After ranking Qtrade ahead of Questrade in our updated best Canadian discount brokers for 2021 article, we had a number of readers ask for more explanation on the Qtrade vs Questrade comparison criterion, and why Qtrade had supplanted Questrade as our #1 most recommended Canadian brokerage.
The first thing we should point out is that if you are happy with Questrade – by all means stick with them. This shuffle to the discount broker rankings was more about how Qtrade has taken their game to the next level, as opposed to Questrade becoming a worse product.
We simply felt that new differences in the key areas of customer service, ease of sign up, and Qtrade’s new promotion edged it ahead of our former #1 option at Questrade.
Best 2021 Broker Promo: Qtrade’s Exclusive Summer Promo
Open an account with Qtrade before September 30th 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
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
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
Brokerage Investing Account Options
Don’t ask me why the Canadian online brokers powers that be decided to give the two best brokers in Canada such similar names. Someone must have done some market research and decided that “Q” had a magical effect on peoples’ trust levels.
In any case, when it comes to comparing what account options both Qtrade and Questrade have, there isn’t an advantage in either direction.
They both offer anything that a Canadian could ask for including the basic non-registered trading accounts, margin trading accounts, RRSP accounts, TFSA accounts, and joint investment accounts.
Both Questrade and Qtrade also offer corporate account options, USD account options, spousal RRSP options, and pretty much any other account you’ll find anywhere else.
Customer Service Comparison
Until the market chaos earlier this year, I have to be honest in saying I was not aware of just how important the customer service element was in comparing brokerage companies.
MDJ has gotten a few negative reviews of Questrade here and there over the years, but we basically figured that these were primarily due to the odd exotic trade offer not being handled correctly, or perhaps a rogue customer service employee.
That changed through the spring and summer of 2020!
What was once a trickle of negative emails, suddenly turned into a downpour. No doubt a large amount of this negative feedback can be chalked up to people finding out about Questrade through our past recommendation, and consequently they directed their anger in our direction. Nonetheless, it can’t be denied that as people raced to open new accounts and/or make new trades, Questrade’s customer service was overwhelmed. You can find numerous Reddit threads that document 4-hour waits for both their phone lines and online chat help.
While customer service had never been Questrade’s strong suit, the overall feeling amongst many Canadian personal finance commentators was that they had been slowly improving this aspect of the platform over the years.
When it comes to recommending a discount brokerage, I’ve come around to the idea that because many Canadians are venturing into this space for the first time, customer service can have an outsized importance.
If it’s impossible to get a call returned during a busy day where you just potentially lost a lot of money, many Canadians will cite that experience as the reason they decided to pursue a DIY investment path. This is obviously a really big negative, and in my estimation it’s one that outweighs the minor advantage that Questrade has on regular trading fees.
Qtrade on the other hand has always been known for their customer service excellence!
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.
The bottom line is that Qtrade has over a decade of experience when it comes to continually refreshing their market-leading approach to customer service. It was a deal breaker for us.
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)
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 is far better in this aspect.
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: Both Qtrade and Questrade charge a $25 quarterly account fee – but it will be automatically waived in either case if you follow the steps we’ll outline below.
- Mutual Purchase Fees: Questrade charges investors who purchase mutual funds while Qtrade does not.
- 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 and Questrade Account Fees
If you want to make the best use of either Questrade or 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.
Questrade – Do one of the following:
1) Complete one commission-generating trade per quarter.
2) Complete a $150+ deposit each quarter.
3) Have at least $5,000 in your account.
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 as safe as a financial platform can be in Canada.
For some reason, many Canadians out there believe that only products put out by Canada’s Big 5 banks attain the highest levels of safety. If you’re one of those people, and just crave the convenience of doing all of your bankings and investing in one place, we recommend taking a look at our BMO Investorline Review.
The truth is that both Qtrade and Questrade are covered by the same protection package – and it’s one that represents the highest level of investor protection in Canada. It’s known as the Canadian Investment Protection Fund.
The idea behind the CIPF is that if your discount broker were to go bankrupt (which seems like a pretty far fetched notion considering that both Questrade and Qtrade are two of Canada’s quickest growing companies) then your investments would be protected.
The limits on this coverage is up to $1 Million got all non-registered accounts, plus $1 Million on all registered accounts combined (excluding RESPs), and $1 Million for RESP accounts. Long story short, the CIPF and Canada’s provincial security regulators have your back in a worst-case scenario.
Both Canadian brokerages also use the latest in digital security techniques.
Of course, it needs to be pointed out that no investment platform can guarantee the results of your investments! No discount brokerage can promise that your investments won’t go down in value.
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.
Why Qtrade Is Our Top Canadian Broker For 2021
Ultimately, the Qtrade vs Questrade debate boils down to how you personally feel about the $2 difference on trading fees vs the advantages that Qtrade brings to the table.
When I talked to the team of authors at MDJ, we came to the conclusion that Qtrades advantage in the following areas were substantially more valuable than a small trading fee difference (especially when you consider that Qtrade has lower fees in other areas).
- The customer service difference proved to be very important in 2020.
- The Free ETFs is a big deal for passive investors.
- Qtrade offers some of the best education tools and resources in Canada. That advantage grew in 2020 as they added a Dow Jones news service, sector-specific newsletters through Trading Central, AND a really cool Portfolio Score tool that acts like a report card for your overall investment portfolio, grading it across five financial dimensions.
- It’s not just us recommending Qtrade. The Globe and mail has ranked Qtrade as the #1 discount brokerage in 2021, 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 that same track record as Qtrade.
Canadian investors are best served through strong competition between brokerages, so let’s hope that the Qtrade vs Questrade battle continues to push both discount brokers for many years to come!