Canadian Discount Brokerage Review

Oct. 25, 2009

I have begun using Interactive Brokers and so far I really like the platform.  Below I have included my original post on Canadian discount brokerages and below that I have the pros and cons of each platform.  Please see the disclaimer below too.

I have had the pleasure of using three good brokerages and the displeasure of using a few bad ones.  Currently I’m using Interactive Brokers and I really like the platform.  It is massively better than any other platform I’ve ever used, and I’ve haven’t had a single trading problem with it yet.  Also it is designed to allow complex order setups and executions, so you can really setup a trading strategy and let it run the trade for you if you want.  Or you can use their many tools to trade manually in real-time if you prefer.  Also, my commissions dropped from about 10-14% of a trade to 1-3% of a trade with Interactive Brokers.

Nov. 23, 2006

My first brokerage account was with TD Waterhouse and I’ve had that account for many years.  When I decided to first try active trading, I got an account with Ameritrade Canada and I was very happy with it.  I was jealous of the low commissions that US residents get.  Unfortunately, TD Waterhouse bought Ameritrade Canada and Ameritrade bought TD Waterhouse in the US.  I lost my Ameritrade Canada low commissions and cheap, real-time, Java based tools (worked on my Mac).

When TD Waterhouse converted my Ameritrade Canada account, they gave the former Ameritrade Canada customers a special, temporary low commission rate.  I then began looking for another brokerage to use after this special commission rate expired.  This is when I signed up for E-Trade since their normal commission rate was more reasonable (but still high) and their active trader low commission rate was attainable.  However, I soon grew to dislike E-Trade and eventually signed up for a TradeFreedom account.  TradeFreedom has no account maintenance fees and low commissions.

Below are the reviews, pros and cons, I’ve found of the various Canadian discount brokerages.  Also, to date, I’ve only used the web interfaces for trading (except Ameritrade Canada where I used the Java based tools).  My experiences are based on the web interfaces, not the real-time software that is offered by the brokerages (usually you have to pay for these).


Interactive Brokers

All I can say is WOW.  This platform puts everything else to shame.


  1. They have a highly customizable, very powerful trading application.  There are at least 10 types of orders you can setup and you can combine them such that one execution cancels the other.  I use this to set stop and limit orders on the same trade.

  2. Trade anytime the market has trading.  Unlike most Canadian brokerages, you can trade the full pre and post market sessions, not just 8 am to 5:30 pm, or some such none sense the others have.

  3. Extremely low commissions.

  4. Never had an order execution or cancellation problem yet.

  5. If you are inclined, you can trade Forex and many other world exchanges with Interactive Brokers.


  1. They put mutli-day holds on money transfered into the account before you can use it to trade.  This is really annoying!

  2. I’ve found reconciling their statements to my account software to be a bit harder to do.  I use GNUCASH.

TD Waterhouse

I’m very happy with them, but the commission rates are high for low volume traders.


  1. Fully integrated with TD Canada Trust.  You can quickly and easily transfer assets back and forth.  Very useful, also, you don’t have to convert your US cash to Canadian to get it out quickly.  You can also go to your local TD Canada Trust branch to do some of your TD Waterhouse business.

  2. Their customer service has been top notch and fast for me.

  3. The Webbroker interface is easy to use and understand.

  4. They now have an Active Trader platform.

  5. They now have low commissions for active traders.

  6. Their is a ton of information available to account holders through the Webbroker interface.

  7. They have  simple to understand fee structures.  If you are low volume trader, this is what you expect to pay, if you are over such a volume, you pay this, if you are an active trader and want to pay for more services, this is what you pay.  None of this, a la carte confusion.


  1. Their commissions for low volume traders is too high.

  2. I have had a few problems with my orders not updating quickly with the Webbroker interface.  This has not caused me any real problems, but has left me very confused about positions I’ve tried to change (did it close, or did I just lose $$$).  For example, I had an order that was executed in the morning not update until the next day.  I’ve had similar problems with order updating about 3 times, however I’ve placed well over 100 trades without any other problems.  Granted, for active traders, they now have an Active Trader platform.

  3. The Webbroker site is unavailable a few hours every night (usually around 1 am PST).  Not a big deal, but annoying if you want to do something then.

  4. The Webbroker interface does not maintain a reliable real-time balance and margin status.  Other brokerages do.

  5. They still charge and annual fee on self directed RRSP accounts.


One of the trading problems I had, I had to call them about.  The agent was VERY helpful and had to look into the problem.  He called me back in short order and explained the problem.  In all the years he’d worked there, he’d never seen something like it happen, so I’m willing to forgive them for that one (the exchange connection had a problem of some sort and it didn’t negatively affect me in the end).  We are talking about computers and millions of transactions after all.


They had a security breach.  I closed this account.


  1. Responses and account setup seem to be very fast.  I have had very little interaction with them, but they seem to be fast in responding to me and dealing with application stuff.  Usually within a couple of days.

  2. They have low commissions and no account maintenance fees.

•They have forex trading for those so inclined.

•They have quite a bit of educational stuff on the site.


  1. Their trading website doesn’t work with all browsers.  This is really annoying.


They use Penson for financial transactions.  I’m not excatly sure how it works, but Ameritrade Canada did the same.  Penson accepts your cash transfers and delivers your trade confirmations.  I think they also hold your stock or something like that.


Not impressed.  I’m considering closing these accounts.


  1. They have lots of different ways for you to trade and different levels of services and fees.  Flexible but can be confusing.

  2. No annual self directed RRSP account fees.


  1. I have had problems canceling orders on their site or have been told to wait 5 minutes after a cancelled order before I could enter a new order.  This is unacceptable to me.  I quite often create an order and then want to change or cancel it and enter a new one.

  2. They are VERY, VERY slow dealing with mail and applications.  Basically, if you get a response in a month, that is good.

  3. I’ve found their website to confusing and cumbersome to use.


These have been my experiences with these brokerage.  Yours may vary.  I do not in any way recommend or dissuade you from using any of the brokerages.  You do so at your own risk.  As always proceed with caution.