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Discount Brokerages Offering Commission-Free ETFs in Canada

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Trading commissions charged by online brokers have fallen in recent times as competition has increased. Even better, many Canadian discount brokers now offer commission-free trades on ETFs – either only on the buy-side (e.g. Questrade) or, in some cases, for both buy and sell transactions (e.g. Wealthsimple Trade).

This is a welcome development because the purpose of self-directed investing is the lowering of fees and maximization of returns.

The Online Brokers Offering Commission-Free ETFs

Some of Canada’s best online discount brokerages, which are great for both beginner and experienced investors and offer some level of commission-free trading in ETFs, are listed below.

Wealthsimple Trade

On Wealthsimple’s Website

  • Fees: $0 per trade for Stocks and ETFs
  • Account minimum: $0
  • Promotions: $25 bonus when you deposit $150+
SNC Rating
4.5
  • Buy and sell thousands of stocks and ETFs without paying trading commissions.
  • No account minimums or inactivity fees.
  • It supports fractional shares, so you can buy less than one share of expensive stocks, starting at $1.
  • Can open registered accounts (RRSP and TFSA) and personal non-registered accounts.
  • Unlimited price alerts.
  • 15-minute delayed market data for a basic Wealthsimple account.
  • USD trades incur a 1.5% currency conversion fee when converting CAD to USD.
  • $10 monthly fee for Wealthsimple Trade Plus for access to extra perks, including no FX fees on US trades and real-time data.
  • Instantly deposit up to $5,000.
  • You can also trade cryptocurrency on the Wealthsimple Trade app.
  • Access to other financial products, including robo-advisor, tax-filing software, savings, and a prepaid card.

Our Verdict

Wealthsimple Trade is the best free stock trading app in Canada. It offers a versatile mobile app that works well for beginners, and there’s no minimum investment. This trading platform does not support options and may not be ideal for day trading.

$0 commissions for stock and ETF trades

No minimum investment

Beginner-friendly platform

Supports fractional shares

$10 monthly fee to get USD account

Does not offer options, bonds or mutual funds

Basic market data and limited charting tools

Questrade

questrade logo transparent

On Questrade’s Website

  • Fees: $4.95 to $9.95 per trade
  • Account minimum: $1,000 to start trading
  • Promotions: Get $50 in free trades
SNC Rating
4.5
  • Choose from thousands of stocks and ETFs with commission-free ETF purchases and low-commission stock trading.
  • Supports multiple investment products, including stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, bonds, GICs, options, foreign currencies, and precious metals.
  • No minimum balance to open a new account and only $1,000 to start trading.
  • No quarterly inactivity fees for all accounts. Transfer fees are waived up to $150 when you transfer your accounts at other brokerages to Questrade. Annual fees for TFSA or RRSP accounts and no account transfer fees either.
  • Unlimited snap quotes for stocks and ETFs with the option to upgrade to real-time quotes through a monthly subscription starting at $19.95/month.
  • Real-time customer support via talk, email, or live chat.
  • Enjoy extended hours trading on U.S. Markets from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM EST.
  • QuestMobile allows you to manage your investments from any mobile device.
  • You can open a Questwealth portfolio to invest in a pre-built portfolio with 0.20% to 0.25% management fees.
  • Gain access to other Questrade financial tools, including QuestMortgage.
  • Trust in one of Canada’s top brokerages with over $30 billion in assets under administration.

Our Verdict

Questrade is Canada’s largest and oldest discount brokerage. It offers accounts and financial tools for investors of all experience levels. Commission-free ETFs allow you to generate long-term wealth through diversified exposure to global equities while saving on trading fees.

Access to multiple investment assets

Offers real-time market data for day traders

No commissions on ETF purchases

Highly-rated mobile app

Advanced charting and analytical tools are available

Minimum $1,000 balance to trade

Advanced data packages have a monthly fee

Trading fees apply to all stock trades

Qtrade

qtradelogo2

On QTrade’s Website

  • Fees: $8.75 per trade, commission-free on 100+ ETFs
  • Account minimum: Fees on balances under $25,000
  • Promotion: Get up to $150 bonus
SNC Rating
4.2
  • Qtrade is one of Canada’s largest independent discount brokerages and is a part of Aviso Wealth, which has over $95 billion in assets under management/administration.
  • Trade a wide range of assets, including stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, bonds, and GICs.
  • Open a registered or non-registered account, including TFSAs, RRSPs, and Margin trading.
  • Trade from anywhere with a highly-rated mobile app.
  • Enjoy no commission trading on over 105 Canadian and US-listed ETFs.
  • Investing tools available include Morningstar research reports and a built-in stock screener.
  • The Portfolio Simulator allows you to practice trades before making them with your real money.
  • Contact customer support during business hours by email, live chat or phone.
  • The Portfolio Creator analyzes your investing goals and creates a diversified ETF portfolio.
  • Discounted fees for investors under the age of 30.

Our Verdict

Qtrade has long been a popular Canadian discount brokerage. It offers lower commission fees than most big banks but falls short of zero-commission brokerages like Wealthsimple. The platform offers plenty of tools to help new and experienced investors, and free ETF trades for over 105 ETFs encourage diversified portfolio building.

Lower commission fees than most big bank brokerages

Build an ETF portfolio with the help of the Portfolio Creator

Free trades on more than 105 ETFs

Highly-rated mobile app

Plenty of research tools and market analysis

The ability to trade options contracts for advanced traders

Fees are not the lowest

Maintenance fees for balances below $25,000

National Bank Direct Brokerage

national bank direct brokerage logo

On National Bank’s Website

  • Fees: Commission-free trading for stocks and ETFs
  • Account minimum: Fees on accounts under $20,000
  • Promotions: Sometimes available
SNC Rating
4.1
  • A brokerage owned by a large bank that offers a wide range of investment assets, including stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and GICs.
  • Full range of registered and non-registered accounts.
  • An annual maintenance fee of $100 applies for balances below $20,000.
  • Will cover up to $150 in transfer fees from another institution.
  • State-of-the-art market analysis and educational tools.
  • Mutual funds are commission-free but require a minimum of $1,000 per trade.

Our Verdict

The allure of zero-commission fees is rare for Canadian big bank brokerages. National Bank Direct Brokerage offers this but does fall short in other places. Notably, this brokerage has annual maintenance fees for a high balance threshold of $20,000. Another glaring weakness is that it does not yet have a mobile app for trading.

Zero-commission trading fees for stocks and ETFs

Will cover transfer fees up to $150

Wide range of investment assets and accounts

Highly-rated educational tools and customer support

No mobile app for trading

Must keep a balance of $20,000 to avoid maintenance fees

1. Wealthsimple Trade

Wealthsimple is Canada’s most popular robo-advisor. It has hundreds of thousands of clients and over $15 billion in assets under management.

It launched its brokerage service, Wealthsimple Trade, in 2019, and it is probably one of the best things to happen to Canadian do-it-yourself investors in a long while.

Wealthsimple Trade offers zero commissions to buy and sell thousands of stocks and ETFs on major Canadian and U.S. exchanges.

ETF Trade Commission: $0 per trade, whether buying or selling.

Stock Trade Commission: $0 per trade, whether buying or selling. 

Account Minimum: None ($1)

Account Types Offered: Non-registered investment accounts, RRSP, and TFSA accounts.

Referral Program and Promotions: Sign up for a Wealthsimple Trade Account here and pay $0 fees when you trade stocks and ETFs. You also get a $25 cash bonus when you deposit at least $150 in your new account.

Robo-Advisor service: Wealthsimple Invest.

2. Questrade

Questrade is one of Canada’s most popular online brokerages and has one of the lowest fee schedules in the industry. It was founded in 1999 and has over $30 billion in assets under administration.

ETF Trade Commission: $0 when buying and a minimum of $4.95 per trade when selling. This applies to all Canadian and U.S.-listed ETFs.

Stock Trade Commission: 1 cent/share with a minimum of $4.95/trade and a max of $9.95.

Options Commissions: Same as for stocks + $1 per contract.

Account Minimum: $1,000

Account Types Offered: TFSA, RRSP, RESP, LIRA, LRSP, RIF, LIF, Margin accounts, FOREX, and CFDs.

Robo-Advisor: They offer a robo-advisor service known as Questwealth Portfolios. You can learn more about this service in this Questwealth Portfolios Review.

Promotions: Open a Questrade Account here and get $50 in free trades when you fund your account with at least $1,000.

3. Qtrade Investor

Qtrade is another online brokerage to look at if you are looking to invest using ETFs.

ETF Commissions: It offers 105 commission-free ETFs ($0 when buying and selling). For ETFs not on the free list, you pay $6.95 to $8.75 per trade.

Stock Trade Commissions: $8.75 per trade or $6.95 if you place 150+ trades/quarter or have a $500,000 account balance.

Options Commissions: Same as for stocks + $1.25 per contract.

Account Minimum: $1,000

Account Types Offered: Cash, TFSA, RRSP, Margin accounts, RESP, LIRA, LRSP, RRIF, and LIF.

Other Features: Young investor (18-30 years) pricing is available at $7.75/trade, no account minimum is required, and no quarterly admin fees apply if eligible. In general, an inactivity fee of $25 per quarter applies unless your account balance is up to $25,000 or you contribute to it regularly.

Robo-advisor: It is related to the robo-advisor Virtual Wealth. Learn more about Qtrade in this review and how to get 50 free trades when you meet the eligibility requirements.

4. National Bank Direct Brokerage

A subsidiary of National Bank, National Bank Direct Brokerage, offers all levels of DIY investors competitive fees for online trading.

ETF Commissions: $0 on all Canadian and U.S. ETF trades – both when you buy and sell.

Stock Trade Commissions: $0 per trade.

Options Commissions: Same as for stocks + $1.25/contract ($6.95 minimum per transaction).

Account Types Offered: RRSP, Cash, Margin accounts, LIRA, LRSP, RRIF, RESP, LIF, RDSP, and TFSA.

Other Features: An annual admin fee of $100 is waived when your total assets exceed $20,000 or if you trade at least five times a year.

Robo-advisor: It offers a robo-advisor service referred to as InvestCube.

discount brokerages commission-free etf canada

5. CI Direct Trading (formerly Virtual Brokers)

CI Direct Trading (formerly Virtual Brokers) is a division of CI Investment Services Inc. (formerly BBS Securities Inc.).

ETF Commissions: $0 when you buy and a minimum of $1.99 (max. of $7.99) when you sell. Applies to all U.S. and Canada-listed ETFs.

Stock Trade Commissions: 1 cent per share; $1.99 min. and $7.99 max. Active traders with over 150 trades per quarter pay $3.99/trade.

Options Commissions: $7.99 + $1.25 per contract ($3.99 + $1.25/contract for active traders).

Account Minimum: $1,000

Account Types Offered: TFSA, RESP, LIRA, RRSP, RRIF, LIF, and margin accounts.

Other Features: An inactivity fee of $24.95 is charged per quarter if you do not place any trades and your account balance is lower than $5,000.

Robo-Advisor: It also provides a robo-advisor service called CI Direct Investing.

6. Scotia iTrade

Scotia iTrade is a subsidiary of the Bank of Nova Scotia.

ETF Commissions: $0 commission-free trading on about 50 Canadian ETFs (both buy and sell). $4.95 to $24.99 per trade for ETFs not on the commission-free list.

Stocks Commissions: $9.99 per trade; $4.99 per trade if you make over 150 trades/quarter.

Options Commissions: Same as for stocks + $1.25 per contract.

Account Types Offered: RRSP, TFSA, RRIF, RESP, Cash, LIF, LIRA, Margin accounts, and Cash Optimizer Account.

Other Features: Inactivity fee of $25 per quarter unless you have a $25,000 balance across accounts.

All the discount brokerages above have pros and cons, and you should look at their small prints and other related fees before committing funds.

The Dilemma of Fees and Returns

It is no secret that the Management Expense Ratio (MER) levied on mutual funds eats into your long-term returns.

While DIY using a self-directed brokerage account can help to stave off the high fees and potentially boost your long-term returns, this may not materialize if you trade too often.

Even at $10/trade, trading fees add up!

If your online broker offers a $0 commission round-trip, trading actively becomes very attractive and comes with its own potential problems. You may become tempted to start timing the market or fall prey to investors’ behavioural biases.

Other Low-Fee Investing Options in Canada

Other options to lower your investment fees include:

A. Robo-Advisors

They are online portfolio managers who are significantly cheaper than traditional wealth managers. They use low-cost ETFs (similar to the ones you buy on an online brokerage) and automatically rebalance your portfolio.

The cheapest robo-advisor in Canada is Questwealth Portfolios.

Questwealth

questrade logo

Professionally managed ETF portfolios

Multiple accounts & low fees

Auto rebalancing and div reinvesting

Invest $10K free in 1st year

B. Index Funds

You can also invest by using index funds. Index funds are similar to mutual funds but are passively managed and charge lower fees. They are a great way to generate market returns, which is often more than what actively managed mutual funds can boast of.

Here’s an article that breaks down how index investing works.

Related Posts:

FAQs

What is the best commission-free trading platform in Canada?

Wealthsimple Trade is the best platform for commission-free trades for stocks and ETFs. You don’t pay trading fees when buying these products, except for applicable FX fees if you buy or sell assets denominated in U.S. dollars.

Are Vanguard ETFs commission-free?

Vanguard ETFs can be purchased without paying trading commissions when you use Wealthsimple Trade, Questrade, National Bank Direct Brokerage, and Qtrade (depending on which Vanguard ETF).

Here are some of the best online discount brokerages in Canada which are great for both beginner and experienced investors, and which offer some level of commission-free trading in ETFs. #investing

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Editorial Disclaimer: The investing information provided here is for informational purposes only and is not intended as individual investment advice or recommendation to invest in any specific security or investment product. Investors should always conduct their own independent research before making investment decisions or executing investment strategies. Savvy New Canadians does not offer advisory or brokerage services. Note that past investment performance does not guarantee future returns.

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Enoch Omololu, MSc (Econ)

Enoch Omololu, personal finance expert, author, and founder of Savvy New Canadians, has written about money matters for over 10 years. Enoch has an MSc (Econ) degree in Finance and Investment Management from the University of Aberdeen Business School and has completed the Canadian Securities Course. His expertise has been highlighted in major publications like Forbes, Globe and Mail, Business Insider, CBC News, Toronto Star, Financial Post, CTV News, TD Direct Investing, Canadian Securities Exchange, and many others. Enoch is passionate about helping others win with their finances and recently created a practical investing course for beginners. You can read his full author bio.

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6 thoughts on “Discount Brokerages Offering Commission-Free ETFs in Canada”

  1. Gravatar for Larry

    It’s a joke that Questrade as free ETFS. They charge a per share fee that they pass on for transmitting the order. A 3000 share order cost me $30 at Questrade, $9.95 at BMO Investorline.

  2. Gravatar for Alton

    Hi Larry, can you talk about this more? What is this per share fee? How do I see this fee to know it exists or is it baked-in?

  3. Gravatar for Tom

    Disnat (Desjardins) should really be included on this list. $0 commissions, similar to National Bank, slightly lower/easier to avoid account fees (annual fees, inactivity, etc), and overall a little better interface, in my opinion

    • Gravatar for Enoch Omololu

      @Tom: Good point. I will consider adding it when this article is updated.

  4. Gravatar for John

    Scotia’s iTRADE offers over 120 commission-free ETFs; see links below. “Eligible ETFs must be held for a minimum of one business day from the date of purchase (no day trading) to qualify for $0 commission pricing. Regular equity commission will be charged on the sale of any eligible ETFs held for less than 1 business day.”

    Commission-free ETFs
    https://www.scotiaitrade.com/en/home/investment-types-products/commission-free-etf.html

    Commission-free ETF Explorer
    https://www.scotiabank.com/static-tools/itrade/etf_new/en/tool.html#

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