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Questrade vs. Scotia iTrade Comparison

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Investing in the stock market is no longer the domain of investment advisors and stockbrokers.

Today, the average Canadian can easily open a trading account and begin purchasing all types of investment products, including stocks, bonds, Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), mutual funds, and commodities.

The key to this accessibility is through a service called an online brokerage. An online brokerage is a web-based brokerage that allows you to make an account, fund it through your bank, and buy and sell stocks and other securities yourself.

You’ll usually pay a fee per purchase, and you can open many types of registered accounts, including Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) and Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs). While online brokerages used to be pretty rare, many have opened in the last ten years in Canada, making this style of investing more accessible to Canadians than ever before.

Today we’re looking at two of Canada’s most popular online brokerages, Questrade and Scotia iTrade, to help you decide which one is the best option for your money.

Questrade vs. Scotia iTrade: An Overview

Questrade and Scotia iTrade are two of the most popular online brokerages in Canada. Here is an overview of both financial platforms.

Questrade: Overview

Questrade is Canada’s largest online brokerage, with over $20 billion in assets under management. While you may not recognize the name Questrade, they have been in operation since 1999, with headquarters in Toronto, ON.

Questrade allows users to open both TFSAs, RRSPs, and various other types of registered and non-registered accounts.

Scotia iTrade: Overview

Scotia iTrade may be a more familiar name for you since they are the online brokerage arm of Scotiabank. Scotia iTrade has rave customer service reviews, regularly winning “Best Customer Service” in MoneySense’s Report on Canada’s Top Brokerages.

If you’re interested in investing money yourself but you’d prefer to keep your money with an institution you trust, Scotia iTrade is a good choice. This online brokerage is part of Scotiabank, one of Canada’s biggest five banks, founded in 1837, and has hundreds of brick-and-mortar branches across the country.

The Winner

We find it tough to choose a winner based on the brief overview above, but if we had to choose, Scotia iTrade wins due to better name recognition and their award-winning customer service.

Questrade vs. Scotia iTrade: Products

Both Questrade and Scotia iTrade offer a variety of products for prospective investors. We’ll explore these below.

Questrade: Products

When you sign up with Questrade, you have the option to choose between two primary products, self-directed investing through Questrade and managed portfolios through Questwealth Portfolios.

Questwealth Portfolios is a robo-advisor style product that allows newer investors to choose from several pre-built ETF portfolios tailored to their unique risk tolerance.

In addition, Questwealth Portfolios enables new investors to take advantage of lower fees associated with online brokerages without having to build a portfolio themselves, which is ideal if your knowledge about investing is limited.

Suppose you’re ready to build your own diversified portfolio yourself. In that case, you can choose Questrade’s central trading platform, which gives you absolute control over what goes into your portfolio for very low fees.

In addition, when you use Questrade, you’ll have access to more sophisticated trading platforms. There is an option to upgrade to a data package, which gives you the latest research and a pricing discount suitable for those actively trading every day.

Scotia iTrade: Products

You’ll have less choice about your approach if you choose to go with Scotia iTrade. This online brokerage has no robo-advisor option, so signing up will immediately throw you in the deep end of building your investment portfolio.

That said, Scotia iTrade offers access to a wide variety of mutual funds and ETFs, so you can quickly and easily build your investment portfolio with just a few of these products.

If you are an experienced investor looking for customized market intelligence, Scotia iTrade offers a premium platform called Scotia iTrade FlightDesk for an additional fee.

The Winner

We like Questrade more than Scotia iTrade simply because it offers new Canadian investors options while still providing a highly sophisticated platform for experienced investors.

Questrade vs. Scotia iTrade: Features

Both Questrade and Scotia iTrade offer so many features that it will be difficult to outline them all in this article. Instead, we’ve picked our favourite features below.

Questrade: Features

  • Questwealth portfolios for new investors
  • Many account options including RRSP, TFSA, RESP, LIRA, LRSP, LIF, cash, margin, and trust
  • A wide variety of investment options, including stocks, fixed income, ETFs, mutual funds, options, new issues, foreign exchange, precious metals, and CFDs
  • Very low trading commissions and commission-free ETFs (more on that below)
  • Low minimum deposit of $1,000* to begin trading. You can also open an account with as little as $0*
  • Questrade has a desktop app and mobile app that is available on both Android and iOs
  • Multiple free, fast, and fully customizable platforms to trade on
  • No inactivity fees for registered accounts and no annual fees

*Rates current as of December 2021

Scotia iTrade: Features

  • A variety of account options including RRSP, TFSA, RESP, RRIF, RESP, cash, margin, and non-personal
  • Many investment options, including stocks, fixed income, ETFs, mutual funds, Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs), options, and new issues
  • Reasonable trading fees, but not the lowest (more on that below)
  • Open an account with as little as $0*, but but a low activity account administration fees of $25 applies for accounts with balances less than $10,000, and registered accounts incur a $100* yearly fee for balances less than $25,000. Investors below the age of 26 and exempt from low activity fees.
  • Desktop app is available, as well as apps for both Android and iOS

*Rates current as of December 2021

The Winner

There’s no denying that the option to have a robo-advisor portfolio with Questwealth is perfect for newbie investors. For those more experienced investors, Questrade’s options to use multiple platforms or subscribe to their data package means Questrade is the more flexible platform for most investors.

Questrade vs. Scotia iTrade: Fees

There has been a universal lowering of fees across online brokerages in Canada over the past several years.

Neither Questrade nor Scotia iTrade has been immune to these falling prices, which are good for Canadian investors. Here are the fees you can expect to pay with either of these online brokerages.

Questrade: Fees

Questrade offers two primary products, Questwealth Portfolios, which charge a percentage of your total portfolio value, and Questrade, which charges per trade. Here is a breakdown of those fees:

Questwealth Portfolio charges a management fee of 0.25%* on your portfolio balance, which is one of the lowest fees offered by any robo advisor in Canada. In addition, there are no inactivity fees with Questrade and no fees for registered accounts. If the total balance of your portfolio across accounts exceeds $100,000, your costs drop to 0.20%*.

Questrade charges a minimum of $4.95* per trade up to a maximum of $9.99 per trade for regular trades, and high-volume traders pay as little as $0.01* per share. In addition, Questrade offers commission-free ETF purchases, and you can buy mutual funds for $9.95*. We also mentioned that Questrade has a sophisticated trading platform for experienced investors. There are three tiers available, ranging from $19.95* per month up to $89.95* per month.

*Rates current as of December 2021

Scotia iTrade: Fees

Scotia iTrade charges investors $9.99* per trade, which drops to $4.99* per trade for investors who make more than 150 trades per quarter.

You’ll also pay $100* per year for registered accounts like RRSPs and TFSAs (below $25,000), and a low activity administration account fee of $25 per quarter for any account with less than $10,000*. Investors below the age of 26 and exempt from low activity fees.

*Rates current as of December 2021

The Winner

While Questrade’s fees make it seem more complicated at a glance, it will be overall less expensive to invest through Questrade than Scotia iTrade for the average investor. The overall lower operating cost is why we pick Questrade as the winner in this category.

Questrade vs. Scotia iTrade: Safety and Security

Safety and security is one area that almost all financial products in Canada are equal due to the highly rigorous nature of Canada’s banking security legislation.

Questrade: Safety and Security

Questrade is regulated by the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC). In addition, Questrade is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF).

On top of that, their security guarantee notes that Questrade uses firewalls and encryption protocols to keep your data safe.

Scotia iTrade: Safety and Security

Like Questrade, Scotia iTrade belongs to both the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) and the Canadian Investor Fund (CIPF), which means your funds are covered by insurance if anything ever happened to Scotiabank.

In addition, Scotia iTrade uses robust security protocols above industry standards to protect your personal information.

The Winner

In this category, we think Questrade and Scotia iTrade perform similarly well.

Our Final Thoughts

Questrade and Scotia iTrade are good platforms for anyone looking to manage their investments through any online brokerage account.

That said, based on Questrade’s wider variety of products for both new and seasoned investors alike, combined with their lower overall fees, makes them the winner, in our opinion.

That said, if you’d prefer to stick to a well-known brand, then Scotia iTrade is still an excellent choice.

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