The most popular stock brokerage in Canada is Questrade as of April 2020. If you’re thinking about joining, then you really need to read this in-depth Questrade review. I will explore all of their investment/trading products and services and then conclude by giving you my honest opinion if you should join.
Use Offer Code: Canada to get $50 free from Questrade.
Fees & Pricing
Questrade has the cheapest trades in Canada. And this lowest cost approach carries into every investment category. Here is a summary of their fees.
|Stocks||1¢ per share: $4.95 min, $9.95 max – Active @ 1¢/min, $6.95 max|
|ETF (Exchange Traded Funds)||Free (No commission charge)|
|Mutual Funds||$9.95/online. Offline add an additional $45 for trader fee|
|Options||$9.95/trade + $1/contract – Active @ $4.95/trade + 75¢/contract|
|Managed Investing (Questwealth)||Cost varies – 0.20% to 0.25% (minimum of $1,000 in assets)|
|Canadian IPOs||Free – minimum order size of $5,000|
|International Stocks||Cost is 1% of trade value (minimum charge of $195)|
|Forex Trading||Cost is integrated in the pip spread @ minimum 0.8 pips|
|Bonds/CNSX Securities/GICs||Free (No commission charge) – minimum order size of $5,000|
There pricing structure hasn’t changed since their inception and is so impressive that it actually encourages new and small investors to jump into the investment game while also drawing in disgruntled investors from other brokerages.
For stock trading, Questrade has a unique democratic pricing structure. Long-term, less active, investors have the popular option of 1¢ per share with a minimum charge of $4.95/trade and a ceiling maximum commission charge of $9.95. Active traders — those who make high volume share trades — have the choice of 1¢ per share (1¢ minimum / $6.95 maximum), or a $4.95 flat stock commission charge. All account holders can switch between these pricing options at any time. But be aware that a switch to the active trader program involves subscribing to one of Questrade’s several advanced market data plans.
Questrade conveniently can cover all transfer out fees imposed by other financial institutions if interested in moving your existing trading account to them. This makes the allure to join even more tantalizing.
Questrade also makes it clear that they don’t charge setup fees, annual fees, and hidden fees on any of their services which is a welcome change from the industry norm. A special note should be given, however, to how they handle account inactivity.
There are two sets of accounts offered by Questrade: Self-directed and online Managed Investing.
Self-Directed Investing: These accounts are for those who want full control of their investment decision-making. They will save you the most money, in terms of commission costs. The Standard Margin (Individual) account is the most popular account type opened by new customers.
Managed Investing: These accounts are for those who want Questrade to manage all investment decisions on your behalf, for a nominal annual fee. They require the least amount of effort on your part and tend to earn higher returns in the long-term. From my analysis, these accounts are indeed handled by a real staff (the Questrade Wealth Management division) behind the scenes. Under their management, they consider your personal goals and risk tolerance to match, manage, monitor, and adjust for the best investments without your daily involvement. Questrade calls this Questwealth Portfolios.
Although immediate access is gained after joining (don’t forget to use the Questrade offer code: Canada to get $50 free during sign-up), your account isn’t activated. To officially activate your account, so as to begin trading, an initial deposit is required.
|Buy Stocks & Bonds||$1,000|
|Trade Option Spreads||$5,000|
|Write/Sell Uncovered Options||$25,000|
|Forex & CFD||$1,000 USD*|
For stocks and options, you will need to maintain a minimum equity balance of $250, after meeting the initial deposit requirement, to keep your active account in good standing. If, however, you plan on doing managed investing then it’s required that you maintain $1,500 in account value once you’ve invested. If that value drops below $1,500 then your investments will be liquidated.
Once this initial minimum deposit has cleared, Questrade emails you a confirmation message. For offline applications you will be contacted by one of their representatives confirming trading can begin. It takes roughly 1-3 business days for Questrade to receive and process this deposit.
* Canadian currency deposits into forex & CFD accounts are auto-converted into US currency.
Opening an account with Questrade is a remarkably quick, intuitive, and painless process. It took me no more than two minutes to open a general (non-trading) account, which immediately gave me access to practice within their trading platforms. In under twenty minutes I was able to open their popular individual margin trading account.
The online application asks for your social insurance number (SIN) for reporting interest and dividends earned to CRA (you are given the option to refuse their request), employment information (or source of income if unemployed), and a form of identification (e.g., driver’s license). And although they have an offline alternative that you can printout and fill in, I highly recommend their secure online process instead because it reduces the amount of write-in errors and legibility issues, and supports DocuSign for the online signature signing process.
One of the first things you are required to do when signing up is to define a user ID and password for your new account. Doing so provides the incredibly convenient ability to return to an incomplete application at a later time.
I found that sessions during sign-up time-out after 30 minutes of inactivity. This is more than enough time to collect required documents and credentials, and to review your inputted details for any mistakes.
Here is a list of their available accounts.
|Investment Style||Account Type|
Please note, unlike self-directed, managed investing has an annual 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 be going in-depth on their managed investing side in a later section of this review.
Questrade provides many ways that you can fund your account.
|Online Banking (via bill Payment)||Interac Online|
|Cheque (Certified is preferred)||Pre-Authorized Deposits|
|Transfers from Another Brokerage||Wire Transfer|
|Bank Draft||Stock Certificate|
|Money Order||Your Questrade Accounts|
Accounts numbers consist of ten numerical digits (e.g., 12345678-90). This is a step up from their pre-2011 six character alphanumeric size, and as such it’s been reported that some external banks still enforce an eight character limit for payee accounts when you attempt to send money to Questrade. To get around this our readers have indicated that you only need to provide the first eight digits of your Questrade account number. Using this helpful workaround your funds will still be delivered successfully.
When making a deposit using online banking or via Interac you should keep in mind that it’s not possible to send USD to your Questrade account — only CAD. This is due to a limitation of EFT at the issuing bank, not Questrade. All the other funding methods shown above support the ability to fund your account with either CAD or USD. Withdrawals of USD funds from your Questrade account to a USD bank account works perfectly fine.
If you need to deposit USD currency right away and none of the methods above fit your needs, you still have few more options: You can convert your existing CAD balance, held within your Questrade account, to USD using the Exchange Funds tool (found under Requests). This can take up to 24 hours to process. Or, you can take advantage of Norbert’s Gambit (see the FAQ)! Successful conversions have been confirmed by readers of this Questrade review.
Before withdrawals can be initiated, Questrade requires that you provide a void cheque or a pre-authorized deposit agreement form signed and stamped by your bank. This only needs to be done once per bank account. It takes roughly three business days to process a withdrawal and for the funds to arrive into your bank account.
Your account’s primary control portal is known as myQuestrade (alternatively, Questrade Account) and it is a beautiful experience with well thought out organization and visual appeal. There is a lot of love put into this portal, providing a consistent fully immersive and responsive experience. I found that it worked seamlessly with every smartphone, tablet, laptop, and desktop I could throw at it.
This portal fully integrates trading and account management together effortlessly. It gives immediate access to buying and selling securities, working with research tools, using a bustling library of partner apps (and developer’s API) on any of your devices, viewing your account activity, analyzing balances and positions, managing your personal details, viewing statements, making fund transfers in & out of your accounts, uploading & downloading your documents, exchanging CAD/USD currency between accounts, taking corporate action on shareholder communications, transferring positions, opening additional accounts, retrieving tax slips, exercising options, interacting with mutual funds, and more.
Several self-help areas, including a robust learning centre of ebooks (e.g., options strategies, and Forex & CFD trading), fact sheets, and an in-depth financial glossary were always conveniently near by for easy access.
Once your account is activated for trading, during your first log in, you are asked to select a default home base. A home base is where you would like Questrade to directly place you each time you sign on. You have a choice of either your account management page or the online trading platform. This is definitely a helpful time saver, but, if necessary, you can jump between each via an always-visible top menu bar. And you can change your home base at any time from the Settings page.
Questrade’s margin and registered accounts are comprised of two sub-accounts — one that holds Canadian funds, and the other for holding U.S. funds. This is incredibly convenient since it stops unnecessary automatic conversion charges, common at virtually all other brokerage firms, when trading U.S. instruments. Questrade does not do automatic currency conversions. Other brokerages, on the other hand, do this simply because it maximizes their profits. Good for them, bad for you.
For example, with Questrade things like U.S. dividend income from U.S. traded stocks will remain as USD and automatically be deposited into your U.S. sub-account. The same is true when funding your margin (or registered) account by either currency type; the funds will automatically be placed into the associating sub-account of the same type.
Funds can be moved between sub-accounts using Questrade’s Exchange Funds feature, but just take careful note that by using this tool it will involve a conversion based on the spot rate at the close of market in Toronto plus a spread fee. This spread fee is 1.99% for both margin and registered accounts. If total equity exceeds $100K, however, this fee drops to 1.70% for margin and 1.00% for registered accounts. If converting between USD/CAD, a better approach would be to use the Norbert’s Gambit technique because it eliminates almost all currency exchange fees. Please see the FAQ for more details.
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 concurrently inside registered accounts (i.e., TFSA, RRSP, RESP, RIF, LIRA, LIF) at no cost which in and of itself will save a colossal amount of money from unnecessary conversion fees. And whereas other brokerage houses do routinely charge annual fees for just having a registered account, Questrade doesn’t charge an annual fee at all; allowing your yearly contributions to grow with maximum efficiency.
Located under the Reports menu option are a slew of subcategories providing details about trading and general account activity. Some of these subcategories include: Investment Summary (pictured above), Trade Confirmations, Account Activity, Statements, Investment Return, and Tax Slips. Collectively, these reports allow you to explore all of your investments (stocks, funds, bonds, etc), buying power, total equity, current cash balances and positions (in CAD and USD), and more.
Your trading history is maintained for 36 months while eStatements, generated monthly, are stored for 7 years. Tax slips (e.g., T3, T5, T5008) are also made available electronically for each year.
New statements are published on the 15th of each month and made available for immediate download as PDF files. These reports have improved dramatically over the years and contain a rich tapestry of useful colourful charts and graphs to make it easier to understand your performance to-date and compare it against previous years. Going further, these statements are very detailed, and very carefully constructed not to just be intuitively understood by the layman investor, but goes in-depth to provide breakdowns of the month’s activity details, a summary of all trades settled by the end of that month, conversion rates, allocations, current and historical rates of return, dividend distributions, and special notes from the brokerage.
Because I view myself as an average investor, the styling approach laid out in these statements are an excellent bonus offered by Questrade.
Although Questrade highly endorses the viewing, downloading, and/or printing of monthly statements online as PDF files, and provides them free of charge, they still offer the alternative option of mailing out paper statements. This alternative, however, does cost $20 per statement. If you still prefer these hardcopies, then you can put in a request directly by phone or through their live help chat window.
Questrade has four trading platforms: Questrade Trading, a fully functional web-based trading platform for Windows/Macs/Linux desktop users, as well as for mobile devices; Questrade IQ Edge, a streamlined desktop-based trading platform for Windows 7/8.1/10+ and macOS 10+; Questrade app, their mobile entrant into the field of on-the-go trading, for iOS and Android; and Questrade FX Global, their forex & CFD market trading platform for desktop and mobile users.
This entire suite is free to use and practice accounts (with virtual money) are available without even having to activate a real trading account. Many of these platforms include snap quote live Canadian/U.S. streaming level 1 data, a charting package, research tools for fundamental and technical analysis, and more. And although it is made available for free, these platforms can be upgraded to include one of three data packages or add à la carte feeds.
Now, let’s probe deeper into each of these unique platforms in turn and see what they have to offer.
Questrade Mobile App
Because many of us spend a lot of our time on mobile devices, it only makes sense that we want to be able to swipe, tap, and invest on-the-go as well. Questrade app fills that void.
This free platform is a surprisingly very powerful, very capable mobile trading platform. Operating anywhere at any time, this app is available for iOS and Android devices from their respective app stores. The visual layout and organization of features is very well thought out — I can navigate and use the app with intuitive ease. And although they conveniently provide an interactive help tool I found there was little need to use it.
Questrade had originally planned to release a similar version for Windows Phone and Blackberry but, understandably, due to those aforementioned device’s almost non-existent market share, the idea was scrapped late in the development cycle. As such, users with those devices, including Linux, will need to use the browser-based alternative trading platform: Questrade Trading.
I found Questrade app’s feature set to be nearly identical to their Questrade Trading platform, but with visual tweaks to better suit portable device operability. You can even perform account management actions directly within the app.
After using this platform for several days it’s clear to me Questrade is continuing to aim this mobile app to be as feature-rich as IQ Edge over time so that even active traders can be less dependent of their desktops. I’m sure this will be greeted with overjoyed smiles by those traders who have been yearning to be more fully unshackled from their IQ Edge dungeons. On-the-go is here to stay so it only makes logical sense that Questrade will be continuing their trend of integrating more Edge-like whiz-bang functionality into this app, possibly surpassing their web-based sibling over time.
There is no question that this mobile app is an integral component to Questrade and quite possibly view it as the most important in this entire platform suite, in terms of long-term growth, since most people will continue to be looking to their phones (and other portable devices) as their primary hub to the markets.
This is Questrade’s most popular free trading platform. It serves as the primary trading gateway for most users entire investing experience. It also serves as Questrade’s answer for those who, for one reason or another, may not have access to (or be compatible with) their mobile or IQ Edge applications. As such, this trading platform is what Linux users turn to when needing to trade stocks, ETFs, and options.
Questrade Trading is craftily integrated into the Questrade Account portal and is reachable through the prominently displayed green Trade button located at the top menu bar. For convenience, this platform can be set as your home base when you log in. This platform is a fully compliant HTML5 browser-based responsive experience, it does not require a download, nor any third-party add-on, to be fully functional.
Taking a spin with this platform was an incredibly liberating experience — an excellent amalgamation of power and usability. It’s very featured-packed. It also introduces the concept of Gadgets into the platform lexicon. A gadget is an arrangeable user-customized view into your trading/market details. Some of these gadgets include: activity (a logs viewer), balances, time & sales (current global activity of a stock), level 1 quotes, level 2 quotes (if you’d paid for this extension), news, orders, charts, position summary, and a watch list. Any custom changes you make to your platform layout are automatically saved and restored when you re-log back in.
This platform was surprisingly lightning fast and responsive in every web browser I tested it in. Memory and CPU footprint usage was astonishingly small despite the depth of options, activity, and functionality it had to offer. I also found that sessions don’t appear to have any inactivity time limit.
A nice bonus feature of this platform was being able to start a trading task on one device (e.g., a home PC) and effortlessly shift to another device (e.g., smartphone or tablet) to complete it. This is an invaluable little addition because it can allow one to carefully construct lengthy trading procedures while permitting free movement during busy schedules. Additional bonus points also have to go to their clever use of green and red colouring in real-time to help more easily distinguish stocks and options price variations as they happen.
Impressively, this web-based trading platform has almost all the features found in IQ Edge, its bigger brother in this family. Notable differences include the lack of multiple workspaces, heat maps, and surprisingly, the inability to change color themes — you’re stuck with that white look, unlike IQ Edge which has selectable themes. So, if you feel you may need one or more of these missing features then I’d recommend you use their desktop-based IQ Edge platform instead.
Questrade IQ Edge
Questrade IQ Edge is the big boy of this suite. It comes as a free install-based native PC (or Mac) desktop application. And although it is commonly used by many investors, regardless of experience, this platform was specifically engineered to cater to active and professional traders.
Interestingly, Questrade Trading and IQ Edge share many features in common. But I did find the following unique differences.
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 targeted purpose that suits a trading environment style. Multiple navigable workspaces is a valuable asset for active traders.
Other key differences I uncovered was that IQ Edge offers significantly more advanced options for order entries, such as conditional orders (e.g., trigger orders at a specific time, price, or volume automatically), creation of bracket orders, more extensive alerts, and multiple order entry windows. This platform also includes more extensive research tools and heat maps.
I also discovered a few subtle differences as well. IQ Edge allows for extensive gadget customizing, which takes them well beyond what is possible in Questrade Trading. Most of these customizable features, however, are visual (e.g., drag-drop, resize, custom colourizing, blinking text). It depends on the gadget. Curiously, gadgets don’t have a snap-to feature and so they do not auto-arrange when the main application window resizes. It’s a bit annoying but not a deal breaker because most people just position their gadgets at a particular spot and maintain the application window at a set size.
Interestingly, any gadget customization you make in IQ Edge does not transfer over to their other trading platforms (assuming the same gadget exists), and vice versa. Ticker symbols and the related data inside gadgets (e.g., alerts), however, are properly maintained across different trading environments.
Thankfully IQ Edge incorporates different user-selectable colour themes, ranging from dark (default), light, and a sky blue. This is a welcome change from the screen burn-in white theme that their other trading platforms (excluding FX Global) are unfortunately hardwired to only use.
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. When speaking with Questrade’s technical staff, I was told that this platform is written from the ground up using optimized C++ code and deployed specifically for Intel processors, ensuring the speediest of responses for the most serious of traders. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing there is no 64-bit version for IQ Edge on PC platforms. For Macs it is natively 64-bit. Don’t get me wrong, this will still run perfectly fine on 64-bit Windows-based PC systems. It just won’t be running as efficiently as it could be. Here’s hoping in the near future an optimized 64-bit Windows version of IQ Edge will be made available.
Questrade FX Global
This is their free specialty web-based and mobile (Android and iOS) platform geared specifically to foreign exchange (FX) and contract-for-difference (CFD) traders. For the curious, FX contracts and CFDs are over-the-counter derivatives. FX Global gives you the ability to speculate on the price movement of currencies, energy, agriculture, metals, and equity indices from one account.
FX Global prefers to live and breathe within the web browser. And my tests found the interaction to be seamless across every device I checked. That includes: PC, Mac, Linux, and mobile devices. Their mobile FX Global app also ran smoothly in my tests, but I felt more at home using the web version.
The platform conveniently tracks all trading activity in real time. I could execute trades from live bid/ask quotes just with a simple click or tap at any time. I was also able to keep tabs on open positions, watch for instant profits and losses, view account balances, and analyze historical activity, all on-screen.
Other positive noteworthy features in my evaluation include the ability to switch environment themes (i.e., dark or light), up-to-the-minute embedded news, research tools, technical analysis indicators, watch lists, and push notification alerts to your phone.
I found this platform to be designed very well and I could long and short hundreds of global currency pairs and CFDs with ease. The entire experience was surprisingly much more natural feeling than I was expecting; and this is coming from someone who has very little prior experience in the FX & CFD markets. Trading within the platform can be done 24 hours a day from Sunday evening to Friday afternoon, but, if necessary, existing forex account holders can also place orders for free over the phone.
One of the keys to successful investing is through tenacious market research — doing your homework. And so, while compiling this review I felt an honourable nod should be given to Questrade’s stand-out research tools: Market Intelligence and Intraday Trader.
When you login, both tools are found tucked away under the Market Research menu selection.
Market Intelligence is the place to go when you need to get the latest market news in North America, Europe, and Asia as it happens. With research data and ratings provided by MorningStar, I was able to successfully look up a lot of valuable material (e.g., reports, earnings) on whole industries, companies, and specific stocks without having to leave my account. There is also a very useful criteria-based email alerter to keep track of stocks. You can set it up to alert you on price changes, volume fluctuations, bid sizes, and more.
The other research tool, Intraday Trader, is a comprehensive technical analyzer that monitors the NSYE, NASDAQ, AMEX, TSX, TSX Venture, and ARCA. By providing an event triggering watch list (pre-set or custom), it’s able to scan those markets and cross-reference technical patterns of interest throughout the trading day. When a target has been triggered I get notified with charts and a description on what caused it and why. It’s clear that the goal of this tool is to give you a heads-up on potential trading opportunities as they are happening. Interestingly, I began noticing over the following days that I kept returning to use this tool and adding more refined complexity to my event triggers. In short, using this tool can become quite addictive.
Questrade’s security measures have improved dramatically over the years. They use an impressive 256-bit SSL class 3 extended validation (with 2048-bit digital certificates) for both logging in and trading. Extra security during the login process can be provided by enabling two-step authentication. For those unfamiliar, two-step authentication is an additional security layer which requires not just a username and password, but you must also use another device that you currently have in your possession — typically a phone — to input a special code shown on that device during the login process.
Questrade has an online security guarantee which insures investors against unauthorized transactions which result in a direct loss. This security guarantee, however, doesn’t extend to intruders breaching accounts on your end (i.e., browser vulnerability, PC/Mac infection). In other words, Questrade will indemnify you for the full monetary loss as a result of a direct unauthorized transaction and/or due to their own negligence. For this guarantee to process smoothly, however, I recommend you enable two-factor authentication prior to the unauthorized transaction.
They are a CIPF (Canadian Investor Protection Fund) member, and so all Canadian investors are covered up to $1,000,000. They are also members of the IIROC (Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada). For claims that exceed $1,000,000, Questrade offers extended private insurance up to $10 million. You will need to contact them directly by phone for more details in getting this extension set up correctly.
Other noteworthy security features: Receive notification emails for new logins (disabled by default); and when joining, you must provide at least two security questions and answers — one of which gets asked when you attempt to log into your account from an unrecognized device.
Each time you sign into your account your last login information is prominently displayed at the top-right corner with the date, time, device used, browser user agent, and the operating system of who last accessed your account.
And lastly, a special appreciation goes out to the ability to set up a personal identification number (PIN) from your customer profile page. This PIN is optional, but is used to make it quicker to identify you when phoning in. You still have to provide other information about yourself when speaking to a representative, but the verification process is much quicker. I found this very handy, especially because I had to call in several times to better review their customer service.
Managed Investing (Questwealth Portfolios)
Self-directed investing (aka DIY trading) is offered essentially by every discount brokerage in Canada and has been a popular choice by the general public due to the cornucopias of easy-to-use tools and support made available to investors desiring complete control over every aspect of their financial 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.
Another option exists, however. For those with very little time, while continuing to carry big investment ambitions, Questrade introduced Questwealth Portfolios, formerly branded as Portfolio IQ, the alternative to self-directed investing. Really known as managed investing, Questwealth Portfolios takes away the stress of investment decision making, such as asset allocation and re-balancing, and puts this work into the hands of experienced 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! However, the difficulty lies in trying to figure out how exactly to do that. This is where I feel Questwealth Portfolios comes to the rescue.
I discovered that Questwealth Portfolios was Canada’s first online wealth management service. Another accomplishment by Questrade. When speaking with one of their managers, he expressed that the advent of Questwealth Portfolios is to grow and become a definitive market disruptor. To make managed investing accessible to everyone. He went on to say that because managed investing has typically been an exclusive club for the very rich, their goal was to hark back to their motto of unlocking all things restrictive to the masses by doing away with convention. That’s a bold statement. So naturally I signed up for an account and had a look around.
Opening a Questwealth Portfolios account is straight-forward and only requires an initial deposit of just $1. As an extra bonus, this review’s Questrade offer code — also known as a Questrade referral code — can be used when opening a managed account to receive a free cash bonus. Once open you’re taken through a quick, simple to use point-and-click/tap questionnaire (only ten questions in total) to set up an investor biography that identifies your risk tolerance, existing financial circumstances, market knowledge, and investment ambitions. This is all used to help crystallize the best portfolio that will matter to you. If your goals change, then you can adjust your biography to keep things in balance, which will then automatically update your underlying portfolio model accordingly.
Although it only requires $1 to open a Questwealth Portfolios account, your money sits uninvested until it reaches at least $1,000. Once that threshold has been reached, your money is automatically shifted into your selected portfolio, and your very own assigned team of specialists will begin actively managing and adjusting your portfolio as opportunities arise in the markets. I found they vigilantly kept re-balancing assets to stay within my risk tolerance without any daily involvement on my part, which was nice. Once invested, however, you will want to maintain a minimum balance of $750 to keep your account invested.
I didn’t find any trading or trailing commission fees. I did uncover a nominal annual management fee, however, which varies based on your existing total account asset value. This fee only gets charged when you have at least $1,000 in savings within your managed account. If it does apply then it’s broken up and charged proportionally on a quarterly basis. Relative to other brokerages and banks, this management fee is by far the lowest I’ve seen.
|Your Total Assets||Annual Fee|
|Less than $1,000||No Fee|
|$1,000 – $99,999||0.25%|
With the added benefit of taking full advantage of tax-loss harvesting, and providing a last quarter management fee refund guarantee if you’re not fully satisfied for any reason, Questwealth Portfolios is an extraordinary competitor in the managed investing arena. It has that perfect resonating mix all investors, big and small, crave when they daydream of an unshackled financial tomorrow.
There are five portfolios and they all deal exclusively in ETFs. Composition is an assortment mix of sectors, markets, and countries.
|Conservative Income||Low||80% fixed, 20% equity|
|Income||Low – Medium||60% fixed, 40% equity|
|Balanced||Medium||40% fixed, 60% equity|
|Growth||Medium – High||20% fixed, 80% equity|
|Aggressive Growth||High||100% equity|
Further, each of these portfolios have three tiers. Each tier has a different set of sector-specific and country-specific ETFs. It is your account asset value that determines which tier position you’re automatically assigned within the portfolio you’ve selected.
Interestingly, each of the aforementioned five portfolios are also available in SRI versions (Socially Responsible Investing). This means that you can alternatively get equivalently structured portfolios that invest only in companies that conform to stringent environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria. Fees associated with SRI managed portfolios are only marginally higher. For example, 0.20% for Conservative SRI portfolios, 0.28% for Balanced, and 0.35% for Aggressive SRI portfolios.
Questrade has partnered with several financial service providers to help enhance your investment experience through third-party apps. Types of partner apps include trading platforms, stock pickers, performance recorders, statistics analyzers, portfolio monitors, etc. Once you grant permission to an app, it can access your account details (personal information is still kept private), retrieve market data, and assist you with placing trades through your Questrade brokerage account.
Granting permission to a third-party app is as simple as finding an app of interest within the App Hub library, clicking the Add to My Apps button, generating a special (and necessary) authorization token, downloading the associating partner’s app (and/or signing up for an account via their website), and then inputing your generated authorization token within the app.
The only apps authorized by Questrade are the ones listed in their library. If a third-party app is not listed there, then that specific app will not have access to your account. In other words, you cannot arbitrarily generate a generic authorization token for an unauthorized app.
Interestingly, you can create and register your own app and become a partner with Questrade. I will discuss this in more detail under the Developer Platform section of this review.
One strange quirk I did find, when you add a partner app it became difficult, if not impossible, to return to the App Hub library at a later time to add another app. Why Questrade didn’t add a navigable link back to the library on the My Apps page — if you’ve already added at least one app — is beyond me. Either this is an oversight, or a bug. I’ve reported this problem to them. Hopefully they fix it soon because the only way I could figure out how to return to the App Hub library was to remove all my apps. That’s very inconvenient. By the time you read this review it will probably already be fixed.
Beyond that little issue it was really fun and quite advantageous to have access to so many third-party apps.
Participating in initial public offerings (IPO), secondary issues (additional shares/bonds offered by a public company), and structured products has always been the holy grail for many investors due to the incredible euphoric frenzy of the 1990’s internet IPO boom, and recently with the bitcoin cryptocurrency mania (via Initial Coin Offerings).
Because IPOs usually tick up on first day closings, it makes total sense why so many want in — it’s a quick way to make an easy buck! However, due to the natural laws of supply and demand, interest in these new issues almost always outstrip the quantity made available, and therefore only insiders, well-connected bigwigs, and the very wealthy are usually the only ones who are granted access. Nepotism and cronyism at its undemocratic finest.
For generations the general public has had little access to IPOs. There was a brief moment in time when Wit Capital, an internet startup of the 90s, briefly unlocked this secret world, but it was short-lived.
Questrade became one of the new Canadian trailblazers to usher in a sledgehammer back into this world for the masses by introducing their IPO Centre. This centre is a very welcome sight and seems well positioned to grow into something incredibly special.
How To Take Part
The IPO Centre is reachable on your desktop/laptop , smartphone, and tablet. When you see an IPO or other new issue you like, it’s a simple click/tap of the Buy button found next to that offering. Alternatively, you can call their trade desk to put in a request. All IPO and secondary offering purchases are commission free.
Once your order has been placed, this is referred to as an “expression of interest”. An expression of interest makes Questrade aware you are putting in a commitment to buy a number of shares. This does not guarantee, though, that you will actually get any or all of the shares you’ve requested.
When placing an expression of interest on their website, the trade desk contacts you to confirm the order within an hour. In rare cases I found it took up to 24 hours.
There is a $5,000 minimum requested amount for submitting an IPO order. Some companies going public may even ask for an amount over and above this, but the majority of the time it won’t be above the $5,000 Questrade minimum. Once the order is confirmed, Questrade passes along your interest to the offering’s underwriter.
For instant notification of newly announced IPOs and secondary issues, I recommend subscribing to their mailing list known as the IPO Bulletin. Surprisingly, I found that notifications arrived roughly thirty minutes sooner than the time it took for new issues to appear on the centre’s front page. That revelation can potentially lead to unique first access opportunities. Nice!
Canceling a request can be made within two business days (this may vary depending on the province) of receiving, or deemed receipt of, a prospectus and any related amendments (found at the online centre).
Type of Offerings
The Questrade IPO Centre showcases newly available issues of Canadian equity, fixed income, and structured notes. For historic reasons, they also give access to a detailed back catalog of previous offerings. Each IPO’s respective fact sheet, investor summary, terms, preliminary and final prospectuses are also readily available.
Although the IPO Centre mostly has Canadian offerings, U.S. IPOs do show up from time-to-time as well. Due to Canadian security regulations though, U.S. and other foreign-based companies must file their prospectuses in each province individually in order to be sold to residents of that particular province. Since many companies in the United States may feel that doing an IPO in Canada could be an added expense (e.g., listing fees, legal fees, French language requirements), and that domestic demand in the U.S. is already strong enough to satisfy the capital they’re seeking to raise, it’s only logical that most offerings you see listed in the centre are Canadian by nature.
Fun fact: TSX has a very large mining focus. This is because many international mining/resource companies file a prospectus, raise money, and choose to be listed here in Canada.
Registered accounts (e.g., RRSP, TFSA) are also eligible to hold the vast majority of IPOs and treasury offerings. Some IPOs, however, may not be eligible due to their company/offering structure and how widely held it is.
My only complaint is that the number of IPOs to select from isn’t as bountiful as I would prefer it to be. I am not sure if this is due to the unseen battle that they surely must have with underwriters to be granted access to new filings, or if their staff is just being lethargic in pursuing more pickings.
Processing Time & Distribution
Processing time for orders can vary but usually it takes around three weeks from when the underwriters first launch the IPO and when the offering closes. Times can be shorter when dealing with some secondary offerings and preferred treasury shares. Once allocations from the underwriter are received, Questrade informs customers via email or phone.
Allocations, however, may be distributed on a pro-rata basis if an IPO is oversubscribed (the number of shares requested by all interested parties is greater than what Questrade received), and so, as mentioned earlier, your original request amount may not necessarily materialize to what you actually get. For example, if Questrade receives a 50% allocation on their total order amount, they would then allocate only 50% to your original order request.
Customer services are the make or break for practically every company, irrespective of the industry they’re in. If customers have an issue, be it executing a hanging order, a problem with account management, or just to get in touch to have someone walk them through a task, it’s critical that customer service be attentive, knowledgeable, and understanding. You can have all the best technology and intuitive user experience in place, but if you lack basic customer service support, you’re company is doomed.
Now let’s delve into Questrade’s customer service experience so I can give you my impression on their online and offline (i.e., telephone) efficacy.
Most people will likely prefer to communicate with Questrade through online means. As such, you have a few options: Email, and Live Help real-time chat.
Email response times were relatively quick. I sent four different emails regarding four distinctly different issues, and their reply times varied between one hour and eighteen hours. That’s pretty good. Their response content was very good as well. Nothing was canned, which is common when dealing with other companies over email.
As for the online chat feature, while putting this review together I noticed that Questrade had repeatedly repositioned their live help’s green Chat button. I figure it’s probably because they are still finalizing on the best placement for it. But nonetheless, their chat button tends to be conveniently a fixed overlay on the bottom-right corner of most pages. It’s operational from Monday to Friday (excluding holidays) from 8:00am – 8:00pm ET. When clicked it brings up a pop-up window.
After speaking with several 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 also took the extra time to provide external web links (those found outside the Questrade domain) for further reading which was a nice bonus. If the chat feature is unavailable (e.g., weekends, holidays, or outside service hours) you’re still able to leave a detailed message. When I tried this, I did receive a decent response when a representative returned.
For customer support over the phone, they are available Monday to Friday, 7:30am – 8:00pm ET. For forex trading, they are open much longer, including Sundays. When I did phone in, I found that they support English, French, and Mandarin languages. Coincidentally, being trilingual I was able to speak to representatives in all three languages. Hold times varied based on what I was calling about. During midday on a workweek I found the wait time for a new customer to be about one minute. When calling in as an existing customer, the wait time was much shorter. This may be coincidental, but I also found that using their live help was much quicker than calling into their offices. Overall, speaking over the phone with their different departments was a very relaxing and helpful experience. They know their stuff! And not once did I feel they were rushing to get the conversation ended quickly. It felt like I actually mattered.
Developers interested in writing their own applications or using tools from other third-party vendors can rejoice because Questrade has their own application programming interface (API). It’s free to use and can execute, modify, and cancel stock & option orders on Canadian and U.S. exchanges; retrieve balances, and positions as far back as sixteen months; and fetch delayed and real-time market data. Their SDK with sample code is available for download in C++ and C#/Active X.
After a quick glance over Questrade’s very clean online API operations documentation, within ten minutes I had created my first, fully functional application in Microsoft Visual Studio C#. It’s very easy to make an app! I also love how they give access to a practice server for testing applications on. And once I had fixed all my bugs, I then was able to switch over to the live server. Very smart!
Questrade implements Representational State Transfer (REST) for reading and writing data, and the OAuth 2.0 authorization framework for their security protocol. Everything communicates through HTTPS only. The great thing about using REST and OAuth is that development time is significantly reduced, as was evident by the time it took for me to make my first app, because they are widely used, simple to understand, standards for a lot of online development.
I noticed there is an option to partner with Questrade so that your application can extend beyond your app’s library, and be made available to every Questrade customer. I did not test this feature because my application was just a simple proof-of-concept for this review, but I did speak with a technician who told me that there is no cost when partnering. Your application goes through a thorough quality assurance review, and if they feel your app will enhance their customers’ experiences, they will happily add it into the App Hub. Please note, though, if you develop a trading platform where your users make trades within your app on the live server, then your users will still get charged the same commission fees that they would have paid if they were using one of Questrade’s standard trading platforms.
Questrade has the lowest commission cost and fees in Canada, calculated at $0.01 per share with $4.95 minimum charge ($9.95 maximum cost). Questrade has no charge on ETFs, no annual fees, fast customer service often, much touted tools, many trading platforms, and over 20 years experience.
Should you join? Yes — a resounding YES! For someone like me, as a casual trader, who has experienced headaches with banks and other brokerage firms, it’s nice to finally find a good home at Questrade who doesn’t play games, nor charge exorbitant fees. Questrade fits my needs perfectly and helps unlock my potential as a growing investor.
Now I’d love to hear your opinion on Questrade. Leave a reply below, share this review, and rate them using the ratings gauge found at the very top of this page.
Overall Rating: 90% out of 100
Readers Rating: 94% out of 100 (2251 votes)
Updated: Friday, March 27 2020
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
This review has been updated many times over the years and, during such time, many questions have been asked by my readers in the comments section. For your convenience, I have compiled the most asked questions, with their corresponding answers, below.
Who is Questrade?
- Lowest commission cost per equity trade in Canada.
- Commission-free ETF trades.
- No annual fees.
- Free $50 when using Questrade offer code: Canada
- Questrade will cover the transfer-out fee when moving your brokerage account to them.
- Full-featured tools and trading platforms available on all devices.
- Very responsive customer service. Even when using live online help.
- Hold dual-currency (CAD and USD) simultaneously within registered accounts (e.g., RRSP) without automatic conversions, nor fees.
What is the best way to convert CAD/USD?
To eliminate currency exchange fees almost entirely when converting CAD/USD, you will want to use Norbert’s Gambit. To do this, you will use tickers: DLR.TO and DLR.U.TO. The former deals in CAD currency, the latter in USD currency.
To convert from CAD to USD:
- Buy shares of DLR.TO (currency will be in CAD) in the amount that you want to convert into USD cash.
- Get ahold of a Questrade rep via live help chat or on the phone.
- Tell the rep that you want to journal over all of your newly acquired DLR.TO shares to its USD equivalent side (i.e., DLR.U.TO). Your shares will now shift from DLR.TO to DLR.U.TO and be in USD currency.
- Sell all of your DLR.U.TO shares. You will now have USD cash.
To convert from USD to CAD:
- Buy shares of DLR.U.TO (currency will be in USD) in the amount that you want to convert into CAD cash.
- Get ahold of a Questrade rep via live help chat or on the phone.
- Tell the rep that you want to journal over all of your newly acquired DLR.U.TO shares to its CAD equivalent side (i.e., DLR.TO). Your shares will now shift from DLR.U.TO to DLR.TO and be in CAD currency.
- Sell all of your DLR.TO shares. You will now have CAD cash.
The entire process can take up to 1-2 business days to complete. The full details of your conversion is recorded under myQuestrade’s Account Activity page.
My bank doesn’t accept Questrade account #s
Most people will fund their Questrade accounts through their bank’s bill payment method. However, some banks still impose an eight character limit. You can get around this problem by using just the first eight digits of your ten digit Questrade account #.
How do I register for a DRIP?
A dividend reinvestment plan (DRIP), which is also known as a direct purchase plan (DPP), allows you to reinvest your stock’s dividend income automatically into the purchase of additional shares of that security without paying any trading commissions. To register for a DRIP, log into your Questrade account, navigate to Account Management > Find Forms, and download & fill out the one page PDF file: Dividend Reinvestment Plan (DRIP) Authorization. You’d then use Upload Documents to send your signed form to Questrade. It takes up-to 24 hours to process your request. If you ever sell off your security entirely, your DRIP will be canceled.
Can I short sell?
Yes, you can short stocks in margin accounts. Registered accounts (e.g., RRSP), however, cannot short because of Canadian government regulations.
What is Margin Power?
Margin Power is a free service by Questrade that allows you to link your existing TFSA account (held at Questrade) to your margin account. Doing so increases your buying power within your margin account by leveraging the assets you already own inside your TFSA, making it enormously convenient to enter new positions without requiring a transfer of new cash or selling existing securities.
What are ECN Fees?
ECN fees are fees enforced onto Questrade by an external network that charges you for making a transaction which removes liquidity from the market (i.e., buying at the ask or selling at the bid). Questrade doesn’t make any money from ECN fees; they simply pass this collected fee to the designated network to execute your order. Although these fees translate to mere pennies, one can avoid paying them altogether by executing transactions as a limit (or stop) order at the bid/ask instead of as a market order request. For U.S. stocks you can also send orders to non-direct access ECN networks (i.e., LAMP, MNGD, or POST) to avoid these fees completely.
How do I avoid mutual fund trailer fees?
Questrade will rebate mutual fund trailer fees. They call this their Mutual Fund Maximizer. Trailer fees are commissions by fund management companies paid to brokerage houses for being the retailer that sold you your fund(s). This commission is an ongoing source of revenue for brokerages as long as you keep holding onto those fund(s). You don’t see this fee because it’s part of the MER of the fund. So, Questrade is willing to rebate this fee back to you every 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).
Do their platforms support Mac/Linux?
Yes, their trading platforms are available for Mac and Linux users. Questrade’s trading platforms are also available for Windows, iOS, and Android devices. For Linux users, Questrade Trading, their responsive HTML browser-based web application, is what’s used.
How do I stop paper-mailed investor documents?
Initially, shareholder communications (i.e., voting requests, annual meeting summaries, financial reports) are sent as paper mail to your physical address. For those who wish to save the environment by saving a few trees you can alternatively opt to receive these correspondence documents through electronic mail instead. A convenient free service called InvestorDelivery exists where you can set up to receive all of your investor correspondence electronically. InvestorDelivery requires a special ID that is stamped in the header region of each of your paper documents. So you’ll have to wait and receive a paper document of a security you own before you can switch over to its electronic alternative.
How much does Questrade cost?
Stock shares cost 1¢ per share at $4.95 minimum ($9.95 maximum). ETF trade purchases are free. Questrade has no annuals fees and are the lowest cost stock broker in Canada. It’s also free to join with no catches.
Where can I get the Questrade offer code?
To get $50 free from Questrade, simply type the following Offer Code: Canada into the Offer Code input box during the sign-up process. Get more information here and its promotional terms and conditions.
How do I get trading reports before 2011?
If you have been a Questrade member before 2011, then you may have already discovered that their Trade Confirmations database, which claims to carry your trading details dating back to January 1st, 2009, in fact only rolls back to February 4th, 2011. Sadly, you may no longer have access to these older trading reports because Penson, Questrade’s old clearinghouse partner, who stockpiled these much older reports, has now shut its doors for good. When speaking with Questrade’s representatives, I got inconsistent answers on whether they still have these very old reports or not.
How do I fill out the W8BEN form?
Several of you have been asking how to correctly fill out the W8BEN tax withholding rate lowering form. The only lines you need to fill in are: Line 1: Your full name, Line 2: Canada, Line 3: Your full address, Line 8: Your date of birth, Line 9: Canada, and at the bottom of the page: sign it, date it, and print your full name. That’s it! Now just use Upload Documents or mail this form directly to Questrade.
Can I lower the foreign withholding tax rate?
Yes, you can! For those unfamiliar, dividend-paying foreign stocks will have a withholding tax levied on them by many (foreign) governments when held outside an RRSP account. Most of the popular foreign stocks held by Canadians are U.S.-based and thus, by default, have a 30 per cent withholding tax rate, but if you file a U.S. Internal Revenue Service Form W-8BEN through Questrade this rate is effectively lowered to 15 per cent. You can find this form under Account Management > Find Forms > Other Forms: W8BEN – For Overseas Residents.
What is the interest rate when buying on margin?
Most people will sign up for the standard margin 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 three days of the purchase, the margin interest rate can be as low as prime + 2.5%, which is in-line with most brokerages.