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Online brokers are starting to do to paper account documents what they previously did to trading over the telephone with a live agent – making them prohibitively expensive.

Nearly half the firms in the Globe and Mail's annual ranking of online brokers still offer free monthly account statements, trade confirmations and tax slips in paper form at no cost. But the other six charge between $2 and $20 per document. If you prefer receiving your documents in paper form, check the chart below to make sure you won't have to pay exorbitant fees to get it.

The economics of online investing work on the idea that clients who do everything for themselves pay the least. While online stock trading commissions have settled at a flat $10 or so transaction, trades placed by phone with a live agent often come in at a minimum of $43. Now, paper documentation is starting to follow that trend. Some firms are telling clients they can view their documents online and print them as required, or pay up to have them mailed.

Online access is actually just fine. Your documents are readily available at most firms using a search engine that lets you pinpoint dates and the type of document you want. Documents are typically archived for seven years after being posted online. Accessing your documents online is particularly handy when you're getting ready to file your income tax return. You just log into your account, find the documents and print them. No more waiting for them to arrive by mail and then misplacing them.

Even if you prefer paper, try out online document access in the months ahead. As the years go by, it's a sure bet that more brokers will start charging to mail paper to clients.

Expensive paper

Some online brokerage firms charge stiff fees to send clients paper versions of account statements, trading confirmations and tax documents.

BrokerPaper Account StatementsPaper Trade ConfirmationsPaper Tax Documents
BMO InvestorLine$2 00
CIBC Investor's Edge000
Credential Direct$5/quarter$5/quarter$5/quarter
Desjardins Online Brokerage000
HSBC InvestDirect000
National Bank Direct Brokerage$2 00
Qtrade$6/quarter$2.50 0
Questrade*$20 $20 $20
RBC Direct Investing000
Scotia iTrade000
TD Direct Investing**$2 $2 0
Virtual Brokers$5 $3 $5

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