ULTIMATE Questrade Review 2015: An In-Depth Look
When it comes to investing the trading landscape is bathed and bursting at the seams with countless discount brokerage houses. Big names like BMO Investment Line, E*Trade, RBC Direct Investing, TD Waterhouse, Interactive Brokers, and at least a dozen more are available to chose from. Sadly, through deeper analysis one can’t easily distinguish distinctive differences amongst them, especially within the circle of the big banks. Most brokerage firms primarily make their revenue through new and inventive concoctions of countless and ongoing fees pushed onto their account holders. Such fees include, but are not limited to, administrative fees, set-up fees, activity fees, inactivity fees, hidden fees, and after-hour fees. These added costs might be fine and dandy for the fractional percentage of high-volume traders simply because their sheer trade volumes and realized gains can potentially offset those expenses over time. However, for the rest of us those added and consistent fees are a reminder that over time “the house always wins”.
Beginning investors will usually look to their local bank to open their trading account primarily out of convenience since they already possess one or more personal chequing/savings accounts with that bank and so opening a trading account is a mere phone call away. The unfortunate disaster with that approach is that big banks, and for that matter, virtually every other brokerage firm in Canada will charge you an arm and a leg for any kind of activity you do (and don’t do) in your trading account. Yes, even in this expansive internet age where everything is self-serve 24/7 convenience, commission schedules across the board are long, robust, and very much corporate bottom-line friendly. With standard rates at $29-$49 per trade being commonplace one can’t help but question if the entire industry is part of some price-fixing scheme. Where are the choices?
The Rise of Questrade® (please note that all mentions of the name “Questrade” refer to Questrade®). Founded in 1999 this company wanted to do and be something different. Seeing the growing discontent of active and inactive traders alike who were tired of watching their market gains washed away in a deluge of new brokerage fees by other companies Questrade began a process of streamlining the entire investment approach. And in so doing I think they’ve done a pretty impression job. In the rest of this review I will explore Questrade and their collective offerings in terms of the good and the bad.
First a little about me. I am not an aggressive highly active trader. Most times I will take the buy-and-hold approach as my tried-and-true investment style. And so when I buy into a company I do so for the long-term. However, at times I do get that itch and begin trading like a crazy person but this does not happen often.
Questrade offers a well-crafted industry unique ‘democratic pricing’ stock trading commission: 1¢ per share with a minimum charge of $4.95/trade and a ceiling maximum commission charge of $9.95 — ideal for long-term investors. Active traders (or anyone at any time) have the alternative option of 1¢ per share (1¢ minimum / $6.95 maximum), or a $4.95 flat stock commission charge — ideal for high volume share trades. Options investing for these active users come with an attractively low $6.95 + 75¢ per contract. And the process of enrolling into this alternative program simply involves subscribing to one of Questrade’s several advanced market data plans. This should be glanced at again! It is not a typo! Questrade offers the cheapest trades in all of Canada. Their price point is so impressive that it actually encourages new and/or small investors to jump in and take part in the investment game while also enticing disgruntled active traders of other brokerage firms to transfer in (at no charge). They make it abundantly clear that they don’t charge setup fees, annual fees, nor inactivity fees* on any of their services which is a welcome change to the industry norm. However, for those looking for more of an actively managed portfolio touch there is a new specialty service they now offer at a nominal annual fee. More on this later.
One of the other exciting great perks of being with Questrade, announced back in February 2013, is the ability to buy ETF (Exchange Traded Funds) stock at no commission charge — they are free to buy! With so many investors turning to ETFs these days due to their low MERs and diversified reach it is a wonderful breath of fresh air to be able to do so at no cost. Questrade may be one of the first discount brokers in Canada to do such a thing, and I applaud them.
They offer several types of accounts:
- Margin Accounts (e.g. Individual, Informal Trust, Business)
- Registered (e.g. TFSA, RRSP, RESP)
- Forex (FX) and Contract For Difference (CFD) Trading
- Managed Investing
And provides access to the following services:
- ETF (Exchange Traded Funds)
- Forex Trading
- Debenture Trading
- Mutual Funds
- International Stocks
- Bonds/CNSX Securities/GICs
- Canadian IPOs
- Portfolio IQ (Managed Investing)
- 1¢ per share – $4.95/trade minimum / $9.95 maximum charge
- Free (No commission charge)
- $9.95/trade + $1/contract, or Active @ $6.95/trade + 75¢/contract
- Cost is integrated in the pip spread @ approx. 1-2 pips
- $9.95/online. Offline add an additional $45 for trader fee
- Cost is 1% of trade value (minimum charge of $195)
- Free (No commission charge)
- $9.95/order with a minimum order size of $5,000
- Cost varies – $99.95/yr minimum @ $2,000 in assets or more
New Account Sign-up
The process of opening an account online is remarkably intuitive, painless, and very quick (2 minutes for your general account, access to practice platforms, and community discussion / 15 minutes total for opening trading accounts). You will need your social insurance number (SIN), bank account information, and employer details (or source of income if unemployed). And although they have an offline printout alternative I highly recommend their secure online process instead because it reduces the amount of write-in errors and legibility issues, and supports e-Signature for online personal verification (via your SIN#).
One of the first things you must do while signing up is to create a user ID (8-20 characters) and password (min. of 8 characters incl. 1 uppercase, 1 lowercase, and 1 numerical or symbol) for your new account. In earlier days Questrade had an automated process that generated and emailed this password, and along with your email address served as your primary login credentials. This old way became a security risk and so they thankfully changed it back in 2011 to what you see now. The benefit of creating your own user ID and password also makes it much more convenient to return to an incomplete application at a later date. Sessions time out after 20-mins of inactivity giving you ample time to collect and go over your details.
Questrade offers two collections of accounts: Self-directed and Managed Investing. If you want to have full control over your account(s) then self-directed is for you. For those who want a professionally managed approach handled by a real staff (Questrade Wealth Management division) behind the scenes that carefully considers your personal goals and risk tolerance to match, manage, monitor, and adjust for the best investments without your daily involvement then managed investing (known as Portfolio IQ under Questrade’s lexicon) is the best option. However, unlike self-directed, Portfolio IQ does come at a price — a $99/year minimum management fee. In my opinion self-directed is all one will ever need considering how making informed investment decisions is quite simple for even newcomers these days; and to compound on this, self-directed accounts have no fees (outside the usual trade commission) associated with them unlike their managed investing cousins. I’ll go in-depth on their managed investing offering in a later section.
After signing up online you are able to immediately sign into your new account and have a look around. However, to officially activate your account (so as to begin trading) an initial deposit is required — self-directed: $1,000 for margin accounts, $1,000 USD for forex accounts (CAD deposits are auto-converted to USD), $5,000 to trade option spreads, and $25,000 to write/sell uncovered options. For managed investing (Portfolio IQ) there is a $1 initial deposit required. Once the initial minimum deposit has cleared Questrade emails you a confirmation message. For offline applications you will be contacted by a representative confirming trading can begin. To maintain your active account in good standing a minimum equity balance of $250 is essential. It takes 1-3 business days from signing up for your account to begin trading. The longest part of the process is waiting for the funds to be received and processed by Questrade.
Questrade supports several methods to fund your account including EFT (from CAD accounts), wire transfers, cheques, pre-authorized deposits, and broker-to-broker transfers. It should be noted though that you cannot use the EFT method to send USD to your Questrade account. The reverse is possible where you can withdraw USD funds to a USD bank account (they require a void check or a pre-authorized deposit agreement form signed and stamped by the bank). To deposit USD you can set up a pre-authorized deposit agreement with Questrade which takes about 1-5 business days, or send a certified cheque/bank draft to their office, or wire transfer the funds directly to your account. Your alternative final options are to either just convert your existing CAD balance (within your Questrade account) to USD using the Exchange Funds tool (found under the My Requests tab) which can take up to 24 hours to process, or take advantage of Norbert’s Gambit (successful conversions have been confirmed). Funding your margin (or other non-registered) account by either currency type will automatically be placed into a sub-account (more about sub-accounts later) of the same type (they do not perform automatic conversions — you must execute the request on your own). Electronic withdrawals take roughly 3 business days to process and arrive into an external bank account.
An interesting related note is that Questrade continues to be the only brokerage in Canada to allow dual-currency (CAD and USD) to be held simultaneously inside registered accounts (i.e., RRSP, RESP, TFSA, LIRA, RIF, LIF) which in and of itself will save a tremendous amount of money from unnecessary conversion fees.
Back in October of last year Questrade rolled out a subtle but important revision to its inactivity fee policy. It’s actually not that bad when you peruse the details. If anything it’s quite reasonable. As has been long known Questrade does not charge an inactivity fee, but this policy adjustment can potentially charge $19.95 per calendar quarter. If, however, you make at least one commissionable trade per quarter (once every 3-months) you will not get charged any inactivity fee at all. If you are inactive for a quarter and do get charged that fee, but then go about making at least one trade in the following quarter you will receive up to $19.95 in commission-free trades. It should also be noted that all new accounts younger than 6-months are exempt from this fee (you will not get charged for being inactive). The same applies to those who are 25 years of age or younger (no inactivity fee). Also, all clients of Questrade, and households having the same physical address, with combined equity assets of at least $5,000 are exempt from this fee. For most investors this change is trivial since their assets are almost always over $5,000, and so will never get charged this inactivity fee. As I pointed out earlier, I think this change is perfectly reasonable and still miles better than all other discount brokerage houses who not only charge an inactivity fee, with no exceptions, they do so more frequently (each month) and tack on countless hidden fees which Questrade does not.
Your account’s primary control panel is known as myQuestrade and, quite simply put, it is a beautiful experience with well thought out organization and visual appeal. Someone put a lot of love into this area. Within the panel you can view your account activity, balances and positions, manage your personal details, view statements, make fund transfers in/out of your accounts, upload/download your documents, exchange CAD/USD currency, take corporate action on shareholder communications, transfer positions, open additional accounts, retrieve tax slips, exercise options, and interact with mutual funds.
Within the My Accounts tab is the handy Upload Documents tool serving as the fastest direct delivery method for any of your documents to any of your accounts held at Questrade. No more snail mailing, faxing, or even coordinating deliveries with a representative.
Accounts #’s consist of 10 numerical digits (e.g. 12345678-90). This is a big jump from their pre-2011 6-character alphanumeric size and as such some external banks have been reported to still impose an 8-character limit for payee accounts when you attempt to send money to Questrade. To get around this you only need to provide the 1st 8-digits of your Questrade account # and the funds will still arrive successfully.
If at any time you need help on practically anything you can always use the online Questrade Live Help session (usually accessible from the top or right-hand side of Questrade’s site) — operational on weekdays (excluding holidays) from 8:00am – 8:00pm EST. I have found that using Live Help is much quicker than calling into their offices. And after speaking to several of their online representatives (those who deal with potential new accounts and others who deal with existing accounts) I found them to be very well-informed, professional, and quick in their responses. They all also took the extra time to provide web links for further reading which was a nice bonus.
As a handy note, sharholder communication is often times sent through normal mail, however, there is now a new way to change this allowing you to receive all investor correspondence electronically. Visit Investor Delivery for more details.
Account Activity / History
Located under the My Portfolio and My Accounts tabs are a slew of subcategories for providing details about trading and general account activity. These subcategories include: Balances and Positions (pictured above), Investment Return, Account Activity, Statements, Equity Trade Confirmations, and Tax Slips. When Questrade made significant changes to its UI back in 2011 they in effect moved all trading activity history into myQuestrade. This is a very welcome change because prior to this all trading activity history was provided by a third-party clearinghouse company called Penson Financial Services and you had to use a completely different site and another set of login credentials to get access to this information. Now you can get a list of all your investments (stocks, funds, bonds, etc), current cash balances and positions (in CAD and USD), total equity, buying power, and more all within one location. Trading history is maintained for 36 months while eStatements, generated monthly, are stored for 7 years. Tax slips (e.g. T5) are also available electronically for each year.
For existing long-time Questrade members carrying trading activity prior to February 4th, 2011 you will need to visit the old Penson site located here. You will also need to know your old 6-character Questrade account #(s) because the Penson site does not know anything about the existing 10-character account # representations. Here is a quick peek at what the Penson trade activity site looks like.
As stated above, this Penson site is only relevant to existing Questrade members who wish to access archived trading activity prior to February 2011. All new members can just ignore what I just said about Penson and skip to the next paragraph. But for those interested in Questrade’s chronological history — as noted and visually seen above — trade activity was outsourced and as such the first noticeable difference was that the web UI was completely different and very behind in the times. At the time it was still very surprising that with the skill set and desire by Questrade to offer a clean and friendly UI experience on their main web domain that they didn’t feel it necessary to pony up the cash to in-house these account activities, nor had the motivation to request web-service APIs from Penson giving them free rein to skin over the original Penson experience. Although the details held within Penson were extensive it was cluttered and confusing. The trade and settle date balances took 24 hours to be reflected in history; the same was true with buying power which updated once, at the start of each day. Most of what was found in this old Penson site is now integrated into Questrade Trading Platforms, discussed later.
Questrade margin accounts (for stocks & options trading) are comprised of two sub-accounts — one for Canadian funds, the other for US funds. This is very convenient since it reduces unnecessary conversion charges when trading US instruments. So, transactions on US equity stays as USD unlike most other brokerage firms which will perform conversions back to CAD right away. For example, with Questrade things like US dividend income from US traded stocks will remain as USD and automatically be deposited into your US sub-account. Funds can be moved between sub-accounts using myQuestrade’s Exchange Funds feature which will involve a conversion based on the spot rate at the close of market in Toronto plus a spread (+1.99% for both margin and registered accounts).
Questrade highly encourages the viewing/downloading/printing of eStatements made available in myQuestrade for all account activity at no charge. They even go as far as offering Microsoft Excel friendly output as another free alternative. However, for those who still insist on mailed paper statements, they can do so at a hefty $10/statement which can only be requested by contacting them directly by phone or through Live Help.
And so begins a new era in trading platforms for Questrade. For as long as we can remember Questrade had been chugging along with their capable, but aging, platforms: QuestraderWEB, QuestraderELITE, and QuestraderPRO. Although QuestraderWEB had been renovated considerably all three had been in the wild for well over 10 years. They all performed quite well in their own right but had not kept up with the times as was evident with the offerings at other discount brokerage houses. Questrade marked a new chapter with the introduction of the Questrade IQ suite.
Questrade has been doing a lot of work behind the scenes to revamp their investor’s trading experience. When they released a whole new layout for myQuestrade one couldn’t help but head scratch and wonder why their trading platforms never received the same treatment. Well, the answer can’t be clearer: they were being updated as well — it just took them a while. The epiphany was realizing that having three separate desktop trading platforms was confusing and so they opted to retire all three in favor of a single, more modern trading platform known as Questrade IQ.
Questrade IQ is a suite composed of four flavors: Questrade IQ Web, a fully functional web-based trading platform (for Internet Explorer 8+, Google Chrome 9+, Firefox 5.5+, Safari 5.1+ for Mac Users); Questrade IQ Edge, a streamlined desktop-based trading platform (for Windows XP/Vista/7+); Questrade IQ Mobile, their first mobile entrant in the field of trading (for iPhone/iPod Touch iOS 5+, Blackberry OS 7+, and Android OS 2.3.3+); and Questrade IQ Essential, their non-install web platform designed for tablets (e.g., iPad 1/2/3+, BlackBerry Playbook, Android 3+), netbooks, and other systems/devices (e.g., Linux – Ubuntu 12+, Fedora 17+) that may not have the capability (or access) to the specific minimum requirements outlined by the others in this suite. In other words, IQ Essential is the fallback trading platform for everyone else that doesn’t quite fit into the other categories. This entire suite is free for all members and includes snap quote live Canadian/U.S. streaming Level 1 data, research tools for fundamental and technical analysis, a charting package, and more. At times market data can be delayed (up to 15 minutes) and when this happen a cute clock icon appears on-screen to let you know of the streaming hangup. And although it is made available for free, Questrade IQ can be upgraded to include one of three data packages or add à la carte feeds.
Questrade IQ Web makes use of Microsoft’s Silverlight multimedia add-on. Silverlight is Microsoft’s answer to Adobe Flash. Flash is by far the most popular of the two browser add-ons but Questrade steered clear of using it when developing IQ Web. Why you ask? Because Flash has been widely criticized for its neverending security and performance problems; and so, due to safety concerns using Flash by its traders, and to better provide a more fluid experience Silverlight was selected instead. And it was certainly an excellent choice because its responsiveness within the top four most popular browsers is significantly faster than if it were to have been done using Flash (CPU usage was also kept to a minimum). If you don’t have Silverlight installed already you can do so when you attempt to use this online trading platform for the first time.
In terms of features and functionality, Questrade IQ Web is an excellent amalgamation of power and usability. It introduces the concept of Gadgets into its platform lexicon. A gadget is an arrangeable (drag-drop, snap-to, resizable), user-customized window of a view into your trading/market details. IQ gadgets include: Activity (a logs viewer), Balances, Message Inbox, Time and Sales (current global activity of a stock), Level 1 Quotes, Level 2 Quotes (if you paid for this addition), Quick Charts, Today’s Orders, Position Summary, and Watch List. Unlike its IQ Edge cousin, Questrade IQ Web can change its theme to be either Dark (default) or Light. There are two layouts available for IQ Web: Standard and Advanced. The default layout is Advanced. The difference between the two is that Standard does not permit any gadgets besides Balances and Level 1 Quotes (located on the right sidebar); windows are not arrangeable nor customizable; and you cannot adjust the route nor sub-route for your orders. Because of these limitations we recommend you remain in the default Advanced layout to have full access to all of IQ Web’s features. The Standard layout would be for those who just want to make quick and simple trades without any care for other details that might be cluttering their screen. Sessions timeout after 15 minutes of inactivity. Any custom changes you make in IQ Web only get saved when you manually log out; so don’t mistakenly think you can just close the browser and assume your changes will be recorded. We also noticed that any and all of your changes are lost permanently if you attempt to switch between the Standard layout and the Advanced layout. So be careful to pick and stick with one, or risk having to customize your gadgets again.
Questrade IQ Edge, although very similar to IQ Web, does carry a few tricks up its sleeve. IQ Edge allows for an unlimited amount of workspaces. A workspace is a screen area allowing one to open and customize a new set of gadgets or windows for a particular purpose that suits a trading environment style. Multiple easily navigatable workspaces is a valuable asset to active traders. The other big difference between IQ Edge and IQ Web is that IQ Edge offers a more advanced plate of options for order entries: AON (All or None), “iceberg” order types (large orders are broken up into smaller executable ones), and the ability to order anonymously. There are a few subtle differences too. IQ Edge allows for extensive gadget customizing which takes them well beyond what is possible in IQ Web. However, most of these customizing features are visual (e.g. float, pin, drag-drop, resize, colorize, blink text); it depends on the gadget. Curiously, gadgets don’t have a snap-to feature in IQ Edge and so they do not auto-arrange when the main application window resizes. It was a bit inconvenient but not a big deal because most people just position their gadgets at a particular spot and maintain the application window at a set size. Interestingly, any gadget customizations you make in IQ Edge does not transfer over to IQ Web, and vice versa. However, ticker symbols and related data inside gadgets are properly maintained and do transfer over between web/desktop environments. IQ Edge also only carries the “Dark” theme (recall that IQ Web carries both a “Dark” and “Light” theme).
One additional allure of IQ Edge is that it gives a trader the sense of comfort knowing their platform’s trading activity will not be delayed or experience hiccups as might be the case if using a web browser. IQ Edge was written from the ground up using optimized C++ code and deployed for Intel/AMD processors ensuring the speediest of responses for the most diehard of active traders. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing there is no 64-bit version of IQ Edge. It will still run normally on 64-bit systems; it just won’t be running as efficiently as it could be. Here’s hoping that in the near future an optimized 64-bit version of IQ Edge will be available.
And then we have Questrade IQ Essential which serves as Questrade’s answer for those who, for one reason or another, may not have access to (or be compatible with) one of their other trading platform offerings. This would be the perfect choice for Linux desktop users or the ever growing presence of tablet carriers. Because IQ Essential is a fully compliant HTML5 browser-based experience, unlike its IQ Web and IQ Mobile siblings, it does not require a download or any third-party add-on (i.e., Microsoft Silverlight plugin) to be fully functional. As such this platform can also serve as an alternative option for Windows and Mac OS X users who for security reasons may prefer not to use Silverlight at all. Technically, IQ Mobile is a free download from Google Play and Apple’s App Store and so smartphones using other operating systems (e.g., BlackBerry, Linux, Windows Phone mobile operating system — Nokia) can still get access to it as an HTML5 web app.
Taking a spin with this platform was an incredibly liberating experience. IQ Essential was surprisingly lightning fast and responsive in every web browser we tested. Memory and CPU footprint usage was astonishingly small despite the depth of options, activity, and functionality it had to offer. It’s very clear IQ Essential preludes Questrade’s bolder steps of one day unifying IQ Mobile, IQ Web, and IQ Essential under one brand offering — a full-featured web-based experience for every device and every system any time, anywhere; a glimpse into the nascent future of stock trading platforms.
Unquestionably, this new trading platform suite is a giant leap in the right direction for Questrade. The collection encompasses everything QuestraderWEB, QuestraderPRO, and QuestraderELITE had and some. And this suite does so in the most intuitive, feature-rich way. By taking the bold step to retire their older platforms by supplanting them with a new next-generation trading environment it is a sign that Questrade cares deeply about providing the best experience for the casual trader and demanding active user.
Interestingly, upon further investigation that spanned several months we found that new releases for this suite is always consistent and swift — a major new release occurs every month — bringing with it a slew of enhancements and bug fixes, based on direct user feedback of their online community discussion forum: The Exchange.
A few other unique features which i am surprised other brokerages have not yet duplicated is firstly the clever partnerships Questrade has with third party websites (e.g., iShares ETFs) — providing one-click Buy Now buttons across the web — permitting on the fly quick trades that whisk the buyer back into the IQ platform to complete the pre-filled order ticket. And secondly, a featured called Margin Power (for self-directed accounts) which, by its name, gives you a clue on at what it does. By linking your existing TFSA account to your margin account it increases your buying power within your margin account by leveraging the assets you already hold in your TFSA making it enormously convenient to enter new positions without requiring a transfer in of new cash or selling existing securities. Both features are wonderfully handy!
The long requested single sign-on feature is now available for Questrade members. You now use one user ID and password to access the trading platform, myQuestrade, and the Exchange. This saves a tremendous amount of time because in the past Questrade had originally required at least three different sign-on credentials to access each of their trading landscapes, and so to no surprise this was a heavily requested feature. We welcome its addition.
To get a better feel of what Questrade IQ has to offer here is a collection of video tutorials overviewing this trading platform’s most common features.
Now, to give you a better sense of who Questrade is and how much they’ve improved here’s a flash from the past with a historical look at their prior trading platforms. If you are not interested in knowing more about their past feel free to skip over this paragraph. Some time back, prior to Questrade IQ, Questrade offered a few other trading platforms for stocks and options: QuestraderWEB, their free trading platform, and QuestraderPRO and QuestraderELITE, desktop applications requiring a monthly subscription fee. For the remainder of this discussion I will only focus on QuestraderWEB. QuestraderWEB was a web-based application (fully compatible with Firefox 3.6+, Internet Explorer 7+, Safari 4+, Chrome 7+, and Opera 8+) with a very pretty and intuitive user interface not dissimilar to the myQuestrade control panel. It was Questrade’s only free platform at the time and although it included unlimited instant quotes these quotes were not updated in real-time unless you refreshed the web page. It took about 10 mins of non-refreshing before quotes were updated. For real-time live streaming quotes you were required to upgrade QuestraderWEB to include QuoteStream, a $19.95/month additional charge. This older platform required the Java plugin within your browser to function correctly.
For a closer look at what QuestraderWEB was like check out the following video tutorial collection. It walks you through and performs common transactions within that older platform. You will get a pretty good idea of how Questrade’s older platform was like prior to their shifting gears and moving in the direction of the more intuitively streamlined Questrade IQ suite.
One of the things I wish was included in the platform was some kind of transaction cost calculator that took into consideration exchange rates (estimated). Other brokerages already do this so I was a bit surprised not to find something similar. The platform’s quotes (level-1) and charts are basic but it is not surprising since it is free.
A little note on exchange and ECN fees: These are the fees Questrade is forced to charge you when you make a transaction that removes liquidity from the market (i.e. buying at the ask or selling at the bid). Although these fees translate to mere pennies for most traders one can avoid paying them altogether by executing transactions as a limit (or stop) order instead of as a market order request. For US stocks you can also send orders to non-direct access ECN networks (LAMP, MNGD, or POST) to avoid these fees.
Most people will sign-up for the standard marginal account which gives you access to borrow funds at an amount more than your current cash balance. This extended buying power ability is very useful and can come in handy when you need to jump on market opportunities. Assuming you’ve bought on margin and haven’t settled your stocks after 3 days of the purchase the margin interest rate is prime + 3% which is inline with most brokerages. For more information about stock margins refer to this page.
One of the selling points Questrade likes to bring up is that for mutual funds they will rebate the trailer fees. They call this their Mutual Fund Maximizer. Trailer fees are commissions by fund management companies paid to your brokerage house for being the retailer that sold you your fund(s). This commission is an ongoing source of revenue for your brokerage as long as you keep holding onto those fund(s). You don’t see this fee because it is part of the MER of the fund. So Questrade is willing to rebate this fee back to you each quarter. But there’s a catch. You need a minimum of $36,000 in mutual fund holdings to be eligible for this rebate. The reasoning is simple. There is a processing fee of $29.95/month so the rebates will start paying back if your mutual fund holdings is worth more than $36,000 (based on a 1% trailer fee).
Portfolio IQ (Managed Investing)
Self-directed investment empowerment (DIY trading) is offered by virtually all discount brokerages and has been a popular preference by the general public due to the myriad of easy-to-use tools and support made available to an investor desiring to control every aspect of their interests. With this style of investing customers have always been able to sculpt their own investment strategy, define their portfolio, buy and sell securities, and more. However, there is another option. For those with very little time while continuing to carry big investment ambitions Questrade recently introduced Portfolio IQ, the alternative to self-directing investing. Really known as managed investing, Portfolio IQ takes away the stress of investment decision making and puts them in the hands of portfolio managers of their Questrade Wealth Management division.
Who doesn’t want to take it easy and watch their money grow towards financial independence with little effort? It’s a dream come true! The difficult part with that dream is figuring out how exactly to do that. This is where Portfolio IQ comes to the rescue. Becoming Canada’s first online wealth management service, Portfolio IQ debuted as a definitive market disrupter by making managed investing accessible to everyone. Traditionally, managed investing has been an exclusive club for the uber-rich but Questrade, keeping to its roots of bringing all things restrictive to the masses, decided to do away with convention.
Opening a Portfolio IQ account is straight-forward and only requires $1. Once open you’re taken through a simple-to-use point-and-click questionnaire to set up an investor biography that identifies your risk tolerance, existing financial circumstances, market knowledge, and investment ambitions all of which is used to better crystallize the best portfolio for you. What’s also great is that if your goals change then you can return and adjust your bio to keep things in balance, which will automatically update your underlying portfolio model accordingly.
All the portfolios deal exclusively in ETFs (composed of a mix of various sectors, markets, and countries) and come in 5 flavors:
- Conservative Income
- Aggressive Growth
- Risk Level
- 80% fixed, 20% equity
- 60% fixed, 40% equity
- 40% fixed, 60% equity
- 20% fixed, 80% equity
- 100% equity
Further, each of these portfolios has three tiers. Tier positioning, as defined by your account asset value, determines the sector and country-specific ETFs made available to your portfolio.
Although it only requires $1 to open a Portfolio IQ account your money sits uninvested until it reaches at least $2,000. Once that threshold has been reached your money is automatically shifted into your designated portfolio and your very own team of specialists will actively manage and adjust your portfolio as opportunities arise in the markets. They will also vigilantly rebalance assets to keep within your profile without your daily involvement all year-round.
True to Questrade’s reputation Portfolio IQ has no trading/trailing commission fees — including no fee RSPs. There is however a nominal annual management fee determined by your total account asset value. This fee is broken up and charged proportionally on a quarterly basis and is by far the lowest in the industry we could find. Although this annual rate does not include the ETF expense ratios we discovered that the underlying ETF MERs went as low as 0.04%.
- Total Assets
- Less than $2,000
- $2,000 – $99,999
- $100,000 – $249,999
- $250,000 – 499,999
- $500,000 – $999,999
- Annual Fee
- No Fee
With the added benefit of taking full advantage of tax-loss harvesting and providing a last quarter management fee refund guarantee if not fully satisfied for any reason, Portfolio IQ is an extraordinary entrant into the managed investing arena and has that perfect resonating mix all investors, big and small, crave when they daydream of an unshackled financial tomorrow.
When making trades one of the primary concerns held by most people is security. Like banks, most discount brokerage companies deploy different protection strategies to secure your account such as randomizing and asking multiple security questions, displaying pre-selected image captchas that only the account holder would know, or even providing digital key devices which in conjunction with your secret password must be pressed to generate the final half of the login passcode each time.
Questrade’s security measures have improved dramatically over the years. For example, upon sign-up for a new account you are required to create a user ID, password, and define a security question. User ID’s are required to be 8-20 characters long while passwords must be at least 8 characters in length and include an uppercase, lowercase, and numerical (or symbolic) character. Although this seems like a standard approach across the web this is actually new and a big improvement for Questrade. They also now include extra verification steps such as when you attempt to log in to your account from an unrecognized system you are prompted with a user-set security question. Security advice is made available outlining how to protect yourself by taking precautionary steps like using anti-virus software to keep your computer clean. Interestingly, they have made the extra effort by partnered with Symantec, using Norton Anti-virus to continuously scan/monitor their own internal files, ensuring your investments and privacy on their end are secure. Questrade was also one of the few discount brokerage firms that were not affected by the Heart Bleed Bug — they were protected all this time. Although they don’t have security guarantees against intruders breaching accounts on your end, if there is fraudulent activity and it’s proven to be due to the negligence of Questrade they are in a position to cover your loss. Also note that Questrade is a CIPF member and so Canadian investors are covered up to $1,000,000.
Reviews online are overwhelming negative towards Questrade. Prior to writing this review I decided to read many of these complaints so that I could be aware of and keep an eye out for any of these problems. I even took note on exact steps for some of these problems with hopes of recreating them. I had originally planned to share a collection of these complaints but seeing as how many of them might have already been resolved by Questrade I felt the company deserved another look before passing judgment. So after spending a number of days using their entire suite of online tools, making trades, and attempting to recreate customer complaints I can report back and say that I did not experience a single issue. My conclusion is that either Questrade had fixed several of these earlier problems or these complaints were from beginning traders who were not familiar with the platform or with company policies.
Overall my experience with Questrade was a very pleasant one. Their “killer app”, so to speak, is free, no commission charge, ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) and that one can execute trades as low as 1¢ per share ($4.95 minimum) with no catch. It doesn’t get any simpler than that! In rare instances I sometimes come across other brokerages offering promotionals at $4.95/trade but when you dig deeper into their fine print it almost unequivocally is for “big fish” traders who must spend upwards of $100,000/month in trading activity to be eligible for the $4.95 offer. Clearly not for the average consumer. This is not the case with Questrade. With Questrade it is as low as $4.95/trade and a max of $9.95/trade — ETFs always being free. Period.
Questrade’s low commission rate is so good it serves as an enticer to make more trades more often and not have to hesitate waiting for that right moment in the market which will cover your commission costs. I am happy to see Questrade has made many quality enhancements, including a unified single sign-on approach, giving a more consistent milieu. There are a few areas that can be improved such as remembering user settings across different trading platforms, but with such dramatic savings found among all their services it seems understandable that one can’t always have everything. So I will give them a pass on that.
Should you join? Yes. Especially for those who are thinking of starting to invest. For someone like me who is a casual trader Questrade fits my needs perfectly. And after getting a better feel of most of what they have to offer I am more than confident they can accommodate me or any other person’s growing needs as an investor.
- $50 Free Trades @ Questrade
- Exchange & ECN Fees
- Investor Delivery
- Mutual Fund Maximizer
- Questrade IQ Edge
- Questrade IQ Mobile
- Questrade Live Help
- Trading Platform Comparison
Use Offer Code: Canada to receive $50 in Free Trades from Questrade when signing up for a new account.
Click here for more details. Happy trading!
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Questrade® is a registered trademark and/or service mark of Questrade, Inc. Questrade Inc. is a member of the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) and a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF).