Questrade vs. Wealthsimple is a classic battle between two of Canada’s most popular finance tech companies.
Both offer excellent trading platforms and robo-advisors. Each offers its own unique killer features that have sparked a loyal following of thousands of Canadians. With Wealthsimple recently weighing in at a $5 billion valuation, these companies are now playing in the big leagues.
In this Questrade vs. Wealthsimple comparison review, I’ll do a head-to-head overview of the different services they offer, their fees, investing strategies, and more. You’ll know the answer to which is the right one for you after reading this.
Table of Contents
About Questrade – Trading Platform
Questrade is a self-directed trading platform that lets you create your own portfolio at a lower cost. The discount broker has well over $25 billion in Assets Under Management (AUM). As the fastest growing online brokerage firm in Canada, it boasts more than 200,000 new accounts annually, thanks to its bare-bones fee structure for trading stocks and ETFs.
Questrade is a discount broker that has been around for a while. It was founded in 1999 and is known mainly for its online trading platforms that let Canadians buy and sell ETFs, stocks, and other securities to build their own portfolios. The platform has won an award for being one of Canada’s “Best Managed Companies” nine times over the years.
- Offers free ETF purchases
- Requires only at least $1,000 investment to start
- Offers a very affordable fee structure for trading stocks, options, and more
- Provides investors with comprehensive research tools powered by Morningstar
- Offers U.S Dollar accounts
- ECN and FX fees may apply to certain trades
- Does not boast the best customer service
About Questwealth – Robo-Advisor
Formerly called Questrade Portfolios IQ, Questwealth is Questrade’s robo-advisor product managed by Questrade Wealth Management Inc., a subsidiary of Questrade Financial Group Inc.
While the trading platform is the primary product released by Questrade, Questwealth is a robust robo-advisor product to consider. It offers a range of low-cost ETF portfolios that come with professional wealth managers who monitor and rebalance your portfolios to align them with your investment goals.
Unlike self-directed investing, you do not need to worry about manually monitoring and rebalancing your portfolio to align with your financial goals and risk tolerance.
- Charges industry-leading low fees
- Offers highly competitive ETF MERs
- Has free tax-loss harvesting
- Offers socially responsible investment portfolios
- Requires a minimum of $1,000 to invest
- There is no guarantee that actively managed funds will outperform the broader market
About Wealthsimple Trade – Trading Platform
Wealthsimple Trade is the trading platform offered by Wealthsimple. Wealthsimple’s primary and more popular product is its robo-advisor service, but Wealthsimple Trade is also an excellent online broker that offers self-directed investors the opportunity to invest in and trade securities across Canada.
Wealthsimple Trade allows you to make commission-free stock and ETF trades on major Canadian exchanges. It offers thousands of stocks and ETFs listed in Canada and the U.S., and there are no membership fees or withdrawal fees for using the platform.
While it is the only trading platform offering commission-free trades to investors, it limits the type of assets that self-directed investors can trade. You can’t trade fixed-income securities like bonds or GICs. You also cannot invest in Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) using Wealthsimple Trade.
- Offers commission-free trades for buying and selling equities
- All trades are free for Canadian stocks and ETFs
- Has a simple sign up process
- Its platform is easy to use
- Limited account types are available
- High foreign exchange fees if you trade U.S. stocks or ETFs
About Wealthsimple Invest – Robo-Advisor
Wealthsimple Invest is Wealthsimple’s primary product that, as its name suggests, focuses on keeping investing simple for Canadians. The robo-advisor is the core of Wealthsimple, an online investment management company that launched in 2014 and has grown rapidly over the years.
If you are wondering who owns Wealthsimple and all its products, the majority owner is the Power Corporation of Canada. Power Corp. is a massive company that owns several financial assets throughout Canada.
Wealthsimple is my choice for the top robo-advisor in Canada that offers access to human financial advisors, a broad investment selection, automatic tax-loss harvesting for premium clients, and a sleek and user-friendly platform.
Headquartered in Toronto, it has become one of the leading robo-advisors worldwide. As of April 28, 2021, it boasts $8.4 billion in Assets Under Management (AUM) from over 1.5 million users. It has also received the Best Financial Services and Banking Website Award from Webby Awards.
- Offers a broad product line
- Has completely commission-free trades
- Offers high-interest savings accounts
- Has an easy application process
- Offers many service options
- Portfolio fees are a little too high
- Has limited personal finance tools
Questrade vs. Wealthsimple 2021– Comparing the Trading Platforms
Questrade and Wealthsimple offer trading platforms and robo-advisor products that Canadian investors can use to achieve their financial goals. Since both platforms have different products, I will break my Questrade vs. Wealthsimple into two sections.
This section of my Questrade vs. Wealthsimple comparison will discuss the trading platforms for each of them: Questrade and Wealthsimple Trade.
Questrade vs. Wealthsimple Trade – Investing Accounts Available
Questrade and Wealthsimple Trade allows its clients to open several types of accounts with their platforms based on their clients’ needs and investment objectives.
Accounts Offered by Questrade
- Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA)
- Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP)
- Margin Account
- Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP)
- Spousal RRSP
- Locked-In Retirement Account
- Locked-In RRSP
- Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF)
- Family RESP
- Business Account
- Non-registered personal accounts
Accounts Offered by Wealthsimple Trade
- Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA)
- Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP)
- Non-registered personal accounts
Wealthsimple Trade currently offers the most popular account types that Canadian investors use to make trades, like the TFSA, RRSP, and non-registered personal accounts. If you want to invest in other account types like an RESP, LIRA, or RRIF, you would be better off with Questrade.
Winner for Account Types: Questrade offers you a much greater variety in terms of the account types available, which is a significant point in Questrade’s favour.
Questrade vs. Wealthsimple Trade – Research Tools
This section of my Questrade vs. Wealthsimple Trade comparison will discuss the research tools available on both discount brokers and the experience they offer for investors.
Research Tools Offered by Questrade
Questrade offers you three different research tools that you can use based on the information you seek to make investment decisions:
- Questrade Market Intelligence
- Questrade Intraday Trader
- Questrade IPO Centre
Market Intelligence is Questrade’s fundamental market research tool. Powered by Morningstar, Market Intelligence lets you gain information through analyzing stocks, ETFs, and mutual fund products. It also offers quick and accurate stock information and in-depth market analysis to help you make more well-informed investing decisions.
Meanwhile, as its name suggests, Intraday Trader is a research tool designed for active traders who need access to more technical information regarding securities. It lets you monitor your target markets and even set up chart patterns that visualize the data for you.
Technical traders would enjoy this feature on Intraday Trader because it lets you visualize the analytical data in the way you prefer. You can set up a target trade, and the tool will notify you when the trade is triggered.
For its part, the IPO Centre provides you with a better chance to fully utilize the potential of new listings on stock markets. It offers detailed information about the latest and upcoming IPOs and in-depth analyses to help you find new, excellent opportunities.
Research Tools Offered by Wealthsimple Trade
With all the ease of use and commission-free trades that come with Wealthsimple Trade, it has a significant downside for serious traders. The Wealthsimple app does not offer many features that self-directed investors and traders need to make more well-informed investing decisions.
For instance, there is no in-depth information about stocks, the platform does not offer any analysis tools, and there is no way to set automatic buy or sell trades. Aside from the U.S. markets, you do not have access to international equity securities, options, or preferred shares through the platform.
The stock quotes on Wealthsimple Trade are also not updated in real-time. There is a 15-minute lag that might not bother casual investors but could be critical for serious traders.
Winner for Research Tools: When it comes to in-depth research about stocks and other securities, Questrade highlights why it is the undisputed winner against Wealthsimple Trade. Wealthsimple Trade is a minimalist platform that is intuitive and easy to navigate. However, it compromises on crucial market research tools for that simplicity, giving Questrade the edge.
Questrade vs. Wealthsimple Trade – Customer Service
The surge of new investors and traders has highlighted the significance of more robust customer service to ensure a better user experience. This section of my Questrade vs. Wealthsimple comparison will discuss the customer service experience with each platform.
Questrade Customer Service
Questrade has a good reputation for maintaining an excellent customer service experience for its users. It even won the 2019 DALBAR Seal for Service Excellence, highlighting its reputation for outstanding customer service. My experience with Questrade has also been top-notch over the years.
Its customer representatives know what they are talking about, are very courteous, and answer your concerns. You can also reach them through online chat, email, and phone.
Unfortunately, Questrade’s customer service has been getting a lot of negative feedback recently. This is likely due to an overwhelming number of new customers joining the platform and not enough team members to cater to their queries. Regardless, my experience tells me that the discount broker will adapt in response to the issue.
Wealthsimple Trade Customer Service
Wealthsimple also has a good reputation for good customer service. The company’s website offers a comprehensive help center that serves as a valuable resource for Wealthsimple users seeking help regarding the online finance company’s services, including Wealthsimple Trade.
The help centre consists of several articles divided into categories based on different aspects of using Wealthsimple Trade, namely Getting Started, Using Trade, Your Wealthsimple Trade Account, and Troubleshooting. Each category offers multiple articles to address the most common concerns and queries of Wealthsimple Trade users while using the platform.
Additionally, their client success team members are available via email 24/7, and you can call them on weekdays from 9 am to 5:30 pm EST.
Unfortunately, you cannot get human assistance through the phone on weekends. You can email them, though, and they will get back to you as early as possible.
My experience with Wealthsimple Trade has been alright in terms of customer service, but many people complain that it takes a long time for their customer support team to respond.
Winner for Customer Service: Questrade edges past Wealthsimple Trade for its customer service despite Wealthsimple Trade’s comprehensive help center.
Questrade vs. Wealthsimple Trade – What Do They Cost?
Many people prefer to work with independent discount brokers over traditional financial institutions because these platforms offer a lower-cost solution for their investing journeys. Questrade and Virtual Brokers are examples of these lower-cost alternatives for self-directed investors. However, you can expect different expenses while using each platform.
Questrade is known for its bare-bones fee structure, and that is an important reason it is my top pick for the best trading platform in Canada. But while the discount broker does not charge any account maintenance fees and minimums, Questrade does charge an inactivity fee of $24.95 per quarter.
Fortunately, you can easily waive the inactivity fee if you have $5,000 invested through the broker or make at least one trade per quarter. Purchasing an ETF through the platform is an ideal way to waive the inactivity fee because the online broker does not charge you commissions for ETF purchases.
There is also a foreign exchange fee for converting your Canadian dollars into whichever currency necessary to facilitate trading foreign stocks. However, one huge benefit Questrade has over Wealthsimple is that it offers US dollar accounts, so you only get hit with that foreign exchange fee once.
Besides the account fees, here is a look at the trading fees you can expect to pay with the platform:
- Stocks: $.0.01 per share, with a minimum of $4.95 to a maximum of $9.95 per trade
- ETFs: Free to buy, but you have to pay $0.01 per share per sale, costing a minimum of $4.95 to a maximum of $9.95 per trade
- Options: $9.95 and $1 per contract
- Mutual Funds: $9.95 per trade
- Bonds: Free with at least $5,000 purchase
- GICs: Free with a minimum of $5,000 purchase
- International Equities: 1% of the trade value, with a minimum of $195.00 and applicable exchange or stamp fees, charged in the currency of the account in which the trade is placed
- IPOs and New Issues: Free but requires a minimum $5,000 purchase
- Product Precious Metals: US$19.95 per trade
Questrade offers very competitive pricing and beats out all its competition with its bare-bones fee structure. It offers several discounts and promos that you can use to lower your costs.
If you are a new investor, signing up to the discount broker through this promo offer code will give you $50 in free trades and might help begin your journey.
Wealthsimple Trade Fees
Wealthsimple Trade has no competition regarding its fee structure, mainly because it barely charges you for anything. Commission-free trades through the platform means that you do not need to pay Wealthsimple Trade any percentage of your trades as commissions. It does not charge a specific percentage based on the value of your trades or a fixed flat-rate amount.
Wealthsimple Trade truly is the only trading platform in Canada without commissions on trade. It also does not charge any recurring membership fees or withdrawal fees, regardless of your account balance with the discount broker. Additionally, Wealthsimple Trade has no minimum amount to begin trading using the platform.
Still, there are potential fees you should know about when you are using Wealthsimple Trade.
When trading U.S.-listed equity securities, you may have to pay a 1.5% foreign exchange fee. This fee applies to trades with non-Canadian currency made using the platform.
Other trading platforms may also charge similar fees, but some platforms let you hold U.S. dollars and take advantage of Norbert’s Gambit to convert your Canadian dollars to buy U.S. stocks cheaply. Wealthsimple does not offer that option right now.
Because there is no US. Dollar account, you’ll get hit with this fee every single time you make a U.S stock trade, which can really eat into your returns.
Wealthsimple also lets you purchase Canadian-listed ETFs that track the performance of U.S. companies without foreign exchange fees. However, you may have to pay other potential fees, including a $45 payment for a broker-assisted phone trade or $20 for a paper account statement.
It is unlikely that you will find yourself using these, but the platform is transparent about the fees that apply for these services.
Winner for Fees: Wealthsimple Trade is the better choice if you’re only trading Canadian securities as all trades are commission-free. But if you want to trade U.S stocks or other securities, Questrade is a much better choice since you can open a U.S dollar account.
Questrade vs. Wealthsimple 2021– Comparing the Robo-Advisors
This section of my Questrade vs. Wealthsimple comparison will discuss the robo-advisor products for both financial firms.
Wealthsimple and Questwealth are two of the leading robo-advisors in Canada, offering low-fee automatic investing options for Canadians who want to invest in a portfolio of securities without the headache of managing their own portfolio.
Wealthsimple has been around longer than Questwealth and consistently outperformed Questrade’s robo-advisor product. But while Wealthsimple charges higher fees than Questwealth, it has managed to provide its investors with returns as much as six times higher than Questwealth.
Questwealth vs. Wealthsimple Invest – Portfolios and ETFs Offered
This section of my Questrade vs. Wealthsimple comparison will discuss the ETF portfolio options you can choose with both robo-advisors.
Portfolios and ETFs Offered by Questwealth
Currently, Questwealth offers five standard portfolios that you can consider:
Aggressive Portfolio: Aggressive portfolios are designed for investors with a high tolerance for risk. The portfolio consists entirely of equity securities.
Growth Portfolio: The growth portfolio is designed to grow investor wealth, but it is not as high-risk as the aggressive portfolio. It is intended for investors with a medium to high risk tolerance. It typically holds 20% in ETFs focusing on fixed-income securities and 80% in equity securities.
Balanced Portfolio: The balanced portfolio is designed for investors with medium tolerance to risk. It typically holds ETFs with 40% exposure to fixed-income securities and 60% to equity securities.
Income Portfolio: The income portfolio is designed for income-seeking investors with a low to medium risk tolerance. The portfolio typically offers a split of 40% towards equity securities and 60% towards fixed-income securities.
Conservative Portfolio: The conservative portfolio is for investors who want to minimize the risk to their capital. It typically offers only 20% exposure to equity securities and 80% to fixed-income securities.
Each of these Questwealth portfolios uses a combination of the following low-cost ETFs:
- iShares Core Canadian Short Term Bond Index ETF
- iShares Core Canadian Universe Bond Index ETF
- iShares Core MSCI EAFE IMI Index ETF (CAD-Hedged)
- iShares Global REIT ETF
- SPDR Portfolio Emerging Market ETF
- WisdomTree Canada Quality Dividend Growth Index ETF
- SPDR Portfolio Total Stock Market ETF
Questwealth creates a different combination of these ETFs to align with different investor goals and risk tolerance. Every Questwealth portfolio may consist of five to seven of these ETFs to create the ideal equity to fixed-income securities ratio and reflect the risks and rewards for corresponding portfolios.
Socially Responsible Investing Options by Questwealth
Questwealth offers Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) portfolios that allow investors to invest their capital into ETFs that align with their moral values and beliefs. These ETFs consist of social and corporate governance ETFs, low-carbon ETFs, and Cleantech ETFs.
These portfolios also include ETFs that consist of companies with excellent track records for labour practices, renewable energy companies, and other socially and environmentally responsible ETFs.
Questwealth combines these ETFs to create five types of SRI portfolios aligning with varying risk tolerance levels:
- Aggressive Growth SRI Portfolio
- Growth SRI Portfolio
- Balanced SRI Portfolio
- Income SRI Portfolio
- Conservative SRI Portfolio
Portfolios and ETFs Offered by Wealthsimple
True to its name, Wealthsimple also focuses on keeping investing through its robo-advisor simpler by offering only three primary portfolios that mix ETFs with varying exposure to equity securities and fixed-income securities.
The portfolios invest in ETFs that include a wide range of securities, including bonds, GICs, Canadian equity securities, and equity securities trading in international markets.
Here are the three Wealthsimple portfolios that you can consider:
Growth Portfolio: The growth portfolio is Wealthsimple’s version of an aggressive portfolio designed to grow investor wealth. Keeping in mind investors with high risk tolerance, Wealthsimple’s growth portfolio typically offers a 75%-90% exposure to equity securities and a 10%-25% exposure to fixed-income securities.
Balanced Portfolio: The balanced portfolio is designed for investors with medium tolerance to risk. Wealthsimple’s balanced portfolio typically offers an even 50% exposure to fixed-income securities and 50% to equity securities.
Conservative Portfolio: For investors who want to minimize the risk to their capital, Wealthsimple’s conservative portfolio typically offers 35% exposure to equity securities and 65% to fixed-income securities.
Each of these portfolios is made using a combination of these eight ETFs:
- iShares Core MSCI EAFE IMI Index ETF
- iShares MSCI Min Vol Global ETF
- iShares MSCI Min Vol Emerging Market Fund
- BMO Discount Bond Index ETF
- BMO Aggregate Bond Index ETF
- Mackenzie US TIPS Index ETF
- BMO Long Federal Bond Index
Wealthsimple focuses on different combinations of each of these ETFs in its portfolios. Each portfolio can consist of several of these ETFs to create an ideal equity-to-fixed-income-securities ratio that reflects the risk and reward for the corresponding portfolios.
Socially Responsible Investing Options by Wealthsimple
Wealthsimple offers SRI portfolios that consist of ETFs aligning with your moral values and beliefs. Its SRI portfolios include:
- Growth SRI Portfolio
- Balanced SRI Portfolio
- Conservative SRI Portfolio
Wealthsimple also provides you with the opportunity to invest in Halal ETF portfolios. If you follow Islamic investing principles, there are several rules you need to follow.
For instance, you cannot take on or profit from debt, effectively making bonds and other fixed-income securities unavailable. You also cannot invest in companies that profit from alcohol, gambling, tobacco, weapons, and pork.
Wealthsimple Halal abides by these rules and is an excellent option for investors who follow Islamic principles. As with SRI portfolios, there are three Halal portfolios available through Wealthsimple including:
- Halal Growth Portfolio
- Halal Balanced Portfolio
- Halal Conservative Portfolio
Questwealth and Wealthsimple offer a decent selection of automatic portfolios that you can consider investing in to align with your risk tolerance and financial goals. Questwealth offers a greater variety in terms of the standard portfolios you can invest your capital in. It also offers SRI portfolios for investors seeking socially responsible investments.
Winner for Portfolio offerings: I see this as a tie. For Wealthsimple, it keeps things simple by offering three options for its standard portfolios. I like how Questwealth offers five different options, I don’t think that three is suitable for every investor out there. However, Wealthsimple wins against Questwealth when it comes to alternative investment options. It offers SRI portfolios, and it offers Halal portfolios that can cater to a broader user base with specific moral values and investment goals.
Questwealth vs. Wealthsimple Invest – What Do They Cost?
Questwealth and Wealthsimple Invest offer Canadians a lower-cost solution for hands-off investing. Both platforms offer some of the most competitive fee structures in the robo-advisor market, but Questwealth charges lower fees than Wealthsimple.
The costs of using robo-advisors primarily consist of the management fees and the Management Expense Ratio (MER) of the underlying ETFs in each of the portfolios.
This section will discuss the costs of using both robo-advisors.
The Cost of Using Questwealth
Questwealth has a bare-bones fee structure that attracts a lot of investors.
- Management fee: 0.25% for balances lower than $100K and 0.2% for balances higher than $100K
- Average MER: 0.17% to 0.2% for Questwealth Portfolios and 0.21% to 0.35% for SRI portfolios
- Estimated total annual cost for a $50K portfolio: $225 ($230 to $300 for SRI portfolio)
- Estimated total annual cost for a $100K portfolio: $400 ($410 to $550 for SRI portfolio)
The Cost of Using Wealthsimple
Wealthsimple charges higher fees than Questwealth.
- Management fee: 0.5% for balances lower than $100K and 0.4% for balances higher than $100K
- Average MER: 0.2% and 0.25% to 0.4% for SRI portfolios
- The estimated total annual cost for a $50K portfolio: $350 ($370 to $450 for SRI portfolio)
- Estimated total annual cost for a $100K portfolio: $600 ($650 to $800 for SRI portfolio)
Considering the cost of using a robo-advisor product is crucial when deciding which platform to use for your hands-off investing approach. The fees can eat into the profits and reduce your overall returns.
Winner for Fees: Questwealth is the clear winner in terms of its fees, with about half the management fee cost of Wealthsimple. This could have advantages for Questwealth, as it’s been proven time and again that lower fees are a huge contributor to better long-term performance.
Questwealth vs. Wealthsimple Invest – Performance
It is vital to minimize fees when you invest. Depending on how much capital you have invested using a robo-advisor, you can end up paying tens of thousands of dollars in fees over time. However, it is crucial to consider the fees in the context of returns.
If you get much higher returns for a similar amount invested through one platform, it might be better than paying lower fees for a platform that does not offer you high returns.
Both platforms are transparent when it comes to the performance of their portfolios. I will compare the Growth Portfolios for each robo-advisor to give you a better perspective on the returns you can expect from a $10,000 investment through them.
It is easier to find the performance of various Questwealth Portfolios on its website. Here is the performance of its aggressive portfolio between its inception in November 2014 and March 30, 2021.
Since its inception, Questwealth’s growth portfolio has returned 54.72%.
These are the cumulative and calendar returns for Questwealth’s growth portfolio since its inception.
Wealthsimple Invest Performance
It is not as straightforward to determine the performance of Wealthsimple’s various portfolios as Questwealth. However, you can search on Wealthsimple’s website and determine how its various portfolios have been performing.
Here is a look at the performance of Wealthsimple’s growth portfolio in a similar timeframe for Questwealth’s growth portfolio’s performance above:
Since August 2014, Wealthsimple Invest’s growth portfolio has returned 56.6%.
These are the cumulative and calendar returns for Wealthsimple Invest’s growth portfolio since its inception.
The long-term performance for the growth portfolios of both robo-advisors shows pretty similar returns. Although the time periods are not exact, Wealthsimple Invest has provided 56.6% returns on investment, compared to 54.72% for Questwealth’s growth portfolio.
Comparing yearly performance, Questwealth greatly outperformed Wealthsimple in 2014 with a return of 9.24% vs 0.36%. 2015 – to 2020 didn’t have any years of huge difference, with Wealthsimple having a slight edge in several of those years. So far in 2021, Questwealth seems to be outpeforming Wealthsimple by several percentage points.
Questwealth and Wealthsimple’s different performances could be due to various factors. One crucial factor could be that Questwealth is not a true robo-advisor.
While Wealthsimple Invest relies 100% on algorithms and automation to monitor and rebalance investor portfolios, Questwealth has actual human experts who manage your portfolio for you without the high fees that portfolio managers typically charge for this service.
While some investors might appreciate getting the human touch through Questwealth, actively managed portfolios have not fared as well as passively managed automated portfolios.
Winner for Performance: I have this as a tie. The long-term performance has been very close, and both don’t have that much data to look back on. The management strategies are so different for both robo-advisors that they could have significant differences in the future, which only time will tell.
Questrade vs. Wealthsimple – The Verdict
I broke down my Questrade vs. Wealthsimple into separate sections for the trading platform and robo-advisor products each online financial firm offers for a reason.
Use Questrade if:
- You want to cut down your costs for self-directed investing.
- You are interested in investing in a wide range of diversified securities.
- You want to invest in account types other than the popular accounts.
Use Wealthsimple if:
- You don’t mind paying higher fees for greater returns on investment.
- You want access to a wide range of financial services.
- You prefer hands-off investing.
Comparing the features, fees, and overall experience with both trading platforms, Questrade is the winner for me for self-directed investors.
On the other hand, Wealthsimple is the winner if we were to compare the features, fees, and overall experience with both robo-advisors.
When it comes to finding a better alternative to traditional financial institutions, you can’t really go wrong with Wealthsimple or Questrade.
The final choice between these two depends on your investment goals and which platform offers features that you find more attractive.