Questrade Review 2018

By Jason Van Steenwyk  | March 08, 2018

A Toronto-based online brokerage that provides Canadians with convenient access to U.S. markets at a reasonable price.

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Overall Rating

3.4/
5.0
Products & Fees
3.8
Trust
4.2
Special Features
4.2
Desktop Experience
4.0
Mobile Experience
3.8
Customer Support
4.4
Research & Insights
4.4
Education
2.3

Questrade Fast Facts

Questrade is the premier online brokerage serving the Canadian market, regulated by IIROC and a member of the CIPF. The company provides convenient access for Canadian investors to international stock exchanges, mutual funds, bonds, GIC's, IPO's, Options, Commodities as well as Forex and CFD's which are offered through a separate account and trading platform. Commissions for equity trading on the Canadian and US markets are competitive and the trading platforms offered by the company are not only robust but also easy to use.

A rebate system makes it worthwhile for reasonably active traders to subscribe to an advanced data package, as rebates from trading activity can partially or wholly offset the fees for the data service.

All dollar figures given are in Canadian dollars (CAD) unless otherwise specified.

pros

  • Low Fees
    At $4.95 per trade, Questrade has among the lowest fees in the Canadian market
  • No Annual Fees for Registered Accounts
    This makes Questrade competitive even for smaller account balances
  • Mutual Fund Maximizer Program
    This program refunds mutual fund "trailer fees" that can amount to 1% of your fund balance or more

cons

  • Banking & Cash-Management Services
    Unable to write checks or perform traditional banking services
  • $24.95 "inactivity" Fee Per Quarter
    Applied to inactive accounts with balances of less than less than $5,000 but is waived for data package subscribers
$6+ Billion
Assets Under Administration
1999
Founded
55+
Currency Pairs

Products & Fees

3.8

Questrade features three fee structures. The basic and default "Democratic" pricing structure offers stock trading at 1 cent per share based on a minimum $4.95 per trade and a maximum of $9.95. There are also two advanced-trading fee structures under the "Active Trader" program which is available with a subscription to an advanced market data package--a fixed-rate plan at $4.95 per trade and a variable plan at $.01 per share with no minimum, capped at $6.95 per trade. Users can buy and sell stocks, options, and ETFs for taxable and Canadian registered as well as other tax-advantaged accounts. Forex and CFD trading are based on spreads and no additional commissions are charged. Currency pair spreads start at 1.7 pips.

  • Stock & ETFs
    $4.95
  • Options*
    $9.95 + $1/contract
  • Mutual Funds**
    $9.95
  • Bonds**
    Via trade desk
  • GICs***
    Free
  • International Equities
    1% of the trade value
  • IPOs and new issues****
    Free
  • Precious Metals
    USD $19.95/trade
  • Forex (EUR/USD)
    1.7 pips
  • CFDs (commodities)
    Spread Varies
  • CFDs (index)
    Spread Varies
  • Annuities
    Call Trade Desk

Trust

4.2

Questrade guarantees customers 100% reimbursement for unauthorized transactions. Additionally, accounts qualify for compensation via the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF) in the event the firm becomes insolvent and up to CAD $10 million in additional protection from Lloyd's of London.

$1 Million
CIPF Protection
(For an individual holding an account: all general accounts combined and registered retirement accounts combined)
Up to CAD $10 Million
Lloyd's of London Additional Coverage

What you need to know

Accounts are insured via the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and an additional $10 million of private insurance is offered through Lloyd's of London. The private insurance cap of $10 million per account applies to all individual accounts. However, registered retirement accounts (RRSP, RRIF, LIF, LIRA, and LRIF accounts) are combined to calculate Lloyd's of London insurance. Insurance does not protect consumers against their own investment losses--just against the insolvency of Questrade or the theft or loss of securities, similar to SIPC protection in the United States.

Special Features

4.2
Special Features

Both novice and experienced traders will find a substantial number of features that set Questrade apart from other brokerages. Take, for example, Smart ETFs(TM), which are exchange-traded funds hedged against U.S. currency fluctuation. These funds help protect Canadian investors against currency risk, which can be substantial for those who buy U.S. dollar or other currency-denominated funds or ETFs directly. Another feature, the Mutual Fund Maximizer, reimburses mutual fund trailer fees, which can be worth 1% or more of your mutual fund account balance each year.

"MyFamily" Program
Lower Fees for Family Members
(Links related accounts, allowing family members or groups of friends to combine accounts)
Smart ETFs
Hedge Against U.S. dollar Currency Risk
(ETFs that are designed specifically for the Canadian market)
Mutual Fund Maximizer
Keep Annual Trailer Fees
Reimburses mutual fund trailing expenses to account holder

What you need to know

The best way to learn about investing and trading tools is to use them. Fortunately, Questrade offers a free virtual account that allows you to explore all of its features using fictional money. The Questrade practice account starts you off with CAD$500,000 and USD$500,000 in virtual cash, as well as USD$50,000 in play money, to be used in the CFD (contracts-for-difference) and Forex markets.


IQ Edge offers the biggest set of trading tools and features and is probably the most feature-rich trading platform specific to the Canadian market. Best of all, it's free. Any Questrade account holder can download and use IQ Edge for no additional charge.

Desktop Experience

4.0
Desktop Platform Experience

The web-based IQ trading platform is sleek, easy to navigate, and intuitive, although it is somewhat light on features and a bit slow, as web platforms tend to be. Active, experienced traders can get the most value by downloading IQ Edge--Questrade's desktop-trading platform. However, we did experience some minor glitchiness with the desktop display using both Safari and Chrome browsers. Forex and CFD trading is available through a separate account and platform offered by Questrade FX Global. Trading in these products is offered via a proprietary browser-based and desktop platform as well as the award-winning Metatrader 4 platform.

Pros

The web version is slower, naturally, but it has most of the desirable features and tool sets available with the desktop-based IQ Edge. We liked that settings update automatically across multiple devices and workstations and that even the web version accommodates a number of advanced order types, like "all or none," bracket, minimum quantity, and iceberg orders. QuestradeFX is an easy to use platform that offers advanced charting features. An example is the ability to open multiple charts within the platform as well as the ability to open multiple charts in a separate window, offering a solution to clients using a multiple monitor setup.

Cons

Questrade lacks some features such as backtesting, chart trading and, creating automated strategies. Although it should be noted these features are available through "Questrade FX Global" for FX and CFD trading. Also, as an alternative to chart trading, one-click trading is offered by the broker.

Mobile Experience

3.8
Mobile Platform Experience

Questrade recently switched its mobile platform (available on iOS and Android) away from the old IQ platform, which did not seem to go over well with users. However, the basics are all there: The Questrade Mobile app supports real-time stock and option trades. You can also use the mobile app to check account balances, withdraw funds, or transfer among Questrade accounts. The interface is very similar to the web-based desktop version. A recent update makes it easier for leveraged traders to check and see if they are in a margin call.


Similar to the desktop environment, FX and CFD trading can be conducted in Questrade FX Global Mobile which is a separate app. The app offers seamless integration with the web platform making it a great option for clients wishing to trade from both a mobile device and the browser based desktop platform.

Pros

The apps supports quick access to margin information which means users won't get blindsided by a margin call (provided they've been checking their mobile apps). Basic charting and multiple order types are supported and a snapshot view of the clients account as well as customizable watchlists allow for a quick view of the markets and any open positions while on the go.

Cons

The Questrade Mobile app doesn't support all chart types at this time. In addition, there's very little customization available within the mobile platform. There have been some teething problems with the new mobile app, but downloading Questrade's old IQ version isn't an option anymore.

Customer Support

4.4

Questrade allows customers to contact them by phone, email, and online chat and by visiting their learning center in Toronto in person. Chat-support hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Eastern time; telephone hours are 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., ET. French-speaking support is available during telephone hours. Questrade customer service features a callback service, which is still uncommon among brokerages.

What you need to know

All documents required to open a new account can be uploaded electronically, complete with support for digital signatures--which sets Questrade apart from some creaky old-line banks that require you to print out and mail documents.

Research & Insights

4.4

o Traders on Questrade have access to research from Morningstar, one of the premier U.S. sources for independent analysis on stocks and mutual funds, its core competency. The brokerage also provides research on Canadian mutual funds through its "Mutual Fund Research Centre". Members have free unlimited access to Market Intelligence, its research and analysis toolset, which is integrated directly into the Questrade and IQ Edge platforms. Access to Market Intelligence is through the "Research" tab on Questrade.

Margin Power
Borrow against TFSA accounts using a margin account without having to sell off assets or transfer assets outside a TFSA
USD in RSP
Hold U.S.-dollar-denominated assets in Canadian registered savings programs without having to pay a mandatory currency conversion fee
Aggregate News Feed
Searchable news feed aggregated from respectable news sources
Daily Ticker
Free daily e-newsletter that focuses on technical analysis; trade opportunities, technical indicators, patterns, and technical events
Intraday Trader
Powered by Recognia, customizable watchlists, searchable technical patterns, and regular updates
Market Intelligence
In-depth information, research, and metrics on fundamentals, screeners, financial information and ratios, and earnings reports

Pros

Questrade has a number of programs unique to the brokerage in the Canadian market, such as USD in RSP, which is vital for Canadians looking for access to U.S. markets without overpaying in conversion fees. Access to research is about the best in the Canadian market. The emphasis on independent Morningstar research, rather than sell-side research, is a particular plus that mutual fund fans, in particular, will appreciate.

Cons

Clients would benefit from the support of fractional share purchases within the DRIP plan, which puts more money to work in the market. The mobile app is lagging the full desktop version when it comes to functionality.

Education

2.3

Educational resources on the Questrade platform are quite basic and limited compared with those of other large brokerages. But Questrade has an in-person live-training facility in Toronto and offers a few resources to investors, such as a collection of on-demand webinars.

"The Exchange"
24/7 Online Help, Video Tutorials, and Webinars
Questrade IQ-powered trading simulator
Learn about the different types of trading
Questrade Trading Centre
In-person demo and personal platform seminars

What you need to know

Questrade has one of the better practice-account arrangements going, allowing for both CAD and USD investing as well as practice trading in Forex and CFD accounts. However, its learning resources aren't sufficient to get you much past the basic/beginner stage. You'll need to use other sources of education and information or be a regular at the Questrade learning center. If you're willing and able to do that, though, the combination of quality outside sources for education and training, plus the robust practice account, is quite potent.

Banking

Aside from currency-exchange services, Questrade has no banking services. Users who want sophisticated cash-sweep programs, credit cards, debit cards, home loans, and other banking services should look elsewhere. The innovative USD in RSP program makes it much easier and more cost-efficient for Questrade brokers to engage in trading U.S.-based securities without taking it on the chin in currency-conversion fees.

Bottom Line

As an independent broker not connected to established Canadian banks, Questrade has come a long way since its founding in 1999. It's now Canada's most popular online brokerage. The combination of ease of use, extremely competitive pricing (particularly for ETFs), convenience in setting up a new account, and its IQ Edge and IQ Web trading platforms make Questrade a solid choice for all but the most active day traders. Furthermore, these two excellent trading interfaces are free for Questrade accounts, although most active traders will want to sign up for one of the brokerage's advanced data services. The depth of markets offered by the broker is a significant advantage, especially the ability to trade Forex and CFD which is not commonly offered by brokers that focus on equity markets. However, having to use a separate platform as well as an unconnected account to trade Forex and CFD's is a setback to may discourage traders of multiple markets.

Cost-conscious investors will be happy with most of Questrade's fee structure--for most clients, commissions and fees compare favorably with other Canadian trading platforms, like TD Direct, Scotia iTRADE(R), and Royal Bank of Canada. All in all, Questrade is an appealing option for the Canada market and should definitely be on the short list of brokers Canadian investors look at first.

For those who want to trade using registered funds, or engage in trading in U.S. markets, it's an especially good choice, thanks to the USD in RSP program.

Jason Van Steenwyk
Reviewed by Jason Van Steenwyk

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