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As two of the best discount brokerages in Canada, the Qtrade vs. Questrade debate has had DIY investors arguing for years.
To help you choose, we're breaking down each brokerage, so you can find the best fit for you. Before diving in, I should point that both platforms are excellent options and share many common traits, such as being CIPF-insured, as well as offering substantial virtual help libraries, slick practice accounts to get your feet wet, USD-registered accounts, and a very user-friendly trading platform.
Easy Qtrade vs. Questrade Comparison
Overview of Questrade vs. Qtrade
Questrade is a self-directed investment platform that allows you to build your own portfolio at a low cost. According to their website, Questrade is “the digital, low-cost alternative that gives Canadian investors a better choice in an industry that's historically been stacked against you.”
They've earned the title of Canada’s fastest growing online brokerage, partly thanks to their bare-bones fee structure and excellent trading platform. Questrade has over 30,000 new accounts opened every year, $8 billion in assets under management, and they’ve won an award for one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies seven times.
Questrade focuses on financial empowerment – meaning they’ll give you the tools and resources to be successful in making your own independent financial decisions. With their rock bottom low fees and easy-to-use DIY trading platform, Questrade is consistently our top pick for the best online brokerage in Canada.
Qtrade Investor is an online brokerage that strives to give you control over your financial goals. They do this by focusing on features that most investors need, such as easy-to-navigate online and mobile platforms, powerful research tools, and fast and knowledgeable customer support.
They combine this with some of the lowest fees in the industry to give you one of the best online brokerages available. In fact, according to their website: “Value and commitment to continuous improvement are the reasons why Qtrade Investor has been ranked among Canada's very best online brokers for the past decade.”
How Do Questrade and Qtrade work?
Questrade really wants to help you to do research and make your own financial decisions. That’s why they provide you with some of the best tools and resources to act on your financial goals. They focus on three fast, customizable platforms:
- Questrade Trading: Their standard web application, where you can trade stocks, manage your portfolio, and conduct research.
- Questrade app: Questrade has an intuitive mobile app that allows you to make trades and manage your portfolio on the go. That way, you never miss an opportunity to take advantage of a moving market.
- IQ Edge: This is software designed specifically for active traders who know what they’re doing. You have to download the software, but it’s incredibly powerful in allowing you to analyze, pick, buy, and sell stocks.
In terms of their online trading platform, some of Questrade’s best features include:
- No annual fees: Some online brokerages charge a fee between $50-100 per year, especially for smaller accounts. For example, Qtrade charges $25.00 per quarter for accounts of less than $25,000. In contrast, Questrade charges no annual fees.
- Lowest trading fees in the market: You can purchase ETFs for free! That means that you can transfer money into your Questrade account and build an ETF portfolio for $0. It does cost $0.01/share to sell your ETFs, with a minimum fee of $4.95 per trade to a maximum of $9.95, which you may need to do to rebalance your portfolio. Really, this pricing can’t be beaten.
- IPO Centre: Questrade has an IPO Centre where you can review the most recent IPOs, sign up the IPO Bulletin, and buy IPOs by filling out an online form. BTW, Questrade allows you to purchase Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) for FREE (no commissions) with a minimum purchase of $5,000.
As you can see, Questrade focuses on empowering you as the investor and gives you a bevy of tools do to that. If you’re even remotely serious about investing, you’ll know how valuable this is. I’ll share more about Questrade’s awesome features later.
Qtrade Investor also focuses on you being empowered to make your own independent financial decisions. They give you the research and support you need to be successful, but you’re still in the driver’s seat when it comes to making decisions. Their platform is where you’ll make your trades, and it has features such as:
- Multiple portfolio views
- In-depth research and analysts' reports
- Stock/ETF/mutual fund screening tools
- $8.75 and $6.95 stock trades and 100 free ETFs
- Fast access to the markets
- Use stop-loss, stop-limit, trailing-stop orders
Qtrade Investor focuses on six “phases” of investing to help accelerate your success:
- Plan: They’ll help you set achievable goals by using planning tools and a variety of calculators.
- Discover: If you're wondering how to invest, you’ll quickly find investing ideas using their screening tools and independent stock research.
- Evaluate: After picking your investments, you can evaluate your strategy using both fundamental data and reports from industry-leading analyst reports.
- Trade: Once you know what you want, you can quickly execute buy/sell trade orders on the platform.
- Monitor: You can check the progress of your portfolio using real-time alerts, watchlists, and up-to-the-second data.
- Review: Using intelligent portfolio views, you can benchmark your own performance against that of industry standards.
Aside from the platforms listed above, Questrade gives you six reasons why you should switch to their platform:
- Ultra low fees: Questrade prides themselves on having some of the lowest fees in the business.
- You can invest on your own time: Their accounts are super easy to set up, and you get a free mobile app to invest whenever you want.
- It’s great for new investors: You can start small and test out the different features, or even get a pre-built portfolio through their robo advisor, Questwealth Portfolios.
- Tight security: They’re regulated like a bank and provide $10 million in additional private insurance.
- Easy to move investments: If you have an account somewhere else, Questrade can easily move it for you (and they’ll even reimburse transfer fees).
- Service agents on call: You can contact them if you need assistance, but Questrade also has a ton of resources already available in simple, plain language.
In addition to those core features, I want to call out the market data packages specifically. Questrade puts a massive focus on giving you tools to help you be a successful investor, rather than hiding them and making you pay a higher fee for “expertise.”
With four different market data packages, you can dive into research as deep as you’d like, which will allow you to become a more intelligent investor, making more informed decisions. For example, the Advanced package does cost $89.95 CAD per month, but you can get that fee completely waived if you spend over $399.95 on commissions that month.
Plus, the way it’s designed, it’s hard not to do that – you’ll get access to live streaming data so you can make active trades and cash in on market fluctuations like a pro. I seriously love this feature from Questrade. You will too if you’re a frequent investor.
Qtrade Investor has some nice features, including:
- Low prices: Qtrade Investor charges $8.75 for stock trades for everyone, regardless of your account value or how much you trade. If you’re a more active trader, this drops this to $6.95.
- Stellar customer service: Qtrade Investor says that “prompt, knowledgeable service is part of the Qtrade experience,” and that “calls [are] answered in seconds, not minutes.” They also have a feature where you can leave them a note to call you back later if you don’t have time to talk then.
- Easy to use and access: Qtrade Investor has a very simple, yet intuitive platform for investing. When navigating it, it’s easy to get to where you need to go, and there’s quick-responding support if you require help.
- Research tools: Qtrade Investor delivers some pretty awesome research, both through their platform but also through their analyst reports that you'll have access to. Since they’re empowering you to make financial decisions, they want you to have as much information as possible, so your decisions are sound.
- Investment accounts designed for you: Qtrade Investor features all the accounts you need to suit your situation: Cash, Margin, RRSP, RRIF, TFSA, and RESP.
- Multiple investment choices: You’ll have multiple options to choose from with your investments, including stocks, bonds, options, mutual funds, IPOs, ETFs, and GICs.
Fees and Pricing
One of the biggest questions you might have is: how do Qtrade and Questrade compare in terms of costs? Let's take a closer look.
When it comes to costs, Questrade offers very competitive pricing and beats out the competition with their rock bottom fee structure.
- Stocks: 1¢ / share (min. $4.95 to max. $9.95)
- ETFs: Free to buy (Sell 1¢/share; min. $4.95 to max. $9.95)
- Options: $9.95 (+ $1 / contract)
- Mutual funds: $9.95 / trade
- Bonds: Free with $5,000 purchase
- GICs: Free with min. $5,000 purchase
- International equities: 1% of the trade value (Min. $195.00 plus applicable exchange or stamp fees, charged in the currency of the account in which the trade is placed)
- IPOs and new issues: Free to buy (Min. $5,000 purchase)
- Product Precious metals: $19.95 USD / trade
Compared to other discount brokerages in Canada, Questrade wins out as the lowest cost option for DIY investors.
Qtrade Investor Fees
Qtrade Investor has two different pricing tiers: Investor and Investor Plus.
- Equities: $8.75
- Options: $8.75 + $1.25 per contract
- ETFs: Free (from their select list; otherwise $8.75)
- Mutual funds: Free
- Fixed-income and Exchange-traded debentures: $1 per $1,000 face value
Investor Plus (if you make 150+ trades per quarter or have $500,000 in assets):
- Equities: $6.95
- Options: $6.95 + $1.25 per contract
- ETFs: Free (from their select list; otherwise $6.95)
- Mutual Funds: Free
- Fixed-income and Exchange-traded debentures: $1 per $1,000 face value
Advantages of Questrade over Qtrade
- No annual fees! Zero. Zilch.
- No fees on ETF purchases. This simple feature has saved me hundreds of dollars in commissions over the years.
- An excellent Questrade promo offer code of $50 in free trades when you sign up.
- A quick and easy paperless account set-up.
- $4.95 Baseline trading fees simply can’t be beaten (vs. Qtrade Investor = $8.75)
- Award-winning customer service: Questrade recently received the 2018 DALBAR Seal for Service Excellence — a prestigious award that recognizes service leaders within the financial services industry.
Advantages of Qtrade over Questrade
- Excellent customer service that is raved about consistently in online forums.
- Slick initial updates when you log in to your account.
- No fees or commissions on buying mutual funds. I generally find mutual funds to be a terrible investment option, but if they are your preferred investing method, then this is obviously enticing.
Questrade vs. Qtrade: Which To Choose?
Who Should Choose Questrade
Questrade should come out on top if:
- You are a basic couch potato investor (aka index investor) who will be purchasing a lot of ETFs. (Qtrade Investor does have a limited menu of ETFs you can purchase for free, but my favourite options are not on the list.)
- You want to cut costs to the absolute bone.
- You don’t need a lot of hand-holding when it comes to maintaining your portfolio, and you aren’t trying to make a lot of exotic trades every month.
Who Should Choose Qtrade Investor
You should go with Qtrade Investor if:
- You are interested in mutual funds. (Again, not something I recommend.)
- You don’t mind paying a little more for elite customer service.
- You actively trade more than 200 times per month.
The Verdict: Who Wins?
Qtrade Investor is a very good discount brokerage option, and the only other low-cost competitor that I'd put in their ballpark is Virtual Brokers. However, Questrade is still the Canadian Champion.
When you combine the no-fee ETF purchases with our Questrade promo offer code, you can effectively set up and maintain a couch potato portfolio for years before ever owing any fees.
The reality is, Questrade is just too good to pass up at least trying. You get full control over your investments, but it’s like having someone sitting next to you handing you gobs of data and resources to make the best decisions. Unless you want to truly automate things with a robo advisor, Questrade is the way to go in my opinion.
If I was into owning mutual funds or was an extremely active investor that needed customer service to help with exotic trades of various kinds, then I might look harder at Qtrade Investor. But for the vast majority of Canadian investors who just want to keep their money working for them, a basic index ETF portfolio is still their best bet, and that’s why Questrade comes out on top in Questrade vs Qtrade Investor comparison.