ETF Index Investing Course

9. Which Discount Broker to Choose?

Update :

Questrade updated their site but the sign-up bonus still works. With the new design, what you have to do is:
2. Click on the account that you wish open.
3. Upon clicking, a new section will open on the right which has the offer code filled in. Just click "apply".
4. Agree to their terms, and click "Open Now"
Below is an image to help too. It's a good deal, but they did change their referral program recently where now the bonus that you get is a $50 rebate in trade commissions. Thanks as well for using my referral link!
Extra Bonus: Also, just an FYI that I also use the email to give listeners a bonus guide on the top ETFs in Canada when they sign up to the bank that I use which is EQ Bank. So when you send me any confirmation from Questrade for the extra bonuses to this email, you'll also get an automated email where you'll receive that ETF guide for free. It gives you some good additional detail which I think you'll enjoy.
Here are the steps:
Questrade refer-a-friend sign-up bonus instructions

Scroll down to ask your question(s) in the comments, and to see the answers to questions from others in the course.


  • Janessa

    Reply Reply December 27, 2023

    Hi Kornel,

    I’m loving the course so far and I’m so close to being ready to fire my advisor and do it on my own! Two quick questions:

    1. In previous years it seems like Questrade was the clear winner, but suddenly in 2023 a lot of people are turning to Qtrade. Do you think it really has made that much improvement to be the better platform (eg. no fees when selling, better customer service, better app), or are all the bloggers just promoting it because it has a better referral program?

    2. Investing with USD – the main reasons I’m finding to avoid investing with USD is the conversion fees and the extra accounting. I’m Canadian, my residence is still in Canada, my business is registered in Canada, and my current portfolio is all in CAD. However, I spend most time overseas and for several years now have only earned in USD and likely will continue to for the foreseeable future. So I am losing money in conversion fees every time I switch it to CAD to invest. Am I able to connect Questrade to my USD accounts and invest with USD as a Canadian? Are there any other factors I’m missing?

    Thanks again for all the info in this course, it is giving me a lot of confidence to finally figure out the logistics of doing this myself!

    • By Kornel Szrejber

      Reply Reply January 2, 2024

      Hi Janessa. Thanks for the kind words! I really appreciate it!
      To answer your questions:
      1. Qtrade definitely has a good affiliate program, so you are definitely right to be sceptical of some of the reviews that you are likely seeing online. With that said though, I haven’t heard anything bad about them from anybody. From everything I heard they would probably be in my top 2-3). The only reason that I haven’t tried them yet is because I use Passiv a LOT, and Questrade integrates with Passiv very well, and so I’ve stuck with Questrade because of that (it’s also a pain to move accounts).

      Qtrade has a list of ETFs that you can buy and sell for free, whereas Questrade lets you buy any ETF for free but you have to pay the commission when you sell ($5-$10). My reluctance to fully switching to Qtrade has also been: What if I want to keep buying an ETF that isn’t on their “free” list? What if they take an ETF that I buy off that list? Then I have to pay commission every time that I buy and sell. With that said, they do have lots of ETFs on that list. They have XEQT the last time I checked for example (that’s the all equity asset allocation ETF) which I really like so for example if all that you’re doing is buying XEQT with every paycheque, then Qtrade sounds really good since now you aren’t paying commissions at all. So if I was a pure asset allocation ETF investor, then I would consider Qtrade even more. But since I have multiple ETFs, some in US currency (VTI), it make sense for me to use Passiv, and therefore Questrade.

      2. Are you using Norbert’s Gambit to convert the currency? If not definitely look into that as it could save you a lot. I wrote a guide on it here:

      You can definitely invest in USD. Questrade has USD compatible accounts as well. I for example use Norbert’s Gambit to convert CAD to USD in my RRSP, and then I use that USD to buy VTI. This lets me bypass the withholding taxes on US dividends.

      I suggest you talk with Questrade to get your questions answered on how their USD accounts work. I’m no expert when it comes to expat related things, but I’m certain that you can build a solid globally diversified portfolio using US ETFs (which are in USD). Every dollar that you are paying in currency conversion fees is a dollar that could instead be invested and be compounding, so definitely I would convert as little as possible since you’ll be paying a fee each time. The only part that I’m not sure of is the tax implications when it comes to a Canadian having a portfolio that is almost all in US currency. That’s definitely a question for your accountant. Also, while you’re speaking to your accountant, have them crunch the numbers of whether you should be investing within your corp in US dollars, or if you should be taking that money out and moving it to your RRSP for example. It’s a very complicated topic ( I use an accountant for this too) but its a conversation worth having. Having a corporation really opens up your options in terms of optimizations, but it does get complicated which is why I definitely recommend using an accountant at that point. I hope that helps!

  • Kim

    Reply Reply July 24, 2023

    Hi Kornel,

    What are your thoughts on Disnat? I am already a Desjardins client, and would like to move some RRSPs away from Investor’s Group. My Desjardins advisor said they would cover the transfer fees. (For some reason I have 3 different RRSP accounts at IG, and I believe the transfer fee is $150 each.)

    My Desjardins guy would like me to transfer and buy their mutual funds, but I was quite clear with him that I was having difficulty with the high MERs. When I brought up ETFs, he said that Disnat would be a good option and that he could do the in-kind transfer directly there if I wanted to purchase ETFs. From what I see, there are no transaction fees to buy or sell ETFs, and no inactivity fees if a minimum balance of $15,000 is kept in the account. Do you think Disnat (classic) would be a good option

    • By Kornel Szrejber

      Reply Reply July 28, 2023

      First, I’ll say that I haven’t used Disnat myself so I can’t really speak to it from personal experience. However with that said:
      In regards to them covering the fees of the transfer: This is a pretty common thing among different brokers so I wouldn’t view that as some unique thing to them specifically.Some brokers also give you a bonus of some sort for switching over. I suggest asking about that as they may have a promotion. For example, you can tell them that Qtrade has a promotion running where they pay you to switch, and then ask them what they can do for you. 

      I took a look at their site ( and upon initial review, it looks like a pretty good offering. Their inactivity fee policy is reasonable and easy to comply with, and they claim that equities and ETFs are $0 commission which is very attractive. 

      In regards to the $0 commission, I suggest you ask your agent to confirm that:1. Is it $0 when buying AND selling (some brokerages only make it free when buying)2. Is it $0 when buying any ETFs (not just a select few from their list). 
      I’d also suggest asking them about the coverage that they have if for example Desjardins/Disnat were to go out of business, have fraud, etc. Also are you covered if someone hacks into your account?
      Lastly, yes, make sure that it is an in-kind transfer. You definitely don’t want to take money out of the RRSP and then put it back in with a different company as then you’ll have a major tax hit and you won’t get the contribution room back.

      I hope that helps. I haven’t heard much about Disnat in the industry. Usually the common ones that I hear the most about are Questrade and Qtrade. The Disnat offering does look very strong, just need to be careful about the fine print (hence me suggesting to ask them the questions above). 

  • Jacqueline Hazelaar

    Reply Reply April 18, 2021

    Hi Kornel,

    I want to move my TFSA to a new brokerage account. When I try to do this it has a warning that I may be charged DSC fees – what are these and can I find out how much these are before actually doing this?

    Also, it says they recommend liquidating my own holdings after submitting the transfer to avoid trading fees. What do they mean by this?

    Thanks so much for your help!

    • By Kornel Szrejber

      Reply Reply April 21, 2021

      Hi Jacqueline.
      If you currently own things like mutual funds or segregated funds that you bought from a financial advisor or an insurance agent, then you may be locked-in to those investments, and if you want to get out, you have to pay them the DSCs (deferred sales charges) that they had in the agreement when you bought the investments through them.

      These can sometimes be very well hidden and so many people may be subject to them, without even knowing about them. The amounts can be thousands of dollars so you definitely want to know about this and it’s worth your time to inquire about it.

      If you did buy your investments through an actual person (like a financial advisor at a bank for example) instead of doing it yourself, then the next course of action for you is to reach out to them and ask them if any DSCs will apply to you if you liquidate those investments, and transfer them over to a discount brokerage like Questrade. Ask them to calculate what those DSCs will be (the amounts can vary from product to product, so you need to ask them yourself and they’ll calculate it for you).

      I get questions about switching brokerages a lot, so I created a guide on how to do this, and it talks about DSCs as well. Definitely give it a read before you do it, and let me know if you have any questions. Here’s the guide:

      Regarding the 2nd part of your question, I’m actually not sure what they mean. If you are holding ETFs or stocks in there already, you can just transfer them right over “in-kind”. This way there are no trading fees as you never actually sold anything (just transferred). I suggest you ask Questrade this 2nd question directly (using their online chat after you login). If you’re having trouble, let me know and I’ll reach out to them using my own account.


  • Ian

    Reply Reply February 22, 2021

    Hello again, Kornel!

    Curious as to your thoughts on WealthSimple?


    • By Kornel Szrejber

      Reply Reply March 1, 2021

      Regarding Wealthsimple’s trading platform:
      Using their platform to buy ETFs seems like a viable option from what I’ve seen and experimented with so far. Their platform hasn’t been around as long as Questrade, and so you can expect it to not have all the functionality that Questrade provides. I was considering switching to them at one point for my ETFs, but since I can buy ETFs for free using Questrade too, saving a few bucks when I sell wasn’t a big enough reason to move all the investments over.

      Also, Questrade has been around for many years specializing in this area whereas Wealthsimple is new to the game. I prefer an established player in the space being my broker since that’s where I keep my entire portfolio.

      Regarding using Wealthsimple as a robo advisor service: I definitely prefer buying my own ETFs as it’s easy to do and will save you a lot of money long term due to the lower MER fees, and due to the enhanced tax efficiency that you get by buying individual ETFs.

      I did a whole presentation on this (robo advisor vs individual ETFs vs asset-allocation ETFs) which you can check out in the course here (it’s the 2nd video on that page so scroll down):

      Let me know if you have any follow up questions and I’ll be happy to help 🙂


  • George

    Reply Reply May 5, 2020

    Hi Kornell,

    I am curious to your thoughts on Interactive Brokers. I notice alot of day traders use them for options and such. Their fees apparently are lower for stock investing. I am looking to also have a dividend investing portfolio as well and don’t know if I should do it all on QS or open another IB account. It’s a bit overwhelming for a newbie like me.

    Do you think IB is a good place to buy ETFs?
    Is it better to buy ETFs on Questrade and stocks on IB?

    Thanks so much,

    • Hi George. I only use Questrade because of the free ETF buying but I took a look at Interactive Brokers (IB) for you. If you are buying individual stocks, IB does look less expensive based on their current pricing (May 2020). If you are going to be buying lots of individual stocks and buying every month for example using a portion of your paycheque, then I can see that being a good option to save some money. It really depends on how much individual stock trading you are actually doing. If you’re doing ETFs, then I would still use Questrade as it’s hard to beat the price when it’s free.

      FYI: When you sell via Questrade you have to pay commissions on ETFs, so the “free” is only when you buy. Still, we are currently living off our investments so I do actually sell my ETFs periodically to live from, and it’s really not that big of a deal to pay $5-10 to sell an ETF that is overweight. So for example, let’s say the Canadian index is overweight (based on our desired asset allocation) and we need some spending money. I’ll sell the right portion of it which brings us back to the correct allocation and it gives us the cash to spend. So by doing things this way, it’s not like you have to do 4 trades for example (and pay $20-$40) when selling to take money out. Just the ~$10 or so to sell to do 1 or 2 trades.

      One thing to be mindful of when deciding is the minimum balances or trades that are needed so that the broker doesn’t charge you some inactivity fee. I don’t know what that is for IB (but it does exist) so I suggest checking their site to get the most up to date information on this. For your reference, with Questrade, you basically need $1,000 across your accounts. So basically transfer $1,000 after opening an account and you’re done. You don’t even have to invest all that money immediately. Here are the details on their site:

      For anybody reading this in the future: If the link stops working just let me know and I’ll find you the new one with the latest details.

      The other thing to keep in mind is that the more brokers you deal with, the more of a pain it is to get a holistic view of all your investments. You’ll have to log in into your account and your spouse’s account across the different brokers just to see everything. It’s not fun putting all that in a spreadsheet if you want to do some of your own analysis and see the reporting. So keep that in mind too as maybe you save $20 every quarter for example by having things split across different brokers, but is that worth the hassle for you? What is your time worth? Just something to think about and consider before making a decision.

      Does that help?

      • George

        Reply Reply May 8, 2020

        Hi Kornel,

        I just want to say that I am extremely grateful for your course. It’s really been a catalyst in helping me get started investing. Thanks so much for clearing things up. I think I’ll just stick with QS for now.

        I was wondering what your thoughts are on dividend investing via bank stocks such as BNS, TD, RY, etc. They seem to give really high dividend yields, and on top of that have good growth over the long term. Do you have some stocks as well or are your investments heavily leaning towards broad market ETFs?

        Also, I tried buying some ETFs and stocks the other day and I put in a limit for the bid price of the stocks, it took hours to go through. In the mean time, the price fluctuated up and down a-lot. It makes no sense that if the price is lower than my limit, shouldn’t it just go through?

        The same thing happened the day after on another order so I just modified it to pay market and the price I ended up paying was 2 dollars higher per share. I was just wondering why the price I paid is higher than the official ask price? Is it just a time delay issue?

        Thanks so much!


        • Hi George.
          To answer your question: You need to be careful about investing in individual bank stocks AND buying the Canadian index (S&P/TSX) via something like the XIC ETF. The reason for this is that the Canadian index is already overweight on the financial industry. Canada as a whole isn’t very well diversified by industry (unlike the US). Therefore, if you start buying individual Canadian bank stocks and the Canadian broad market index (S&P/TSX) you are going to be even more overweight in financials. You’ll have to decide in that case whether you are going to trim your Canadian S&P/TSX exposure since you’re buying bank stocks too, in order to not be massively overweight in financials (which would mean that you’re not as well diversified by industry and therefore taking on extra risk).

          Part 2 of your question: I’m a 100% broad market index investor. I love not having to read the financial statements and annual reports of individual companies and doing all that research and keeping up to date on them. It’s a lot of work and I personally don’t find that part of investing fun. Hence me being a 100% index investor due to how passive it is.

          Part 3 of your question: To help mitigate such major fluctuations, try to do your trades around lunch/late morning/early afternoon if possible as opposed to close to when the markets first open and close. During those times when markets just opened/closed, you can see a lot more volatility like this which as you’ve experienced, can cause some issues/inconveniences. FYI: Markets for us Canadians open at 9:30 AM EST and close at 4:30 PM EST, Monday to Friday. They are not open on weekends.

          The reason that your trade didn’t go through even though you put in a higher amount than the “ask” price you saw, is that the price numbers that you see are delayed by 15 minutes or so. There is an option to get live numbers that are fully up to date, but that is a service used more by day traders and it is a paid service that you have to sign up for through one of the different providers out there. In my opinion, it’s not worth paying it as an index investor.

          Does that help?

  • Marshall

    Reply Reply September 15, 2016


    Question. RE: The transaction fee’s. You mentioned that you don’t pay a transaction fee when you buy, but you will have to pay when you sell. Since we are buying and holding, just like I am planning to do myself, what happens if the fee’s are much greater at the time of sale?

    Depending on where us Canadians invest our money, for example in our RRSP, and it comes time for retirement where we are now in our redemption phase, we would have to not only pay tax but we would be paying the transaction fee as well. Now, I understand that in the grand scheme of things the fee at which we will pay in our retirement for redeeming is MUCH less than what we would have paid compared to MF’s of course. However, who can really predict the cost of the transaction charge at the time of our withdrawal? What if they are significantly higher?


    • By Kornel Szrejber

      Reply Reply September 22, 2016

      Good question Marshall. The transaction fee to sell that is charged by the discount brokerage is not something that I would be concerned about for 2 reasons:

      1. Since the cost per trade fee is a highly competitive market, the brokerage will basically align their pricing to be comparable to all the other brokerages out there. All discount brokerages pretty much charge this fee and they often use this fee to entice people to switch to them (i.e. Saying how low their fees are). Therefore, it’s very unlikely that you’ll have your discount brokerage charging a fee that is significantly higher than all the other ones.

      2. If they increase the fee too much in the future, you can always move your money to another brokerage with a lower fee so it’s not like you are locked into that brokerage for life. Alternatively, you can always call the existing brokerage and threaten to quit. If your portfolio is large enough and if you make frequent enough trades, I wouldn’t be surprised if they give you a deal or discount to get you to stay (i.e. Typical client retention tactics).

      I hope that helps. 🙂


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