Best Online Brokerages For ETFs In Canada: Commission-Free Investing

Want to start investing in ETFs and looking for the best brokerages for ETFs in Canada? This post is for you.

You’ll learn the best brokers that allow commission-free or low-cost ETF trading, their features and the account types they support.

Let’s start…

What are ETFs?

Exchange Traded Funds, ETFs, are funds made up of several securities that trade on a stock exchange.

They trade like normal stocks since they’re listed on an exchange. Unlike mutual funds whose prices are only updated at the end, ETF prices change all through a trading session as investors buy and sell them.

That means, ETFs combine the diversification of mutual funds with the flexibility and ease of trading stocks.  

Many ETFs track a stock market index. The index could be broad market, sector, or even an investing theme. Whatever your investment objective is, there’s likely an ETF for you.

Some of the benefits of ETFs include:

  • Quickly build a diversified portfolio
  • Lower cost compared to individual stocks or mutual funds
  • Access to various asset classes, sectors, or investment styles
  • Easier portfolio management
  • Reduces the need to rebalance, and eliminates it in some instance.

A recent innovation in the low-cost investing space are asset allocation ETFs, also known as all-in-one ETFs. With these ETFs, you get exposure to a well diversified portfolio that is regularly rebalanced with a single purchase.

Learn more about asset allocation ETFs here, and the options for Canadians.

Ready to start investing in ETFs in Canada? Check the next section for a ranking of some of the best online brokerages for ETFs in Canada.

Related Post: 65 Must Know Investment Terms And Definitions For Beginners

Top Online Brokerages for ETFs in Canada

These are 7 of the best online brokerages for ETFs in Canada. The trading platforms have been chosen based on their ETF trading commissions, available investment accounts and supported ETFs.

  • Questrade: Best for Canadian and US ETF purchases
  • Wealthsimple Trade: Best for Canadian ETFs trading
  • National Bank Direct Brokerage: Best Big Banks Brokerage
  • Virtual Brokers
  • Qtrade Investor
  • Scotia iTrade
  • Interactive Brokers

Additional features, fees and account types are shown in the following sections

1. Questrade

Best for: Canadian and US ETF purchases

First on the list of the best online brokerages for commission-free ETF trading in Canada is Questrade.

Questrade tops this list because it provides the largest selection of ETFs available for commission-free purchases. Both Canadian and US listed ETFs can be bought without any commissions.

The online broker has been serving Canadian investors for over 2 decades. In addition to its self-directed investing, it also has a robo-advisor offering called Questwealth Portfolios.  

Account Minimum: $1,000

ETF Commissions: $0 to buy and $0.01/ share (min: $4.95; max:$9.95) to sell

Other available investment products: Stocks, Options, FX, CFDs, Bonds, Commodities

Trading Commissions: Starts at 1 cent per share with a minimum of $4.95/trade and capped at $9.95. Active traders can also get reduced fees if they have a subscription to their market data plans.

Account Types: One of the largest selections in Canada. Questrade offers RRSP, TSFA, RESP (individual + family), Spousal RRSP, Margin, LIRA, FX & CFDs, Investment Club accounts and many more

Questrade Referral Bonus & Promotions: You’ll get $25 for each friend you refer to Questrade, plus $50 for every third referral. You can also get a $50 trade rebate or $10,000 managed free in the first year using our exclusive Questrade promo code.

Cons: The only con with Questrade is the commissions to sell your ETF. However, if you’re at the accumulation stage or investing with an asset-allocation ETF, this won’t be a problem since you may not have a need to sell.

Other Products: Questwealth Portfolios, managed robo-advisor account with an annual management fee of 0.2-0.25%.

Other Features: Questrade will cover your transfer-in fees up to $150. Also, you get access to Passiv elite plan as a Questrade user ($99/year value).


2. Wealthsimple Trade

Best for: Canadian ETFs trading

Wealthsimple Trade is Canada’s first commission-free investing app from Wealthsimple, Canada’s most popular robo-advisor.

The self-directed trading app was introduced in 2019 but now has a web version with limited features.

If you’re only looking to trade only Canadian ETFs, then Wealthsimple Trade is the best app for ETFs in Canada.

Account Minimum: $0. Start investing with as little as $1

ETF Commissions: $0 to buy and sell both Canadian and U.S. options.

Other available investment products: Stocks

Trading Commissions: $0 or commission-free for buying and selling stocks. U.S. stocks will be subject to a 1.5% currency conversion cost (margin on the exchange rate) on both buys and sells.

Account Types: Only TSFA, RRSP and Cash/non-registered accounts are available for now.

Wealthsimple Trade Referral Bonus & Promotions: You can earn $25 for referring your friends to the app. The friend gets a $10 bonus that is paid after they’ve traded a minimum of $100.

Get $10 welcome bonus from Wealthsimple Trade here.

Related Post: Wealthsimple Trade Promotion & Referral Code

Cons: The currency conversion fee of 1.5% when trading US stocks and ETFs can quickly add up. However, if you’re only trading Canadian stocks, this isn’t a big deal.

Also, account funding takes up to 3 days and prices are delayed for 15 minutes. The premium subscription takes care of these but comes with a monthly fee of $5/month. Check my Wealthsimple Trade Premium Subscription review here.

Other Products: Wealthsimple Invest, Wealthsimple Crypto, Wealthsimple Tax, Wealthsimple Cash ($10 bonus).


3. National Bank Direct Brokerage

Best for: No commission trades

As the name suggests, it is an arm of National Bank, one of the biggest banks in Canada.

National Bank Direct Brokerage provides an online brokerage platform with competitive pricing among the big banks.

In August 2021, it became the first brokerage from a Canadian bank to eliminate commissions on online trades. In addition, it offers a robo-advisory service called InvestCube.

Account Minimum: $0

ETF Commissions: $0 to buy and sell both Canadian and U.S. ETFs.

Other available investment products: Stocks, options, mutual funds, fixed income (bonds) and exchange-traded debentures.

Trading Commissions: Regular pricing starts at $0 for stocks and debentures, and $0 + $1.25 per contract for options (minimum of $6.95).

Other Fees: Annual account maintenance of $100 applies, but it can be avoided if you have an account value of $20,000+, below age 30, had a minimum of 5 commission-generating trades in a year and so on.

Account Types: TSFA, RRSP, RRIF, LIRA, RESP, RDSP, Cash, Margin

Cons: There are none if you can avoid the annual account maintenance fees.

Other Products: InvestCube, a robo-advisor with a minimum investment amount of $10,000. Fees start at 0.50% but drops to 0.30% for balances of $1 million and above.

Offers and Promotions: National Bank Direct Brokerage will cover your transfer-in fees up to $135 if you transfer $10,000 to InvestCube or $20,000+ to other accounts.

Lower pricing is also offered to students and newcomers to Canada.


4. Virtual Brokers

Virtual Brokers is a division of CI Investment Services. It provides a self-directed investment platform that is suitable to all investors irrespective of their experience level.

Many of its platforms are free but its more advanced tools and investing platforms for professionals and active traders cost between USD250 and USD580.

Account Minimum: $1,000

ETF Commissions: Free to buy both Canadian and U.S. ETFs. 1cent to sell but subject to a minimum of $1.99/trade and a maximum of $7.99/trade.

Other available investment products: Stocks, options, mutual funds, fixed income (bonds)

Trading Commissions: Regular pricing starts at 1 cent per share (minimum of $1.99 and max of $7.99 per trade) for stocks and $7.99 + $1.25 per contract for options.

Active traders get reduced pricing of a flat $3.99/trade on stocks and $3.99 + $1.25/contract for options.

Other Fees: Quarterly account maintenance fee of $24.95 applies for accounts with balances below $5,000 or no commission-generating trade within the quarter.

Account Types: TSFA, RRSP, RRIF, LIRA, LIF, RESP, Margin

Cons: There are several other admin fees including $15 per quarter for US denominated registered accounts. Some of its platforms are also not free to use.


5. Qtrade Investor

Next on the list of the best online brokerages for ETFs in Canada is Qtrade.

It offers one of the best brokerages overall in Canada and has been consistently ranked as a top choice by MoneySense. Qtrade is owned by Aviso Wealth, a large independent wealth management company with more than $90 billion in asset under management.

Account Minimum: $0

ETF Commissions: Free to buy and sell 100 select ETFs. The free ETFs are made up of both Canadian and U.S. listed ETFs from some of the largest ETF providers like iShares, Vanguard, SPDR, Horizons and so on.

The commission is $8.75 for other ETFs or $6.75 for InvestorPlus clients (those with 150+ trades per quarter)

Other available investment products: Stocks, options, mutual funds, fixed income (bonds) and exchange-traded debentures.

Trading Commissions: Regular pricing starts at $8.75 for stocks and $8.95 + $1.25 per contract for options. Active traders get reduced pricing of $6.95.

Other Fees: Quarterly account maintenance fee of $25 applies for accounts with balances below $25,000. The fees can also be waived if you make a minimum number of commission-generating trades or setup recurring contributions of $100+ per month.

Account Types: TSFA, RRSP, RRIF, LIRA, LIF, RESP, Cash, Margin

Cons: You need to trade a minimum of $1,000 to qualify for the commission-free ETF trading. There’s also the quarterly admin fees of $25.

Offers: Young investors aged 18 to 30 get reduced pricing of $7.75 per trade. In addition, they don’t have an account minimum and the quarterly admin fees do not apply to them.


6. Scotia Itrade

Scotia Itrade is an investing platform from one of the largest banks in Canada. It is the only big 5 offering that made the ranking of top brokerages for ETFs in Canada.

ETF Commissions: Commission free trading on 50 Canadian ETFs. The commission is $9.99 for other ETFs or $4.99 for those on active trader pricing (those with 150+ trades per quarter).

Other available investment products: Stocks, options, mutual funds, fixed income.

Stock Trading Commissions: $9.99 for equities and $9.99 + $1.25/contract for options. Commission drops to $4.99 for active traders with more than 150 trades/quarter.

Other Fees: Annual and quarterly admin fees.

Account Types: TSFA, RRSP, RRIF, LIRA, LIF, RESP, Cash, Margin

Cons: Limited commission-free ETFs, so many of the low-cost ETFs are not available to trade for free. Also, there are annual and quarterly fees for accounts with lower balances or less than 12 commissionable trades in a year. For example, RSP accounts with balances below $25,000 are charged $100/year.

Referral Program: Earn up to $100 or 50 free equity trades when you refer your friends.


7. Interactive Brokers

Finally, Interactive Brokers round up our ranking of the best online brokerages for ETFs in Canada.

Interactive Brokers is arguably the best brokerage for active traders looking to trade foreign stocks in Canada.

It also provides commission-free ETF trading on select ETFs. Unfortunately, they are limited and many of the popular low-cost ETF providers are not available.

ETF Commissions: Free for selected ETF issuers. Normal equities trading commission applies for other ETFs

Other available investment products: Stocks, options, mutual funds, FX, futures, commodities, fixed income and more

Stock Trading Commissions: As low as USD0.35 for US stocks and ETFs and minimum of CAD1 for Canadian stocks.

Other Fees: Monthly activity fees of between $10 to $20.


What is the best online brokerage for ETFs in Canada?

Overall, Questrade is the best online broker for ETFs in Canada. This is because it offers commission-free purchases on both US and Canadian listed ETFs.

Though, it charges for selling ETFs, the fees are small and avoidable especially for investors that are at the accumulation stage or those buying all-in-one ETFs that are automatically rebalanced.

Wealthsimple Trade is another great choice if you’ll only be investing in only Canadian ETFs. However, the limited registered accounts support, and currency conversion cost makes it less attractive compared to Questrade.

But you can’t go wrong with either platforms if you’re just looking for an investment platform or app that let’s you build a low-cost diversified portfolio, even when you have little amounts to invest at a time.

Get $50 welcome bonus with Questrade here or $10 when you sign-up with Wealthsimple Trade and trade a minimum of $100.


Other Alternatives to ETF Investing In Canada

ETFs allow low-cost and relatively stress-free investing. However, if you’re looking for an even more hands-free investing approach, then robo-advisors are for you.

Canadians have several options, but Wealthsimple Invest and Questrade’s Questwealth Portfolios are 2 of the best choices.

Investors simply open an account with their preferred robo-advisor and setup regular contributions to their account. Every other thing is handled by the robo-advisor afterwards.

Your funds will be invested in line with your risk appetite and investment objectives for a low management fee.

The management fees for Questrade and Wealthsimple are shown below:

Deposit/Account BalanceQuestwealth PortfolioWealthsimple Invest
Below $100,0000.25%0.50%
$100,000 & above0.20%0.40%

You can start investing with as little as $1 with Wealthsimple but Questrade requires a minimum of $1,000. If you have the minimum amount, Questrade is cheaper and will save you some money over time.

However, Wealthsimple is best for someone looking to start with smaller amounts.

Conclusion

ETFs are a great way to start investing whether you have little or no investing knowledge, or just small amounts to invest each time.

Luckily, Canadians have several brokerages and trading platforms that make it easy to get started.

If you liked this post on the best online brokerages for ETFs in Canada, also check the ones below:

Simon is a CPA by day and a Personal Finance Blogger by night. With over a decade experience in financial services, he's passionate about personal finance, investing and helping people take control of their financial life.

2 thoughts on “Best Online Brokerages For ETFs In Canada: Commission-Free Investing”

  1. Just wanted to leave a comment that you’ve missed the recent change to NBDB. They changed their commission plan to $0 across everything, including options, but still have the $1.25 per contract price. It maxes out at $19.95 though if it’s under $2000, which is good compared to others when you have to buy a lot of contracts for a low premium option. 🙂

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