Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Quick review: Update on the Questrade account

It's been almost five months since I opened my RRSP account at Questrade Inc. I guess it is time to provide a brief first update on my usage experience. During the five months since the account was opened, I did approximately two dozens of trades with US and Canadian stocks. What are my impressions of Questrade so far?

Positives/neutrals:
- The market orders are executed instantly;
- The limit and stop orders worked well too;
- It is easy and fast to enter and cancel orders through a trading platform;
- Trading commission fees are indeed low, as advertized;
- I did not notice any periods the trading system was not working during regular exchange hours (although I have to admit that I sign in only occasionally);
- QuestraderWeb Beta has a nicer interface and more features than a very basic Webtrader;
- After each trade, you are emailed a pdf file with confirmation of your trade;
- Customer service reps with whom I was comminicating were polite and attentive;
- Online chat is probably the fastest way to contact a customer service rep during business hours.

However, there are also a few negatives:

Negatives:
- Free monthly account statements are emailed, not mailed, starting March 2008, and you have to pay a fee for mailed hardcopy statements (I personally have no issues with that, but some people may find it inconvenient);
- Access passwords in all three online systems, to which you have to sign in, are not case-sensitive, which greatly reduces strength of your passwords and a level of protection for your accounts against possible identity theft;
- I was reluctant to use Questrade Web Beta because there was no indication that some of pages were encripted (the idication goes on and off as you are using the platform);
- The interface of free trading platforms, Webtrader and Questrader WEB, is very basic, so if you are looking to trade stocks regularly, then you should get their more advanced platform for advanced and frequent traders (for which you have to pay extra unless you are trading extensively every single day);
- It takes them at least three or four business days to process funds sent through an electronic transfer, which (at least) in theory should work instantaneously (regular mail is delivered faster nowadays);
- I do not think their option of notifying about upcoming account deposits (which was claimed to result in a prompt deposit of funds) actually sped up electronic transfers;
- I did not withdraw any funds yet so I do not know how much time it takes Questrade to process such transactions (based on the timing for incoming transfers, I think that you should not expect a 1-3 day service in outbound transfers of your funds).
- The foreign-exchange premium that they charge on FX conversion in USD trades is big and I honestly do not quite know how the proper applicable exchange rate is determined;
- I did not use their new feature which allows keeping US dollars on an RRSP account for US stock trades. From what I understand, this option would work well for traders who perform large and frequent USD trades, but may not work well for small customers who do only occasional and small trades;
- Although technically you can send your messages to Questrade's customer service by filling out an online form, my impression was that they never respond to such messages (I did not get a single response from them this way);
- Finally, the thing that I did not particularly like is that they do not hold their marketing promise to pay the referral credit for newly signed-up customers.

A little bit about the last thing: Questrade claims that you can get a $50 referral credit if you are "referred" by an existing Questrade customer or "a Questrade affiliate." The credit is actually a reimbursement that you can get after three months since the date on which your new account is first funded by you. It is applied against any trading commission fees that you incur during these first three months. On the other hand, if you refer a new customer who opens an account with Questrade, then you can also earn a credit or a fee from Questrade. Well, I was referred and I still have not received my little $50 credit although almost five months passed since I had funded my account. I contacted the company's customer service several times without any luck. No responses to messages and only empty chat-based promisses to contact the back office department, which apparently does not respond to requests.

So, unless I get the promised $50 credit any time soon, I will firmly believe that Questrade's referral program is a scam scheme which does not work in practice. I think it is not a matter of money, it is just an issue of fairness and good reputation for the company. I believe that if a company offers something to a customer, then the promise should be fulfilled without any reminders and requests from this customer and any unjustified delays from this company. Looks like Questrade conveniently forgets about its promotion obligations. The funny thing is that the company does not forget to collect fees from customers. Such little things here and there may result in customers eventually graduating to other brokers.

Update: The $50 referral credit was deposited to the account several weeks after this post; so I admit that this component of the referral program works, although with a substantial delay. I am not sure if my several inquiries about the credit were the factor here.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

to #176 Sinoed and others

During my research for choosing the appropriate web-broker, I talked twice with Christopher at questrade within the last 2 days. To date all my questions regarding fees for all possible levels and scenarios have been answered satisfactorily; provided they reflect the facts.

Using the demo beta version for webtrader, i encountered MANY problems from incorrect (double) "charges" over, failure to enter orders, rejecting attempts to sell, program freezes, incorrect account history, no date & time stamp on account statements, disfunctional "printing" ability on account history, etc. et. etc.

After 12 failed attempts to contact questrader help by phone , I reached Christopher (shift-worker) who explained :

'......our DEMO platform has flaws and is intended to provide a quick feel only for the program. Therefore, not all functions work properly as we do not spend time on the demo package'.

In reply to my concern voiced that the demo package reflects the functioning of the real package, he stated that 'the 'real thing' works absolutely flawless without any glitches'.

Asking him how they handle customer satisfaction in case of a glitch in their software, he said, "there are no glitches". Also, 'once a client is signed up, there is a array of help service respresentatives standing by for phone, internet, live chat communication with no waiting time ever'.

Reading the 256 client submissions above - there seems to be an obvious contradiction to the verbal information i received today. -

Are there any SATISFIED customers who trade regularly or daily on questrade for one year or more who are able to speak up regarding these or other concerns???

BEIT said...

The regular trading platform (basic WebTrader) seems to be working just fine. I did not have any specific issues over the last six months while I am using the account. But then again, I am not trading extensively and only use a basic version without streaming quotes, so I can't comment on some of the platform's features.

Overall, I can't say that I am a dissatisfied customer. Given their very low trading fees, low account requirements, and very fast execution times, I think that Questrade is still the best choice for a small investor/trader. That's true that contacting the customer service over the phone can be tricky during busy hours, but their chat service response times seem to be pretty reasonable. I can live with that.

I think you are quite safe if you open an account with them. You can always start with a small balance and can close the account later if you do not like something.

Zack C. said...

TRADERS BEWARE OF QUESTRADE’S SHADY ACCOUNTING PRACTICES

I have had the single worst experience of my entire life with Questrade over the last few days, as I write this MY ACCOUNT IS MISSING $923.45 or 35% of my entire account balance & life savings after 3 CONSECUTIVE DAYS OF ACCOUNT IMBALANCES. I am actively spreading the word of my ordeal through any medium I can until the problem is fixed I have gotten a letter to the editor posted in the Kingston Whig-Standard and am awaiting publication of my letters to the Toronto Star, Toronto Sun and the Globe and Mail. My uncle is one of the webmasters at Craig’s List so I should have a leg up in informing as many people as possible.

I have personally traded stocks, options and funds for 7 years and ETF’s, FOREX and bonds for 5, so I consider myself informed about the online broker business. I am not a wealthy person but I enjoy investing in a ‘hands on’ fashion. I had an account with E*Trade for 6 years with no problems. A few months ago I left them for Questrade because of the cheaper commissions and their favorable consumer ratings.
Up until the morning of March 5, 2009 I had a very good experience with Questrade, I even got my account set up in only 4 business days, which was very impressive!

*Note all figures include commissions and exchange rates at the time of the transaction. Also, I have a TaxFreeSavings account, which means no margin account, no loans, no borrowing, no overdrafts. I can do transactions up to my current cash balance, any more money and it will reject the order because of insufficient funds. I can prove all claims/ figures through screen shots of history and physical account activity forms mailed to me after every day that I traded. With that in mind……

The night of March 4, 2009 at 4:05PM I bought 23 shares of FAZ (an ETF) @ $79.80 USD=$1,840.44 USD (total after trade commission) x 1.27(the exchange rate at the time)=$2337.36 CAD worth of stock in my account + $54.72 CAD in cash left in my account=$2392.08 CAD is my total account balance.

The morning of March 5, 2009 at 9:33AM I sold the same 23 shares of FAZ I carried over from the day before @ $86.86USD=$1992.81 USD (after trade commission) x 1.2785(the rate at the time)=$2547.81 CAD + $54.72 CAD (cash left in account since night before)=$2602.53 CAD total cash in account now. But there was actually $2232.04 CAD showing in my account balance when I checked it after the trade like I always do. That means my account was $370.49 CAD… just like that.

I’m not going to go in to greater detail but the same thing happened the next two days as well taking $165.04 CAD on the morning of March 6,2009 and then again for $396.96 on the morning of March 9, 2009. I suspended my account at that point and stopped trading. They had taken $923.45 CAD by the end of it, or 35% of my life savings (I am still young and busy paying off student loans). I would’ve suspended it after the first day but they assured me it would be fixed and after the second day I was waiting for this manager to call me back, which he failed to do.

Now you would think that in the face of this irrefutable evidence, and the fact that they admit a computer glitch took money through faulty a exchange of currency from a bunch of other people’s Tax Free Savings Accounts over these same days, that they would admit the error. Boy was I wrong, the real fight had just begun as I spent 2 hours and 06 mins. that day (have long distance phone bill to prove it) on the phone to 3 different people at customer service, trading desk, etc. They just tried to explain it away going down a checklist of things; didn’t add in trade commissions (even though the totals I used from webtrader history have them added in), exchange rate (which I took from the forex website), my miscalculations, etc. Each person would say they would “send a report to the back office and someone would follow up with me in the next few days. Guess what, not one of them did, I called again on Friday March 6, 2009 and asked to speak with a manger that didn’t call me back for 4 business days and when he did he brushed me off, even though they admitted “some money was taken from my account and put back”, $181.82 CAD on March 5, 2009. He refused to understand that I sold stock for this price and then my account balance said I had much less then what I sold the stock for, even though this is very simple concept. Robert Chandler is the name of the “manager” I spoke with. He at one point 30 mins. into the conversation said hold on for 5 mins. and pretended to have an audit done on my account, even though another manager told me audits take at least 3-5 business days. Apparently Rob is a superhuman adding computer… either that or a bald faced liar. I called him on the amazingly quick audit he was able to do and he hung up (I have a witness who was also listening to the call), after 45 mins. of denials. I spoke with him a few days later and said he couldn’t bully me into submission, that I wanted a real audit of my account. He told me a real audit is $75 an hour charged to my account. I asked if Questrade was found to be at fault, would the audit be free? He said no the audit would be around $500.00 in total and would not be refunded even if they found that Questrade took money from my account.

I then attempted to go higher then Rob by using a good comment blog post and contacting Emil Vojkollari and Nicholas Roussos, both in middle management, who seem to help people on the blog I saw solve problems with Questrade, and guess what? I have left 2 messages for Emil seeking assistance in the matter and 4 for Nicholas asking him for help as well and both HAVE YET TO RETURN ANY OF MY 6 MESSAGES. That is not client support, that is an abomination and I intend to make it my hobby for the next few months until every cent of my $923.45 CAD is returned to me with an apology of mass proportions. The ironic thing is that after my forensic auditor finishes his assessment I can take them to small claims court where if found guilty of taking money from me they would be on the hook for $1000’s to pay for my legal counsel (my dad, who charges $300/an hour) and $1000’s for their own legal counsel plus have to explain the verdict to the IIROC Canadian securities regulatory body and risk losing their retail broker license.

Sorry it took so long to read, but PLEASE, ANYONE WHO DOESN’T ALREADY HAVE AN ACCOUNT WITH QUESTRADE…DON’T, ANYONE THAT HAS AN ACCOUNT ALREADY…CLOSE IT. THIS AGGRAVATION HAS GIVEN MY WIFE AND I WEEKS OF SLEEPLESS NIGHTS AND UNTOLD STRESS. This recession has been hard enough on everyone let alone being taken for 35% of my families entire savings. Questrade are at best a terrible company with horrendous customer service and complaint response, and at worst criminal with gross misconduct on the part of ROBERT CHANDLER. You don’t hang up on someone or lie and say you are doing an “audit” that was magically finished in 10 mins. instead of the standard 3-5 days. The fact that neither Emil nor Nicholas has bothered to return my calls proves that the upper management is also not taking customer’s complaints seriously. It’s sad what this world is coming to sometimes, I hope between the huge ad on Craig’s list and the letter in the Whig-Standard, the letters hopefully in the Tor. Star, Tor. Sun and Globe & Mail: people will recognize the absolutely vile way they have handled me. I was only trying to get my family ahead using a discount broker to save fees, I didn’t deserve this, my wife didn’t deserve this and my 5 month old daughter certainly didn’t deserve this. Shame on you Questrade.

Zack C.
jackets@persona.ca