Congratulations, you’ve finally kicked off the shackles of investing in mutual funds and are going to go the ETF route. Go ahead and give yourself a hug and maybe a little kiss in celebration. But no tongue, that’s weird.

Because apparently paying less than 0.5% per year in fees isn’t cheap enough for you, let’s talk about all the online brokerages where you can get commission free ETFs. That’s not only useful for long-term buy and hold investors who are looking to put a few thousand bucks to work at one time, but it’s especially good for folks who are looking to dollar cost average into a few ETFs over the course of an investing lifetime. You can just slowly plug away at it, content in knowing at least your investments will only be slightly affected by fees, instead of the BASTARDS at Investors Group taking their cut.

But which Canadian brokerage offers the best commission free ETFs? Let’s take a closer look.

Qtrade

I’m a fan of Qtrade. Ever since they cut their commissions to be competitive with the rest, I’ve been a very happy customer (instead of a slightly disgruntled customer before). But how do they do with commission free ETFs?

Well… it’s not great. But it exists! That’s good, right?

Qtrade offers approximately 60 different commission free ETFs. Highlighted names include such funds as the iShares Global Agriculture ETF, iShares Japan Fundamental Index ETF (CAD-Hedged), and the iShares Advantaged Short Duration High Income ETF. You know, the popular stuff every Canadian should own.

Okay, enough sass. In Qtrade’s partial defense, it does offer TSX 60 and S&P 500 ETFs for no commission, but from Horizons. The management fee of the Horizons ETFs is super low (just 0.07%), but that’s because the fund doesn’t actually own the underlying stocks. It just uses a swap to replicate the results of the index. Some people have a problem with that.

Oh, and you have to buy at least $1,000 worth of the ETF at one time to get the free trade.

Verdict: Meh. Not bad, but not great either.

BMO Investorline

That seems like an odd name for a brokerage. I woulda gone with BMO BMOnline Brokerage, but apparently I’m the only one who likes fun.

Even though Bank of Montreal literally has its own family of more than 50 ETFs, the company does not offer commission free ETF trades. Seems like a bit of an oversight on their part. I have composed a sternly worded letter to send to management, but haven’t sent it on account of who the hell cares.

CIBC Investor’s Edge

That’s a better name than Investorline. Seriously, Investorline sounds like the stock market version of the suicide hotline.

CIBC is doing a promo until March 31st where it allows commission free ETFs. You gotta buy at least $100 worth of it at a time, and you gotta hold it for at least a day. But unlike Qtrade’s offer, damn near every ETF in North America is included. More than 1,900 ETFs are up for grabs, so I’m sure you can find something you’d like.

Verdict: Great, assuming the deal continues past March 31. If not, there are better deals out there.

RBC Direct Investing

Do you really think RBC is going to give you something for nothing? Huh? Look at that bank. I mean really *look* at it. Stare deep into its soul.

You’re dead. The bank just killed you and then ate all your money. Nobody knows how it happened, but it did. RBC is the X-Files aliens of the banking world.

TD Waterhouse

TD does not offer commission free ETFs. From now on, I think we can assume TD stands for Totally Dumb. Or maybe Totes Dirty. I’m not very good at this game.

The good news for cheap-ass investors is TD does offer its super-low rate e-series funds for free. You’re not quite getting fees of 0.05% like with the big boys, but you’re getting around 0.25%. If you’re only investing a couple of hundred bucks at a time, the extra 0.20% isn’t much. Hell, on $10,000 it’s a whole $20 per year. Sure, it’s something, but I’m pretty sure we’ve all pissed away $20 four times since yesterday.

Scotia Whatever the Hell it’s Called Online Brokerage

Turns out it’s called iTrade. Surprised Apple hasn’t sued them for that yet, tbh.

It turns out Scotia iTrade does offer commission free ETFs. Included on the list are most of the ones that Qtrade offers, but also a couple of Vanguard funds. Still, the selection is just okay at best.

Like with the other offers, you gotta hold the ETF for a minimum of one day, and you can’t phone up Scotia and have them do it for you. If you phone up your online broker to do trades for you, please leave a comment so we can all mock you.

Virtual Brokers

Now we’re getting to the good stuff. Virtual Brokers offers literally every ETF in North America commission free. You’ll have to pay normal fees to sell, but even those are ridiculously low at just 1¢ per share, to a maximum of $9.99. The minimum is a whole 99¢.

And, Virtual Brokers will automatically reinvest your dividends if you set it up, for free. There’s no minimum amount you need to buy, unlike with some of the other brokerages. As long as you have enough in dividends to buy a whole share, you’re good to go.

Questrade

Questrade is well known for offering free ETF trades. I believe it was the first to offer it in Canada, although don’t quote me on that. I’m just pulling stuff out of you know where.

Anyway, it’s another great offer. There’s no minimum purchase amount, and you can even flip in and out over the course of a day. I’m not sure why you would, but you have that option. There are no restrictions either.

Verdict: If you’re looking for commission free ETFs, Questrade and Virtual Brokers are the ticket. Nobody else stacks up.

Tell everyone, yo!