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CI Direct Trading review

Pay low commissions and get your choice of account and trading platform with this reputable online broker.

CI Direct Trading, previously Virtual Brokers, offers low commissions and lets you choose from a number of different platform tiers depending on how active of a trader you are and the level of sophistication you are looking for in your trading platform.

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Please note: All information about CI Direct Trading has been collected independently by Finder and this product is not available through this site.

Quick take

  • Think about this broker if you want relatively low fees and the ability to choose from multiple platform tiers, accounts types and asset types.
  • Choose something else if you want to avoid account administration fees.

Who is CI Direct Trading best for?

CI Direct Trading is a good fit for beginners and experts alike:

  • It offers several different platform tiers depending on your trading activity and the features you want. The platform you choose will depend on your own personal preferences and budget.
  • The average trader can easily use CIDT’s dashboard or mobile app platform to trade a variety of assets in a number of different account types.
  • More advanced traders might want to pay to use PowerTrader Pro, RealTick EMS, or ITS TraderLite for sophisticated trading tools, customizations and more.
CI Direct Trading charges relatively low trading commissions to all clients: between $1.99 and $7.99/trade on equities and $7.99/trade on options. However, clients who make more trades (more than 150 in the last quarter) will get a break on the commission charged on equity and options trading at $3.99/trade.

What types of accounts does CI Direct Trading offer?

CI Direct Trading lets you hold investments in both registered and non-registered accounts:

  • Non-registered account. Hold your investments in an all-in-one cash account to make trades with your own money, on the margin or by taking a short position. Just be prepared to pay taxes on any gains you make.
  • Registered account. Avoid paying taxes on the money you earn by putting your investments into a tax-free savings account (TFSA), a registered education savings plan (RESP) or some form of retirement savings account (RRSP, RRIF or RLIF).

You can also take advantage of dual USD/CAD currency for all accounts.

How easy is CI Direct Trading to use?

CI Direct Trading offers a lot of choice between platform types, account types and supported asset types. However, CIDT’s website and mobile app are built for simplicity and ease of use. You can easily sign up and start trading in a matter of minutes.

What research does CI Direct Trading provide?

You can take advantage of a number of research tools, depending on which platform you choose.

  • Technical analysis. Spot investment trends and find new investment opportunities with technical insights and analysis.
  • Equity benchmarks. Get a detailed overview of how the stock market is performing so that you know the best time to invest.
  • Equity research. Take advantage of highly customizable equity research, analysis and screening tools to help you make informed financial decisions.
  • Stock screeners. Enjoy a complete suite of powerful screeners and alerts to allow you to quickly find or respond to market opportunities.
  • Specialized research tools. Get feedback and analysis on bonds, mutual funds and other specific types of investments.

You can sign up for an account quickly and easily by applying online. From there, you’ll just need to verify your identity and load funds into your account to start trading.

Pricing and fees

You'll pay an annual fee of $24.95 if you keep less than $5,000 in your account, and you may need to pay administrative fees to carry out certain functions (see service fees here). You’ll pay a different amount for trades based on what type of investments you’re buying and selling:

Type of investmentPrice per tradeMinimum trade costMaximum trade costFlat fee for active tradersBroker-

assisted trade fees

EquitiesAs low as $0.01 per share$1.99$7.99$3.99$50 + 3% of principal value
Exchange traded fundsBuy for free, sell for $0.01 per share$1.99$7.99N/AN/A
Mutual fundsFreeFreeN/AFreeFree
Options$7.99 + $1.25 per contract$7.99 + $1.25 per contractN/A$3.99 + $1.25 per contract$50 per trade + $2 per contract
Exchange traded debentures$24.99 + $1 for every $1,000 (par value) per sideN/AN/A$24.99 + $1 per each $1000 “par value” per side1.5% of principal value

If you choose to use one of CIDT’s more advanced platforms, you will pay a higher annual fee. Keep reading for more information on the platform tiers.

CI Direct Trading platforms

CI Direct Trading offers a number of different platform tiers to choose from based on your needs. These include the following:

NameBest forFeaturesCost
CI Direct Trading platform (desktop-based)Best for making quick tradesSimple and efficient

Key info on one page

User-friendly format

Market research tools

Free
CI Direct Trading mobile appBest for making trades on the goMobile-friendly format

Easy monitoring

Quick trades from anywhere

Limited research tools

Free
Powertrader ProBest for active or professional tradersCustomizable platform

Diverse trading tools (charting, hot keys, baskets)

Complex options orders

Free streaming quotes

US$250 (free trial is available)
EZE EMSBest for data-driven tradersCustomizable platform

Advanced research tools

Streaming news

US$400
ITS TraderliteBest for custom configurationsLiquidity heatmap

Advanced real-time analytics

Powerful scripting features

US$580
You can visit CI Direct Trading‘s platform page to access more information and up-to-date pricing.

What additional features does CI Direct Trading offer?

CI Direct Trading offers several special programs to help you save money or optimize your investments:

  • Kick start investment program. Set up automatic deposits to invest commission-free into 5 different Canadian or US stocks or ETFs of your choice each month.
  • Student benefit program. Pay no administration fees if you’re a student or recent graduate under the age of 26.
  • Self-directed dividend purchase plan. Accumulate dividends in a separate account and invest them into your choice of 5 stocks/ETFs (only for unregistered accounts).
  • Dividend purchase plan. Use your dividends as soon as they’re issued to automatically purchase stocks (available for registered and non-registered accounts).
  • Credit max program. Link a new or existing TFSA to your margin account to borrow money for investing and get more buying power for your trades.

Pros and cons of CI Direct Trading

Pros

  • Low commissions. Pay As low as $0.01 per share to trade equities and ETFs, but expect to trade multiple shares at one time with a minimum trading fee of $1.99. Plus, the commission on equities caps out at $7.99, which is a standard commission fee for online brokers.
  • Many platforms. Choose from a number of platform tiers to get the one that best fits your needs and skill level.
  • Special programs. Take advantage of special programs for young Canadians, students, margin traders and those who want to reinvest their dividends.
  • Wealth of research tools. CI Direct Trading offers top-rated research tools to inform the decisions you make about your investments.
  • Many account types. You can open many different registered and unregistered account types and there are dual USD/CAD currency options for all accounts.
  • Specialized mobile app. Use the CI Direct Trading mobile app to trade on the go with an intuitive and customizable platform.

Cons

  • Annual fee. You'll pay an annual fee of $24.95 if you keep less than $5,000 in your account (and you’re not a student or a registered account holder).
  • RESP fees. You will need to pay $25 per year to hold an RESP.
  • Platform fees. You’ll need to pay fees to access advanced platforms such as Powertrader Pro, EZE EMS and ITS Traderlite (usually in excess of US$250).
  • No international trading markets. You won’t be able to trade stocks in major markets outside of North America.

Is CI Direct Trading safe?

CI Direct Trading is a relatively secure way to invest your money. It’s a member of the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC), which means it’s highly regulated. It’s also a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF), which will protect your deposits up to $1 million in the case of CI Direct Trading going bankrupt.

How does CI Direct Trading keep my money safe?

CI Direct Trading has a number of policies and procedural safeguards to protect your money. It has rigorous data management protocols to make sure that your personal information and investment history remain secure.

How do I sign up?

If you want to sign up for an account, you’ll need to follow the steps below:

  1. Visit the CI Direct Trading website and click the red “Open an account” button to fill out an application.
  2. Input details such as your name, email address, phone number and a password to log in to your account.
  3. Provide additional information along with proof of ID and relevant documents to complete your application.
  4. Submit your application, get verified and load funds into your account to start trading.

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Bottom line

  • Use CI Direct Trading if you want to pay as little as $0.01 per share to trade equities and ETFs, and have access to a wide variety of other assets including options.
  • Get tons of choice with CI Direct Trading‘s wide array of platforms, account types, investment types, research tools and special programs.
  • Choose a different platform if you are only planning to invest a small amount of money, as CIDT charges an annual administration fee for accounts that don’t meet the minimum account balance of $5,000.

Not sure if self-directed trading is right for you? Check out our review of CI Direct Investing, their robo-investing platform.

Frequently asked questions

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