How do you invest with a Questrade TFSA?
It’s actually very easy and this monstrosity of a post will hopefully explain the how and why, and the step-by-step on how to set up a lean mean TFSA investing
machine portfolio. I promise I will explain how to set up a TFSA investing portfolio, but first, let’s delve into what exactly is a TFSA is and look at the background behind it. There will be a TFSA with Questrade offer code at the end where you can get $50 in free trades too!
Updated March 2023
A TFSA stands for Tax Free Savings Account. It is ‘basket’ where you can put anything you want in it, including high interest savings, stocks, bonds, mutual funds etc.
The TFSA is a misnomer because it really shouldn’t be called a “savings” account because not many people have a $88,000 savings account (Right? Who Has $88,000 in a savings account earning 1.2% interest without first thinking about investing the money?).
Where did the $88,000 number come from? This is the contribution amount in 2023 if you have never contributed and are the minimum age of 19 in 2009 when it was first introduced.
The TFSA was introduced in 2009 and the government started off with $5000, then $5500, then $10,000 annual contribution room limit. Then it got confusing because now it’s back down to $5500. Each January 1, you get a new start to contribute $6500. Everyone gets the same contribution room, it doesn’t matter what your income is unlike with the RRSP.
As mentioned, you have to be over 19 to contribute to a TFSA and anything inside the TFSA grows without taxes and hence anything that you withdraw from it is tax-free. You use your after-tax income to contribute to your TFSA. In comparison, for an RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan), you use your before-tax income but when you withdraw from it you pay taxes depending on your marginal rate at the time.
I invest in both the RRSP and the TFSA. Personally, I use my TFSA as a retirement account or financial freedom or Financial Independence Retire Early account. It has had many purposes for me and was not a retirement account to begin with. I withdrew from it initially to fund my house purchase back in 2011.
Then I funded it back again and now am treating it as long-term financial goal account because it didn’t feel very good raiding it for a home purchase. I have the luxury of maxing out both my TFSA and RRSPs easily because I don’t have that much contribution room in my RRSP because of my defined benefit pension.
Which one is better? The TFSA or the RRSP? I won’t get into the RRSP versus TFSA debate here, but if you have lower income and you don’t need the tax deductions with an RRSP, using your TFSA as a retirement account may make more sense for you. Though it really depends on your money goals in the next 5-10 years.
If you NEED your money in the short term (I say less than 5 years), I would not recommend using your TFSA as an investment account.
In that situation, it would be best to keep it in a boring high-interest savings account because if you lose money in the account and you withdraw that amount you also lose your contribution room.
If you withdraw $4000 from your TFSA in 2017 for example, you cannot contribute the $4000 back into the account until the following year, or 2018, otherwise you will get charged a penalty. Believe me, I’ve made this mistake before and it took months for them to reverse the over contribution for me after I called to inquire.
I had no idea until many months later and I got a letter, when the fee was ridiculously high (I think it was around $500, or about 1% on the overage per month charged by the Canada Revenue Agency, it was shocking.
Anyway, don’t make my mistake.
Table of Contents
How Much Can You Invest in a Questrade TFSA If You Already Have a TFSA?
As of 2023, you can invest $88,000 in the Questrade TFSA if you have never ever contributed to the TFSA before.
If you HAVE contributed to a TFSA before, in the form of a savings account, or GIC or something that doesn’t generate sufficient returns on your investment but you forgot how much you contributed, you can go to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website and sign up to see how much contribution room you have exactly.
To do this, just go to the CRA website and sign up for My Account (or log in through one of the partner institutions) and click on RRSP and TFSA. There you can find your contribution room current up until the previous year. Sometimes though the financial institution is slow to send the data to CRA so that might not be accurate.
For example, I just logged in and it says I have $6000 of contribution room as of January 1, 2022. I already contributed my $6000 for 2021, so this goes to show that even the CRA data might not be completely accurate. It is best to keep your own record and double check with My Account.
|Year||TFSA Contribution Room|
Don’t Waste Your tfsa on a Savings Account
Are you sitting down? Because I am going to climb up on my soapbox now.
Since the total amount of a TFSA now is $88,000 I would highly urge you, especially if you are young, have lots of earning potential and years ahead of you, to not waste your precious TFSA room on a savings account.
Savings account provide you with an interest income which is slowly increasing but is NOWHERE near the rate of investing. The current high-interest savings accounts rate is anywhere from 1.00-2.05% (according to highinterestsavings.ca). Although you don’t have to pay tax on this thankfully, this barely keeps up with the cost of inflation per Statista.
In fact, inflation in March 2022 increased by a whopping 6.7% compared to the previous year, according to Statistics Canada.
Having your money in a regular savings account and not investing it at all means you are losing money. A Questrade TFSA interest rate wont’ save you.
This post may contain affiliate links. See our disclaimer for more information.
The key to a huge retirement nest egg is to invest smart (and by smart, I mean simply) and by reducing your costs to invest. DIY Investing can actually be quite simple, not scary, and it doesn’t take brains but it just takes discipline.
If you grow your investments 5-7% (and this is a conservative estimate) tax-free with an investment portfolio, you will be much further ahead than 1.35-2.05%. Sure there are some great new bank account promotions out there that can give you $300 cash but it pales in comparison to the money you can make by indexing and investing.
And 5-7% is a conservative estimate.
Here’s how much your TFSA would be worth with 7% compounding and average contribution of $5807 annually over 13 years ($75,500/13), according to the Get Smarter About Money Compound Interest Calculator.
Yes, you would earn almost $50,000 tax free. Could you get that with a “TFSA Savings Account”?
Let’s input the same numbers but use an average 2% interest rate (which doesn’t keep up with inflation by the way).
You get $11,000 in interest over 13 years compared to $50,000 tax free from investing your TFSA in the stock market.
In 2020 my rate of return was 7%, 2019 it was 13%, 2018 it was -1.51%, 2017 it was 13%, and in 2016 it was 7%. YTD in 2021 my rate of return is over 25%. There will be bull markets and bear markets but in the long run, investing will get you further ahead than keeping your money sheltered in a high-interest savings account.
The beauty of the TFSA is that all the growth inside your TFSA is TAX-FREE. And when you withdraw it, you don’t have to pay taxes.
If you own Canadian dividend paying stocks or ETFs that give you a monthly distribution, that is all tax-free. Please note that if you own US stocks within your TFSA it may be subject to a 15% withholding tax.
I want to reiterate that if you have RRSP room, US dividend paying companies, and US and International equities in general will be better off in the RRSP. However, if you are like me and have maxed out the RRSP room, the TFSA is another option. In general if you can put US/International in the RRSP “box” and bonds and REITS in the TFSA “box” and Canadian dividend paying companies in the non-registered “box” this would be ideal.
My portfolio is a bit of a mish-mash with a lot of Canadian dividend paying companies within my TFSA, bonds in my TFSA, and US and International tracking ETFs in my TFSA as well!
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Now, here’s a step by step on how to open up and invest in a Questrade TFSA. It is similar for a Questrade RRSP, too.
How to invest your TFSA with Questrade
Now that I have piqued your interest in investing your TFSA instead of parking your money with high-interest savings, here’s how to invest your TFSA with Questrade.
I have been using Questrade for over 12 years (yeah, that’s a long time, and they have been on the scene for the past 20+ years) and have used different brokerage platforms including BMO Investorline and TD Waterhouse. Questrade is Canada’s fastest growing online broker and has the lowest commissions in Canada.
If you’re interested in looking at other online brokerages and the commissions they charge (and also any other promotions from other financial institutions available for signing up for a DIY brokerage account), you can see them here.
It has come a long way from the early days and although there have been a few platform updates and changes (and each time it updates I get frustrated because I grew accustomed to the previous version), once I use the new platform a few times I get the hang of it very easily. It is intuitive to use and you can’t beat the cheap prices to trade (and of course the free commissions on Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) offer).
Here’s a detailed look at how to invest your TFSA with Questrade, and a look at some of the pros and cons of Questrade as a discount brokerage platform.
The Pros and Cons of Questrade:
- Very economical commissions– $4.95 per trade, you really can’t beat that! Max is $9.95 per trade (if you are buying high volume)
- It’s Free to Buy ETFs– This helps reduce the investing fees substantially and makes it comparable to investing in TD index e-series. This is one of the major reasons why Questrade is so great. I like to dollar cost average my ETF investing (mainly the VXC ex Canada ETF) so this is a great option for me. It makes it cheaper to use Questrade than investing with the TD e-series funds.
- Messenger/Phone/Email Options- You can chat with the customer service representatives online if you don’t want to wait by the phone. I find it’s much quicker than speaking to someone on the phone, especially if you have a quick question. I used to wait 30 minutes on the phone to talk to Questrade and it drove me crazy. Now it is much better with the chat option.
- 100% Online- You don’t have to see a financial adviser or anyone in person (this might be a con, depending on your personality!) which is great for me since as an introvert, I hate small talk.
- Easy to Fund the Account- It’s easy to transfer between accounts and easy to fund the account. I just set it up as a bill payment from my main banking to fund the account. When I want to transfer money from my non-registered to my registered (e.g. TFSA or RRSP), it takes only a few clicks and a few business days to transfer the money over.
- Can hold USD in RRSP Account- This is a great option to avoid the foreign currency exchange and you can fund your RRSP account directly with USD. You can also convert your CAD to USD via Norbert Gambit on Questrade too (very cheap way to exchange money)
- No Annual Questrade Fees- A lot of other brokerages charge an annual fee to have a registered account with them- I’ve seen anywhere from $50 to $100 a year. Questrade doesn’t charge you for registered accounts like RRSP or TFSA.
- Questrade has a free Learning Centre– where you can download free PDF ebooks on things like Options Trading for Beginners
- Easy Interface– As you can see below, I like checking my dividends, trades, and deposits and I can click on these clearly to have a glance at what happened last month, for example.
- They Update their Platform Frequently- The platform looks different every few years, but it does seem like it’s for the better each time it happens.
- They have downtime- They have frequent downtime (of course not during trading hours) to update their system, but this only happens in the evening. This can be annoying when you sit down excitedly to do your net worth update at night and then you can’t because you can’t access your account information. Questrade down and not being able to access your Questrade login is frustrating especially when you’re trying to check your portfolio tracker.
- Not 24/7 Service: Unlike with the bigger non-discount brokerage (e.g. big banks) there isn’t 24/7 service, so you have to wait until banking hours run on Eastern Standard Time (EST) to get customer service from Questrade.
- The Questrade Drip is synthetic Drip, meaning you don’t get a 2% discount and you can only buy whole shares.
If you think the pros outweigh the cons and you are very attracted to the NO COMMISSION ETF purchase (like I am) and the low commission fees (under $5 each trade), and you want to sign up for this Questrade Offer Code you will get $50 in free trades, click on the picture below to sign up for a Questrade account. The ETFs are free to purchase and in addition, you get $50 in free trades (at $4.95 a trade, that’s 10 quality dividend paying companies to purchase for free).
For more information about Questrade and what other people think about it, this Questrade review by Million Dollar Journey is helpful. The review has a balanced view of the pros and cons of Questrade.
In summary, I’ve been very happy with my TFSA with Questrade. Free ETF purchases, there’s no down side in my opinion.
It’s easy! Signing up only takes 10 minutes.
Step By Step Guide on How To Sign Up for a TFSA With Questrade in 10 Minutes:
- Click on Open an Account
- Input your information (name, email, phone number)
- Follow the prompts and input more information, and click on a Packaged Account
- Click on the one that says Individual Margin, TFSA, and RRSP (if you want all three, this is ideal if you are new to investing, but be careful if you have TFSA and RRSP accounts already, you don’t want to be over contributing)
- Choose Canadian Dollar for currency settlement for all the accounts
- Choose NONE for Option Levels (this is hardcore investing stuff)
- In the offer code, it should auto-populate because you would have clicked the banner/ link above so that you can confirm you will get $50 in trade commissions (click “check offer”).
- Confirm your marital status
- Fill in your contact details, employment details
- Click “No” to being an employee affiliated with a securities broker-dealer or an insider for a public traded company
- Fill in your financial information (roughly is fine), fill in your banking information (this will help you do a ‘bill payment’ when you are funding your Questrade account.
- Review the Client Agreements and sign with esignatures
- Scan and upload your photo ID (or you can mail a photocopy)
- Finally, fund your account! Send a bill payment/ do an electronic fund transfer (send a void cheque). You will need to fund it with a minimum of $1000 to get the commission rebate of $50.
- Now you’re ready to invest!
Note 1: if you are buying ETFs in your new portfolio, it is commission free to purchase, but if/when you SELL, you will need to pay a commission, in which case, getting the $50 commission rebate is a great idea! Otherwise, you can also use the commission rebate to save on investment costs, e.g. if you were buying individual equities, such as dividend-paying companies.
Note 2: Although there are no fees when you purchase Exchange Traded Funds in your portfolio, sometimes there are ECN fees, or Electronic Communications Network fees, which are $0.0035 per share. When I make a purchase even though it is a No Fee trade for ETF, usually I do have to pay about $0.19 of ECN fees.
Transfer TFSA to Questrade (Step-By-Step)
If you have a TFSA elsewhere from another brokerage for example (like BMO Investorline or Scotia iTrade or TD Direct Investing), the transfer of your TFSA to Questrade is actually pretty straight forward.
The whole process to initiate a transfer request took probably about 15 minutes, but it’s the waiting (20 business days or more) that takes longer.
Here’s a step-by-step on how to transfer your TFSA to Questrade.
First, you log in to your new Questrade account.
Then you click on Funding.
Then you click on “Transfer Account to Questrade”
You have to make sure you are transferring the right accounts to Questrade (in this case, your TFSA).
You also need to know the approximate value that you are going to invest or transfer.
After that, you can choose to transfer the assets in cash or in kind.
When you transfer in cash, it means that your previous TFSA investments will be liquidated, and you will receive 100% cash in your TFSA.
If you transfer in kind, it means that your TFSA investments will be kept as they are (or tried to) and moved as is into your Questrade account.
Does Questrade Cover the Transfer Out Fee?
As of October 1, 2019, you can transfer any account to Questrade from another financial institution (and the balance doesn’t matter, there is no minimum) and you can get your transfer fees rebated by Questrade (maximum rebate $150/account). There is no limit to the number of accounts you move over to Questrade.
To get a rebate, you would need to submit a statement indicating the amount charged from the other brokerage within 60 days of the transfer request being submitted to Questrade and upload it to their secure portal and label is as “rebate” for document type.
For example, when I transferred by TD e-series RRSP to Questrade, TD charged a $75 fee.
However, if you’re transferring out a mutual fund for example, some may charge something called a DSC, or a deferred sales charge (DSC) and this is not covered by Questrade. Questrade recommends that you talk to the TFSA financial institution that you are liquidating out of first, to clarify all the fees that might occur.
Does Your TFSA Contribution Room Stay The Same?
If you submit a transfer request for a TFSA to a Questrade TFSA, everything stays the same and it’s not considered a contribution or withdrawal from your TFSA limits.
Make sure it’s TFSA to TFSA and not TFSA to RRSP, otherwise your contribution room will definitely get messed up.
What’s Next To Start Investing Your TFSA?
So you have funded your account. Well, now comes the exciting part. You can start investing in your TFSA with Questrade.
Personally, I would recommend newbie investors to stick to the index. That means no individual stock picking, or buying stocks like Dollarama or Starbucks when you have no idea how to read the financial statements or to evaluate whether the company is worthy of your hard-earned investing dollars. Even if you know how to read the financial statements, going through them and analyzing the company takes a lot of time.
It’s easy to ‘make a buy’ on an online brokerage because it is a few clicks here and there but if you don’t understand the company, the earnings, the management, the debt, it’s best not to click ‘buy’ because then you might be faced with regret and not know when to sell if the company does not do well. If you want to read about my own investing regrets, check out this post.
Ideally, you should figure out your asset allocation, purchase the ETFs for your asset allocation, and rebalance regularly. With rebalancing, I personally do my rebalancing on a quarterly basis and usually rebalance by buying more ETFs instead of selling to rebalance my portfolio. Rebalancing takes 15 minutes for me. I have instructions on the free Young Money Bootcamp eCourse on how to rebalance.
However, if you would rather not spend the 15 minutes every few months or year rebalancing your portfolio because you can’t remember or you find it too intimidating, there’s another solution that just came out recently (in 2018) and it is very very easy. This is about the same level of easiness as putting your money towards a robo-advisor like Wealthsimple, which seems to be all the rage these days (especially if you want to plunk your money somewhere and not rebalance it).
I shouldn’t be bashing Wealthsimple since I have shares of Power Corporation (TSX: POW) which owns a large portion of Wealthsimple, but because I am one to ‘stick it to the man’ and therefore I am vouching for a DIY approach.
Finally, if you have children, investing in the RESP is the next step especially since you can get a 20% match from the government through the CESG grant up to $7200 per child.
No Rebalancing? No Problem!
What’s this easy way to invest? The US has had great easy ETFs that sets your asset allocation according to the timeline to retirement and now they brought something similar to Canada. Well, thanks to John Bogle of Vanguard, if you find rebalancing too scary, you can opt for the new Vanguard ETFs that provide access to 20,000 stocks and three ‘flavours’ to choose from Conservative, Balanced, or Growth.
These are in line with your risk profile- are you conservative, balanced, or focused on growth? Again it depends on your investment timeline and future FIRE timeline.
They are so new that there’s no data for the composition of the fund yet (need to wait 45 days for this) but it looks promising. The MER (Management Expense Ratio) for VBAL is only 0.22% too! This will give robo-advisors (which can cost around 0.5-1.3% annually run for their money and sounds like quite the game changer for the Canadian Fintech field.
I don’t own any of these Vanguard ETFs and I would urge you to do your own research, but they look promising since you don’t need to rebalance regularly. This is not a sponsored post for Vanguard, I just like that they try to make DIY investing very accessible to many. I personally don’t have any of these particular Vanguard ETFs myself but they look very interesting.
Please do your own research for yourself before investing! You also have to be cognizant of the potential US withholding tax in a TFSA if you have US listed stocks. You can read this from Vanguard in regards to Canada listed ETFs and the withholding taxes.
Again, if you want to see how having a low 0.22% MER can save you money over time compared to an MER of 3%, check out my post on DIY investing- here’s an excerpt as a refresher.
HOW FEES ERODE YOUR INVESTMENT
There’s a great mutual fund fee calculator from Get Smarter about Money, an Ontario government backed initiative. You can find the mutual fund and see the MER associated with it, and compare it to other funds.
I compared the one she mentioned Fidelity Canada Growth Fund (Last year’s return was a respectable 8.16% but the MER was 2.60%) with the TD e-series US Index (last year’s return was 9.12% and the MER was 0.37%).
With the $40,000 investment over a horizon of 5 years, the Fidelity fund would cost her $7325.39 in fees whereas a TD e-series US Index cost $881.56 in fees and the end result would be $62,118 for TD e-series and $59,097 for Fidelity.
- TD e-series vs ETF: Which one is Better?
- How to Transfer TD e-series to Questrade
- Average savings by age in Canada
If that’s not your bag, there are a PLETHORA of ETFs available to choose from, and you should be able to find ones right for you to fit your asset allocation and time horizon for investing. One resource I recommend is Canadian Couch Potato. There you can find different ‘flavours’ of couch potato portfolios that will work for you and includes the cost of the portfolio.
If you would rather just have a one-ETF strategy that includes every company you could possibly want in your stock portfolio, here’s the three Vanguard ETF that provides an asset allocation without you having to rebalance.
Now that you know what ETFs you want to buy, here’s how to actually buy them and how to build a portfolio (well if you are sticking to the ONE ETF portfolio, all you have to do is buy that ETF, how easy is that!?)).
Let’s look at VGRO ETF or VGRO Stock, here is the asset allocation according to the fact sheet from Vanguard. The fund information isn’t available until 45 days post inception. Here’s a look at VGRO, quite possibly the best ETF in Canada.
If you are interested in rebalancing, however, a great way to rebalance and get reminded to rebalance (in addition to having the MATH done for you to rebalance) is to using this fintech technology called Passiv.
Passiv uses API technology to access your portfolio data and provides set asset allocations (you can set it) and gives you suggestions on what ETFs to buy (and how many) in order to maintain your target allocation.
Here’s my review of Passiv if you’re interested. I think it is very well suited for beginner investors with more than one ETF who aren’t comfortable with rebalancing themselves yet. Best of all, for Questrade users, the use of it is free for the first year and you don’t need a credit card to sign up (it is $99/year).
You can sign up here for free if you’re a Questrade user.
To buy shares or ETFs in your TFSA with Questrade:
- Click “Trade”
- Under “Order Entry” put in your Ticker Symbol (e.g. VBAL)
- Under quantity put in how many you want to buy
- This is dependent on how much you have to invest or how much you want to buy at that time
- How much each share of ETF costs
- For example, VBAL is $24.64 (as of February 25, 2018), and you have $500 you want to buy
- $500/24.64= 20 shares
- Under “Quantity” put in 20
- You can choose to do a limit order if you want to make sure you don’t spend more than $24.64 per share. Put this (or whatever amount you want) in the limit order box
- GTD (Good To Date) and put in the date (or stick it to Day if you have time to put in an order when the market is open)
- Make sure the Account says your TFSA (versus non-registered or RRSP account)
- Then press “Buy”
- Et Voila, you are done!
Now you can sit back, continue contributing to your TFSA with Questrade on a regular basis (of course being wary of the maximum contribution room per year in your TFSA), and watch it grow! If you can save up $400 a month and contribute it to your TFSA (and then invest it and buy the ETF) you are almost at $5500 of the contribution room. I personally really prefer Dollar Cost Averaging (DCA) because it allows me to not worry or be anxious about timing the market.
I buy every first week of the month to dollar cost average. If you do not opt for the new Vanguard single ETF, you should rebalance regularly to ensure your asset allocation is maintained. As mentioned, I do my asset allocation four times a year (in a slow way) but everyone has a different way to do this that works for them.
Owning income producing assets like dividend stocks is a no brainer in your TFSA.
There you have it, hopefully this helps you to be well on your way to a six figure TFSA with Questrade portfolio! If you haven’t already, click here to sign up for a TFSA with Questrade and get your $50 Questrade Offer Code.
The $50 free Questrade trading is for individual stocks or selling ETFs as buying ETFs is already free! Here are 5 of my all time favourite Canadian dividend stocks in my investment portfolio.
If you are interested in a higher amount of passive income than an ETF or index investing usually provides, check out my dividend income updates, the Ultimate List of Canadian Dividend Investing Blogs, and finally, how to use a dividend yield spreadsheet tracker (with a free download). I personally like to have the majority of my portfolio with ETF/indexing and smaller portion of it in dividend paying stocks.
The TFSA is the last account that you draw down for tax optimization and you can keep it until your death. Here are more retirement projections to help you think about taxes.
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Readers, how do you invest with your TFSA?
Have you used your TFSA with Questrade to build an investment portfolio?
If so, what do you think of your TFSA with Questrade?
My favourite free Canadian financial tool I’ve been using since 2017 to manage my net worth and track my investment return is Wealthica. Each month I check and track my dividend income to make sure my passive income keeps on coming. It’s like Personal Capital for Canada and one of the best personal finance apps in Canada.
My favourite Canadian high interest savings account that pays 2.50%* interest is EQ Bank.
My favourite free Canadian financial tool to check my credit score is Borrowell.
GYM is a 30 something millennial interested in achieving financial freedom through disciplined saving, dividend and ETF investing, and living a minimalist lifestyle. Before you go, check out my recommendations page of financial tools I use to save and invest money. Don’t forget to subscribe for blog updates, a free dividend yield spreadsheet, and the free Young Money Bootcamp eCourse.