Compare brokers

As a self-directed investor, it's important to choose the right partner.

Broker breakdown

For more than a decade, Globe and Mail personal finance columnist Rob Carrick has compared and ranked Canada's online brokers. Over those years, Qtrade has continually finished in the top-tier, including eight number-one rankings, and placed ahead of the major banks' brokerages every time. In the most recent survey, Qtrade earns marks in key criteria, including cost; commission-free ETFs; account reporting; research and tools; and security.

A "fresh, clean and client-friendly package" sums up Carrick’s overall assessment of Qtrade’s client experience. That’s just one among a long list of accolades that Qtrade has earned in recent years.

Broker Year 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010
Qtrade Investor A A- A B+ 2 1 1
BMO B B B+ B 3 3 3
CIBC C+ C- C C 10 8 8
Credential C C C C 7 6 5
Disnat B- C- C- C 9 9 9
HSBC D D F D 11 12 12
National Bank C+ C B- C 12 11 10
Questrade B+ A- B+ B 8 10 7
RBC B B- B B 5 5 2
Scotia iTrade B B B B 4 4 6
TD B+ B+ B C 6 7 4
Virtual Brokers A A A- A 1 2 13

Source: The Globe and Mail's annual online broker ranking published 2010 to 2016.
The annual ranking used numbers until 2012 and letter grades from 2013 to 2016.

Key points of comparison

To help you decide which broker delivers the best value for your investing needs, here are six important factors to consider.

Cost per trade Ease of use Customer service
Low commissions and fees reduce the cost of trading and help you keep more of your money invested. Over the last few years, competition between brokers has made online trading more affordable than ever. Watch out for brokers that charge ECN fees for Canadian stock trades. Not every broker puts the same effort into designing intuitive, easy-to-use features for both experts and beginners. It should be quick and easy to manage your investments on desktop and mobile devices. Ease-of-use is not something you can compare at a glance. However, some brokers offer a trial account that lets you get a feel for the features and functionality. Are calls answered in seconds, or minutes? Are emails answered in hours, or days? Can you speak to a knowledgeable representative right away? Are issues resolved correctly the first time? You should have fast, reliable and friendly service. Unfortunately, not all brokers provide it.
Tools and research Account information Innovation
You need a variety of tools and resources to help you make well-informed decisions. Your broker should offer sophisticated tools and in-depth research to help you plan and set goals, find and evaluate investing ideas, trade, and review your portfolio. A full range of tools includes screeners, watchlists, notifications, and real-time quotes. This one is obvious, but deserves a special mention: as you manage your investments, you want rich data and complete insight into your accounts and holdings. Make sure your broker provides detailed account summaries and performance reports, and allows you to switch easily among multiple account views, so you can see if you're on track to meet your investment goals. Online services evolve rapidly, and the investment industry is dynamic too. Your online broker should be committed to continuous improvement, so you always know you're getting the best new features to help you achieve your investing goals.