The Best Options Trading Platforms in Canada 2021
Many consider options to be a more advanced investment strategy without requiring the use of as much money. However, they’re not suitable for investing rookies or those that have only bought mutual funds.
Investors will want the best options trading platform to make their trades, and there are several brokerage choices.
In this Wealth Rocket article, we’ll provide a review of the best options trading platforms in Canada and a primer on options and the basics of trading them.
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The Best Options Trading Brokerages in Canada for 2021Looking for the best options brokerage? These are six brokerages we consider to offer the best options trading platforms.
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Questrade offers trading on its four platforms: Questrade Trading (its website, also called a desktop platform), the Questrade app, Questrade IQ Edge, and Questrade Global. Beginners should probably stick to Questrade Trading and the app because they’re less complicated.
It’s very easy to make a trade on the website. However, the Questrade app doesn’t have the best reviews. It has 1.9 stars out of 5 on the App Store and 2.3 stars out of 5 on Google Play. Users have complained about the app being buggy, slow, or freezing on them.
Options trading commissions are $9.95 per trade plus $1 per contract. Active traders pay $4.95 per trade plus $0.75 per contract if they choose a fixed plan or $6.95 per trade plus $0.75 per contract if they choose a variable plan.
However, you need to get an advanced data package that costs $89.95 a month to qualify for active trader pricing. Trading commissions on American exchanges cost the same, but they’re in U.S. dollars.
If you want to trade options (or stocks for that matter), you need at least $1,000 in your account before you can make any trades. This might be a deterrent to some beginner investors. But there is the option to get a practice account.
2. CIBC Investor’s EdgeCIBC Investor’s Edge has just two trading platforms: the Investor’s Edge website and the CIBC Mobile Wealth app. There are no advanced trading platforms.
The site is easy to use, while the app has somewhat average reviews. It has 3.3 stars out of 5 on the App Store and 3.5 stars out of 5 on Google Play. The app is also for those with Wood Gundy, Imperial Investor Services, or Private Investment Counsel accounts.
Options trading commissions are $6.95 per trade plus $1.25 per contract. For students (who need to have a CIBC Smart Account for students), commissions are $5.95 per trade plus $1.25 per contract. And active traders (who make 150 or more trades every quarter) pay $4.95 per trade plus $1.25 per contract. Commissions for trades on American exchanges are the same but in U.S. dollars.
There aren’t any account minimums to begin trading, and CIBC provides easy-to-follow instructions on making an options trade.
3. Interactive Brokers
Interactive Brokers has three trading platforms: Client Portal (its website), Trader Workstation, and IBKR Mobile (its app). Beginners should use the Interactive Brokers Client Portal or the app.
The website isn’t hard to use, and making a trade is quite simple. The app has fairly good reviews, with 3.8 out of 5 stars on the App Store and 3.5 out of 5 stars on Google Play.
Commissions are quite low compared to its competitors. They start at $1.25 per contract with a minimum $1.50 charge per order for less than 10,000 trades per month. The commission is $1.15 per contract for 10,001 to 50,000 trades a month, $1.05 per contract for 50,001 to 100,000 trades per month, and $1 per contract when you make more than 100,000 trades a month. But there’s still a minimum charge of $1.50.
For trading on American exchanges, the commissions are USD $0.25 to $0.65 per contract, depending on the option's price for less than 10,000 trades a month. The minimum charge is USD $1. The more contracts you trade, the lower the commissions. They can be as low as $0.15 when you trade more than 100,000 contracts a month.
There isn’t an account minimum to begin trading.
Not to be confused with Questrade, Qtrade has two trading platforms: its website and the mobile app. It doesn’t offer an advanced trading platform.
The website is intuitive, and it’s easy to make a trade. However, the app has below-average reviews with 2.4 out of 5 stars on both the App Store and Google Play. Some of the reviewers note that the app is slow, has a clumsy interface, and has trouble logging in.
Regular investors have to pay a trading commission of $8.75 plus $1.25 per contract. Those who make at least 150 trades every quarter or have $500,000 or more in assets pay $6.95 per trade plus $1.25 per contract. The commission for trades on an American exchange is in U.S. dollars.
There isn’t a minimum amount required to start investing, and you can sign up for a practice account.
5. Scotia iTrade
Scotia iTrade offers four different trading platforms: Scotia OnLine, Scotia iTrade Trading Desk, Scotia iTrade FlightDesk, and the Scotia iTrade mobile app. Scotia OnLine and the app are best for beginners.
The site is easy to use and making a trade is straightforward. The app is only for trading, but the reviews aren’t very good. It has 1.4 out of 5 stars on the App Store and 1.6 out of 5 stars on Google Play. Users have complained about not being able to log in and that the app is slow or that it tends to crash.
The regular commission for options trades is $9.99 per trade plus $1.25 per contract. For those that make 150 or more trades each quarter, the commission is $4.99 per trade plus $1.25 per contract. For trades on American exchanges, the commissions are the same but in U.S. dollars.
There’s no minimum to invest, and there are several investment education resources offered through iTrade U. You don’t even need to have an account. But if you want to trade for free, you can sign up for a practice account.
6. TD Direct Investing
TD Direct Investing offers options trading on four different platforms: WebBroker (the regular website), the TD app, Advanced Dashboard, and thinkorswim. For beginners, WebBroker and the app are probably the easiest way to get started. The thinkorswim platform is for U.S. options trading only.
The website is simple to use, and trading is a breeze. The app is for both trading and banking, and has fairly good reviews on both the App Store (4.5 out of 5 stars) and Google Play (4.3 out of 5 stars). Since the app is for more than just trading, it’s difficult to tell how many good reviews are specifically for its trading features.
The standard commission for options trading is $9.99 per trade plus $1.25 per contract. Active traders (150 or more trades per quarter) pay $7 per trade plus $1.25 per contract. Commissions are the same for trades made on American exchanges, except they’re in U.S. dollars.
There’s no minimum to invest. There are also investment education resources as well as live and on-demand webinars, which are available for free—even if you’re not a client.
What are Options?
Options are contracts that give the owner the right—but not the obligation—to buy or sell an underlying asset at a fixed price for a specific time. While there are options for various types of assets, such as currencies and oil, we will focus on equity options.
Options can be bought and sold just like stocks, and an equity option contract is typically equal to 100 shares. Options are generally used to increase leverage, generate income, improve flexibility, or reduce risk.
In Canada, options trading occurs on the Montreal Exchange. In the United States, options trading happens on many different exchanges.
Most online brokers will allow you to trade options listed on both Canadian and American exchanges.
What is an Options Trading Platform?An options trading platform is operated by an online brokerage. It’s similar to a stock trading platform, except it’s for trading options. Online brokers offer various trading tools to the regular options trader as well as active traders who might be involved in day trading. Some brokers may offer higher levels of customer service depending on the trading platform you use or the amount of assets you have. Some may also offer free trading for stocks and lower commissions on both stock trades and options. To get started, you must open an account.
How Do Options Work?
An option is a contract between a buyer (known as the holder) and a seller (known as the writer). The holder pays a premium (the price of the option) to the writer in order to enter the contract. Under the terms of the contract, the holder has the right to buy or sell the shares at a predetermined price (known as the strike price).
There are two types of equity options: call and put options. With a call option, the holder has the right to buy the stock at the strike price and expects the value of the stock to rise. The writer, who expects the value of the stock to stay the same or decline, must sell the stock at the strike price if the holder wants to exercise their right to buy.
With a put option, the holder has the right to sell the stock at the strike price and expects the value of the stock to decline. The writer, who expects the value of the stock to stay the same or to rise, must buy the stock at the strike price if the holder wants to exercise their right to sell.
Let’s use an example to illustrate how a trade works:
On December 1, Company X is trading at $67 and the premium for a February 70 call is $3.15.
February is when the option expires (options typically expire on the third Friday of the month) and 70 is the strike price, which is $70.
If you buy one call option contract, the total cost is $315 ($3.15 x 100). For this example, we’ll ignore commissions, but it’s something to keep in mind when trading.
The stock must trade above $70 before the option is worth anything, but your breakeven price is $73.15 because you paid $3.15.
Let’s assume that by Dec. 22, the stock has jumped to $78. That means the value of the option has also increased. It’s now trading at $8.25 and the option contract is now worth $825 ($8.25 x 100). Since you paid $315 ($3.15 x 100), you now have a profit of $510 [($8.25 - $3.15) x 100].
At this point, you can sell the option and take the profit, which is called closing your position. Or you can hope the stock will keep rising and hold on.
The next day, the stock starts dropping and eventually falls below $70. It stays below that level right up to the expiration date. Now the option is worthless because it’s below the $70 strike price and you didn’t sell. That means you’ve lost your entire investment of $315.
What’s the Difference Between Options Trading and Stock Trading?
When you buy a stock, you’re buying a piece of a company. When you trade options, you have the right to buy or sell that company’s stock. With options, you also have the opportunity to make a higher return with a smaller amount of money.
Let’s assume you buy 100 shares of Company X for $67. Your total cost before commissions is $6,700. If the stock rises to $78 and you sell at that price, you have a total profit of $1,100 or a return of 16.4%.
Returning to the example above, you can also buy one February 70 call option for $315 ($3.15 x 100). If the option rises to $8.25 as a result of the stock hitting $78, you can sell the option and have a total profit of $510 [($8.25 – $3.15) x 100]. That’s a return of 161.9%. While you don’t make as much of a profit, you make a greater percentage return with a much smaller investment.
The one thing that is common between options and stock trading is that you need to have a brokerage account.
Our Final Thoughts
Frequently Asked Questions
It depends. Investing in stocks or options each have their own risks. Buying one stock is riskier than buying a number of stocks in a variety of industries.
Options are more complicated than stocks and there are various options strategies that are riskier than others. If you know what you’re doing, options can sometimes be safer than investing in stocks.
It’s possible to get a higher percentage return with options.
For instance, if you buy 100 shares of Company X at $67 each (for an investment of $6,700) and the stock price increases to $78, that’s a gain of $1,100 or 16.4%.
But if you buy one Company X call option for $3.15 and the value of the option increases to $8.25 (because the stock rose to $78), that’s a gain of $510 or 161.9%.
The best trading platform for beginners will depend on what you’re looking for in an online brokerage.
The brokerage that offers the lowest commissions doesn’t always mean it’s the best platform.
What you will want is a platform that’s easy to use and brokerage that doesn’t charge high commissions. Many of the brokerages that are reviewed in this article offer a combination of both.