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Investment fees: What are they for and how much are they?

Keep an eye out for management fees, transactions fees and other charges that can impact your investment earnings.

Nobody likes paying fees, but fees you don’t understand or even know about are worse. As with everything, investing comes with a price – you just need to figure out what is, and isn’t worth paying for.

Although many fees are unavoidable, some fees can be reduced. Find out how to navigate the choppy waters of investment fees to help you make your money go further.

What are the different types of investment fee?

One of the main reasons fees are so confusing is because of the investment industries reluctance to be clear or transparent. Each broker seems to give fees by different names and titles. In general though, fees come in 5 different types:

  • Custody fee (or trustee fee). Does what it says on the tin. This is paid to the people responsible for holding and investing your money. Trustee fees are supposed to cover the cost of the legal infrastructure of the investment platform you’ve chosen.
  • Transaction fee. This is the cost of buying stocks and shares, passed onto you in the form of a transaction fee.
  • Management fee. Paid to the fund’s advisor for their advisory and management services. Depending on the company, this fee may also cover administrative services related to the fund as well.
  • Advice fee. This is if you have a financial adviser, so not every platform charges this.

What is each fee for?

These fees can have different names across various platforms. Likewise they can come bundled together or be charged separately to add a bit more confusion. Let’s go into a bit more detail about what each one means.

Name of feeAlso known as…What’s it for?
Custody feeCustody Fee, Trustee FeeSimilar to the management fee and in some instances may be bundled with it. This covers the people responsible for holding and investing your money as well as the people managing the associated legal structure of your investments.
Transaction feeBrokerage Fee, Entry and Exist Costs, Front-End Load or Back-End Load (mutual funds only)This fee can be charged every time you make a transaction, whether it be a buy or a sell. These fees can be either a set amount per trade or a percentage of the transaction amount. If you are buying and selling lots of small shares, these fees can add up quickly.
Management feeOngoing Charges Figure (OCF), Fund Management Fee, Total Expense Ratio (TER), Internal Expenses, Total Annual Charge (TAC), Annual Account Fee.This fee is generally paid as a percentage of the managed fund and is paid to the fund’s advisor for their advisory and management services. Depending on the company, this fee may also cover administrative services related to the fund as well.
Advice feeOngoing Advice Fee, Fee For Advice, Financial Advisor feeThis is the fee you will pay if you choose to seek the advice of a financial advisor to assist you with your investments and the related decision making.

Know your fees

As we’ve seen, fees vary hugely between brokers. They can also vary between types of investing. Some trusts, for example, may have the management and custodian fees bundled as they will probably be offered by the same provider.

What kind of investing will you be doing?
This is an important question to ask when working out what fees you will pay. Will you buy and sell individual stocks or invest as part of a mutual fund? Will you be dealing in lots of small shares or fewer big ones? Will you seek the assistance of a financial advisor or go it alone? These are all questions that will affect the type and amount of investment fees you will pay.

How much will I pay in fees?

This depends on how much you’re planning to invest. Obviously if you’re investing bigger amounts, you will pay more in fees. However you will also (hopefully) be making more profit so maybe the fees will be worth it.

If you are hobby investing and dealing in only small amounts of money, you should be especially careful of fees as they may end up adding up quickly and your return may not be enough to make the fees worthwhile. Some total investment fees can be up to 2% per year or even higher of your total investment value, this will really add up over the years.

How important are fees?

Depending on your situation, potentially very. Even a small difference in fees over a long amount of time will add up to a significant amount of money.

However, it’s also important to remember that the amount of fees you pay is not necessarily the most important thing, you also need to consider what you are getting in return for your money. If you find a broker who charges 0.5% annually but does very little to help you grow your investment and you find a broker who charges 2% but spends hours and hours working to improve your financial position, then you may actually be better off for paying that 2%.

How can I find out how much I’m paying?

If you’re already investing then ask your broker directly for a breakdown of the fees they charge. Make sure they include all the admin fees and how much you pay in transaction fees per trade.

If you are thinking about trading, do your homework and compare brokers. Remember not only to focus on how much each provider is charging, but also what exactly you get for your money.

Open a stock trading account

Compare some of Canada’s most popular online stock brokers below. Check out our guide on how to buy stocks to learn more on how to get started.

Name Product Available Asset Types Stock Fee Option Fee Account Fee ETF Transaction Cost Feature Table description
OFFER
Wealthsimple Trade
Stocks, ETFs
$0
N/A
$0
Free
Get a $50 bonus when you open a Wealthsimple Trade account and deposit and trade at least $150.
Pay no commissions when you trade Canadian stocks and ETFs with Wealthsimple Trade.
BMO InvestorLine
Stocks, Bonds, Options, Mutual Funds, ETFs, GICs
$9.95
$9.95 + $1.25 per options contract
$0 if conditions met, otherwise $25/quarter
$0 - $9.95
Buy and sell a select group of Canada’s most popular ETFs without paying commissions.

An easy-to-use online trading platform with access to research, tools, and the option to access InvestorLine adviceDirect for additional professional support.
Scotia iTRADE
Bonds, Options, Mutual Funds, ETFs, GICs, International Equities
$4.99-$9.99
$9.99 + $1.25 contract ($4.99 + $1.25 contract if completed 150 trades or more a quarter)
$0
$9.99 ($4.99 if completed 150 trades or more a quarter)
Pay no annual account fees.
Buy, sell and trade ETFs, Equities, Options and more with competitive commissions.
CIBC Investor's Edge
Stocks, Bonds, Options, Mutual Funds, ETFs
$4.95 - $6.95
$4.95 - $6.95 (+$1.25 per contract)
$0 if conditions met, otherwise $100/year
$6.95
$4.95 - $6.95 is applicable for online stock, ETF and option trades only. Pay $4.95 when you qualify as an Active Trader (trade 150+ times per quarter).
An intuitive and easy-to-use platform with access to a variety of tools that help you make smart decisions and trade with confidence.
Interactive Brokers
Stocks, Bonds, Options, ETFs, Currencies, Futures
Min. $1.00, Max. 0.5% of trade value
$1.50 min. per order
$0
Min. $1.00, Max. 0.5% of trade value
Extensive trading capabilities and global investment tracking.
Access market data 24 hours a day, six days a week and invest in global stocks, options, futures, currencies, bonds and funds from one single account.
Questrade
Stocks, Bonds, Options, Mutual Funds, ETFs, GICs, International Equities, Precious Metals
$4.95-$9.95
$9.95 + $1 per contract
$0
Free
Get $50 in free trades when you fund your account with a minimum of $1,000.
Opt for self-directed investing and save on fees or get a pre-built portfolio and take some of the guesswork out.
OFFER
Qtrade Direct Investing
Stocks, Bonds, Options, Mutual Funds, ETFs, GICs
$6.95 - $8.75
$6.95 - $8.75 + $1.25 per contract
$0 if conditions met, otherwise $25/quarter
$0 - $8.75
Get up to 50 free trades. Be one of the first 100 new Qtrade clients to use the promo code 50FREETRADES and deposit a minimum of $10,000 (or top up to $15,000 to get $150 transfer fees waived). Valid until September 30, 2021.
Qtrade Direct Investing offers low trading commissions and an easy-to-use platform with access to powerful tools and a wide selection of investment options. Trade 100 ETFs free of charge and thousands more for $8.75 or lower.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of futures, stocks, ETFs, CFDs, options or any specific provider, service or offering. It should not be relied upon as investment advice or construed as providing recommendations of any kind. Futures, stocks, ETFs and options trading involves substantial risk of loss and therefore are not appropriate for all investors. Trading CFDs and forex on leverage comes with a higher risk of losing money rapidly. Past performance is not an indication of future results. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before making any trades.

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