BMO InvestorLine wants to be your online investing destination and has clearly heard that Canadian investors don’t all have the same wants and needs. (A basic vanilla indexer like myself is going to require a very minimalist platform, whereas a day-trader is going to want to fill all those fancy monitors with up-to-minute charts and data.) The Canadian banking titan offers two distinct online investment paths. First and foremost you have their traditional BMO InvestorLine Self-Direct discount brokerage account aimed at self-directed investors. Then you have a relatively new offering named adviceDirect for folks that want to venture into handling their own investments in an online setting.
BMO InvestorLine is so confident in their platform that they are willing to throw up to $750 at you just to try it out. Until April 2018, when you open a new account and start investing you can receive up to $750 in cash or free trades!
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Save Big On Investment Costs
If you want to cut your investing fees to the bone and take control of your portfolio, the most efficient way is to use an online discount brokerage that allows you to embrace self-directed investing. If you’re not familiar with exactly what a discount brokerage is, it is essentially an online platform that allows you to buy and sell stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments on your own (instead of getting a financial professional to handle the trades for you).
BMO InvestorLine is primarily aimed at investors who are confident in making their own decisions and do not feel the need to rely on a financial advisor to make investment selections on their behalf. DIY investors can range from folks who make a few trades per quarter in order to rebalance their simple couch potato portfolio, to active traders who make several dozen trades per day. No matter the frequency of your trading, InvestorLine has an option to fit your strategy. You can also be comfortable knowing that BMO InvestorLine is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF).
InvestorLine is a solid, user-friendly platform that is easy to navigate, and provides an incredible array of analysis options. Its drop-down menus and toolbars are very straightforward and easy to understand. It’s an intuitive process to check out how your investments have done over the years, compare your holdings to their benchmarks, or see your portfolio in various types of graph forms. BMO InvestorLine sacrifices a small amount of flashy graphic design and “clean simplicity” in order to immediately provide a ton of relevant information, in a format that will be immediately familiar to anyone who has used online banking options in the past. You definitely do not need to be an investing guru in order to make full use of BMO InvestorLine’s roster of online investing tools. InvestorLine's mobile platform is also excellent. (As evidenced by its recently winning the top spot for its overall mobile customer experience among discount brokerages in Canada, according to Surviscor’s 2017 scorCard Review.)
The tools and education section is chalk full of useful insights including a great guide on how to get started with the platform. BMO InvestorLine has many of your everyday questions answered in their “TFSA and RRSP Corners”, as well as their specific sections on taxes and retirement.
BMO InvestorLine Costs and Fee Schedule
The value proposition offered by InvestorLine is quite competitive. While the basic trading fees are not quite as cheap as the low-cost leaders in the discount brokerage field, given the range of features that InvestorLine offers, as well as their award-winning customer service record, you are paying for a more substantial package than low-cost leaders offer.
The most important number to most DIY investors is the per-trade fee. InvestorLine customers pay a flat online trading fee of $9.95 per trade – and this includes those pesky ECN fees that are charged separately by several competitors.
While there is a minimum of only $5,000 to open a BMO InvestorLine Self-Direct account, there are additional annual fees of $100 for registered accounts with a balance of under $25,000 ($50 for RESPs under $25,000). Registered accounts include RRSPs, LIRAs, RESPs, TFSAs, as well as less well-known options such as LRSPs, RIFs, LRIFs, RLSPs, LIFs, and RLIFs. Once you get over the $25,000 mark these administrative fees are waived.
For non-registered accounts with a balance of less than $15,000, a quarterly administration fee of $25 is applied. This fee is waived if your balance is above $15,000, if you have a registered account with BMO InvestorLine, or if you make two or more trades within a 6-month period – thus covering almost everyone who would be using a non-registered account.
You can check out the rest of InvestorLine’s fee schedule here.
BMO InvestorLine Highlights
My favourite aspects of BMO InvestorLine include:
- Absolutely excellent 3rd-party research on a wide variety of stocks, bonds, REITs, mutual funds, and ETFs.
- Ability to hold equities in USD in my RRSP and TFSA accounts (no paying to constantly exchange currency back and forth).
- Very strong client support and education tools.
- BMO InvestorLine provides investors with the best overall mobile customer experience among discount brokerages in Canada, according to Surviscor’s 2017 scorCard Review. In the most comprehensive analysis of its type, BMO InvestorLine holds the industry’s top spot for Mobile Brokerage Services and Experience on the strength of the BMO InvestorLine mobile and tablet apps, and dominates over bank-owned peers.
- Efficient communication via the MyLink messaging service.
5-Star and MarketPro Features
As you can tell from the chart below, BMO InvestorLine’s 5 Star Program offers elite value for active and/or high net worth customers. With three tiers to choose from, it’s clear that BMO is ready to really roll out the red carpet for investors who have already accumulated a bit of nest egg and are interested in aggressively pursuing a trading strategy
When combined with InvestorLine’s MarketPro research, the 5-Star program can be the solution to your unique needs as an active or high networth investor.
adviceDirect: Advice and Recommendations
If buying and selling your own investments online is still a bit intimidating to you, BMO InvestorLine offers a handy service alongside their main Self-Direct platform known as adviceDirect. This service provides investors with advice and investing recommendations based on their investment profile. In order to benefit from this level of personalized advice, you will have to pay a bit more than the fees associated with the low-cost InvestorLine packages.
BMO InvestorLine is a very solid online investing brokerage that offers a little something for everyone. If you’re just getting your feet wet when it comes to handling your own investments, the educational resources and third-party research might really tip the scales in BMO’s favour. If you consider yourself to have graduated from DIY Investing 101 and are ready to pursue more advanced trading strategies, you’ll be interested in the 5-Star Program and unique BMO MarketPro tools which really set BMO InvestorLine apart from their competitors.
If you've dipped your toe in the DIY investing waters and decided that the discount brokerage route isn't for you, then BMO also offers a more “hands-off” option that can read more about at our BMO SmartFolio Review. The basic idea is that BMO will build you a portfolio of broad market ETFs and rebalance everything automatically on your behalf. They also provide guidance on basic Canadian personal finance questions and have a great user-friendly platform to work from. The BMO SmartFolio product would offer a similar value proposition to many Canadian robo advisors.
Personally, while BMO InvestorLine doesn’t have a required minimum to begin investing, I’d recommend trying to get close to the $25,000 plateau in order to avoid paying the fees on basic registered accounts such as your TFSA and RRSP. At that point, the value offered by InvestorLine really starts to take off.
InvestorLine has won numerous awards over the years when it comes to customer service and providing investors with top-notch research and advice. If these areas are important to you then you need to give InvestorLine a serious look when choosing a DIY online investing platform – and with BMO InvestorLine offering to send you up to $750 (plus pay up to $200 in transfer fees) what better time to see what InvestorLine has to offer?!
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