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How to spot Canada’s best online brokerages

If you’re thinking about becoming a Canadian DIY investor, you should be aware of how to cut your investing costs to the bone in order to keep as much of your money working for you as possible. Canada’s best online brokers combine low fees with excellent customer service and ever-improving platforms.

Online brokerage fees

Generally, Canada’s brokerage platforms have the following areas of fees:

  • Account fees that you pay monthly, annually, or quarterly
  • Transaction fees when you purchase a stock, ETF, or option

The best brokers in Canada all have ways that you can avoid the account fees. Usually it means having a certain amount of assets invested (roughly $25,000 in most cases) or creating an auto-deposit investing plan – which is simply a good habit to get into anyway! It’s definitely worth paying attention to the fine print to make sure that you are avoiding these pesky fees.

Transaction fees are a bit trickier. While some Canadian brokerages now offer ‘free trading’, there are major trade offs that come with that “free” tag. You’re going to be getting a subpar user experience and negligible customer service – plus your data is being harvested and sent to major Wall Street trading firms before you even complete your trade. (This is known as ‘payment for order flow’.)

Personally, I think paying roughly seven dollars per trade, combined with free ETF trading is an appropriate price point to hit the sweet spot in terms of elite trading platforms.

Brokerage customer service and user experience

The best brokerages in Canada combine usability of their platform (it should be easy to use on a phone, tablet, or desktop) with timely customer service. Over the last two years, many Canadian brokers have struggled with the rush of DIY investors, and long wait times have been the result.

As a DIY investor you probably won’t need help… right up until you do! Whether it’s something as simple as a deposit to the wrong account, or a more complex issue such as an unexpected margin call, you want a brokerage that will be there for you when you need it.

Most of Canada’s top brokerages will allow you to start a free trial account with them, so there is no reason not to try them out and get a feel for your preferences. The less obstacles that you can put in your own way as a DIY investor the better, so making sure that you’re comfortable with your investment platform is one less thing to worry about as you begin to build wealth over the long term.

Kyle Prevost is a financial educator, author and speaker. When he’s not on a basketball court or in a boxing ring trying to recapture his youth, you can find him helping Canadians with their finances over at