When it comes to the lowest cost Canadian discount brokerage, it usually boils down to Questrade vs Interactive Brokers Canada (or IBKR Canada as it is often shortened to), with one or two other options thrown in. These two low-cost brokers really tailor their offerings to high volume traders, and clearly shine when it comes to platforms for professional day traders.
In our Questrade vs IBKR Canada comparison chart below, we decided to include our #1 Canadian discount brokerage as well (read our full Qtrade review for more details) in order to show the difference options available in 2021.
Questrade vs Interactive Brokers Comparison Chart
$20 per month - Waived if you hold more than $100,000 in the account, or if you pay more than $30 in commissions each month
$8 per month - WAIVED IF you hold more $5,000 in the account, make one trade per quarter, or are younger than 25.
$8 per month - WAIVED IF you hold more than $25,000 in the account OR you make 2 trades per 3-month quarter OR you add $100+ automatic recurring monthly contribution (my preferred option)
$1 CAD minimum, maximum of .5% of total purchase or sell value
Free to buy only
Free to buy and sell
Mediocre at best. Aimed at professional stock traders. Good value if you need day trading platforms, and rarely need questions answered.
Very good. Much improved over the last three years. Still some work to do on the customer service wait times.
Excellent - consistently ranked #1 in Canada
Foreign Exchange Capability
#1 in World
None (other than CAD to USD)
None (other than CAD to USD)
Consistently ranked as the
best research tools for international day traders.
Made excellent gains in the last few years
Has been at the
top of Canadian brokerage ranking
in this category for over a decade
Mutual Fund Purchases
Some are free, some are $5.
None in Canada
in Free trades
$150 in Credit
Questrade vs Interactive Brokers Trading Fees
Interactive Brokers is known around the world as the cheapest international brokerage to trade on. It has quite low margin rates if you want to borrow money, and it’s options trading pricing is a fraction of what most Canadian brokerages charge.
However, it’s important to remember that Interactive Brokers Canada does not have access to the cheaper IBKR lite platform. This means that monthly fees and the lack of free ETF trades really kill any trading fee advantage in the IBKR vs Questrade battle.
|Questrade (review)||IBKR (review)|
$8 per month – WAIVED IF you hold more $5,000 in the account, make one trade per quarter, or are younger than 25.
$20 per month – Waived if you hold $100,000 in the account, or if you pay more than $30 in commissions each month.
|ETF Fees||Free to Purchase, $5.00 to Sell.||$1 CAD minimum, maximum of .5% of total purchase or sell value|
|Per Share Trading Fees||$5-$10 (usually close to $5)||$1 CAD minimum, maximum of .5% of total purchase or sell value|
|Options Trading Fees||$4.95 + $0.75 contract||$2 + $0.80/contract|
The Better Choice for You
In trying to decipher the better fit for you personally in the Interactive Brokers vs Questrade debate there are a few key points that you should take into consideration.
1) How important is options trading to you? IBKR Canada’s lower options trading fees give an advantage here.
2) How important is it to be able to borrow money to buy/sell stocks “on margin”? (Also known as “leveraged investing”, I’m not personally a big fan of it, but obviously some people enjoy this added risk.) The Interactive Brokers margin interest rates are decidedly lower than Questrade’s margin interest rates.
3) How important are rock-bottom currency conversion rates to you? Norbert’s Gambit is a quick and cheap way to exchange CAD for USD, but if you’re looking to invest on other exchanges in other currencies, then Interactive Brokers simply can’t be beat.
3) Do you want to have an RESP and/or an RRIF? For many, this will be the make or break question in the Questrade vs Interactive Brokers battle, because IBKR Canada simply doesn’t offer anything but the most popular Canadian broker accounts. Consequently, there is no RESP or RRIF options, and this is a decisive advantage for Questrade (and/or Qtrade).
4) How nervous do you get when you read our Interactive Brokers review and learn about US Situs assets, and interacting with American inheritance tax laws? This is honestly just complication that my life doesn’t need, and is my personal deciding factor in choosing Questrade over IBKR Canada.
Ultimately, the lack of IBKR Lite pricing, no RESP or RRIF capability, and the anxiety around US inheritance tax law, prevents me from recommending Interactive Brokers Canada over Questrade.
I actually think the Questrade vs Qtrade battle is a much more interesting debate for Canadian residents. If cheap options trading is the be-all and end-all of your trading “must have” list, the IBKR is the right choice, but for the vast majority of Canadian investors, I’d check out our updated Questrade vs Qtrade guide before making my online broker selection.