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Questrade vs CI Direct Trading 2023 (formerly Virtual Brokers)

Questrade and CI Direct Trading are among the top online brokerages in Canada to start your investing journey.

Both are great stock trading apps for self-directed investors who want to trade various market securities and manage their own portfolios.

This Questrade vs CI Direct Trading comparison walks you through their account types, investment products, trading fees, minimum investment, trading platforms, and more so that you can choose with confidence.

What is Questrade?

Questrade is a Toronto-based independent online discount brokerage platform.

It was founded in 1999 and has been recognized as one of the best brokerage platforms in Canada for new investors.

The platform offers a wide range of investment products, account types, and trading platforms to allow advanced and new DIY investors to take control of their portfolios.

Questrade has over $30 billion in assets under management, with over 250,000 new investment accounts opened annually.

The online brokerage is excellent for self-directed investors who want to actively trade different securities at relatively low trading fees, including ETFs, stocks, bonds, precious metals, and mutual funds.

Hands-off investors can also use Questwealth Portfolios, a robo-advisor service operated by Questrade Wealth Management. On this platform, professionals manage your portfolio on your behalf for a fee.


questrade logo

Trade stocks, ETFs, options, etc.

Low and competitive trading fees

Top platform for advanced traders

Get $50 trade credit with $1,000 funding

What is CI Direct Trading?

Formerly known as Virtual Brokers, CI Direct Trading is one of the top online brokerages in Canada based in Toronto.

It was founded in 2009 and offers self-directed investors different account types, investment products, and dynamic investment platforms.

In 2020, Virtual Brokers was 100% acquired by CI Financial Corp, one of the largest investment firms in Canada listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the ticker CIX, with over $280 billion in assets under management.

It was then rebranded to CI Direct Trading, joining the list of businesses operating under the CI brand, including CI Direct Investing (formerly WealthBar) and Assante Wealth Management.

Today, CI Direct Trading stands out as one of Canada’s best online trading platforms for hands-on investors who want to actively pick stocks and ETFs and manage their own portfolios daily.

Hands-off investors can take advantage of CI Direct Investing, a robo-advisor that manages and rebalances your portfolio on your behalf at a fee.

Questrade vs CI Direct Trading

Questrade vs CI Direct Trading: Account Types

Questrade and CI Direct Trading offer registered and non-registered accounts to help investors meet their investing needs.

Registered accounts for both Questrade and CI Direct Trading include:

  • Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA)
  • Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP)
  • Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP)
  • Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF)
  • Locked-In Retirement Accounts (LIRA)
  • Life Income Fund (LIF)

Questrade and CI Direct Trading offer non-registered business, corporate, and personal accounts.

Questrade vs CI Direct Trading: Investment Products

Questrade and CI Direct Trading allow self-directed investors to buy and sell different investment products. However, Questrade offers a wider selection of market securities than CI Direct Trading.

Questrade offers the following investment products:

  • Bonds
  • Mutual funds
  • Exchange-traded funds (ETFs)
  • Stocks
  • Options
  • Guaranteed investment certificates (GICs)
  • International Equities
  • IPOs
  • Precious Metals
  • Foreign Exchange and CFDs

CI Direct Trading offers the following investment products:

  • Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)
  • Stocks
  • Options
  • Mutual Funds
  • Exchange Traded Debentures
  • Fixed Income Securities

Questrade vs. CI Direct Trading: Minimum Investment

High account minimums can be a turn-off to beginners who want to get started with smaller amounts and cumulatively build their portfolio by investing their pocket change.

In that case, finding platforms with the lowest or no minimum investment requirements is a boon.

Questrade has a minimum investment requirement of $1,000, and your money won’t be invested until your account balance reaches that threshold.

CI Direct Trading has no minimum investment requirement for Canadian residents, but non-Canada residents must have a minimum balance of $25,000 in their accounts.

Questrade vs. CI Direct Trading: No Commission ETFs

No-commission trading is becoming a thing in Canada, with online brokerages like Wealthsimple Trade leading the pack with fee-free trading.

As such, whether or not a brokerage offers zero-commission trading is a major factor when choosing the best stock trading apps in Canada.

Questrade and CI Direct Trading offer no-commission ETF purchases, but you’ll pay a flat fee on both platforms when selling.

Questrade levies a fee of 1 cent per share and $4.95  to $9.95 per trade when selling.

The base selling fee is lower on CI Direct trading. You’ll pay a fee of  $1.99-$7.99 per trade when selling ETFs on the platform.

Questrade vs. CI Direct Trading: Trading Fees

Trading fees eat into your returns and are a top factor to consider when choosing an online trading platform in Canada.

Questrade standard trading fees stand at $4.95 to $9.95 per trade, while CI Direct Trading standard fees come in at $1.99 to $7.99 per trade.

Both platforms offer discounted trading fees to active traders. The fee is $4.95/trade on Questrade and $3.99/trade on CI Direct Trading.

Questrade vs. CI Direct Trading: Admin & Other Fees

Questrade doesn’t charge account management fees.

However, CI Direct Trading charges a few fees, including a $24.95/quarter account inactivity fee for clients’ accounts with less than $5,000 in combined total assets, $15/quarter for registered accounts, and $25/year for RESP.

Both brokers charge a partial transfer fee of $50 and a full transfer fee of $150 when transferring your account to another investment firm.

Questrade vs. CI Direct Trading: Trading Platforms

Both Questrade and CI Direct Trading offer web-based platforms, desktop and mobile apps with advanced trading tools to enable DIY traders to research securities and place advanced orders.

Questrade offers the following trading platform and tools:

  • Questrade Trading: Allows you to learn, research, trade, manage, and track the performance of your portfolio.
  • Questrade Edge: A downloadable web and desktop platform that offers advanced tools for advanced order types.
  • Questrade Global: Allows you to trade Forex and CFDs on international markets
  • QuestMobile: Trade securities, move money, and track the performance of your portfolio on the go.

CI Direct Trading offers the following stock trading apps:

  • Web Dashboard: A web-based platform that allows you to easily trade stocks, options, bonds, mutual funds, and more.
  • PowerTrader Pro: A desktop-based platform that offers advanced trading tools to allow traders to place and manage complex options trades and strategies.
  • RealTick EMS: A desktop-based platform offering global liquidity and advanced real-time analytics across global equity, futures, and options markets.
  • ITS TraderLite: A high-performance desktop-based platform that offers buddy trading, registered trader functionality, US market data & order entry capability, and a low system footprint.
  • CI Direct Mobile App: Allows you to trade, view your account details, and transfer funds in and out of your account on the go.

Questrade vs CI Direct Trading: Customer Service

Customer service comes in handy when you need help with your investment account or have made a deposit/withdrawal, but things aren’t working out.

Questrade offers customer service via telephone, chat, and email. Their customer reps are available Monday to Friday from 7:30 am to 8:00 pm.

CI Direct Trading offers customer service via phone, chat, and email. Their financial service reps are available Monday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET.

Questrade vs CI Direct Trading: Security

Questrade and CI Direct Trading are regulated by the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) and are members of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF), which protects your account up to $1M against insolvency.

Questrade also protects your investments with up to $10 million with private insurance.

You also have the confidence to invest with CI Financial Corp, which has been in the wealth management game since 1965

Questrade vs CI Direct Trading: Promotions

Questrade offers $50 in free trades if you open an account and invest at least $1,000.

As of this writing, CI Direct Trading doesn’t seem to offer new account incentives. You can check other brokerage promotions.

Questrade vs CI Direct Trading vs Wealthsimple Trade

The table below shows how Questrade and CI Direct Trading compare with Wealthsimple Trade.

 QuestradeCI Direct TradingWealthsimple Trade
ETF and stock trading fee$4.95-$9.95 per trade$1.99-$7.99 per tradeFree to buy and sell
Commission-free ETFsFree ETF purchases; Pay a flat of $4.95-$9.95 when you sell Free to buy; pay a fee of $1.99 to $7.99 when you sell.Free ETF trades
Active trader discount$4.95/trade for active traders.$3.99/ trade for active tradersETFs and stocks are free to buy and sell 
Types of accountsRRSP, RESP, TFSA RRIF, LIRA, LRSP, LIF, margin, and non-registered accounts.TFSA, RRSP, RRIF, RESP, RLIF, LRSP, & non-registered accountsTFSA, crypto, RRSP, and personal non-registered accounts.
Minimum investment$1,000None for Canada residents; $25,000 for non-residentsNone
Maintenance feeNone$24.95 per quarter if balance is less than $5,000None
Platform Web interface, mobile and desktop appsWeb interface, mobile and desktop appsWeb interface and mobile app
Promotions Deposit at least $1,000 to get $50 in free trades.N/ADeposit at least $150 to get a $25 cash bonus

Questrade vs. CI Direct Trading: Conclusion

CI Direct Trading does well with lower minimum trading fees when you are buying and selling stocks or selling ETFs.

That said, Questrade doesn’t charge account maintenance fees which is great for investors who don’t have a large balance. Also, it offers more investment securities to choose from.


Editorial Disclaimer: The investing information provided here is for informational purposes only and is not intended as individual investment advice or recommendation to invest in any specific security or investment product. Investors should always conduct their own independent research before making investment decisions or executing investment strategies. Savvy New Canadians does not offer advisory or brokerage services. Note that past investment performance does not guarantee future returns.

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Gravatar for Enoch Omololu, MSc (Econ)
Enoch Omololu, MSc (Econ)

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 is passionate about helping others win with their finances and has been writing about money matters for over a decade. He has been featured or quoted in Forbes, The Globe and Mail, Winnipeg Free Press, Wealthsimple, CBC News, Financial Post, Toronto Star, CTV News, Canadian Securities Exchange, Credit Canada, National Post, and many other personal finance publications. You can learn more about him on the About Page.

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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