Canadian Online Brokerage Review – National Bank Direct Brokerage

Canadian Discount Brokerage - National Bank Direct Brokerage

Mailing Address
1100 University Street, 7th Floor
Montréal, Québec
H3B 2G7
Email Address:[email protected]
Phone: 1-800-363-3511
Customer Service Hours: Mon to Fri 8 am to 8 pm ET

National Bank Direct Brokerage Review

Updated on: Jun 1, 2020
As of October 2019, National Bank Direct Brokerage has made an ambitious move in it’s pricing structure to unveil the leading rate (for now) among Canadian bank-owned online brokerages for commissions for equity trades. In addition to the lowest rates, they now have a standard offering of discounted standard pricing for young investors (aged 18 to 30) which includes 10 free trades per year. Individuals who open or have a National Bank account are also eligible for slightly discount trading commissions too. Finally, National Bank Direct Brokerage also offers completely commission-free trading for Canadian and US ETFs – so long as a minimum quantity are purchased or sold (at least 100 or more units are required).

As they are a bank-owned online brokerage, National Bank Direct Brokerage (NBDB) offers the convenience of branch services as well as being able to manage other National Bank financial products with via the standard National Bank online interface. Like their peers, National Bank Direct Brokerage offers online trading in stocks, ETFs, options, mutual funds and bonds.


Quick Info

Standard Equity Commission $9.95
Best Commission Price $0.95
Minimum to Open Account Not Required
Maintenance/Inactivity Fees $100/year
Commission Free ETFs Yes
Student Pricing Offer Yes

» Get Full Pricing Details

Pricing & Fees

After about five years at their previous commission rates, National Bank Direct Brokerage made a significant revision to their commission pricing structure in mid-October 2019 to make them the lowest cost bank-owned online brokerage for active investors and one of the most compelling for younger investors.

With so much volatility in the pricing of commissions taking place, National Bank Direct Brokerage was the first bank-owned online brokerage in Canada to significantly reduce their commission rates. In particular active investors, now defined by NBDB as individuals who make at least 100 trades in a quarter (3 months), are able to pay $0.95 per trade. Younger investors also get an incredible pricing break, receiving a standard commission pricing rate of $4.95 per trade and 10 commission-free trades per year – a bundle never seen before for Canadian online brokerages. Finally, for individuals who also have a bank account with National Bank, they can get access to slightly discounted commission rates of $6.95 per trade.

Interestingly for options pricing, even though the ‘commission’ component for active traders has fallen to $0.95, the per contract price is $1.25 and the minimum cost for an options transaction is $8.20. This minimum applies to their “Young Investor” pricing too.

Another important pricing differentiator at National Bank Direct Brokerage is their commission-free ETF buying and selling program. All Canadian and US ETFs are eligible to be traded commission-free as long as at least 100 units are traded in the transaction and individuals sign up for electronic document delivery.

An important consideration for potential NBDB clients is the inactivity/administration fees. Individuals with less than $20,000 in assets by May 31st of a given year will be subject to $100 in administration fees unless they: generate at least 5 commission generating trades in a year, have an InvestCube account, are an active investor, are a young investor (aged 18-30) or are enrolled in one of their offers for professionals.

Account Types

The product offering from NBDB includes registered and non-registered accounts in which clients can trade Canadian and US stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, bonds and options.

The registered accounts offered include tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs), registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) and registered education savings plans (RESPs). At the time of writing, there are also plans to roll out US dollar versions of the registered accounts. For the moment, these registered accounts can accept deposits in USD and clients can trade (and hold) USD equities, however withdrawals from the account will result in a currency conversion back into CAD.

As with other brokerages, margin cannot be used with registered accounts. Options trading in registered accounts is limited to buying and selling options as well as covered calls.

In the non-registered investment account category, clients can trade with cash and margin accounts. For clients who would like to “short sell” stocks, a margin account with short selling is required.


National Bank Direct Brokerage has platforms geared towards longer term investors as well as active traders. Their standard (or “Classic”) platform is similar to most online trading platforms offered by discount brokerages.

For active traders, NBDB offers Market Q (this is from Interactive Data the same company that owns eSignal) to track stocks and to conduct advanced technical analysis. As it is built off a similar platform to eSignal, the charting and sophistication of data available is robust. While order entry is possible from within Market Q, monitoring open positions as well as win/loss and other trading stats is not.

The data feed for Market Q ranges from Level I (real time information on most major North American markets) to Level IV (market depth on TSX-V). Pricing for data for Market Q depends on a client’s activity level. Pricing for Level I quotes starts at $39/month and can go to $148/month for Level 4, for individuals trading between 0-9 trades per month. For those clients trading 100+ trades per month, Market Q data fees are waived. More information about data pricing and trading level discounts is available on the NBDB website.

Finally, National Bank Direct Brokerage also offers a mobile website which can be accessed by most mobile browsers. The essential functionality required for placing an order, managing funds and tracking order status can be conducted via the mobile website. Click the following link for our in-depth review of National Bank Direct Brokerage’s mobile website.

Reviews & Ratings

 Review What Review Measures Score Date of Ranking
Dalbar Canada Review Client Service Above Average
Above Average
January 2015
January 2014
Globe and Mail Review Overall Impression Letter Grade “B-”
Letter Grade “C+”
Letter Grade “C+”
9th out of 12
Letter Grade “C”
8th out of 12
Letter Grade “B-”
7th out of 12
Letter Grade “C”
February 2019
February 2018
December 2016
December 2016
December 2015
December 2015
November 2014
November 2014
November 2013
JD Power Review Investor Satisfaction 8th out of 8
6th out of 8
9th out of 10
1st out of 10
1st out of 10
2nd out of 7
1st out of 11
June 2019
September 2018
September 2017
September 2016
September 2015
September 2014
September 2013
MoneySense Top Pick – ETFs
Top Pick – ETFs
Runner Up – ETFs
June 2019
July 2018
July 2017


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  1. I will be transferring out after only 1.5 months. Website outages are ongoing (and costly in my case) Representatives who lie and won’t but anything in writing when asked.

    If asked my advice we would be to not use this broker at all but I’m only one person.

    • Thanks for your comment Brian. Outages are always a frustrating (and possibly costly) scenario to face when trading online. Unfortunately there are cases (speaking from personal experience at other brokerages too) where connectivity cuts out so it seems like no brokerage is immune to them. That said, the more time one spends in the markets or trading through the day, the more chances there are of being impacted by intermittent outages. As for the client service reps – that sounds tough. It’s usually prudent to get things in writing when conducting any transaction or making a special arrangement – did the reps give you a reason why they did not put what you were asking for in writing? Hope things improve the next go around.

  2. While agree outages are a risk there has been constant login trouble followed by a complete outage.

    My trading here was exactly 3 weeks, in which I did 8 trades, This is a second account I have valued around 90k. They stalled the paperwork for a week ( and tried to deny the promotional offer so off to bad start) Transfer was quick starting in 10 days plus and extra three for the complete account including in kind stocks. I have only charged brokers twice the first was to Questrade to stop the forced conversions Etrade charged.

    Customer service when offering you something refuses to put it in writing means to me they can’t be trusted.

    Sorry to drag your site down with this review but this was my experience with them, I could very well be the exception.