Looking to save on fees for investing? You have to find the best trading platform in Canada, also known as a discount broker.
77% of Canadians are now choosing to invest, so picking the right trading platform that is suitable for you is important.
Trading platforms are by far the cheapest way to invest in Canada, edging out both traditional banks and robo-advisors.
But not all trading platforms are created equal. I’ve spent a lot of time researching all the major Canadian ones. I went in-depth into all the features, with full-length reviews for over a dozen different trading platforms.
I’ve now developed my own rankings of the best discount brokers in Canada. Here are my top picks for the best Canadian trading platforms, and I hope it helps you make a decision.
Important Considerations In Choosing The Best Discount Broker
Before we dive into how to choose the right company, I want to be crystal clear on this point: Discount brokers are not meant to give you advice on your investments! It’s called do-it-yourself (DIY) investing for a reason.
You have to do your own research and construct your own investment portfolio. You will also have to learn how to handle the up-and-downs of the market on your own.
If you’re unsure of where to start or if discount brokers are right for you, I suggest reading my article on the best investment options in Canada.
Key Factors in Selecting a Discount Broker
Before choosing a discount broker or trading platform, it’s crucial to look at a few key things:
- Fees: Low fees are among the most important factors in choosing a discount broker. Overpriced fees can add up to a lot over time, especially if you are a high-volume trader. You should also keep in mind account fees and inactivity fees.
- Platform: No matter how cheap a discount broker is, you must make sure that the reporting features are easy to understand, the platform is easy to use, and there are minimal technical errors.
- Account types: Does the trading platform have the account types you are looking for and are there minimum requirements for each account? TFSA, RRSP, and RESP are some examples of these account types.
- U.S. and International Ease of Trading: If you plan to trade outside of Canada, check out the foreign exchange fees, if international trading is available, and if U.S. dollar accounts are available.
- Research Tools: Check out what types of research tools are available. This is more important for frequent or advanced traders.
- Security: Does the login have 2FA, and does insurance cover it in case of bankruptcy?
- Software Availability: Do you prefer trading on desktop or mobile? Check out the reviews for iOS, Android, and desktop, then.
- Customer service: The support you receive is essential, as you might run into some problems when using the platform.
6 Best Online Trading Platforms in Canada in 2023
There’s been a lot of fantastic recent changes to the Canadian trading platform industry, and it’s all been positive. Competition has heated up, and that means better features and lower prices for Canadians.
I did an in-depth analysis and shook up my rankings for 2023 based on these updates:
1. Wealthsimple Trade: Best for Most Canadians
Fees: Commission-free ETF and stock trades
Wealthawesome Score: 9.6 / 10
Platform Available On: Desktop, iOS and Android
Research Tools: None
How to Open an Account: Get a signup bonus here
DO use Wealthsimple Trade if: You want to invest for the lowest trading fees possible.
DON’T use Wealthsimple Trade if: You want to trade international stocks, bonds, or options, or you need advanced research tools.
I want to explain why I changed Wealthsimple Trade to my number one choice after having Questrade (the number two pick below) on top for several years.
Each year I ask myself: What is the best trading platform in Canada for most Canadians?
Here’s what I think the typical Canadian investor wants:
- The average Canadian keeps a relatively simple portfolio: they will invest mostly in ETFs or stocks primarily traded in Canada or the U.S.
- They want to invest at the cheapest price possible, using a company they trust and with an easy-to-use interface.
- They are growing more curious about cryptocurrencies.
- They don’t need access to advanced research tools.
- They aren’t heavy volume traders and won’t invest in things like options trading or individual bonds.
I estimate that between 50-70% of Canadians fall into that description. If the above description matches you, Wealthsimple is the perfect trading platform for you because it satisfies all of those criteria.
All Canadian stocks and ETFs are completely commission-free to trade on Wealthsimple Trade. It doesn’t get any cheaper than that.
If you’re following a passive buy-and-hold strategy of a portfolio of ETFs and stocks or all-in-one ETF portfolios, it will be completely free to make the transactions on Wealthsimple Trade.
A big reason I didn’t have them as number one before was that Wealthsimple Trade didn’t have access to a U.S dollar account, making it less than ideal to trade U.S. stocks with. They’ve now corrected that by giving you that option with a Wealthsimple Trade Plus subscription.
I’ve moved most of my investments over to Wealthsimple Trade, and it’s an excellent and easy-to-use platform.
Although there are some features lacking, and it’s not the best platform for all Canadians, it is the best for most of us, and that’s why I have it as my number one pick now.
- $0 Commission-free trades when buying or selling stocks and ETFs
- Can buy fractional shares on select stocks such as Microsoft, Netflix, and Tesla
- Plus subscription available to access a USD account
- Can purchase cryptocurrencies
- Can’t buy bonds, international equities, or GICs
- RESP, RRIF, and LIRA, and other registered accounts aren’t available
Read the full Wealthsimple Trade Review here
2. Questrade: A Well-Rounded Choice
Fees: Free to buy ETFs, Stock trades are $4.95 – $9.95
Wealthawesome Score: 9.4 / 10
Platform Available On: Desktop, iOS, and Android
Research Tools: Market Intelligence, Intraday Trader, IPO Centre
Security: 2 Factor Authentication is available
How to Open an Account: Get $50 free stock trades
DO use Questrade If: You are a beginner to advanced trader, need a robust desktop app, and want to trade stocks in either Canada or the U.S, and ETFs.
Questrade is a solid second pick for the best trading platform in Canada. The company has competitive fees, fantastic customer support, research tools, and a variety of trading platforms for beginners to pros.
I’ve personally been using Questrade for almost a decade now, and have had nothing but great experiences with the company. The reports are easy to understand, and ETF purchases are free.
The Questrade dividend reinvestment plan (DRIP), which automatically reinvests all my dividends, is easy to set up and saves me a lot of time.
Questrade is also great for trading U.S stocks because you only need to pay the foreign exchange conversion fees once, and there are no fees for opening a U.S dollar account.
It also has a great selection of accounts available. I currently hold my Locked-In Retirement Account (LIRA) with Questrade. It’s nice that they offer such an uncommon account.
There’s something for everyone with Questrade, and it’s often rated as the best online broker in Canada. If you trade more frequently, you can purchase more advanced trading packages that come with better research tools and a cheaper per-trade rate.
For those who find Wealthsimple Trade is lacking some of the features or accounts you use, I would suggest using Questrade instead. Or you can take an example from me, and use both!
- $0 commission ETF purchases
- U.S stock trading has no annual or quarterly fees
- Professional market research tools are available
- Dividend reinvesting plan available (DRIP)
- ETF sells aren’t commission-free
- Mobile app has low ratings on both ios and Android
- ECN and FX Fees on certain trades
Read the full Questrade Review here
3. Qtrade – Best For ETF Portfolios
Fees: $6.95 – $8.75 for Stocks and ETFs
Wealthawesome Score: 9.0 / 10
Platform Available On Desktop, iOS, and Android
Research Tools: Analyst Recommendations, Value Analyzer, Portfolio Score, Portfolio Simulator, and Portfolio Creator.
How to Sign up: Up to a $150 Signup Bonus
Qtrade Direct InvestingTM is one of the oldest trading platforms in Canada and has been around since 2000. It’s an excellent choice for both beginner and advanced investors.
The platform is well thought out and intuitive for newer users. It also provides advanced research tools for those who need them.
One of my favourite features is that it has 105 completely commission-free ETFs to buy and sell. This includes very popular all-in-one ETFs such as iShares XGRO.
Qtrade also offers a wide range of investments, including equity, option, ETFs, bonds, GICs, and OTC stocks.
- Fantastic customer service
- Opening an account is straightforward and in real-time
- Substantial and helpful educational tools
- 105 commission-free ETFs
- Most registered accounts are available such as the TFSA, RRSP, RESP, RIF, and more.
- Only covers US and Canadian markets
- $15 quarterly US registered account fee
Read the full Qtrade Review here
4. Interactive Brokers Canada: Best Choice for Advanced Traders
Fees: Tiered pricing
Wealthawesome Score: 8.8 / 10
Platform Available On: Desktop, iOS and Android
Research Tools: Advanced tools, Morningstar data
DO Use Interactive Brokers if: You have over $100,000 to invest, are a frequent or advanced trader, or want to trade international stocks outside of North America.
DON’T use Interactive Brokers if: You have a small amount to invest or are a beginner investor.
Interactive Brokers Canada is my advanced trader pick. It has the cheapest trades for high-volume traders.
If you’re looking to dabble in options and looking for the best options trading platform in Canada, the company has by far the lowest fees for options.
And if you’re a day or swing trader looking to trade large quantities, Interactive Brokers has the best day trading platform in Canada with the most robust tools, but beware because it is also one of the most complicated.
Interactive Brokers also has the best forex trading platform in Canada, and the foreign currency exchange rates are very low for all you forex traders out there.
There used to be a bunch of inactivity fees for smaller accounts, but IB has gotten rid of that to compete with other brokers better.
Beginners and those with less than $100,000 to invest, steer clear, but for seasoned vets, Interactive Brokers is your best choice.
- Advanced trading features
- Very low foreign currency conversion fees
- Best for international traders, and high volume traders
- Trader education packages for professional traders
- Complicated process to open an account
- Complex desktop trading platform
- Customer service response is not ideal
- Not good for beginners
5. CIBC Investors Edge: Big Bank Choice
Fees: $6.95 per equity trade
Wealthawesome Score: 7.8 / 10
Platform Available On: Desktop, iOS and Android
Research Tools: Daily market reports, CIBC Learn
CIBC Investor’s Edge provides both big brand name comfort to put people at ease, plus a low fee structure.
As far as big banks go, the prices are very reasonable, and the trading fees aren’t excessive. It offers a wide range of products as well; it has your standard offerings such as stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds, but it also has GICs, IPOs, and precious metals you can purchase.
The mobile app has decent reviews on both iOS and Android, which confirms that the platform is stable and easy to use for most people.
- Has free research tools and educational resources
- Is backed by a well-established bank with a history
- Most registered account options are available.
- Offers lower trading fees than other big bank brokers
- Is costlier than non-bank brokers
- No commission-free ETFs
- $100 annual account maintenance fee for certain account types.
- Customer service is questionable
Read the full CIBC Investor Edge review here.
6. TD Direct Investing
Fees: $9.99 per trade
Wealthawesome Score: 7.6 / 10
Platform Available On: Desktop, iOS and Android
Research Tools: Market’s and Research Center
TD Direct Investing is a great big bank pick for your trading platform. Some people need a recognizable brand name to feel a sense of security when investing.
It pairs a robust trading platform with world-class research and customer support to back it up.
However, like many big bank products, where TD Direct Investing falls flat is in its high fees. It’s going to be pricier than other options at $9.99 per trade, and without free ETF trades, either.
If you feel like it’s worth it for that big brand recognition, or if you already bank with TD, this might be an ok option for you.
- Regulated online brokerage
- Has flexible platforms
- Offers Markets and Research Center
- Has a Learning Center
- High fees compared to competitors
- Limited funding options
- No free ETF trades
- Only high-cost Series A mutual funds are available
Read the full TD Direct Investing Review here
How to Construct An ETF Portfolio With a Discount Broker
There are a couple of ways to make an ETF portfolio using a discount broker, but here’s a quick summary of what you can do:
1. Easy Way
Purchase a single all-in-one ETF portfolio that’s suited to your risk tolerance and investment goals, like Vanguard’s VGRO or VBAL. That’s it. You don’t need to rebalance or worry about buying multiple ETFs. The MER’s will be around 0.20% – 0.25% only.
2. Harder Way (But Still Pretty Easy)
Purchase multiple ETFs, which will usually be a mix of equity and bond funds. For example, if you have $10,000 to invest and you want to make a similar ETF portfolio to VGRO, which is an 80% equity 20% fixed income split, you could buy something like:
- 40% US equity fund ($5,000)
- 20% Canadian equity fund ($2,000)
- 10% International equity fund ($1,000)
- 20% Bond fund ($2,000)
The benefit of this approach is it will be cheaper, with MER’s around 0.07-0.15%. But the downside is you will have to rebalance this portfolio periodically, so it is slightly more time-consuming than the all-in-one solution.
In either approach, my number one choice is Wealthsimple, as it has $0 commission ETF buys and sells.
Online Broker vs. Robo-Advisor vs Financial Advisors
If you’re unsure of who to go with, check out this table:
|Online Broker||Robo-Advisor||Financial Advisor|
|Fees||No management fee||Around 0.25%-0.5% Management fee per year||Usually, around 1% or more per year|
|Human Advice||No||Yes, and might have access to financial advisors also.||Yes, with full financial plans for investors|
|Investment Asset Allocation||No||Yes||Yes|
|Ideal User||You don’t need any investment advice, and want to pay the lowest fees possible.||You need some basic investment advice, but still want to pay low fees.||You have complex financial planning needs like tax or estate planning and don’t mind paying high fees.|
Four-Step Checklist Before Choosing Your Discount Broker
Go through this list before making your final choice for a trading platform. Make sure whatever platform you choose matches your needs:
1. What Type of Investor Will You Be?
There are three main types of investors:
- Buy-and-hold investor: You will buy a portfolio of ETFs or some stocks, buy it, then sit on it for the long-term, for at least several years.
- Active investor: You move in and out of stock positions frequently, sometimes even daily. Fees are crucial to you, as are having strong research and trading tools.
- “Hybrid” investor: If you have both buy-and-hold and active investing characteristics, you’ll be a mix of the two types of investors. I mostly adopt a buy-and-hold strategy but have a small portion of my portfolio that I actively trade. I consider myself a hybrid investor, tilting more towards a buy-and-hold approach.
2. How Often Will You Trade?
A buy-and-hold investor won’t be trading too much, but an active investor will. Try to figure out roughly how much you’ll trade in a month before you sign, so you can figure out if you need to buy a frequent trader package.
3. What Types of Trades Will You Make?
If you’re following a simple buy-and-hold strategy, maybe you’ll only make some simple ETF or stock buys every month or quarter.
However, if you’re looking to do more advanced tactics like trading options, you’ll want to see what trading platforms are best suited to them.
4. What Features Are Important to You?
If you’re a buy-and-hold investor, having excellent reporting features will be very important, but research tools might not be as crucial.
As an active trader, you’ll probably want premium research tools and a responsive trading platform that hardly ever crashes.
For all types of investors, fees will be an essential thing to consider.
After my extensive research, Wealthsimple gets the crown as the best discount broker and trading platform in Canada.
Although I had Questrade as my top pick for several years now, I finally pulled the trigger and have Wealthsimple Trade my trading platform of choice.
If I were to one day start trading heavily again in stocks and options, I would probably switch over to Interactive Brokers. I still also have an active LIRA account with Questrade.
After my in-depth analysis, I’ve come to the verdict that Wealthsimple Trade is the best pick for not only myself but for most Canadians.
Do your research, and find out what the best option is for you!
Don’t want to pick your own investments? Then check out these top robo-advisors in Canada.