Questrade is the largest online broker for Canadians that is unaffiliated with a bank. The company offers traditional brokerage services along with robo-advisors and wealth management. For investors in Canada, a domestic broker, like Questrade, may do a better job at managing currency conversions and compliance with Canada’s securities and tax regulations. While most well-known for its U.S. business, Canadian investors may find the active-trader focused Interactive Brokers an interesting alternative to Questrade. Account services are similar to those offered to U.S. customers, and Interactive Brokers’ breadth of market access is difficult to match. The decision between the two brokers will likely depend on the tradeoff between ease of use and costs.
In our 2019 Best Online Brokers Awards, Interactive Brokers received awards for Best Overall Online Brokers, Best for Low Costs, Best for Options Trading, Best for Penny Stocks, Best for Day Trading, and Best for International Trading.
- Account Minimum: $0
- Fees: $0.005 per share
- Account Minimum: $1,000 CAD
- Fees: Commissions as low as $4.95 CAD
- Best for: Active traders who want to reduce their commission costs
Interactive Brokers' products and low fees are great, but the brokerage falls short on user experience. The firm’s trading platform is very powerful, and can perform for serious, and casual traders; however, the software is difficult to navigate. The interface is based on Java and can be very tedious to configure. Once mastered, navigation between market venues and instruments in the platform is easy, and trade execution is quick, but proceed with caution, the speedy trades are irreversible. Charting capabilities are weak, and the platform lacks long look-back periods or easily modified charting views and indicators.
Questrade's desktop platform, unlike Interactive Brokers, is easy to navigate and intuitive. Because the platform is web-based, it's slow, and light on features. There is a downloadable version called IQ Edge, but it tends to be prone to glitches. For Forex and CFD trading, the browser-based and desktop platform work, but traders can use the industry-standard MetaTrader 4 as an alternative. Neither trading platform stands out; however, newer investors are likely to find Questrade’s software easier to learn than Interactive Brokers’. In both cases, advanced charting and analysis tools will have to be obtained from other providers.
- Easy to navigate for both mobile and desktop
- Lightening fast trade execution
- Web-based trading platform is intuitive but slow
- Downloadable desktop app IQ Edge is a faster option
Mobile and Emerging Tech
Interactive Brokers' cumbersome desktop experience is thrown aside in the mobile version. Offered for both Android and iOS, the slimmed down, PIN protected version of the software supports watchlists, orders, trades, scanners, alerts, portfolio news, and market briefs. Charting on the mobile version is simpler than on the desktop version, with a variety of indicators and a clean interface. Investors may be frustrated when the mobile app automatically logs the user out of the desktop app, which could be annoying for investors who are in and out of the office during the day.
Questrade recently switched its iOS and Android applications away from the old IQ platform that includes all the basics. The app supports real-time stock and options trades, but users have reportedly been somewhat upset by a perceived downgrade in functionality. While both mobile apps have some flaws, Interactive Brokers’ was more customizable and offered more features.
- Trade anywhere across PCs, web pages, and mobile apps
- IB Key technology for more security
- The app supports quick access to margin information
- Mobile app available on iOS and Android
Education and Research
Educational resources on Questrade are lacking compared to larger brokerages. However, the brokerage does have an excellent paper trading program, and a few resources for investors such as a collection of on-demand webinars. Traders on Questrade also have access to research from Morningstar, which goes a long way in filling in the gaps in stock and fund analysis. The experience is fragmented, but of the possible third-party resources, Morningstar is a plus.
At Interactive Brokers, there is content addressing some market topics in detail, but there are some big gaps. For example, Interactive Brokers’ Traders' Academy is intended to provide more detailed course material but has just two programs, TWS for Beginners and an Introduction to Options. As you can imagine based on the trading platform, Interactive Brokers is focused on the active trader with previous market experience. For these customers, the lack of advanced, well-organized education is not likely to influence their decision.
- Limited education section
- Trader's University with free webinars and courses
- Video Tutorials and Webinars
- In-person demo and personal platform seminars
Interactive Brokers' has a straightforward pricing system, while Questrade features three levels of fee structures. For example, Questrade's basic pricing structure "Democratic," offers stock trading at $0.01CAD per share based on a minimum $4.95CAD per trade and a maximum of $9.95CAD. There are 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 $4.95CAD per trade and a variable plan at $.01CAD per share with no minimum capped at $6.95CAD per trade. The Active Trader program brings Questrade’s costs closer to Interactive Brokers, but the fixed cost of a subscription is an additional complication.
Interactive Brokers' straightforward pricing system offers low fees—lower than Questrade's—and tight spreads on stocks, options, futures, forex, bonds, CFDs, ETFs, mutual funds, and metals. For example, stocks and ETFs can be traded for $.005USD per share and options are $.25 - $.70USD per contract.
- Stock trade fees: $0.005 per share
- Account minimum: $0
- Stock trade fees: $4.95
- Account minimum: $1,000 to start trading and $250 to maintain
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