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Virtual Brokers Review

As part of my philosophy of keeping costs low, I’m a big believer in keeping trading commissions as low as possible.  This is the reason for opening trading accounts with the lowest cost brokerages in Canada – Questrade and Interactive Brokers.  These online stock brokers manage to can keep costs low as they operate in a virtual environment with very little brick and mortar overhead to worry about.

While surfing Canadian Money Forum the other day, I came across a thread mentioning Virtual Brokers (VB), the newest online stock brokerage in Canada.  As I usually keep up with what’s available in the market, the new(ish) company piqued my interest.  I was especially curious to see if they were competitive with other low cost stock brokers.  From first impressions, it seems that this broker is geared towards traders.  More details below:

Types of Accounts

Most Canadian online stock brokers offer all the standard accounts (except Interactive Brokers). While Virtual Brokers offers the standard, they also provide some extras.  They offer:  non-registered, TFSA, RRSP (and USD RRSP) along with an RESP.

Trading Platform(s):

It appears that they offer multiple trading platforms, from the free web based version to the more advanced trading software.  The platforms include:

  • Meridian (free) – their web based platform that is reported to be user friendly with direct to market access.
  • AxisPro (free) – This is the same advanced trading platform that Scotia iTrade uses and is quite popular with traders.
  • Iress and Belzberg – This platform is for qualified traders only, I can only assume that they are for high net worth clients.

Trading Commissions

I found their website to be a little confusing, but from what I understand, traders have a choice as to which commission structure they want.  The two choices are:

  1. $6.49 per trade + ECN fee or
  2. $0.01/share (min $0.99 and max $9.99/trade) and no ECN fee.

The ECN fee is $0.04/share/trade if the trade removes liquidity (eg. market order) and can add up quickly.  For option traders,  add approximately $1.25 to the regular commission.  Providing that $6.49/trade is for unlimited shares, this makes Virtual Brokers to be very competitive providing that the trade manages to avoid the ECN fee.  I believe that other brokers that have the $9.99 trades for unlimited shares already include ECN fees (eg. iTrade, TD Waterhouse, RBC, BMO).

For small volume traders (<500 shares per trade), then $5 per ticket puts it in the same range as Questrade in terms of cost.

Other Fees

The “other fees” usually makes or breaks the broker.  In this case, the low trading fees come at a cost.  That is, real time quotes are not included in the account without paying a monthly fee which is similar to Interactive Brokers.

VB organizes their quotes into 3 packages which cost from $15/mo to $99/mo.  Traders who can get by on level 1 quotes would survive with $15/mo which works out to be $180/yr.  However, I didn’t read anywhere that a data package is ‘required’.  So if you’re dead set on using Virtual Brokers, then you may be able to use their low cost platforms, but get your quotes from another brokerage account.  One problem with this strategy however is for those looking to use the AxisPro trading platform which would be a drag without streaming quotes.

Here are some of the account administration fees:

  • RRSP/TFSA: Free
  • US RRSP/TFSA: $50 /yr
  • RESP: $25 /yr
  • EFT: Free

Conclusion:

As I don’t have an account with Virtual Brokers, I can’t really comment on their platform, but I can compare their prices with other brokers.  At first glance, it seems as though VB’s fees are very competitive for what they offer and is in direct competition with Questrade for the lowest cost RRSP/TFSA brokerage in Canada.

While VB looks tempting, their biggest downside is that they charge for real time quotes which adds up to at least $180 per year while most other brokerages have free quotes.  I don’t think I’ll be switching my RRSP or TFSA from Questrade just yet.

What are your thoughts on this brokerage?







95 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. 1. Rachelle

    I have an account with Questrade too for my TfSA. I am happy with their wares.

    I have an account with Scotia Itrade as well and for whatever reason my account with them seems to have lots of problems. Currently my problem is that their system has forgotten my password for trading. I have already called them once.

    Originally I wanted to start my TFSA with them, I mailed out my application even though I already had my rrsp with them. My personal information got lost somehow. So that was very irritating.

  2. 2. Liana

    I’m glad to see you are keeping current with online brokers as they come available. As a Canadian living in Mexico, online brokers seem to be the best way for me to get in the game. We maintain a bank account with HSBC in Canada; have you ever had a look at their HSBC InvestDirect? To me, it seems to offer both domestic and international investment opportunities, but at what cost?? See http://www.hsbc.ca/1/2/en/personal/investdirect

  3. 3. Jim

    For anyone trading on margin, Interactive Brokers has a HUGE advantage as their interest charged is based on LIBOR + a % markup.
    This is much better than any other broker I know of. Tell me if I’m wrong.
    Compared to this, fees per transaction differences are peanuts.

  4. 4. Jungle

    Jim

    You are right about IB. But they charge a minimum $120 us trading fees per year, whether or not you make a singe trade. The good news is that, if you are trading on margin, you can write off the $120 per year on your taxes, as a fee incurred when borrowing. IB’s currency exchange is cheap.

    IB has no registered accounts :(

    I would love to switch my non reg account from Questrade to IB one day when I purchase some more stocks. I would love to leverage with those cheap discounted rates.

    As for the review, thanks for the synopsis. However Questrade is still the cheapest.

  5. 5. Jungle

    PS:
    They have a promo right now, 150 free trades for two months. Not sure of the details, saw it here:
    http://canadianmoneyforum.com/showthread.php?t=3438

  6. 6. Dd

    QT all the way!

  7. 7. Jim

    Jungle,

    You are correct about currency exchange being much cheaper at IB too.
    The accounts are best for traders though. If you are not making many transactions, or if you are not prepared to do your own dividend re-investing, Questrade or one of the other brokerages may be a better choice.

  8. I decided to go with Questrade a couple of years back largely because of the comments on MDJ. I’ve been reasonably happy with them ever since, thanks!

    I’ll definitely keep this new broker in mind if my needs change down the line. But, for now, I’m sticking with Questrade!

  9. 9. Piper

    VirtualBrokers has a ICPMs feature where I beleive you can manage many differnet individuals accounts. Does anyone use that or have experience with that? I would love to manage all my family’s various accounts at one broker. IB only has non registered accounts.

  10. 10. shweta santosh

    good information about accounts. i want to join in Questrade.
    i think my all family members are enjoying this various accounts by one broker.
    thank you.

  11. 11. mpendasoukouss

    I just opened a TFSA and RSP account with Questrade, I have seen negative comments about this broker but so far I am quite pleased at the ease of opening an account, let’s see what the future holds for me.

  12. 12. Bull Market Lover

    I opened my account at Virtual Brokers 7 months ago. I saved a lot in commissoins and fees and i am receiving an excellent service; their investement and trading tools are really useful for me. I gradually moved all my positions from 3 different brokers to Virtual Brokers.

    Just want to mention there is a mistake in above mentioned review about their commission. They have two commission structures and you can choose between one of them:

    1. Per Trade: $6.49 per trade + ECN fee or
    2. Per Share: $0.01/share ,min $5/ticket (There is No ECN fee in this structure)

    Since my average shares is normally above 1000 shares/trade i chose their per trade commission. I am paying $6.49 for each trade regardless of number of shares (if you use limit orders or use their MNGD smart routing system you won’t get charged by ECN fee).

  13. 13. Dan Patterson

    VB is amazing!
    I was with Scotia itrade for 6 months and experienced extremely poor customer service–long phone waits, poorly trained and/or over-stressed service people and absorbed the cost of forced currnecy conversion in my registered account.
    I moved to VB a few months ago and the service has been absolutely incredible. Peter, my account contact is knowledgable and seems to be available 24/7. I’ve sent him email late Saturday night and had a response within minutes…..He follows up and has given me the absolute best customer service experience of my life.

    I now have U.S. and Canadian equities and cash in my registered account and convert only when I need, or choose to convert.

    The fees are competitive. The trading platforms are easy to use. The website is rich in analytical and market tracking tools.

    Bottom line: VB is incredible.

    (note: I am in no way connected, nor related to VB, nor it’s prinicpals, nor Peter and have not been remunerated in any way, shape or form for these comments…in fact I’m the grumpy old guy with too much time on his hands who emails organizations to “help” them improve their, usually disapointing or downright neglectful “service”……..)

  14. 14. foobar

    Administration fees seem higher at Virtual Brokers than at Interactive Brokers. I wish the post also compared those types of fees.

  15. 15. Dan Patterson

    foobar

    I’m not sure what you mean by admin fees. There are ECN fees, but they can be avoided by not increasing market liquidity (raising the bid or lowering the ask).
    I pay $18 per month for Tier 2 data and $6.99 per trade.
    I have a LIRA and an TFSA with VB and there are absolutely no admin fees for either.
    I also have a margin account, but I don’t use it. But there are no admin fees associated with it either. They also paid the transfer fee when I moved from itrade and gave me two months free trading.

    So there are data fees depending on your needs and ECN fees that can be easily avoided.

  16. 16. foobar

    @dan patterson

    I mean transfer fees, wires, account transfers, etc.

    Virtual brokers is far more expensive than Interactive Brokers in this respect.

  17. 17. foobar

    basically the stuff listed under “administrative fees” on the Virtual Brokers webiste

  18. 18. Dan Patterson

    Foobar,

    Can you provide specific examples where IB has a lower fee than VB?

    My total monthly fee data cost is $18 which gives me real time Tier II access to NYSE, TSE and NASDAQ (which are the only markets I use). Tier II access for TSE in IB is $15.00.

    I can use internet banking and EFT to put money into or take money out of my accounts at no charge. I didn’t see this option on the IB site.
    Wire transfers are $100 on both sites. Why would I use wire transfer when I can move the money electronically?

    Also
    IB would be more slightly more expensive per trade for me as I never trade less than 1,000 shares. (I also don’t trade high price point shares!!!)

    Bottom line is my costs are $18 per month and $6.49 per trade.
    I would be paying at least that for data with IB and $10.00+ per trade.

    I also noticed on IB that were were “advisor fees” but I couldn’t find definative info.

    Overall it looks to me that VB, at least for my purposes comes out slightly ahead on costs.

    I just wish they offered the U.S. fee schedule in Canada.

  19. 19. foobar

    @dan

    I’m not arguing that IB is cheaper in fact that is what I want to find out. To do that you have to understand the entire fee structure. Fees are where I always get nailed. One big unexpected fee can eat up many small discounts on other fees.

    IB offers one free outgoing transfer (including wires) per month. Free incoming wires (except MXN). USD$/CDN$ outgoing wire is $10/$12 ($100 only for HKD and MXN). Outgoing EFT is $1.00/$2.00. Incoming EFT is free but have a 60 (!) day holding period. EFTs normally take a week or more to clear. As I remember, no fee for security transfers to another broker. IB pays prime – 0.55% interest on CDN cash balances over $11000.

    VB is $150 for account transfer out. $50 for CAD/USD wire (incoming as well?), $100 for international. Data fees seem lower. Credit interest rates are much worse but their appears to be no min balance (prime – 4%). Debit interest rates are the same for amount under 100k.

  20. 20. Gordon Gekko

    I too read so many nasty and negative comments about Questrade, and I am not sure why. The author of this website also did a negative review on questrade. I have been with them for over a year now and have to say that they are simply amazing. It’s true that their phone customer service takes like 20+ mins just to pick up and the one time I used their phone line assistance the guy working their was very rude.

    Better to use their ‘live help’ feature, you get assistance within 30 seconds and it’s much easier, and they are extremely kind on live help. ECN fees can be dodge by routing your orders thru ‘MNGD’, people say it takes longer but those are lies, its basically same thing.

    Virtual brokers? Sorry but not for me, even though they are less than Questrade at $6.49 a trade they are too small for me to put my $ in. I just can’t trust a smaller firm with the amount of money I trade with. Virtual brokers does seem like they have good customer service as I’ve spoken with them before, and a small brokerage obviously has benefits as you and your customer service helper will get to know each other, but I only want a big brokerage.

    I love Questrade because its quick, a big company, and I feel safe and secure there.

    Goodnight.

  21. 21. Rob

    Dan Peterson
    Did you complain to Scotia itrade about the forced currebcy conversion fees? and if so , what did they say. I am thinking to contact my MP about this slimy practice.

  22. 22. Dan Patterson

    Rob
    Yes I complained to customer service, the account manager who helped set up my account and even sent a letter to Duncan Hanay–the head honcho. Nothing has changed and I didn’t get a response to my letter.
    There was a time when only Canadian investments could be held in RRSP’s. Then a portion in foreign investments were allowed, but cash had to be held in CAD.
    But I understand that for approximately 8 years these rules have not existed. The banks are simply making money from people who don’t know that they have options.
    Clearly if you’re not trading in a registered account or trade Canadian equities exclusively, this is a non-issue.

    I’ve grown my portfolio by 45% this year and 60% of that has been trading U.S. equities.

    So for me, it’s a huge issue.

    I also can’t say enough about VB’s customer service. I was in Northern Ontario this week-end, had trouble accessing the internet and by the time I got a good signal I had messed up my password and was locked out of my account.

    Sent an email and my account advisor (they assign one to each customer) responded within minutes. He would have had my account reset had I needed it.

    I cannot believe that they can provide this level of service for $18 in monthly data fees and $6.49 per trade.

  23. 23. Dan Patterson

    Gordon G.

    Not trying to run down your choice of broker. In fact I have no experience with Questrade except calling to ask a few questions when I was looking to leave Scotiaitrade. I wasn’t impressed with the results of that call, but one phone call is hardly basis for a generalization.
    I have a decent size portfolio that I feel is in very good hands–mine and I love the one-on-one service model VB uses.

    Live long and prosper!

  24. 24. Dan Patterson

    Foobar,
    I totally agree that comparing fees is “Philadelphia lawyer” territory!
    One thing about VB and many other brokers is they often cover all or part of transfer fees. VB covered mine when I moved from Scotiaitrade and gave me 2 months free trading.

    But those “deals” move with the wind.

    All I can say, is I love the service, the costs, the new website and since moving to them I’ve managed to grow my portfolio by almost 30%.
    So I’m a happy camper!

  25. 25. Rob

    The only thing that would keep me to go to Virtual is the fact that they do not have a US component on RESP accounts. I just spoke to somebody and told me that they are not even planning to do this. I would like to have this option. Forced Currency Conversion is nothing more than an unethical and unfair practice. Once they offer this option I will consider.

  26. 26. audioprof

    My favourite has always been Interactive Brokers, but since they don’t offer TFSAs, I started looking at Virtual Brokers. They have the lowest trading fees (Questrade may be a bit lower for some trades, but they cap commissions at 9.95, whereas VB caps at 6.95). VB’s streaming data appears to be less expensive as well.

    Importantly, VB DOES provide free real-time quotes for account holders. The $15 a month charge is only for those who want streaming data. This isn’t clear from the website, but I just confirmed this. That changes things.

    Their customer service seems to be really good too. In the process of setting up an account, I’ve had really quick responses via email and telephone. I’ll post back if anything changes, but it looks pretty good at this point.

  27. 27. audioprof

    I should say that to get a real time quote you need to preview an order (i.e., before submitting the trade). If you don’t have a data subscription, you can’t get a quote by clicking on “Quotes and Research” or “Quote.” Interesting.

    Thanks to everyone for the great input on this site – it’s a great resource.

  28. 28. Rob

    I would like brokers to be legislated to stop practicing forced currency conversions in their RRSP, RESP, TFSA accounts etc. Does anybody know whether this can be done at the provincial level or it has to be done at the Federal level, please advised because I am ready to contact my MPP or MP, thanks ,

  29. 29. Chris

    Does VB charge any annual fee on RRSP account? I couldn’t find any info on it.

  30. 30. Dan Patterson

    Chris

    I have a a TFSA and a LIRA account (locked in retirement account) and I pay no admin fee’s for these othere than the trading fees and $18 per month for my data package.

    As an example of their service, they recently upgraded their trading site and I received a phone call from my account rep informing about the change before it happened.

    I have dealt directly with the same account rep since moving to VB.

    The only downside I see is their trading platform does not provide a real-time portfolio total–so I have to do some math to know exactly where I stand, but they are upgrading and should have this resolved soon.

  31. 31. manny

    I have Questrade account for my RRSP. Recently i noticed that they charged me for a trade that didn’t go through due to price not met and was cancelled by the system. So i paid cheap trading fees for a trade that didn’t go thru’!!!

    Their telephone wait time is too long so i emailed them instead. I received a reply after 19 days and apologising for the delay. However, they did not do anything nor said that they will look into error.

    So in short, if i don’t check each and every transaction, these people cheat.

    Also, i cannot find a report showing me last 1 yrs transactions. So i cannot check how much trading fees i paid over a year. It only allows last 31 days or you select month by month. Very poor design.

    Just read on VB’s site, they charge per ticket i.e. i can buy multiple times same share on same day, same exchange and pay only 1 time trading fee!

  32. 32. Dan Patterson

    Actually Many, I’m not sure if you are correct on the definition of “ticket”.
    If I place multple orders for the same stock on the same day, I pay for each order.
    If I place an order for 1,000 shares of a stock and it takes multiple trades to complete the order (say 5 trades of 200 shares each) I only pay one fee.
    One thin you have to watch with VB is you will pay higher trading fees if you increase market liquidity–which means you raise the bid or lower the ask prices.
    I seldom move liquidity, but I have when I’m concerned that a stock is going to plummet and will run through the current ask price. In that case I may lower the ask to ensure I sell the stock.

    Anyways, it is important that you understand how your trading behavior will impact your trading costs.

    Again I stress VB’s service is amazing–better service than I received from my full-service broker. They don’t advise regarding investment, but the personal contact is absolutely amazing. When they recently upgraded their trading site, I had an issue with a trade and received a phone call within minutes of reporting the issue. The issue was quickly resolved and I received emails explaining what was happening as it was happening, a follow-up e-mail and a follow-up phone call.

    Absolutely amazing.

  33. 33. manny

    I always place a limit order to buy and specify my buy price and not the market price. So say, if Company X is at 12.50 and is fluctuating (not falling), i place an order much below, just in case it pass thru that price, i can fill my order. Otherwise, i have to sit at my computer all the time to place market order at my desired price.

    So does this mean i increase market liquidity?

    The definition of ticket is on their website under the commission examples:

    https://www.virtualbrokers.com/contents.aspx?page_id=22

    Example 1:
    On the same day, you
    Buy 200 XYZ @ $20.00 on TSX
    Buy 200 XYZ @ $20.01 on TSX
    Buy 200 XYZ @ $20.02 on TSX

    These 3 trades constitute one ticket.

    On TSX, you bought 600 XYZ shares at an average price of 20.01 on 3 different trades. The total commission is $6.00 (600 * $0.01).

    But it doesn’t say if the initial order placed was for 600 shares and the system broke it into 3 orders..

  34. 34. Dan Patterson

    Manny
    On the first point. You would not be increasing market liquidity by bidding below the current bid price. You would be increasing market liquidity by bidding above the current bid price.

    When you increase market liquidity you trigger ECN fees which are 4 cents per share. If you buy 1,000 shares you would increase your costs by $40.00.

    You are correct on the definition of ticket. I guess I’ve never made multiple purchases of the same stock on the same day. I generally do exactly what you describe: set a limit price at or below the current market price.
    Most of the time I average in by buying approx 1/3 of the position then waiting to see what direction (if any) the stock moves.

    You are smart to avoid market orders. I learned the hard way that the market can move fast a market order can execute a a price well above what one expects….. In my opinion, limit order is always the smart way to trade. You may not execute the trade if it doesn’t hit your price, but you know exactly how much you are going to invest if the trade does execute.

    Good luck!

  35. 35. Rachelle

    A market order decreases liquidity. Liquidity is the amount of shares for sale above and below the market price.

    You are correct about the cost.

    Some people actually make money just by adding liquidity to the market. Some brokers will pay you for adding liquidity. I think VB is one of them.

    I know about liquidity because I trade in warrants and I buy some of these that are priced at .005 and obviously if I buy them on the market and remove liquidity then it would cost me a damn fortune and I could never make money. As soon as I buy at .005 I put them for sale at .01 making 100% profit. I also add liquidity to the market, but I don’t get paid for it.

    I have bought up to 500,000 shares at .005 and I know what liquidity is. If I did not supply liquidity I would lose money on every single trade. I do not use market orders. Market orders remove liquidity. I use limit orders. Limit orders add liquidity.

    Furthermore, anyone using market orders is paying too much for their stocks. They are likely victims of High Frequency trading. I do not enjoy paying for more because of high frequency traders so I only ever use limit orders and I suggest everyone else do the same to avoid these parasites making any money off you.
    :)

  36. 36. Adam

    So any latest reviews/ comments regarding Virtual Brokers? I was considering opening an account with Questrade but their service seems to be terrible from what I’ve been reading. I’m thinking of opening an account with VB at this point.

  37. 37. Dan Patterson

    I still rave about them. Best customer service I’ve ever had. I recently lost my password (had a computer issue and lost data), emailed on a Saturday and had the account reset within 15 minutes.
    My service guy actually emailed me personally…..
    It is better service than I had with my previous full service broker and my account is not mega-bucks.

    The only other on-line broker I used was ScotiaItrade and all I can say is

    “night & day”.

    If you sign up ask for Peter Wong and mention my name….I’m sure he’ll laugh!!!!

  38. 38. C.A.

    I’ve been a Questrade customer for over 2 years. When I first opened my accounts, their customer service was stellar. The only issue was that I needed 5 different passwords to access everything. But in the last 6-12 months, their service have been going down hill. It’s just been one problem after the other. And they don’t try hard to make things right.

    Needless to say, I’m thinking about switching and VB looks interesting. So far, uncertainty about exactly how their trading fees work and how good their trading platform is has prevented me from switching. I’d sure love to see a more detailed review. A comparison of QT vs VB written by someone with both accounts would be ideal.

    C.A.

  39. 39. heavy trader

    my experience has been positive. what i like about vb is the fact they give the platform for free and if you are a heavy trader the quotes are waived too. their customer service is great. i would recommend them.

  40. 40. Andrew

    I have an account with Virtual Brokers and they are dishonest crooks. Lots of hidden fees, inaccurate information. I’m switching back to questrade.

  41. @Andrew, I dont’ have an account with VB – do you have specific examples?

  42. 42. Mr. Beaver

    Recently ScotiaiTrade® sent me a ScotiaCard® banking card and mentioned that I would need to use the card number to log into my account within a few days (I was with E*Trade before but they bought it out some time ago). My problem is that if I log into my account, i believe it means, as per the cardholder agreement that I will have activated the card and agreed with the agreement. The agreement mentions that “upon request, we will issue you a ScotiaCard banking card in your name”. I haven’t requested that card and don’t want to be bound by a card with security features etc. (and even if they say that the banking features are not activated on it, they mention I could open a bank account with them, and it would be on that card). MOST IMPORTANTLY, they say that if I do not activate my card I will not be able to log to the website anymore a few days from now… and thus would have to call by phone to place trades, etc. To me, this is not acceptable. I should not have to accept a banking card agreement in order to have access to my assets !! Plus, they mention that they have inserted personal information onto the card’s chip! I have never asked for this.
    In the event they stop me from gaining access to my assets through the website, I am not sure what would be my possible recourse
    …but I am also looking for another broker… still considering the following:
    - Qtrade
    - Virtual Brokers
    - Questrade
    - Interactive brokers
    Since IB allows international trading, I might go with them for my margin account since I hold shares of an ex-canadian company that now trades in London. But for my RSP and TFSA accounts, I’ll need to choose one of the above ($US plans would be great…).

  43. 43. William

    I have had no response to email sent to VB regarding transferring an account

    Even the big banks have responded, so I would say customer service is non existent

  44. 44. Mr. Beaver

    @William: Following my post above i transferred my accounts to VB. Yes answers regarding account opening & transfers I found to be 24-48 hours slower than big banks who invest huge amounts of money in their call centers and charge you back those fees. But the wait was very much worth it… I adore their free VB WebTrader platform (they have teo other free i believe). Even though i buy no data feed, you can get on-demand quotes before buying after watchin’ your stocks on yahoo or google… And their prices will put to shame all those big banks who charge you $20-$30 if you’re a lil’ trader… And as an ex day trader, i would have still moved to VB or at least out of a bank… Always loved indie brokers, always will.

  45. 45. Gina

    I have been with Questrade for over a year and WAS happy. Now that they have switched platforms to IQ I find the connection very unreliable and they have been less than helpful in resolving my issues. Has anyone else found this problem and how have you dealt with it?

  46. 46. boB

    Dates on the reviews and answers would be helpful

  47. 47. Alice

    Well, I’m glad someone is getting good service. I can’t seem to get any help from them regarding my account. Maybe it’s because they purchased my account from another company but you would think they would try to ‘win me over’.

    8-Jan-2013

  48. 48. Dan

    I have to admit, VB has slipped recently in my view as well. Major changes to the trading platform were made in Nov/Dec and things went downhill. I had been using the online Meridian platform and was informe to use the webtrader platform. Problem was nothing in webtrader was accurate….portfolio value, position info, however, I couldn’t use Meridian to trade. So I had to go into Meridian for the info, then switch to Webtrader to trade. Some of the issues have been addressed, and I am trading in Meridian again, but Webtrader still has no real time position information. I no longer can send trades at after trading hours. I work full-time so I am limited to my lunch time to trade during the day. The ability to submit trades outside of trading hours is huge to me. That was lost in the software “upgrade” and does not appear to be restored. The impact on VB’s customer service area was huge. They were overwhelmed by questions and concerns and I found the response time was unacceptable through most of Nov and Dec. to both email and phone. It has improved and I am not looking to switch to another broker, but whoever managed this software “upgrade” should be carrying a huge can for this major screw-up. VB’s reputation has suffered tremendously. What’s the old saying “to err is human….to really screw-up you need a computer”!

  49. 49. Jason

    I have gotten terrible service from Virtual Brokers so far in trying to open an account. Unanswered emails, phone calls that end in endless wait times (with no indication of wait order or remaining time. Absolutely brutal so far in regards to trying to open an account with them. I closed my Questrade account in preparation to move to VB but I am considering returning. Questrade had decent (at least responsive) customer service and I see VB getting the rep as cheap but terrible customer service. Do you want to invest with a brand that puts you on endless hold?

  50. 50. Brad

    Jason couldn’t be more right. After a year as a customer of Virtual Brokers my experience has been dreadful. A case in point – the $5.65/month fee for paper statements, and a $3.39/transaction fee for trade confirmations that they introduced in 2012. I suppose they probably mentioned the policy change somewhere in something I received in the mail beforehand, but if so I didn’t notice it. It was introduced effective July, but not charged until September, meaning I got charged for 3 months before I found out about it, and was able to switch to electronic statements.

    Second case in point – since their recent switch in carrying brokers I am not receiving my dividend payments. I had to call about it in December. The first time I tried to call (repeatedly throughout the day) nobody even answered the phone, so I submitted a question with my contact information on the form on their website. Nobody responded. In the end I called again, finally got through, and eventually got it sorted out.

    Then January comes along, and I don’t receive my dividends again – which should have been paid on January 7 and 8 (I am writing this on January 17th). I tried calling again today. After being on hold for 63 minutes I had to hang up and write an e-mail, which I will probably never hear back on.

    I would strongly recommend against VB!

  51. 51. Rick

    January 25, 2013

    Virtual Brokers had some good early reviews and recently came No. 1 in the Globe & Mail survey of online brokers, but I can’t join the chorus because I can’t persuade them to take my business and open an account. It’s been 6 weeks so far, with no progress. Well, I can’t be sure there’s no progress because they don’t answer e-mails to let me know what is (or is not) going on.

    From what I’ve read here and elsewhere on the net, my dreadful customer experience is now standard with VB.

    If this bad service continues once I have an account open (if ever!), it’ll be proof positive that their ‘cheap ‘n cheerful’ business model doesn’t work. They looked so promising, but it’s clear that VB needs management who know how to build capacity to match demand. Too bad, eh?

  52. 52. Brett

    Slowest customer service I have ever experience BY FAR. I have literally be on hold for 49 minutes and counting.

  53. 53. Brett

    1 hour and counting…

  54. 54. Brett

    1:05…

  55. 55. Brett

    1:13… Battery life is 73% now.

  56. 56. Brett

    1:22… Battery life is 69%.

  57. 57. Brett

    1:40… 61%.

    Do you really want to VB to handle your money?

  58. 58. Brett

    1:54… 55%.

    I’ve been on hold so long they ran out of shitty jazz.

  59. 59. Brett

    2:04…

    “We value your business and strive to service you.”

  60. 60. Brett

    2:34…

  61. 61. Brett

    2:51…

  62. 62. Brett

    3:06…

  63. 63. Brett

    3:28…

  64. 64. Brett

    Oh battery life is 11%.

  65. 65. Brett

    Had to plug in phone – 3:42.

  66. 66. Brett

    4:09…

    It’s sort of just funny now.

  67. 67. Mr. Beaver

    Hi Brett, those who are enrolled to updates from this post receive all your comments one after another. It would be nice to receive only one comment about your experience at the end. Personnally i’ve been with VB for two months now, via a direct transfer from another broker, and i’ve had no issues So far (but at the time they were still with Penson as backoffice). I’m really enjoying their low commissions and simple trading platform. Imagine, i was paying 30-35$ per trade with another broker when now i just pay 1, 2, 3 bucks! Lol! I guess they are victim of their popularity. It reminds me when i used to work in Toronto. I started my career with Etrade at a time they were having the same popularity issue. We were staying past midnight to answer emails. Lol!

  68. 68. Brett

    After 4:22 minutes the call disconnected.

  69. 69. Dan

    Mr. Beaver, have you used VB lately? In my opinion, since becoming self-clearing VB has gone from being the absolute best customer service organization I’ve experienced to one of the worst. My issues are: 1/ I haven’t received a substantial dividend that should have been paid the first week of January. 2/ I can’t get a strait answer about when the dividend will be paid 3/ multiple unanswered calls to customer service 3/ multiple unanswered emails 4/ the emails I have had answered are of the “bear with us we are going to get better” 5/ the Meridian trading platform was non-functional for a number of weeks 6/ the webtrader program does not have accurate, real-time data 7/ neither trading platform accepts trades outside of exchange hours, which is a huge issue to me as I work full-time and used to place my trades the night before to be executed during trading hours. I moved to VB from Scotiaitrade and thought I had found the promised land. They were amazing. I have forwarded this thread to VB customer service hoping someone from VB would respond on the thread. Haven’t seen it yet. I am seriously considering looking elsewhere. And Brett….I totally understand your frustration, but do you have to fill our inboxes?????

  70. 70. Rob

    For a while I was debating to move either to Virtual Brokers or RBC Direct Invest from Scotia Itrade. Last October I went to the Money Show in Toronto. I was looking forward to see the booth that VB had in order to make an informed decision. What I found was two guys sitting there with only one flyer to give away. No slide presentations, just nothing. Poor appearance.
    When I asked a question, none of the two had an answer. One told me that he did not know, that he was replacing someone on maternity leave just for the show, and that he did not cover sales, gave me his card to call him during the week
    That experience was one of the factors that made decide to stick to RBC. If these people want to attract business they have to work on customer service.

  71. 71. WheresMyMoney?

    I am one of the sorry folks who got transferred to VB from OptionsXpress.ca in early December 2012. What a disaster! I have had not one reply to my many messages and emails requesting information on my account so that I can close it.

  72. 72. Mr. Beaver

    Dan, I must agree with you on the fact that since they became self-clearing i’m a little concerned: (1) I don’t get my trade confirmations on the web site since mid-december (against IIROC regulations not to receive confirmations), (2) I too had a dividend posted 3 weeks later than it should have, (3) I use the webtrader platform and it does seems that sometimes i don’t get the price at which it is trading (by a penny) so either the data is delayed or my trade is delayed… could be something else too. I did too moved from ScotiaiTrade due to their unbearable prices and vanity in trying to force me to have a debit card that had to be used to log to their site (but could be used to open a bank account and stuff…lol). Anyhow, I don’t care much about my trade confirmations since VB’s transaction details are accurate. I don’t care much about the dividends since I don’t play them usually and avoid staying in position over record date. And in regards to the webtrader platform, i like the fact that i have access to my positions and transactions there and can simply click to trade… As for the trading/pricing delay, it was not much so not a real issue for me at this point. But I do am concerned and if a few more things start going wrong, I’ll look into transferring (although that would be a concern too in terms of how long it would take). So basically, my accounts work, my trading works, and i am extremely happy with their great pricing since I am making money more than ever instead of big banks ripping it off my trades.

  73. 73. Dan

    What can I say Mr. Beaver? You and I have had very different experiences with VB. I loved VB until the last few months. I sold the last piece of my Rim position on the launch day because I couldn’t get an accurate price on either webtrader or meridian platforms. My buddy in the next cubicle told me the price (which was accurate) and it didn’t match the price on either VB platform. I managed to sell and made a very good profit on Rim, but liquidating a position because I have no confidence in the accuracy of the stock price was the final straw for me. I’m looking for a new broker. I hope you continue to trade profitably. 2013 should be a great year.

  74. 74. Andrea Quartesan

    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

  75. 75. You Scared Me Good

    I have been looking for Canadian broker with a per share pricing model but after reading this thread, it sounds like I would be wise to avoid VB. It sounds like a disaster in progress, whatever the cause. I am surprised The Globe and Mail endorsed them. Thanks everyone for for your insights.

  76. 76. Dan Patterson

    To be fair to VB and the Globe, my experience was great with VB until November of this year when they became self-clearing made major changes to their technology, had major headaches and were swamped with a customer service tsunami. They probably will become great again, but I am in the process of moving to Questrade. For the record, I did receive my long awaited dividend (good thing I am not a pensioner relying on this income), and response times have improved, but the trading platform is still very disappointing. I wish VB well, but you gotta know when to hold ‘em and…..

  77. 77. Mike

    The Globe and Mail did no favours in recommending VB. I tried for a month to open accounts with VB, with very little customer service, horrible wait times. Overall an icky experience and learned a valuable lesson in terms of getting what you paid for. Fortunately, I didn’t lose out too much by closing my account early and switching to RBC, (which by the way has been an awesome experience including quick and accurate customer service on a SUNDAY!) $10 bucks a trade is more than worth it for me as an ETFer; definitely recommend against VB until they get their act together

  78. 78. Mike

    By the way, is it just me or are some people posting on this thread a little too defensive about their “positive” experiences with VB? Given how horrible my experience was with this firm, I find it hard to believe that alot of these posters are genuine. For example :
    ——————————
    Mr. Beaver
    @William: Following my post above i transferred my accounts to VB. Yes answers regarding account opening & transfers I found to be 24-48 hours slower than big banks who invest huge amounts of money in their call centers and charge you back those fees. But the wait was very much worth it… I adore their free VB WebTrader platform (they have teo other free i believe). Even though i buy no data feed, you can get on-demand quotes before buying after watchin’ your stocks on yahoo or google… And their prices will put to shame all those big banks who charge you $20-$30 if you’re a lil’ trader… And as an ex day trader, i would have still moved to VB or at least out of a bank… Always loved indie brokers, always will.
    ———————-

    “I adore their VB WebTrader platform” Wow

    At least try to pretend that we are not idiots………..

  79. 79. Mr. Beaver

    Hi Mike,
    I think you should post about your experience and not try to discredit others in order to give your bad experience more strength. I just emailed VB twice last Thursday about trade confirmations, then about funds transfers, and got an answer after 24 hours as expected. So I suggest everyone to email instead of wasting time on the phone. And yes I love or adore their simplistic but customizable platform. Sorry if you did not open an account with them before they became self-clearing… I did and I’m a very happy camper now. Even though I don’t understand where’s the complexity in filling a brokerage account opening form… or why people have so many questions that they need to call them… Those who have so many questions about an online brokerage account should maybe start with not a such “discounted” broker as VB but rather with a bank’s “not so discounted” online brokerage since they pamper you and have great customer service. If you don’t trade too often I believe a bank’s online brokerage service is ok. If you trade often their fees will eat your profits.

  80. 80. Dan Patterson

    Mike, I would echo Mr. Beaver’s comments. My experience as I’ve documented here was very similar to others on this thread (and in other places). But I can accept that others have had radically different experiences from mine. Generally their trading platforms WERE great. Since November for me, not so. After a number of ongoing issues, I’m in the process of moving to Questrade. VB has improved the last few weeks. I receive email responses within a day and my account has accurate information in the Meridian platform, but not in the Webtrader platform. I hope VB gets back to their previous performance. And Mr. Beaver, I have called VB and QT for help with the on-line sign up process. Perhaps my situation is slightly different as I trade in a LIRA account, however I hold B.A. and MBA degrees and have held progressively responsible management positions for almost 30 years. There are times when an actual back and forth conversation is required to readh an understanding. So maybe you should take your own advice and not be so quick to judge and dismiss others without understanding their situations. Just a thought!

  81. 81. Mr. Beaver

    I totally agree with you Dan. For being a trader I know that once in a blue moon you’ll have to call for very specific stuff. I’ve let my emotions take over when I read the other comment. So apologies to those I might have insulted. Was not my intention.

  82. 82. Tim

    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.

  83. 83. Andrea Quartesan

    Finally decided to transfer my account out to Credential Direct.
    Too many times I had to call VB to fix up the trading platform because of glitches in it, too many times I got charged with double currency conversion.
    Somehow this happened only on my RSP account , the one on margin always works just fine… Enough is enough though because I lost so many opportunities and i got too many times frustrated about it.
    So long VB , this is the end of a tumultuos relationship….lol

  84. 84. Todd H.

    I unfortunately got switched over from OptionsXpress to Virtual Brokers and I have to tell you that VB is without a doubt a complete disaster. Customer service is horrible, complete incompetence served with a bunch of attitude. Stay away from Virtual Brokers if you can and deal with a professional firm.

  85. 85. Peter Buck

    I transfered two accounts from TDW to VB about two years ago because I found to much red tape at TDW . Everything was ok till six months ago and then whole thing started falling apart as I could not get on Meridian, their real time quotes were not accurate and I had manufactured debits on my transaction page.
    In my RRSP account wrong trade was posted and i lost $600.00 and that is when got out of VB. I looked at QT and IB and they are not better than VB so I went back to TDW. As people say “you only get what you pay for” and if you go with cheap brokers at the end it will cost you more than reputable ones that provide first class service.

  86. 86. Dan Patterson

    Peter, your experience was very similar to mine with VB. Great at first by about 6 months ago the wheels fell off and they never really got them back on. I moved to QT a few months ago and am very impressed. But I was also very impressed with VB at first……

    Best of luck in your investing efforts.

  87. 87. Bull Market Lover

    I am with VB for about 3 years now and my experience with them is close to fantastic. 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 they had a tough time when they switch 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. I recommend them to all my friends.

    Good luck all in your trading and investment journey

  88. 88. trader67

    @ Bull Market,

    I think you work for VB. You keep saying you have good experience with VB when everyone else is having bad experience.

  89. 89. Dan Patterson

    I switched to Questrade earlier this year and have absolutely no complaints nor issues. If VB is back to normal, that is great, but I’m not considering going back.

  90. 90. skytrader

    Here is another positive review for the skeptics on VB. I’ve been trading with them for the last 2 months and I’ve received nothing but great service. Every email answered promptly, courteous and knowledgeable phone reps, great platform with instant executions, fast funds transfers and so on and so forth. I have about $200,000 worth of equities, don’t know if that makes any difference.

    Also used to trade with RBC Direct Investing (still trade there) and it’s garbage. I would recommend VB to anyone wanting all of the above positive feedbacks.

  91. 91. Rob

    Skytrader, would you please explain why RBC is garbage, can you give us examples of bad service. thx

  92. 92. skytrader

    My experience with RBC, not going to explain every single detail but just to give you an idea what happened.

    1) Wanted to transfer in my TFSA, followed all the required instructions and they end up complicating the process which delayed the transfer for about 3 weeks. Had to call and teach them what needs to be done. Time lost = opportunity lost = lost of money(cost me a lot of money since I didn’t have the funds on time to trade)
    2) Charging the wrong commissions (I have over $100k in there and should qualify for their $9.95 per trade) Had to get them to credit me back and manually set me on the proper commission rate.
    3) Transferring money from RBC bank account to Direct investing account, took 4-5 business days. Way too damn long IMO, especially within the same bank.
    4) Went to RBC to apply for a trade authorization and completed all paperwork. Guess what? They call me back after a few days and said the applicant needs to go by RBC branch so they could complete a identification form. I did all that when I was there and that’s just BS.

    That’s enough for me to say they are garbage.

  93. 93. trying5k

    i have a questrade account….i have to pay for every little service they have. Why in the world do you have to pay for live quotes? since you can get live quotes from anywhere, doesn’t make sense to me why you have to pay your broker for it. At first i enjoyed questrade (because i came from CIBC investors edge-which i didn’t like), im starting to get frustrated with questrade because you have to pay them for everything (ecn, streaming quotes, better research) Im not thrilled about their charting either. I dont have a lot of money(5k), so that’s why its extremely important that i get more bang for me fees. i like how people think its cheap with questrade….6000 shares of a company that was .09/share cost me 14.75 in, and 14.75 out. that’s $29.50 for people that struggle with math. i have made 8 trades this month costing me almost $100 in fees (good for you questrade). you can’t find the fees on myquestrade–you have to go to there other site questrade.com to find that out. With VB having more for the clients to use for the fees, $10 bucks a pop doesn’t sound that bad. I dont believe there can be an amazing broker out there, i’m just looking for paying less fees and trading more.

  94. 94. Shawn Kirton

    Dan Patterson,

    I am relatively new in stock trading, and am reading a ton of articles. Am considering starting out in penny stocks to learn the basics? You seem very knowledgeable. I just signed up with VB bass on what I have read. Care to share any advice?

    Thank you.

  95. 95. kevi

    In my 45 years of banking I have never seen an incompetent customer service on the scale Virtual Brokers provides! Not responsive to issues. It takes weeks for a response to an inquiry. Statement errors are frequent. The BBB has an F rating for Virtual Brokers! Be careful!

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