National Bank Direct Brokerage vs. Questrade 2022: Which is Better For You?

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by Enoch Omololu, MSc (Econ)

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Questrade and National Bank Direct Brokerage (NBDB) are among the best online trading platforms in Canada that offer advanced trading features and tools to help make investing easier for Canadians.

NBDB is owned by a big bank, and it is the only bank-owned online brokerage that offers commission-free trading of stocks, ETFs, debentures, and more.

Questrade is an independent discount stock trading platform that allows Canadians to trade a wide selection of market securities at low fees.

In this NBDB vs Questrade comparison, I compare their top features side by side, including account types, investment products, fees, and trading platforms, so that you can choose the one that fits your investment needs.

What is National Bank Direct Brokerage?

National Bank Direct Brokerage is one of the best online trading platforms in Canada that has been ranked #1 in Investor Satisfaction for 2 years in a row.

It is owned and operated by National Bank Financial Inc., which is part of the National Bank, one of the top ten largest banks in Canada.

The online brokerage is reputed as the first bank-owned online brokerage to waive fees on all transactions and offers commission-free trading of stocks, ETFs, debentures, options, and investment funds.

It also offers a sophisticated, intuitive, and user-friendly online brokerage platform packed with advanced trading features and analytical tools to enable self-directed investors to trade and manage their assets independently.

The platform is a top choice for experienced, cost-conscious traders who want to access cutting-edge trading tools to analyze the market and make informed trading decisions on their own.

To learn more about this stock trading platform, read my full National Bank Direct Brokerage review.

What is Questrade?

Questrade is an independent online brokerage that offers commission-free ETF purchases and a wide selection of other market securities at low fees. It charges no account opening or maintenance fees.

The Toronto-based stock trading platform was launched in 1999 and is one of the best online trading platforms in Canada, with over $30 billion in assets under management.

The award-winning platform has been named the 10X winner of Canada Best Managed Companies and is recognized as one of the fastest-growing online brokerages in Canada, with over $250,000 accounts opened annually.

Questrade makes investing for Canadians easier by offering a wide selection of investment products, low trading commissions, and multiple registered and non-registered accounts to meet everyone’s investment needs.

It offers basic and advanced trading interfaces packed with trading features/charting tools that self-directed investors need to take control of their investing activities and is great for both beginners and experienced traders.

Conservative investors will also find the platform useful as it offers QuestWealth portfolios, a managed investing service that allows you to automatically build low-cost ETF portfolios at an annual fee of 0.2%-0.25%.

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National Bank Direct Brokerage vs Questrade: Investment Accounts

Both National Bank Direct Brokerage and Questrade offer registered and non-registered accounts to meet the investment needs of different users. The two brokers offer almost similar accounts in both categories.

National Bank Direct Brokerage accounts include:

  • Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA)
  • Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP)
  • Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP)
  • Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF)
  • Locked-In accounts, including LRSP, LIF, and LIRA

It also offers personal non-registered trading accounts like margin, cash, and short-selling accounts, and non-personal accounts, including Investment clubs, estates, trusts, associations, partnerships, proprietorships, and individual pension plan accounts.

Questrade brokerage accounts include:

  • Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA)
  • Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP)
  • Life Income Fund (LIF)
  • Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP)
  • Locked-In Retirement Account (LIRA)
  • Spousal RRSP
  • Family RESP
  • Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF)
  • Margin accounts
  • Forex & CFDs accounts

Users can also open several non-registered cash accounts, including investment clubs, trusts, partnerships, corporate, proprietorships, as well as individual and joint accounts.

National Bank Direct Brokerage vs Questrade: Investment Products

Both NBDB and Questrade offer a wide selection of tradable assets, and you’ll find most of them listed on both platforms. However, each platform features a few unique assets.

NBDB investment products include:

  • Stocks
  • ETFs
  • Options
  • Mutual funds
  • Bonds
  • Linked notes
  • Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs)
  • Exchange-Traded Debentures

Questrade tradable assets include:

  • Stocks
  • ETFs
  • Options
  • Bonds
  • Foreign Exchange
  • CFDs
  • International  Equities
  • GICs
  • Mutual funds

No-Commission ETFs

Access to no-commission ETFs can help you save on trading fees, hence a major factor to consider when choosing between NBDB and Questrade. Luckily, both platforms offer some form of commission-free ETFs.

NBDB offers commission-free trading of ETFs, and you won’t pay any fee when buying and selling ETFs on the platform.

Questrade offers fee-free ETF purchases, but you’ll pay a fee of 1 cent per share when selling or a minimum fee of $4.95/trade and a maximum of $9.95.

Buy ETFs Free on Questrade ($50 Trade Credit)

Trading Fees

Trading fees eat into your profits and are one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a trading platform. NBDB wins over Questrade when it comes to trading fees.

NBDB offers commission-free trading of stocks, ETFs, options, debentures, mutual funds, and investment funds. 

You only pay a fee of $1.25/contract, with a minimum fee of $6.25/trade and a maximum fee of $19.95 on options trades when the transaction value is less than $2,000.

Questrade fees are 1 cent per share and $4.95 to $9.95 per trade.

Admin & Other Fees

Admin and account maintenance fees can quickly increase your investment costs and should not be ignored when choosing a stock trading platform.

This is one area where Questrade wins over NBDB, as it does not charge any account maintenance fees.

NBDB levies several fees, including:

  • $100 annual fee for accounts with a balance of $20,000 or lower
  • $150 account transfer out fees
  • $50 for RRSP, RRIF, or LIF withdrawal
  • $200 estate settlement fees
  • $50 per item for Gains/losses report, among others.

Trading Platform and Tools

Questrade offers both web-based, desktop, and mobile trading platforms, as follows:

  • Questrade Online Trading: An online platform packed with tools to research, trade, and manage your account.
  • Questrade Edge: A desktop interface with advanced order types, research tools, and technical analysis tools.
  • Quest Global: Allow users to trade Forex and CFDs on international markets
  • Quest Mobile: Users can trade, track the performance of their portfolio, and transfer funds.

National Bank Direct Brokerage offers only a web-based platform packed with advanced trading tools and technical analysis tools to enable users to trade and manage their accounts.

Top tools on the platform include:

  • Watchlist
  • Real-time market data
  • Alerts and important messages
  • Trading central Morning Briefing
  • Performance tool
  • ETF Center
  • Market-Q
  • OptionsPlay

Customer Service

NBDB offers customer support via 24/7 virtual assistant, a FAQ section, and phone at 1-800-363-3511 Monday to Friday from 8 am to 6 pm.

Questrade offers customer service via phone, email, and live chat, and you can reach their customer reps Monday to Friday from 7:30 am to 8:00 pm.

Are They Safe? 

Yes, both NBDB and Questrade are safe online brokerages that do their best to protect investor funds.

Both trading platforms are regulated by the Investment Industry Organization of Canada (IIROC) and are members of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF), which protects your account against insolvency up to $1 million.

The NBDB is also owned by one of the largest Canadian banks that has been in operation since 1859, giving the confidence of investing with a broker that has stood the test of time.

Apart from CIPF protection, Questrade offers an additional $10 million in private insurance, and you can sleep tight at night knowing that your money is growing securely.

Promotions

Questrade gives you $50 in free trades if you open and fund your account with $1,000 or more.

As of this writing, the National Bank Direct Brokerage doesn’t seem to offer any promotions or account opening incentives.

You can view an updated list of brokerage promotions in Canada here.

National Bank Direct Brokerage vs Questrade vs Wealthsimple Trade

The table below breaks down how the NBDB stacks up against Questrade and Wealthsimple Trade.

NBDBQuestradeWealthsimple Trade
Stock trading fees$01 cent/share ($4.95 min; $9.95 max)$0
ETF fees$01 cent/share ($4.95 min; $9.95 max)$0
Options$0 + $1.25/contract$9.95 + $1.00/contractN/A
Account typesRRSP, TFSA, RESP, RRIF, LIRA, LIF, margin, cash, etcTFSA, RRSP, RESP, LIRA, LIF, RRIF, margin, and cash accounts.TFSA, RRSP, and personal non-registered accounts.
Investment productsStocks, ETFs, options, bonds, mutual funds, linked notes, GICs, debenturesStocks, ETFs, options, bonds, FX, CFDs, mutual funds, international equitiesStocks, ETFs, cryptocurrencies
Minimum investmentNone$1,000None
Admin fees$100/year for accounts with less than $20,000NoNo
PlatformsWeb-based interfaceWeb and mobileWeb and mobile
PromotionsNone$50 in free trades if you deposit $1,000+$25 cash bonus if you deposit at least $150.

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Author

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Enoch Omololu

Enoch Omololu is a personal finance expert and a veterinarian. He has a master’s degree in Finance and Investment Management from the University of Aberdeen Business School (Scotland) and has completed several courses and certificates in finance, including the Canadian Securities Course. He also has an MSc. in Agricultural Economics from the University of Manitoba and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Ibadan. Enoch has a passion for helping others win with their personal finances and has been writing about money matters for over a decade. He has been featured or quoted in The Globe and Mail, Winnipeg Free Press, Wealthsimple, Financial Post, Toronto Star, CTV News, Canadian Securities Exchange, Credit Canada, National Post, CIBC, and many other personal finance publications.

His top investment tools include Wealthsimple and Questrade. He earns cash back on purchases using KOHO, monitors his credit score for free using Borrowell, and earns interest on savings through EQ Bank.

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