Questrade vs Wealthsimple – Who’s The Clear Winner in 2024?

WRITTEN BY Dan Kent | UPDATED ON: May 24, 2024

Questrade vs Wealthsimple

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When reviewing online investment platforms in Canada, Wealthsimple and Questrade emerge as the top two competitors.

Self-directed investing has exploded in recent years. Ultra-low fees and some pretty nifty marketing programs have these two brokerages popping up in conversations whenever someone mentions they're looking to start building an investment portfolio.

However, which one do you choose? In this article, we're going to be diving into an in-depth comparison of both of them, because it really depends on what you're looking for.

The two platforms differ significantly in their fee structures, investment products, and the overall user experience they provide, so this comprehensive comparison is very much needed.

Let's get started.

Overview of Wealthsimple

Wealthsimple Trade

Wealthsimple, for the most part, has served those who prefer a hands-off approach to investing through their Robo-advisor platform. 

The company offered diversified portfolios managed by experts. However, this all changed in 2018 with the launch of Wealthsimple Trade.

Wealthsimple Trade is an app-based platform that allows individuals to buy and sell stocks and ETFs without commission fees. 

Wealthsimple is ideal for beginners seeking simplicity and low-cost entry into the market.

The company is known for its user-friendly interface, robo-advisor services, trading platform, and its high-interest savings accounts. It appeals to those seeking simplified, hands-off investment strategies.

Overview of Questrade

Questrade Review and Offer Code 2019

Questrade positions itself primarily as a low-cost online brokerage, appealing to DIY investors for the most part.

It is not commission-free. However, it does offer some of the most attractive commission rates in the country, especially because of the in-depth tools and research resources available.

You'll find the platform much more comprehensive than Wealthsimple in that regard.

Users have access to a wide range of investment products, including stocks, ETFs, options, and more. 

To compete with Wealtshimple on the robo side, Questrade offers Questwealth Portfolios, a robo-advisor service for those desiring automated investing with tailored portfolio management. Its fees are some of the best in the business in this regard.

Account types and investment options

Whether you're looking for non-registered accounts like a cash or margin account or looking to invest tax-free via a Tax-Free Savings Account or retirement account, both of these brokerages have you covered.

However, they do have some different account offerings, so let's go into the similarities and differences.

Account offerings

Both platforms serve Canadian investors with a broad spectrum of account types. 

You'll be able to open the following accounts at both brokerages:

  • RRSPs
  • TFSAs
  • RESPs
  • IRAs
  • RRIFs
  • LIFs
  • FHSAs

In addition to this, both brokerages also offer business accounts.

If I were to pick a winner here, I'd say Questrade for a multitude of reasons. For one, it doesn't charge you extra to open USD accounts. Sure, you can get the fee waived by Wealthsimple if you have over $100,000 in assets, but it's still a hurdle many new investors won't be able to hit.

Secondly, Questrade blends its CAD and USD accounts so that you only have one universal account.

This sounds like a relatively basic feature, but it certainly is an improvement on the multi-account structure many investors have to utilize with their Wealthsimple Trade account and, to be honest, with practically every other broker here in Canada. It makes the purchases of US stocks easier.

With all else equal, Questrade takes this because of this CAD/USD functionality.

Winner: Questrade

Investment options

Both platforms offer a multitude of investment options. You'll be able to buy the following on both platforms:

  • Stocks on both Canadian and US exchanges
  • Exchange-traded funds
  • Mutual Funds
  • Robo-Advisor services
  • Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs)

However, there are some distinct differences in opportunities available on Wealthsimple and Questrade.

Wealthsimple specific offerings

  • Private equity and alternative investments
  • High-interest savings accounts
  • Get paid for stock lending
  • Buy cryptocurrency directly

Questrade specific offerings

  • Forex and CFDs
  • IPOs and new issues
  • International equities
  • Bonds
  • Precious metals

You can likely come to the conclusion that the value of the products exclusively available to either Questrade or Wealthsimple is going to be heavily dependent on what you want as an investor.

More advanced investors will likely enjoy Questrade's added offerings more, but if I'm being honest, I'd wager that 95% of average retail investors will find Wealthsimple more valuable. 

Investment products on Wealthsimple are designed to cater to simplicity, which may attract those new to investing or who prefer a minimal-effort approach.

The added functionality of being able to participate in crypto trading directly instead of through an ETF, earn a high rate of interest with its Wealthsimple Cash platform, maybe investigate private equity and even get paid to loan your shares out sounds a whole lot more appealing than being able to trade forex or buy precious metals.

Although Questrade has more, I give Wealthsimple the edge here.

Winner: Wealthsimple

Fees and commissions

Wealthsimple fee structure

Wealthsimple operates on a commission-free trading model for stocks and ETFs. This is the company's bread and butter and is what arguably put Wealthsimple Trade on the map.

There is no trading fee to buy or sell any stock or ETF, and there are no added costs such as ECN fees.

However, it is important to note that you will pay a 1.5% exchange fee to exchange currencies. This is actually the same as what Questrade charges. However, there is a big difference. 

With Questrade, you can utilize something like Norbert's Gambit to reduce the fees paid to exchange currencies. With Wealtshimple Trade, you cannot, and you're stuck paying that 1.5% in most situations.

Of note, I currently utilize an Equitable Bank USD account. I exchange my CAD for USD on that platform and then deposit the USD directly to Wealthsimple, avoiding the 1.5% fee. 

Equitable Bank does not charge a foreign exchange fee but does have a spread on the currency. So, you don't get a true exchange, but I find myself paying about 20-30% less than I would at Wealthsimple.

Management fees for Wealthsimple's robo-advisor services are set at 0.5% for accounts under $100,000 and 0.4% for accounts over $100,000. They do not charge an inactivity fee, making them a low-cost option for passive investors. 

Questrade fee structure

Questrade doesn't offer free commission. However, it certainly offers competitive trading commissions on stocks, which are $0.01 per share, with a minimum of $4.95 to a maximum of $9.95 per trade. This is one of the best rates among discount brokerages.

This means that it largely depends on the amount of shares you're purchasing that will determine your commission rate. For example, Purchasing $1000 of a $100 stock will get you charged $4.95. However, purchasing $1000 of a $1 stock would get you charged the entire $9.95.

You can purchase additional trading packages which give you access to market data and lower commissions.

Trading ETFs is commission-free when purchasing, but selling ETFs incurs the standard trading commission. 

A major deal breaker for many is going to be the inactivity fee. Inactivity fees are charged at $24.95 per quarter. Yes, they can be waived under certain conditions, such as maintaining a certain account balance or frequency of trades; however, in this day and age, they just shouldn't exist. 

An inactivity fee can be negated by placing one trade per quarter, which seems extremely miniscule. However, passive investors who maybe don't contribute all that much will likely be annoyed by these fees.

As mentioned above, the broker has a 1.5% currency conversion fee, but it can easily be reduced with Norberts Gambit.

The company's Questwealth Portfolios are much more attractive on a fee basis than Wealthsimples. You'll pay 0.25% if your balance is under $100,000 and just 0.2% when it's over $100,000.

Overall, the two platforms have their pros and cons. However, it's hard to argue with free if we isolate the issue to fees and commissions only and ignore any outside functionality that may be worth the commissions.

I can't stand inactivity fees, which is a huge deal breaker for me as well, no matter how easily they're avoided. For this reason, Wealthsimple wins.

Winner: Wealthsimple

Investment platforms

Functionality is going to be a big deal for a lot of investors when choosing a brokerage. This is going to arguably be a more important element in choosing a brokerage than the commissions. For this reason, we're going to look in-depth at both brokerages on a platform level.

Wealthsimple Trade

Wealthsimple Trade is a no-frills platform that makes buying and selling ridiculously easy. In terms of user experience and user interface, I'm not sure I've ever used a platform that is so simple yet delivers exactly what you want.

So, don't take "no-frills" the wrong way. They intentionally simplify the user experience because most investors only need simplicity.

The path to buying and selling stocks on Wealtshimple is arguably the easiest out of any platform in the country, and you can get practically anywhere you need by clicking one of the four bottom bar buttons on mobile.

The desktop platform is slightly more complex, but only because it makes it a bit easier to navigate to see your account history, taxes, etc.

The one area where I would say Wealthsimple's platform lacks is in its returns tracking. It will have the overall profit and loss of accounts, but it's very simplistic and also takes deposits into account, which makes the actual returns on the portfolio a bit murky.

If you're looking to buy and sell stocks or ETFs, and that's it, this platform is nearly perfect. No advanced charting, technical indicators, or level 2 data. Just a buy and sell button simplifies the process.

Questrade

Questrade is a much more comprehensive platform than Wealthsimple Trade. Users can chart stocks utilizing a variety of technical indicators, access level 2 data, detailed research reports, and much more.

Their IQ Edge platform, which can be utilized on a desktop and via a mobile app, is one of the best brokerage platforms in the country. It enables investors to create watchlists, visualize live price movements, create alerts, trade options, and more.

Although the interface is easily navigated by someone with a bit of experience, new investors are likely to find the IQ Edge platform a bit complex, and they may get lost in the sheer amount of information and detail available.

For that reason, I'd suggest raw beginners who are looking to utilize Questrade just take advantage of their browser-based platform. It's a lot easier to navigate, and although still a bit more complex than Wealthsimple Trade, it's much easier than IQ Edge.

In terms of the winner for this section, I think it's a draw, primarily because it is going to be heavily weighted on what you want in a brokerage platform. Want to navigate charts and technicals, set alerts and have more comprehensive order types? Go with Questrade.

Want to just buy and sell stocks without hassle? Go with Wealthsimple.

Winner: Questrade

Tools and research

Research and educational resources

Questrade prides itself on providing investors with extensive research tools and educational materials. Users have access to free analytics, market data, and research from sources like Morningstar, which can help them make decisions on stocks or funds they'd like to buy and sell. Furthermore, Questrade offers a variety of webinars and how-to guides aimed at both novice and seasoned investors.

Wealthsimple, on the other hand, offers a suite of simplified research tools tailored for beginners and passive investors. They have a wide variety of articles directed toward helping beginners when it comes to accounts, investments, and even taxes. 

In terms of educational resources, I'd call it a draw. However, when it comes to research tools, Wealthsimple is nowhere close to a platform like Questrade. For that reason, I give them the edge here.

Trading and investment tools

On the trading tools front, Questrade comes out ahead for active investors. They offer a comprehensive trading platform with advanced charting features, market data insights, and customizability. Questrade's platform appeals to those who require in-depth analysis and hands-on control over their investment strategies.

Wealthsimple caters to a slightly different audience, offering user-friendly trading tools designed with simplicity in mind. Wealthsimple Trade, for instance, allows for commission-free stock and ETF trades, which is highly attractive to cost-conscious investors.

This accessibility appeals to new investors and those preferring a low-maintenance approach to investing.

Overall, it's hard not to give the edge to Questrade. However, I can't stress enough that it does come down to what you're looking for. You may not need any of the additional functionality that Questrade offers.

Winner: Questrade

Customer service and support

As someone who has been with both brokerage platforms, there is a clear cut winner in terms of customer service in my eyes, and that is Wealthsimple Trade.

That is not to say that Questrade's customer service isn't solid. It's outstanding. However, Wealthsimple is just a level above, and they're really separating themselves as one of the most user-friendly brokerages in the country.

Questrade provides phone and live chat support on weekdays. They do emphasize short wait times, which is the case most of the time, but I did have the odd difficulty when I was a client there.

Wealthsimple, on the other hand, includes phone, email, and live chat support, and in my year and a bit of being there, I have had absolutely zero difficulties in getting a hold of anyone. They have often even gone the extra mile for me, doing things I didn't even ask for to make my experience better.

Winner: Wealthsimple

Platform security

Wealthsimple

Wealthsimple has established itself as a reliable and accessible investment option in Canada. They are a registered portfolio manager with the provincial securities regulators, which mandates adherence to strict financial and reporting regulations.

Regulatory Compliance:

  • Operational Oversight: Wealthsimple complies with the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC).
  • Insurance: Client accounts are protected by the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF) up to $1 million against the firm's insolvency.
  • Transparency: Regular reporting ensures transparent operations, with clear communication about fees and investment strategies.

Security Measures:

  • Wealthsimple utilizes state-of-the-art security protocols to safeguard client data and funds.
    • Data Encryption: They employ strong encryption to protect sensitive information.
    • Two-Factor Authentication: An extra layer of security to verify user identity.

Questrade

Questrade is a recognized Canadian broker that has been around for a long time. Established in 1999, it operates as a registered investment dealer and is a member of Canada's Investment Industry Regulatory Organization (IIROC). 

As a member, Questrade adheres to stringent rules and regulations designed to protect investors. You have little to worry about in terms of safety and security when it comes to Questrade.

Questrade accounts are also covered by the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF).

Overall, both of these companies are rock-solid in terms of security and you won't have any issues with either.

Winner: Draw

The main benefits of each platform

Wealthsimple

  • Lucrative bonuses: There is zero doubt that Wealthsimple offers some of the best bonuses for account moves in the business. Whether it be matching your balance by 0.5%, giving you a free iPhone or just a cash bonus, they're making waves in this area and earning new clients at a rapid pace.
  • Commission-free: This one is pretty simple. Make ten trades a day or one trade a month; the end result will be the same. You've paid $0 in commissions.
  • Fractional shares: No more sitting around waiting for your account balance to increase to buy expensive shares or ETFs. Fractional share trading allows you to own chunks of shares, allowing you to deploy capital easier.
  • Customer service: The best customer service in the business, in my opinion.
  • Direct crypto purchases: Instead of buying crypto via an ETF, investors can buy it directly with Wealthsimple Crypto.

Questrade

  • Trading platform: If simplicity isn't your thing and you are looking for an advanced trading platform, there is zero doubt Questrade towers above Wealthsimple in this regard.
  • Research tools: Charting tools, research reports, market analysis and more. You'll get all of this with Questrade.
  • More investments & order types: The platform allows you to buy things like individual bonds, currencies, and more. In addition to this, Questrade contains more advanced order types than Wealthsimple, like trailing stop losses.

The main downsides of each platform

Wealthsimple

  • Account minimums: Although there is no account minimum to open an account, you unlock additional features once you hit $100,000+ or $500,000+. This can be frustrating to new investors.
  • Cost factor: Wealthsimple's commissions are free, but with the inability to do Norberts Gambit, you could pay a lot of currency conversion fees
  • Investment options: While offering a range of options, their selection can be less diverse in comparison to more traditional brokerage services. This potentially limits opportunities for niche or sector-specific investing.

Questrade

  • Costs: While Questrade provides competitive commissions, it isn't the cheapest option available. Questrade charges for ECN fees on certain trades, which can add up for active traders.
  • Inactivity fees: I hate inactivity fees, no matter how easily they're waived. They charge an inactivity fee for accounts under a certain equity threshold that does not make at least one trade per quarter.
  • Steep learning curve: New users may find Questrade's trading platforms to have a steeper learning curve compared to other online brokers, which could be intimidating for novice investors.
  • Market data: Questrade offers free snap quotes but charges a monthly fee for streaming level 2 data. This can be a disadvantage for traders who rely on real-time data.

Overall, I'd give a slight edge to Wealthsimple over Questrade, but it's razor thin and really depends

Wealthsimple excels in simplicity and user experience, especially for those new to investing. It offers an intuitive yet brutally simple interface—traits that make it highly accessible for beginners.

They're also consistently adding new features to the platform that are appealing to most retail investors. For example, fractional share trading, getting paid when your shares are loaned out (with your permission, of course) and even dividend reinvesting.

That said, I'm speaking from a basic buy-and-hold investor standpoint. If you're an experienced investor or someone who needs a bit of functionality, Questrade excels.

A key example of this would be the ability to set trailing stop losses on Questrade or utilize advanced charting. None of this is available on Wealthsimple, which is intentional. They want to make the platform basic.

In addition to this, I did enjoy the ability to have a blended CAD/USD account on Questrade rather than having to keep them separate.

Questrade's commissions are some of the lowest in the business. So, if you need advanced functionality, it's not going to break the bank. If you just want simplicity, Wealthsimple is all you'll need.

Overall Winner: Wealthsimple

Click here to open up an account with Wealthsimple

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