Questrade is a Canadian broker, established in 1999, that offers resident Canadian citizens an alternative to trading and investing with the big banks. If you already have a registered account with any Canadian broker/financial institution, you can transfer it to Questrade; if not, you can open a Questrade account on their web platform. Questrade provides trading in stocks, options, bonds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and mutual funds. Contracts for differences (CFDs) and forex are also available to trade, though they require the use of a separate platform. In addition, Questrade offers guaranteed investment certificates (GICs), international equities, access to initial public offerings (IPOs), and precious metal purchases. 

You must have a Canadian address to open an account. Questrade cannot hold regular trading accounts (non-registered accounts) for U.S. residents, even if they are Canadian citizens.

Key Takeaways

  • Only Canadian residents are allowed to open an account with Questrade
  • The web and downloadable platforms are well-designed and easy to use
  • Streaming data requires an additional subscription which may cost up to $89.95/month
  • Accounts can be held in either US Dollars or Canadian dollars

Who This Broker Is For

Questrade is a fit for you if you are a Canadian citizen and resident, and wish to avoid the high fees and restrictions placed on those who hold investments at banks. It offers a lot more flexibility to Canadian investors, including an automated portfolio builder and significantly lower fees.

Pros
  • No fees charged for tax-free savings accounts (TFSA) or registered retirement savings plans (RRSP)

  • Easy-to-use website and mobile app

  • Relatively low trading fees compared to other Canadian brokers

Cons
  • Limited research offerings

  • $24.95 CAD per quarter inactivity fee in accounts with $5,000 or less

  • Streaming real-time quotes require a subscription

Pros Explained

  • Most Canadian brokers charge fees that average around $50 CAD for tax-free savings accounts (TFSA) and registered retirement savings plans (RRSP). Questrade waives these fees. 
  • Both the website and the mobile apps have simple layouts and appear very similar, so there’s no jarring transition from one to the other.
  • Relatively low trading fees, ranging from $4.95 to a maximum of $9.95 for stock trades, compared to other Canadian brokers.

Cons Explained 

  • Questrade screeners are limited to an extremely simple stock and options screener. Technical or statistical criteria are not offered.
  • Questrade has lowered the amount you need to maintain in your household’s accounts to $1,000, but small accounts with no activity for the previous quarter are charged $24.95 CAD.
  • Streaming real-time quotes require a subscription ranging in price from $19.95 CAD per month for limited streaming data to $89.95 each for Level 2 US or Canadian data. These data fees can be offset by generating a certain amount of trading commissions.

Usability

Getting started with a new account is relatively simple. New customers can sign up for a new account on the Questrade website, and go through a few videos that offer guides to the various available platforms. If you’re transferring an account from another brokerage or bank, Questrade will rebate up to $150 in transfer fees. 

Overall, the platforms are intuitive and easy to navigate. Questrade clients can trade on two desktop trading platforms or the mobile app. Questrade Trading is the web-based platform, offering basic charting, quotes, watchlists, and research tools. There are a few customization options, such as choosing columns for reporting and order entry defaults. Overall, the web platform is fairly easy to learn and use. The downloadable platform is called IQ Edge, and it is very customizable with additional research features and order types. Quotes on both platforms are snapshots, meaning you have to refresh the screen manually for updates, unless you pay an additional fee for streaming quotes and data. 

The mobile app is essentially the same experience as the web version, scaled to fit the device. 

Trade Experience

Questrade clients can trade via two desktop trading platforms and a mobile app, plus a forex and CFD platform, each offering a different experience. Questrade Trading allows some customization of trading defaults as well as watchlist display and portfolio listing. IQ Edge is a downloadable platform for active traders that is considerably more customizable than the web platform. IQ Edge has more features, such as advanced order types, and enables hotkey functions, charts with more tools, as well as advanced layouts that can be saved. The scanning functions built into IQ Edge would be most useful if customers also purchase the add-on streaming data package. 

Forex and CFD trading require a different platform as these asset classes cannot be traded on either Questrade Trading or IQ Edge. For those who trade multiple markets, trading from two platforms might be cumbersome. For forex traders, the platform is intuitive, customizable, and offers advanced charting and access to more than 55 currency pairs as well as eight CFDs. The CFDs cover the S&P 500, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), West Texas Intermediate Crude Oil, Natural Gas, Gold, Silver, Copper, and Corn.

Overall, the platforms are intuitive and easy to navigate. Placing trades is straightforward with multiple ways in each platform to initiate a trade window. 

Mobile Trade Experience

Questrade’s web-based platform is mobile-enabled, and the display adjusts to whatever device you are using. Watchlists created on the web platform are also accessible on the mobile platform. Trading forex and CFDs requires the Questrade FX Global app. While the two apps operate in similar ways and have similar functions, you will have to use two different apps if you trade multiple markets. 

Range of Offerings

Questrade clients can trade a variety of asset classes, though some require the use of a separate platform.

  • Stocks long and short 
  • Mutual funds
  • Bonds via live broker, minimum $5,000
  • Precious metals
  • Simple and multi-leg options
  • Robo-advisory, Questwealth Portfolios, on a separate platform
  • Some international equities can be traded via live broker 
  • Forex and CFDs on a separate platform
  • Initial public offerings (minimum $5,000) 

Order Types

Questrade clients can place market, limit, stop limit, trailing stop, and bracket orders on all platforms. IQ Edge enables a wide variety of conditional orders that are not available on the web or mobile platforms. 

Trading Technology

Questrade does not publish information about how orders are routed.  

Costs

Questrade has two pricing structures. Standard pricing is $0.01/share with a minimum of $4.95 and a maximum of $9.95 per stock or ETF transaction. Active trader pricing is activated when a client purchases an Advanced Data Package (Level II quotes on Canadian or U.S. exchanges).

Advanced-Data Packages are $89.95 CAD for the Canadian package and $89.95 USD for the U.S. package. Customers who generate more than $48.95 in monthly commissions receive a $19.95 rebate on the package fees. A full rebate on package fees is credited when a customer generates $399.95 in commissions in a month.

  • Cost to open or close an order of 1 share is $4.95. Cost to open or close 1000 shares is $9.95. Opening an ETF position is free; closing it invokes regular commissions.
  • Options base commission to open and close is $9.95.
  • Options per contract fee is $1.
  • Fee for 50 contracts is $59.95.
  • Covered call trade of 500 shares plus 5 contracts is $19.95. 
  • Options exercise/assignment fee is $24.95. 
  • Mutual fund fees are $9.95 per transaction.
  • Margin interest at $10,000 balance is 5.95% CAD or 7% USD. $100,000 balance is 4.95% CAD or 6% USD. Margin interest for registered accounts is approximately 4.5% higher.
  • International equities are 1% of the trade value with a minimum of $195.00 plus applicable exchange or stamp fees, charged in the currency of the account in which the trade is placed. 
  • Inactivity fee is $24.95 per quarter for accounts with balances below $1,000.
  • No account closure fee.
  • Account transfer fee is $150 for a full transfer, $25 for a partial transfer. 
  • Wire fees are $20 CAD, $30 USD, $40 international.
  • Check fees are $50. 
  • Advanced Data Packages are $89.95 CAD for the Canadian package and $89.95 USD for the U.S. package.
  • Paper trade confirmations or account statements are $20. 
  • Live broker fee is $45. 

Account Amenities

  • Questrade does not offer portfolio margining
  • Questrade does not have a stock loan program
  • No interest is paid on cash balances
  • You can enroll in DRIP (dividend reinvestment) plans

Research Amenities

All of Questrade's platforms offer a news feed. Clients can read news related to specific companies and the world economy from sources including Business Wire and Canada Newswire. Research reports and analysis on companies is available from Market Intelligence, a fundamental data and research service powered by Morningstar, on assets traded on all major North American markets, including TSX, TSX Venture, NYSE, NASDAQ, NYSE American and NYSE Arca. Questrade Trading screeners are limited. There is a relatively unsophisticated stock and options screener, which includes only simple criteria such as price, volume, volatility, and fundamentals. Technical or statistical criteria are not offered.

Active traders have access to Intraday Trader, which is pattern recognition software that finds historical patterns with a profitable edge and then notifies the trader when those patterns occur again.

Questrade clients can take advantage of partnerships with third party analysis and trading platforms including VectorVest, YCharts, OptionsPlay, Quantcha and Trading Diary Pro. These partners fill in some gaps in the Questrade platform, especially for technical analysis junkies. There is an additional cost depending on the partner chosen.  

Charting on IQ Edge is more sophisticated than that available on the web platform. IQ Edge also includes some real-time market scanners, which are only useful if you are paying for streaming real-time data.   

Portfolio Analysis

All platforms display real-time snapshot balances, buying power, positions, margin balance, and profit and loss. You can customize these reports by adding and deleting criteria. The account tab on the browser-based platform displays open orders, executions, and activity such as dividends and deposits.  

On IQ Edge, you can arrange the widgets in a way to display all of your account activity and balances. There is no built-in trading journal, but you can subscribe to a third-party application if you’d like to access that feature. IQ Edge offers more insight into a client’s portfolio, with analysis that shows exposure to various sectors, asset types, industries, and currencies.

Education

The Questrade platforms are straightforward and intuitive. Webinars and live events are rare, although the Questrade YouTube page does have some videos. These are available to everyone for free. There are occasional new blog posts published, but these are not tagged to make them easy to locate. They’re listed in reverse chronological order only. 

For newer traders with lots of questions, Questrade provides basic answers to questions such as how to place orders, what order types to use, and how to install the trading platforms. Questions are answered in the "How To" section of the Questrade website. Click on the Resources dropdown menu, and then select "Help & How-To." There isn’t a menu of topics to browse, though, and not all articles are listed. You’ll have to use the search to find articles on a specific query, which randomly spawn a new browser tab. After a long session of searching for answers, you’ll wind up with a messy window.  

If you're looking for useful trading education, such as how to become a better trader or investor, Questrade has little to offer here. The website and YouTube channel provide basic trading information.

Customer Service

  • Phone line available 8 am - 4:30 pm Eastern time
  • Online chat for prospective and current customers on the website
  • Live brokers are available during market hours
  • No organized FAQ on the website though you can search for answers
  • Email support takes 1-3 days for a response

Security

  • Customers can define a PIN for two-factor authentication
  • Biometric entry enabled for mobile apps 
  • Online security guarantee that reimburses customers for unauthorized transactions
  • Registered with the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC).
  • Customer accounts are protected by the Canadian Investor Protection Fund up to $10 million per account

Our Verdict

The zero-commission stampede that swept brokers in the United States stopped at the Canadian border. Questrade’s fees are lower than most other Canadian brokers and banks, and rebates offered on subscription costs means active traders can erase, or partially offset, market data fees. There are quite a few useful tools for fundamental investors at Questrade, and the platforms are very easy to use. 

Long-term investors benefit from relatively low commissions as well as access to no-cost-to-buy ETFs. Those who want to have their portfolios managed can sign up for Questrade’s digital advisory service, which charges 0.20-0.25% of assets under management.  

Inactive investors with very small accounts (under $1,000 CAD), are subject to a quarterly $24.95 inactivity fee. That is 2.5% per year on a $999 balance and a higher percentage if holding less than that in the inactive account. Having a balance of more than $1,000 remedies this problem, as does making even just one trade each quarter.