There have been two brokerages I have used over the entirety of my investing career.
For the better part of a decade I had used Questrade.
Most recently, I made the jump and swapped over to Qtrade.
It appears I've piqued the interest of both Stocktrades Premium members, regular readers, and Canadians wondering how to buy stocks, as to why I made this switch...
Why did I move a long standing account from Questrade to Qtrade?
In this Questrade vs Qtrade review, I'm going to show you the pros and cons of each, and why the decision was clear cut for me, and how both brokerages can be right for different investors.
Much like any of our other brokerage reviews, we're going to pit these two brokerages together on 6 core elements. If you'd like to jump to one, simply click the links below.
- Customer Service
But first, lets sum up this whole review inside of a table to make life easier for those who want to make a quick decision.
Benefit of being able to hold both USD and CAD in the same account
Must create a USD and CAD account to hold both currencies
Penny per share, but the $4.95 minimum $9.95 maximum can make Questrade actually more expensive
$8.75 flat fee regardless of the amount of shares, $6.95/$7.75 in some situations like age or account balance
Has always lacked. E-mail communication can take multiple days, I've witnessed livechat queues exceed 200 people
Second to none. I've had response times in as little as 20 minutes via e-mail
2 strike and you‘re out system in terms of logging in. Can feel like a nuisance if you make a mistake twice, but this is an added benefit
Password must be entered prior to executing a trade, a feature that Questrade doesn't have. In terms of overall security however, it's a draw
It's IQ Edge software is attractive to traders, browser based platform is lacking, mobile app is a nice on the go addition
Its browser based platform, which is what 95% of investors will utilize, is leaps and bounds ahead in terms of overall functionality. Mobile app gets the job done, but very simple.
Lots of extras, however I found most of them to be of little use
Portfolio performance tracking, grading tools, simulation tools and more are tools that investors can actually use and benefit from
Passed on to the client, resulting in higher than anticipated commissions, especially with high volume trades
No ECN fees whatsoever
Level 2 Data
Can cost up to $89.95 a month.
Free of charge
Free to purchase, but standard commissions apply to sell
100+ free to both buy and sell. However, selection of free ETFs is more limited than Questrade. Offer all ETFs traded in Canada and the US.
Convoluted at some times. Even after using the platform for 10 years, I struggled to find specific documents.
Easy to navigate, provides one click options to portfolio performance, buying and selling, research and more.
Includes a dedicated IPO centre for those who want to participate.
Includes dedicated IPO centre for those that want to participate.
Charges do apply
Free of charge
Qtrade vs Questrade accounts
Accounts remain relatively the same across both brokerages. With both Questrade and Qtrade, you'll be able to open up the following accounts:
- Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA)
- Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP)
- Locked-in Retirement Account (LIRA)
- Spousal Retirement Savings Plan (RSP)
- Locked-in Retirement Savings Plan (RSP)
- Retirement Income Fund (RIF)
- Registered Education Savings Plans (RESP)
- Individual and Joint Margin (cash) Accounts
- A Variety of Forex and CFD Accounts
Along with that, if you're a business owner, you'll be able to open up the following accounts:
- Corporate Margin
- Investment Club
- Sole Proprietorship
- Informal Trusts
- Formal Trusts
However, I'd have to give a slight edge to Questrade in this department, primarily because you don't have to open up multiple accounts to hold both USD and CAD.
A Questrade TFSA for example can hold both USD and CAD, whereas with Qtrade you'd need to open up a Canadian and US dollar TFSA.
Questrade vs Qtrade commissions and fees
Questrade offers rock bottom commissions, however it might cost you money to get there. And, I know this sounds weird, but it's ultimately true.
In order to qualify for true penny per share trading, you'll have to purchase a level 2 data package of Questrade's, which can cost upwards of $89.95 a month.
Now, this fee is refunded to you if you make an exorbitant amount of trades per month, but keep in mind level 2 data is provided free of charge with Qtrade.
If we look to basic commissions on each platform however, assuming you don’t want to fork over $90 a month to gain access to cheaper trades, we come up with the following:
$4.95 - $9.95
$8.75 + $1.25 per contract
$9.95 + $1 per contract
ETFs (non commission free)
$4.95 - $9.95
Prime + 1.55%
Prime + 3.50%
As you can see by the table above, it's not so cut and dry.
"A prime example? I was charged nearly $50, or over 500% more than Qtrade would have charged me to buy 10,000 shares of a TSX Venture stock with Questrade."
Qtrade offers a flat fee, while Questrade's most basic package has varying commissions based on the amount of shares traded.
For example, if you buy 1000 shares of a single stock, it will cost you $8.75 on Qtrade, whereas Questrade will charge you the maximum of $9.95.
Considering Questrade also charges ECN fees, if you're trading large volumes of stocks, it can end up costing you significantly.
A prime example? I was charged nearly $50, or over 500% more than Qtrade would have charged me to buy 10,000 shares of a TSX Venture stock with Questrade.
In terms of fees, the one that will bother most investors is Qtrade's $25 quarterly account fee. However, they make it extremely easy to avoid. Simply do one of the following:
- Set up automated deposits of $100 a month or more
- Make two trades in a quarter
- If you're part of the Young Investor Pricing plan, contribute $50 per month or more
Questrade vs Qtrade customer service
The quality of customer service can make a big difference when it comes to picking a discount brokerage, especially when you are a new investor just entering the markets.
As someone who has been through both brokerages and dealt with their customer service, I can definitely speak to a few points. However, much like the other sections, I'll simply rank the companies in a quick and easy table.
Type of Customer Service
In my opinion, Qtrade's overall customer service experience is hands down the best in the business.
The only points I would extend to Questrade are the fact that their customer service department seemed a bit more knowledgeable overall, and there was little confusion on what I needed done, when I needed it done.
However, response time was the key differentiator here and even if Qtrade did need to clarify a few things with me prior to giving me an answer, I received a response from their Livechat in mere minutes and e-mail response times were no longer than a couple of hours.
I tested Qtrade's customer service extensively before heading over. And without question it trumped Questrade's in every area.
I wouldn't label my customer service experience at Questrade as a negative one, but the experience I have had at Qtrade is a massive positive.
Questrade Vs Qtrade's Security
Between these brokerages this subject is mostly a wash. I'd rank both of them exactly the same.
Both of these brokerages are members of the CIPF, and both of them go the extra mile when it comes to protecting your account.
Both Qtrade and Questrade have two-factor authentication functionality and both of them offer the same sort of guarantee that they'll reimburse your funds in full if your account is subject to fraud.
Keep in mind though, that guarantee only sticks if you've been following their strict account rules. Which for the most part, are common sense, like setting up 2 factor authentication.
Some things you shouldn't do?
Don't leave your account logged in at a library. Don't give your password away. Make sure to read a brokerage's literature on what protects and covers your account.
There's some individual perks of each account however, of which I think cancel each other out to give both of these discount brokerages a "same score" when it comes to security.
And that is the fact that Questrade offers a "2 strikes and you are out" system on login, and Qtrade offers a trading password before you can make a trade.
Users trying to get into your Questrade account will be locked out quicker, but if something terrible were to happen and someone were to get into your Qtrade account, they'd need a separate, additional password to do any damage trading wise.
Overall? Your money is safe at either brokerage.
Qtrade vs Questrade's platforms
Both of these brokerages offer excellent functionality when it comes to platforms and user interface. Again, it's probably best to express the advantages inside of a table.
"...if you're a long term buy and hold investor you are going to get exponentially more out of Qtrade's platforms."
In my opinion, Questrade has the best desktop based software out there. IQ Edge is simply a fantastic program and is going to appeal to many who are looking to get started with day/swing trading.
However, if you're a long term buy and hold investor you are going to get exponentially more out of Qtrade's platforms.
Questrade's browser based platform, which is what the vast majority of investors will use, is convoluted and confusing to navigate. I found that trying to navigate to portfolio performance or finding my adjusted cost base just ended up in me clicking a bunch of menu items until I eventually got there.
One of the most frustrating things? I had to open up IQ Edge to find my total allocations across my combined portfolios. The browser based platform simply shows you per account.
Qtrade's browser based platform lays everything out on a single page, and navigating overall portfolio holdings, finding total allocations, risk exposures, performance on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, is all done within a click of a few buttons.
Mobile apps? I found Questrade's to be much more advanced, but also much more buggy. Qtrade's mobile app is very simple. Log in, see how your portfolio is doing and maybe make a few trades on the go.
Questrade's does have the ability to chart and look at technical indicators and such. But any serious trader is not doing this from a mobile device. So, I scored them both the same as they both have some positives and negatives.
Overall, the usability of the platforms as a whole, I found Qtrade's to be much more useful than Questrade's.
If you're a serious trader, you'll likely want Questrade's IQ Edge. However if you're a long term investor, Qtrade will likely be of more benefit to you. And I'll get into exactly why that is in our last overview, which looks at the brokerage's extra features.
The defining moment for a lot of beginner investors when choosing an online brokerage will be commissions.
However, I'm telling you right now, this is the most important section of this Qtrade vs Questrade review.
"Qtrade is the clear cut winner, and it's not even close."
For those who simply want to buy and sell Canadian stocks on a whim, you likely won't care about extras such as Canadian stock screeners. And, if you really don't care about them, then you're likely better off with a brokerage like Wealthsimple Trade anyways. It's commission free and offers a no-frills approach to investing.
However, if you'd like to do any sort of portfolio analysis, balancing or company research, you're going to appreciate the added features of a brokerage.
And as far as this review goes, Qtrade is the clear cut winner, and it's not even close.
Qtrade has a plethora of features that are tailor made for retail long term investors.
Their portfolio analysis and portfolio simulator tools are unmatched across anything in the industry, and the ability for me to dissect my portfolio with the click of a few buttons rather than sitting down for hours on end is worth the couple extra bucks per trade in commission.
The company also has up to date research reports on company's of your choosing.
There is no questioning to someone who doesn't have access to expensive subscription based platforms, Qtrade's research portal is going to provide you with everything you need.
Qtrade also offers some of the best stock screeners and technical analysis screeners that I have witnessed from most Canadian brokerages.
Overall, the added cost of commissions is well worth it to gain the added functionality that Qtrade has.
However, if you're strictly looking to trade, the stripped down functionality of Wealthsimple Trade or Questrade will likely be of better use to you.
My Qtrade vs Questrade final verdict
If a retail investor comes to me and asks me what the best brokerage in the country is, I'm saying Qtrade, hands down.
If I knew a little bit more about them and they were an active trader, with access to their own research tools, I'd likely suggest going the Questrade route. In this situation, commissions can be the breaking point.
But, if you're a new investor possibly wondering "why is investing important" who needs access to quick and quality customer support, along with the tools you need to have long term success in the markets as a buy and hold investor, it's not even a debate.
Pay the extra couple bucks per trade, and sign up with Qtrade.