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Scotia iTrade Review: A Discount Broker for Active Traders

Scotia iTrade Review: A Discount Broker for Active Traders

Every year, advancements in mobile technology are placing the stock market at the fingertips of Canadian investors. In fact, it’s never been easier to invest on your own. One of the best ways to get started is by opening a discount brokerage account. These do-it-yourself trading accounts provide investors with access to thousands of investments, from individual stocks and bonds to mutual funds and ETFs, even precious metals. And in most cases, they do so at a very low cost.

While there is no shortage of discount brokers to choose from, we’re dedicating this space to review an offering from one of Canada’s big banks. Scotia iTrade is owned by Scotiabank, who, way back in 2008, bought Etrade’s Canadian portfolio, before folding it into the Scotia platform.

Scotia iTrade Trading Fees

Standard Scotia iTrade pricing tends to lean towards the higher end, though it is very much in line with the other big bank brokerages. Stock trades begin at $9.99, while active traders making at least 150 trades in a calendar quarter can qualify for $4.99 trades. There are no fees to purchase mutual funds online, however, if you place your trade with a telephone representative, you’ll pay a whopping $65 every time. Options trading is $9.99 + $1.25 per contract, and $4.99 + $1.25 per contract for active traders.

Scotia iTrade ETF Pricing

These days, a few online brokers boast of no-commission ETF purchases, the most notable being Questrade. On their website, Scotia iTrade makes a similar claim, so I decided to check it out. It is true, you can purchase no-fee ETFs with iTrade, but unfortunately, the selection is limited to approximately 50 ETFs, while many top ETFs are excluded from the list. Questrade, by comparison, offers thousands of ETFs without commissions, as does Wealthsimple Trade.

Scotia iTrade Account Pricing

If you have a registered account (RRSP, RIF, LIRA, LIF), you’ll pay an annual fee of $100 per account for the privilege. To avoid the fee, you’ll need to maintain a minimum balance (cumulative across all accounts) of $25,000 and execute at least 12 commissionable trades per year.

If you don’t yet have a sizeable balance, this should be of some concern, as high account fees can take a big bite out of your overall returns. There are no quarterly or annual fees on TFSA accounts, but RESP accounts with an aggregate balance below $15,000 will cost you $25 per year.

Opening a Scotia iTrade Account

According to Scotia iTrade, you can open an account online, by phone, or in person, although more complex accounts, such as RESPs, sole proprietorships, charities etc, cannot be opened through digital means. To open your account, you’ll need your SIN number handy, as well as proper identification. And if you’re planning to transfer funds into your iTrade account from another financial institution, you’ll want to have your recent investment statements handy.

Introductory Offer for New Scotia iTrade Clients

For 2020, Scotia iTrade is offering cash, and preferred pricing, or free trades to new clients. If you open a new account using their promo code by February 29, 2020, and fund it by March 31, 2020, you can receive up to $1500 cash, as well as $6.99 trades, or you can receive up to 500 free trades. To maximize the cash offer, you would need to fund the account with $1MM, but there are several tiers in which you can receive lesser amounts of cash. For full details on this offer, visit Scotia iTrade. I should point out that MapleMoney has no affiliation with Scotia iTrade or this promotional offer.

The Scotia iTrade Practice Account

One thing I like about iTrade is the ability to open a practice account, which lets you build your trading skills without having to use your own money. It’s a great way to get comfortable with DIY investing before taking the plunge. When you open your practice account, you’ll receive a fictional portfolio of $100,000 CAD, and $100,000 USD. You’ll have access to many of the regular features of the Scotia iTrade platform, such as trading tools, and market research. Another nice feature, you can hit the reset button on your account anytime. Wouldn’t that be nice in real life?

Scotia iTrade Platform

Scotia iTrade boasts a fairly robust trading platform, with extensive market research tools, and trading functionality. In fact, they recently placed 3rd in Surviscors Online Brokerage Review. The Scotia iTrade Flightdesk platform offers real-time streaming quotes for active traders, as well as up to date news and portfolio values.

With Flightdesk, you’ll also receive real-time notifications as soon as trades have been completed, and the application view is fully customizable. When it comes to customer support, iTrade does feature live online chat functionality, while telephone representatives are available 6 days per week.

Who Is Scotia iTrade Best Suited For?

Scotia iTrade is best suited for experienced, active traders who prefer the stability of dealing with a major Canadian bank. Simply put, you need to be an active trader with a substantial account balance to save on fees with iTrade, and avoid the hefty annual account fees. Experienced traders will also be able to benefit from Scotia iTrade’s advanced trading platform, with all of its bells and whistles. Beginner investors without high account balances must settle for the $9.99 trading fee to buy and sell stock, not to mention the $100 charge for registered accounts. If you only have ten or fifteen thousand to invest, that’s sure to put a dent in your portfolio.

For beginners, my advice would be to look elsewhere, to a broker like Questrade, or the recently launched Wealthsimple Trade. Both of these brokerages have a much lower fee structure for regular investors. If you’re looking for a big bank alternative, TD DIrect Investing might be a good choice. MoneySense ranked them #3 overall for 2019, on the strength of their trading platform and top-notch market research tools. And while their trading fees are similar to Scotia iTrade, at $15,000 their registered account minimum balances are lower.

Comments

  1. IanB

    Note that Scotia iTrade will charge you $100.00 (plus tax) each year for your registered account if you have less than $25,000.00 and you have not paid more than $300.00 in commissions.

  2. Mike

    They screw you with their fees..like every bank but even more. They state 150$ transfer fees (partial or complete) but they also charge 75$ per transaction to transfer to 3rd party. So if you have 1 account you want to transfer that contains 20 shares, they will charge you 1650$ (20*75+150)to transfer the account. That is theft in my book.

    • DL

      They charged me 75$ per transaction to transfer out because I checked “In Cash” on my transfer form. These were all free trading ETF on Scotia Itrade. I don’t know what to do….

  3. Ken

    I have been entirely pleasantly surprised by Scotia Itrade.

    The customer service has been absolutely first-class. I made several goofs starting out, and the staff via telephone were courteous and helpful…and fixed my mistakes. I have found the website pretty easy to use, and if there is ever a question, again, help is available.
    Even the wait times on the phone have been pretty reasonable.

    I would highly recommend Itrade. The commission-free etfs are a nice bonus, although some of them are unlikely to be used by anyone. But still, there are a few good ones….HXT HSX, the Vanguard REIT, etc.

    It is true that you need a lot of cash with them to avoid fees, but that is par for the course.

    You will find that the staff are really friendly…..that is what I like the best. They are always polite.

    I also like that they area bank….I feel more secure with them than Virtual or Questrade, just because of that. I also looked at BMO and RBC…..also good options for me (again, banks) but Scotia won due to service.

    Good luck choosing !

  4. JD

    Hi, I def do not recommend this company. They just deleted my account out of nowhere with out warning. When I asked them why they said it was because there was an error in my phone number on the application!!!! The customer service is utterly useless. Now they want me to send them all kinds off documentation to be submitted for processing.?…and by this time I am already happily using another online broker. I have been a Scotia customer for years to boot. They also have ridiculously expensive fees.I am supposed to call to make a trade until my account is reinstated??? Yeah just like back in the 80’s haha….what a waste of time! These guys are jokers. Come back to 2016 and give me my money back!

  5. Nila

    Hi, I want to invest and how to buy stocks? This is my first time.Please help. Thank you.

  6. Doug

    I was disappointed with itrade cause they have problem in receiving orders of option with adjusted price. I have complained to them, no change over a month. This disable the self servicing function for option effectively. Bad

  7. Konrad Feierabend

    Customer Service is just awful ,tried at least ten times to contact them, always unsuccessful . Waited over 30min. They dont even have a Call back System and dont tell you the waiting time. I will definitely move my money to another Institution.

  8. Earl Berger

    I have been using ITRADE for several years. Costs are $4.99 per trade regardless of the number of trades per quarter (I don’t do many). The Help services are good. Very satisfied.

  9. Nolan

    Last time I checked, Scotia iTrade still does not allow holding USA stocks in a RRSP, TFSA or RESP account in native USED. So every time you buy or sell, you’re forced to settle in Cdn dollars and they collect a 2.5% surcharge fee on top of whatever the exchange rate is on settlement day. Also, any dividend or interest payments received originating as USD will be automatically converted to Cdn dollars when credited to your account.
    Other discount brokers like BMO InvestorLine and CIBC Investors Edge allow you to have a Cdn and USD side to your account and settle trades in either currency as you like, and thus avoiding the 2.5% surcharge fee, if you like. USD dividends and interest payments will also stay as USD if the security is held on USD side of account.
    Be aware of Scotia!

  10. Kris

    Why do Canadian FI’s charge so much to trade? I moved from Questrade to Interactive brokers where I rarely pay more than $1.25 US per trade. They’re on the NASDAQ and a 450M USD company and a great alternative to what’s often talked about.

  11. Geoffrey

    I opened an account at my local Scotiabank over 2 weeks ago, I finally received confirmation that the account was opened on the 20th January, at the time of opening the account, I filled out form SIT-63 (Request for transfer of funds) as I have an existing TFSA with Scotia to Scotia i trade, as of today the 23rd, nothing has been transferred and trying to get through to customer service is absolutely horrendous, I have waited in excess of 45 minutes and to no avail, I am losing confidence daily in this outfit.

  12. Peter P

    If you need to call ITRADE expect to wait all day. They do not answer their phone. It’s JUST UNBELIEVABLE that they do not care about their clients.

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