This post covers some of the best brokerages for options trading in Canada.
Existing and prospective options traders in Canada have several choices when it comes to choosing a brokerage – from banks’ brokerage accounts to online brokerages. But not all online brokerages are created equal when it comes to options trading.
In this post, we’ll cover a list of the top online brokerages for options trading in Canada, their fees, pros and cons, what to consider in picking the right one for you and so on.
What are Options?
Options are contracts that give the holder (buyer) the right to sell or buy an underlying security at a specified price on or before a specified date.
The keyword here is “right”. An options buyer or holder is not obligated to exercise their right to buy or sell the security by the agreed date.
In exchange for this right, the buyer pays a price or premium to the seller.
There are several options strategies, but there are just two basic types:
Call Options: gives the holder the right to buy a security for an agreed price on or before a specified date. If the security is trading below the strike price by the exercise date, the option will expire worthless, and the option buyer will not exercise their right.
Put Options: gives the holder the right to sell a security for an agreed price on or before a specified date. If the underlying security is trading above the strike price by the exercise date, the option will expire worthless.
The option buyer will not exercise their right since they can get a higher price in the open market.
The two option types can be combined to create different option strategies for income generation, hedging portfolio risks and speculation.
Examples of option strategies include Covered Call, Married Put, Iron Condors, Butterfly Spreads, Straddles and Strangles.
Options Trading can be very risky depending on the strategy and the side of the trade you’re on. As an options buyer, your maximum loss is limited to the premium you paid for the right to buy or sell in the future.
However, your loss is potentially unlimited when you sell an option contract. Because of this, many brokerages restrict access to some strategies for people with low balances or without the investing knowledge.
Want to start options trading as a Canadian? Check below for the top brokerages for option traders in Canada.
Best Brokerages For Options Trading in Canada
Here are the top brokerages in Canada for option traders:
- Interactive Brokers: Best Overall
- Questrade: Best for account options
- National Bank Direct Brokerage: Best Big Bank Brokerage
- Qtrade Investor: Best for Customer Support
- CIBC Investor’s Edge
- TD Direct Investing
- RBC Direct Investing
- BMO InvestorLine
We’ll go into details about what is offered by each brokerage below.
1. Interactive Brokers
- Minimum Opening: $0
- Fees: $1.25/contract ($1.5 min.)
First on this list of the best online brokerages for options trading in Canada is Interactive Brokers.
Interactive Brokers is one of the best brokerages for day trading in Canada, especially for active traders looking for exposure to global stocks at a low cost.
It provides access to 135 markets across 33 countries and 23 different currencies through its award-winning trading platform.
Options Trading Requirements: To trade options on Interactive brokers, you’re required to have at least 2 years trading experience. Alternatively, you can take a test to show you have good and extensive knowledge of the product.
Margin requirement: This varies depending on the option strategy. It may be Zero if you’re buying long call or put options, or as high as 30% of the underlying security for short naked puts and calls
Fees: Option traders on Interactive Brokers can choose between fixed and tiered pricing. With tiered pricing, your commission per share will decrease with higher trade volumes. But the commissions remain flat under fixed pricing.
The fixed pricing for US options is $0.65 per contract and a minimum of $1. Fixed pricing is not available for Canadians options.
If you’re on the tiered pricing, the commissions start are the prices below:
|Options||Commissions||Minimum per Order|
|U.S. Options||$1.00 per contract||$1.00|
|Canadian Options||$1.25 per contract||$1.50|
In addition, IB charges a monthly account maintenance fees, but it can be avoided if the total commission for the month is higher than the fees or you maintain an account balance of USD 100,000 or its equivalent.
The standard monthly activity fees is $10. But it is $20 for account with balances below $2,000 and $3 for clients aged 25 and below.
Pros and Cons of Interactive Brokers
Pros of Option Trading on Interactive Brokers:
Interactive Brokers has the overall lowest rates for option trading in Canada. In addition, it supports lot of other securities and option traders also get access to other countries outside North America.
The choice between a fixed and tiered pricing for option traders at IB is also a plus.
Cons of Option Trading on Interactive Brokers:
Because Interactive Brokers caters for multiple products, options strategies, understanding the various margin requirements and fee structure can be a pain – especially for new IB users.
Also, you need a minimum account balance or equity of $2,000 to make trades that require a margin.
The minimum liquid net worth and income requirement is also on the high side, though it serves to protect traders from trading above what their net worth would suggest.
- Minimum Opening: $1,000
- Fees: $4.95 + $0.75 per contract
Questrade is a full-service online brokerage that provides a self-directed investing platform suitable for both beginners and seasoned investors.
It’s been serving Canadians for over 2 decades and ranks as one of the overall best online brokerages in Canada for options traders and active traders in general.
Questrade’s investing tools are intuitive, fully customizable, and fast. They include Questrade Trading, IQ Edge, Questrade Global and the Questrade mobile app.
Fees: The standard option trading commission at Questrade is $9.95 + $1/ contract. However, option traders with a subscription to one of the advanced market data plan packages can get access to active traders pricing of $4.95 + $0.75 per contract.
The advanced market data packages cost $89.95/ month but they can be partially or fully rebated depending on the total commissions you generated in a month.
Questrade Options Level: Option traders on Questrade have access to 4 different approval levels. Each level requires a minimum balance – the lower the level, the lower the minimum balance required.
The four Questrade options levels, their minimum balances requirements and some of the supported options strategies are listed below:
|Option Level||Min Balance Req.||Option Strategies|
|Level 1||No Minimum||Long calls and puts, short covered call|
|Level 2||No Minimum||Long covered call, long and short collar|
|Level 3||$5,000||Long & short butterfly, long and short condor|
|Level 4||$25,000||Short straddle & strangle, short option|
Questrade Options Margin Requirement: The margin requirement varies depending on the particular options strategy you’re using for your trade.
A margin isn’t required for some strategies such as long calls or long puts. Other strategies may require up to 30% of the market value of the underlying security as a margin.
Pros and Cons of Questrade
Pros of Options Trading on Questrade:
Questrade has one of the lowest options trading fees among the online brokers in Canada. It also provides a choice between a fixed and variable pricing.
At first glance, Questrade looks more expensive than Interactive Brokers. However, if you’re trading more than 10 contracts for Canadian options, Questrade becomes cheaper.
Finally, Questrade supports lots of other assets types, besides options, and many account types.
Cons of Questrade:
It is relatively more expensive than Interactive Brokers when buying few contracts. Also, it only provides access to Canadian and US listed options.
Also, you need a minimum balance of $1,000 to start trading on Questrade.
Sign Up for Questrade and get $50 bonus here.
3. National Bank Direct Brokerage
- Minimum Opening: $0
- Fees: $0 + $1.25 per contract (min: $6.25)
National Bank Direct Brokerage is the best brokerage for option traders from one of the big banks in Canada.
Its standard options trading commission starts at $0 + $1.25 per contract, with a minimum of $6.25 per trade.
The total commission is capped at $19.95 when the transaction value is below $2,000.
|Pricing Tier||Options Trading Fees||Minimum Fees|
|Standard Pricing||$0+ $1.25 per contract||$6.25/trade|
This pricing is for trades placed online. You’ll pay as much as $35 + $3.50/contract for orders placed through an agent.
4. Qtrade Investor
- Minimum Opening: $0
- Fees: $6.95 + $1.25 per contract
Next on this list of best brokers for options trading in Canada is Qtrade Investor.
Qtrade is owned by Aviso Wealth, an independent wealth management firm with over $90 billion in asset under management. Like Questrade, It has been operating in Canada for over 20 years and has consistently ranked as one of the best online trading platforms in the country.
Qtrade Options Level: Qtrade also has 4 Option Levels. Option Levels 1 and 2 allows you to trade long puts, long calls and covered calls. These are also the only option levels permitted for registered accounts.
The next 2 options levels provide more advanced options strategy but also come with higher minimum cash or security requirements.
Qtrade Options Margin Requirement: A minimum of $2,000 in cash or marginable securities is required to trade on margin on Qtrade.
The minimum goes up to $10,000 if you’re short selling, trading spreads or uncovered equity options. And for uncovered index options, you’ll need a minimum of $25,000.
Fees: The standard options trading commission is $8.75 + 1.25 per contract. However, Qtrade provides reduced pricing through Investor Plus to clients with either $500,000 in assets or those that make at least 150 trades per quarter.
With Investor Plus, the options trading commissions drops to $6.95 + $1.25 per contract.
In addition, there’s a quarterly administrative fee of $25 that can be waived if you satisfy a few criteria such as: hold $25,000 or more in assets, complete at least 2 commission generating trades in the previous quarter, setup recurring deposits and so on.
Pros and Cons of Qtrade Investor
Pros of Trading Options on Qtrade Investor:
- One of the online brokers with the best customer service in Canada
- Robust market data and stock research tools
- Easy online application process
Cons of Trading Options on Qtrade Investor:
- Its fees and commissions are higher than Questrade and IB
- The requirements to qualify for lower pricing are high
5. CIBC Investor’s Edge
- Minimum Opening: $0
- Fees: $4.95 + $1.25 per contract
CIBC Investor’s Edge is the first online brokerage from one of the big 5 banks on this list of the best online brokerages for option trading.
It earns the spot due to its transparent and low pricing for both regular and active option traders.
Fees: The standard rate for both Canadian and US options is $6.95 + $1.25 per contract. This already compares favourably to the discounted rates for active traders at the other big banks.
But the rates are even lower for students and active traders. You need a minimum of 150 trades in a quarter to qualify for active trader status though.
|Pricing Tier||Options Trading Fees|
|Standard Pricing||$6.95 + $1.25 per contract|
|Student Pricing||$5.95 + $1.25 per contract|
|Active Trader Pricing||$4.95 + $1.25 per contract|
In addition, there’s an annual account fees of $100 if the balance in your account is $10,000 or below.
6. TD Direct Investing
- Minimum Opening: $0
- Fees: $7 + $1.25 per contract
TD Direct Investing is from TD Bank and is another top broker for option traders in Canada. It provides a feature rich investing platform to Canadians looking to trade securities listed on both U.S. and Canadian exchanges.
Option traders using TD Direct Investing can choose between its 3 integrated trading platforms: WebBroker, TD app and Advanced Dashboard.
TD WebBroker is the basic, easy to use trading platform for all clients. TD app is a mobile app that lets you trade anywhere you go with easy order entry and alerts. Advanced Dashboard is for active traders looking for more tools, analytics, charts and research.
Fees: TD Direct Investing has one of the highest fees among the Canadian brokers for option traders in this post.
The standard commission to trade US and Canadian options is $9.99 + $1.25/contract. To qualify for Active Trader pricing, you must have done a minimum of 150 trades in the previous quarter.
Here’s a summary of the options trading commissions at TD Direct Investing:
|Pricing Tier||Options Trading Fees|
|Regular Pricing||$9.99 + $1.25/contract|
|Active Trader Pricing||$7.00 + $1.25/contract|
It also has a quarterly account maintenance fees of $25 for accounts with balances below $15,000. And market data fees may apply depending on your needs.
Real-time snap quotes are available for free, but professional traders with 30 or more trades per quarter can Real time streaming level I quotes for $199/month or level II data for $80/ month.
The prices are higher for users with less than 30 trades per quarter: $229/month and $100/month for level I and level II quotes respectively.
Pros and Cons of TD Direct Investing
Pros of TD Direct Investing:
- Offers diverse trading platforms and tools
- Exclusive research reports
Cons of TD Direct Investing:
- High fees and commissions
- Only offers flat fees even for active traders
- Quarterly maintenance fees
- High trade threshold to qualify for active trader pricing
7. RBC Direct Investing
- Minimum Opening: $0
- Fees: $6.95 + $1.25 per contract
RBC Direct Investing is another online broker from one of the big 5 banks in Canada. It offers both an online and mobile investing platform for option traders.
Unfortunately, RBC supports limited option trading strategies. Long calls, long puts, covered calls and naked puts (with special exception) are supported. Other more advanced options strategies are not.
Fees: The options trading commissions at RBC Direct Investing starts at $9.95 + $1.25/contract but drops to $6.95 + $1.25 per contract for more active traders with 150+ trades per quarter.
RBC Direct Investing also charges a quarterly maintenance fee of $25. Like TD Direct Investing, the fee is waived for accounts with balances of $15,000 and above.
8. BMO Direct Investing
- Minimum Opening: $0
- Fees: $9.95 + $1.25 per contract
Finally on this list of the best online brokerage for option trading in Canada, we have an investing platform from another big 5 Canadian bank.
BMO InvestorLine provides investors with access to major North American exchanges through its intuitive investing platforms – online and on mobile.
It provides 3 investment options: BMO Self-Directed, BMO AdviceDirect and BMO SmartFolio. BMO Smartfolio is a robo-advisory service with a minimum balance requirement of $1,000 and fees ranging from 0.4-0.7%.
BMO AdviceDirect is a self-directed account that also offers advisor support. It requires a minimum balance of $50,000.
BMO Self-Directed is the ideal investing option for option traders looking to manage their account and be in full control. There’s no minimum balance requirement.
Fees: The options trading commissions at BMO InvestorLine is $9.95 + $1.25/contract. It has a 5 star membership level for active traders and those with large account balance.
They receive extra perks like real-time market data and level 2 quotes but still get to pay the same option trading commission of $9.95 + $1.25/contract.
This is one of the biggest cons with the online brokerage for option traders.
Like the other big banks covered earlier, BMO also charges a quarterly maintenance fee of $25 for clients with a combined balance below $15,000.
Learn about BMO InvestorLine’s margin requirements here.
What to look for in a brokerage for Options Trading
Before you choose a brokerage for option trading in Canada, here are some things to consider:
Obviously, the lower the trading fees the better because you get to keep more of your gains. For most traders, a brokerage that offers low commissions per share or tiered pricing is preferred. For example, Interactive Brokers’ $1.25 per contract.
On the other hand, fixed pricing becomes attractive if you’re trading high volumes, but it may be more expensive at lower volumes.
Account Balance and Margin Requirement
Due to the risk that comes with options trading, many of the brokerages will require a minimum balance to trade some options strategy. This can be as low as $2,000 and as high as $25,000 for some brokerages.
Margin requirements also vary depending on the option strategy and the online broker’s risk policies. So it’s best to confirm this before choosing a broker.
Market Data Subscription
If you need real-time or level II market data for your trades, then you should also consider the cost when choosing the best brokerage for option trading in Canada. Questrade, for example, does a great job of bundling the data for the most liquid exchanges together for a low monthly fee that is 100% rebatable.
In addition to options, you should choose a brokerage that supports a wide range of asset types. Good thing is: the top 2 brokerages on this list of online brokerages for options trading provide a great selection of securities.
The more the order types you have, the more control you have over your trades, how they are filled and at what prices. Most brokers will have the basic order types, but you’ll probably need more as a professional options trader.
IB is best for advanced traders so it’s unsurprising that it has over 100 order types and algos to choose from.
Related Post: Best Online Brokerages For Day Trading In Canada
Alternatives to Options Trading in Canada
Options trading requires a great deal of knowledge and expertise. While some strategies are less risky and you’ll only loose the premium you paid, others come with higher risks.
And the risks are multiplied if you’re trading on margin. So it is best left to the advanced or professional traders or used for basic portfolio hedges.
Most investors, however, are better off just investing passively using one of the alternatives to options trading below:
Robo-advisors serve their clients through an automated investment platform. They handle all the day-to-day investment and portfolio management of the accounts.
This includes the portfolio selection and rebalancing, while the client simply contribute to the account and the funds are invested according to their chosen asset allocation and risk profile.
There are several low-cost robo-advisory services available to Canadians. Wealthsimple is the most popular with an annual management fee of 0.50%.
Questrade also has a managed account with an annual fee of just 0.25% for deposits below $100,000
Another alternative to options trading is a low-cost passive investing approach using a self-directed account.
With this traditional approach to investing, you simply open a brokerage account, do your research, and place the trades. That is, when to contribute, what to buy, when to rebalance and all other investment decisions are handled by the investor.
Self-directed investing used to be complicated, costly and sometimes time-consuming. But anyone can now build a diversified portfolio quickly at a low cost using ETFs.
Investors can get exposure to many stocks within a sector, country or asset class with a few ETFs. Even better, with all-in-one ETFs lets you build a diversified portfolio across asset classes, sectors and geography with a single buy.
And the best part is, you can buy ETFs for free at Questrade or Wealthsimple Trade.
Get $10 welcome bonus when you sign up with Wealthsimple Trade.
This post has covered the best brokerages for options trading in Canada. Before you choose the right one for you, make sure you consider all the cost you’ll have to pay – not just the trading costs.
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