Surviscor Canadian Online Brokerage Experience Reviews - Surviscor and Partnership

A Look Into the 2023 MoneySense Best Online Brokers in Canada Rankings

Questrade gets the nod for the Best Online Broker in Canada in the 2023, beating out last year's winner TD Direct Investing and a past winner Qtrade Direct Investing. The review, now in its 11th year, was written by Surviscor's President and CEO, Glenn LaCoste, and powered by Surviscor's extensive data and looks slightly different from previous years. We have re-designed it for you, the average to new Canadian self-directed investor, to provide a more comprehensive look at different areas of focus that allow you to better - and easily - narrow in on where you would like to learn based on your personal needs and preferences.

The MoneySense and Surviscor partnership was established in 2013 to enhance the MoneySense editorial reach into the discount brokerage industry. The initial goal of providing Canadian self-directed DIY investors with a reputable non-editorial viewpoint and insight into Canada's ultra-competitive online discount brokerage industry remains the same today. The yearly review provides both new and seasoned veterans of self-directed investing with the real truths to help make informed choices between the merits and weaknesses of each online broker and as usual, the review does not hold punches. Each firm is graded and called out for both its strengths and weaknesses.

Whether you are a new investor who is being marketed to at record levels, or a seasoned investor with an established online brokerage relationship, the one message is to challenge yourself to explore other firms and read about each one's strengths and weaknesses to ensure you fully understand if you are partnering with a firm for the right reasons.

Gone are the days of separating desktop and mobile platform experiences as separate categories. Do you only use your laptop? Do you only use your phone? Our guess is in most cases, the answer is a resounding no. The reality is both platforms play an integral and interchangeable part of an overall self-directed investor experience, and every Canadian self-directed investor should use both to maximize an overall experience.

Glenn LaCoste - Surviscor President and CEO

2023 MoneySense Best Online Broker Rankings

Here is the list of the best online brokers in Canada ranking for 2023 which is derived by drilling down into the four pillars of investor experiences at each firm - desktop platform, mobile platform, commission and fees and service availability and responsiveness

2023 RankOnline Brokerage Firm# of PointsRead Company Review
1Questrade33 ptsView Pros & Cons
2TD Direct Investing31 ptsView Pros & Cons
3Qtrade Direct Investing26 ptsView Pros & Cons
4National Bank Direct Brokerage22 ptsView Pros & Cons
5RBC Direct Investing12 ptsView Pros & Cons
6Desjardins Online Brokerage11 ptsView Pros & Cons
7Scotia iTRADE8 ptsView Pros & Cons
8Wealthsimple Trade4 ptsView Pros & Cons
T-9CIBC Investor's Edge2 ptsView Pros & Cons
T-9CI Direct Trading2 ptsView Pros & Cons
LastBMO InvestorLine0 ptsView Pros & Cons
LastHSBC InvestDirect0 ptsView Pros & Cons
LastLaurentian Bank Discount Brokerage17 %View Pros & Cons
CG DirectNot ReviewedView Pros & Cons
Interactive Brokers CanadaNot ReviewedView Pros & Cons

Read the in-depth 2023 MoneySense Best Online Broker Analysis to learn more about the overall best and worst firms and a breakdown of each of the 10 categories that contributed to the overall rankings.

The MoneySense and Surviscor Methodology

Surviscor Personalized Validation and Selection Tool scorChoice for Consumer Bankers and Online Investors to find their own #1 firm

See how the Bank-Owned Firms Rank

See how the Non-Bank Firms Rank

Key Excerpts from the 2023 Review

The review highlights that not every online broker is the right for every self-directed investor and that there are many online brokers to choose from and one should exploit each opportunity that exists while holding your existing, or future, firm(s) to the highest of standards.

What we implore Canadian investors (especially newbies) to understand is that self-directed investing is not EASY or SIMPLE to do. This cannot be overstated. There is no platform design that can make the self-directed investing decision a cinch despite the aggressive marketing messages saying so.

Surviscor's message is always BUYER BEWARE for self-directed investing, as each firm attempts to get a leg up on its peers with only minor points of differentiation. Don't fall for the shiny marketing messages. Do your homework and ask yourself: Do I really believe that a firm is willing to pay for my fees and lose money just so I can be a customer? The answer: Probably not.

TD Easy Trade is not a $0 commission online broker. It's an additional service offering at best, provides a limited offering with platform restrictions and is more of an ongoing promotion for the parent TD Direct Investing, one that could end at any time. What happens when an investor reaches 51 transactions? It's time to pay.

The $0 commission trend on stocks and ETF purchases has stalled, as many firms have chosen to not follow the no-money, loss-leader trend. All firms charge commissions for options and build in commissions if an investor trades bonds or GICs.

Investors who are not lured by $0 commissions are loyal to the firms they use and take a value-driven approach to investing, meaning they appreciate paying for solid research and quotes and look at the total cost for the trades based on the information they get from the firm.

The Canadian bank-owned firms attempt to drive the $0 ETF commissions message, but the reality is there are small print caveats to consider at Scotia iTRADE, TD Direct Investing and BMO InvestorLine. Fees advertised rarely tell the whole story of what your experience will be with the different platforms, as many low-cost firms charge the investor elsewhere in the investing process or limit the availability of a product or service in exchange for the lower fees.

RBC Royal Bank's takeover of HSBC Canada, set for late 2023, should be welcomed news if you are an HSBC InvestDirect customer who has suffered too long with poor platforms and service levels. If you choose to stay with RBC Direct Investing, it will come at a substantial increase in commissions and fee but remember, there are many firms to choose from

Glenn LaCoste - 2023 MoneySense Review

Read the in-depth 2023 MoneySense Best Online Broker Analysis to learn more about the overall best and worst firms and a breakdown of each of the 10 categories that contributed to the overall rankings.

Insights Around Commissions and Fees

A Quick Look at Bank-Owned Firms

Let's face it, most Canadians love banks and trust them, and sometimes blindly. It is unclear at times if the loyalty stems from familiarity, tradition or simply a lack of trust for any firm that is known as independent from the well-known big banks. In many respects, Canadians are very aware that bank-owned firms tend to cost more but having financial assets in one place tends to outweigh, or justify, the additional costs. Here is a quick look at how the bank-owned firms performed:


  • Solutions for all types of investors
  • Investor education
  • Depth of market data
  • TD EasyTrade service and platform
  • Higher fees and commissions
  • Becoming a customer can be difficult at times


TD Direct Investing is one of the most well-rounded offerings that is suitable for all levels of investors but has higher than average commissions and fees. In our opinion, the new TD EasyTrade mobile-based service offering (which is required to get $0 commission) is not what its name suggests unless an investor equates the word 'easy' with 'bare bones functionality'. The bottom line is that Canada's largest self-directed brokerage firm is particularly good at what it does and is worth the higher fees for most investors due to the strength of its regular WebBroker digital platforms. Learn more about TD Direct Investing's overall performance here.


  • Competitive fees and $0 commissions
  • ETF investing experience
  • Various levels of market data
  • Becoming a customer can be difficult at times
  • Need to pay for in-depth data


National Bank Direct Brokerage is the only bank-owned firm to offer a true $0 commission structure for stocks and ETF investing and can be used by different levels of investor profiles if you are willing to pay for its more comprehensive data. The steps to improvement are to build better designed platforms and increase the level of non-customer service capabilities. Learn more about National Bank Direct Brokerage's overall performance here.


  • Availability of practice accounts
  • Good education content
  • Higher fees and commissions
  • Mobile-based investor experience
  • ETF investing experience


RBC Direct Investing is no longer in the bottom tier of the bank-owned firms and demonstrates the ability to be agile and launch new features, but the overall digital features and functionality are average at best. It would be great if RBC Royal Bank would ensure the DIY investing platforms catered to investors rather than consumer banking customers. Learn more about RBC Direct Investing's overall performance here.

#7-SCOTIA iTRADE (8 Points)

  • Availability of practice accounts
  • Market data
  • Higher fees and commissions
  • Poor customer responsiveness
  • Digital transactional experiences


Scotia iTRADE performs well in some areas and poor in others. Hopefully a renewed responsibility by a new management team will help get Scotia iTRADE closer to its once dominating industry standing with improved platforms, more competitive pricing, and better dedication to service responsiveness. Learn more about Scotia iTRADE's overall performance here.


  • Strength of CIBC's leading-edge digital banking platforms
  • ETF Investing experience
  • Poor service responsiveness
  • No significant changes to digital features and functionalities over the last decade


CIBC Investor's Edge has shown some life in the past few years but there is still a long way to go to return to the glory years of the early 2000's. Recent cosmetic changes indicate a renewed commitment to the investor platforms that hopefully will lead to investors truly having an edge at some point. At present, there is clearly no industry edge to speak of. Learn more about CIBC Investor's Edge's overall performance here.


  • Mobile experience
  • Market data
  • Declined participation in review findings
  • Poor service responsiveness
  • Expensive commissions


BMO InvestorLine surprisingly did not register any score despite signs of life in the past two years, indicating it most likely narrowly sits outside of the top 5 in each area of review. It's difficult to tell through its marketing efforts if the self-directed platform is important to BMO Bank of Montreal or if it has become a feeder to its robo advisor product. Learn more about BMO InvestorLine's overall performance here.


  • Actual service responsiveness indicates the lights are on
  • Declined participation in review findings
  • No redeeming qualities
  • No Mobile platform
  • Digital platforms experience


Laurentian Bank Discount Brokerage is another one of Surviscor's BUYER BEWARE firms. The bottom line is that self-directed investors contemplating using the platform should think twice as the parent company Laurentian Bank left this platform for dead over 20 years. There has been some small hope of late with actual responses to service requests, but it is unknown if this is an actual new commitment or not. Learn more about Laurentian Bank Discount Brokerage's overall performance here.


  • Competitive fees and commissions
  • Foreign trading capabilities
  • Poor service responsiveness
  • No Android-based mobile platform
  • Overall digital investor experience is poor


HSBC InvestDirect will soon become RBC Direct Investing and not a moment too late if you are a self-directed investor customer. Its only claim to fame is it offers foreign trading capabilities and foreign account balances which are serviced by poor platforms, service levels and management direction. Learn more about HSBC Direct Investing 's overall performance here.

Read the in-depth 2023 MoneySense Best Online Broker Analysis to learn more about the overall best and worst firms and a breakdown of each of the 10 categories that contributed to the overall rankings.

Surviscor Personalized Validation and Selection Tool scorChoice for Consumer Bankers and Online Investors to find their own #1 firm

A Quick Look at Non-Bank Firms

On the flipside, there are Canadian investors who do not want to use a bank-owned online broker. In the beginning, these firms opened up and tried to differentiate with cost but failed to offer the same level of investor experiences as bank-owned firms. Then the pendulum swung as these firms became the innovators, or disruptors, and pushed the investor experience envelope using a more active trader approach to platform design and in some cases, pricing. Here is a quick look at how the non-bank firms performed:

#1-QUESTRADE (33 Points)

  • Service responsiveness
  • All digital investor experiences
  • Process of opening an account
  • QuestMobile mobile platform replacing Questrade Trading
  • ECN fees
  • Commissions on ETF sales


Questrade is a well-rounded self-directed online brokerage that and caters to all level of self-directed investors. The key is to test your trading patterns to ensure Questrade's additional fees do not add to the advertised lowest cost and to understand the data costs which can be pricey for less-active investors. Learn more about Questrade's overall performance here.


  • Service responsiveness
  • Desktop-based investor experience
  • Fees and commissions are on the higher side
  • Mobile Investor experience needs to improve


Qtrade Direct Investing was re-branded to attract the new investors, but the reality is, it continues to be a leading self-directed investing firm for the average and seasoned investors. Hopefully Qtrade Direct Investing does not sell out its future platforms for the new investor like most firms have because its older design, exceptional customer service responsiveness and current desktop-based investor experiences remains an attractive DIY investor partner. Learn more about Qtrade Direct Trading's overall performance here.


  • $0 equity/ETF commissions with no restrictions
  • Service responsiveness
  • Becoming a customer can be difficult at times


Desjardins Online Brokerage offers self-directed investors a true $0 commission structure for stocks and ETF investing through its Disnat Classic platform that could use an overhaul. Do not underestimate this firm as it educates investors and allows them to grow into a seasoned investor and provides a next-level active trader platform. Learn more about Desjardins Online Brokerage's overall performance here.


  • $0 commissions on SELECT product
  • Small fee for real-time quotes
  • Limited amount of North American stocks and ETFs
  • Poor foreign exchange rates
  • Digital platforms provide weak DIY investor experiences


The Wealthsimple Trade bullet train brand has lost its steam in the last year and a half and its recent product announcements appear to be a last-ditch effort to renew the brand to some level of relevance. The self-directed investor offering continues to boast a strong Surviscor BUYER BEWARE warning with its basic and below-average desktop and mobile platforms. The bottom line is that if a self-directed investor is looking for free trades, others have it and more securities to choose from coupled with far better platforms to use and grow with. Learn more about Wealthsimple Trade's overall performance here.

#9-CI DIRECT TRADING (2 points)

  • Opening account process
  • Higher fees and commissions
  • Financial literacy
  • Desktop platform investor experience
  • Mobile platform investor experience


CI Direct Trading is not to be mistaken with CI Direct Investing which is the robo-advisor arm. In our opinion, the names are wrong and misleading. Self-directed for the average investor means DIY investing. Direct trading refers to no evaluation or handholding, and better used for active traders. Regardless of the name and the real focus of CI, the self-directed platforms appear to be lacking focus and strategy. Learn more about CI Direct Trading's overall performance here.


Interactive Brokers is left out of this review as it mainly caters to traders, or seasoned investors, and it is a very US-centric site which does not cater to Canadian content. The proof is its U.S. interest rates marketing and industry accolades that are for its U.S division compared to U.S. trading firms. Learn more about Interactive Brokers' overall performance here.


Canaccord Genuity Direct is left out of this review as it too mainly caters to traders, or seasoned investors. Despite being Canadian, it is difficult to see why a self-directed investor would look here to open an account. The results indicate a lack of commitment by parent firm Canaccord to be a true alternative for Canadian investors as every other firm in the study provides a considerably stronger investor experience. Learn more about Canaccord Genuity Direct's overall performance here.

Read the in-depth 2023 MoneySense Best Online Broker Analysis to learn more about the overall best and worst firms and a breakdown of each of the 10 categories that contributed to the overall rankings.

Insights Around Commission and Fees

Commissions and Fees - typically data fees- is always a hot topic when it comes to assessing the merits, and pitfalls, of Canadian Online Brokerage firms. Although we 100% disagree that commissions and fees should be the focus when choosing an Online Broker, the reality is it does mean something to many self-directed investors. If you are one of them, take notice of these lessons so you better educate what you may be giving up to get that $0 trade. #BuyerBeware

Beware the Shiny Marketing Message

The marketing you see for online brokerage firms tends to focus on fees - and with good reason. Unfortunately, those advertised fees do not always tell the whole story. For example, firms may charge an ECN (Electronic Communication Network) fee that can double your commission costs. Others may exclude some popular stocks available to trade. Or how about firms who offer free ETF trading but either limit product availability or charge you on the sale of the ETF? We do not want to say there is always a catch but the realty is, there usually is.

Key and Crucial Resources are Not Free

Do you buy US stocks in a Canadian dollar account? Do you require an up-to-date stock or ETF price quote to make an informed investing decision? Both? Well, guess what? They both come with extra fees unless you are an ultra crazy active investor. Having to convert money each time you trade will run you an over-inflated foreign exchange rate, something the online forums complain about at Wealthsimple Trade, and limited and delayed market data could translate into poor executions that could lead to less stock or bang for your buck.

There Can be a Cost for $0 Commission

Novice investors tend to be attracted by $0 commission without fully understanding what is available at each firm and why paying a commission may be worth it. These investors give up tangible items like market quote depth and timeliness, analyst research and most importantly, having a partner to grow with. For example, the requirement at TD EasyTrade to get $0 trades is you must use its scaled-back and extremely basic mobile platform. Why can't it be offered on its TD Direct Investing WebBroker platform too? Because there is a marketing plat at hand. In general, any cost savings of dollars per trade should be viewed as an opportunity cost for guidance, education, and market depth, all excellent features required by a novice or average DIY investor.

Do I really believe that a firm is willing to pay for my fees and lose money doing so just so I can be a customer? And if so, why?

Any Canadian DIY Self-Directed Investor

Surviscor Personalized Validation and Selection Tool scorChoice for Consumer Bankers and Online Investors to find their own #1 firm

The MoneySense Methodology

The methodology continues to be altered and enhanced over the years and remains customized for MoneySense using Surviscor's proprietary scorCard data from four detailed yearly reviews; Desktop-based Experience Review, Mobile-based Experience Review, Commissions & Fees Experience Review and Service Level Experience Review. There are 10 categories of focus, but brokerages can also be identified in three Best Online Broker groupings by platforms, investor types and firm types. In each case, we use Surviscor's existing research to ensure each of the four pillars of experience, desktop, mobile, commissions and fees, and service are incorporated into each individual category.

Surviscor representatives completed a features and functionality questionnaire of nearly 8,000 questions for each firm in the review, covering both desktop and mobile platforms, while performing hundreds of typical investor tasks on each individual digital platform. It also analyzed the firms' commissions and fees across five trade-related investor profiles and reviewed 146 service interactions over a 12-month period ending on February 28, 2023. Each firm was assigned a score based on its ranking within the ten sections of our review (5 points for first; 4 for second; 3 for third; 2 for fourth; and 1 for fifth), and the overall score represents the sum of the awarded sections.

Read the in-depth 2023 MoneySense Best Online Broker Analysis to learn more about the overall best and worst firms and a breakdown of each of the 10 categories that contributed to the overall rankings.

Explore other Surviscor Rankings

This review is only one of many Surviscor yearly digital experience reviews for Online Self-Directed Brokerage and Consumer Banking firms. Take a look at your current firms, firms you always thought about using, and maybe you'll even find a new firm to consider.