Canadian Online Brokerage Review – Virtual Brokers

Virtual Brokers

Mailing Address
4100 Yonge Street,
Suite 415
Toronto, ON
M2P 2B5

Website: https://www.virtualbrokers.com/
Email Address: info@virtualbrokers.com
Phone: 1-877-310-1088
Customer Service Hours: Mon to Fri 8:00 am to 6 pm ET


Virtual Brokers Review

Updated on: February. 17, 2016
Virtual Brokers, a division of BBS Securities Inc, is one of the youngest of the Canadian online discount brokers. Although (and maybe because) they haven’t been around as long as other brokerages, Virtual Brokers is able to offer pricing and platforms that help them stand out from their competitors.

Given that they offer a number of account and pricing options for investors and traders alike, those considering Virtual Brokers should understand what kind of trading style and needs they have so as to select the products/services that best suit their needs. For active traders and those looking for real-time data, however, be sure to consider the costs for data subscription for streaming quotes as part of the total cost of ownership with this provider.

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Quick Info

Standard Equity Commission  $9.99/trade
Best Commission Price $0.00/trade (commission-free plan)
$4.99/trade (active trader)
Minimum to Open Account $1,000 (classic plan)
$5,000 (commission-free plan)
Maintenance Fees $24.95/quarter
Commission Free ETF Yes

» Get Full Pricing Details

Pricing & Fees

As of mid-January 2016, Virtual Brokers has changed their commission pricing structure to offer two pricing plans: a “classic” commission structure and a “commission-free” trading plan. Virtual Brokers is the first Canadian online brokerage to offer a commission-free trading plan however there are some important details and conditions that are associated with this option.

Their previous pricing plans (the “penny”, “per trade” and “per share”) are still available to existing clients who opened their accounts before January 12th 2016. The commission plans at Virtual Brokers have been simplified from three to two, with their classic plan offering a price of $9.99 flat (i.e. including ECN fees) and the commission-free plan offering free trading on equities. Combined with the commission-free buying of ETFs and the 150 commission-free ETFs (buying and selling) Virtual Brokers offers investors competitive value.

Their revised standard commission structure however, is now no longer the lowest ‘cost’ offering for equity trades. There are also a number of other fees and charges to be aware of. The commission-free trading plan, for example, while ground breaking, is typically going to be more appealing to active traders, the main reason being the requirements for trades to be placed via specific trading platforms and the resulting data feed charges associated with that. In addition, the commission-free trading plan has a higher threshold for opening an account ($5,000 vs $1,000), ECN and clearing fees may be charged on trades. Note that if the account balance in the commission-free account falls below $2,000 and a trade is executed or if the trade is placed via the web platform (instead of the trading application) or the mobile app, the classic commission pricing will be in effect. Another important fee to note is the quarterly inactivity fee of $24.95. This fee can be waived if: the individual makes at least one commission-generating trade within a quarter; or is under the age of 26; or has at least $5,000 across all accounts; or is a registered charity.

Commission Plan Min/Max Commission ECN Fees Extra
Classic Commission Standard: $9.99
Active (150+ trades/qtr): $4.99
No
Commission-free Plan $0.00 (equities only) Yes

As mentioned above, Virtual Brokers offers commission-free ETF trading (buying and selling) on 150 ETFs and commission-free buying on all ETFs.  Check out our detailed look at commission-free ETFs to learn more about how these work.

How can Virtual Brokers offer commission-free pricing? Well, if there is a catch it comes in the form data fees. Specifically in order to use the commission-free trading plan, trades must be placed via their “application based” trading platforms (Edge Trader Pro and PowerTrader Pro) which require a data plan of $150 USD/mo (for Edge Trader Pro) and $250 USD/mo (for PowerTrader Pro). At the time of writing that roughly translates into $205 CAD/mo for Edge Trader Pro and $342 CAD/mo for PowerTrader Pro.

Account Types

Like their peers, Virtual Brokers offers a number of account types. Virtual Brokers offers clients the ability to trade in both registered accounts and non-registered accounts.  In addition, Virtual Brokers offers trading in stocks, ETFs, bonds, mutual funds and options.

Registered accounts include tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs), registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) and registered education savings plans (RESPs).  While Virtual Brokers offers US dollar accounts for all registered accounts, they do so for a fee. The fees for USD registered accounts have recently been updated as has the RRSP minimum balance fee (this fee has now been removed). For registered accounts you cannot use margin or short stocks. Options trading in registered accounts is limited to buying and selling options and writing of covered calls.

The non-registered account offered by Virtual Brokers is called the “All in One” account which is a combination of equity, option, margin and short accounts all rolled into one.   This gives individuals the opportunity to access margin (should they want to) to finance a trade that they may not have the ability to do otherwise.

Platform/Data

Virtual Brokers offers a number of platform options – many more than most other brokerages.  There are professional level interfaces available however most individual investors would be interested in the standard platforms.  The web-based platforms offered include VB WebTrader, VB WebTrader Lite and Meridian. The application based platform is PowerTrader Pro (by Sterling).  In terms of mobile trading platforms, they also offer PowerTrader Mobile which is supported on Android, iPhone and Blackberry.

When considering a platform, keep in mind the kinds of trading and analysis tools that you will need.  Although VB WebTrader offers free snap quotes, some very active traders tend to prefer streaming quotes for which Virtual Brokers offers 3 packages ranging from $29/mo to $160/mo.  Depending on the type and numbers of trades, clients who trade a certain amount can qualify for data plan discounts/rebates.

Reviews & Ratings

 Review What Review Measures Score Date of Ranking
Dalbar Canada Review Client Service Not Rated
Not Rated
January 2015
January 2014
Globe and Mail Review Overall Impression Letter Grade “A”
1st out of 12
Letter Grade “A”
1st out of 12
Letter Grade “A-”
2nd out of 12
Letter Grade “A”
December 2016
December 2016
December 2015
December 2015
November 2014
November 2014
November 2013
JD Power Review Investor Satisfaction Not Rated
Not Rated
September 2014
September 2013
MoneySense Fees & Commissions
Best for ETFs
Runner Up
Top Pick
July 2017
July 2017

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Home Community Canadian Online Brokerage Review – Virtual Brokers

This topic contains 79 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Zach 2 months, 1 week ago.

Viewing 10 posts - 1 through 10 (of 80 total)
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  • #10192 Reply

    Dennis

    Data fee is not mandatory. I didn’t buy any data plan and if I don’t trade or trade among free trade ETF list, I don’t pay no commission. Not even a cent.

    #10193 Reply

    Johnathon

    Virtual Brokers is a scam. If you want to withdraw fund from the account, it will take several weeks to process. It doesn’t post the dividend i am supposed to receive the end of last year in my account. I have sent them email, and they don’t even bother to reply. It’s a scam.

    #10194 Reply

    Peter

    Stay away from Virtual Brokers. After 1 month and several emails and phone calls, dividends received are still not in the account. Cash transfer made into the account almost a month ago still not in the account. All they can say is that they are behind in their work, but I’m still out a couple of thousand dollars. Been waiting almost a month for a cash transfer out of the account. It seems like once they have your money, they won’t give it back to you. The few bucks you save on commissions is lost other ways.

    #10195 Reply

    Darren

    I have had absolutely no problems with Virtual Brokers. I have been receiving my dividend payments with no problems. Cash transfer into the account took around 4 days.

    I have contacted them a couple times concerning: opening the account, trading platform questions, and about their new mobile app soon to be available. Each time I was able to get customer service quickly and they answered all my questions perfectly.

    #10196 Reply

    Sam

    ive tried to open an account with VB and they haven’t bothered responding to my emails for a month straight. Should I bother exerting this much effort to be their customer? They don’t even bother replying me , I’ve followed up 3 times. I can’t afford to pay the $30 one way comission on TD 🙁

    #10197 Reply

    Denise

    I am also thinking about transferring to Virtual Brokers after horrific experience with Questrade’s new platform. I believe Virtual Brokers are quite overwhelmed right now with all the customer transfers from OptionsXpress, but they seem helpful enough in my correspondence with them, although a bit slow. They pointed out their #1 rating with the Globe & Mail article in Nov/12 (I think that was the magazine issue) so that’s positive. Some of the posts here are causing me to have second thoughts. I just hate to transfer over if they’re no better than what I’m dealing with at Questrade. It’s such a hassle to move accounts. Does anyone else have experience with Virtual Brokers?

    #10198 Reply

    Rick

    I’ve joined the long and patient queue of would-be Virtual Brokers customers. It seems that since they came No. 1 in the Globe & Mail’s 2012 broker’s survey and took on the Options Xpress customers in Canada that they’re completely overwhelmed. Comments here and elsewhere on the net over the last 2 to 3 months have been universally negative.

    Their communications are abysmal. They don’t make excuses for delays, they just don’t answer e-mail. According to other posters, getting them on the phone is hopeless.

    I’ll stick with my saga and see how long it takes for them to get my account activated, but I’m already unhappy and I’m not even a customer yet!

    If you’re thinking of transferring, maybe give them 6 months or a year. I’m betting they get knocked off the Globe & Mail’s throne in 2013.

    #10199 Reply

    Tommy

    Got a couple of questions.

    -I noticed that VB’s commission structure per equity trade is $6.49 or $0.99 on the “99” plan. Is anyone eligible to be on the “99” plan, regardless of account size or trading frequency?

    -How much does VB charge each time you transfer money out of an “All-in-one” account?

    -Is Questrade really all that bad? I have a friend who has been with them for two years with no problems. He enjoys the 3.33x leverage they offer (vs. 2x at VB), as well as $4.99 flat commission.

    Thanks

    #10200 Reply
    Profile photo of Sparx_Admin
    Sparx_Admin
    Keymaster

    Hey Tommy,

    According to Virtual Brokers anyone is eligible for “The 99” commission structure regardless of account size or trading frequency. Also withdrawing funds via Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) is free.

    Regarding your question about Questrade, ask yourself what is important to you when trading. Do you trade often and need to contain your costs? Is reliability of the system essential? There are outages and customer service issues no matter which brokerage you’re with. Try out whoever you think will meet your needs best.

    #10201 Reply

    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.

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