Canadian Discount Brokerage Review and Comparison for TFSA and RRSP

With the wide selection in discount brokers offering services to Canadians, it can be difficult to understand what each firm is offering and even harder to determine which is the best broker for your needs. We’ve compiled a list of brokers and their relevant fees.

Infrequent traders

Individuals that place infrequent trades or have smaller account sizes are best off with Questrade in terms of commissions. At only $4.95 per trade (minimum), it is the lowest cost brokerage. Keep in mind that research is limited through Questrade, so you’ll have to have sources beyond your broker in order to do in depth research on equities or markets. Fixed income trading through Questrade is also more difficult than other brokers, requiring a phone call.

Virtual Brokers (VB) is another interesting option as well, in that they have a varied fee structure depending on what option you elect for. VB allows you to choose your commission option, either a flat $6.95 per trade or a per share arrangement, starting at $0.01 per share for stocks under $1.00. Depending on your trading patterns, this can be cheaper or more expensive than Questrade.

Questrade ® $50 Credit:
If you open an account with Questrade ® as a referral and deposit the minimum $1000, you will get up to $50 in free trades, just click on this link and open the account. You can also open the account at a later time, just make sure that in the Affiliate ID you use tradecanada and it will recognize you as a referral and credit you the $50.

Frequent Traders

There are a number of brokerages that offer discounts for frequent traders, with most of the big bank brokerages offering $6.95 or $7 trades if you provide them with 150 or more trades per quarter. These brokerages include TD Waterhouse, RBC Direct Investing, Scotia iTrade, and CIBC Investor Edge. The commissions increase to approximately $10 per trade if in range of 30-150 trades per quarter for all of these brokers.

HSBC InvestDirect also offers $6.88 per trade for high volume investors; however they set the line at 100 trades per quarter rather than the 150 trades that other brokerages demand.

Questrade still offers the lowest overall price at $4.95 per trade; however, at this volume of trading the added research, support and functionality of some of the other platforms may be worth the $2 per trade difference, depending on how much you utilize these features and the value they provide to your trading strategy. Trade Freedom also offers $6.95 rates, but has similar limitations to Questrade in terms of research and value added functionality.

Large Account Size

For investors with large account sizes, many brokers are willing to offer special commission rates and fee waivers, even if you trade infrequently. HSBC Direct Investing, TD Waterhouse, RBC Direct, Scotia iTrade, BMO Investorline, CIBC InvestorEdge and Qtrade will offer $9.95 trades with total assets of $50,000 or more. Further discounts are available for investors with even larger accounts, including $6.88 trades for investors with over $500,000 invested at HSBC and $6.95 per trade offered to CIBC customers with over $100,000 invested.

If you want to learn more about investing, check out Excess Return and download a great free Investment Guide E-Book!

Mutual Fund Investors

For those that invest primarily in mutual funds, there are several brokers that offer no fee accounts so this is likely the direct that you want to go in. Questrade and Disnat are the only firms that currently charge fees, however Questrade will refund you trailer fees, offsetting some of the cost.

Keep in mind that most brokerages will charge you a fee if you redeem a mutual fund within 90 days of purchase (some exclude money market funds from these rules, but check your agreement).

Open an account with Questrade ® and get FREE $50 in trades, use this link or Affiliate code: tradecanada.

Other Considerations

Choosing a broker is not all about fees; it may be matter of convenience or trust. While all of the brokers here are registered with the Canadian Investor Protection Fund, so your balances are safe despite the financial stability of any of the brokerages (not that any of these brokers are in financial difficulty to the best of our knowledge).

Transferring money between brokerage accounts can also be a hassle with some of the firms, and it may be more convenient to use the brokerage arm of your regular financial institution if you are frequently transferring funds in and out of your accounts.

Here is a summary table of our findings when we surveyed Canada’s leading discount brokerages (Questrade, Virtual Brokers, Disnat, HSBC InvestDirect, TD Waterhouse, RBC Direct, Scotia iTrade (previously e*trade, BMO Investor Line and Qtrade): 

“Questrade® is a registered trademark and/or service mark of Questrade, Inc. Questrade Inc. is a member of the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) and a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF).”

40 Responses to Canadian Discount Brokerage Review and Comparison for TFSA and RRSP

  1. I’m a fan of Questrade as well. I may look into setting up a TDW account to have more direct control over my eFunds and then be able to sell them and purchase iShare ETFs.

  2. I used to have TDW although never placed a trade, I liked it because it integrated with my accounts. But since than I have left TD.


    I have had the single worst experience of my entire life with Questrade over the last few days, as I write this MY ACCOUNT IS MISSING $923.45 or 35% of my entire account balance & life savings after 3 CONSECUTIVE DAYS OF ACCOUNT IMBALANCES. I am actively spreading the word of my ordeal through any medium I can until the problem is fixed I have gotten a letter to the editor posted in the Kingston Whig-Standard and am awaiting publication of my letters to the Toronto Star, Toronto Sun and the Globe and Mail. My uncle is one of the webmasters at Craig’s List so I should have a leg up in informing as many people as possible.

    I have personally traded stocks, options and funds for 7 years and ETF’s, FOREX and bonds for 5, so I consider myself informed about the online broker business. I am not a wealthy person but I enjoy investing in a ‘hands on’ fashion. I had an account with E*Trade for 6 years with no problems. A few months ago I left them for Questrade because of the cheaper commissions and their favorable consumer ratings.
    Up until the morning of March 5, 2009 I had a very good experience with Questrade, I even got my account set up in only 4 business days, which was very impressive!

    *Note all figures include commissions and exchange rates at the time of the transaction. Also, I have a TaxFreeSavings account, which means no margin account, no loans, no borrowing, no overdrafts. I can do transactions up to my current cash balance, any more money and it will reject the order because of insufficient funds. I can prove all claims/ figures through screen shots of history and physical account activity forms mailed to me after every day that I traded. With that in mind……

    The night of March 4, 2009 at 4:05PM I bought 23 shares of FAZ (an ETF) @ $79.80 USD=$1,840.44 USD (total after trade commission) x 1.27(the exchange rate at the time)=$2337.36 CAD worth of stock in my account + $54.72 CAD in cash left in my account=$2392.08 CAD is my total account balance.

    The morning of March 5, 2009 at 9:33AM I sold the same 23 shares of FAZ I carried over from the day before @ $86.86USD=$1992.81 USD (after trade commission) x 1.2785(the rate at the time)=$2547.81 CAD + $54.72 CAD (cash left in account since night before)=$2602.53 CAD total cash in account now. But there was actually $2232.04 CAD showing in my account balance when I checked it after the trade like I always do. That means my account was $370.49 CAD… just like that.

    I’m not going to go in to greater detail but the same thing happened the next two days as well taking $165.04 CAD on the morning of March 6,2009 and then again for $396.96 on the morning of March 9, 2009. I suspended my account at that point and stopped trading. They had taken $923.45 CAD by the end of it, or 35% of my life savings (I am still young and busy paying off student loans). I would’ve suspended it after the first day but they assured me it would be fixed and after the second day I was waiting for this manager to call me back, which he failed to do.

    Now you would think that in the face of this irrefutable evidence, and the fact that they admit a computer glitch took money through faulty a exchange of currency from a bunch of other people’s Tax Free Savings Accounts over these same days, that they would admit the error. Boy was I wrong, the real fight had just begun as I spent 2 hours and 06 mins. that day (have long distance phone bill to prove it) on the phone to 3 different people at customer service, trading desk, etc. They just tried to explain it away going down a checklist of things; didn’t add in trade commissions (even though the totals I used from webtrader history have them added in), exchange rate (which I took from the forex website), my miscalculations, etc. Each person would say they would “send a report to the back office and someone would follow up with me in the next few days. Guess what, not one of them did, I called again on Friday March 6, 2009 and asked to speak with a manger that didn’t call me back for 4 business days and when he did he brushed me off, even though they admitted “some money was taken from my account and put back”, $181.82 CAD on March 5, 2009. He refused to understand that I sold stock for this price and then my account balance said I had much less then what I sold the stock for, even though this is very simple concept. Robert Chandler is the name of the “manager” I spoke with. He at one point 30 mins. into the conversation said hold on for 5 mins. and pretended to have an audit done on my account, even though another manager told me audits take at least 3-5 business days. Apparently Rob is a superhuman adding computer… either that or a bald faced liar. I called him on the amazingly quick audit he was able to do and he hung up (I have a witness who was also listening to the call), after 45 mins. of denials. I spoke with him a few days later and said he couldn’t bully me into submission, that I wanted a real audit of my account. He told me a real audit is $75 an hour charged to my account. I asked if Questrade was found to be at fault, would the audit be free? He said no the audit would be around $500.00 in total and would not be refunded even if they found that Questrade took money from my account.

    I then attempted to go higher then Rob by using a good comment blog post and contacting Emil Vojkollari and Nicholas Roussos, both in middle management, who seem to help people on the blog I saw solve problems with Questrade, and guess what? I have left 2 messages for Emil seeking assistance in the matter and 4 for Nicholas asking him for help as well and both HAVE YET TO RETURN ANY OF MY 6 MESSAGES. That is not client support, that is an abomination and I intend to make it my hobby for the next few months until every cent of my $923.45 CAD is returned to me with an apology of mass proportions. The ironic thing is that after my forensic auditor finishes his assessment I can take them to small claims court where if found guilty of taking money from me they would be on the hook for $1000’s to pay for my legal counsel (my dad, who charges $300/an hour) and $1000’s for their own legal counsel plus have to explain the verdict to the IIROC Canadian securities regulatory body and risk losing their retail broker license.

    Sorry it took so long to read, but PLEASE, ANYONE WHO DOESN’T ALREADY HAVE AN ACCOUNT WITH QUESTRADE…DON’T, ANYONE THAT HAS AN ACCOUNT ALREADY…CLOSE IT. THIS AGGRAVATION HAS GIVEN MY WIFE AND I WEEKS OF SLEEPLESS NIGHTS AND UNTOLD STRESS. This recession has been hard enough on everyone let alone being taken for 35% of my families entire savings. Questrade are at best a terrible company with horrendous customer service and complaint response, and at worst criminal with gross misconduct on the part of ROBERT CHANDLER. You don’t hang up on someone or lie and say you are doing an “audit” that was magically finished in 10 mins. instead of the standard 3-5 days. The fact that neither Emil nor Nicholas has bothered to return my calls proves that the upper management is also not taking customer’s complaints seriously. It’s sad what this world is coming to sometimes, I hope between the huge ad on Craig’s list and the letter in the Whig-Standard, the letters hopefully in the Tor. Star, Tor. Sun and Globe & Mail: people will recognize the absolutely vile way they have handled me. I was only trying to get my family ahead using a discount broker to save fees, I didn’t deserve this, my wife didn’t deserve this and my 5 month old daughter certainly didn’t deserve this. Shame on you Questrade.

    • As an active investor for “over 7 years” managing a profile where 35% of your entire funds amounts to approximately $900 some odd dollars, I’d say you’re full of shit.



  4. Hi Zack, I am sorry to hear about the issue you having with questrade, I have a personal account and an investment club account with questrade and have not had any problems yet. I hope your issues will be resolved as soon as possible, please keep us updated with results. Also you may want to file a complaint with OBSI if questrade is unable to solve your issue.
    Good luck!

  5. Ya keep your wealth at a gimmick called Questtrade !! Of course, another thief that give all for nothing.. That was also the case with Madoff… Remember people, everything is priced in… Even Questrade..

  6. Alan // May 19, 2009 at 11:07 am

    I am taking Questrade to court to recoup my $11,000 loss in amargin call. They had my money to cover the margin but depts at Questrade were not conmmunicating well enough. Also I checked IIROC webpage, IIROC had a hearing about Margin issue on 4/28/2009. If anyone have same experience like me, Pls send me email(

    I’d like to hear more about their incompetence. Maybe we have a class action case and share some information and experience. Thanks a lot.


    Mike Madej, I don’t know your email. Pls send email to Thank you!

  7. Just an FYI, fees for mutual funds at TD Waterhouse are free for most mutual funds (buy or sell). That is as long as you keep it for the 30 days before you sell. There are third party mutual funds that TD Waterhouse does charge a fee.

  8. This is for Zack,you need to understand that ETF’s don’t clear the same way stocks do…by reading just the info you gave,you were gaming the lag time and there is no way “any broker” is going to take a hit on this. The bleeding heart crap at the end is just lame.

  9. No Duke, that’s the way it is at all brokers….all etf’s clear at end of the day . Maybe trading etf options would be a better fit for zack….and i work for TD Waterhouse

  10. Well using the wife and kid line was so un called for…..besides zack’s dad is a lawyer an is going sue everyone….but really zack should risk his 2k on a hotdog stand. Don’t like the tone…well this is a blog about OB’s review , just the real facts would be fine…..i put my money with Qtrade…..i don’t need all the flash of TDW……but if i was dt’ing , i go with CMC.

    • hey there, I’m new into scalping (daytrading). I’m set up with interactive brokers and using ninja trader for my technical charting etc. I’d like to get into using a TFSA account to trade with but can’t find any descent Canadian brokers with good charting capabilities like Ninja or Worden Brothers.
      Do you have any suggestions? also, why would you go with CMC?

  11. I found your coverage of Questrade misleading, to say the least. I don’t see any mention of their ECN fees, which are in addition to the $4.95, which quickly becomes $9.95 and then ECN fees on top of that. I had one trade where the commission was over $35 and another where it was over $25. We are talking about $7000 trades. When I requested an explanation, I was ignored.

    Also, their technical platform is flaky and unreliable.

  12. I’ve been hearing a lot of infamy about Questrade as a whole. Sure, their trading fees are attractive, and that usually seems to be the hook. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories on customer management as well as hidden fees that most people failed to catch due to said fees being poorly displayed.

    Between that and the conversions, it might be rather hampering in the long term.

  13. I recently opened an account with Virtual Brokers [ ]
    When I tried to return my money back from virtual brokers to my own bank I have problem getting my money back. I filled the form on their website which state that within 2 days the money will be return via EFT – the secretary on the phone confirmed it will be done within 2 days. It was not. Later I talked to Peter Wong, one of their Trading Support people (at that time). I was verbally told the money will be in my account in 10 days. It was not. I contacted a manager BBS Securities Inc. [ Virtual Brokers is a branch of this company ], I was told he will look into this … now I’m in contact with investment industry regulatory organization of canada – 416-943-6910
    Is anyone out there had similar problem with Virtual Brokers ? Have you got your money back? What did you do?

    • In 2011 Virtual Brokers messed up my dividend – including the T5 slip- and I spoke with the same Peter Wong. He apologized for the mistake and justified it “as a system problem”. In 2012, they messed up again, in the same account and for the same stock! Peter Wong is ignoring me now. Important to mention, all the errors were in favor of Virtual Broker.
      In 2012 in one of my account they charged me interest on my margin account; the problem was I never used my margin account. I called, one of the customer representative who promised to investigate and to get back to me in 2-3 days; he did not; I called again, spoke with the same person, no explanation given, promised to get back to me in another 2-3 days; he never did. Charging an account interest for using margin, when you never did is definitely not a “System problem,” it is something else!!! I am moving my accounts and intend to contact Invest.Ind.Regulatory Org.

  14. Nathan, did you send your money by personal cheque? or through EFT/Wire? Normally brokerage firms impose a holding period of 10-20 business days (20 business days for Questrade, 10 business days for Virtual Brokers, Qtrades…) for withdrawal of funds originated from non-certfied personal cheques. The reason behind this holding period is to make sure if the cheque is cleared and not bounced back or recalled; there maybe anti money laundry reasons as well i guess. If you send your money by personal cheque there is no need to be worry about, this is quite normal and pretty standard procedure among all brokerage firms. They normally process withdrawal requests after holding period for personal cheques. I had the same experience with three different firms i work with. You should receive your money after holding period, which is 10 businesses days in your case i assume. Let us know if you get your money after this or not?

  15. I had been at TD Waterhouse for years & decided to transfer my accounts to questrade mainly because of commission rates.
    To say the least what a nightmare!! It took approximately 2wks to get the margin account & tfsa set up to begin with. Then after they were set up,I mailed in the transfer papers. Three weeks later the transfer still was not initiated. Upon talking to them they said that they hadn’t even received the paperwork.
    In that three weeks I was on their live help through the website (wait times 36-79min). When I finally get in touch with someone I get them telling me that they don’t have access to that part of the account. Trying to get through on the phone is even worse.
    Needless to say after wasting at least five hours & 23 emails in that 3wks I told questrade to forget it & close the account.
    You have to fund the account with a min. of $1 in the opening process. When I told them to just put the $1 back in my bank account they replied that they don’t do that just for a $1. I told them to cut a check & mail it then – they replied that there was a $10 fee for that.

    In closing as far as I’m concerned Questrade has n0 customer service & even tho their commission rates are considerably lower than the big banks – i now know why!

  16. Rob, consider yourself lucky that you never got to experience their “low” commission rates as you would have been in for a bitter surprise.

  17. Simon – I can just imagine. I’m not a fan of the big banks but at least they kiss you first! If they’re was some company that came out & was honest from the start & gave customer service.They’d make a killing.

  18. I switched to TDW from Questrade. Before that I was with TradeFreedom. Between Tradefreedom and Questrade….I was charged thousands of dollars in ECN fees above the commissions I was charged. A good 10 to 12 grand I could have kept in my pocket. Never Again. If you are an active trader like me…..ecn fees are NOT an option.

  19. QTrade is the bestest by a mile. OK, so they don’t have a commission below $10, BUT they have the best on-line tools, customer service that is actually answered by a live person and not phone hell, and they are on top of all the major developments. If a competitor instigates an “innovation”, you can be sure that QTrade will follow ASAP. I usually trade in lots of 1000 or more shares but for those occassions when I do trade less than 1000, I don’t mind paying a few extra dollars over Questrades rates. My next fav choice is BMO Investorline (if you can open a min $50K account). Anything to stay away from Questrade. Those guys are crapola. Yes, you might save a few coins, but one screwup by them (and it will happen….missed trade because site is down, wrong trade, misplaced funds) and you’ll lose or regret any potential “savings”.

  20. Just wondering…
    In 2007 I had some gold stock AMNP ‘added’ to my account(175,000 shares for $1.25 each)).
    I did not buy that stock
    I chatted with one of the reps-he said he wasn’t sure why that stock was into my account. He did some searching, but came back with the same answer.
    Then he said if I could try to trade it then I should since it was in my account.
    So I did. I sold all of it..since it was a cheap stock and it was going down in value.

    3 years later they called and said they realized they put the stock into my account and it was an error and they wanted all the money for it.
    I explained to them that I asked one of your reps and was told I could sell the stock.

    I had lost most of that money trading in 2008..but want to know where are my grounds on this issue?
    I’m mot mentioning the broker’s name, but was one of those with poor customer service and not very knowledgeable reps.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.


  21. I think if it’s over one year…they have o grounds to request any money from you.
    What kind of broker does that and even after you talk to them, they could not figured it out.

    I think if they take you to court, they will have no grounds…but I’m not an expert so hopefully someone will have a better advice.

    Good luck my friend…Sorry you lost that money during 2008—Many of us did…

  22. I use scotiaitrade formerly tradefreedom since 2006 and it is horrible service and they still havent reversed the fees they illegally charged me. I been out for 2 weeks now as they promise to call me back to fix a technical issue with my platform.
    I been promised a callback everyday now and they just dont return calls or try to resolve issues. Tradefreedom was great, Scotiaitrade is incredibly horrible

  23. In my experience, Scotia will do anything to cause you grief. They cheat on bid and ask, they look for ways to steal your money, they are inefficient, and the customer service is DREADFUL. Talk to three, get three different answers. I have heard a lot of horror stories about them since I closed my account there, and I believe they are all true. They have stolen money from my account, traders are unethical. I think if we had a decent securities regulation in Canada they would all be in jail …. alas!

  24. Agree with the negative comment about Scotia iTrade. Many things seem okay with the site etc., but teh customer service is horrible. If you have problems, and you will, you will be in for the most frustrating experience and not get your problem fixed. You will have to give up.

    The latest thing is the new system does not allow you to withdraw funds if you have a negative cash amount in you margin account! ie you have to sell out your acct before you can withdraw funds! I cant believe it but after 40 minutes on hold this is what I am being told.


  25. Guys beware…trying to settle a questrade estate account is a major pain….They want a probated will! for a very small amount of cash left in my late father’s account. We have had no issues wrapping up the estate with Scotia and far more money than what we had in the Questrade account! I have been fighting with their lawyers….

  26. Nice advert for Questrade. I sincerly hope the writer has had real experience and the full bogus treatment of having an account at Questrade. I suspect NOT.

    RRSP & TFSA’s are a nightmare and is all backoffice functions that do not involve simple trades.

    • I have actually have had an account (margin) with questrade since 2009, haven’t had any issues. But, I also have an account with scotia itrade and TDW. I also never said that questrade provides the best services, just that provides the lowest commission fees for infrequent traders and small accounts. Readers are welcome to share their experiences and I never delete comments regardless of it being pro or anti questrade.

  27. Why is it that these smaller brokers with attractive fee structures are such a pain to deal with?

    Okay, they’re cheap and cheap often means they’re a little thin on service personnel. But still, when it gets as bad as Virtual Brokers not answering emails for weeks on end and get stuck on hold for more than an hour before giving up… well, ya gotta wonder if their business model doesn’t work after all.

    I wish that some innovative broker could conjure that magic combo of low commissions and semi-decent service. From what I’ve heard of Questrade, they aint it. Virtual Brokers looked like they had finally found the Holy Grail. Alas, not. They suck, too.

    Who’s next best?

  28. I AGREE with Simon P.
    I am an active trader (800-1000 trades a year) and opened an acct with questrade since Jan.1012 to take advantage of their advertised claim of low commissions. To my surprise and regret there are no savings. Their ECN charge of up to 35 cents per 100 shares traded for example made a recent sale of 4000 shares result in the commissions being 9.95 + 14.00 much much more. If I made this trade with Scotiaitrade it would of cost me a simple 6.99.
    Fortunately, I learned and am now in the process of winding down my questarde acct.
    Another thing that I did not like about questrade – no paper trail. They do not confirmation slips not income tax slips, etc.
    Due diligence and warning for any individuals considering becoming a questrade client-you like myself will regret it dearly.


    I wish I did my due diligence before signing up for Questrade. ALL of their advertising is extremely


    1.) $4.95 Trades!?? Sounds cheap. They don’t tell you about the additional ECN fees + fees this and fees

    that. Some of my trades have cost me $25-$100 per trade!! This is way more than the banks & other brokers

    charge. Most banks charge a flat $9.95 fee and thats it. You do the math.

    2.) Their promotional bonuses!? They will advertise that if you transfer over, they will give you these

    promotional bonuses. THEY DON’T!!! I signed up with two separate trading accounts with Questrade. I have

    yet to get any of my bonuses despite calling in several times. They say they will even pay for your

    transfer costs. Extremely bad service!! Took one month to set up both my accounts.

    3.) Their website is down for upgrades after trading hours every day! This means you can’t research or put

    orders through after hours. I’ve been with Questrade for 3 months now. Grrr

    Look at the rest of these reviews and I think it is strong enough evidence that Questrade is no good! I’m

    in the process of cashing out my stocks and switching over to another.

    Now I understand why they say Questrade is a discount broker. You pay for what you get. Consumers


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