Virtual Brokers Review (2021): A DIY Discount Brokerage for Canadians

Are you a Canadian investor who wants to build your investment portfolio in the cheapest way possible? A discount broker could be your answer. 

I’ve tested out several discount brokers over the years. Virtual Brokers is one of those Canadian discount brokers. In this Virtual Brokers review, I hope to give you all the information you need to make a well-informed decision about whether you should choose this discount broker.

According to Statista, the global value of Exchange-Traded Funds under management between 2003 and 2018 was worth approximately US $6.18 trillion.

Our Verdict
Virtual Brokers logo

Virtual Brokers

Online Broker / Trading Platform

For a solid trading platform and discount broker in Canada, check out this Virtual Broker review, which will show the fees and advantages of becoming a DIY investor.

Pros

  • Free ETF purchases
  • Competitive trading fees
  • Free mutual fund trading
  • Excellent research tools
  • Wide range of trading platforms available

Cons

  • $15 per quarter fee for US dollar accounts

How To Choose a Discount Broker

Discount brokers, also known as trading platforms, are usually the cheapest way to invest in Canada. They are ideal for do-it-yourself (DIY) investors. Here are some important things to consider when choosing a discount broker:

  1. Fees: The name of the product is discount, so having low fees is the most important factor in choosing a discount brokerage.
  2. Platform: No matter how cheap a discount broker is, you must make sure that the platform is easy to use and the reporting features are easy to understand.
  3. Features: You must see if the discount brokers features satisfy your investment needs. If you are planning to make lots of trades, you might need different analytics than a buy-and-hold investor.
  4. Customer service: Try to gauge how much support you can receive if you need it.

Let’s go over these points in detail and more below.

What is Virtual Brokers?

Virtual Brokers logo

Virtual Brokers is a discount broker in Canada that was established in 2009. Virtual Brokers is a division of BBS Securities Inc., which is itself a subsidiary of CI Financial, a leading global asset manager based in Canada.

Over the years, Virtual Brokers has presented several unique features that exist among its peers today. The parent company is one of the largest in Canada and manages approximately $182.8 billion in assets under management as of January 2020. 

Virtual Brokers itself is also a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF), covering customer accounts for up to $1 million. The firm has additional protection through Lloyd’s of London, which covers up to $11 million for customer funds, bringing the total insurance value up to $11 million for its customers in case the organization becomes bankrupt.

Features and Benefits of Virtual Brokers

In this section of my Virtual Brokers review, I will cover the discount broker platform’s essential features. I will highlight the necessary information you should know about it, how much it will cost to use the platform, and qualities that set the platform apart from its peers.

Virtual Brokers Fees

If you plan on using Virtual Brokers and its various platforms, you should know that there is more than merely trading fees and commissions to worry about.

Trading and Commissions

For a long time since it was established, Virtual Brokers offered its famed “Penny-a-Trade” fee structure. According to this, you could make as many trades as you like using the platform, and each would cost no more than a penny. However, the company abolished that offering early in 2016.

You can open an account with the online broker for as little as $1,000. If you are an active trader that makes more than 150 trades per month or has an account balance of $5,000 with Virtual Brokers, you get access to its commission-free account.

Even after it started charging a fair price for its commissions, Virtual Brokers does have a decent fee structure for its customers with sub $5,000 accounts.

  • Equities: $0.01 per share, $1.99 minimum, and $7.99 maximum per trade. $3.99 flat fee for active traders
  • Options: $7.99 per trade and $1.25 per contract. $3.99 plus $1.25 per contract for active traders
  • ETFs: Free (purchase only)
  • Exchange-traded debentures: $24.99 plus $1 per $1,000 par value per side
  • Mutual funds: Free
  • Fixed-income securities: Virtual Brokers acts as principal so the quoted price will include commissions when you trade

Platform Rental Fees

Virtual Brokers Review

I highlighted several trading platforms that you can use when you open a Virtual Brokers account for various investment goals. However, they come with a price that you must pay, including:

  • Virtual Brokers Dashboard: Free
  • Virtual Brokers Mobile: Free
  • Virtual Brokers Wave: $75 per month
  • PowerTrader Pro: US $250 per month
  • RealTick: US $400 per month
  • ITS Trader Lite: US $580 per month
  • IRESS: US $1,120 per month

If you think the prices for using these trading platforms is high, you should know that there are also multiple fees that you have to pay for data feeds on these platforms separately. Level 1 consolidated feeds for the TSX and TSXV cost $20 per month, and the consolidated TSX/TSXV feed costs $25 per month.

Traders who want to use data feeds for stocks, commodities, futures exchanges, and options are pro, and non-pro versions of these data feeds available. The non-pro Dow Jones Index feed can cost as much as $2.30 per month, while the professional quality Chicago Board of Trade Level 1 Options feed can cost as much as $200 per month.

The trading fees and commissions with Virtual Brokers are indeed competitive. The monthly charges for various platforms and varying data feed charges can take the cost of using Virtual Brokers quite high.

Virtual Brokers Accounts Offered

You can open several types of accounts with QTrade that can cater to a variety of financial goals you may have:

  • Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP)
  • Locked-In Retirement Account (LIRA)
  • Life Income Fund (LIF)
  • Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA)
  • Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF)
  • Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP)
  • Non-registered Equity account
  • Non-registered Margins account
  • Non-registered Options account
  • Non-registered Short options account

You can open a particular type of account with the online broker depending on your situation and goals. 

Virtual Brokers Research Tools

Research tools

Whether you are using the platform as a casual retail investor, a day trader, or as an institutional investor, Virtual Brokers provides you with a wealth of research tools. It can arm you with the best knowledge to help you make the most well-informed decisions to buy, sell, or hold assets. The Virtual Brokers Research Center offers you a list of extensive research tools, including:

  • Technical Analysis
  • Market Watch
  • Bond Research Center
  • Preferred Share Analysis
  • Warranty Analysis
  • Financial Planning Tools
  • Convertible Debenture Analysis
  • Screeners and Alerts
  • ETF/EFN Research Center
  • Equity Research Center
  • Mutual Fund Research Center

Traders and investors who require more complex research tools can also use the Advanced Portfolio Planner / Comparison a useful resource. It uses research provided by Morningstar to give you a variety of planning and portfolio tracking features.

Virtual Brokers Platform and Tools

Opening an account with Virtual Brokers will give you access to several premium trading platforms that you can use to facilitate self-directed trading, including:

1.WebTrader and WebTrader Light

Virtual Brokers Review

The platform allows you to make trades in stocks, bonds, options, and mutual funds from a single web page. It includes real-time streaming quotes, watch lists, alerts, newsfeed, and charts.

2.Virtual Brokers Wave

Virtual Brokers Review

VB Wave is the latest among its premium trading platforms that cater to intermediate to expert traders’ needs. The platform features account information, Level 2 quotes for equities and options, customized audio alerts, watch lists, and the status of orders.

PowerTrader Pro

Virtual Brokers Review

As the name suggests, the PowerTrader Pro is a platform designed to cater to advanced traders and investors. It gives you access to a wide assortment of advanced trading tools, including in-depth charting, baskets of tradable assets, Top Ten reports, and hotkeys. You can completely customize the platform based on your preferences to help you make quick decisions, and it has an intuitive user interface.

RealTick

Virtual Brokers Review

The RealTick EMS is another premium trading platform offered by Virtual Brokers. It gives you rapid access to liquid markets with more sophisticated real-time analytics. Professional fund managers and high net-worth individuals will particularly enjoy this platform to manage positions and even entire portfolios dynamically across global futures, options, and equity markets.

ITS Trader Lite

Virtual Brokers Review

The ITS Trader Lite is a high-performance trading platform that gives you access to all Canadian marketplaces. The platform allows you to entirely customize and configure multiple displays based on personal preferences and specifications. The platform does not require a lot of computational power, features US market data, registered trader functionality, and US order entry capability.

IRESS Platform

Virtual Brokers Review

IRESS is another premium trading platform that provides you access to sophisticated equity order routing that you can use to execute at ideal prices on several Canadian and US exchanges. It gives you a powerful real-time charting tool, market summary information, company reports, newsfeed, and full market depth information.

Virtual Brokers Ease of Use and Customer Support

Virtual Brokers’ website has been applauded for how intuitive it is. The discount broker is easy to navigate and use. The platform also offers you access to its customer support team that does an excellent job of assisting investors and traders who use the platform.

You can contact the discount broker via phone, email, and live chat on its website to get in touch with its trading desk or support team.

Is Virtual Brokers Safe and Legit?

Online Security

With the parent firm being BBS Securities, a subsidiary of CI Financial itself, Virtual Brokers definitely has the pedigree to prove it is a legitimate discount broker. Being a member of the CIPF and having additional coverage through Lloyd’s of London for a total of $1 million insurance for clients makes it a secure firm to use for trading.

Virtual Brokers also guarantees that in case there are any losses you incur due to unauthorized activity with your account or personal information, it will give you a 100% reimbursement for losses.

Virtual Brokers Alternatives

When I think of alternatives for Virtual Brokers, the most relevant name that comes to mind is Questrade.

Virtual Brokers vs. Questrade

Investors looking to minimize their trading fees as much as possible can look to both Virtual Brokers and Questrade. Both discount brokers attract cost-conscious traders and offer excellent value for investors. 

However, Questrade offers you greater value in being a more cost-effective discount broker, and it also provides you access to its robo-advisor product. Virtual Brokers’ quarterly fees for US dollar accounts also add up, giving Questrade an edge. Check out my full questrade review here.

Conclusion

Virtual Brokers uses high-quality and substantial information to help you make well-informed trading decisions. It offers a wide range of platforms that traders can use, from free platforms to the most premium-quality products which offer better capabilities. 

Virtual brokers made my list of the best trading platforms in Canada.

Despite its low commissions and trading fees, it can become costly for the more advanced traders than its peers. I will cautiously recommend Virtual Brokers, but I do think there are better discount brokers out there.

Virtual Brokers Review
Virtual Brokers Review (2021): A DIY Discount Brokerage for Canadians

For a solid trading platform and discount broker in Canada, check out this Virtual Brokers review, which will show the fees and advantages of becoming a DIY investor

Product In-Stock: InStock

Editor's Rating:
4.3
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Author Bio - Christopher Liew is a CFA Charterholder with 11 years of finance experience and the creator of Wealthawesome.com. Read about how he quit his 6-figure salary career to travel the world here.

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8 thoughts on “Virtual Brokers Review (2021): A DIY Discount Brokerage for Canadians”

  1. Thanks, do you have more information on the dashboard platform, is seems like a black hole, not a lot of information. Any idea what other platform is similiar to dashboard. Also, vb wave is no longer listed on VB website in canada.

    Thanks,
    Cyril

    Reply
    • Hey Cyril, thanks for the heads up with Wave it seems they recently removed it. Probably the best way is to sign up and try it out for yourself for the dashboard. You can even get a free trial for their more advanced platforms: It states on their website, To request a PowerTrader Pro free trial, please send an email to newaccount@virtualbrokers.com and please be sure to include the following information:

      Subject: PowerTrader Pro Free Trial
      Required: Name and Email Address
      Optional: Phone Number

      Reply
  2. Seems to be a bait and switch company. I have used virtual brokers for probably 8 years now, and as I opened my account with the old commissions structure I am able to keep trading with the lower commissions, which is great.
    The catch is that the trading platforms simply dont work anymore. You used to be able to click “trade” next to a particular security and it would populate a trade ticket. Now when you do this it does not pull any quotes. There is also a “refresh” symbol that used to update the bid and ask values, now this function does not work. To be able to update quotes I have to log out and back in, which is useless. Even the new default platform that you are directed to when signing into your account is useless. It does not generate a trade ticket and it is not clear what the commission structure is. I can only assume they are making older platforms obsolete in an effort to get old customers to either stop using their platform or move to a higher commissioned structure. Obviously, they would never own up to this but why else would a perfectly good platform suddenly become useless.

    Reply
    • Hey Roy, thanks for the detailed updates, I have heard from other people they are having trouble with their platform also. I will probably drop down the ranking of them later this year after I test it out as well. Thanks for letting me know!

      Reply
  3. I have been a Virtual Brokers client for a year now and I would NOT recommend them to anyone unless you are willing to contend with much of their platform not actually working at all and extremely slow funds transfer. Even though you have sold a stock completely, expect to see it listed on your positions page for another 3 days, wait until tomorrow to see purchases you’ve made today, the option to search transaction history by stock or transaction type, simply does not work at all. Expect to wait 2 weeks to actually see funds in your bank account from date of withdrawal request ( extremely understaffed in their banking department and everything is done manually) and even transferring funds internally can take up to 4 days. This is a dinosaur operation compared to other brokerages that have up to date technology available. I’ve been trying and trying to find reason to give a good review for VB because their staff are trying hard and always pleasant to deal with, but I have to say that VB should be avoided the way things are there, currently.

    Reply
  4. Unless you are a sophisticated investor, STAY FAR AWAY from Virtual Brokers. My experience has been extremely negative and a rookie mistake cost me dearly. From my experience, ethical behaviour is not their strong suit.

    Reply

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