All You Need To Know About Trading Stocks in Canada

Written By
G. Dautovic
July 13,2023

Trading stocks can be very lucrative, which is why many people get involved in it. If you're thinking about joining the ranks of active traders in Canada, there are some things you should know first. For one, you need to pick an investment approach, choose a broker, and research stock prices.

Continue reading to learn how to buy stocks, pick a trading platform, and whether you can start investing only in the Canadian stock market or in the US, too.

How To Trade Stocks in Canada: An In-Depth Guide

Depending on the circumstances, you can buy and sell stocks via an (online) broker or on your own. If you are new to stock trading and would prefer some assistance, you can open an online brokerage account with a proven beginner-friendly stock brokerage.

However, if you prefer trading on your own, research companies that offer stock purchases without a broker through their dividend reinvestment program.

You also need to know that the stock market is volatile, and you can gain or lose a lot of money, especially when you just start investing. Thus, evaluating how much money you can afford to invest and whether to seek investment advice will be essential.

Now, let's get to the specifics.

Qualities Stock Investors Should Have

You should invest in stocks if you:

  • Can afford to wait at least several years for your investments to pay off.
  • Are aware of the risks stock investment involves.
  • Are comfortable with individual stocks losing value in the short term.
  • Have an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses, so you won't have to sell shares for that.
  • Don't need immediate investment income and can ride out temporary downturns in the market.
  • Have relevant online brokerage and trading platform knowledge, understand how a direct stock purchase and stock evaluation work, and how much time investments need to compound, among other things.

Getting Into the Stock Market

If you want to know how to get into the stock market, the first step is assessing your financial resources and short-, middle-, and long-term life goals. If you have enough funds for short- and middle-term goals (up to several years), you can use the remaining money to buy stocks.

You can make a stock purchase with as little as $100, but investing at least $1,000 would be a good start. Of course, more is always better.

Let's get to the action part now.

1. Opening an Online Brokerage Account

Look up brokerage firms and independent online brokers in Canada to figure out what suits your needs better. Some key factors to consider are trading fees and commissions. Self-directed investors may find brokerages owned by big banks more convenient, but discount online brokers are typically more affordable for investing in stocks in Canada.

Of the latter, you should consider opening an account with Questrade or Wealthsimple. Questrade is among the fastest-growing brokerages in Canada, while Wealthsimple offers commission-free trading. What's more, both offer highly rated stock-trading apps for seamless stock price evaluation and exchange.

2. Opening an Investment Account

Upon choosing a brokerage firm, opening a tax-sheltered savings account is another step. Many investors open Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) accounts or Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSA). While the former favours high-income traders, the latter benefits small investors. However, if you can afford to open both, even better.

Note that an RRSP incurs taxes on withdrawals in retirement while providing tax deductions on contributions. A TFSA doesn't offer such a benefit but allows you to withdraw money tax-free whenever you wish. You can also consider opening a nonregistered account, but maximizing the registered account contributions first is typically a better solution. 

3. Funding the Chosen Account

Depositing money in the account is the next step our “Buying Stocks for Beginners” guide covers. Once you make the initial deposit, consider activating a biweekly or monthly automatic fund withdrawal to the investment account. It helps you build up your investment portfolio and have money on hand if a stock reaches its limit price, requiring a quick reaction on your part.

4. Choosing Stock Types To Trade

You can trade in various stocks, but choosing the right one depends on your goals and risk tolerance. The three types of stocks you can choose are:

Exchange Traded Funds

ETFs are passive investment funds that track a basket of assets mirroring an index. Some of the most popular ETFs in Canada are:

  • Vanguard Growth ETF Portfolio
  • Vanguard Balanced ETF Portfolio
  • BMO Canadian Dividend ETF
  • TD Select Short Term Corp Bond Ladder ETF

In general, ETFs allow you to benefit from stock price transparency. Plus, ETFs are more affordable than mutual funds. Some drawbacks of these stocks are the ease of trading, which lures investors into over-trading, and an overabundance of ETF types, which makes choosing a particular ETF a little bit difficult.

Common Stocks

Buying common stocks (shares) of a public company makes you a proportional owner. You're then entitled to a percentage of the company's growth from a rise in the stock’s price, share splits, dividends, new shares from spin-offs, or a merger. You also get voting rights on company matters.

The biggest pros of trading in individual stocks are control of the investment and earnings from the company's growth. On the flip side, diversifying your stock portfolio this way takes a lot of time, and purchasing individual stocks exposes you to significant losses if the company’s stock price declines.

Mutual Funds

Stock mutual funds are investment pools comprising funds from a group gathering many investors. They are free to trade in an S&P/TSX Composite or other broad stock market index. Portfolio managers aiming to provide an above-average return manage most mutual funds.

The main benefits of trading in mutual funds are returns exceeding the general stock benchmark. The most significant drawbacks are higher fees than most ETFs feature, extreme risk due to being managed by a single person, and less tax efficiency than common stocks and ETFs provide.

5. Choosing an Investment Approach

Take enough time to decide how to start investing, as you will need to stick to the chosen strategy. Many factors affect this decision, including your short- and long-term financial goals and investment horizon.

This is a crucial step because you will make emotional decisions if you don't have an investing plan, which can lead to poor choices and significant losses. Thus, don't rush to decide on the right stock investing approach before you buy stocks online.

The most common approaches to investing are:

Index (Passive) Investing

Most beginners in the stock market consider this approach first, because indexing is the easiest strategy overall. If you opt for this approach, you'll trade in ETFs or mutual funds linked to a broad stock market index, such as the S&P 500 or TSX Composite Index.

Plus, you can construct a diversified portfolio with index investing by using only one to four ETFs that cover the Canadian, US, and international stock markets, besides corporate or government bonds.

Note that this type of investment eliminates the possibility of human error caused by emotional trading. Thus, it's pretty stress-free. However, some might find it boring since it follows the market and doesn’t bring huge returns. Nevertheless, many people who invest in stocks consider passive investing the best way to buy stocks. 

Investing in Dividends

This approach is a popular investment strategy offering a passive income. In general, dividend stocks tend to perform better than average over time.

Dividend investing offers stability and regular cash flow, which can be helpful during challenging times in the market.

Some key advantages of investing in dividends are:

  • Money keeps arriving every month or quarter.
  • It allows traders to remain in the market for a long time.
  • Dividends ensure income even during market disturbances.

The most significant drawbacks are:

  • Stocks boasting high dividend yields are hazardous.
  • Canadian dividend stocks are less diversified than they should be.
  • Poor diversification leads to poorer outcomes than with ETFs or market-tracking index funds.

Growth Investing

An investment strategy focused on growth stocks is the best approach for investors who don't need immediate cash flow and are okay with a higher level of risk, since the prices for these securities fluctuate constantly.

Growth stocks don't pay dividends until they mature but have the potential to offer capital gains, which aren’t taxed as much as regular income.

However, investing in growth stocks is riskier than other strategies. Still, many people with investment accounts find themselves drawn to Amazon, Facebook, and Netflix stocks, and famous story stocks in general, as they are basing their strategy on a company’s reputation rather than actual performance.

6. Stocks and ETFs Research

Upon choosing advisory or brokerage services, the stock type you wish to trade, and the desired approach, it's time for stock research. You can do this with an account at most online brokerages. Moreover, you can facilitate your search via specialized websites for stock research.

If you don't know where to start, researching renowned companies whose products are popular among consumers would be a good idea. Next, scan the information available in a given stock’s summary, as it contains data relating to its 52-week range, dividends, and more.

The crucial things to consider before buying stocks online are:

  • Performance: This parameter shows you how the stock performed in the past.
  • Stock price: Stock prices fluctuate constantly, and tracking them helps you determine whether the current stock price for a security you want to purchase is low or high compared to its past performance.
  • Market and industry trends: Evaluating how the industry is likely to perform in the future is crucial to deciding whether you should buy a particular stock and whether the company it’s from will be able to grow, considering market volatility.
  • Dividends: This particular parameter is essential to prospective dividend investors figuring out how to buy a share since it reveals whether the stock pays dividends, if the dividend is sustainable, and if there's a potential of it being cut sometime in the future.
  • Future projections: This variable indicates how the stock should perform in the future and whether its value is expected to increase or decrease.

7. Trading Stocks

You can trade from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET on the Toronto Stock Exchange and New York Stock Exchange. The Toronto Stock Exchange is the third-largest in North America by market capitalization, while the New York Stock Exchange is the largest globally.

If you aren't able to trade stocks during market hours, most online brokers will let you set up trades for execution when the market opens. You can easily use your online brokerage account to set up a market order or an order to buy stocks online as soon as a given security reaches its limit price (i.e., make a limit order).

If you’re wondering where else to buy stocks outside of a regular stock exchange, you can use a full-service stockbroker or purchase securities directly from a company through its direct stock purchase plan. Direct stock purchase plans are companies' investment strategies that allow individual traders and investors to buy stocks from them or their transfer agents.

How To Buy US Stocks in Canada

To start trading US stocks in Canada, you’ll first need to choose a Canadian brokerage offering stocks by US companies.

Buying US stocks brings various benefits, because the Canadian stock market is smaller than the US’s. Also, a 2019 analysis by Aswath Damodaran, a professor of finance at New York University, revealed that trading on the Canadian market may be riskier than on the American.

Pros and Cons of Buying Stocks Online

Now that you know how to buy stocks in Canada, let's briefly consider all the pros and cons.


The most significant advantages of purchasing stocks are:

  • Returns outperform inflation: Stock investments allow you to grow your portfolio and generate long-term returns that usually outperform inflation.
  • Convenience: Online brokerages make buying stocks easier than ever as you can do it from any location using your laptop or mobile phone.
  • Capital gains: One of the main reasons to start trading stocks is that they may appreciate, thus bringing you capital gains.
  • Diversification: ETFs and mutual funds allow you to diversify your portfolio in various markets across industries and countries, which is crucial for lowering risk.
  • Dividends: Companies often share a portion of their profits with shareholders via dividends, so you become eligible to receive these payments when becoming a shareholder. Moreover, dividends are preferentially taxed compared to interest income from GICs and bonds.


Our “How To Buy Stocks for Beginners” guide would be incomplete without pointing out the main stock trade disadvantages, which are:

  • Potential significant losses: Companies can go bankrupt and leave common shareholders without funds once preferred shareholders and bondholders receive their payments.
  • Market volatility: Stocks are subject to market volatility, which means their prices may go up and down rapidly; this aspect makes it risky to buy stock, especially for those with a low risk tolerance.
  • Stock evaluation: Evaluating and buying stocks takes a lot of time and effort as you need to research companies, read their financial statements, and analyze the markets, and even then, you might make the wrong choice.

Stock Market Terminology

To have a better idea of how to buy stocks and navigate the stock market, memorize the following terms:

  • Stock price: The last traded price of a stock.
  • Ask price: The price sellers are asking to sell stocks.
  • Bid price: The price buyers are willing to pay for a stock.
  • Market order: An order to buy or sell a stock at the best available price; market orders execute security purchases at the ask price while they sell a security at the bid price.
  • Market price: The parameter refers to the price of the stock the traders sell the asset for on the open market at a given time. The value of particular stocks fluctuates throughout the day as investors buy and sell them.


Now that we have answered crucial questions, including "Where can I buy stocks?" and "What investment approach should I choose?" you're one step closer to becoming a professional trader. Carefully analyze the risks and potential rewards before making your move, and allow at least several years for your investments to grow.

Buying stocks in Canada is possible through a broker or directly from a company. Also, you can trade US stocks instead of Canadian ones if you prefer. Finally, remember to stick to your plan and avoid emotional decisions to make the most out of your investment.


How do you begin to buy stocks?


You must open an account with a broker to buy stocks in Canada. Alternatively, you can purchase stocks directly from the company if they offer a direct stock purchase plan.

How do you buy stocks directly?


If you wonder how to buy stocks directly, find a company offering a direct stock purchase plan (DSPP). Buying from the company allows you to avoid broker fees and commissions.

Can I buy one share of stock?


Yes, you can buy just one share of a company's stock if you want, since there's no minimum order limit.

About author

I have always thought of myself as a writer, but I began my career as a data operator with a large fintech firm. This position proved invaluable for learning how banks and other financial institutions operate. Daily correspondence with banking experts gave me insight into the systems and policies that power the economy. When I got the chance to translate my experience into words, I gladly joined the smart, enthusiastic Fortunly team.

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