Questrade vs. RBC Direct Investing: A Comparison for 2021

Questrade vs. RBC Direct Investing: A Comparison for 2021

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If you’re concerned about paying high fees on your investments through your bank and unsure how to lower those fees, an online brokerage (also called a discount brokerage) might be a good choice for you. Online brokerages let you build your own investment portfolio for significantly lower costs than your neighbourhood investment advisor.

Through an online brokerage, you can buy and sell stocks yourself and have total control over customizing your investments.

There are many online brokerages in Canada, and two of the most popular ones are Questrade and RBC Direct Investing. Today we’re going to make a head-to-head comparison to help you decide which brokerage is right for you.

Table of Contents

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Questrade vs. RBC Direct Investing: Overview

Questrade and RBC Direct Investing are two of the most popular online brokerages in Canada. Here’s a brief overview of each.

Questrade: Overview

Questrade is Canada’s largest discount broker, with over $20 billion in assets under management. Questrade has been in operation since 1999, with its headquarters rooted in Toronto, ON.

Questrade might not be a household name, but the online brokerage has been a significant player in the online investing market for decades.


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RBC Direct Investing: Overview

RBC Direct Investing is the online broker arm of RBC Bank and is RBC’s answer to Canadian investors who want to build their own self-directed portfolios.

RBC was founded in 1864 and has more than 17 million clients worldwide. RBC has brick-and-mortar branches across Canada and offers a wide variety of financial products in addition to their online brokerage.

In fact, RBC credit card users can convert their RBC Rewards points into contributions to their investment account.

The Winner

Based on this general overview, RBC has superior name recognition and a long track record providing Canadians with financial services and excellent customer service.

Therefore, RBC Direct Investing is a good choice if you are drawn to using a product with a name you recognize or are an existing RBC customer.

Questrade vs. RBC Direct Investing: Products

Both Questrade and RBC have online brokerage platforms and robo-advisor options. We’ll explore both in this section to help you determine which is the right fit for you.

Questrade: Products

Questrade offers two primary products: the Questrade platform, it's online brokerage, and Questwealth Portfolios, their robo-advisor.

Questrade is their flagship trading platform that gives you the ability to buy and sell stocks, fixed income, and ETF products to build a diversified portfolio. Questrade is suitable for a novice DIYer or more experienced investors who want to trade higher volumes and access the latest data.

Questwealth Portfolios is a robo-advisor style product that guides your investments by choosing pre-made portfolios for you based on your answers to a questionnaire. Questwealth Portfolios are suitable for beginner investors who aren’t confident building their portfolios from scratch.

Questrade also offers a variety of additional investments, both registered and non-registered.

RBC Direct Investing: Products

RBC Direct Investing gives Canadians a chance to buy and sell stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and even GICs in various registered account types, including Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) and Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs). In addition, for very new investors, RBC offers a practice account where they can test-run the platform before investing real money.

We should also note that RBC offers a robo-advisor style product called RBC DirectEase. This product is comparable to Questwealth Portfolios in that it recommends an ETF portfolio based on the investor’s unique risk tolerance with no investment experience required.

The Winner

RBC and Questrade have very similar offerings through their discount brokerages and robo advisors, so similar in the fact that we’ve declared this category a tie.

Questrade vs. RBC Direct Investing: Products

Both Questrade and RBC have online brokerage platforms and robo-advisor options. We’ll explore both in this section to help you determine which is the right fit for you.

Questrade: Products

Questrade offers two primary products: the Questrade platform, it's online brokerage, and Questwealth Portfolios, their robo-advisor.

Questrade is their flagship trading platform that gives you the ability to buy and sell stocks, fixed income, and ETF products to build a diversified portfolio. Questrade is suitable for a novice DIYer or more experienced investors who want to trade higher volumes and access the latest data.

Questwealth Portfolios is a robo-advisor style product that guides your investments by choosing pre-made portfolios for you based on your answers to a questionnaire. Questwealth Portfolios are suitable for beginner investors who aren’t confident building their portfolios from scratch.

Questrade also offers a variety of additional investments, both registered and non-registered.

RBC Direct Investing: Products

RBC Direct Investing gives Canadians a chance to buy and sell stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and even GICs in various registered account types, including Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) and Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs). In addition, for very new investors, RBC offers a practice account where they can test-run the platform before investing real money.

We should also note that RBC offers a robo-advisor style product called RBC DirectEase. This product is comparable to Questwealth Portfolios in that it recommends an ETF portfolio based on the investor’s unique risk tolerance with no investment experience required.

The Winner

RBC and Questrade have very similar offerings through their discount brokerages and robo advisors, so similar in the fact that we’ve declared this category a tie.

Questrade vs. RBC Direct Investing: Features

Both Questrade and RBC Direct Investing have essential features that make them the ideal choice for the average investor, and we’ve outlined those details below.

Questrade: Features

  • No inactivity fees for registered accounts and no annual fees
  • Several free, fast platforms to trade on
  • Trade with Questrade in your browser, on your desktop, or your phone with mobile apps for both Android or iOS
  • Start trading with as little as $1,000*, or open an account with $0* and fund it later from your banking account
  • Very low trading commissions and fee-free ETF purchases
  • Buy a wide assortment of investment products like stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds, options, new issues, foreign exchange products, precious metals, and CFDs
  • Many account options including RRSP, TFSA, RESP, LIRA, LRSP, LIF, cash, margin, and trust
  • Questwealth Portfolios for newer investors

*Rates current as of August 2021

RBC Direct Investing: Features

  • Practice account feature available
  • Basics of investing seminars and live chat for new traders
  • Real-time level 1 data is available to all traders
  • Convert RBC Rewards to contributions
  • Accounts types include RRSP, TFSA, RRIF, RESP, cash, margin, corporate, and investment clubs
  • Buy financial products like stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, options, bonds, treasury bills, debentures, and Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs)
  • Invest through both mobile apps and browsers
  • No minimum investment amount
  • RBC DirectEase for newer investors

The Winner

Both Questrade and RBC Direct Investing have a wide variety of features to appeal to new and experienced investors alike.

Still, Questrade may have slightly more data and optional tiered packages for higher volume and experienced investors. Therefore, we declare Questrade the winner in this category, but only by a slight lead.

Questrade vs.RBC Direct Investing: Fees

Our Questrade review has revealed this company is an industry leader for low trading fees in Canada, but RBC is no slouch in this category. All fees you are likely to encounter are laid out below.

Questrade: Fees

Questrade handles their fee structures differently, depending on your use of Questrade or Questwealth Portfolios.

Questrade charges fees per trade, starting at $4.95* per trade up to a maximum of $9.99*. High-volume traders can pay as little as $0.01* per share.

If you plan to buy ETFs through Questrade, you can do so for $0*, and mutual funds are $9.95* per trade. Questrade also offers extra data services for up to $85.95* per month.

Questwealth Portfolios charge 0.25%* of your portfolio’s value if your account is smaller than $100,000. For accounts over $100,000, you’ll pay 0.20%*. These fees are some of the best in the business for a robo advisor product.

*Rates current as of August 2021

RBC Direct Investing: Fees

Like Questrade, RBC handles their fees differently, depending on whether you use the RBC Direct Investing service or their robo advisor RBC DirectEase.

RBC DirectEase charges 0.50%* of your portfolio value as a fee. This fee is higher than Questrade but on par with the rest of the industry.

For RBC Direct Investing, you’ll pay per trade, and how much you pay will depend on if you qualify for their standard pricing or their active trader pricing.

For standard traders, you’ll pay $9.95* per trade of stocks and ETFs and $9.95* + $1.25* per contract. If you make more than 150 trades per quarter, you are considered an active trader and will pay $6.95* per ETF and stock trades and $6.95* + $1.25* per contract.

*Rates current as of August 2021

The Winner

While RBC Direct Investing’s active trader fees are reasonable, their standard trading fees are pretty high and much higher than Questrade.

In addition, RBC’s DirectEase robo advisor fees are also double that of Questwealth Portfolios. So Questrade wins this round soundly.

Questrade vs. RBC Direct Investing: Safety and Security

Both Questrade and RBC Direct Investing have excellent safety and security records, but we’ll cover their credentials in detail below.

Questrade: Safety and Security

Questrade is regulated by the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC). Questrade is also a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF), which will insure your investments up to $1 million. Finally, Questrade uses firewalls and encryption to protect your data.

RBC Direct Investing: Safety and Security

RBC is one of the largest banks in North America and was founded over 100 years ago. In terms of reputation, it can’t be beaten. RBC is also a member of IIROC and CIPF, so your funds are well protected.

The Winner

While the same legislation covers both RBC Direct Investing and Questrade, RBC has the benefit of a long history of reputable business operations, so for this reason, we declare RBC the winner.

Our Final Thoughts

Both RBC Direct Investing and Questrade offer solid online brokerages for Canadian investors looking to build a self-directed portfolio.

Questrade offers better pricing and more tools for experienced investors, while RBC Direct Investing’s trial account and beginner investing seminars make it a good choice for novices. Overall, we believe that you can’t go wrong with either platform.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Questrade, Inc. and Questrade Wealth Management Inc. are both members of the Questrade Group of Companies. Questrade Group of Companies is made up of Questrade Financial Group and its affiliates.

Questrade Financial Group was originally founded in 1999 by Edward Kholodenko and his three partners, and it is still privately owned to this day.

So if you’re worried about your investments being held by a private company, you can rest assured that their membership with CIPF means your assets are insured up to $1 million.

We think that Questrade is the better choice for high-volume traders. Questrade is the right choice because active traders can trade on highly specialized platforms designed for active traders.

Questrade also provides tiered data packages with advanced Canadian level 1 and level 2 real-time streaming data, depending on your needs.

Questrade’s fees for day trading are also lower than RBC’s, and their upgraded data package is 100% refundable if you make enough trades.

If you are brand new to self-directed investing, we think RBC Direct Investing is the right choice.

RBC Direct Investing stands out because of your ability to create a trial account to get used to investing without risking real money.

In addition, RBC Direct Investing has various educational resources and seminars aimed at helping first-time investors make good choices.

So if you’re unsure about investing for the first time and fees aren’t your first concern, RBC Direct Investing offers a user-friendly way to get started.

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