Virtual Brokers Becomes the ETF Leader

November 22, 2012

The Globe and Mail announced its annual discount brokerage rankings yesterday and crowned a new winner. Virtual Brokers took top spot for 2012, ending a six-year run by Qtrade. In his article about the rankings, Rob Carrick commended the winner for its low costs and innovation, noting that “new for this year, commissions to buy any and all ETFs have been waived.” I have to admit that was news to me.

Following Scotia iTrade and Qtrade, Virtual Brokers became the third in Canada to offer a menu of commission-free ETFs last fall. (I’ve summarized the offerings of all three brokerages here.) VB’s current list of eligible ETFs has 100 names, including many from iShares and BMO, as well a few dozen US-listed funds, most of them very narrowly focused. All these ETFs can be bought and sold with no commission, as long as the two trades do not occur on the same day. However, what I had not realized—it’s not clearly explained on the site—is that Virtual Brokers now allows its clients to buy any ETF with no commission. You only incur a commission when you sell the ETF, and even then you pay only a penny per share, subject to a minimum of $0.99.

And yes, they confirmed with me that this policy applies to US-listed ETFs as well as those traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

I think it is fair to say that Virtual Brokers now offers the most compelling suite of services to ETF investors. I have often discouraged people with small accounts from using ETFs because the trading costs can make them far less efficient than index mutual funds. But with VB, you can now add new money to your portfolio every week or every month at no cost: you’d only pay commissions once or twice a year if it becomes necessary to trim a holding or two while rebalancing. The brokerage also levies no annual account fees on TFSAs, and no fee on RRSPs and other registered accounts as long as the balance is at least $15,000. (The one exception is a $25 annual fee for RESPs.) You can even hold US dollars in your registered accounts, although this service comes with a $50 annual fee.

Experienced investors know that low cost is not the only factor to consider when choosing a discount brokerage: user-friendliness and customer service are also important. For example, Rob Carrick pointed out that VB could improve by offering personalized performance reports—something all brokerages should do, though most do not. If any readers are using Virtual Brokers for their ETF portfolios, please share your experiences in the comments section.

{ 100 comments… read them below or add one }

Canadian Couch Potato November 30, 2012 at 6:34 pm

@BRI: Many thanks for following up on this: it’s a great tip for future VB clients.

Ritchie December 3, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Just want to point out that there is no maximum fee for selling the free ETFs like you wrote in the post. The max is 9.99 for equities but no ceiling exists for ETFs.

Canadian Couch Potato December 3, 2012 at 7:10 pm

@Ritchie: Thanks for pointing this out. So it’s 1 cent per ETF share, minimum 99 cents, but no maximum? That’s still a good deal, as I imagine it will be fairly rare to sell more than 1,000 shares at a time. But while I commend VB for a competitive offer, they really need to a better job with their communications.

Ritchie December 3, 2012 at 11:58 pm

That’s correct, according to the sales person on the phone there is only a minimum of 99 cents but no maximum. They could definitely use some more marketing as I had to call three times just to clarify conflicting statements on their website.

Here’s some more disclaimers she told me as an FYI:
-$50 fee to transfer money out of TFSA (partial transfer)
-$150 fee for full transfer (ie account deregistration)

Anyway, if anyone has any additional comments regarding VBs customer service, please do share. I am currently with qTrade but I am thinking of switching over to take advantage of the commission free ETFs, which is a $75 deregistration fee hit :(.

Thanks.

Canadian Couch Potato December 4, 2012 at 8:14 am

@Ritchie: Transfer-out and deregistration fees are pretty standard at brokerages, though the $50 fee for a partial TFSA withdrawal is certainly something to be aware of. Thanks for sharing.

Donj December 4, 2012 at 12:25 pm

If you had to sell more than 1000 shares, can’t you chose the ‘per trade’ trading structure? That would only cost $6.49 I believe?

Ritchie, do you have more than $25,000 in your RRSPs? I think VB will cover the cost if you do it before the end of the year. See point 3 at the following link.

https://www.virtualbrokers.com/contents.aspx?page_id=36

Ryan December 4, 2012 at 1:45 pm

I am opening up an account with Virtual brokers for my TFSA (and RRSP in the near future), and I was wondering if I should change the asset allocation for the complete couch potato portfolio if I am looking to invest for the long term (roughly 40 years) and don’t mind higher risk options. Also, would you change any of the current recommendations in the complete couch potato fund for someone who can take advantage of the no commission ETF’s (100 of them)/no commission on investing ETF’s offered by VB? Or are those the best options regardless of the commissions?

Noel December 4, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Let me pipe in here if I may. If you want to keep it simple (which I believe is the best strategy) I would alter the asset mix to reflect a higher equity component so that it matches the degree of risk you would like to take on and can take on given your financial picture. Certainly a 40 year time horizon allows you to take on more risk if you want to. So, something higher than 55% equities/45% bonds might be a good approach. (With that kind of a time horizon if it was me, I’d go 100% equities, but that’s just me.)

I don’t think one should choose which ETF’s to buy based on commission rates unless they ETFs are identical in every respect. Unless, of course, you are buying them several times every month where the commission rates could really add up. Also, without knowing the size of the portfolio it is difficult to assess how much impact paying $9.99/trade vs nothing would be. In any event, asset allocation and time horizon will have a far greater impact on the portfolio performance than commission rates will ever be.

Ryan December 4, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Thanks for the advice Noel. The size of the portfolio is $15000 right now (expecting to add the $5000 limit each year), so it is quite small. I was thinking it would be a good idea to have regular investment intervals (monthly or quarterly) to take advantage of dollar cost averaging. With this is mind, anything you would change?

Noel December 4, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Well I am not the expert here (Dan is!). But, once you have your asset allocation figured out, how you will change it over time, remember to rebalance or a regular schedule as necessary, and how often you want to invest, then it pretty well runs itself. $5,000/yr is certainly enough money to make a huge impact 40 years from now (How old btw?). The impact of any commissions and the availability of cash basically guide how many trades you make a year, ie whether you invest monthly, quarterly or less frequently. Not all ETF’s in Dan’s model portfolios are available commission-free from VB I don’t think.

Ritchie December 4, 2012 at 5:36 pm

@Donj: Thanks for the suggestion, however, I was talking about switching my TFSA over (< 25k since my max is 20k so far – can't wait for the 5.5k bump in 2013!) and eventually an RRSP at VB to take advantage of commission free ETFs. Its not really a big deal for TFSA since I plan to only make 1 purchase a year with my new contribution room and $10 per year is nothing, I was only thinking along the lines of putting both TFSA and RRSP at the same institution so it would be easier to manage.

Donj December 4, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Ritchie, if you want to move your TFSA, can’t you just withdrawal the funds this year from qTrade and deposit it into VB in the new year? Now is the perfect time to do it, being end of year.

Ritchie December 4, 2012 at 7:39 pm

@Donj: That incurs a $75 charge in order to withdraw everything because qTrade forces you to keep at least $1000 to have the account considered “open.” That’s why I was wondering about VBs customer service, etc. otherwise ill just stick it out with qTrade until I’m over $25k.

Roger January 29, 2013 at 10:45 pm

Heads up on Virtual Brokers. If it sounds like too sweet a deal, it is.

Almost from the day the Globe & Mail made them No. 1, many people have found their applications for new accounts stuck somewhere. VB is not answering their email. An hour plus on hold still won’t get an answer on the phone either.

I’ve heard of slow service from other discount brokers, but never total silence. Do you want to entrust your life savings to people you can’t even reach, let alone get an explanation from?

VB now handles their own clearing as well and there have been stories on the net about financial transfers taking weeks and dividends not paid weeks after the due date. If true, that’s an inexcusable flaw in a broker.

Sounds to me as if there are too few people at VB and they don’t have enough revenue (or management smarts) to hire more.

Canadian Couch Potato January 29, 2013 at 11:02 pm

@Roger: Interesting, and thanks for sharing. Sometimes, it seems, you get what you pay for.

Simple January 31, 2013 at 11:59 am

Roger, I thought I was the only one NOT so happy with VB, I have the same experience. I was originally with OptionExpress and they were the best. Then I was moved over to VB and alarm bells started to go off right away. VB didn’t have any permission to withdraw money so I had to send them a void check separately. Sending emails didn’t do the trick VB simply didn’t answer them. Call them? That was a waist of my time!

My main concern with VB is that you can’t put money in your account. VB has to take it out for you. And they don’t. And the joke is, when I canceled two requests for funding THEN they took money out of my account, oopsy-daisy. Poor poor quality.

Frank February 1, 2013 at 2:55 pm

I confirm what Roger said. Now 30 days since I sent my application for new account to VB. On the website, it is said that it takes “3 to 5 working days” to open a new account.
They don’t answer to phone or emails.
I was tired of waiting so I opened a new account at Questrade… and it took only 2 days to get my account open and funded.
I don’t recommand VB to anyone.

Simon S February 1, 2013 at 7:59 pm

FYI everyone, Questrade now offers free ETF purchasing, effective February 1st, so even without the poor service we’re hearing about, I’m not sure what other advantage Virtual Brokers would theoretically have now.

It’s too bad VB isn’t doing a better job because it would be nice to keep up the competition in the bargain online brokerage space, but I guess there’s a lower limit on how cheap you can make some things before the quality starts to really suffer and maybe VB’s really pushing that limit.

Andrea Quartesan February 7, 2013 at 10:45 pm

I just decided to drop in regarding my experience with Virtual Brokers. I used to have an account with TD Waterhouse and decided to switch it over to VB in May 2012.
It was an amazing provider back then and I thought that was the best move of my trading career, but after few good months with them , things went downhill starting November/December 2012. Recap:
* Dividend paid very very late ( 2-3 weeks behind schedule)
* Buying power in my account fluctuating wildly despite not conducting any trade in the period
*Inability to complete trades because in their records my account was negative( although I always have at least 6 K to play with in my account). That happened 3 times so far and all I got is not even an apology.I misses the BIOL run , NFI run and HOV run in those occasions.
*Customer service non-exsisting. 1 email answered outta 12 sent and countless minutes on hold when I tried to call them.
Overall I am torn over this guys…they have potential and they showed it at the beginning but I am now growing frustrated because their modus operandi is just terrible.
Well, those were my 2 cents and I think it is time to look around elsewhere

Canadian Couch Potato February 7, 2013 at 11:05 pm

@Andrea: Thanks for the comment. Those are pretty alarming problems.

Fanleaf February 8, 2013 at 7:16 pm

After struggling through almost a year with VB and getting nowhere I gave up. Cancelled my account & transferred Approx $550K to another broker where I am perfectly happy. No hassles, no unanswered emails no wating forever on the phone, etc, etc. Their accounting was terrible and the monthly statements lacked much detail. Unable to do trades in my money market account online – every one involved a phone call and that long wait. Was I sucked in – you bet.

Patrick February 12, 2013 at 11:20 am

I wanted to reiterate the comments that some people have posted recently about the VERY slow turn around time at Virtual Brokers. Based on this blog posting my wife and I decided to open new RRSP accounts with Virtual Brokers – We filled in all the paperwork and sent it to them before Christmas (Dec 20th) and confirmed with a phone call 2 weeks later that they had received it. Since that time I have called 6 times – and I still have not yet received my welcome email – they told me I SHOULD get it some time this week! I spoke with the customer rep today and asked him once I get my account how long will it take to transfer my funds in – and he told me it could be a number of weeks because they are also having trouble with fund transfers. Its Feb 12th and we are now at risk of missing the March 1st RRSP cutoff – I’m going to have to quickly look for some other options at this point. Not Happy :(

(On a positive note I should mention that all of the reps I have spoken to have all been very friendly – however none of them has been able to accelerate my application)

Nadine February 12, 2013 at 5:20 pm

I too have had really bad experiences with VB!!! Here are the mistakes so far:

- transfer in from another FI was rejected because they told me to get cheque made payable to virtual brokers when it should have been BBS securities . result was super huge delay of several weeks

-transfer in from big bank on mutual funds and result was over 2 months of waiting. first the transfer was recorded (transfer in from big bank) but the cash didn’t go into my account to trade. Then after 4 emails and 3 phone calls they manually did the trade but still no cash in my account. issue was finally resolved a few days ago after over 2 months of waiting

- inaccurate reporting. daily p&L is not there unless you pay for the service.

Lots of headaches. I’m stuck now because it took me this long to get everything sorted but I would not recommend them. IF you can get free ETFs somewhere else and a reasonable commission structures go there. …

p.s VB became it’s own clearing house and that;s why they had so many screw ups. They switched out of penson financial services and because their own clearing house. the poor customer service is inexcusable though

Ryan February 20, 2013 at 4:31 pm

I have been having huge problems with Virtual Brokers since I opened my account. The main problems are the following:

-Took 7-8 business days to open the account (they said it would be 3-4)
-Account was opened but my funds were not transferred over from my old Broker (BMO). I gave them the transfer form on November 30th. Today is February 20th and the funds have still not been transferred.
-I have to wait between 5 and 20 minutes on the phone before I get someone (if I get someone at all)
-Some of my emails have never been responded to
-Their Web Trader platform does not have an “unrealized gain/loss” section, does not tell me what I paid for the equity, or what it is currently trading at. Meaning that even if I wanted to manually figure out which of my stocks were up/down, I am unable to.

This company is ridiculously understaffed and Rob Carrick’s recommendation for them was the kiss of death. They are not able to handle the large increase in customers and the last straw for me with them is that they will not be able to set up my RRSP before the deadline. Questrade here I come.

Tim February 28, 2013 at 12:17 pm

I’ve been with VB for a few years now and am about to switch back to TDW. I got charged a $100 commission yesterday on an ETF buy while under their free ETF commission structure. After talking to several of their reps on the phone they told me to send an email to support. They replied and told me they would reimburse in 60 days. So I have to wait 60 days to get my money back because they screwed up? And this isn’t the first time they’ve overcharged me commissions, and every time I have to call and complain and wait months for a refund. They think because they have a 99 cent commission structure no one will leave, but it makes no difference when you’re trading over 1000 shares (which is the bulk of my trading). Their streaming data fees are also high, $35 plus extra for each exchange you want. I’m paying over $40 and all I get is TSX level 1. I also haven’t been able to place an order in my RESP account all month because it’s all messed up since their transfer of accounts from Penson. It still doesn’t work even after several phones calls to get it corrected. They also rip you off with US currency conversions and won’t allow you to do Norbert’s Gambit. Don’t waste your time with them.

anon March 7, 2013 at 1:52 am

Mailed in my account application today. Will post back and how long it takes for me. If I have delays like all of you I will not even bother funding it with $$$

Roger April 9, 2013 at 5:35 am

Okay, so VB finally managed to get my accounts set-up. It took them 3 months, of which I take responsibility for less than 2 weeks responding to document requests.

On to trading… and new issues…

1. No WebTrader orders when the market is closed — most of us have ‘real jobs’ and cannot trade during the day. We do our homework when the markets are closed and place our orders then. When the markets open, our buy and sell stops do their thing. But not with VB’s WebTrader platform. It will NOT queue orders in off hours and any orders you place will be instantly rejected. You have to place your orders from 8 – 4 Eastern time. VB told me they were working on queuing for WebTrader, but I don’t know when it will be available.

2. Free ETF purchase? Not for me. VB charged me 1 cent per share, even though I clearly had “Free EFT Investment” as my choice of commission. When, due to the queuing problem above, I switched to their Meridian platform (which does accept queuing), I was again charged for ETF purchase. It ends up that the small print on Meridian says that the free ETF purchase does not apply. When I queried VB through their internal messaging system, the reply was that they would look into the problem “in 60 days”. Yep, 60 days! I haven’t bought an ETF through them since and am not sure what will happen if I do.

3. Commission structures are NOT friendly for frequent traders. While the commission structures may be cheap, the combinations can end up costing more than you think. Every day, you can choose your commission structure for the next 24 hours. If you pick “Free ETF Investment”, then all other trades, including ETF sales are 1 cent per share. If you pick the “Per Trade” scheme, then each trade is $6.49, including ETF purchases. If you pick “The 99″ scheme, then it’s 1 cent per share with a range cost of $0.99 to $9.99.

So, if you pick “Free ETF Investment”, don’t plan on buying stocks or selling anything that day if your share volume is over about 1000. Not till tomorrow anyway, when you can change to (for example), “Per Trade” and buy / sell for $6.49. Still not a bad deal, but any ETF purchase that day will cost you $6.49 as well. This could be managed, I suppose by sticking with the “Per Trade” option except for a day when your only action is buying ETFs. VB should spare us the hassle and just blend the two options. Then they really would have the best commission structure in Canada.

There’s still little evidence that VB has applied enough staff to manage their business. It would be great for everyone if they did. Then Questrade and even the big banks would have to try harder.

anon April 9, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Same for me Rogers. I mailed in mine as I said above March 7, 2013 still have not heard back nor have they opened my account yet. Joke of a company. I wonder how they stay in business, what I would be worried about how long does it take to get your money when you want to withdraw!!! Will post when they finally open looks like gotta another month to wait, then I will be closing it day they open it.

Went to InteractiveBrokers opened account in a day and funded it in 2 days.

Should test the theory canadiancouchpotato you will be waiting 1+ month in counting to open. My recommendation is Interactive Brokers. Cheers.

Roger April 11, 2013 at 10:58 am

UPDATE: VB took three weeks to refund the commission erroneously taken for ETF purchases (see issue cited above), not the 60 days they initially indicated.

Andrea Quartesan April 14, 2013 at 4:44 pm

It is taking forever to even transfer out an account . I have been waiting for 4 weeks now… Beware of VB people

anon April 14, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Andrea, they are not a scam just a joke of a company. Apparently they open new accounts on sundays though. They opened my account today and they received my application March 7th. 1 month and 1 week. Now to email them and tell them to close it :) Thank god I never sent them funds. Would take you over5 1/4 of the trading year to move your funds!

From:
VB-NewAccounts (newaccount@virtualbrokers.com)
Sent:
April-14-13 3:03:57 PM

Andrea Quartesan April 15, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Disgusting

Jman April 25, 2013 at 3:22 am

Wow!
I cannot believe the dissatisfaction with Virtual Brokers! Is no one here actually having a GOOD experience with these guys?
I had a HORRIFIC experience trying to open up an account with QUESTRADE (worst broker experience by far..) and thus, my reason for coming here to see how others have fared with VB. I just mailed in my New Account forms last week and am now wondering ‘just how long’ it will take to open this account. I may wait on Funding any ‘serious money’ and try a few trades to see how they manage the account, settlements, etc…

Fanleaf April 25, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Jman I can tell you you are in for another Horrific experience. The longer you stay with them the more horrific it will become. Read all of the above comments and RUN, don’t walk. There are other good brokers out there that will be more than happy to look after you. Don’t always look at the cheapest fees otherwise you will get what you pay for – headaches!

Jman April 25, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Fanleaf,…

What would you suggest then? I’ve wracked my brain over this and feel that maybe I shouldn’t have left QTRADE when I did… I haven’t traded much for the last number of years, but have now taken semi-retirment and plan on doing some ‘High Volume’ trading and a ‘decent’ or low trading commission would be prudent… Many ‘Say’ they will give you ‘low trades’ depending on volume per quarter, but that remains to be seen in my experience. I need a GOOD Quote-streamer, tools and trade commissions no higher than 7-10 bucks. Seem to be lot’s in the US that fit the bill, but far fewer in Canada!

Graeme April 26, 2013 at 4:41 pm

It took me two months to open a VB TFSA. Originally tried to apply online, but the forms didn’t download properly. I then downloaded mail-in forms, and didn’t hear from them for a couple weeks (which is disconcerting because it contained all of my banking/personal information and I had no way of knowing whether they received it… In hindsight, I recommend sending applications registered mail). I called them and, to their credit, they found and processed my application shortly after.

I expected going into this that customer service for a budget broker would be suspect and that’s basically what it’s been. Admittedly, my expectations are low, but now that I’m set up, it doesn’t seem that bad. I transferred money in from my RBC acct no problem and began trading soon after. I am a complete novice, and am following Andrew Hallam’s (Millionaire Teacher) index investing principles, buying Vanguard ETFs… a mix of Cdn bond, Cdn equity, US equity, EAFE and emerging markets… 30% bond, 70% equity. I’m small potatoes (<$15K) right now, and will be adding roughly $2,500/yr going forward (probably buying quarterly, unless markets drops drastically).

One concern I have, like Roger noted above, is I have been charged ETF commission, even tho I selected the "Free ETF" structure. I e-mailed customer service and they told me the Vanguard ETFs hadn't been updated on their list. That's a bunch of BS, but I'm sure they will eventually get around to refunding me… I hope.

Fanleaf April 26, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Jman – From the few details in your comment, I would recommend Interactive Brokers Canada. Can’t beat their commissions, their trading platform is to die for and customer service is a snap. I have used them for many years and couldn’t be happier. They don’t do registered accounts but currency trades are cheapest anywhere. Google them for all the info.
Fanleaf

Jman April 28, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Curious… How does the Questrade Tools compare to the IB and VB tools? Some look so ‘similar’, but the cost also looks BIGGER with Questrade and VB… Am I close here?

Roger May 4, 2013 at 9:06 am

Hello Dan and Co.,

I’ve just paid Rogers their $2.99 for the MoneySense article on discount brokerages and it’s useful information. I’d like to take it to the next level and maybe this the place to do it.

As a semi-active trader, I want to see more comparison of the nuts ‘n bolts about the online brokers than I’ve seen in any article or review so far.

1. Which trading platform is best? Which are web-based, which Windows only, which also Mac compatible? (‘m a Mac fanboy.) This info is somewhat available from the brokers, but there’s some nuance and subjectivity in how traders evaluate those platforms.
2. What orders are possible on those platforms. Example: Questrade has Buy-on-Close, while most others do not.
3. What restrictions exist on commissions? Example: VB will lock you into a certain commission type for one trading day. If you buy free ETFs that day, you’ll get zapped 1 cent per share to sell anything, including ETFs.
4. Who will allow Norbert’s Gambit for currency exchanges? Questrade, RBC, TD yes. VB and some others no.

You get where I’m coming from, so there will be other comparisons to make. Can we make a matrix similar to the MoneySense matrix to log these issues?

It also begs the questions of why IB won’t do registered accounts and why TD won’t make Think or Swim Canadian-friendly. Both moves would be major improvements for Canadian traders.

An update on my VB experience: they’re getting better. The joining process was horrendous and they made some mistakes on commissions, which they corrected. If you are careful, they’re still the cheapest broker around who can handle both registered and non-registered accounts.

Andrea Quartesan May 5, 2013 at 6:28 pm

if you are ok to get your dividends paid 1-2 weeks later than the actual date … then yes I agree with you that VB is getting better

Canadian Couch Potato May 6, 2013 at 8:01 am

@Roger: Thanks for your interest in the MoneySense article on Canada’s Best Brokerages. The specific questions you’ve asked are beyond the scope of what we covered in the article. As far as I am aware, there is no single source where you can find all of this information. A through comparison will involve checking out each brokerage’s site and making a few calls to their customer service lines. You may also be able to find some help at Canadian Money Forum and Financial Webring.

Roger May 7, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Thanks, Don. I went over to Canadian Money Forum and Financial Webring, but they don’t go much into that next level of information. The offerings of the brokers are changing rapidly, so older threads are out of date.

My thinking is that, since you’ve just done the MoneySense article on discount brokers, CCP might be the place to ask readers to contribute.

You rightly pointed out in MoneySense that different investors / traders have different needs in an online broker and rated the brokers for each type of user. Here, I’m targeting traders and more hands-on investors.

The more or larger transactions we do, the more getting it wrong on commissions, forex conversion, ECN fees etc. is going to affect our net returns.

There’s lots else to compare among the brokers, such as account fees, USD in RRSPs, speed of order fulfillment, types of order, ability to queue orders overnight, availability of shares for shorting and on and on.

I thought a matrix of these issues could be populated by CCP readers who use the different brokers… I would happily contribute my experience of RBC DI and VB.

Then, informed CCP readers could badger their brokers to provide better services. I’m all over VB right now about Norbert’s Gambit.

Is CCP the place to do this? Or is this level of hands-on a bit of overkill for couch potatoes?

Canadian Couch Potato May 7, 2013 at 12:26 pm

@Roger: A blog is really not the right format for this kind of exchange: a web forum is much more appropriate. I’d suggest starting your own threads on CMF and FWR to start the discussion.

johnnyHTH July 6, 2013 at 11:17 am

I sent an email to Virtual brokers back in December about setting up an account based on the G&M’s rankings and I have yet to hear back from them. Since that time I have set up account with Qtrade and its been a superb experience for me. The customer service has been phenomenal, pricing great, tools above average, Fixed income selection good, and platform easy to use. I have had some other accounts at the CIBC, etc. and Qtrade has been much better experience for me.

J. Martin July 8, 2013 at 11:37 pm

For what it’s worth, I emailed VB today regarding what sounded like a contradiction on their website (i.e. all ETFs free, but on another page only 100 ETFs free). This was mentioned in the article. They responded within a few hours — which seems different than most people’s experience here! — clarifying that the 100 ETFs are bought AND sold for free, while ALL ETFs are bought for free.

Anyway, I’m still looking for an affordable brokerage to deal with for my first investments, which is how I got to this site. The prompt response from VB suggests that maybe VB is addressing some of its problems regarding customer communications and service.

Josh July 10, 2013 at 11:59 am

I am with VB for about 3 years now and my experience is nothing other than great (except for few months hiccup period when they went self-clearing and took over OptionsXpress clients). They offer great trading platforms, extremely low commission and crystal clear fees and very good tools. They are the only one who offer you different commission structures and ability to select and switch between them. I agree with some of above comments that they had a tough time when they switched to self-clearing and took over OptionsXpress clients, but things are back to normal now and I am getting the same level of service as I used to get there before. They answer all my emails very quickly and pick up the phones at no time.
They recently launched an advanced trading platform which is capable of advanced features like Multi-leg Option spread orders, pre-defined Option strategies, basket orders…..I am testing it now and I should say so far it is one of the best I see and it is Free.
I recommend them to all my friends and family members.

anon July 10, 2013 at 9:59 pm

I too received response by email in 24-48 hours which after reading all this I chose to open an account. Then I found out in reality that is the only thing they do efficiently as I detailed above took over a month to open my account.

Jakob October 12, 2013 at 4:41 am

I’m about to open a TFSA at a brokerage for potato purposes, so I was excited to hear about even lower fees (having enjoyed Questrade’s free ETF purchases in my non-registered experimenting account).

After visiting the Virtual Brokers site, even disregarding the comments in here, I’m less enthusiastic than before.Their pricing has an unnecessary amount of semi-complicated & mutually exclusive options, and their offers come with a ton of asterisks. It makes me feel that whenever I don’t memorize the small print, they’ll come and charge me extra for something. The $50 charge for US accounts also makes me ponder and calculate more than necessary, and basically makes withholding tax avoidance.

As an aspiring potato, I like Questrade’s simplicity. No account fees for any account, free purchases on all and any ETFs in any account, same price for every (sell) transaction, US dollar stuff is part of the standard package. It’s still cheap enough and allows for hassle-free regular new contributions. It cuts out the penny-pinching and makes me think about the issues at hand rather than how I can save one or two dollars by doing things this way or that way. I don’t have time or inclination to memorize the small print.

Jimmyj November 12, 2013 at 9:44 am

In response to info below, I just called VB and got some different info on transfer fee’s for the TFSA (or other registered I suppose too).

A ‘Transfer Out’ as stated below is when transferring to another brokerage.
A “deregistration” fee is lower, so you could withdraw part of your TFSA for $25 is what I was told.

Ritchie December 3, 2012 at 11:58 pm
That’s correct, according to the sales person on the phone there is only a minimum of 99 cents but no maximum. They could definitely use some more marketing as I had to call three times just to clarify conflicting statements on their website.

Here’s some more disclaimers she told me as an FYI:
-$50 fee to transfer money out of TFSA (partial transfer)
-$150 fee for full transfer (ie account deregistration)

Anyway, if anyone has any additional comments regarding VBs customer service, please do share. I am currently with qTrade but I am thinking of switching over to take advantage of the commission free ETFs, which is a $75 deregistration fee hit :( .

Thanks.

Cristian March 2, 2014 at 7:31 pm

It’s been about six weeks now that I’ve been trying to open an account with VB. Worst experience ever! It takes an average of ten days to get a reply from them regarding some new document that they want or some missing signature. That is, IF I get a reply at all. I wrote several times to their customer service with no replies so far.
I decided in the end to avoid them altogether, if that’s how they treat me when I am not a client yet, I can imagine what would happen once I am a client and they don’t have to try too hard anymore.
Like someone was saying above, you get what you pay for. I will stick with Questrade for now (although with a seven figures account I am a bit worried about putting all my eggs in one basket/broker)

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