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Canadian Online Brokerage Review – Virtual Brokers

Virtual Brokers

Office Address
199 Bay St., suite 2600
Toronto, ON
M5L 1E2

Mailing Address
BBS Securities Inc.
199 Bay St. Suite 2600
PO BOX 108 STN Commerce Court
Toronto, ON
M5L 1E2

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: Jun 1, 2020
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.




Quick Info

Standard Equity Commission Min: $1.99
Max: $7.99
Best Commission Price $1.99/ticket ($0.01/share)
$3.99/ticket (active trader)
Minimum to Open Account $1,000
Maintenance Fees $24.95/quarter
Commission Free ETF Yes
Young Investor Offer Yes
(Age: less than 26)

» Get Full Pricing Details

Pricing & Fees

As of late December 2018, Virtual Brokers has updated their commission pricing by lowering their commissions and moving to a slightly different method of charging for trades. While their previous trading commission plans are available to customers already on the plan, they also do offer access to those commission plans to new customers upon request.

The new commission plans offer DIY investors pricing of $0.01/share with a range between $1.99 to $7.99 per ticket for equity trades as their standard rate, and for active traders, defined as those who trade over 150+ trades per quarter, the standard per ticket pricing is $3.99 flat.

For those unfamiliar with per ticket pricing, this refers to the direction of a trade (buy or sell) and it means that you get charged by the direction of a trade in a particular security. This is usually clearer with an example, so if an investor buys 100 shares of BCE, at 10am, then buys another 200 shares of BCE at 1pm on the same day, the total commission charged would be 300 shares x $0.01 = $3.00 (as opposed to 2 commission charges being charged for two trades.) Click here for a more detailed example.

Combined with the commission-free buying of ETFs and the 150 commission-free ETFs (buying and selling), Virtual Brokers offers investors competitive value. For active traders, there is particularly compelling value with a “per ticket” system and lower commission charges.

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 worth at least $6.49 within a quarter; or is under the age of 26; or has at least $5,000 across all accounts; or is a registered charity.

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.

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. 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 enables 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 trading platform options – many more than most other brokerages. There are professional level trading platforms available however most individual investors would be interested in the standard platforms.  The web-based trading platforms offered have been consolidated to just one: VB WebTrader. There are now several application-based trading platforms for users to choose from PowerTrader Pro (by Sterling) and the relatively new VB Wave.  In terms of mobile trading platforms, they also offer PowerTrader Mobile which is supported on Android and iPhone.

When considering a trading platform, keep in mind the kinds of trading and analysis tools that you will need, especially because most application-based platforms require a monthly subscription fee ranging from $75/mo CAD to $580/mo USD (ITS TraderLite).  Although VB WebTrader offers free snap quotes, some very active traders tend to prefer streaming quotes for which Virtual Brokers offers streaming Level 1 data for Canadian markets at around $20/mo (the TSX/TSV combo is $25/mo) CAD and US streaming Level 1 data can be added on for $4 or $5/mo USD. Additional market data feeds (e.g. Level 2), can be added on with pricing varying by market.

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”
Letter Grade “B”
Letter Grade “A”
1st out of 12
Letter Grade “A”
1st out of 12
Letter Grade “A-”
2nd out of 12
Letter Grade “A”
February 2019
February 2018
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 Runner Up – Fees & Commissions
Top Pick – ETFs
July 2017
July 2017

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14 comments

  1. Run screaming away from Virtual Brokers! Terrible to deal with. Unusable trading website. Still fighting with them.

    • Thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear you had (or are having) a bad experience – for the benefit of other readers, can you provide any additional details (i.e what kind of request you are having difficulty with, how long you’ve been a client)? Hope you get a speedy (and positive) resolution!

      • [Comment Edited by Moderator]I read about every trading platform and i always find someone complaining about them, whether its td direct investing, questrade or virtual brokers, theres always someone complaining.
        As far im concerned if people have real issues with any trading platform, they should be detailing the evidence online and not through a lousy comment.

        • Thanks for your comment John – I think you make an important point about the difference between comments that are constructively critical vs. those that are just critical without evidence. While the latter might be due to frustration (or malice), the former are helpful in driving positive change which ultimately benefits other investors and hopefully result in positive change by the provider.

  2. VB has the worst customer service that I’ve ever experienced. They’ve held $2000 in their “vault” and not my account for more than 2 months and I’ve been trying to get this money back ever since via phone and e-mail. This is a huge amount of money for me and the way that they respond to me is unacceptable. They talk to you like you’re 4.

    • Thanks for the comment Phil. Sorry to hear you’ve had a struggle getting access to your funds. Would you be able to share the background on the story (i.e. how did the money end up getting held) to help others from potentially avoiding the situation? Hope this works itself out in your favour soon!

  3. Going a bit against the tide here, but I’ve had a great experience with VB so far. Best fee structure for beginner investors, bar none. The UI for their WebTrader platform isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough. I think VB should be applauded for their mix of reasonable cost and user-friendliness. Thank you for your analysis.

    • Thanks for sharing Joshua – it’s great to get a variety of perspectives. Glad it’s worked out for you!

  4. I am having VB web trader for the last 6 months. The book values displayed are all wrong. It’s taking them years to understand the issue. They haven’t fixed. I have halted my trading as, I cannot trust the numbers on their screen. 7 emails and countless calls have made and it is still unresolved.
    Cheap but very bad experience for me.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s tough to trade when you don’t know if the numbers you’re reading are, in fact correct. It’s a good example and lesson, to have some kind of reliable backup of your portfolio transactions. Many folks still use excel/spreadsheets however you may even want to use one of the free services such as Google finance to keep track of your portfolio. Hope things get resolved for you quickly!

  5. I opened an account but haven’t yet funded. Given VB’s commissions schedule how do they make a living? Anybody has any idea of their solvency?
    Thanks
    v

    • Thanks for your question Vinh. Online/discount brokerages basically earn revenue through several sources. One of the primary revenue sources is definitely trading commissions, which although they may be quite low, can still sustain a business if that business is run efficiently (more on this in a moment). The other two sources, generally, are revenues from margin lending and fees. Some brokerages also earn revenue from order routing in which certain exchanges will compensate for order flow. One of the interesting companies in the US that is starting up, named Robinhood, is attempting to charge no commissions at all and instead is hoping to earn revenue via margin lending. If transaction volume is high enough, then a broker may be able to operate at low commission rates. Interactive Brokers in the US also provides a good example of a viable business at low commission rates. Recent data shows an average commission revenue of $2.31 per order and average order size of 1576 shares. With regards to their solvency, that is a trickier question since, unlike the US or major bank-owned brokerages here in Canada, there isn’t public access to financial information. What is public information, however, is their coverage under CIPF which means that investors do have some degree of coverage in the case where the brokerage is insolvent and is unable to return assets back to a client. Hope that helps.

  6. I am new to VB webtrader v3.8
    I have opened and option position by buying a CALL option.
    How do I close this position in future as there are only two options “BUY” and “SELL” in VB webtrader v3.8 platform?
    I was hoping to see something like “SELL to CLOSE”.

    Now if I use “SELL” option for the same CALL option in future how do I confirm that my position is closed?

    Thanks,
    Nav