In the battle of Wealthsimple vs Questrade we see Canadians choosing between two of Canada’s low-cost investing leaders.

The issue is that most people trying to make the decision of Wealthsimple vs Questrade don’t really know if they are looking for:

A) A robo advisor platform that excels at quickly and efficiently investing your money on your behalf (the ultimate hands-off options in Canada).

Or

B) An online discount brokerage account that allows you to cut costs to the absolute bone and explore a much wider range of investments.

Questrade Vs Wealthsimple Compared

Discount BrokeRRobo-Advisor
Best For DIY Investing Passive Investing
Fees
  • Charged per transaction.
  • $5-$10 per trade (a trade is buying or selling a share).
  • ETFs are free to buy.
  • Charged as a percentage of your investment portfolio.
  • .35% to .8% once the underlying investments are taken into consideration.
Style Hands on. You're in the driver's seat. Hands off. You decide on a strategy (with the help of an automated survey and an advisor).
Customer Service No one to ask for help. You are effectively on your own.
  • Free, non-biased advice from knowledgeable people.
  • Tax loss harvesting to save money.
  • No need to worry about limit or no-limit orders, leftover cash, partial shares, or any other DIY stuff
User Friendliness As complicated as you want to make it. One-off index buy or a daily rebalance/trading - up to you. The easiest way to turn a part of your paycheque into an excellent investment portfolio.
RRSP + TFSA + RESP Yes Yes
Full Review Questrade Review Wealthsimple Review
promotion $50 in Free Trades $50 Cash Bonus
Sign Up Visit Questrade Visit Wealthsimple

For additional comparison options, I recommend checking out our Qtrade vs Wealthsimple article.

Questrade vs Wealthsimple Summary

Please read on to see the details of our Questwealth Portfolios vs Wealthsimple Invest comparison in our Battle of the Robo Advisors and/or the details of our Wealthsimple Trade vs Questrade Brokerage comparison in our Duel of the Discount Brokerages.

If you’re the TL;DR type, then here’s our conclusion.

1) Go with Wealthsimple’s Robo Advisors if you like the idea of a super easy way to invest, and the ability to email/online chat/call someone for help on your investment journey.  This is the way I recommend 90% of my friends invest their money. Questwealth Portfolios is a worthy competitor, but ultimately I’m scared of the “Active Management” investing style, and their perks/platform just doesn’t provide the nice cherry on top that Wealthsimple does.

2)  If you want the cheapest way to invest your money in Canada using DIY techniques, then you’re looking for a discount brokerage account.  See our full guide to Canada’s online brokers for more information on how Wealthsimple Trade, Questrade, and Qtrade all compare.

Many brokerages upped their game substantially in 2020 and the shift to online investing has only accelerated in 2021.  While Wealthsimple has proven to be incredibly innovative in areas such as Wealthsimple Tax or Wealthsimple Crypto, they have simply fallen short when it comes to their Wealthsimple Trade platform. 

The extensive platforms and much wider array of options that Qtrade and Questrade provide just make them a much better choice if you chose to go the DIY-broker route.  Hopefully Wealthsimple will sprinkle some of their magic innovation dust on their trading platform sooner rather than later.

Signing up with Wealthsimple or Questrade:

Discount Brokerages vs Robo Advisors

To make the best choice in the Wealthsimple vs Questrade battle for investment dollars, it’s important to understand the differences between the different types of platforms that allow Canadians to invest their money.

Robo Advisors: NOT ROBOTS – but a way to automate your way to a healthy nest egg! The basic idea is that robo advisor platforms make it as easy possible to take a piece of your paycheque and turn it into an addition to your TFSA, RRSP, or non-registered account. Wealthsimple is currently ranked #1 in our list of best Canadian robo advisors.

Rest assured, you will have human beings available to answer any questions, the “robo” part of the name is simply to indicate that your investment dollars will be “robotically” invested in a consistent manner each time you wire money to them. 

So for example, you may decide that each month you will send $200 to your robo advisor, and that you want $160 of that money to go to purchase a basket of the world’s stocks, and $40 to purchase a basket of the world’s bonds. With a robo advisor, that process will be completely automated – no need to login, create a purchase order, etc.

DIY Online Brokerages: If you want to cut costs to the absolute bone and are willing to do a bit of reading and math, then an online brokerage will be the right platform for you. With these platforms, there is no advice component available. 

You send money to your account, and from there you can buy individual stocks, bonds, options, commodities, ETFs, mutual funds, etc. using limit orders or market orders. They are more flexible and lower cost than robo advisors, but require a little more work and knowledge to use correctly.

It’s key to understand that Questrade started as a DIY online broker and added a robo advisor, while Wealthsimple started as a robo advisor and has added a DIY online broker.  

So your decision ultimately becomes not just Wealthsimple vs Questrade, but really Wealthsimple Trade vs Questrade Brokerage, and Wealthsimple Invest vs Questwealth Portfolios.

Questwealth Portfolios vs Wealthsimple Invest – Battle of Robo Advisors

Investing Style

The way that Questwealth Portfolios invests your money vs how Wealthsimple Invest puts your money to work, is the single biggest difference between these two automated investing services.

  • Questwealth Portfolios = Active Investing
  • Wealthsimple Invest = Passive Investing

What this active vs passive argument boils down to is that when a company actively invests your money, it means that they are trying to pick and choose which investments will create the highest investment returns. A passive investing strategy is when an investor or company simply seeks to own a small piece of every company or bond in a given market. In the case of a Wealthsimple portfolio, this means owning small pieces of thousands of companies from all around the world, as well as hundreds of bonds.

The investments in your Questwealth Portfolio are actively managed by a company named One Capital Management, based in Los Angeles, California.

Getting “experts” to pick the best investments to put in a portfolio might sound good in theory. The problem is that most of the time “experts” are really bad at actually selecting the best investments for their clients. There are many reasons for this fact, but what it comes down to is that it’s really, really hard to get an edge on everyone else in the stock or bond market. This shouldn’t be a surprise considering who is involved in trying to outdo each other in these markets.  

Remember that for every share or bond you sell, there is someone on the other end who thinks they got the better deal.  

These companies compete against each other every day using brilliant brains from Ivy League schools, supercomputers that should probably be used at NASA, insider information gleaned from their paid “consultants” who are former politicians or staffers, etc. As soon as one of these money managers or companies gain an edge, it is often quickly copied by the others. Consequently, to be “above average” at picking the best investments is quite difficult, and the people who can do it usually run relatively small hedge funds for the world’s wealthy – not investments aimed at the average retail investor.

Study after study has shown that passive investment’s strategy of “owning the entire market” and guaranteeing yourself the average overall return is far and away a better strategy than hiring someone to “beat the market” for you!

If you want more insights on why passive investing has fared much better than active investing, please read these articles (or just trust that I read them).

1) Here’s why Warren Buffett (one of the world’s best stock pickers) says that you should passively invest your money.

2) Here’s an example of Buffett actually winning a $1 Million bet that an index fund would beat an elite hedge fund.

3) Here’s another example of how active management has lost for the last 9+ years.

Both Questwealth Portfolios and Wealthsimple Invest also include Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) options, but only Wealthismple has Halal Investing options for Islamic investors.

Additionally, in 2020 Wealthsimple launched their own socially responsible investing funds rather than relying on third party responsible investing ETFs which they have been doing since 2016.

Wealthsimple noticed that investors were showing an increased interest in having their investments match their values and, on June 16th, 2020, two new Wealthsimple funds hit the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The first is Wealthsimple North America Socially Responsible Index ETF which invests primarily in Canadian and US equity services (management fee is 0.2%). The second is Wealthsimple Developed Markets ex-North American Social Responsible Index ETF and focuses on European, Asian, and Australian equity services (management fee is 0.25%)

As mentioned earlier, Questrade also has SRI with similar fees (0.25% for under $99,999 and 0.2% above $100,000), however, the fact that Wealthsimple is taking the steps to become more invested in socially responsible investing will give them a step up in the eyes of many Canadian investors.

Big Winner: Wealthsimple Invest

Fees

If you want to see what a robo advisor is all about, or are just getting started with investing, then Wealthsimple has a fantastic promotional offer which includes getting a $50 bonus on a $500 or more deposit.

Questwealth Portfolio has no such introductory offer at this time.  However, there is no denying the long-term edge that Questwealth Portfolios have when it comes to a pure comparison of MER.  For smaller portfolios (less than $100,000) Questwealth Portfolios charge .25% MER + the cost of the underlying ETFs. Wealthsimple Invest charges .50% MER + the cost of underlying ETFs.  For larger portfolios, the costs come down to .20% MER vs .40% MER respectively.

That said, I remain very skeptical that this relatively small difference in fees (.2% MER comes out to about $16 per month on a $100,000 portfolio) is enough to justify the shortcomings of active management.

Winner: Smaller Portfolios = Wealthsimple, Larger Portfolios = Questwealth

Features

As Canada’s largest robo advisor (by far) and with the bankroll of Canadian financial giant Power Financial funding innovation, this is where Wealthsimple really shines versus many of its competitors.

Both automated investing options include all the normal Canadian accounts (TFSA, RRSP, Non-registered, Corporate, etc), both will pay your transfer fees to switch over, include tax loss harvesting services, and some degree of personalized help via chat, email, or phone.  Both Wealthsimple Invest and Questwealth Portfolios offer investors a super quick way to diversify their investment portfolio through automatic dividend reinvestment.

On top of those features, here’s a few other highlights unique to Wealthsimple

1) At its two higher tiers (Wealthsimple Black and Wealthsimple Generation) Wealthsimple Invest treats investors to VIP airport lounge access, personalized financial planning, personalized financial reports, and 50% off Medcan health plan.

2) All investors can make use of a partnership between Wealthsimple and SimpleTax that allows clients to quickly and easily file their own tax returns for FREE each year.  Fully integrated with your Wealthsimple accounts, this will save Canadians substantial time and money.

3) A neat little feature called “round up” that allows you to hook up your credit card and debit card to your account, and then automatically invest “your change” whenever you make a purchase.

4) Access to Wealthsimple Save, which is an excellent High Interest Savings Account option.  Canadians could open up an EQ Bank Account outside of their Questwealth Portfolios account and get access to the same features, but it’s nice to have all of your banking/investing needs met in one place.

5) In January of 2021 Wealthsimple introduced a new product called Wealthsimple Cash. This feature could allow Wealthsimple to provide a full suite of banking services to Canadians in the future, including a basic chequing account.  The business names “Wealthsimple Payments, and “Wealthsimple Digital Assets” were also reserved by Wealthsimple, leading to speculation about eventual products that the innovative company will soon be coming out with.

6) The other ground-breaking area that Wealthsimple has staked out within the Canadian market is Wealthsimple Crypto. Personally I’m not a big fan of cryptocurrencies, but I’m quickly becoming a minority on that front I guess! 

Wealthsimple Crypto has quickly become a big money-maker for the company, and they now offer trading in:

Aave (AAVE), Balancer (BAL), Basic Attention Token (BAT), Bitcoin (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Cardano (ADA), Chainlink (LINK), Compound (COMP), Curve (CRV), Decentraland (MANA), Dogecoin (DOGE), Ethereum (ETH), Fantom (FTM), Filecoin (FIL), Kyber Network (KNC), Litecoin (LTC), Maker (MKR), Ox (ZRX), Polkadot (DOT), Polygon (MATIC), Ren (REN), Steller (XLM), SushiSwap (SUSHI), Synthetix (SNX), Uma (UMA), Uniswap (UNI), Yearn.Finance (YFI) and 1inch (1INCH).

Questwealth Portfolios does not offer any of these perks and services from everything that I’ve read. Instead, they rely on their low fees to attract investors. But with over $8 Billion in assets under management, and more than 1.5 Million customers (not to mention Power Financial’s deep pockets) I’m betting that Wealthsimple will continue to innovate and add to their overall suite of products that  make investing and money easier for Canadians.

It also has to be noted that Wealthsimple’s mobile app and online platform are brilliantly designed and have won several international awards (including a Webby Award in 2021).  I know that when it comes to managing money, having a pretty-looking app isn’t the most important factor, but there is no denying the refined ease-of-use that Wealthsimple has created as it has expanded across multiple international markets in addition to its Canadian home base.

Clear Winner: Wealthsimple 

Conclusion: Wealthsimple is Canada’s Top Robo Advisor

Despite giving up a couple of MER points in fees, the combination of unsurpassed features, superior passive investing strategy, and award-winning user experience, leave Wealthsimple standing alone atop the mountain in the Questrade Portfolios vs Wealthsimple Invest robo advisor battle.

Questrade Brokerage vs Wealthsimple Trade – Duel of the Discount Brokerages

Fees

In some ways, the Questrade discount brokerage product vs the Wealthsimple Trade online brokerage platform are the mirror image of the robo advisor battle.  

Here we see that it is Wealthsimple that has cut fees to the absolute bone. It’s literally FREE to invest with Wealthsimple Trade.

However – you are getting the absolute minimum product with that $0 cost structure.  

With Wealthsimple Trade you pay $0 to either buy or sell any ETF or stock. If you’re wondering if this is too good to be true, remember how pared down this platform is AND keep in mind that Wealthsimple may simply be using this as a loss leader in order to bring you into their overall ecosystem, which now includes tax preparation, robo advisor services, high interest savings accounts, and chequing accounts.  

Questrade on the other hand continues to solidly clip along with their extremely low per-trade fee of $5.00 plus ECN fees. For more on what this means, check out our Questrade Review. It is also worth mentioning that Questrade offers free purchases of most ETFs.  However, the $5 + ECN fees are still in play when it comes to selling those ETFs.

The bottom line is that Questrade has long been the fee leader when it comes to discount brokerage investing in Canada. Their fees are still very low, but there is no denying the math that FREE beats “low fee”. 

That said, the MDJ editorial team has been really disappointed in the lack of innovation that Wealthsimple has produced when it comes to their brokerage accounts relative to other areas of their business. The Wealthsimple Trade platform just lacks so many parts of key infrastructure that we take for granted at other online brokers.

It’s clear that the free platform will never be a major focus for the company. You can read this Wealthsimple Trade review to see why we don’t like it as much.

Winner: Questrade

Features

Here’s what you get with Wealthsimple Trade:

  • $0 TRADES without any restrictions or exceptions
  • Basic RRSP, TFSA, and non-registered accounts
  • $0 Monthly or annual fees
  • Simple mobile app

You can quickly see that Wealthsimple Trade is building its case on a sheer value basis.  

Here’s what the Questrade Discount Brokerage brings to the table:

  • Stock trades and ETF sales for $5.00 + ECN fees (which are usually minimal)
  • Excellent initial promo offer – Click here to get $50 in Free Trades
  • ETF purchases for $0
  • Almost any type of account you can imagine (RRSP, TFSA, RESP, Non-Registered – which they call a margin account, LIRA, RIF, LIF, Joint Accounts, and Corporate Accounts)
  • $1,000 Account Minimum
  • **check on monthly/yearly fees
  • Ability to hold USD
  • Access to elite data platforms for active traders, watchlists, news, and various types of investor information services
  • Access to stock exchanges other than the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) and New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)

Questrade and Qtrade have been the gold standard for Canadian online discount brokerage options for a long time now – and it’s clear to see why. Their newly-improved desktop platform and mobile app are excellent, their fees are very low, and they provide unparalleled features at this price point.

Plus, we can’t forget about the outstanding promotional offer shown below.

Winner: Questrade Discount Brokerage

Wealthsimple vs Questrade: What’s Right for YOU

When it comes to making a final selection in the Questrade vs Wealthsimple battle, we recommend checking out our detailed comparison of Canada’s best robo advisors and Canada’s best online brokerages.

After deciding whether the hands-off “set it and forget it” option of a robo advisor is the right fit, or you go with the DIY ultimate low cost vehicle of an online broker, then you can accurately compare “apples-to-apples” when it comes to the specific platforms.

After 15+ years of trying to get Canadians to begin their investing journey the raw simplicity of Wealthsimple Invest is really hard to ignore, and is perfect for the vast majority of Canadians who don’t know – and don’t want to know – much about investing.

You can sign up today and get $10,000 managed for free, and it’s hands down the easiest way to turn a chunk of your paycheque into an incredibly diversified portfolio automatically each month. 

If you’re asking which of the four platforms I personally use, then my answer has actually evolved from 2020 to 2022.  Heading into 2020 I felt that the Questrade online broker overall package was the best option in Canada. However, after countless MDJ readers contacted us (and commented on our articles), we were forced to admit that the serious deficit in customer service affected the overall effectiveness of the Questrade platform. 

When we combined all of those data points with the steady innovation and commitment to excellence over at Qtrade, we had to admit that the Online Broker Heavyweight Title had changed hands. 

Read our full Qtrade vs Questrade comparison for more details on how they stack up.

For more details on what others think of Wealthsimple vs Questrade, as well as which platforms/strategies Canadians might enjoy, check out our interviews below.



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Kyle Prevost

Kyle Prevost is Canada's Top Personal Finance Teacher and an author/speaker/advisor when he is not in his classroom. His writing has been featured across Canada’s most-read publications. When he isn’t nerding out about P/E ratios or MERs, you can find Kyle on a basketball court or in a boxing ring trying to recapture something he isn’t sure that he had in the first place.
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Abraham
8 months ago

It says 2021 update, but on the “Questrade Brokerage vs Wealthsimple Trade – Duel of the Discount Brokerages” section, it says WS Trade is not currently connected to the other Wealthsimple platforms and can only be used from their mobile app. Which is not true anymore, WS Invest, Trade and Tax are all available and integrated in the desktop version.

RL Bee
1 year ago

Hello How do their robo-advisor products compare for annualised returns, not just 6 months but 3, 5, years? I mean QuestWealth (active mngmt) vs WealthSimple Portfolio (passive mngmt)? I have a Questwealth Growth since Jan 2019, and am not too impressed with the returns. 2019 was a huge year, and 2020 is nearly back to where we were in Feb 2020. I don’t see those stellar mkt returns in my portfolio. Does anyone have “apples to apples” return comparison? I am not interested in cumulative return. Looking for annualised total return. Thank you.

jeff_yao
1 year ago

I find most of such comparison articles are not from people who really use the services, and as such, the articles are almost identical from one website to another.
We need more comments like tthose from Johnno who are a real user of both Questrade and WS Trade.

Now as a user of both QuestWealth and WS Invest, I’d say one striking difference is that WS can invest your money in partial shares of an ETF, while QuestWealth cannot. Due to this reason, you will find QuestWealth will always wait until your cash balance is big enough to purchase whole share of the ETFs in their portfolio, while WS will almost immediately invest your contributed cash.

Grant
2 years ago

That Questrade uses actively managed portfolios is a deal breaker for me. The active vs passive debate was settled a long time ago. It doesn’t make any sense for them to do that.

Johnno
1 year ago
Reply to  Grant

Grant, Questrade uses whatever portfolios you want. Do you want passive ETFs? Then buy them. It’s your choice. You’re unlimited with Questrade.

I have both Questrade and WealthSimple Trade. Questrade offers research and trading tools and different platforms (smartphone app, online website, downloadable software), allows holding U.S. dollars without converting them to CAD$ for a hefty fee, and gives you a wide range of stocks, options, etc. to buy or sell — or even short sell. On the other hand, WealthSimple offers basically no tools and far more limited investment choices, doesn’t allow you to hold U.S. dollars in the account (unless this policy has changed very recently), BUT has no fees for buying or selling.

I use both Questrade and WealthSimple Trade because there are some stocks I want that would cost $13 to buy with Questrade but are free with WealthSimple Trade, due to Questrade charging ECN fees plus the basic $5 trade fee. Despite these fees, I still use Questrade to buy and sell U.S. stocks and options.

I use Norbert’s Gambit to convert CAD to USD for free using Questrade — and since only Questrade (as far as I know) allows you to hold USD in any account, I keep my U.S. dollars and securities in Questrade accounts. If you’re curious about how to use Norbert’s Gambit, search for it on MillionDollarJourney or another good Canadian personal finance site.

Cheers,
Johnno

Charles in Toronto
2 years ago

The fee comparison between Questrade and Wealthsimple Trade is unfair without also noting WT’s policy on US dollars. You cannot hold US dollars. All USD equities are traded in CAD with a 1.5% fee. That means if you want to trade any significant amount at all of any USD listed ETF, you will probably pay more in FX commissions to trade it than you’d ever spend in total commissions at Questrade. So that’s a no from me.