July 15, 2014
Posted with permission from Globe and Mail
Credential Direct is the latest online broker to slash its trading fees

The trend toward cheap online stock trading commissions has taken hold so firmly that even one of the more recalcitrant brokers on cost has buckled.

Credential Direct, which is credit union-run, recently introduced a simple, very competitive commission schedule that can be summed up as follows: $8.88 trades for every client, with no fine print and no electronic communications network (ECN) fees. That's a big reduction from Credential's old $19 commission, which it stuck with even as some of the big bank-owned firms cut their fees to just under $10 for all customers.

The $19 commission was actually competitive in its day. That was back when the standard commission to trade online was $29, unless you had a large account or traded frequently. In recent days, with commissions as low as a penny a share, Credential's old commission cost was prohibitively pricey.

Credential's commission cut situates the firm somewhere between the two lowest cost brokers, Virtual Brokers and Questrade, and the low-cost leaders among the bank-owned firms. VB is the one with the penny a share option, while Questrade charges a minimum $4.95. Among the bank-owned brokers, BMO InvestorLine, National Bank Direct Brokerage, RBC Direct Investing and TD Direct Investing have flat commissions just below $10 for all clients.

And then there are the commission cost outliers. Qtrade Investor was once quick to jump on the lowest pricing trends, but it continues to reserve $9.95 flat commissions for customers with $50,000 or more in assets. Otherwise, you pay $19 flat for market orders or $23 for limit orders. Scotia iTrade holds its flat $9.99 commission for clients to make 30+ trades per quarter or have $50,000 in accounts with the firm. CIBC Investor's Edge continues to offer $6.95 loyalty pricing for clients who have $100,000 in products with Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, and $9.95 commissions to brokerage clients with $50,000 or more in their accounts. If you don't qualify for the low commission deal, Scotia charges a base $24.99 (costs can rise for large orders), while CIBC charges a base $28.95.

Credential's move to $8.88 highlights the trend to flat, cheap online trading costs. If your broker isn't on board, you should be asking why.