Since its launch in 2013, Robinhood has been a disruptive force in retail trading. Founded by Vladimir Tenev and Baiju Bhatt, who met at Stanford University, Robinhood’s mission is to democratize finance. But their reputation took a massive hit after their decision to limit the purchase of popular meme stocks such as $GME and $AMC in early 2021. In fact, Robinhood plummeted to a one-star rating on the Google Play and Apple App stores.
However, Robinhood is not available to Canadian residents – and even if it were, many would be looking for an alternative trading platform.
If you are looking for an app like Robinhood, there happen to be a number offering low-cost or commission-free trading. Let's look at the top options for Canadian residents.
Our top pick
Wealthsimple Trade is the discount brokerage of Wealthsimple, one of Canada's leading fintech firms. Wealthsimple Trade is the only Canadian broker offering commission-free trading. When it comes to Robinhood competitors available to Canadians, Wealthsimple Trade is the closest comparable offering.
Wealthsimple Trade offers users a simplistic mobile interface with a minimalist trading platform suitable for new traders to navigate and use. The company targets millennial and zoomer clients that want commission-free trading on stocks, with no minimum deposit required to start trading. With access to Canadian and US markets, you can trade stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrencies.
Although Wealthsimple Trade doesn't have as many features as Robinhood, and there's no margin trading or fractional shares available, it's a great option for novice Canadian traders.
- Most similar to Robinhood's experience.
- Commission-free trading on stocks and ETFs.
- Access to cryptocurrency markets.
- User-friendly mobile trading apps for iOS and Android devices.
- No minimum balance requirement.
- CIPF protection on account balances up to $1 million.
- Invest in TFSA and non-registered accounts.
- Doesn't offer the ability to buy fractional stocks, which somewhat limits what you can buy if your budget is low.
- No margin accounts available.
- RESP accounts not available.
- No real-time market data.
- Not suitable for "scalping" or more aggressive trading strategies.
Qtrade Investor is another good candidate for a Robinhood alternative in Canada. The company has affordable trading fees and a similar mobile app experience. Qtrade Investor focuses on providing millennial and zoomer investors with minimalist, simplified trading solutions.
You get access to Canadian and US markets, with 100 commission-free ETFs to trade and several others with low fees. Qtrade Investor also provides access to stock and options trading, with demo accounts available for new investors to familiarize themselves with trading strategies.
- Simplified trading platform with easy to understand charts.
- Managed portfolios available.
- Access to 100 commission-free ETFs and mutual funds.
- Discounted commissions for active day traders.
- Access to high-quality research by Scotia analysts.
- Demo account available for paper trading.
- Not available to US residents.
- No option for funding through credit cards or e-wallets.
As Canada’s largest independent fintech firm, Questrade is another Robinhood alternative for Canadian traders. You get commission-free trades on ETFs, but all other assets require fees for processing trades. The company does have a competitive fee schedule compared to many Canadian retail discount brokers.
You get access to American and Canadian markets, with stocks, bonds, ETFs, commodities, forex CFDs, and bonds all available for trading through the platform.
- User-friendly, flexible trading platform.
- Free ETF purchases.
- Member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF).
- A wide variety of account options for traders.
- Research tools and education resources provided.
- Only accepts Canadian clients.
- Deposits only available in USD or CAD.
- High minimum deposit (CA$1,000).
- Restrictions on margin trading.
Worth a look
Scotia iTRADE is the retail brokerage of Scotiabank, one of the "Big 5" Canadian banks. Scotia acquired E*TRADE in 2008, making it the largest bank-owned retail trading broker in Canada. The company has won several awards for its innovative trading platforms and service.
With Scotia iTRADE, you get discounted commissions and an excellent trading platform. However, it's more advanced than Robinhood, and some newcomers might need time to familiarize themselves with the platform.
Fortunately, Scotia iTRADE provides new traders with free educational resources as well as a paper trading demo account to practice with before putting real money at risk.
- Discounted commission structures for active day traders.
- High-quality, award-winning trading platform.
- Access to market research by Scotia Bank’s top analysts.
- Demo account for practicing your strategy.
- Annual fees for registered and unregistered accounts.
- The Premium FlightDesk trading platform costs an additional monthly fee.
For experienced traders
IBKR Lite is a trading platform similar to Robinhood, with zero-commissions and a mobile-friendly app. Unfortunately, it's not available to Canadians.
If you want to sign up with Interactive Brokers in Canada, you'll need to subscribe to a Pro account. The IBKR Pro desktop trading platform might be confusing to new traders and the fees are somewhat expensive. However, you do get the benefit of access to a wide range of international markets.
- Low exchange rates for CAD deposits.
- Access to US and international markets.
- Wide variety of financial assets including ETFs, stock, forex, futures, options, and more.
- Suitable for experienced day traders.
- Tax liability implications for Canadians.
- IBKR Lite is unavailable to Canadians.
- Poor mobile app interface.
- Expensive monthly fees.
- Almost non-existent customer service for Canadians.
What to look for in a Robinhood alternative
Here's what we think are the important things to look out for when deciding which broker to use.
- Tradable assets and markets: Ensure your broker offers you access to the markets you want to trade. Whether that’s stocks, ETFs, forex CFDs, commodities, or crypto, make sure your broker offers the assets and geographies you want.
- Who it’s designed for: Wealthsimple Trader is as close to Robinhood as Canadians can get. It's made for new traders that don't have experience using trading platforms. However, a platform such as CMC Markets is simply not designed for the casual retail investor.
- Trading fees and commissions: Check the minimum account balance requirements as well as the broker's fee structure to see how much they charge for trading fees, inactivity fees, currency conversion, and any monthly account costs.
- Functional and user-friendly mobile apps: Mobile apps help you stay connected to the market when you're away from your trading station. If market volatility starts affecting your position, you can make trading decisions on the spot.
- Demo accounts: Choose a broker offering you a demo account. You can try out the platform risk-free and test your trading strategy without assuming real risk.
1 Forbes. "Robinhood Is Down To 1 Star On Google’s Mobile App Store Again, This Time Google Won’t Intervene, https://www.forbes.com/sites/siladityaray/2021/02/02/robinhood-is-down-to-1-star-on-googles-mobile-app-store-again-this-time-google-wont-intervene/". February 2, 2021.