Which online brokerage firm?

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ontario99
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Which online brokerage firm?

Post by ontario99 » 15 Jan 2016 10:54

Hello,

I recently moved from the US to Ontario, Canada. I used E*Trade and Vanguard when I was in the US, but they do not exist in Canada, so I am in search of an online brokerage firm so I can transfer money in the US to start trading in Canada (As a Canadian resident, I can no longer trade in the US in my after tax accounts - All I can do there now is to sell or reinvest dividends.) Anyway, I talked to RBS and they charge a fee unless I have at least $15K in the account. I will not have $15K moved over for a while (I don't want to sell a lot of what I have now since the market is down.) so I am in search for a firm that doesn't charge any fee or charge a very little fee for administration (Neither E*Trade or VG charged any fees at all for administration, but maybe that is rare in Canada.) and have low commissions and has a good user interface (I know, that may be a lot to ask...)

Is there a thread that already talks about this that I can take a look at, or can someone tell me which firms are good to use?

Thank you very much!

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Re: Which online brokerage firm?

Post by Spudd » 15 Jan 2016 15:14

Questrade is most commonly recommended for people with lower amounts of assets. They offer free ETF buys, lower commissions than most, and I believe no account fees. I'm not a customer myself (I went with the path of least resistance and am just using my bank brokerage) but they seem fairly well regarded, with a few complaints about inaccurate tax paperwork (which gets corrected, but is a hassle).

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Re: Which online brokerage firm?

Post by Peculiar_Investor » 15 Jan 2016 15:29

Welcome to FWF.

Per Spudd's post, the link to the topic is Questrade (the former misnamed TradeFreedom thread).

Three other links you might want to check: The Globe and Mail's 17th annual online broker ranking - The Globe and Mail and from our own wiki, Discount brokerage and Cross-border and expatriate issues. The discount brokers wiki article contains links to most of the broker specific topics on FWF (saves you some searching).

Most Canadian discount brokers consider to total of the household assets you have with them (i.e. all accounts with the same mailing address), so you might be able to leverage this to get fees waived and qualify for lower trading commissions.
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Re: Which online brokerage firm?

Post by Koogie » 15 Jan 2016 15:32

True, Vanguard isn't a brokerage in Canada but you can buy Canadian Vanguard ETFs ... just through a different broker...

https://www.vanguardcanada.ca/individual/home.htm
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Re: Which online brokerage firm?

Post by longinvest » 15 Jan 2016 16:28

Peculiar_Investor wrote: Three other links you might want to check: The Globe and Mail's 17th annual online broker ranking - The Globe and Mail and from our own wiki, Discount brokerage and Cross-border and expatriate issues. The discount brokers wiki article contains links to most of the broker specific topics on FWF (saves you some searching).
Be careful with the G&M ranking. They give a very good ranking to Virtual Brokers based on its past commission structures which were cheaper than Questrade (e.g. Free ETF Investment without ECN fees). Unfortunately, Virtual Brokers has just changed its commission structures this week and has become as costly as bank brokerage firms. If the ranking was redone today, I don't see them getting a good rank.
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Re: Which online brokerage firm?

Post by Peculiar_Investor » 15 Jan 2016 16:51

Fair enough. Like anything related to investing, use the information as a starting point, then research and verify yourself so you fully understand what commitment you are making and that the choice best fits your circumstances.
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Re: Which online brokerage firm?

Post by longinvest » 15 Jan 2016 17:11

Peculiar_Investor wrote:Fair enough. Like anything related to investing, use the information as a starting point, then research and verify yourself so you fully understand what commitment you are making and that the choice best fits your circumstances.
Sorry, I was not criticizing your suggestion! I'm just disappointed that Virtual Brokers seems to have taken advantage of its first place ranking to change its commission structures for new unsuspecting clients.
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Re: Which online brokerage firm?

Post by ontario99 » 15 Jan 2016 17:28

Thank you for all your posts.

What do you guys use? Do you like it?

Anybody using Questrade?

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Re: Which online brokerage firm?

Post by AltaRed » 15 Jan 2016 17:41

I think you will find a wide variety within the FWF community BUT the ones from the big 5 bank brokerages (RBCDI, TDDI, CIBCIE, BMOIL and Scotia iTrade) will be in the majority. It partly depends on whether you are a frequent trader or mostly buy and hold. TDDI has the option to purchase their low cost e-series TD index mutual funds which can be good for investors who are buying/selling smallish amounts (no commissions) vs $10 buy/sell commissions (lower for high frequency traders) for ETFs and equities.

I am with Scotia iTrade and BMO Investorline and have sufficient funds to get their market trading platforms at no cost. Having live Level 2 quotes available can be important. I am happy with both.
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Re: Which online brokerage firm?

Post by minimalist » 15 Jan 2016 17:53

Keep in mind that independent (ie. non bank owned) brokerages like Questrade and Virtual Brokers will probably ask you for an attestation of your ID (at your cost) since your Canadian credit file is probably thin/non-existent.

I believe that the bank owned brokerages will let you show your ID at a bank branch.

I was also initially attracted to some of the independents due to low fees but was turned off by their slow, costly and haphazard account opening procedures.

Might be worth biting the bullet on a quarterly maintenance fee in order to consolidate with a bank owned brokerage for the long term.

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Re: Which online brokerage firm?

Post by longinvest » 15 Jan 2016 18:14

ontario99 wrote:Thank you for all your posts.

What do you guys use? Do you like it?
As you can guess, I am with Virtual Brokers. I like it, because I still have access (so far) to the old commission structures for my accounts, which are the least expensive for a three-ETF portfolio investor. But, I would not recommend it anymore, as new accounts will be subject to the new commission structures which are not cheaper than big bank discount brokerage anymore, for three-ETF investors.
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Re: Which online brokerage firm?

Post by ontario99 » 15 Jan 2016 23:51

longinvest wrote:
ontario99 wrote:Thank you for all your posts.

What do you guys use? Do you like it?
As you can guess, I am with Virtual Brokers. I like it, because I still have access (so far) to the old commission structures for my accounts, which are the least expensive for a three-ETF portfolio investor. But, I would not recommend it anymore, as new accounts will be subject to the new commission structures which are not cheaper than big bank discount brokerage anymore, for three-ETF investors.
Good that you are still with the old structure. I won't be going there for sure. Thanks for your reply.

ontario99
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Re: Which online brokerage firm?

Post by ontario99 » 15 Jan 2016 23:54

minimalist wrote:Keep in mind that independent (ie. non bank owned) brokerages like Questrade and Virtual Brokers will probably ask you for an attestation of your ID (at your cost) since your Canadian credit file is probably thin/non-existent.

I believe that the bank owned brokerages will let you show your ID at a bank branch.

I was also initially attracted to some of the independents due to low fees but was turned off by their slow, costly and haphazard account opening procedures.

Might be worth biting the bullet on a quarterly maintenance fee in order to consolidate with a bank owned brokerage for the long term.
I may just go with the bank owned after my research actually. That is quite possible since nobody has responded about Questrade and I don't want to go with some obscure firm even if it's cheap. I haven't decided yet, but I could gather 15K without selling funds so maybe that's what I will do.

ontario99
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Re: Which online brokerage firm?

Post by ontario99 » 16 Jan 2016 00:00

AltaRed wrote:I think you will find a wide variety within the FWF community BUT the ones from the big 5 bank brokerages (RBCDI, TDDI, CIBCIE, BMOIL and Scotia iTrade) will be in the majority. It partly depends on whether you are a frequent trader or mostly buy and hold. TDDI has the option to purchase their low cost e-series TD index mutual funds which can be good for investors who are buying/selling smallish amounts (no commissions) vs $10 buy/sell commissions (lower for high frequency traders) for ETFs and equities.

I am with Scotia iTrade and BMO Investorline and have sufficient funds to get their market trading platforms at no cost. Having live Level 2 quotes available can be important. I am happy with both.
Thank you for your post. I am with TD so I could talk to TDDI. I will most likely be buying ETF's and stocks only (I don't want to get into mutual funds in case I have to move back to the US for some reason.) I don't trade often at all (most likely less than 20 trades per year).

What is Level 2 quotes? I am not familiar with that.

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Re: Which online brokerage firm?

Post by westcoastfella » 16 Jan 2016 02:40

I am with both Scotia iTrade (non-registered and TFSA) and Questrade (RRSP).

I was initially drawn to Questrade for 2 reasons:

1. At the time, one of the few brokerages that allowed me to open a USD RRSP, and trade US stocks/ETFs with US currency. I think there are more brokerages that offer this now, so its not the advantage that it used to be

2. Lower trading fees - $4.95 per trade + ECN fees (one of the lowest in Canada) for stocks, as well as free trades for a basket of ETF's. I trade reasonable volumes (40-50 trades per year), and was happy to save a few hundred bucks in trading fees from iTrade.

I have been with them now for a couple of years, and have mixed feelings.

- Their trading platform is generally reliable, and I use a thick client on my desktop for trading. However, their website (where I go to check balances, trade confirmations, transfer money) is flaky - often down for maintenance at night, slow to login and logout, doesn't show balances correctly all the time.

- it can be difficult to move money in and out. If transferring 10K or more, they will hold your transfer for up to 5 days, and require you to call them to confirm the amount, which I find annoying.

- norbert gambit is generally frowned down upon, and they will not facilitate cross currency trading. In my case, they have actually hindered those trades. Now that I have a steady stream of inbound US currency I don't have to worry about it as much, but those that use the gambit regularly would have been fed up by now.

- They advertise low trading fees, but they also "nickle and dime" you on those same trades. They charge ECN fees in addition to your "flat trading fee", which can sometimes add 1-3 dollars to a trade. They charge you an administrative fee for holding ADR's, so a little is taken off the top of dividend payments.

All in all, I'm happy enough (or rather, not fed up enough) to stay, mainly because I don't do anything elaborate, don't do high volume day trading, and still can't find a better deal on fees for a USD RRSP. But my patience is wearing thin.

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Re: Which online brokerage firm?

Post by AltaRed » 16 Jan 2016 13:05

ontario99 wrote:What is Level 2 quotes? I am not familiar with that.
Level 2 quotes allows you to see all the Bids and Asks of the limit orders out there so that you can decide what price you want to use to buy (or sell) your order and get it all sold, or with a market order, just what series of prices you will pay (or get) when you place your order. This is especially important on equities with low trading volumes and/or large orders. Example:

Code: Select all

Bid     500		10.00	10.02	200		Ask
          200		9.97		10.05	300
          500		9.93		10.50	600
in the above example, if you were going to enter a buy for 1000 of this stock with a market order, you would end up paying a blended price of 10.02, 10.05, 10.50 which you may not want to do. OTOH, if you put in a limit order with a price of 10.02, you would only get 200 initially and either have to wait until someone drops their Ask price to your price, or you have to raise your price.

Real time Level 2 quotes allows you to strategically place your order when/how you wish to capture the price you want/need. That said, if you were going to buy 200 shares of TD that has high trading volume, you really don't care what the Level 2 quote is. If you like the current trading price, you enter a market order and you will get an instant fill within a few pennies of the current trading price.
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Re: Which online brokerage firm?

Post by ig17 » 16 Jan 2016 14:05

Check the current broker promotions before you open an account. As a new customer, you may qualify for some freebies.

http://www.sparxtrading.com/category/current-deals/

ontario99
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Re: Which online brokerage firm?

Post by ontario99 » 16 Jan 2016 14:43

AltaRed wrote:
ontario99 wrote:What is Level 2 quotes? I am not familiar with that.
Level 2 quotes allows you to see all the Bids and Asks of the limit orders out there so that you can decide what price you want to use to buy (or sell) your order and get it all sold, or with a market order, just what series of prices you will pay (or get) when you place your order. This is especially important on equities with low trading volumes and/or large orders. Example:

Code: Select all

Bid     500		10.00	10.02	200		Ask
          200		9.97		10.05	300
          500		9.93		10.50	600
in the above example, if you were going to enter a buy for 1000 of this stock with a market order, you would end up paying a blended price of 10.02, 10.05, 10.50 which you may not want to do. OTOH, if you put in a limit order with a price of 10.02, you would only get 200 initially and either have to wait until someone drops their Ask price to your price, or you have to raise your price.

Real time Level 2 quotes allows you to strategically place your order when/how you wish to capture the price you want/need. That said, if you were going to buy 200 shares of TD that has high trading volume, you really don't care what the Level 2 quote is. If you like the current trading price, you enter a market order and you will get an instant fill within a few pennies of the current trading price.
Thank you very much for your detailed explanation! I heard some people talking about details of current bids etc (when they were considering buying preferred stocks with very thin trading) and I wondered how they knew the details, and now I know. Thank you! I am not investment savvy, so I won't be needing to see something like that yet, but it's good to know, for sure.

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Re: Which online brokerage firm?

Post by ontario99 » 16 Jan 2016 14:49

westcoastfella wrote:I am with both Scotia iTrade (non-registered and TFSA) and Questrade (RRSP).

I was initially drawn to Questrade for 2 reasons:

1. At the time, one of the few brokerages that allowed me to open a USD RRSP, and trade US stocks/ETFs with US currency. I think there are more brokerages that offer this now, so its not the advantage that it used to be

2. Lower trading fees - $4.95 per trade + ECN fees (one of the lowest in Canada) for stocks, as well as free trades for a basket of ETF's. I trade reasonable volumes (40-50 trades per year), and was happy to save a few hundred bucks in trading fees from iTrade.

I have been with them now for a couple of years, and have mixed feelings.

- Their trading platform is generally reliable, and I use a thick client on my desktop for trading. However, their website (where I go to check balances, trade confirmations, transfer money) is flaky - often down for maintenance at night, slow to login and logout, doesn't show balances correctly all the time.

- it can be difficult to move money in and out. If transferring 10K or more, they will hold your transfer for up to 5 days, and require you to call them to confirm the amount, which I find annoying.

- norbert gambit is generally frowned down upon, and they will not facilitate cross currency trading. In my case, they have actually hindered those trades. Now that I have a steady stream of inbound US currency I don't have to worry about it as much, but those that use the gambit regularly would have been fed up by now.

- They advertise low trading fees, but they also "nickle and dime" you on those same trades. They charge ECN fees in addition to your "flat trading fee", which can sometimes add 1-3 dollars to a trade. They charge you an administrative fee for holding ADR's, so a little is taken off the top of dividend payments.

All in all, I'm happy enough (or rather, not fed up enough) to stay, mainly because I don't do anything elaborate, don't do high volume day trading, and still can't find a better deal on fees for a USD RRSP. But my patience is wearing thin.
Thank you very much for sharing your experience with Questrade. I am not feeling very warm about the place so far after reading about your experience, since I will definitely be mingling USD buying USD ETF's, etc, plus I want to see the accurate balances all the time. I am not sure about TD, but I know for sure there is no hindrance like that with RBC, so I assume TD is the same. I already have a USD bank account at TD (The money becomes visible right away when I deposit checks there) and hopefully, I can link that with TDI if I decide to go that route. I will need to talk to TDI and find out the other details also. Thanks again :)

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Re: Which online brokerage firm?

Post by 2 yen » 16 Jan 2016 15:43

We use TDDI. They were the only Canadian online brokerage which would let us open an account when we were non-resident. They have been very good for and to us for over 17 years now.

2 yen

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Re: Which online brokerage firm?

Post by ontario99 » 16 Jan 2016 23:01

2 yen wrote:We use TDDI. They were the only Canadian online brokerage which would let us open an account when we were non-resident. They have been very good for and to us for over 17 years now.

2 yen
Thank you for your input. I called them and talked to them - I might go with them. I hope their website is easy to use.

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Re: Which online brokerage firm?

Post by InvestorNewb » 17 Jan 2016 10:23

I'm with Qtrade. Most of my accounts with them are in USD.

With some of the banks you have to be careful. If you hold a US listed ETF and get paid dividends in USD, they might convert the dividends to CAD and give you an unfavourable exchange rate. With Qtrade, the dividends remain in USD.

Maybe Questrade has more staff now or I just happened to email them at the wrong time, but I was not impressed with their slow email support in April 2013. I was never a customer of theirs so I can only comment based on that one experience.
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Re: Which online brokerage firm?

Post by HardWorker » 17 Jan 2016 10:57

ontario99 wrote:
Thank you for your input. I called them and talked to them - I might go with them. I hope their website is easy to use.

I'm only getting started with TDDI, but I've been with TD for quite a while. The old WebBroker was a bit confusing, but the new one they recently launched is very easy to get used to, intuitive and very easy to find info very quickly. I like it MUCH better than their old platform. Also with a TD account, you get access to their e-fund series for free. I know there are cheaper commissions with other brokers than TD, but I plan on trading very little per year, so I'll be using TD only.

You might be able to find some better info on their site, but the link bellow gives you a quick overview of the new WebBroker.

https://www.td.com/ca/products-services ... /index.jsp

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Re: Which online brokerage firm?

Post by Cincinnatus » 17 Jan 2016 11:20

I primarily use Questrade and have no complaints about the service. It is straightforward to hold both USD and CAD denominated assets and the fees/asset level requirements are among the lowest i've seen at the discount brokers. As a buy and hold investor who small sums of money from every paycheque, I really like the free etf purchases (you pay regular commission costs to sell, but since I am in early accumulation phase I mostly rebalance with new money). I have generally found their service to be acceptable, but I am a very plain vanilla customer without the high asset levels or diverse security interests of some of the other august participants in this forum. :thumbsup:

On the downside, I have found their tracking of cost bases to be quite variable between their trading and account platforms, often wrong on both counts (although, to be fair, most discount brokers are also hopeless at this).

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Re: Which online brokerage firm?

Post by northbynorthwest » 17 Jan 2016 11:24

AltaRed wrote:TDDI has the option to purchase their low cost e-series TD index mutual funds which can be good for investors who are buying/selling smallish amounts (no commissions) vs $10 buy/sell commissions (lower for high frequency traders) for ETFs and equities.
TDDI's e-funds are often framed as a good choice for beginning investors. But even as my holdings have grown over the years I continue to like to use e-funds to soak up small chunks of loose cash from dividends $100 at a time in various TD accounts without commission. As an e-fund holding grows it becomes a candidate to sell and buy a lower-MER ETF or other security.

Thanks also for explaining Level 2 quotes, which I've not yet experienced.

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