Qtrade Review 2021 – Canada’s Best Broker
- Critics Review and Ranking
- Account Opening
- Qtrade Free ETFs
- Annual Fees
- For High Volume Traders
- App Rating
- Customer Service
Qtrade Review Summary:
Qtrade is consistently rated as the top online brokerage in Canada. With a range of account types, investment options, and excellent customer service, it’s easy to understand why so many Canadian investors trust this online broker. It even garnered the only A+ rating from the Globe and Mail’s Rob Carrick, with the long-time financial columnist saying:
“No other broker is good in so many different areas and no other broker makes such consistent year-by-year improvements.”
Qtrade’s excellent customer service, free ETF trading, and suite of investing tools, simply make it the best overall Canadian brokerage option for 2021.
- FREE buying and selling of 100+ ETFs
- Consistently rated #1 over the past decade
- Excellent Customer Service
- One of the best apps on the market
- Elite investor tools
- Ultra-easy account opening
- Globe and Mail’s #1-Rated Online Broker for 2021
- Very unique Portfolio Simulator and Portfolio Score Tools
- Exclusive Promo – 50 free trades (worth almost $500) by using promo code 50FREETRADES
- Pesky inactivity fees (can be easily avoided)
- Not the cheapest trading fees in Canada for all instruments
What Is Qtrade Direct Investing? Is it Legit?
Qtrade Direct Investing is part of Aviso Wealth, a national financial services company owned by the Credit Union Centrals, CUMIS and Desjardins. Aviso manages close to $90 billion in assets, and has major operations in Vancouver and Toronto, with regional offices across Canada.
Qtrade has been voted the best Canadian online brokerage 23 times over the past few years, by authorities such as The Globe and Mail, Moneysense Magazine, and Surviscor.
Additionally, our editorial team of writers here a MDJ looks through dozens of comments and emails each month concerning our online broker reviews and how they stack up vs lived experiences – so we like to think we have a pretty good overview of the brokerage landscape!
With 20+ years of innovation and consistent excellence, Qtrade is simply a time-tested Canadian brokerage leader. With low fees, a refined platform, excellent investor tools, and customer service that promises:
“Prompt, knowledgeable service is part of the Qtrade experience. Calls answered in seconds, not minutes. The right answers and solutions, right away.”
You can see why so many Canadians continue to place their trust in Qtrade.
Media Ranks Qtrade #1 Canadian Broker
The media has been embracing Qtrade as the one of the best Canadian brokers, and has received particularly glowing reviews in the Globe and the Mail, MoneySense magazine, as well as many of our fellow Canadian personal finance blogs. This Qtrade review is far from being the only highly positive one in the Canadian cyberspace.
MDJ’s Exclusive 2021 Qtrade Offer:
Best 2021 Broker Promo: Qtrade’s Exclusive Free Trade Promo
Open an account with Qtrade before December 31st 2021*, and get your first 50 trades FREE of commission or fees**.
The offer is exclusive to MDJ readers – get it by using clicking the button below and inserting the promo code 50FREETRADES***
* Min. account size: $10,000; ** Value of this promo is estimated at $550; ***Qtrade promo 2021: more details
Qtrade Free ETFs
As an avid ETF investor, this is a major aspect of the Qtrade Canada review.
Qtrade’s commitment to the free purchasing and selling of ETFs is a deal-breaking-win for me. Other Canadian brokerages offer free ETF purchases, but charge a trading fee when ETFs are sold to withdraw money, or just to rebalance a portfolio.
It’s important to note that not all ETFs are created equal when it comes to the Qtrade free ETF policy. That said, you can get exposure to whatever market you want using these ETFs.
You can get super complicated and look into niche ETFs such as the iShares Jantzi Social Index ETF (XEN) if you’re looking for socially responsible investing, or you can use the ultra-cheap broad ETFs that I prefer.
In August of 2021 Qtrade upgraded their free ETF offer. Their previous minimum of $1,000 was removed, and their Qtrade free ETF list was updated.
The most prominent new addition was the increased number of responsible investing and multi-asset “all-in-one” ETFs that are now available.
This commitment to increasing the number of options available to buy and sell for free continues to separate Qtrade from the pack when it comes to low maintenance index investors.
Ultra-cheap broad ETFs to buy for free on Qtrade:
- Horizons S&P/TSX 60 Index ETF (HXT)
- Horizons S&P 500 Index ETF (HXS)
- iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index ETF (XEM)
- iShares Global Real Estate Index ETF (CGR)
- iShares Canadian Government Bond Index ETF (XGB)
- iShares Core Growth ETF Portfolio (XGRO)
- If you want the coolest ticker symbol in Canada… “COW” (the iShares Global Agriculture Index ETF) that is also available – although it’s not in my portfolio!
All other ETFs can be purchased at Qtrade’s standard low-commission rate of $6.95 per trade (for Investors Plus members).
Qtrade Review: Fees & Commission
Qtrade’s non-ETF trading costs and commissions are decisively cheaper than those charged by Canada’s major bank brokerages, but are a slight premium on Questrade and Virtual Brokers’ offerings.
Qtrade Fees, Commissions and Quarterly fees:
- Everyday investors (those who do not meet the 150+ trades per quarter or $500,000+ in assets thresholds) are charged $8.75 per trade
- Investor Plus members will see a lower rate of $6.95 per trade.
- Options are $6.95 + $1.25 per contract.
- Traders between the ages of 18-30 can also take advantage of a reduced commission rate of $7.75 with no minimum balance and no quarterly fees, as long as they set up a recurring deposit of $50+ each month.
- Electronic statements are free, while paper trade confirmations costs $2.50.
- To transfer your account out the fee is $150.
- There is a quarterly fee of $25, but that could be easily avoided, as per below.
How to Avoid the Qtrade Quarterly Account Fee
- Qtrade has a $25 per quarter account fee, but there are numerous ways to escape this pesky fee. My recommendation to new investors is set up an automated contribution to their brokerage account. This simply means that you send $100 (or more) from your bank account to your brokerage account each month. Qtrade refers to this as a “recurring electronic funds contribution” and it has no fees attached. If you set up this solid investment practice, then you can avoid Qtrade’s quarterly account fees no matter what your balance or trading levels.
- Have at least $25,000 in assets on the last business day of each 3-month period (called “quarters” in the investing world).
- Complete two commission-generating trades in the preceding quarter or either trades in the preceding year.
Qtrade Review: Account Options
Qtrade has a variety of accounts that you can choose from depending on your investing goals and needs.
Cash Accounts: Cash accounts are pretty straightforward. You can buy and sell stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other investments. Cash accounts are available as individual, joint, corporate, and group.
TFSA: TFSAs are the typical go-to for most investors. You’ll be able to invest in stocks, bonds, ETFs, and mutual funds but your earnings and withdrawals are sheltered from tax.
RRSP: You can invest in stocks, bonds, ETFs, and mutual funds and the tax will be deferred until you make a withdrawal, ideally upon your retirement. RRSP accounts are available for individuals, as a spousal plan. RRIFs (the natural conclusion to RRSPs) are also available. There are also both Canadian dollar and US dollar account options.
Margin: Margin accounts allow you to borrow money against your securities to trade at competitive rates. Keep in mind, you need to pay interest.
Qtrade Review: Customer Service
One of the biggest draws of Qtrade is the customer service. This company has created a reputation for itself in terms of its prompt customer support and knowledgeable staff.
You can reach Qtrade customer service in three ways: by phone, by email, or by live chat. They even have a ‘let us call you’ feature where you can leave your phone number and they will get in touch as soon as the next customer service representative is available, meaning you don’t have to stay on hold.
If you have ever been placed on a frustrating hold for 2+ hours, then had the end of the business day cut you off, when you’re “nearly next in line” – then you know how valuable this commitment to customer service is!
This is a decisive advantage over the rest of Canada’s discount brokers.
Features, Tools, and Ease of Use
Qtrade definitely gets bonus points for having a clear and easy-to-use website and app. In a piece for the Globe and Mail, Rob Carrick stated that “it’s mobile app lets you do a wide range of functions and doesn’t cut corners, which many other brokers have.”
Below is a video demonstrating how their trading system works:
On both the website and the app (rated #1 on our best stock trading apps article), Qtrade allows you to easily navigate your investments, watchlists, stock screeners, and market research.
The stock screeners are customizable and real-time quotes will show you the current stock price as well as additional information including dividend yield, earnings per share, 52-week highs and lows, and market cap.
Qtrade makes trading a breeze as well. A click on the ‘trade’ button will allow you to choose what type of security you would like to invest. You can trade stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, options bonds, and GICs on US and Canadian exchanges. If you want, you can also set limit orders and stop orders.
Investors and columnists are also loving one of Qtrade Direct Investing’s newest tools; Portfolio Score. This tool essentially gives you a second opinion on your portfolio. You can use the information provided to compare your portfolio against domestic and global benchmarks.
It will also evaluate your securities and grade your portfolio against five dimensions:
- Downside protections
It’s a handy tool to have to help you invest with more confidence and manage your risk exposure.
The other unique aspect of Qtrade’s platform is their Portfolio Simulator and Portfolio Creator tools. Simulator allow investors to test how adding specific ETFs, stocks, or bonds would change the makeup of their portfolio (and note the corresponding change to variables such as inflation, interest rates, and US exchange rates).
Creator generates an all-ETF portfolio designed especially for you (based on your answers to a series of questions). Additionally, for the detail-oriented DIYers out there, it will show you your hypothetical ETF-portfolio’s risk-adjusted return based on the Sharpe ratio, SF Ratio, and the Sortino ratio.
Below you can find additional screenshots from Qtrade’s online trading system:
The Investor Plus Program: Lower Fees
Qtrade has an elite-tier program called the Investor Plus Program which comes with a few perks and benefits.
To qualify for the Investor Plus program you must have:
- A minimum of $500,000 in assets across all accounts and under the same client ID
- A minimum of 150 online commission-generation equity or option trades during the immediately preceding calendar quarter.
Perks and benefits include discounted trading commission fees, which will be discussed below, as well as a dedicated phone number to ensure faster service plus no fee for USD registered accounts.
Qtrade vs Questrade
Look, the bottom line in Qtrade vs Questrade battle is that you can’t really go wrong. It comes down to the tradeoff between rock-bottom fees and the best user experience on the market. That said, if you are mainly looking for an ETF portfolio – it’s gotta be Qtrade hands-down.
Here’s a closer look at the Qtrade vs Questrade comparison (click on the link to view a full fledged comparison, this is just a quick summary):
Yes! free buying AND selling of 100+ ETFs.
Free buying of ETFs, BUT does charge the normal trading fee to sell ETFs.
Consistently ranking #1, high availability and friendly to customers
Has made big gains over the last three years, rated just behind Qtrade by most publications
Truly elite customer service, basically, the #1 reason to go with Qtrade
Problematic. During the recent pandemic they saw wait times of 4+ hours to answer basic queries.
Very Competitive, $6.95/ Trade for Investor Plus Program members / $7.75 for investors aged 18-30/ $8.75 for everyone else
A rock bottom $4.95 for up to 500 shares, to a maximum of $9.95. Questrade clearly shines here
ECN Fees (additional trading fees)
Charged - often small amounts for most investors
$25 per quarter - WAIVED IF you hold $25,000 in the account OR you make 2 trades per quarter or 8 in the last 12 months OR you add $100+ automatic recurring monthly contribution (my preferred option)
$25 per quarter - WAIVED IF you hold more than $5,000 in the account, make one trade per quarter, or are younger than 25
Research Tools and Education Materials
Has been at the top of Canadian brokerage ranking in this category for over a decade
Made excellent gains in the last few years
Mutual Fund Purchases
Free of Charge
Qtrade Young Investor Program
Qtrade has recently made a strong push to get young people started on their platform. By offering specially priced $7.75 trades – and access to the same Qtrade free ETFs menu – Qtrade has made the stock market more accessible to young investors than ever before.
Qtrade has also committed to eliminating the $25 account fees automatically for young investors.
In order to qualify for the Qtrade Young Investor Program you simply need to fall in the 18-30 age group, and set up a $50 per month pre-authorized contribution from your regular bank/chequing account.
Investors who are just starting to manage their own money, can take full advantage of Qtrade’s top-tier investor education materials and access to third-party investing reports. This special perk for our most visited age group is one of the driving powers behind this positive Qtrade review.
Qtrade Review FAQ
New to Qtrade for 2021
One of the reasons why I feel so confident in recommending Qtrade on this Qtrade review, is that they have consistently innovated to new levels of excellence over the past fifteen years.
Unlike some brokers, which snag a top ranking – only to lose ground before their next “Grand Reboot” we see Qtrade seamlessly add new features to their platform each year.
But don’t take my word for it – The Globe and mail has ranked Qtrade as the #1 discount brokerage in 2020, 2019, 2018, 2016, 2014, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, and 2006. In the years Qtrade didn’t take the top spot it placed top 3.
Switching brokerages is a pain. Consequently, when you choose where to place your money, you’re essentially placing a bet that your selection will continue to keep up over the long term. No discount brokerage in Canada can offer the same track record as Qtrade.
February 2021 Update: Qtrade’s dominance continued as the Globe and Mail’s 2021 rankings came out and confirmed what we already knew – that Qtrade was simply the best all around broker in Canada.
They specifically cited the mobile app improvements which, “lets you do a wide range of functions and doesn’t cut corners, which many other brokers have.” They also stated the Portfolio Score tool was “excellent, a must try.”
We agree with Rob Carrick when he says that Qtrade is, “The King of steady year-by-year improvement.” It’s nice to see our instincts to reward Qtrade for their continued improvement confirmed by Canada’s largest newspaper.
June 2021 Update: Qtrade decided that their brand was in need of a bit of a refresh. The good news is that they’ll be keeping everything that was great about the old platform and low-cost emphasis – they’re simply giving it a more modern aesthetic appeal.
Christine Zalzal, the Senior VP, and Head of Qtrade released a statement as part of the refresh saying:
“At the heart of the new brand, Qtrade understands that the most important thing to our clients is a feeling of confidence.
They should be confident that their decisions are well-informed, that their transactions are enacted reliably and efficiently, and that they have the support that they need. We have positioned our team to create that confidence.
Our new tagline is an invitation to Write your own future.
While emphasizing that the company has 23 first-place wins for best Canadian online brokerage over the last sixteen years, Qtrade was quick to point out that they felt that there was always room for improvement.
Consequently, as part of the renewal, the broker has reorganized its internal team structure to emphasize new product development, and unique technological advancements in the portfolio analytics and personalization spaces.
In addition to launching an excellent seasonal promotional offer in August, Qtrade also upped their free ETF game. Newly added ETFs in the areas of thematic ETFs, responsible investing ETFs, and “all-in-one ETFs” (aka “Portfolio ETFs), are excellent additions to the 100+ list of free ETFs that Qtrade was already offering.
They also made it significantly easier for investors to take advantage of these free ETFs by eliminating the former $1,000 minimum purchase.
Here’s what Qtrade Innovated Over The Past Year:
- New Portfolio Score, which gives a client’s portfolio a health-check by analyzing and grading its performance across five financial dimensions
- News service powered by Dow Jones
- Sector-specific newsletters with pricing predictions from Trading Central
- Expanded offering of USD DRIP-eligible securities
- Spousal USD RRSP and RRIF products
- Updated options trading to enhance real-time information
- Redesigned and expanded ETF and Stock Screeners
Our Final Verdict
For my money (and it is my Qtrade review after all) – Qtrade is simply the best all-around option in Canada.
The combination of the best customer service (by a large margin), free buying and selling of ETFs, the user-friendly app, and the 15+ year track record of elite innovation, are what put Qtrade in a class of its own.