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Questrade has been providing Canadians with rock-bottom fees on a full range of investments—including stock trades, mutual funds, no-commission ETFs, bonds, and even the ability to invest directly in gold and silver—for the past 20 years. So, it’s confounding that the trading platform has not become more of a household name, especially since Questrade is competitive with, or better than, the country’s other online brokerages, as is its robo-advisor service, Questwealth Portfolios*, which is a direct competitor to Wealthsimple.
It’s possible that Questrade’s vast range of products and services has made the brand difficult to market to any one group. Questwealth Portfolios caters to first-time investors or those with limited experience, while the brokerage service is ideal for non-experts with some investing knowledge and confidence. Whatever the reason, if you’re not yet familiar with this financial services provider, you should be. Here’s the 411 on Questrade and how you can decide whether it’s a good fit for you.
Learn more about Questrade Accounts* >
What’s the backstory on Questrade?
In 1999, at the dawn of online stock trading, entrepreneur Edward Kholodenko co-founded Questrade with three partners. Based in Toronto, their aim was, and remains, to offer DIY investors a low-cost alternative to Canada’s large banks and brokerages. Weathering the dot-com crash that soon followed, Questrade emerged to become the country’s fastest growing online brokerage.
In 2014, the platform entered the robo-advisor market by adding pre-fab portfolios of low-fee investments to its product line for those who lack the skill or inclination to go the self-directed route. Today, Kholodenko (who immigrated to Canada from the Ukraine with his family when he was five) still heads up the company, which has $9 billion in assets under management and sees 50 thousand new accounts opened each year.
Who is its target market?
Because Questrade has offerings for self-directed investors (those who are comfortable choosing and buying their own stocks, bonds and other investment assets) as well as hands-off investors who prefer to leave those decisions to a team of experts, it is popular with newbie and seasoned investors alike. The common thread among clients is cost-consciousness, as Questrade’s investment fees* are among the lowest in Canada.
What can I do with my money at Questrade?
Questrade’s user-friendly platform allows DIY investors to open almost any type of investment account online, including tax-sheltered registered accounts (RRSPs, TFSAs, RESPs, LIRAs, RIFs, LIFs) and taxable non-registered accounts (such as margin accounts and foreign exchange market accounts). Once you have at least $1,000 in your account, you can start buying, selling and trading investments. These include stocks, bonds; exchange traded funds (ETFs), including all North American ETFs; mutual funds; GICs; options; initial public offerings (IPOs); and other equities such as precious metals.
If DIY is not your thing, Questrade has you covered with its robo-advisor, Questwealth Portfolios*. You still begin by setting up an account online, but instead of choosing your own investments, you’ll be asked a series of questions about your risk tolerance, investment goals and overall approach to money. Based on your answers, Questwealth’s algorithm will choose a portfolio for you—Aggressive, Growth, Balanced, Income or Conservative—which is made up of a diversified mix of low-fee ETFs. (If you’re into socially responsible investing (SRI), you can also get SRI versions of these Questwealth Portfolios, which support companies that prioritize environmental and social concerns, and have a positive record on human rights and corruption.)
The difference between each portfolio is the ratio between higher-risk investments, such as Canadian, US and international equity ETFs, and lower-risk fixed-income ETFs, such as bonds and GICs. An aggressive portfolio would be weighted toward riskier investments (which also offer the possibility of greater returns), while a conservative one will include more low-risk investments.
Unlike typical Canadian robo-advisors, which rely 100% on algorithms and automation to monitor and rebalance your portfolio when necessary, Questwealth has actual human experts who manage your portfolio for you, without the high fees that most portfolio managers charge for this service.
How much does it cost?
Questrade’s fees depend on the type of service—DIY or pre-fab Questwealth Portfolios—as well as the specific investments that you choose. Regardless of which option you go with, there are no fees for opening or closing an account, and no transfer fees. What’s more, Questrade’s commissions and management fees undercut most of the competition. Below is a more detailed breakdown of costs.
- ETFs: no commission fees on purchases; trades cost $4.95 to $9.95 per transaction; management expense ratios (MERs, which are collected by the funds themselves) are about 0.2%
- Stocks: purchase and trading commissions are $4.95 to $9.95 per transaction
- Bonds/GICs: minimum purchase $5,000; fees may apply if withdrawn early
- International equities: 1% of the trade value; $195 minimum
- Precious metals: US$19.95 per trade
- Inactivity fee: None
- Management fees: This charge is calculated as a percentage of the total amount of money you have invested. Clients with balances less than $100,000 in total pay 0.25% annually; those with balances of $100,000 or more pay 0.20% annually.
- ETF fees: Each individual ETF in a Questwealth Portfolio has its own embedded fee, referred to as the MER, or management expense ratio. These fees range between 0.17% and 0.22% (and 0.21% to 0.35% for socially responsible investments, or SRIs). Questrade does not add fees on top of these MERs.
In real terms, that would work out to about $185 to $235 in annual fees for a $50,000 portfolio (or $205 to $300 for a similar-sized portfolio of socially responsible investments).
What research tools are provided?
To help you make smart investment decisions, Questrade provides self-directed clients with access to a variety of online investing and market research tools. Many of the tools are free, and some can be upgraded at an added cost. Here’s a basic rundown of the offerings.
Market Intelligence, powered by Morningstar
This research tool, available for free under the “Research” tab of Questrade’s trading software, allows you to search for news about specific securities or markets (it covers all the major North American exchanges) and filter the results by symbol, sector or industry. Similarly, you can enter a security name or symbol and scan results by financials, valuation, filings or other key metrics. You can also choose to get customized email alerts.
This tool provides information on (and lets you buy) the latest IPOs, secondary offerings and structured products.
Intraday Trader, powered by Recognia
Intraday Trader uses pattern recognition to keep an eye on opportunities in Canadian and U.S. equities markets. Then, it cross-references them with your specific investment goals, through custom or pre-set watchlists that you create. When one of your target trades is triggered, Intraday Trader will send you notifications with annotated charts and a description of what’s happening and why. A basic version of the tool is free, but a live-streaming version is available with a subscription to a market data plan (as explained below).
This tool provides free “snap quotes” that show real-time bid and ask prices for securities in all major North American exchanges. (The data is displayed in the level 1 quote area of the stock or option quote tab, watch list and level 1 gadget.)
For an added monthly fee of $19.99 or $89.95, you can choose from three packages that provide extra level 1 & 2 data and feature live streaming (meaning, you don’t have to keep clicking to refresh the real-time info; it will do so automatically) on trading volumes, prices and more. You can also choose a la carte live streaming data add-ons.
It’s worth noting that the paid market data subscriptions are refundable; if your total commissions for the month total $48.95 or more, you’ll receive a $19.95 rebate. Similarly, if you are on the pricier plan (which also provides access to “active trader pricing” that could save you on commission fees) the full $89.95 fee will be waived once you generate commissions of $399.95 or more.
Clients can also access the latest market information for free, thanks to a news feed Powered by Bezinga.
Are there any drawbacks to Questrade?
As previously mentioned, DIYers with small portfolios (under $1,000) could get dinged with a hefty fee each quarter if they aren’t making transactions regularly. (For its part, Questrade argues this fee is meant to encourage investors to stay on top of their accounts, which isn’t a bad idea in terms of the reduced risks that come from purchasing investments on a regular schedule instead of all at once, a strategy known as dollar cost averaging.)
Questwealth Portfolio clients should be aware that there are other robo-advisor services that do not charge any management fee on the first $5,000 or $10,000 invested; however, their fees are substantially higher than Questrade’s once that introductory threshold is crossed.
Also, some investors may not like that the Questwealth Portfolios* are managed by people rather than algorithms, as there is some evidence that actively managed portfolios do not fare as well as those that are automated. S&P Indices Versus Active (SPIVA), for example, which measures the performance of actively managed funds against their relevant S&P index benchmarks, found that more than 75% of Canadian active equity managers underperformed their benchmarks across all categories in 2018. Having said that, the past performance of Questwealth Portfolios* has been at least as good or better than benchmark targets or other robo-advisors’ portfolios.
Bottom line: Should you use Questrade?
Novice investors looking to pay the lowest fees over the long term need look no further than Questrade. The pre-fab portfolio options cater to a variety of investor types, from conservative to aggressive to socially conscious, and are rebalanced automatically to make the entire investing process super simple.
Similarly, investors with more know-how who would like to purchase their own ETFs or other assets will enjoy some of the lowest fees around—so long as they have balances of at least $1,000 or perform at least one transaction per quarter.
Learn more about Questrade Accounts* >
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Requested a withdrawal of funds in July 2019. Still waiting. It’s March 6th 2020. Several attempts have bern made to contact. I get passed to a different person evetytime and receive form letter emails. Nobody will act and they ate holding my money. I can’t even access my account – they closed it, and still have my money. This is not a trustworthy organisation.
I am trying to open account from 1 week. funds are transferred but can’t seem to get hold of anyone anywhere :(. Account is still not activated
It’s been over a week, since I signed up and had funds transferred, but my account still ain’t active. They got my money locked in there. These guys are a joke, I don’t understand how they got good reviews from some sites, even had people vouching for them. I should have just trusted my instinct and opened a trading account with my bank
They’ve had significant outages affecting their client’s ability to trade. There’s also unsettling reports of them aggressively pursuing legal action to anyone who attempts to post negative experiences online. I’d stay away from this one if I were you.
At which account level does one have the ability to customize the charting function with their own formulas for indicators?
It is quite concerning to me after I read these posts on April 25, 2020. I am considering moving my 2 TFSA accounts and other trading accounts to Questrade from other big Canadian banks.
I understand that CoronaVirus is having an impact on day to day operations however, these are my retirement funds I am working with.
every time volatility picks up and the market starts selling off and you need to make a transaction the most urgently, their system freezes up and becomes unusable – this has cost me a lot. I do not recommend questrade for this reason, although there are more reasons I wouldn’t recommend it, that is just a main reason
I’ll second Jordan’s comment below about trading speed and reliability. I switched from TD where my market equity and options trades filled instantly. With quest I sold very liquid Apple and Facebook options at market and the trades took several minutes to go through. In the meantime the prices dropped several percent. My trades were very small and well within the bid/ask volume. With TD this type of trade filled instantly.
I’m having an issue funding my account. They money have been taken from account, but I’m not able see in my Questrade account to trade. Almost one moth after, nothing happens. You can’t trust those people
I recently transferred my assets from Qtrade to Questrade because I trade daily and Qtrade was “taking” a whopping 40% off my trades! On the other hand, I have yet to find out any “holes” in Questrade. The numbers seem to add up and I keep MY profits fair and square. I personally recommend Questrade.
The bad comments regarding the speed of execution and the extended period of time required to see and use funds newly transferred are obviously either fakes that might come from competitors or legit comments from people who have made legit mistakes during the transfer of their funds. As for the execution delays, it’s just false information as the speed of execution is on par with the best brokers out there.
I have been using Questrade actively for the last 2 years. Frankly, I have never experienced any issues with my trades. I am suspicious of the comments above and feel they are deliberately negative about the broker.
For me, Questrade is my broker. Their archaic, clunky and slow interface, whereby by the time you have performed all the steps to make a trade, the opportunity is gone. I use Medved and link it to qt as a data backfill. For some reason, they can’t seem to get the trading interface right. If I had known now embarrassingly pitiful the package is, I would have started out with interactive Brokers. Just my 2 c.
I opened an RRSP and non-registered margin account with Questrade in October 2020 and have not experienced any issues related to trading or funding my accounts. I am a DIY investor and find Questrade’s website easy to use. Typically, when I send money from my RBC account to Questrade, the money appears the next day (e.g., sent money on Monday before 4 p.m. and it was available in my Questrade account Tuesday morning). Sending money from Questrade to RBC can take between two and three business days but this may be as much to do with RBC as it Questrade. Overall, I really like Questrade and recommend it to others who want to be DIY investors.
Whoever wrote this article needs to actually open an account and try interacting with Questrade. Your glowing review is not borne out by my experience.
Because of some issues with my current on-line broker, I opened a trading account with Questrade. I received confirmation, and was soon notified I could begin trading. However, a few days later when I wanted to add my wife to the account, Questrade stopped all of MY activity because her verification documentation was not complete. I then tried to contact Questrade several times over three days. On the “chat line” I was always #99 in line. Whenever I telephoned, a very pleasant sounding recording told me that the wait time was over 2 hours. I had planned to move all six of our investment accounts to Questrade. However, this level of customer service(?) is unacceptable, and under certain circumstances could be very costly. I have instructed Questrade, by E-mail, to close my trading account and return my initial deposit. Let’s see how long that takes!!!!
Worst service in the world. Bought some NWARF shares coz it will go up and make a huge profit but unfortunately the company did reverse split and went under corporate actions so its fair to hold shares for few day but questrade is still holding my shares and its been now 1 and half months and they are still holding my shares and not letting me sell. No answer to calls and no reply to emails. One word for this broker “GARBAGE”. Stay away.
Was going to move to Questrade until I saw these comments. Yea, I’ll be sticking with a bank.
Wanted to transfer my account from a pension plan to a Questrade LIRA, 2 days trying to get hold of someone or anyone from Questrade. First day 1 hour 15 minutes, then I gave up and will try my luck the next day, Second day , started calling early in the morning, 2 hours 10 mins and counting …….we value our time, as much as we value our hard earned money to invest using them as our platform, wondering if they are doing their part to improve their system for better customer care? Should I really use them, if at the get go can’t even get hold of them?
Some of these comments are certainly untrue or the user made a legit mistake. I agree that they’re difficult to get a hold of, which is why I use their “call back” feature so my position in queue stays active and they call me when they’re available, it works everytime. I opened my account in Oct 2020 and now have margin, tfsa and questwealth portfolios, and so far I’m satisfied with the company. RBC was charging a flat $9.99 per trade if I recall correctly and so far I’ve been paying less than $6 with Questrade.
I am moving all my investments from the bank to Questrade. I had an urgent problem with my accounts and “hold” times for the bank stretched to more than two hours. I e mailed the bank on Feb 22, and received an answer on May 15. Also, the bank made a mess of T5008 forms, so bad that for the first time in 50 years I had to hire an accountant to do my taxes. I am still waiting for the bank to get back to me about my T5008 forms, even though I spoke to them about it starting on April 27. Big bank brokerages? I cant get further away from them, and hope it’s fast. Oh, when I went with the bank, I started the process in June and it took till September before my accounts were all transferred. Also, they promised $250 if I transferred to them. I am still waiting for the money
I was totally sold on QTrade based on their Commercial Ads. I was very excited to save money by avoiding the fees I’m currently paying but there are just TOO MANY negative comments in this thread.
The negative comments are all well written and paint a clear picture for me. I can’t risk moving my money.
Their low fee claim is a joke. There are plenty of hidden fees that you end up paying and no way whatsoever to track them. Just try to find a fee listing on your account.
I spent about a year with them then decided to liquidate my assets and withdraw the whole amount to my bank account, all Canadian. Somehow their system would only let me withdraw the entire amount LESS CAD20. So there was CAD20 left in the account after the withdrawal. The next week it was magically down to CAD12 and then poof! everything disappeared. As expected customer service (chat and call) was totally inept. The cherry on the sunday: when I got the transfer in my bank account ONE WEEK LATER it was missing CAD5 and my bank confirmed to me it was taken by Questrade. So all in all a supposedly no-fee withdrawal ended up costing CAD25.
BTW their Python API is a joke. You can only get 15-minutes delayed quotes for free and cannot make any transactions. Avoid Questrade at all costs. I switched to Interactive Brokers.