Wealthsimple Trade Review - Canada's Only Zero-Commission Trading Platform

Wealthsimple Trade is Canada’s first and only zero-commission trading platform. In this Wealthsimple Trade review I’ll explain how you can buy AND sell from among the thousands of stocks and ETFs listed on North American exchanges without paying any fees.

I first heard about Wealthsimple Trade in 2018 when it was announced as a new self-directed investing platform that lets investors buy and sell stocks and ETFs with no trading commissions. They invited users to join a wait list and, once they attained a critical mass (130,000 participants), rolled out a beta version for users to test the platform and offer feedback.

Wealthsimple Trade officially launched in March 2019 and at that time only supported non-registered trading accounts. Later that year, the platform added RRSP and TFSA account types to its lineup. That’s when I became interested in the platform for my own self-directed investing needs.

Open a Wealthsimple Trade account and enjoy commission-free trading.

Why I Switched to Wealthsimple Trade

I’ve held my investments at TD Direct Investing since 2009. It was out of convenience, more than anything, since I had banked with TD since I was a teenager. Back then trades disgustingly cost $29 per transaction. Today, they’re still a painful $9.99 per trade. I had enough when I noticed I paid a total of $190 in trading commissions with TD last year. No more.

I opened a Wealthsimple Trade account on January 13 2020, with the goal to bring my trading commissions down to zero. That same day, I initiated the transfer of my entire RRSP and TFSA account balances. Both of these accounts were invested in Vanguard’s all-equity balanced portfolio – VEQT – and so I requested an in-kind transfer which simply transferred the shares from TD to Wealthsimple Trade without first having to sell them.

An email from Wealthsimple suggested an expected wait time of up to five weeks to complete a transfer request with TD. But to my surprise I noticed the funds in my Wealthsimple Trade account on January 21 2020 – just seven business days later.

Now that you have the backstory, let’s take a look at the platform.

About Wealthsimple Trade

As mentioned, Wealthsimple Trade launched in March 2019 as Canada’s first and only zero-commission trading platform. It’s a separate, yet complementary service to Wealthsimple’s main business as Canada’s top robo advisor. With offices in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K., Wealthsimple manages more than $5 billion in assets worldwide.

Related: How to transfer your RRSP to Wealthsimple

Automated investing through a robo-advisor isn’t for everyone. Some investors want to take the reins themselves, build their own custom portfolio, and make trades in their own self-directed account. Enter Wealthsimple Trade.

While most online brokerages charge $9.99 per trade, Wealthsimple Trade doesn’t charge anything to buy and sell stocks or ETFs. It doesn’t charge account fees or have any account minimums to get started.

To get the costs down to the bare minimum (zero) the platform strips out all of the expensive bells and whistles. You won’t find cutting edge research or real-time quotes (there’s a 15-minute lag). Wealthsimple Trade is also only available as a mobile app – either on your smart-phone or tablet.

But for self-directed investors who want to build a simple low-cost portfolio of index ETFs, and who want to contribute frequently without getting dinged each time they buy or sell, Wealthsimple Trade is the perfect platform.

Signing Up and Opening an Account

How do you open an account? Easy. Download the Wealthsimple Trade app on your Apple or Android device and select ‘Get Started’. From there, follow the prompts to enter your information and agree to your account documents.

Note that even though the Wealthsimple Trade app is NOT connected at all to the Wealthsimple robo advisor platform – existing Wealthsimple clients can skip some of the preliminary questions.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • Full Name, Email, Mailing Address, Phone number, Date of Birth
  • Social Insurance Number
  • Employment information

There are no account minimums or fees associated with opening the account. To fund it, though, you’ll need to link a chequing or savings account.

Transferring Investments to Wealthsimple Trade

Transferring my existing investments to Wealthsimple Trade couldn’t have been easier. As mentioned, I initiated the transfer on January 13, 2020. I entered a few details about the accounts I was transferring, selected the institution (TD) from a list of choices, and snapped a picture of my account statements.

WS Trade covers transfer fees

WS Trade Uploading your Account Statement

Next, I indicated how I wanted the transfer to take place. Typically, you can choose to transfer funds in cash, meaning your institution sells your current holdings and then moves the money. If you go this route, you may incur DSC or trading fees. Note that your contribution room or taxes won’t be affected when you transfer a non-taxable account like an RRSP or TFSA.

Instead, I chose to transfer my account in-kind or “as-is”. This means your institution transfers your entire account. Note that Wealthsimple Trade only accepts the transfer of stocks and ETFs. You’ll have the option to sell non-eligible assets like mutual funds, bonds, or options, or leave them with your institution.

As I said earlier, the entire transfer process took just seven business days. Your mileage may vary.

Using Wealthsimple Trade

Wealthsimple Trade works like any other online brokerage, with the exception that it’s a mobile-only platform. There’s no desktop support.

To search for a stock or ETF, tap the search icon at the top-right of your screen and enter the name or ticker symbol.

Wealthsimple Trade buying VEQT

Once you have the stock or ETF profile up on your screen, simply tap the ‘Buy’ or ‘Sell’ button. Then, select the account in which you want to buy the stock or ETF (RRSP, TFSA, or non-registered).

Now, enter the number of shares you wish to purchase. You’ll see the current price of that security, the estimated cost, and how much you have available to trade. Remember that Wealthsimple Trade does not show real-time quotes – there’s a 15-minute delay in the market information.

This is a good time to remind you about bid-ask spreads and market vs. limit orders.

The bid price is the what you’re likely to get if you’re selling the stock or ETF. The ask price is the price you are likely to get if you’re buying the stock or ETF.

The default purchase setting is for a market order. This means your order will be filled at the best available price on the market.

With a limit order, you choose the highest price you are willing to pay (your limit). Your order will only complete if and when the market price is at or below your limit.

WS Trade Buying an ETF

Wealthsimple Trade Highlights

What stands out the most for me about Wealthsimple Trade is of course the ability to buy and sell ETFs for free. I was paying $9.99 per trade for years – which is what most discount brokerages charge. Yes, a select few brokers offer free ETF purchases, but Wealthsimple Trade is the only platform that offers zero-commission trades across the board (buy or sell).

You can choose from thousands of available stocks and ETFs that traded on North American stock exchanges (NYSE, NASDAQ, TSX, TSX-V). You cannot trade mutual funds, options, preferred shares, over-the-counter securities (OTC), or stocks that trade outside of North America.

Wealthsimple Trade will reimburse any transfer fees on transfers larger than $5,000.

The app is incredibly intuitive and user friendly. This is an important feature, as clients cannot access their account via desktop.

The app is secure and fully encrypted, relying on two-factor authentication protection to keep your data safe. It requires a PIN, and you can also enable touch ID to access your account.

Your money is secure. Wealthsimple Trade is a division of Canadian ShareOwner Investments Inc. and is a member of the Canadian Investor’s Protection Fund (CIPF) which protects accounts up to $1,000,000 against insolvency.

The zero-commission trade platform is ideal for investors who have simple, low cost portfolios and who frequently add new money to their accounts.

Downside to Wealthsimple Trade

I’d be remiss not to mention any cons to the Wealthsimple Trade platform.

For one, clients are limited to three account types at this time (RRSP, TFSA, and non-registered accounts).

The platform is mobile-only, so it can only be accessed on your smart-phone or tablet.

There is no option (at this time) to support auto-deposits. Instead, a one-time deposit must be set up each time you’d like to fund your account.

While not necessarily a con, you should know that Wealthsimple Trade makes its money by charging a 1.5 percent currency conversion fee on CAD to US dollar conversions (and vice versa) that are required to trade US-listed stocks and ETFs.

Finally, since this is a no-frills platform, you won’t find in-depth research on stocks and ETFs. Also, stock quotes are not updated in real-time – there’s a 15-minute delay.

Wealthsimple Trade Review: Pros and Cons

Account fees None
Trading fees None
Account minimum $0
Other fees Corporate rate + 1.50% for CAD to USD foreign exchange
Minimum deposit None
Account types RRSP, TFSA, non-registered account
Access Mobile only (smart phone / tablet)
Transfer fees Wealthsimple Trade will reimburse transfer fees on transfers greater than $5,000.
Market research Wealthsimple Trade does not have in-depth market research and does not support real-time quotes (delayed by 15 minutes)

 

Wealthsimple Trade vs. Questrade

I considered moving my self-directed investing accounts from TD Direct to Questrade before ultimately switching to Wealthsimple Trade.

Questrade has long been known as the top discount brokerage in Canada due to its low fee structure, free ETF purchases, and stock trading for as low as $4.95. Questrade has also been around the block for 20+ years and built a solid reputation for its robust platform, market research, and customer service.

If you’re the type of investor who has more advanced trading needs, or someone who needs to hold more than just an RRSP, TFSA, or non-registered account (like a LIRA, RESP, Joint investing account, or Corporate account), then the Questrade platform is still an excellent choice.

I like the no-frills approach to Wealthsimple Trade, and I like that, as a company, Wealthsimple is committed to continuously improving their product lines. As an example, they just announced a new hybrid chequing and savings account product called Wealthsimple Cash that pays 2.4 percent interest.

I figured, since I will be trading frequently (by my standards) – at least once per month in my TFSA, plus a few times a year in my RRSP – and I don’t need access to more account types at this time – Wealthsimple Trade would suit my needs just fine.

Final Thoughts

I’m happy with my decision to move my RRSP and TFSA accounts to Wealthsimple Trade and finally avoid paying $9.99 per trade when I contribute money to my investments.

This platform is ideal for any investor who is comfortable in a mobile-only environment and who wants to trade stocks and ETFs without paying any fees.

Wealthsimple Trade is especially suited for investors who make frequent contributions to their investment accounts, since they can buy small amounts without worrying about getting charged a commission every time. This puts more of your money to work right away, rather than saving up an appropriate amount of cash before buying (which is what I would do at TD Direct).

Open a Wealthsimple Trade account and enjoy commission-free trading.

Watch for more improvements to roll out over time, as Wealthsimple Trade hopefully adds more account types and the ability to auto-deposit from your bank account (perhaps a direct link with its new Wealthsimple Cash account?).

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32 Comments

  1. Angelo Bin on January 21, 2020 at 1:02 pm

    Too bad, with all the retirees who follow you, that Wealthsimple does not allow RRIF or RLIF accounts. I would be very interested in transferring all my accounts if this were the case

    • Robb Engen on January 21, 2020 at 1:36 pm

      Hi Angelo, I completely agree and hope to see more account types on the product roadmap in the future.

      For DIY retirees, Questrade is still a great option as it’s a more robust trading platform that allows for more account types and investment products.

      And, for those looking for a bit of help with their retirement withdrawals, the Wealthsimple robo advisor option is also worth a look: https://boomerandecho.com/wealthsimple-case-study-robo-advisor-retirement/

  2. J-Bay on January 21, 2020 at 1:14 pm

    Rob, great article on zero commission Wealthsimple trading platform. Do you know if they will accommodate set up of DRIPs for those stocks that offer them (usually additional stock of a company can be acquired at a discount) for any of the accounts they currently offer? Also, for non-registered accounts do you know if they will accommodate transfer of margin accounts?

    • Robb Engen on January 21, 2020 at 1:55 pm

      Hi J-Bay, I assumed the answer was ‘no’ to each of your questions, but I reached out to Wealthsimple for clarification anyway. Here’s what they had to say:

      “There’s no concrete timeline for DRIPs (but it’s on the roadmap). Margin accounts are not on the roadmap so I wouldn’t expect it in the near future for right now.”

  3. Brian on January 21, 2020 at 1:49 pm

    Thanks for the article Robb. I wasn’t even aware Wealthsimple offered this.
    Are LIRA accounts transferable? Any plans for RESP accounts?

    • Robb Engen on January 21, 2020 at 1:59 pm

      Hi Brian, thanks for your comment – I’m glad you found the article useful. I know that more account offerings are on the product roadmap, along with features like pre-authorized contributions. Unfortunately, LIRA accounts aren’t transferrable until that account type comes available. Likewise, RESPs are not available at the moment. I’ve kept our kids’ RESP account at TD (e-Series funds) for now.

  4. Emily on January 21, 2020 at 1:57 pm

    Does Wealthsimple have the ECN fees that Questrade has? Those can add up when you have a large amount of shares.

    • Robb Engen on January 21, 2020 at 2:03 pm

      Hi Emily, you’re right – ECN fees at Questrade often go unnoticed (or unmentioned) but can really add up.

      No, Wealthsimple Trade does not charge ECN fees. The only trading fee they charge is a currency exchange fee for USD trades at the daily corporate rate + 1.5% — most brokerages charge around 2% on top of this rate for currency conversion.

      It truly is a commission-free trading platform!

  5. Jeremy on January 21, 2020 at 3:46 pm

    Interesting article.
    Good to loose ECN Fees.
    To avoid 1.5% currency exchange fee is Norbert’s Gambit possible?
    Questrade offers more than market and limit orders. Does Wealthsimple offer more? For example “Trailing Stop-limit Order”.
    Do you or anyone have a link to a full list of order types available? I’m curious if more is available on a more expensive platform than discount brokerages like Questrade?
    Thanks

    • Robb Engen on January 21, 2020 at 7:41 pm

      Hi Jeremy, best to think of WS Trade as a no-frills platform. It’s not trying to compete with the other brokerages on all the bells and whistles – it’s offering basic trading functionality. If your needs are any more sophisticated than ‘basic’ then you’re better off with a platform like Questrade, or one of the big bank brokerages. It looks like just market orders and limit orders are available.

      You can read a list of FAQs here – https://tradehelp.wealthsimple.com/hc/en-ca/sections/360002249634-Trading-Account-Activities

  6. Mark on January 21, 2020 at 7:11 pm

    One other downside you don’t mention is that a number of stocks and ETFs aren’t available on the platform. There are a number of limits, and I quote:

    “in order to purchase an asset on Trade, it must:
    be a common stock or ETF,
    be actively listed on a supported exchange (NYSE, NASDAQ, TSX, TSX-V),
    be CDS eligible,
    have a 52-week high price that exceeds $0.50 (stocks only, excl. new issues like IPOs),
    have an average daily volume that exceeds 50,000 shares (stocks only, excl. new issues like IPOs),
    and be the Canadian-listed security if dual-listed”

    See https://tradehelp.wealthsimple.com/hc/en-ca/articles/360012164133-Why-can-t-I-find-the-particular-stock-or-ETF-I-m-looking-for-

    That being said, I opened a TFSA on Wealthsimple Trade and it’s been a great, easy, and cheap way to dabble in DIY investing.

    • Robb Engen on January 21, 2020 at 8:04 pm

      Hi Mark, thanks for this. As I said to Jeremy, the platform is built for basic trading needs. You’re not going to find penny stocks or stocks traded over-the-counter (OTC). All of these constraints apply to stocks and not ETFs.

      That’s another downside I failed to mention: the notion that zero-commission trading might turn investors into day traders. As an ETF investor, my interest in this platform is strictly about the ease of use and saving fees.

    • Azul on January 21, 2020 at 8:06 pm

      Do they offer account performance tracking?

      • Robb Engen on January 22, 2020 at 10:06 am

        Hi Azul, yes you can track your account’s performance over 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 3 months, 1 year, and all-time. It’s not as robust as what I was used to with TD, but it does the trick.

  7. Brien Stewart on January 22, 2020 at 6:24 am

    Robb, how do you transfer money (monthly ‘dividends’) from Wealthsimple or Questrade to my bank account?

    • Robb Engen on January 22, 2020 at 8:59 am

      Hi Brien, in Wealthsimple Trade you can withdraw available funds to your linked bank account.

  8. Rod O'Connell on January 22, 2020 at 9:52 am

    Hey Robb, great article (as usual). I get the no fee for purchases in the applicable accounts. Are they any fees associated with selling shares/units?

    Thanks

    • Robb Engen on January 22, 2020 at 10:11 am

      Hi Rod, thanks! There are no fees to buy or sell stocks and ETFs. Zero. None. $0.

  9. Gerald on January 22, 2020 at 6:01 pm

    Can you transfer funds out of an RRSP to the linked bank account without any fees? My bank (TD) will charge $25.00 per transfer out -i.e. funds withdrawn before having to convert to a RRIF . And it cannot be done electronically – you always need to visit a branch or call it in to the WebBroker desk.

    • Robb Engen on January 26, 2020 at 7:26 pm

      Hi Gerald, yes you can. Here’s the super-easy process:

      Tap the Home Screen, then select ‘transfers’, then ‘withdraw funds’.

      It will ask you to select the account from which you want to withdraw, and how much is available to withdraw (cash available).

      Select ‘RRSP’ and then ‘continue’. You’ll see this note:

      “What’s the reason for this withdrawal?”
      – Home Buyers’ Plan
      – Lifelong Learning Plan
      – Neither of the above (I’m withdrawing from my RRSP for another reason and understand there may be tax implications)

      Select the third option and tap ‘continue’. You’ll see this note:

      “Are you sure? RRSP withdrawals often have tax implications, with a few exceptions. If you’re not withdrawing for an exempt reason, we recommend withdrawing from another account.”

      Select ‘I’m sure’. You’ll see this note:

      “You have $xx.xx available to withdraw from your RRSP account.”

      Select your desired amount and tap ‘continue’.

      That’s as far as I was willing to go in my own account – but you get the idea 😉

  10. Matthew Freeman on January 24, 2020 at 9:11 am

    Nice review Robb. I just opened an account myself so I can buy small amount of shares of an ETF. If I stayed with RBC it would have cost me $9.99 per trade.

  11. Darby on January 25, 2020 at 2:05 pm

    If WS Trade does not offer RRIF accounts, does that mean that when your RRSP has to be converted at age 71 you would have to move it to another institution?

    I’m also interested in Gerald’s question about whether or not there is a charge, like the $25 TD charge, for withdrawing RRSP funds?

    Is it accurate that WS Trade will not allow joint taxable accounts?

    Are Mutual Funds on the horizon? Now that TD allows the purchase of the e-series funds at other institutions it would be nice to have that option?

    How does WS Trade make their money? Surely just charging 1.5% on currency conversion isn’t their only source of profit.

  12. Surya on January 29, 2020 at 12:03 pm

    Hi Robb, I have been reading on your site for awhile now and have now moved my RRSPs to TD and purchased VBAL last year. Unfortunately to fill the order it took 3 trades therefore $30. Therefore for my TFSA, I am considering trying WS Trade after reading this. Please bear with me as I am new to this, so my questions are: 1) I plan on putting $5k CAD into either VBAL or VEQT, therefore there is no 1.5% charge if these are bought? 2) CIPF is as secure as CDIC? Please advise and thanks for all the information. This is a great site!

    • Robb Engen on January 29, 2020 at 2:01 pm

      Hi Surya, thanks for your comment. You won’t be charged anything when you purchase those ETFs with Canadian dollars. The 1.5% currency conversion spread only comes into play if you were to buy a U.S. listed ETF (like Vanguard’s VT) with Canadian dollars.

      CIPF is not the same as CDIC. It does not protect the value of your account (since markets move up and down). Instead, CIPF’s role is to ensure that clients of an insolvent member firm receive their property held by the member firm at the date of its insolvency.

      Say you buy 100 shares for $5000, and the shares are held in an account with a CIPF member firm. If your CIPF member firm becomes insolvent, CIPF’s objective is to ensure the 100 shares are returned to you. CIPF does not protect or guarantee your initial investment of $5000.

      However, if the 100 shares are missing from your account, CIPF would provide compensation based on the value of the missing shares on the date of the member firm’s insolvency.

  13. yafray on February 2, 2020 at 1:52 pm

    Hi !

    Thanks for tipping us all !
    I am just wondering if it’s really worth the shot.
    We’re all investing for our retirement and for that matter, all of us will be often be buying instead of selling. In that context, Questrade or WS are the same.

    Also, selling ETFs is max 10$ each time. Unless you’re planning to retire soon, this fee does not matter right ?

    Also, even if you retire next month, you can still move all your assets from Questrade to WS and sell there your ETFs : is it sane to think like that ?

    Plus : Questrade is better for those who are planning to start a business because they can get familiar with their tool before opening a corporate investing account.

    ============
    I am planning to buy some VEQT and VGRO : is there any advantage of putting one of them in a TFSA instead of a RRSP ?

  14. Sam on March 28, 2020 at 6:51 pm

    Hi Robb,
    Great review and thanks for offering your experience with this new online broker. Wondering since you’ve written the article how you are finding WealthSimple Trade thus far (i.e. with the market volatility)? Are you still able to successfully buy/sell?

    I tried to sign up, but was put on a “waiting list”!? Never thought this would happen in Canada in 2020. First no toilet paper in stores and then waiting lists to sign up with an online brokerage? I know with the virus things have changed somewhat, but this is silly.

    • Robb Engen on March 29, 2020 at 12:16 am

      Hi Sam, thanks for your comment. Interesting to hear about the wait list – that’s the first I’ve heard of it.

      I can confirm that WS Trade had some intermittent outages at the beginning of the market crash but I haven’t noticed any issues since then. I’ve had no problem at all adding funds and executing trades.

      Hopefully they’re able to get through these delays in opening accounts. I do like the platform, so I hope WS invests appropriate resources to ensure its success.

  15. Stu MacCuaig on April 1, 2020 at 8:09 pm

    Will I be able to connect my CIBC account to WealthSimple? When I tried, Wealth
    Simple told me to contact my bank. Do you know if that will work? I imagine you have quite a few customers that use CIBC.

  16. Sam on April 2, 2020 at 1:37 am

    Log out. Try again (a few times if needed). I had a similar problem for some reason.
    If not you can manually enter the details (transit, acct. #) and show a copy (picture) of your bank statement.

  17. Cate on April 24, 2020 at 1:40 pm

    How do the reports prepared for tax time (for non-registered accounts) compare to your experience with TDDI? Do they help to simplify the tax preparation process (calculating adjusted cost base, summary of dividends, T3 and T5 statments, the usual)?

  18. Eric on June 4, 2020 at 8:21 pm

    Hi there, how will my american currencies be transfered into my WS trade account? will they just be converted based on the current corporate conversion rate?

  19. Dennis on July 19, 2020 at 9:04 am

    Is there any admin fees other than currency exchange fee? I’m most interested in two fees – 1. RRSP withdrawal or closing. 2. Account transfer out.

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