6 Best Trading Platforms in Canada: Top Online Brokers

Best trading platforms in canada
Last updated Oct 18, 2020

If you’re looking to invest in Canada, of course you want to pay the lowest fees possible. 

If that’s the case, you have to find the best discount broker in Canada, also known as online trading platforms.

They are by far the cheapest way to invest in Canada, edging out both traditional banks and robo-advisors.

But not all discount brokers are created equal. I’ve spent the last month researching all the major Canadian ones. I went in-depth into all the features, with full-length reviews for ten different trading platforms. 

I’ve now come up with 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. 

My Top Pick for Best Discount Broker in Canada

#1: Questrade  

Best Overall Trading Platform

Free ETF Purchases

No Annual Fees for U.S Stock Trading

Only $1,000 Minimum Investment

Most Used Platform by Canadians

See which companies I picked for the 2nd to 6th place below:

4-Step Checklist Before Choosing Your Discount Broker

Figure out these things first, before even looking for a trading platform:

1. What Type of Investor Will You Be?

There are three main types of investors:

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. “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.

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 allowed 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:

  1. Fees: Since the name of the game is discount, having low fees are one of 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.
  2. Platform: No matter how cheap a discount broker is, you must make sure that the reporting features are easy to understand, and the platform is easy to use, and there are minimal technical errors.
  3. 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. 
  4. U.S and International Ease of Trading: If you’re planning to trade outside of Canada, check out the foreign exchange fees, if international trading is available, and if U.S dollar accounts are available. 
  5. Research Tools: Check out what type of research tools are available. This is more important for frequent or advanced traders.
  6. Security: Does the login have 2FA, and is it covered by insurance in case of bankruptcy?
  7. Software Availability: Do you prefer trading on desktop or mobile? Check out the reviews for iOS, Android, and desktop then. 
  8. 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

1. Questrade Review: Canada’s #1 Discount Broker

Questrade Review
Read the full Questrade Review here 

Fees: Free to buy ETFs, Stock trades are $4.95 – $9.95
Wealthawesome Score: 4.8/5
Platform Available On: Desktop, iOS and Android
Research Tools: Market Intelligence, Intraday Trader, IPO Centre
Security: 2 Factor Authentication available
How to Open an Account: Link here

DO use Questrade If: You are a beginner to advanced trader, need a robust desktop app, and want to trade either Canada or U.S stocks and ETFs. 

Questrade is my pick for the best overall trading platform and discount broker 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 good 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. 

There’s something for everyone with Questrade. If you trade more frequently, you can purchase more advanced trading packages that come with better research tools and a cheaper per trade rate. 

Pros

  • Free ETF Purchases – ideal for passive investors
  • Only $1,000 minimum investment needed
  • Market research by Morningstar available
  • U.S stock trading has no annual or quarterly fees
  • Easy to use platform and great customer service

Cons

  • Inactivity fees quarterly if under $1,000 invested
  • Mobile app has low ratings on both ios and Android
  • ECN and FX Fees on certain trades

Invest with Questrade Here

2. Interactive Brokers Canada Review: Best Choice for Advanced Traders 

Interactive Brokers Review
Read the full Interactive Brokers Canada Review here 

Fees: Tiered pricing, hefty inactivity fees
Wealthawesome Score: 4.5 / 5
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.

For the forex traders out there, Interactive Brokers also has the best forex trading platform in Canada, and the foreign currency exchange rates are very low. 

There are a whole bunch of inactivity fees though, for smaller accounts, so have a large amount to invest before signing up with Interactive Brokers. 

Beginners and those with less than $100,000 to invest, steer clear, but for seasoned vets, Interactive Brokers is your best choice. 

Pros:

  • Advanced trading features
  • Very low foreign currency conversion fees
  • Best for international traders, and high volume traders
  • Trader education packages for professional traders

Cons: 

  • Complicated process to open an account
  • High inactivity fee on IBKR Pro
  • Complex desktop trading platform
  • Customer service response is not ideal
  • Not good for beginners

3. Wealthsimple Trade Review: Best Mobile Trading Platform

Fees: Commission-free ETF and stock trades
Wealthawesome Score: 4.4 / 5
Platform Available On: iOS and Android only
Research Tools: None

DO use Wealthsimple Trade if: You only want to buy and sell ETFs or stocks traded with Canadian dollars.

DON’T use Wealthsimple Trade if: You want to trade U.S or International stocks or ETFs, any advanced trades like options, or want to use a desktop app.

Wealthsimple Trade is the answer to Robinhood in the United States, a mobile app that gives investors access to commission-free stock and ETF trades. It’s the best mobile platform in Canada and is suitable for a specific type of investor.

All Canadian stock and ETFs are completely commission-free to trade on Wealthsimple Trade, which is the first company in Canada to offer such a deal.

I would have given Wealthsimple Trade a higher score, but there is one factor that is a big negative for the trading platform: it’s not good for trading U.S stocks. This is because for every single trade you do for a U.S stock, you will be hit with a 1.5% currency conversion fee. 

Compare that to Questrade, where the currency conversion fee-only happens once, and you can hold the U.S dollars in a separate account. 

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, provided they are all Canadian.

If you’re sticking only to Canadian stocks and ETFs and don’t mind trading on a mobile app, Wealthsimple Trade is the best trading platform for you. 

Pros:

  • Commission-free trades on both buy and sell-side
  • For Canadian stocks and ETFs, all trades are free.
  • Simple to sign up
  • Set your own schedule to a certain extent
  • Easy to use and looks fantastic

Cons: 

  • Can’t buy bonds, international equities, or GICs
  • Steep currency fees if you trade U.S stocks or ETFs
  • RESP, RRIF, and LIRA aren’t available to trade
  • Only available on mobile app and not desktop

4. Virtual Brokers Review: Most Trading Platform Options

Fees: Free ETF purchases, Stocks ($1.99 – $7.99)
Wealthawesome Score: 4.3 / 5
Platform Available On: Desktop, iOS and Android
Research Tools: Research Center, Advanced Portfolio Planner

Virtual Brokers is a bit of an underdog pick, but after looking at all the options I thought it was worthy of the number four spot. ETF purchases and mutual fund trades are free, and stock trades are very cheap. 

The company has six different trading platforms, with free to paid options, and available on both desktop and mobile apps. Beginners to advanced traders will certainly find a platform option suited for them. 

The research tools are excellent and will provide advanced traders with plenty of information to make their next trades. 

Be aware though, there is a $15 per quarter fee for any U.S dollar accounts. Depending on the size of your portfolio, that fee might not matter much, but if it’s smaller it will eat into your returns. If you won’t trade U.S stocks then this won’t matter much. 

Pros:

  • Free ETF purchases
  • Competitive trading fees
  • Free mutual fund trading
  • Excellent research tools
  • Wide range of trading platforms available

Cons: 

  • $15 per quarter fee for US dollar accounts

5. Qtrade Review: 

Fees: $8.75 for Stocks and ETFs
Wealthawesome Score: 4.2 / 5
Platform Available On: Desktop, iOS and Android
Research Tools: Analyst reports on trading platform

If I were to choose one word to describe Qtrade, it would be average. It doesn’t have the best fees, research tools, or customer service, but it doesn’t have the worst ones either. 

In doing all my reviews, I tried to ask myself, what does this company do that’s better than all of its competitors? And I found that with Qtrade, I couldn’t answer this question. 

Similar to Virtual Broker, it also has a $15 quarterly U.S account fee, making it not a great choice for trading U.S stocks either. 

Qtrade doesn’t do anything horribly wrong, but it also doesn’t have that killer feature or selling point that makes you sit up and take notice. 

Pros:

  • Fantastic customer service
  • Opening an account is straightforward
  • Substantial and helpful educational tools

Cons: 

  • Only covers US and Canadian markets
  • $15 quarterly U.S account fee

6. TD Direct Investing Review: Big Bank Choice

TD Direct Investing Review
Read the full TD Direct Investing Review here

Fees: $9.99 per trade
Wealthawesome Score: 3.8 / 5
Platform Available On: Desktop, iOS and Android
Research Tools: Market’s and Research Center

TD Direct Investing is my 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 the 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.

Pros:

  • Regulated online brokerage
  • Has flexible platforms
  • Offers Markets and Research Center
  • Has a Learning Center

Cons: 

  • High fees compared to competitors
  • Limited funding options
  • No free etf trades
  • Only high-cost Series A mutual funds available 

How to Construct An ETF Portfolio With a Discount Broker

There’s a couple 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:

  1. 40% US equity fund ($5,000)
  2. 20% Canadian equity fund ($2,000)
  3. 10% International equity fund ($1,000)
  4. 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 Questrade, as it has free ETF purchases and a full desktop trading platform. 

Online Broker vs. Robo-Advisor vs Financial Advisors

If you’re unsure of who to go with, check out this table:

Online BrokerRobo-AdvisorFinancial Advisor
FeesNo management feeAround 0.25%-0.5% Management feeUsually around 1% or more
Human AdviceNoYes, and might have access to financial advisors also.Yes, with full financial plans for investors
Investment Asset Allocation CreatedNoYesYes
Ideal UserYou 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.


Conclusion

After my extensive research, Questrade gets the crown as the best discount broker and trading platform in Canada. Personally, I’ve looked over the past eight years at changing my investments from Questrade, but haven’t made the switch because it is such a fantastic overall platform. 

If I were to one day start trading heavily, I would probably switch over to Interactive Brokers. If I were to buy and hold only Canadian stocks and ETFs, Wealthsimple Trade is a great choice. But for now, Questrade is the best option for my personal situation. 

Do your research, and find out what the best option is for you!

Open a Questrade account here and receive $50 in free trades. 

Best Trading Platform Canada

If you liked this article…

<a href="https://wealthawesome.com/author/christopher-liew/" target="_self">Christopher Liew, CFA</a>

Christopher Liew, CFA

Creator of Wealth Awesome

A Canadian CFA Charterholder with 11 years of finance experience and the creator of Wealthawesome.com. Read about how he quit his 6-figure salary career to travel the world here.

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