer can be combined with the refer-a-friend promotion. $1,000 0.5% cash back to a maximum of $1000. PROMO1000 January 2, 2020 SmartFolio Cash Back Promo
Discounted Management Open a new account with BMO SmartFolio and receive one year of management of up to $15,000 free. See offer terms and conditions for more details. $1,000 1 year no management fees STSF April 30, 2019 SmartFolio New Account Promotion
Cash Back – Referral BMO SmartFolio clients will receive $50 cash back for every friend or family member who opens and funds a new SmartFolio account. Friends and family referred to SmartFolio will receive $50 cash back for opening and funding an account, plus automatic enrollment into SmartFolio’s mass offer in market at the time. See offer terms and conditions for more details. $1,000 $50 cash back (referrer) $50 cash back (referee) Unique link generated from SmartFolio required. None SmartFolio Website
Transfer Fee Coverage Transfer at least $25,000 into Virtual Wealth when opening a new account and you may be eligible to have up to $150 in transfer fees covered by Virtual Wealth. $25,000 up to $150 in transfer fees covered None None Contact customer service directly for more information.
Last Updated: Nov. 29, 2019 13:38 PT
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Discount Brokerage Deals & Promotions, November 2019

*Updated Nov. 27* Welcome to November, where DIY investors, like daylight, are in for some savings when it comes to investing online. Despite the extra hour available to online brokerages, TFSA contribution room dates, RRSP contribution deadline season and tax season are all quickly approaching, and as a result, investors are already kicking the tires on where best to park their capital. Add to the mix record highs on the stock markets, and it’s a potent combination for investors interested in market momentum.

After the most turbulent month in the history of online brokerages in the US that saw trading commission fees drop to zero, the moose in the room for Canadian discount brokerages is how to temper expectations for zero-commission trading. There is clearly demand for it across social media and among DIY investors, and there is even supply in the form of a couple of online brokers ponying up commission-free trading of one kind or another.

The next best option to fully dropping commissions to zero, is a generous helping of commission-free trades (or cash back) to win over investor loyalty.

It is against that backdrop that we see the Canadian discount brokerage deals activity at a bit of a crossroads this month. On the one hand, the uptick in investor interest is imminent, so there have to be offers coming to market soon. On the other, brokerages are watching one another carefully to see which major online brokerage makes the first move with respect to pricing or promotions (or both) going into the end of 2019.

Already at the beginning of the month we’ve witnessed some bold moves by BMO InvestorLine, with the launch of a new cash back offer geared towards bigger balances than have ever been pursued before. Other brokerages, such as RBC Direct Investing are in the mix with commission-free offers, and bank-owned brokerages National Bank Direct Brokerage and Scotia iTRADE are offering up free trades on an annual basis to certain account holders. In the case of National Bank Direct Brokerage, young investors (under 30 years old) can get 10 commission-free trades per month (as well as a discounted commission fee thereafter). For Scotia iTRADE, the Ultimate banking package with Scotiabank provides 10 commission-free trades in the first year and 5 commission-free trades every year thereafter.

All told, there’s plenty of activity to keep things warm, toasty and inviting for DIY investors looking for promotions or deals to open or add funding to an online investing account. Of course, there’s still likely more to come, so be sure to check back through the month or follow us on Twitter for more deals announcements.

Expired Deals

Scotia iTrade’s $50 cash back and $6.99 per trade promotion officially expired at the end of October. This unique approach to a promotion signals that there’s something creative being cooked up in the iTRADE kitchen and we’ll be watching to see what ultimately surfaces over the next few weeks.

Although it has been replaced by a new offer already, there was a technical expiry of the summer cash back promotions from BMO InvestorLine, which retired their tiered cash back promotion that started off at a minimum deposit tier or $100,000.

Extended Deals

No extensions to report at the time of publication

New Deals

BMO InvestorLine is pushing the line even higher on the top end of both the cash back and the deposit level required to qualify for it with the launch of their latest cash back promotion. The new deal has an initial qualifying deposit tier of $250,000 and associated cash back of $400, and tops out at a new high for a deposit tier of $5M+ for which a whopping $5,000 bonus can be paid out.

*Update November 12 – CIBC Investor’s Edge has launched a brand new cash back promotion for individuals that transfer their account out of their current online brokerage and into Investor’s Edge. The minimum deposit required to qualify for this deal is $25,000; you may be eligible to receive $100 – $400 in cash back depending on the size of your deposit. Scroll down for more details!

*Update November 27 – Scotia iTrade has released a promotion that offers new account holders the choice of a) cash back + $6.99 commissions; or b) free equity trades. The minimum deposit required for this deal is $5,000, and you could be eligible to receive either a) $25 – 1,500 cash back + $6.99 per trade; or b) between 10 – 500 free equity trades, dependent on the size of your funding. Scroll down for more info.

Discount Brokerage Deals

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

Cash Back/Free Trade/Product Offer Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Commission/Cash Offer/Promotion Type Time Limit to Use Commission/Cash Offer Details Link Deadline
Jitney Trade A Sparx Trading exclusive offer! Use the promo code “Sparx Trading” when signing up for a new account with Jitneytrade and receive access to their preferred pricing package. n/a Discounted Commission Rates none For more details click here none
Open and fund a new account (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, 2019
Open a new RBC Direct Investing account by December 13th and you may be eligible for 25 commission-free equity and ETF trades. You must deposit or transfer $5,000 in your account by February 14th, 2020 to be able to use this promotion. Make sure that the offer code MCFT1 is applied if you wish to qualify for this deal. As always, be sure to take a look at the terms and conditions for further details. $5,000 25 commission-free trades 1 year Commission-Free Offer Details December 13, 2019
Scotia iTrade Open and fund a new Scotia iTrade account to be eligible for up to $1,500 in cash back and $6.99 commission pricing, or up to 500 free equity trades. The amount of cashback and free trades are dependent on the funding of your account. Take a look at the offer details link for further information. $5,000 Cash + discounted commissions, or free trades. $6.99 trades available until June 30, 2020; Cash or commission rebate for free trades available until July 31, 2020. iTrade Offer Details February 29, 2020
Disnat Desjardins Online Brokerage is offering new clients 1% of assets transferred into the new account in the form of commission credits (to a maximum value of $1,000). Minimum qualifying deposit is $10,000. To qualify, individuals will have to call 1-866-873-7103 and mention promo code DisnatTransfer or email: [email protected] See details link for more info. $10,000 1% of assets transferred in the form of commission-credits (max credits: $1,000) 6 months Disnat 1% Commission Credit Promo none
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, 2019
When you transfer funds from another account into a CIBC Investor’s Edge account with assets worth at least A) $25,000; B) $50,000; C) $100,000, you may be eligible to receive A) $100; B) $200; or C) $400 in cash back. A) $25,000 B) $50,000 C) 100,000+ A) $100 B) $200 C) $400 Cash back will be deposited between May 18 – September 17, 2020. CIBC Cash Back Offer Details March 4, 2020
BMO InvestorLine Open a new qualifying account at BMO InvestorLine with new assets worth at least A) $250,000; B) $500,000; C) $2M or D) $5M+, and you may be eligible to a cash back reward of up to A) $400; B) $800; C) $2,000 or D) $5,000. Use promo code SPARXCASH when registering to qualify. Be sure to read full terms and conditions. A) $250,000 B) $500,000 C) $2M D) $5M+ A) $400 B) $800 C) $2,000 D) $5,000 Cash back will be deposited week of Aug. 17, 2020 BMO InvestorLine Cash Back Offer Details January 6, 2020

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Nov. 1, 2019 23:00 PT

Referral Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Incentive Structure Time Limit to Use Commission/Cash Offer Deposit Details Link Deadline
BMO InvestorLine If you (an existing BMO InvestorLine client) refer a new client to BMO InvestorLine and they open an account with at least $5,000 the referrer and the referee may both be eligible to receive $50 cash. To qualify the referee must use the email of the referrer that is linked to their BMO InvestorLine account. See terms and conditions for full details. $5,000 You(referrer): $50; Your Friend(referee): $50 Payout occurs 45 days after minimum 90 day holding period (subject to conditions). BMO InvestorLine Refer-a-Friend January 2, 2020
Refer a friend to Questrade and when they open an account you receive $25 cash back and they receive either A) $25; B) $50; C) $75; D) $100; or E) $250 depending on the amount deposited amount. Enter code: 476104302388759 during account sign up to qualify. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for eligibility and additional bonus payment structure and minimum balance requirements. A) $1,000 B) $10,000 C) $25,000 D) $50,000 E) $100,000+ $25 cash back (for referrer per referral; $50 bonus cash back for every 3rd referral) For referred individuals: A) $25 cash back B) $50 cash back C) $75 cash back D) $100 cash back E) $250 cash back Cash deposited into Questrade billing account within 7 days after funding period ends (90 days) Refer a friend terms and conditions Code Number: 476104302388759 none
Scotia iTrade If you refer a friend/family member who is not already a Scotia iTRADE account holder to them, both you and your friend get a bonus of either cash or free trades. You have to use the referral form to pass along your info as well as your friend/family members’ contact info in order to qualify. There are lots of details/conditions to this deal so be sure to read the details link. A) $10,000 B) $50,000+ A) You(referrer): $50 or 10 free trades; Your “Friend”: $50 or 10 free trades (max total value:$99.90) B) You(referrer): $100 cash or 50 free trades; Your “Friend”: $100 cash or 50 free trades (max total value: $499.50) 60 days Refer A Friend to Scotia iTrade tbd
If you (an existing Qtrade Investor client) refer a new client to Qtrade Investor and they open an account with at least $1,000 the referrer and the referee may both be eligible to receive $25 cash. See terms and conditions for full details. $1,000 $25 cash back (for both referrer and referee) Cash deposited at the end of the month in which referee’s account funded Refer A Friend to Qtrade Investor none

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Nov. 1, 2019 23:00 PT

Transfer Fee Promotions

Company Brief Description Maximum Transfer Fee Coverage Amount Minimum Deposit Amount for Transfer Fee Eligibility Details Link Deadline
Move your brokerage account to Questrade and they’ll cover the transfer-out fee up to $150. $150 n/a Transfer Fee Promo none
Transfer $15,000 or more to RBC Direct Investing and they will pay up to $135 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 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
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 $50,000 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 $50,000 Disnat 1% Commission Credit Promo 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

Last Updated: Nov. 1, 2019 23:00 PT

Other Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Required Details Link Deadline
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. 1, 2019 23:00 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 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: Nov. 1, 2019 23:00 PT
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Discount Brokerage Deals & Promotions, October 2019

*Updated Oct. 15* There probably couldn’t be a better name for the current season that online brokerages find themselves in this year. Fall is definitely here and more than just the leaves on the trees, commission rates are dropping to the ground this October.

The casualties in the US online brokerage space are making headlines and among Canadian discount brokerages, there are already signs commission pricing is falling. The latest Weekly Roundup highlighted National Bank Direct Brokerage’s move to lower their rates substantially and their new offering for younger investors.

For those keeping score at home, this is just the beginning of October.

In terms of the impact to and outlook on deals and promotions, it’s safe to say that there are a lot of folks in the Canadian discount brokerage industry who are going back to the drawing board on how to navigate the coming tsunami of price drops. One possible life boat (for now) will be generous promotional offers – which is great news for DIY investors heading into the end of the year and what is almost sure going to be the most competitive RSP season yet.

For the moment, there wasn’t a significant amount of discount brokerage deal activity to start the month. Questrade extended their transfer fee offer while HSBC bid farewell to their summer promotion. October has historically been known as a volatile month for stock markets, and for deal hunters in the Canadian discount brokerage space, it’s likely to be just as wild a ride. Hang on tight!

Expired Deals

HSBC InvestDirect’s 30 commission-free trades promotion expired at the end of September.

Extended Deals

Questrade has extended their transfer fee promotion indefinitely. The terms and conditions don’t specify an end date to this offer although Questrade states they can change the terms of the promo at any point. This promo continues to see traction and offers coverage of transfer fees of up to $150 for switching to Questrade with no minimum transfer amount required to qualify. Scroll down for more info!

*Update October 15 – Scotia iTrade has extended their $50 cash back offer, which also includes discounted commission pricing until March 2020. This promotion has been extended from October 15th to the end of the month; for those DIY investors that are looking to open a new account, this could be the promotion for you. Further details on the offer can be found below.

New Deals

*Update October 15 – RBC Direct Investing is offering a new deal on commission-free trades. If you open a new Direct Investing account by December 13th, you can qualify for 25 commission-free equity and ETF trades to use within a year. More details on this promotion can be found 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

Cash Back/Free Trade/Product Offer Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Commission/Cash Offer/Promotion Type Time Limit to Use Commission/Cash Offer Details Link Deadline
Jitney Trade A Sparx Trading exclusive offer! Use the promo code “Sparx Trading” when signing up for a new account with Jitneytrade and receive access to their preferred pricing package. n/a Discounted Commission Rates none For more details click here none
Open and fund a new account (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, 2019
Scotia iTrade Open a new qualifying account and fund it with a minimum of $2,500 and you may be eligible to receive $50 cash back. This offer also includes $6.99 per trade commissions until March 1, 2020. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more details. $2,500 $50 cash back and $6.99 per Canadian and US equity/ETF trade. Cash back will be deposited by January 31, 2020. $6.99 per trade commission pricing active until March 1, 2020. Cash Back Offer Details October 31, 2019
Open a new RBC Direct Investing account by December 13th and you may be eligible for 25 commission-free equity and ETF trades. You must deposit or transfer $5,000 in your account by February 14th, 2020 to be able to use this promotion. Make sure that the offer code MCFT1 is applied if you wish to qualify for this deal. As always, be sure to take a look at the terms and conditions for further details. $5,000 25 commission-free trades 1 year Commission-Free Offer Details December 13, 2019
Disnat Desjardins Online Brokerage is offering new clients 1% of assets transferred into the new account in the form of commission credits (to a maximum value of $1,000). Minimum qualifying deposit is $10,000. To qualify, individuals will have to call 1-866-873-7103 and mention promo code DisnatTransfer or email: [email protected] See details link for more info. $10,000 1% of assets transferred in the form of commission-credits (max credits: $1,000) 6 months Disnat 1% Commission Credit Promo none
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, 2019
BMO InvestorLine Open a new qualifying account at BMO InvestorLine with new assets worth at least A) $100,000; B) $250,000; C) $500,000+ or D) $2M+, and you may be eligible to a cash back reward of up to A) $100; B) $225; C) $600 or D) $2,000. Use promo code SPARXCASH when registering to qualify. Be sure to read full terms and conditions. A) $100,000 B) $250,000 C) $500,000 D) $2M+ A) $100 B) $225 C) $600 D) $2,000 Cash back will be deposited the week of June 15, 2020. BMO InvestorLine Cash Back Offer Details October 31, 2019

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Oct. 15, 2019 12:02 PT

Referral Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Incentive Structure Time Limit to Use Commission/Cash Offer Deposit Details Link Deadline
BMO InvestorLine If you (an existing BMO InvestorLine client) refer a new client to BMO InvestorLine and they open an account with at least $5,000 the referrer and the referee may both be eligible to receive $50 cash. To qualify the referee must use the email of the referrer that is linked to their BMO InvestorLine account. See terms and conditions for full details. $5,000 You(referrer): $50; Your Friend(referee): $50 Payout occurs 45 days after minimum 90 day holding period (subject to conditions). BMO InvestorLine Refer-a-Friend January 2, 2020
Refer a friend to Questrade and when they open an account you receive $25 cash back and they receive either A) $25; B) $50; C) $75; D) $100; or E) $250 depending on the amount deposited amount. Enter code: 476104302388759 during account sign up to qualify. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for eligibility and additional bonus payment structure and minimum balance requirements. A) $1,000 B) $10,000 C) $25,000 D) $50,000 E) $100,000+ $25 cash back (for referrer per referral; $50 bonus cash back for every 3rd referral) For referred individuals: A) $25 cash back B) $50 cash back C) $75 cash back D) $100 cash back E) $250 cash back Cash deposited into Questrade billing account within 7 days after funding period ends (90 days) Refer a friend terms and conditions Code Number: 476104302388759 none
Scotia iTrade If you refer a friend/family member who is not already a Scotia iTRADE account holder to them, both you and your friend get a bonus of either cash or free trades. You have to use the referral form to pass along your info as well as your friend/family members’ contact info in order to qualify. There are lots of details/conditions to this deal so be sure to read the details link. A) $10,000 B) $50,000+ A) You(referrer): $50 or 10 free trades; Your “Friend”: $50 or 10 free trades (max total value:$99.90) B) You(referrer): $100 cash or 50 free trades; Your “Friend”: $100 cash or 50 free trades (max total value: $499.50) 60 days Refer A Friend to Scotia iTrade tbd
If you (an existing Qtrade Investor client) refer a new client to Qtrade Investor and they open an account with at least $1,000 the referrer and the referee may both be eligible to receive $25 cash. See terms and conditions for full details. $1,000 $25 cash back (for both referrer and referee) Cash deposited at the end of the month in which referee’s account funded Refer A Friend to Qtrade Investor none

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Oct. 31, 2019 15:30 PT

Transfer Fee Promotions

Company Brief Description Maximum Transfer Fee Coverage Amount Minimum Deposit Amount for Transfer Fee Eligibility Details Link Deadline
Move your brokerage account to Questrade and they’ll cover the transfer-out fee up to $150. $150 n/a Transfer Fee Promo none
Transfer $15,000 or more to RBC Direct Investing and they will pay up to $135 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 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
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 $50,000 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 $50,000 Disnat 1% Commission Credit Promo 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

Last Updated: Oct. 2, 2019 00:30 PT

Other Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Required Details Link Deadline
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: Oct. 2, 2019 00:30 PT

Digital Advice + Roboadvisor Promotions

Robo-advisor / Digital advisor Offer Type Offer Description Min. Deposit Reward / Promotion Promo Code Expiry Date Link
Discounted Management Open and fund a new Questrade Portfolio IQ account with a deposit of at least $1,000 and the first month of management will be free. For more information on Portfolio IQ, click the product link. $1,000 1st month no management fees KDKFNBBC None Questrade Portfolio IQ Promo Offer
Cash Back Open and fund a new or existing SmartFolio account with at least $1,000 and you could receive 0.5% cash back up to $1000. Use promo code PROMO1000 when opening a new account. See terms and conditions for full details. This offer can be combined with the refer-a-friend promotion. $1,000 0.5% cash back to a maximum of $1000. PROMO1000 January 2, 2020 SmartFolio Cash Back Promo
Discounted Management Open a new account with BMO SmartFolio and receive one year of management of up to $15,000 free. See offer terms and conditions for more details. $1,000 1 year no management fees STSF April 30, 2019 SmartFolio New Account Promotion
Cash Back – Referral BMO SmartFolio clients will receive $50 cash back for every friend or family member who opens and funds a new SmartFolio account. Friends and family referred to SmartFolio will receive $50 cash back for opening and funding an account, plus automatic enrollment into SmartFolio’s mass offer in market at the time. See offer terms and conditions for more details. $1,000 $50 cash back (referrer) $50 cash back (referee) Unique link generated from SmartFolio required. None SmartFolio Website
Transfer Fee Coverage Transfer at least $25,000 into Virtual Wealth when opening a new account and you may be eligible to have up to $150 in transfer fees covered by Virtual Wealth. $25,000 up to $150 in transfer fees covered None None Contact customer service directly for more information.
Last Updated: Oct. 2, 2019 00:30 PT
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Discount Brokerage Deals & Promotions, September 2019

*Updated Sept. 4* When it comes to discount brokerage deals, it appears that this month, school is definitely in session. Even though there are no new deals that officially launched at the beginning of September, there were several that snuck in at the tail end of August, just in time for the Labour Day weekend and for the start of the new month.

Change is almost a given in the stock market these days, so it seems fitting that there be some turnover and excitement in the deals space. To that end, last month saw the start and finish of the RBC Direct Investing commission-free trade offer and the expiry of the CIBC Investor’s Edge commission-free trading offer. Early on in September, BMO InvestorLine is also poised to launch a new deal, too.

Despite the action at Canada’s bank-owned online brokerages, it was Scotia iTRADE that made the biggest splash in the discount brokerage deals pool at the end of last month.  With a creative deal for new clients as well as promotions for existing clients being offered by iTRADE, this online broker has left little doubt that they’re prepared to take the rest of the online brokerages back to school when it comes to interesting offers for DIY investors.

It’s clear that the timing of Scotia iTRADE’s offers are no accident. September is the time of year when investors are typically returning from vacations and getting back into the markets, so it would not be too surprising to see deals activity at other online brokerages begin to ramp up too and respond in kind with offers of their own.

As always if there are any new or interesting discount brokerage deals out there that online investors could benefit from, let us know in the comments below.

Expired Deals

*Update September 4 – The cash back promotion offered by BMO InvestorLine has expired, but quickly replaced with a new cash back deal. More details on the offer can be found below.

The two biggest offers that expired in August included an offer from CIBC Investor’s Edge and a commission-free trade from RBC Direct Investing.

Extended Deals

*There are no extended deals to report this period*

New Deals

*Update September 4 –BMO InvestorLine has released a new cash back promotion available for new qualifying accounts. You may be eligible for cash back when you deposit $100,000+ in your account. Enter promotion code SPARXCASH into your Online Application Form to qualify for this award. Scroll down for more details.*

Scotia iTRADE is offering up $50 in cash back for new clients as well as a standard commission rate of $6.99 per trade (until March 2020). In addition, this offer is accessible with a minimum deposit of $2,500.

For existing Scotia iTRADE clients, there are also some compelling incentives being batted around. The first is for individuals who add a certain dollar amount to their accounts to be eligible for commission-free trades. Since these are for existing clients, the typical YMMV (your mileage may vary) qualifier applies, however iTRADE is offering 5 commission-free trades for deposits of $10,000.

In addition, and potentially the most compelling offer for existing clients, is that Scotia iTRADE is offering up to 3 commission-free trades for attending an educational webinar on the “US Dollar Position” on September 24, 2019. Trading commission-free trades for attending a webinar is a very tempting offer that has very little downside for investors and could be something that other online brokerages that offer DIY investor educational webinars look to add into their mix to encourage participation.


Discount Brokerage Deals

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

Cash Back/Free Trade/Product Offer Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Commission/Cash Offer/Promotion Type Time Limit to Use Commission/Cash Offer Details Link Deadline
Jitney Trade A Sparx Trading exclusive offer! Use the promo code “Sparx Trading” when signing up for a new account with Jitneytrade and receive access to their preferred pricing package. n/a Discounted Commission Rates none For more details click here none
Open a qualifying account at HSBC InvestDirect and you may be eligible to receive up to 30 commission-free North American equity or ETF trades. No minimum deposit is required for this offer and it is open to new and existing clients. Trades are eligible to be used for up to 60 days. See terms and conditions for full details. n/a 30 commission-free trades 60 days HSBC InvestDirect Summer Offer September 30, 2019
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, 2019
Scotia iTrade Open a new qualifying account and fund it with a minimum of $2,500 and you may be eligible to receive $50 cash back. This offer also includes $6.99 per trade commissions until March 1, 2020. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more details. $2,500 $50 cash back and $6.99 per Canadian and US equity/ETF trade. Cash back will be deposited by January 31, 2020. $6.99 per trade commission pricing active until March 1, 2020. Cash Back Offer Details October 15, 2019
Disnat Desjardins Online Brokerage is offering new clients 1% of assets transferred into the new account in the form of commission credits (to a maximum value of $1,000). Minimum qualifying deposit is $10,000. To qualify, individuals will have to call 1-866-873-7103 and mention promo code DisnatTransfer or email: [email protected] See details link for more info. $10,000 1% of assets transferred in the form of commission-credits (max credits: $1,000) 6 months Disnat 1% Commission Credit Promo none
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, 2019
BMO InvestorLine Open a new qualifying account at BMO InvestorLine with new assets worth at least A) $100,000; B) $250,000; C) $500,000+ or D) $2M+, and you may be eligible to a cash back reward of up to A) $100; B) $225; C) $600 or D) $2,000. Use promo code SPARXCASH when registering to qualify. Be sure to read full terms and conditions. A) $100,000 B) $250,000 C) $500,000 D) $2M+ A) $100 B) $225 C) $600 D) $2,000 Cash back will be deposited the week of June 15, 2020. BMO InvestorLine Cash Back Offer Details October 31, 2019

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Sept. 04, 2019 09:55 PT

Referral Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Incentive Structure Time Limit to Use Commission/Cash Offer Deposit Details Link Deadline
Refer a friend to Questrade and when they open an account you receive $25 cash back and they receive either A) $25; B) $50; C) $75; D) $100; or E) $250 depending on the amount deposited amount. Enter code: 476104302388759 during account sign up to qualify. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for eligibility and additional bonus payment structure and minimum balance requirements. A) $1,000 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
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
Scotia iTrade If you refer a friend/family member who is not already a Scotia iTRADE account holder to them, both you and your friend get a bonus of either cash or free trades. You have to use the referral form to pass along your info as well as your friend/family members’ contact info in order to qualify. There are lots of details/conditions to this deal so be sure to read the details link. A) $10,000 B) $50,000+ A) You(referrer): $50 or 10 free trades; Your “Friend”: $50 or 10 free trades (max total value:$99.90) B) You(referrer): $100 cash or 50 free trades; Your “Friend”: $100 cash or 50 free trades (max total value: $499.50) 60 days Refer A Friend to Scotia iTrade tbd
BMO InvestorLine If you (an existing BMO InvestorLine client) refer a new client to BMO InvestorLine and they open an account with at least $5,000 the referrer and the referee may both be eligible to receive $50 cash. To qualify the referee must use the email of the referrer that is linked to their BMO InvestorLine account. See terms and conditions for full details. $5,000 You(referrer): $50; Your Friend(referee): $50 Payout occurs 45 days after minimum 90 day holding period (subject to conditions). BMO InvestorLine Refer-a-Friend January 2, 2020

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Sept. 1, 2019 23:30 PT

Transfer Fee Promotions

Company Brief Description Maximum Transfer Fee Coverage Amount Minimum Deposit Amount for Transfer Fee Eligibility Details Link Deadline
Move your brokerage account to Questrade and they’ll cover the transfer-out fee up to $150. $150 n/a Transfer Fee Promo September 30, 2019
Transfer $15,000 or more to RBC Direct Investing and they will pay up to $135 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 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
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 $50,000 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 $50,000 Disnat 1% Commission Credit Promo 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

Last Updated: Sept. 1, 2019 23:30 PT

Other Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Required Details Link Deadline
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: Sept. 1, 2019 23:30 PT

Digital Advice + Roboadvisor Promotions

Robo-advisor / Digital advisor Offer Type Offer Description Min. Deposit Reward / Promotion Promo Code Expiry Date Link
Discounted Management Open and fund a new Questrade Portfolio IQ account with a deposit of at least $1,000 and the first month of management will be free. For more information on Portfolio IQ, click the product link. $1,000 1st month no management fees KDKFNBBC None Questrade Portfolio IQ Promo Offer
Cash Back Open and fund a new or existing SmartFolio account with at least $1,000 and you could receive 0.5% cash back up to $1000. Use promo code PROMO1000 when opening a new account. See terms and conditions for full details. This offer can be combined with the refer-a-friend promotion. $1,000 0.5% cash back to a maximum of $1000. PROMO1000 January 2, 2020 SmartFolio Cash Back Promo
Discounted Management Open a new account with BMO SmartFolio and receive one year of management of up to $15,000 free. See offer terms and conditions for more details. $1,000 1 year no management fees STSF April 30, 2019 SmartFolio New Account Promotion
Cash Back – Referral BMO SmartFolio clients will receive $50 cash back for every friend or family member who opens and funds a new SmartFolio account. Friends and family referred to SmartFolio will receive $50 cash back for opening and funding an account, plus automatic enrollment into SmartFolio’s mass offer in market at the time. See offer terms and conditions for more details. $1,000 $50 cash back (referrer) $50 cash back (referee) Unique link generated from SmartFolio required. None SmartFolio Website
Transfer Fee Coverage Transfer at least $25,000 into Virtual Wealth when opening a new account and you may be eligible to have up to $150 in transfer fees covered by Virtual Wealth. $25,000 up to $150 in transfer fees covered None None Contact customer service directly for more information.
Last Updated: Sept. 1, 2019 23:30 PT