Scotia iTrade Review: Trading Fees and Self-Directed Investing with a Big Bank

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by Enoch Omololu

Updated

Advertiser Disclosure

A Scotia iTrade brokerage account offers do-it-yourself investors access to a variety of investment accounts, products, and trading platforms.

Owned by one of the biggest banks in Canada, Scotiabank, it is one of a few online brokers to offer commission-free ETFs.

Scotia iTrade’s flat-fee trading commissions are high compared to the pricing on independent discount brokers such as Wealthsimple Trade and Questrade.

This Scotia iTrade review covers its account offerings, trading platforms, fees, pros and cons, and alternatives.

What is Scotia iTrade?

Scotia iTrade is a division of Scotia Capital Inc. and the online brokerage arm of The Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank).

Scotiabank is a top-five bank in Canada based on its assets and market capitalization and was founded in 1832.

It purchased E*Trade Canada in 2008 and launched it as Scotia iTrade in 2009.

Scotia iTrade Account Types

Traders using Scotia iTrade have access to registered, non-registered, and non-personal accounts.

The registered accounts you can open on the platform include:

  • Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA)
  • Registered Retirement Savings Account (RRSP)
  • Registered Retirement Income Accounts (RRIF)
  • Registered Education Savings Plans (RESP)
  • U.S. Dollar Registered Accounts

For non-registered accounts, you can open a Scotia iTrade Cash Account, Scotia iTrade Margin Account, and a Scotia iTrade Cash Optimizer Investment Account.

Businesses can also use the platform for their direct investing needs.

Non-personal accounts available include:

  • Investment Club
  • Sole Proprietorship, Corporate, and Partnership Accounts,
  • Trust or Estate Accounts
  • Accounts for Non-Profit Organizations

Practice accounts are available if you want to test the trading platform without using real money.

Scotia iTrade Investment Types

The investment products you can buy on Scotia iTrade include stocks, Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), mutual funds, bonds, new issues, GICs, and options.

Scotia iTrade was the first bank-owned brokerage in Canada to offer self-directed investors access to sustainable investing tools.

You can use the tool to rate over 1,200 companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange and Russell 1000 Index based on how they perform with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors. 

Scotia iTrade Fees

Scotia iTrade’s trading commissions are among the highest in the industry at $9.99 per equity trade. This is similar to the base fee for TD Direct Investing and a few cents more than RBC Direct Investing and BMO InvestorLine.

Compared to these big bank offerings, Wealthsimple Trade does not charge trading commissions when you trade stocks and ETFs.

CommissionsStocksOptions
Standard fee$9.99$9.99 + $1.25 per contract
Active trader pricing$4.99$4.99 + $1.25 per contract
Phone-assisted trades$65$65

To qualify for active trader pricing, you must place 150 or more trades per quarter.

Fixed income asset trades placed online cost $1 per $1,000 of face value. A minimum commission of $24.99 applies to each trade. If placed over the phone, an extra $65 fee applies.

For Exchange Traded Debentures, the fee is $1 per $1,000 of face value. A minimum commission of $24.99 applies to each trade. If you use the assistance of a phone representative, an extra $65 fee applies.

Scotia iTrade has 40+ commission-free ETFs you can buy without paying trading commission, when you execute your trade online or through TELE-TRADER, and hold the ETF for at least one business day.

Regular trading fees apply when you sell.

Administrative Fees

A “low activity account administration” fee of $25 per quarter is charged if your account balance is $10,000 or less (non-registered accounts).

A $100 registered account fee is levied per year on RRSP, RRIF, LIRA, LIF when the balance is less than $25,000 (waived in some cases).

These fees are waived if you are under 26 years of age.

Other fees to watch out for:

  • Account transfer out: $150
  • Copies of statements or confirmations: $5 each
  • Canadian Controlled Private Corporation (CCPC) set up: $300
  • CCPC annual fee: $100
  • Monthly paper statement fee : $3
  • Unclaimed account fee: $60 per quarter

Scotia iTrade Trading Platforms and Tools

Scotia iTrade trading platform
Source: Scotia iTrade

Scotia iTrade clients have access to a number of trading platforms and research tools.

Scotia Online is the standard interface that is integrated with your banking account. It offers access to research reports from Reuters, ValuEngine, Scotiabank Global Banking and Markets, Sabrient, and more, plus portfolio charting, sustainable investing, and screeners.

The Scotia iTrade mobile app can be used for buying and selling stocks and ETFs on the go. It is available on the App Store and on Google Play.

Experienced investors and active traders can use the Scotia iTrade Flight Desk platform for access to powerful tools of options trading, customizable layouts, advanced strategies, in-depth analysis, heat maps, and level 2 real-time streaming quotes.

There is a fee for using the Scotia iTrade Flight Desk Standard or Premium service:

Trades or total assets per quarterStandard ServicePremium service
$50-$250k assets$29.95$69.95
0-8 trades, or <$50k assets$39.95$79.95
9-29 tradesFree$39.95
30-149 trades or >250k assetsFreeFree
150+ tradesFreeFree

Scotia iTrade has a well-developed listing of free educational resources for new and experienced investors with how-to videos and guides.

The Scotia iTrade iClub has two membership tiers.

If you make 150+ trades per quarter or have $1 million in assets with Scotia iTrade, you gain Platinum iClub membership and enjoy;

  • Dedicated personalized service
  • Free Flight Desk Premium service
  • Low commissions starting at $4.99 per trade
  • Access to iClub member-only events

A Gold iClub membership is open to clients who place 30 or more trades per quarter or have $250,000 in assets with Scotia iTrade. It offers:

  • Dedicated personalized service
  • Free Flight Desk Premium service
  • Annual administration fee waivers on registered accounts
  • Access to member-only events

Scotia iTrade Pros and Cons

What are the benefits and downsides of Scotia iTrade?

Pros

  • A robust trading platform for experienced and active traders.
  • Access to a practice account if you want to test-run the platform without committing funds.
  • Young investors under 26 years can waive the low activity quarterly fee.
  • A referral program that pays you up to $100 or 50 free equity trades per referral.
  • Active traders and high net worth investors get a discount or commission and free access to the Flight Desk platform.
  • Offers a few commission-free ETFs (purchases only).
  • Newcomers to Canada get 10 free equity trades through the Start Right Program when they invest a minimum of $1,000 in a Scotia iTrade account.
  • Access to a tool that helps to identify sustainable investments.

Cons

  • The standard trading commissions on this platform are some of the highest. You will get lower fees to trade stocks and ETFs on Questrade and Wealthsimple Trade.
  • The $25 quarterly low activity fee can add up to $100 per year for small accounts and newbies.
  • The advanced trading platform and tools cater to active traders and high net worth investors.

Is Scotia iTrade Safe?

Scotiabank is one of the largest banks in Canada and has been around for over 188 years.

Scotia Capital Inc. is registered by the Investment Industry Regulatory of Canada (IIROC) and is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF).

The CIPF insures your account up to $1 million against the insolvency of a member firm.

Also, Scotia iTrade offers a security guarantee and will cover funds and securities unlawfully removed from your account as a result of fraudulent and unauthorized online transactions in your Scotia iTrade account (terms and conditions apply).

Scotia iTrade vs. Alternative Platforms

The table below shows how Scotia iTrade compares to RBC Direct investing, Wealthsimple Trade, and Questrade.

Scotia iTradeRBC Direct InvestingWealthsimple TradeQuestrade
Stock trading fee$9.99$9.95$0$4.95-$9.95
Options fee/contract$9.99 + $1.25$9.95 +$1.25N/A$9.95 + $1
Commission-free ETFsA few (purchases only)NoYes (free to buy and sell)Purchases are free; fees apply when you sell
Trading commission discount$4.95/trade for active traders (stocks)$6.95/trade for active traders (stocks)N/A$4.95/trade for active traders (stocks)
Types of accountsTFSA, RRSP, RRIF, RESP, cash, margin, investment club, trust, corporate, partnership, non-profit organizationsTFSA, RESP, RRIF, RRSP, margin, corporate, cash investment club, partnershipTFSA, RRSP, personal non-registeredTFSA, RESP, RRSP, LRSP, LIF, LIRA, RRIF, margin, corporate, partnership
Minimum investmentNoneNoneNone$1,000
Maintenance fee$25 per quarter if balance is ≤ 10,000$25 per quarter if balance <15,000NoneNone
PlatformWeb and mobile appWeb and mobile appMobile app; web and mobile app for robo-advisorWeb, mobile app, desktop app
Transfer fees waived?Up to $200 with transfers of $15,000+Up to $150 on transfers of $5,000+Up to $150/account
Other featuresSustainable investing tools; referral programRobo-advisor platform; RBC InvesteaseAccess to low-cost robo-advisor (Wealthsimple Invest)Access to low-cost robo-advisor (Questwealth)
PromotionGet a $50 cash bonus (Wealthsimple Trade) when you invest $150+Get $50 in free trades when you invest at least $1,000
Learn moreLearn moreLearn moreLearn more

Scotia iTrade FAQ

How do I waive the fee on Scotia iTrade?

Active traders get a discount of $5 per trade for equities and options ($4.95 vs. $9.99). To qualify, you must place 150 or more trades per quarter. Investors with $1 million in assets also enjoy this discount. The $25 quarterly low activity fee is waived for clients under age 26.

How do I fund my Scotia iTrade account?

You can easily transfer funds from your Scotiabank chequing or savings account. You can transfer funds from another financial institution by filling out an electronic funds transfer form. Lastly, you can transfer existing investment from another bank to Scotia iTrade by completing a transfer authorization request.

How do I contact Scotia iTrade?

Call 1-888-872-3388 from Monday to Friday (8am to 8pm ET) or email [email protected].

Which brokerage platform are you using? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.

Scotia iTrade Review 2021
3.8

Summary

Scotia iTrade is one of the largest brokerage platforms in Canada. This Scotia iTrade review covers its fees, pros, cons, and alternatives.

Pros

  • Robust trading platform for experienced and active traders.
  • Has a referral program.
  • Access to a practice account. 
  • Young investors under 26 years can waive the quarterly fee.
  • Active traders get a discount on trading fees.

Cons

  • Flat-rate trading fees are high.
  • A $100/year fee for small accounts increases costs for those investing small sums.
  • The advanced trading platform and tools cater to active traders and high net worth investors.

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Author

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Enoch Omololu

Enoch Omololu is a personal finance expert and a veterinarian. He has a master’s degree in Finance and Investment Management from the University of Aberdeen Business School (Scotland) and has completed several courses and certificates in finance, including the Canadian Securities Course. He also has an MSc. in Agricultural Economics from the University of Manitoba and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Ibadan. Enoch has a passion for helping others win with their personal finances and has been writing about money matters for over a decade. His writing has been featured or quoted in The Globe and Mail, Winnipeg Free Press, Wealthsimple, Financial Post, Toronto Star, Credit Canada, MSN Money, National Post, CIBC, and many other personal finance publications.

His top investment tools include Wealthsimple and Questrade. He earns cash back on purchases using KOHO, monitors his credit score for free using Borrowell, and earns interest on savings through EQ Bank.

19 thoughts on “Scotia iTrade Review: Trading Fees and Self-Directed Investing with a Big Bank”

  1. No fee to sell the identified ETF’s if held for the minimum one business day period.

  2. I’ve been trying unsuccessfully for over a month to get thru to Scotia iTrade to discuss my account and because they refuse to answer I keep hanging up after being on hold 45 minutes or longer. Today I’m now on hold for TWO HOURS and they still haven’t answered so I’ve spent my time on hold researching what other company I’ll transfer my share to rather than deal with a company who clearly does NOT value customer service or it’s clients. I will NEVER recommend Scotia iTrade!

    • They are the worst in sevice. I have a gold membership and it doesn’t help in the least.
      I have been trying to transfer money to them for a month from Tangerine (which is owned by Scotia). ITrade says this poor service is caused by covid but the long waits and poor service started long before covid.

      • I have found Scotia itrade to be horrible overall. The entire system will go down for extended periods during market hours. Phone wait times are regularly more than one hour. Trades are expensive. Their flight desk pro screen crashes often. Trades can be slow to be acknowledged.

        Hundreds of one star reviews confirm this.

        Not sure how IROC allows itrade to operate in this manner and put clients funds at risk.

    • If you are considering ITrade – don’t ! The worst service ever. The transferring of my Rrsp to a Riff should have been a no brainer. It has been a nightmare and like others have waited hours to speak to someone; they have never resolved my problem. It has been six weeks and I have had no access to the Riff they say was created but not shown on my account. The paper work hasn’t been done to give me access to my own account. I sent it months ago. They have no plan other than waiting for someone to process, they say they will look for it and call back. No one calls back, emails to their complaint section aren’t answered. CRA has better service standards! It is upsetting and stressful. I can’t even move my account as it is not fully opened. The worst customer service I have ever encountered.

    • I have experienced the same as you with iTrade. Been waiting for going 2 months now for my approved TFSA trading account to be opened. Have tried numerous times to call and left on the phone for hours to no avail. Also,sent emails, but no success. It is horrible service and I will not be doing business with iTrade. Will use a competitor instead….

      • 3 hrs on hold yesterday and their system keeps telling me insufficient funds when trying to cash out my shares. Will be looking elsewhere

  3. Been trying to get my account figured out (can’t trade right now) and I’ve called every day for the past 4 days to try and get through to them to get it fixed. Called every day after the hours of trading and keep waiting…4th day in the row as I sit here and type this comment…Scotia Bank’s investment desk is no help either as they apparently don’t have “access” to iTrade. I have a couple stocks that are losing money now and I have no way of selling the shares right now. If you are looking to trade and have no issues, their platform is fine, but there are other platforms with zero fees, so you mine as well head over there considering customer service at iTrade is non-existent.

  4. Usual call wait time is more than 3 hrs (am still holding for a live person), if you can actually get someone to assist before you die…

  5. I have been trying to get through to itrade customer service but it is next to impossible some phone calls I was on hold for over 3 hours. I have sent them emails and got no response either, being a gold member doesn’t help either. Lately the DRP program; they are debting your account and not adding the stocks and it is taken days later for them to reinstate the funds. This could be an issue for TFSA accounts. I will be looking to transfer my accounts out.

  6. Worst customer service on the planet! Was on hold for over 5 hours across two days. They don’t respond to e-mails either. The phone system doesn’t indicate place in queue nor does it give an estimated waited time, both of which are basic customer service features for an organization this large and given the fees they charge. They blame Covid, but I’ve experienced this cavalier attitude long before Covid and the least they can do is hire more staff when wait times get into hours, while their profits are still in the millions! It shows a total disrespect and mercenary disregard of their customers. I will be looking at other options for my investment trading. Do not do business with Scotia iTrade!

  7. Scotia Itrade is not great and getting worse every year lately. Platform crashes frequently and it can take 45 minutes to get a human on the phone. I will be moving to another brokerage as it becoming an exercise in frustration dealing with this service.

  8. iTrade is the WORST platform I do NOT recommend it, their customer service is absolutely BRUTAL… DO NOT GET AN ACCOUNT WITH THEM.

  9. TERRIBLE!!! I have been with Scotia Itrade for 20 years. In the last couple years they have turned into the worst brokerage that i can imagine. There is virtually no customer service . I the last 18 months they have costed me hundreds of thousands of $$$ due lack of support during time sensitive situations. I cant even get support to close my 7 trading accounts. Im terrified that i will never see my funds again. If you value your Money STAY AWAY

  10. I too find iTrade customer service the worst. Over last 6 months i have sent at least 6 emails on routine inquires. Not one has even been acknowledged. I dont buy the Covid excuse as we have been in this situation for a year now. They should have learned to adapt by now.

  11. ITrade Flightdesk is a joke if you use Apple product as you cannot access it.

  12. I think now i have had it with iTrade this time coz what they are doing in my account is not right. I have three stocks that i bought and i cant sell them coz each time i try their system tells me not found so now i can only sell them if i call in and once you do that they charge you a fee for that service. Getting in touch with customer care is close to impossible coz honestly having to wait for 3 hours only to be answered for some who cant even help you. I don’t reccomend iTrade to anyone who doesnt want headaches

  13. I am a Platinum member and I have to say Scotia iTrade has the worst service I have ever experienced.It took me 2 1/2 months to get my wife and I TFSA transfered. I would get up at 5:00AM as I am on the west coast and call the minute they were open and then wait 1-2 hours. They don’t answer emails.I half to stay with them as it is too complicated to move. I do like their order placement process. I do over 150 trades a quarter. I am thinking of trying flight desk but am concerned if there are problems it would take forever to get them solved. I did look at Quest trade and opened a practice account but I did not like it.

  14. I have been with Scotia iTrade since day one when it took over for the American company some 12 years ago. For the first 10 years or so it wasn’t too bad. But right now the service is not only the worst, holding the telephone line for over four hours and not getting any one to pick it up, they steal money when you transfer from your bank account to the Buying Power.

    – I wrote even to Mr. Porter, the CEO of Scotia Bank, and never got a response.
    I am in the process of changing my portfolio to another and hopefully a better broker.

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