Back in 2008 when I started writing about Canadian online brokers, the Qtrade vs Questrade battle was already a major talking point amongst DIY investors. Fifteen years later, the only thing that has changed is that these two independent online brokers have extended their lead over Canada’s big bank brokerages.
In 2023 I can say that I have been using Questrade for nearly two decades, and Qtrade for the past few years. We have several writers on staff with accounts at both brokerages, and their personal experience is also incorporated into our Qtrade vs Questrade comparison.
What this head-to-head brokerage battle for the hearts and wallets of Canadian investors comes down to for us is:
1) Qtrade is consistently ranked higher via third party media sources such as The Globe and Mail, Surviscor, and Moneysense.
2) Qtrade simply has the best customer service in Canada right now. That’s a major advantage for retail investors.
3) Qtrade’s free ETF buying AND selling beats Questrades free ETF purchases (it charges to sell ETFs).
4) Qtrade’s current $2,000 cash promotional offer is better than Questrade’s $50 in free trades.
The Qtrade vs Questrade Quick Comparison
If you are looking for a quick comparison of Questrade vs Qtrade, have a look at the somewhat visual chart below that touches all the main areas on our comprehensive broker reviews.
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
Have made some improvement over the last year, but still lacking
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.
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 (our preferred option)
No inactivity fees
Free Electronic Funds Transfer. Additional fee for transferring out.
Free Electronic Fund Transfers up to $50,000 CAD and $25,000 USD. Additional fees for wire transfers and transferring out.
Research Tools and Education Materials
Has been at the top of Canadian brokerage rankings in this category for over a decade
Made excellent gains in the last few years
Mutual Fund Purchases
$50 in Free Trades
Brokerage Investing Account Options
Back when MDJ started to compare online broker investing account options there were some big differences between the “haves” and the “have nots”. Thankfully, competition has essentially guaranteed that most brokers now offer all of the major Canadian account options.
When we specifically compare the account options for Qtrade and Questrade, we find that there isn’t much difference at all.
Both of our leading brokerages offer the main accounts that most Canadians will use: RRSP, TFSA, RESP, non-registered trading accounts, margin trading accounts, and joint investment accounts.
Additionally, both Qtrade and Questrade offer the following investing account options: USD accounts, spousal RRSP accounts, options trading accounts, corporate trading accounts, and basically any account that you’ll find anywhere else. RDSP accounts continue to be the forgotten account in Canadian personal finance.
September 2023 Update: Canada’s First Home Savings Account (FHSA) has been rolled out in 2023, and Questrade was the first broker out of the gate to offer the account.
Now it’s important to note that Qtrade has explicitly stated on their website that they will be offering the account in 2024, but if you need an FHSA opened sooner rather than later, then Questrade will be your best bet.
You’ll need to have a minimum payment of $250 to get started and you can contribute up to $8,000 per year, to a lifetime maximum of $40,000. For more information, read our FHSA guide.
Customer Service Comparison
While Questrade continued to lead the pack when it comes to per-trade fees in Canada, the rush to DIY investing – combined with Covid-related logistics issues – led to customer frustration with Questrade throughout 2020 and 2021. With many commenters reporting wait times of 3-5 hours whether they used the call-in feature or online messaging, there was a premium to be put on customer service.
Now that’s not to say that Questrade won’t adapt and adjust to these new market realities in 2023, but for now, Canadians’ consistent expectation of solid customer service means that Qtrade has climbed to our #1 position when it comes to crowning the King of the Discount Brokerage mountain.
Questrade has reported that they’ve made an effort to substantially boost their customer service manpower, so we wait and see to what degree long-term improvements have been made.
All of that said, if you’re an experienced investor that rarely requires help when using your discount brokerage platform, then the consistent commitment to low fees might mean that Questrade is still the best fit for you.
Qtrade, on the other hand, has really doubled down when it comes to hiring enough customer service professionals, and making sure they are prepared to their high standards.
Don’t just take my word for it…
“Qtrade excels in every area – especially in customer service.”MARK BROWN, INVESTING AND RANKINGS EDITOR FOR MONEYSENSE
“We congratulate Qtrade Investor for its convincing win…and for its commitment to innovation and unmatched service levels.”Glenn LaCoste, President of Surviscor
Rob Carrick over at the Globe and Mail has given Qtrade the highest marks for several years now as well.
What it really boils down to is that Qtrade has a decade-and-a-half of experience when it comes to being the leader of online broker customer service.
There simply is no comparison if you’re looking for a long-term brokerage solution that you can trust to stay on top of the game.
Questrade vs Qtrade ETFs
Much to my delight, both Questrade and Qtrade have prioritized their ETF trading strategies, and both discount brokers are far ahead of Canada’s big banks in this area. Here’s the deal:
Qtrade: Will allow you to both buy AND sell ETFs over 100 ETFs for free. While not all ETFs are covered, index investors (aka: Couch Potato Investors) can find everything they need on this list, including my favourites:
- 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)
- iShares Core Equity ETF Portfolio (XEQT)
If you are all about cutting fees to the absolute bone, opening an account with Qtrade and rebalancing using these ETFs is absolutely free. You simply can’t beat that.
Questrade: Will allow you buy ETFs for free, BUT you have to pay when you sell ETFs. This means that when you’re rebalancing your couch potato account, you will have to pay their normal trading fees for each ETF order that you sell, each time you sell it. Buying ETFs for free is still a really good deal, it’s just not equivalent to what Qtrade is offering.
The Bottom line is that Qtrade does ETFs better.
Qtrade Investor vs Questrade Fees and Commissions
There is no doubt that Questrade really shines when it comes to fees and commissions. They have continually emphasized this point over the years, and their basic trading fee of $4.95 for up to 500 shares, and a maximum of $9.95 per trade is an excellent value.
That said, Qtrade’s $8.75 price per trade (with a discount down to $6.95 for frequent traders) is no slouch either, and comes in below the trading fees for RBC, TD, BMO and Scotiabank.
Here’s a few other fee comparison points in the Qtrade vs Questrade battle:
- ECN Fees: ECN fees are usually relatively small amounts tacked on to the base trading fee. Qtrade never charges these fees while Questrade charges them when a trade “removes equity from the market”. For most investors it’s a relatively small amount if it’s charged at all.
- Account Fees: Qtrade charges a $25 quarterly account fee – but it will be automatically waived in either case if you follow the steps we’ll outline below. Questrade currently has no inactivity fee.
- ETF Trading: Qtrade’s commission free ETFs are free to buy and sell with no minimums, whereas ETFs at Questrade are only free to buy.
- Dividend Reinvestment Plan (DRIP) Fees: Qtrade and Questrade have both Canadian and American DRIPs that are completely free.
- Forex Spread Fees: Questrade will charge you roughly 5% more in order to transfer your money from Canadian Dollars to United States Dollars – or vice versa.
- Transfer Fees: Both Questrade and Qtrade will reimburse you up to $150 to transfer your broker account over to them.
Avoiding the Qtrade Account Fees
If you want to make the best use of Qtrade, it’s essential that you pay attention to how to avoid the pesky account fees. These can chew at small accounts fairly rapidly. Each company makes the quarter fee easy to waive provided that you…
Qtrade – Do one of the following:
1) My recommendation to new investors is to 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. This is an excellent initial goal for a new DIY investor. 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.
2) Have at least $25,000 in assets on the last business day of each 3-month period (called “quarters” in the investing world).
3) Complete two commission-generating trades in the preceding quarter.
4) Complete 8 or more trades in the last 12 months
5) The fee is also waived if you are considered a “Qtrade Young Investor” (aged 18-30) and set up a $50 PAC.
Qtrade vs Questrade Fees Bottom Line
Qtrade is the best Canadian brokers for those whose portfolio and trades consist of mostly Canadian ETFs. Questrade is the cheapest broker for anyone else.
Are Qtrade and Questrade Safe?
Both Qtrade and Questrade are extremely safe to use.
They are as safe as any other financial institution in Canada – which is known for its incredibly safe and secure banking infrastructure.
Just to be absolutely clear – both Qtrade and Questrade brokerages are just as safe as the brokerages from TD, RBC, BMO, CIBC, and ScotiaBank.
Our two favourite discount brokerages offer the latest in digital security, but what makes me even more confident that my money is safe is the Canadian Investment Protection Fund (CIPF).
The CIPC was set up by the Canadian government to protect Canadian investors. The idea is that the federal government will insure up $1 Million Canadian in each of your investment accounts (RRSP, TFSA, etc).
Now – it needs to be said that when we say that Qtrade and Questrade are safe, what we’re talking about here is safe from hackers, fraud, bankruptcy, etc. Not that you personally are safe from investment risk. If you invest in crazy meme stocks and lose a bunch of money that’s not your brokerage’s fault!
Comparing Questrade and Qtrade Desktop and Mobile App Platforms
You can see from our displays below that both Qtrade and Questrade have really created and refined excellent desktop and mobile app platforms.
That said, the Qtrade app has higher ratings in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.
Overall you can’t go wrong with either option as far as their newest desktop rollouts go. Personally, I think the user experience is excellent for both Questrade and Qtrade’s desktop platforms (which is why I use them and usually stay off of investing mobile apps altogether).
That said, I think the Qtrade platform is a little more beginner-friendly.
Globe and Mail Qtrade vs. Questrade Comparison
We were happy to see that Rob Carrick over at the Globe and Mail agreed with our Qtrade vs Questrade take, with Qtrade taking home the highest rating, but Questrade coming in right behind with a solid B+.
In his 2022 broker comparison Carrick wrote:
To be fair, he does leave our favourite broker some room for improvement when it comes to showing analyst research (my personal least important factor when choosing a broker as I prefer to do my own research).
When it comes to Questrade, Carrick writes:
Ultimately, it’s always good when our own conclusions on the two top brokers in Canada are confirmed by Canada’s top personal finance columnist!
Surviscor 2023 Rankings: Qtrade vs Questrade
Each January for the past two decades a company called Surviscor releases Canadian broker service experience rankings. These rankings are the end result of over 100,000 points of data being collected on user experience via desktop and mobile, as well as a variety of customer service and investor education efforts.
As you can see from the results above, Qtrade was fairly dominant in the 2023 rankings. The only comparable online brokerage was the very niche CGD – which is not really an option for much of the country.
Questrade still pulled in a very respectful 3rd place and Surviscor gave them high marks for their much improved customer response times, chat services, and the beginner-friendly nature of their mobile app. Some work still to be done in the areas of ETF fees, service experience, and ECN Fees.
Glenn LaCoste, the Preside of Surviscor Group stated, “Congratulations to Qtrade Direct Investing for its continued service response excellence and its breadth of service interaction choices for all types of digital investors.”
Christine Zalzal, the Head of Online Brokerage and Digital Wealth over at Qtrade was happy to accept the award stating, “What makes a great online brokerage firm for investors is not only a great online trading experience but also being supported by a great service team. At Qtrade, we’re always listening to our customers. A strong customer-focused culture is embedded into our DNA. As more Canadians explore the world of self-directed investing, we’re continuing to invest in our people and our platform to help build their confidence to build their wealth.”
The Surviscor data continues to support my anecdotal experiences with both companies, as well as the combined wisdom of our editorial team.
Questrade vs. Qtrade: Frequently Asked Questions
Comparing the Qtrade vs Questrade Promo Offers
As we embrace winter and head into the final months of 2023, the Questrade vs Qtrade battle continues to generate wins for Canadian DIY investors. In their battle for brokerage supremacy, Qtrade has rolled out an unbelievable promo offer deal.
They’re offering up to $2,000 in direct cash back to folks who open a qualifying account and make a deposit before March 31, 2024.
Click here (we’ve already entered the promo code CASHOFFER2024) for you. Here’s how much cash you can snag from Qtrade just for using their platform:
|New Funds / Assets Transferred||Cashback Bonus|
|$5,000 – $49,999||$150|
|$50,000 – $99,999||$250|
|$100,000 – $249,999||$500|
|$250,000 – $499,999||$700|
|$500,000 – $999,999||$1,000|
Some other details include:
- If you’re just getting started – that’s ok. Qtrade will still send 50 bucks your way if you open an account and deposit $1,000
- There is an Early Bird bonus available to folks who open an account with at least $50,000 by the end of 2023. You will get a 20% discount on trading fees if you maintain at least $50K in the account.
- Total assets across all new Qtrade account will qualify. In other words, if you switch over your TFSA and RRSP from another brokerage, plus start an RESP with Qtrade, you can combine all of the assets in those accounts in order to meet the funding thresholds in the chart above.
Questrade also has a unique promo offer code where they’ll provide you with $50 in free trades. While that’s better than what you’ll find at most Canadian brokerages, it just doesn’t compete with this monster offer from Qtrade.
We’ve seen this Qtrade promo offer once in the past, and it just has yet to be matched by any other brokerage in Canada. Don’t delay if you want to take advantage of that Early Bird bonus!
Qtrade Refines Real-Time Account Opening
One area that Qtrade worked hard to refine in 2021 was their new account openings.
As a result, they have now streamlined the process to the point where an account can be opened within minutes (qualifying for their best-in-class cash back promotion) as opposed to the old 2-3 business days strategy.
It’s super fast and intuitive to get started, and pairs neatly with the new digital-friendly branding that Qtrade decided to go with in their latest design makeover.
The Head of Qtrade and VirtualWealth®, Christine Zalzal had this to say about Qtrade’s move to faster real-time account openings: “More Canadians than ever want to make their own investment decisions. Whether they are new or experienced investors, Qtrade is focused on empowering them to execute on their decisions quickly and with confidence. We know Qtraders will appreciate getting their account opened almost instantaneously when they apply.”
One of the ways in which Qtrade has been able to remain in the top echelon of Canadian online brokers from Day 1, is their continued commitment to innovative excellence. It’s great to see that they show no signs of slowing down!
Why Qtrade Is Our Top Canadian Broker For 2023
I’ve been writing about Canadian online brokerages for almost twenty years now! In that time, I’ve always tracked the Qtrade vs Questrade comparison quite closely, as they were often the two leading brokerages (with the odd leap in innovation from one of the big bank brokers).
Qtrade’s current $2,000 promotional offer is not only the best current offer on the table – it’s tied for the best one that I’ve seen in the last two decades!
Aside from that easy win, I simply find that the advantages that Qtrade has when it comes to customer service and an easier-to-navigate platform – plus the free ETF sales consideration – are worth the $2-per-trade advantage that Questrade has when it comes to stock trading.
Qtrade’s consistent excellence over the years includes winning the battle for the #1 spot in the Globe and Mail rankings in 2023, 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2016, 2014, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, and 2006.
I personally hate paperwork. So one of my biggest considerations when choosing a product such as an online trading platform or bank account is their long-term track record. I don’t want to have to invest hours into switching services at some point.
Qtrade has consistently proven itself to be head and shoulders above other Canadian discount brokerages when it comes to innovation and constant upgrades.
As customers become more cost-conscious during this inflation-heavy time, the Qtrade vs Questrade rivalry for your DIY dollars has led to an increasingly innovative final product – delivered at lower price points – for both brokerages.
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