Virtual Brokers Review 2021: Fees, ETFs, and Account Options
Virtual Brokers Review Summary:
- Virtual Brokers Fees and Pricing
- Account Options
- Non-Resident Accounts
- Customer Service
- User-friendly platform and mobile app
Virtual Brokers Review Summary:
Virtual Brokers is an excellent option for Canadian citizens who are living overseas. Their rock-bottom pricing makes them an excellent candidate for investors who place a high priority on cutting fees to the bone. The two areas that concern me are the consistent complaints about customer service over a prolonged period of time, and the non-beginner-friendly trading platform.
I think it’s worth comparing Virtual Brokers to our most recommended online broker, so check out our Qtrade Review for more details. Personally, I think you can get the same low fees and free ETF purchases at Qtrade – but with much better platforms and customer service (plus free RESP accounts).
- Very competitive fees, similar to industry leaders
- Good solution for Canadian expats
- Nice platform for very active professional traders
- Confusing for beginners
- Platform is not user-friendly
- Pretty basic mobile app
- No promo offers for new signups
With no Signup bonus and an outdated app, Virtual Brokers is not one of the best Canadian brokeragesView Alternative, Better Rated Canadian Brokers
As one of Canada’s best online discount brokerages, Virtual Brokers’ trading fees and pricing has consistently been on the leading edge of cutting costs since they entered the market back in 2009.
In 2021, Virtual Brokers continues to shine when it comes to fees and pricing for self-directed investors. The company is a subsidiary of BBS Securities Inc., which was recently purchased by CI Financial (the same company that owns CI Direct Investing).
Virtual Brokers Fees and Pricing
When it comes to Virtual Brokers’ fees and pricing, there are a few different levels of costs that you have to be aware of. There are different models for ETFs, Options, Active Traders, and Non-Active Traders.
Virtual Brokers No Fee ETF Purchases
Just like Questrade, Virtual Brokers allows investors to purchase ETFs for free if they trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX).
They do charge a fee when you sell ETFs, but it is likely only going to be around $2.00-ish. At a penny-per-unit (a unit of an ETF is similar to a share of a stock), and a cap at $8.00 total, even selling ETFs is quite cheap with VB. That said, most passive investors who use basic vanilla index options such as all-in-one ETFs are not likely to sell any ETFs until they are retired and withdrawing from their portfolio. You have to have accumulated quite a substantial nest egg before you can’t re-balance your asset allocation simply by purchasing more of one ETF than another (if you’re not using the all-one-one options).
Virtual Brokers Trading Fees
There are two different paths when it comes to trading fees at Virtual Brokers.
The first path is the one that 98%+ of the people reading this article will choose, and that’s the basic penny-per-share model. This Virtual Brokers pricing model applies if you make less than 150 trades per quarter. The investors who prefer Canadian dividend stocks or who are putting the Smith Manoeuvre into action will likely make 5-30 trades per quarter, and are often investing $1,000 – $5,000 at a time. Under this model, it’s a penny-per-share that you purchase, with a minimum cost of $1.99 (even if you buy less than 199 shares) and a maximum cost of $7.99 (even if you buy more than 799 shares). There are some very small fees tacked on in addition to this amount on most trades (usually a couple of pennies, at most).
The second path is for folks who are investing big time money and/or making many trades each quarter. It allows ALL trades to go on at the flat rate of $3.99. You can only access this rate if you made more than 150 trades last quarter. If you do some basic math, you’d have to be buying and selling a lot of shares to make that level of activity worth it. I wouldn’t recommend going down that route.
It might be worth mentioning briefly that the Virtual Brokers fee for options trading is $7.99 per trade + $1.25 for the options contract. That drops to $3.99 + $1.25 if you do 150+ trades per quarter. I’m personally not a big options trading guy, but some folks love that adrenaline rush.
Virtual Brokers Platform Fees
The vast majority of people reading this will be fine with the free dashboard and mobile app that Virtual Brokers provides. They do offer a wide variety of other options for more advanced traders, however. Below is a complete breakdown of the Virtual Brokers Platform Fees.
ITS Trader Lite
Virtual Brokers Admin and Account Fees
One area where discount brokerages like to bury some of their overall pricing is the account administration fees, and Virtual Brokers is no different. The two costs that really stand out to me are the RESP administration fee and USD RRSP/USD TFSA quarterly fees (multiply by four to get the per-year costs). See the below table for the complete look at Virtual Brokers’ Account Admin fees.
RRSP, Spousal RRSP, LIRA, RIF & LIF
Deposit-Bill Payment (CAD Only)
Deposit-Wire Transfer (CAD/USD)
Withdrawal-Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT)
Partial Transfer out
$50 per account
Account Transfer Out
$150 per account
Withdrawal-Wire Transfer (CAD/USD)-Canada
Withdrawal-Wire Transfer (USD)-International
DAP (C.O.D) Transfer In/Out
$50 per name
US RRSP, US Spousal RRSP & US LIRA
US $15 per quarter
US $150 per year
US $15 per quarter
$25 per year
US $15 per quarter
Account Administration Fee
$24.95 per quarter
Partial Deregistration Fee
Full Deregistration Fee
Lifelong learning plan (LLP)
Home buyer's plan (HBP) partial deregistration
DRS (Direct Registration System)
$200 USD per name
$200 per Certificate / Name
Certificate Deposit/Withdrawal Rush
$450 per Certificate / Name
Safekeeping of Certificate
$50 per certificate / Month
Research Request (Minimum 1 hour)
$75 per hour
Electronic Trade Confirmation (e-Confirmation)
Cheque Cancellation Fee
Electronic Monthly Statement (e-Statement)
Paper Trade Confirmation
Paper Monthly Account Statement
Copy of Tax Statement
$35 per account per year
Copy of Monthly Statement
$20 per account per month
NSF Cheque/Returned Items
$29.95 per quarter
$250 per account
Legend Removal Rule 144/33
$300 per name
Settlement of non-DTC eligible securities
Virtual Brokers TFSA, RRSP and Other Accounts
Like all of the leading Canadian discount brokers these days, Virtual brokers offers all of the usual accounts including:
- Non-registered accounts (both CAD and USD)
- RRSP (both CAD and USD)
- Non-registered (All-in-One) Accounts include Options and Margin capability
Canadian Expat Non-Resident Investors
The one area where Virtual Brokers really shines is their commitment to Canadians who live overseas. Many discount brokers don’t want to take expat clients on because of the increased paperwork involved. Virtual Brokers don’t gouge you on extra administration fees and their pricing is still very low.
While there is no minimum amount needed to get started with Virtual Brokers in Canada, non-residents are required to have $25,000 CAD to open an account. This makes sense considering the increased administrative burden they are taking on with expat clients. Given how expensive non-USA discount brokerages are to use around the world, I know that many non-residents are happy they have the Virtual Broker option back home in Canada.
Virtual Brokers and Wealthscope – a New Addition
With several of Canada’s leading online brokerages adding a portfolio analysis tool to their platforms in 2020 and 2021 VB has not been left behind. Their partnership with Wealthscope has provided VB users information about their portfolios appropriate risk level, diversification, market exposure, and fees.
Kambiz Vatan-Abadi, CEO and President of Toronto-based BBS Securities Inc. stated, “With this new partnership, Virtual Brokers’ clients have access to a data-driven, state-of-the-art portfolio level analysis, one account at a time, or combined for a big picture view.”
The tool also allows investors to answer some of their own questions when it comes to retirement target setting, RESP goals, and probabilities of future returns based on past results (which is admittedly of questionable value).
What Is the VB Kickstart Investors Program (KIP)?
One of the more unique programs that Virtual Brokers has implemented is their Kickstart Investment Program (KIP). The idea is to get investors used to systemically building their wealth through automation.
In order to give investors an added incentive, Virtual Brokers is willing to allow a small amount of free share purchases each month. Here’s the steps that have to be taken in order to get the benefits of the KIP program:
1) Fill out a form that allows Virtual Brokers to automatically debit (withdraw) a specific amount from your main chequing/savings account each month.
2) Decide on up to 5 ETFs or Canadian Stocks that you want to automatically buy each month.
3) Understand that you won’t be able to determine which stock gets a specific amount of money or anything like that – it’s all automated (like a robo advisor).
4) The price for this program (assuming you’re not a student or recent graduate) is a flat rate of $50 per year.
It’s a pretty cool way for Virtual Brokers to nudge investors towards index-based couch potato investing.
Virtual Brokers Review: FAQ
Who is Virtual Brokers Best For?
1) The small percentage of investors who do a lot of trading.
2) Canadian expat investors who are not residents of Canada, but want to keep their stock portfolios nice and safe at home.
Our Virtual Brokers review clearly outlines why these two groups of Canadians should check out what VB has to offer. On the other hand, the customer service reports and relatively high account administration fees clearly leave Qtrade a step ahead as our preferred Canadian discount brokerage.