Qtrade is a Canadian broker aimed at the do-it-yourself investor. It specializes in Canadian and US stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, options, and bonds. No FX, no futures, no commodities.
The company only offers trading on its own proprietary platform. This has many analytical tools but nowhere near the endless variety of charts, indicators, alerts, and other widgets that some firms offer. However many of those more advanced options are available through Trading Central, which comes included. Moreover, this simplicity may well be an advantage to someone looking for an easy, straightforward way to invest and make the occasional trade.
If you fill this niche and are looking for a safe and inexpensive way to invest in these markets, this may well be the place for you. On the other hand, someone looking for sophisticated analytical tools in order to actively day-trade these markets might be better served elsewhere.
Within its market niche, yes. It offers a wide range of Canadian and US stocks and ETFs; lots of educational materials; and clear, straight-forward pricing. It’s aimed at individual investors who make the occasional or even frequent trade, but not high-volume day traders who want a quick in-and-out of the market.
Qtrade is one of the more focused brokers that we’ve reviewed. It specializes in Canadian and US stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, options, and bonds. No FX, no futures, no commodities. It’s aimed at people who want to manage their own investments with occasional trading.
It operates as a straight-through processing (STP) broker, that is, it charges you the price being quoted on the market and adds a commission to that.
As safe as one can find in Canada. It’s regulated by the Canadian authorities (see below). The parent company, Aviso Wealth, isn’t listed on a stock exchange, nor does it have a banking license, and therefore its accounts aren’t public knowledge. But it’s a huge company with hundreds of thousands of clients and billions under management. It’s one of the largest financial firms in the country. It’s as safe as any other broker in Canada.
QTrade does not offer negative balance protection.
Qtrade is regulated by Canada’s New Self-Regulatory Organization of Canada (New SRO), the successor to the IIROC. It’s a Tier-1 regulator. The company is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF), which covers each account up to CAD 1mn in case the parent company goes bust.
No. Qtrade is only available to residents of Canada. Even expat Canadians living across the border in the US are out of luck.
Vancouver, British Columbia
The full name of the company is Qtrade Direct Investing. It’s a division of Credential Qtrade Securities Inc., which in turn is a subsidiary of Aviso Wealth Limited Partnership. Aviso is 50% owned by Desjardins Group and 50% by a partnership comprised of Canada’s five provincial credit union centrals (the Centrals) and The CUMIS Group. The merger establishing the company was announced late in 2017 and finalized in March 2018.
Aviso now has over 500,000 clients with CAD 55bn in assets under management. In addition to Qtrade, its businesses include Credential wealth management; NEI Investments, which is involved in responsible investment solutions; and correspondent and institutional services for independent financial organizations, including investment dealers and portfolio managers.
Qtrade was originally owned by Desjardins, the leading cooperative financial group in Canada and the fifth largest cooperative financial group in the world, while Credential was owned by the Centrals.
Yes, Qtrade is a subsidiary of some of the largest and most trustworthy companies in Canada. Many local financial institutions in Canada partner with QTrade to provide their clients with access to the markets.
Qtrade offers margin accounts that effectively allow you to use leverage to increase your potential returns (see below). You can on margin stocks that are listed on the major stock exchanges in Canada and the US.
The available level of margin (and therefore leverage) depends on the value of the stock.
Stocks trading for $5 and over
Stocks trading for $3-$4.99
Stocks trading for $2.99 or less
Margin is also available for uncovered index options:
Accounts can also be cash or margin.
Cash accounts are simple. You deposit some money and then use that money to buy stocks.
As usual, there are different kinds of cash accounts depending on ownership:
Assuming that any of our readers are going to go for an individual account, you’ll next have to decide between a cash account or a margin account. With a cash account you can only buy as much as you can pay for, and you can’t trade options. A margin account (naturally) offers margin trading as well as options.
Then there are a number of special registered accounts to take advantage of various Canadian tax laws. I included the links for those who are interested, but I suspect anyone who needs to know already knows, and anyone who doesn’t already know probably isn’t interested. In any event they’re all ways that you can set aside and invest some money tax-free every year.
Margin accounts: You need to have at least $2,000 in cash or marginable securities in your account to trade on margin; at least $10,000 in equity for short selling, uncovered equity options and spread trading; and at least $25,000 in equity for uncovered index options.
Note that the above registered accounts are not permitted to trade on margin.
One good deal: if you’re between the ages of 18 and 30 and set up an automatic deposit system to send $50 or more a month to your account, you can qualify for their Young Investor offer. This entitles you to reduced commissions, no account minimums, and no administration fees.
Qtrade’s fees for trading stocks, ETFs, bonds, and mutual funds are fairly low, but fees for options and for margin are comparatively high. Fees are lower if you’re in the “Investor Plus” category, which includes those who make 150 or more trades per quarter or have over $500k in your account.
To trade equities, mutual funds, and some ETFs, the charge is $8.75 per trade, $7.75 for Young Investors, or $6.95 for “Investor Plus” accounts. There are over 100 ETFS that you can buy commission-free (58 Canadian ETFS, 47 US ETFs). These come from such major ETF suppliers as Blackrock, Vanguard, State Street, Mirae, and Desjardins.
Options are $8.75 per trade ($6.95 for Investor Plus) plus $1.25 per contract.
Fixed income and exchange-traded debentures cost $1.00 per $1,000 face value, with a $24.99 minimum and $250 maximum.
There are additional fees if you want to give your order over the phone.
Commissions are charged in the currency of the security, i.e. a USD equity trade would incur a USD 8.75 commission and a CAD equity trade would incur a CAD 8.75 commission.
If you have a CAD account and want to buy USD securities, the firm will automatically convert the money to cover the trade, but they mark up (or mark down when selling) the exchange rate. There are four tiers for this depending on the size of the trade, ranging from <$10,000 to >$60k. The first is 190 pips, the latter is 100 pips. So for example if USD/CAD is trading around 1.3000, they would be quoting 1.2810-1.3190 for a trade less than $10,000, to 1.2900-1.3100 for a trade greater than $60k. Similar for those with USD accounts who want to trade CAD stocks. This seems pretty high to me; I think you’d be better off changing your money ahead of time through an online bank and opening up an account in the appropriate currency.
You can also convert USD/CAD on their website by navigating to Accounts > Transfer Funds > Convert USD/CAD
Margin fees are relatively high. For CAD accounts, they’re prime rate + 155 bps for accounts with less than 100k and Prime + 150 bps for 100k+. In USD, it’s Prime +125 bps or Prime + 120 bps.
As for non-trading fees, there’s an administration fee of $25 per quarter, which is waved if you hold $25k in your account; make two commissionable trades in the previous quarter or eight in the previous 12 months; deposit $100 a month or more automatically; or qualify for their “Young Investor” offer (see above). In other words, this is really an inactivity fee.
One amazing charge: they charge $100 to close your account if you close it in the first year. I don’t remember ever seeing that before.
As mentioned above, the company is simply passing on the quotes from the market with no mark-up so spreads are whatever they are. They earn their money through commissions, not spreads.
As mentioned above, Qtrade Direct Investing focuses on Canadian and US equity and bond markets. You can only trade stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, stock options, and bonds in the North American market. Also, Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs), which are financial products that provide a guaranteed return for lending money to a financial institution for a fixed period. No forex, no futures, no CFDs, and no cryptos.
More specifically, you can access Canadian stocks and ETFs listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), TSX Venture Exchange (TSXV), Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE), and the Aequitas NEO Exchange; US and foreign stocks and ETFs that trade on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and Nasdaq; over-the-counter (OTC) stocks; and rights and warrants.
They offer thousands of mutual funds, plus around 1,800 Canadian and US government and corporate bonds (including Canadian provincial bonds).
With over 3,000 ETFs and mutual funds from some 140 providers, there’s plenty of choice. The fact that you can only access funds listed in North America of course doesn’t prevent you from buying, say, a Japan market fund listed on the NYSE.
To open your account, you’ll need four things:
These are quite standard. You just have to upload the documents, answer a few questions about your financial knowledge, choose your funding options, and wait. It may take two or three business days before you’re ready to go (although certain clients who meet the necessary requirements can get approved instantly).
You can only fund your account using a bank transfer or using the “bill payee” function through online banking. As always, you can only deposit from an account in your name (that’s true for everywhere.)
No credit/debit card and no electronic wallet options.
Qtrade only offers two base currencies: CAD and USD.
Qtrade Direct Investing doesn't charge a withdrawal fee. You can use the same withdrawal options as for deposit. It takes about two days to get your money.
Qtrade Direct Investing offers a proprietary trading platform that is available in both English and French. It’s available in both web-based and mobile form (no desktop app). The two are mostly the same. It has good search, order, and alert functions, as well as portfolio reports. The search function provides relevant results as you type, making it relatively easy to find what you want. However the user enjoys only limited ability to customize the workspace and charts.
It’s not possible to use third-party platforms.
A two-step login is available.
You can use most of the main order types on both platforms: Market, Limit, Stop limit, Stop market, Trailing stop market, Trailing stop limit, and one time-limited order, Good ‘til Time.
You can set price and news alerts through the web trading platform. However these are only email notifications – you can’t get an alert popping up on your phone. The mobile app doesn’t offer price alerts.
The portfolio and fee reports are clear and easy to read.
The platform offers only fairly basic charting tools, such as a few of the major technical indicators. There is a technical research tool that includes an algorithm that recognizes patterns and support/resistance levels using chart data.
There’s a planning tool and calculator to allow you to project your net worth and establish an investment plan.
There are screening tools to help you sort through the thousands of stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs available. You can use prebuilt screens, such as undervalued stocks or high dividend stocks, or use customized criteria such as sector or market cap. A value analyzer offers a value analysis and rate-of-return estimation based on an asset's fundamentals.
Watchlists allow you to create a portfolio of stocks to monitor.
Portfolio analysis tools are available to show your allocation, performance vs benchmarks, and all your transactions since inception.
The trading tools offered are behind those of Qtrade’s major competitors.
No social or copy trading available.
The website has a lot of information and education for investors, with over 100 articles (and growing) on different aspects of investing: the various kinds of investment risk, when & how to start investing, types of ETFs, introduction to bonds, using dollar-cost averaging, etc. These would be quite helpful and informative both for people who are starting to manage their own investments and for more advanced people looking to build on their knowledge.
There’s a “Morning News Call” with the day’s top news, a weekly “Market Pulse” article discussing developments in equities, fixed income, commodities, and macroeconomics over the previous week, and a similar “Monthly Market Insights” piece as well.
There are also some educational articles and videos from well-known third party providers, such as Morningstar and the Financial Times, plus a news service provided by Dow Jones.
Like most companies, Qtrade offers videos to help you learn how to get around their website. Qtrade offers a “platform experience account,” which is like a demo account but does not include any theoretical money to allow you to practice trading.
Everything is available in both English and French.
For specific trading ideas, Qtrade offers investment recommendations from Morningstar, a third-party research provider. It also offers fundamental data, such as financial statements and price history.
There’s a news feed of material provided by third parties, such as InvestorsObserver and Barron’s. It’s OK but nothing to get excited about.
Qtrade offers telephone and email support during North American business hours only. There’s no live chat. There is a Chatbot that will answer your questions with whatever information it has on hand.
I asked a few questions by email and got answers back quickly: sometimes in minutes, always within 24 hours. They were the fastest of any firm I dealt with.
Yes, Qtrade is an excellent broker for beginning investors. In fact, I’d guess that beginners and somewhat experienced investors are its main target market. Its platform is adequate but not overwhelming. It has a great educational offering, starting with “what are stocks?” and working up from there. There’s adequate news and information but not overwhelming. It’s aimed at people who want to get started managing their own money.
Regardless of how or what you trade, the broker you choose should be safe to use, affordable, and offer everything you need to trade at your best. That’s why we’re highly selective. We only feature brokers regulated by a trusted authority and we make it easy to compare their fees & features, so that you can make an informed choice.