Best Trading Platforms in Canada: Choose From These

If you are interested in trading stocks, you don’t always have to look for the help of a financial advisor or a professional portfolio manager. You can buy and sell your investments with the help of an online trading platform as well. When you use one of the best trading platforms in Canada, you’ll be in complete control of placing trades, deciding asset allocation and managing your portfolio. These trading platforms are also known as online brokerages or discount brokers. These make the buying and selling of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), guaranteed investment certificates (GICs), etc. a lot easier. For those interested in DIY investing, Canada’s best trading platforms will serve as great low-cost foundations for building a self-directed portfolio. However, before you get started with these, you must remember to do the requisite research on stock picking and pay attention to trading commissions and account fees. When you invest using a trading platform, you don’t receive the planning and investment advice in the same way you would receive from a financial advisor provided by a full service brokerage. However, with advancements in technology, the best online trading platforms of Canada can offer sophisticated and detailed resources to help investors make informed decisions and improve their investing knowledge. So, you will be in relatively safe (virtual) hands. Now, on to the trading platforms.

Best Trading Platforms in Canada: All You Need to Know

Canada offers many quality trading platforms for investors to choose from. In our list, the trading fees that we have mentioned are for stocks and ETFs only. For other modes of investments such as mutual funds, bonds, GICs, international equities, options and precious metals, the fees and commissions are different.

Here are the best trading platforms in Canada

RBC Direct Investing

Kicking off our list of the best trading platforms in Canada, is RBC Direct Investing. The Royal Bank of Canada’s online brokerage offers in-depth research reports, analysis, charting and screening tools to help you choose the right investments. It also offers tools to set goals, track performance and analyze and rebalance your portfolio as needed. For new investors, its educational materials help grow confidence.

Types of accounts: TFSA, RRSP, RESP, RRIF, cash and margin accounts, non-personal corporate, investment club and partnership accounts.

Minimum account balance: None.

Pricing: $9.95 per online trade for stocks and ETFs, or $6.95 per trade if you make 150+ trades per quarter.

Customer service: Email, phone, online chat.

BMO Investorline

Next on the list of the best trading platforms in Canada, is BMO Investorline. The Bank of Montreal’s self-directed trading platform has tools and research available for new investors, including bi-weekly educational emails, online demos and tutorials and webcasts from industry experts. You can also create watch lists and receive regular personalized notifications about your account. Accounts containing $50,000 are eligible for portfolio management services (at a cost) through BMO InvestorLine adviceDirect.

Types of accounts: TFSA, RESP, RRSP, RRIF, LIRA, LRSP, LRIF, LIF, cash and margin accounts.

Minimum account balance: $5,000 (no minimum balance for TFSAs or RESPs).

Pricing: $9.95 per trade for stocks and ETFs.

Customer service: Email, phone.

Wealthsimple Trade

Next on the list of the best trading platforms in Canada, is Wealthsimple Trade. Launched in 2019, Wealthsimple Trade offers an unlimited number of stock and ETF trades completely commission-free. The only fee you’ll pay is for currency exchanges when trading U.S.-listed securities, which is the daily corporate rate + 1.5%. The platform has a minimalistic interface that lets you search Canada and U.S. stocks and ETFs by name or symbol, or filter by “most active,” “top gainers” and “top losers.” Currently, Wealthsimple Trade is only available as a mobile app on your smartphone or tablet. But free trading comes with a tradeoff: the app is currently without educational or analytical tools.

Types of accounts: TFSA, RRSP, individual cash account.

Account minimum: None.

Pricing: Stocks and ETFs trade commission-free. When trading on American markets, a currency exchange fee of the daily corporate rate + 1.5% is charged.

Customer service: Email, phone.

Qtrade Investor

Next on the list of the best trading platforms in Canada, is Qtrade Investor. Qtrade is a division of Aviso Wealth, and offers a full range of tools and resources including watchlists and alerts, investment screening, technical and fundamental research, analysts’ recommendations and Reuters’ daily newsletter. Qtrade also offers planning tools and calculators to set and track financial goals, including a health check that grades your portfolio’s risk exposure across five financial dimensions.

Types of accounts: TFSA, RRSP, RESP, LIRA, LRSP, RRIF, LIF, cash or margin account.

Minimum account balance: None.

Pricing: $8.75 per trade for stocks and ETFs. Qtrade also offers a selection of 100 commission-free ETFs. Active trader and young investor (age 18 to 30) pricing available.

Customer service: Email, phone.

CIBC Investor’s Edge

Next on the list of the best trading platforms in Canada, is CIBC Investor’s Edge. CIBC’s online brokerage offers charting tools to help investors identify trends and analyze performance. It also has watch lists and alerts that monitor stocks and price movements, and pre-built or customizable screeners to filter investment products by criteria such as sector, industry, market cap and price change percentage. Receive expert insights in your inbox, including market reports from Recognia and Thomson Reuters’ daily Morning News Call newsletter.

Types of accounts: TFSA, RRSP, RESP, RRIF, LIRA, LRSP, LRIF, PRIF, cash account (individual, joint or corporate), margin account.

Minimum account balance: None.

Pricing: $6.95 per trade for stocks and ETFs. Student and active trader pricing available.

Customer service: Email, phone, online chat.

TD Direct Investing

Next on the list of the best trading platforms in Canada, is TD Direct Investing. Owned by TD Bank, TD Direct Investing has the distinction of being Canada’s first self-directed online platform. It offers new and experienced traders the choice between basic and more detailed platforms. TD also owns and operates the prominent U.S. discount broker TD Ameritrade, so it’s big on market research and data and has strong U.S. and global investing options. For new investors, it offers video tutorials, live online workshops and monthly live webinars.

Types of accounts: TFSA, RRSP, RESP, RRIF, LIRA, LIF, RDSP and cash and margin accounts.

Account minimum: None.

Pricing: $9.99 per trade for stocks. Active trader pricing available.

Customer service: Phone, online chat.

Scotia iTrade

Rounding up our list of the best trading platforms in Canada, is Scotiabank’s Scotia iTrade. This trading platform has thorough market research and analytical tools for the do-it-yourself investor. There’s also the option to open a practice account, which gives you pretend money to simulate trading on the iTrade platform. (Unlike in real life, if you make a mistake, you can always start over).

Types of accounts: TFSA, RRSP, RESP, margin account, cash account, non-personal corporate, partnership, trust or estate, or investment club accounts.

Account minimum: None.

Pricing: $9.99 per trade for those who make less than 150 trades per quarter. $4.99 per trade for those who make more than 150 trades per quarter. There’s also around 50 commission-free ETFs.

Customer service: Email, phone.

Online trading platforms in Canada: FAQs

When did online trading start in Canada?

Canada’s first online trading platform debuted in 1996. Today there are more than a dozen to choose from, each with various types of accounts and investment products. All of Canada’s Big Five banks have their own self-directing trading platforms, and there are several well-established independent brokerages. Unlike full-service brokerages and robo-advisors, which use either humans or algorithms to make investment decisions and execute trades, online brokerages are do-it-yourself.

What are discount brokerages?

You might hear online brokerages also referred to as “discount brokerages” because they’re a low-cost alternative compared to full-service brokerages, which often charge commissions and management fees. Many discount brokers charge a flat commission per trade, while others offer commission-free trading on stocks or ETFs. Some require a minimum balance to open an account, but others don’t.

What features do online trading platforms offer?

Online trading platforms offer additional features to help self-directed investors (and especially beginners) navigate the markets, such as real-time quotes, stock screening and comparison tools, educational articles and tutorials, and market data and research. Online brokerages also offer different levels of customer service via phone, email and/or chat to answer basic questions.

What are the advantages of online trading?

If you’re confident in your personal judgement and understand exactly what you’re paying in commissions and fees, online brokerages can be less expensive than traditional brokerages. Self-directed trading gives you full control over investment decisions, and you can execute trades anytime from your computer, tablet or mobile phone. Many online brokerages also let you start small with a low (or no) minimum account balance.

What are the disadvantages of online trading?

Online brokerages don’t provide professional advice or oversight, so it’s important to do your research and know your risk tolerance. You might save money by not paying someone else, but you’re also responsible for commissions, fees and taxes—as well as gains and losses. If you don’t have the time or knowhow to manage your own investment portfolio, or if you just aren’t interested, check out the services of a robo-advisor or a full-service brokerage.

How to choose the best trading platform?

When evaluating and comparing different online trading platforms, you’ll need to take a few factors into account: 

  • how much money to have to invest
  • what type of account you want to open
  • what type of assets you want to buy
  • how actively you want to trade
  • how often you think you’ll interact with customer service.

What are the types of accounts offered by trading platforms?

Online brokerages offer a number of registered accounts, which have different kinds of special tax-sheltered advantages:

  • Tax free savings account (TFSA)
  • Registered retirement savings account (RRSP)
  • Registered education savings plan (RESP)
  • Registered retirement income fund (RRIF)
  • Locked-in retirement account (LIRA)
  • Locked-in RSP (LRSP)
  • Locked-in retirement income fund (LRIF)
  • Life income fund (LIF)
  • Prescribed Retirement Income Fund (PRIF)
  • Registered disability savings plan (RDSP)

Aside from these, investors also have the option of opening non-registered cash accounts (personal, joint or corporate) or a margin account, which allows them to buy securities with funds borrowed from the broker in exchange for cash or assets as collateral. Be warned, margin accounts come with higher degrees of risk and should only be used by experienced investors.

What investment options should I look for?

Look at the types of asset classes offered, such as stocks, bonds, ETFs, GICs, mutual funds and precious metals. Online brokerages also offer options, which is a more complex type of financial instrument where the holder has the option to buy or sell the asset at a stated price within a specific timeframe. Like margin accounts, options are recommended for more experienced investors.

What kind of pricing should I look for?

First, check if there’s a minimum account deposit. Fees can vary significantly from brokerage to brokerage, so it’s important to compare options based on how often you trade, the type of investment you want to buy and sell, and how much money you have in your account. On top of trading commissions, brokerages may charge monthly, quarterly or annual fees for things like account maintenance, account inactivity, currency conversion, and closing or transferring an account.

How important is customer service?

You must decide how much you value human help via phone, email or online chat. New investors are bound to have more doubts regarding the trading platform and are bound to ask several questions. You’ll want to have knowledgeable customer service representatives available to answer your questions. If you don’t like talking to automated chat bots, research in detail about the company’s customer service policy.

So those were the best trading platforms in Canada. We also covered the different aspects associated with online trading and what criteria you should keep in mind before selecting the right trading platform for yourself. Hopefully, you have a better idea of the topic and you will be able to select the right trading platform for yourself with ease now. Just remember to do the required research and cover all bases before making the final decision. It’s your money after all.

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