This page goes through the process of opening your first account. The first account will take you the longest to open (20-40 minutes). The process to open subsequent accounts is faster (about 15 minutes) because much of the forms will auto-populate and you will have already done the ID confirmation.
You open your accounts using Qtrade’s online process on their site. However, having this guide open in another tab can help you for reference with clarifying points or nuances to be aware of.
You don’t have to get it all done in one sitting. Once you have your login for your dashboard created, you can pick up on any application where you left off. If you get stuck, realize you forget something, run out of time, get called into work or out for a drink. Whatever – don’t stress. You can also easily open other accounts later using your dashboard. It is not all or nothing.
In The Wrong Spot?
Internal Navigation For Opening Personal Investing Accounts
Step 1: Gather what you will need:
- The email address & password used to create your login (create login, if not done already)
- Your social insurance number
- A cell phone with camera
- Government issue photo ID (like a driver’s license)
- Void cheque or a direct deposit form saved as a pdf from your online banking (if you plan to link a bank account)
- Your last account statement if you are transferring money or investments from another brokerage
Step 2: Choose account type and currency to open
When you log in for the first time after choosing to set up an account, it sends you to the account set-up page. You select whether opening an individual account (like a FHSA, TFSA, RRSP, RESP or personal cash account) or a joint account (like an RESP or a joint cash account with both spouses).
You can open one account now and then open others later, or you can select several and work through them in sequence. Don’t worry, after the set-up process, you can come back and open additional accounts from your dashboard if you want to.
The Qtrade site has a nice navigation system (in screenshot below). There are also instructions. However, I provide some clarifying points for spots where I commonly see people freeze up.
In the above screenshot, I selected an individual account and pushed continue which opens the account options. You can then choose to “Yes, I’ll choose the accounts I want” or “No, help me choose an account based on my goals.” The option to choose your account is faster (you can read the preceding step on deciding account types). In the screenshot below, I chose an RRSP. There are also spousal RRSPs, RRIFs, LIRAs and other options not shown in the screenshot.
Should I open a $USD account?
I also selected and to open both a Canadian dollar and US dollar account. I opened both because I hold both Canadian and US-listed ETFs. That is more complicated than an all-in-one ETF (like XGRO/VGRO etc). However, it can reduce fees (by <0.10%/yr) & be more tax efficient in an RRSP (<0.5%/yr). There is no tax advantage in TFSA. We also have a USD personal account linked to a USD bank account because we like to spend $USD frequently and use Norbert’s Gambit for cheap currency conversion.
There is a $15/quarter fee for USD RRSP/TFSAs (waived for Investor Plus). So, don’t open the USD RRSP or TFSA one unless you plan to use it or will have >$500K between all of the accounts at your address (family plus corp, if your corp address is also your home address). You can always do that later, if you decide to.
A personal or corporate “cash” or “margin” USD account has no extra fee.
Opening a Spousal RRSP
A spousal RRSP is contributed to by the higher income spouse and owned by the lower income spouse. That way, the income deduction is against the higher income and it gives a better opportunity to income split if you retire before age 65. For Qtrade, you would open the spousal RRSP using the lower income spouse’s portal in their name. You would select RRSP as the account type and it will then to give you the option to select spousal.
Step 3: Fill out your profile
This section is largely self-explanatory. You enter your contact info, SIN, etc. They also need to collect some information regarding your occupation, income, and approximate net worth. This is a legal requirement for opening any investment account anywhere in Canada. It is basically their “know your client” information in case there are flags about your ability to invest. Don’t obsess about being super-precise – a ballpark should be ok.
For the employment information for a physician: The Industry is “Health Care and Social Assistance” and the Occupation is “Doctor” from the drop-down menus. You can put self-employed, your corporation, or your university (if academic or a trainee) as your employer.
Step 3a: Beneficiary Information for an RRSP or TFSA
This part is important and for the RRSP/TFSA is just below the employment information section when in the profile step of Qtrade’s application process.
Passing an RRSP to your spouse.
If you designate your spouse as the beneficiary of your RRSP, it can be rolled to them without triggering a tax/probate problem if you die. If you leave it to your estate, the RRSP can still be “rolled over” to your spouse. However, leaving it to your estate also makes the RRSP at risk if someone challenges your will.
There are two options if it is an RRIF. You can select spouse as beneficiary if you have an RRIF with assets that they can decide to roll over to their own RRSP/RRIF or have it paid out. The other option is “successor annuitant” for an RRIF that pays an annuity to roll the annual payments over to the spouse.
Passing an RRSP to someone other than a spouse.
Besides a spouse, the other person that you can designate as your RRSP beneficiary is a disabled child or grandchild. A dependent under age 18 can be named, but the RRSP would need to be used to purchase an annuity.
If you leave your RRSP to your estate but want the money to go to someone other than your spouse, the RRSP is considered sold, taxed as income, and probate applied. The estate has to pay those costs and the full RRSP value is owed to the person you named.
Passing a TFSA to your spouse.
For a TFSA, designating your spouse as the successor-holder allows your TFSA to transfer to your spouse tax-free and continue as a TFSA with minimal hassle. Combined with their TFSA, that means a big tax-free investment account. It also means minimal extra paperwork if you die. It is seamless.
If you designate them as beneficiary of the TFSA, then it is more complicated. Growth after death is taxed, but it can be possible to transfer some of the assets to the spouse’s TFSA. You can learn more about TFSA successor-holder vs beneficiary here if you want.
Passing a TFSA to someone other than a spouse.
Besides a spouse, the other person that you can designate as your TFSA beneficiary is a child, grandchild, former spouse, or qualified charity. Unfortunately, they don’t get the TFSA room that you built added to theirs like a successor holder would.
A dependent under age 18 can be named, but the money would need to be held In Trust by a legal guardian. A designated beneficiary allows the proceeds to bypass probate and any contesting of the will. If the TFSA is left to your estate, then it would be subject to probate and your will.
Step 4: Financial Background & Shareholder Communications
This more of the “know your client” info to make sure that you are investing suitably. Most of it is self-explanatory. However, there are a few nuances to be aware of.
If you want someone else, like your spouse or adult offspring, to be able to look at your accounts and buy/sell from them, then they need trading authority. For example, I have trading authority for my spouse and parents’ accounts. That allows their accounts to all show up on my dashboard from my login and I can buy/sell from them.
If you tick the trading authority box in the “Third Parties” Section of the Financial Background step, then you will also need to download and submit a trading authority form. You can continue your application and the account will open with an account number. You can then download the form using the button below & fill it out.
Then, take a photo or scan it. That form, plus a copy of their government issue ID (like front and back of a driver’s license) then needs to be emailed to AccountSetup@qtrade.ca. You may need to send the original form via snail-mail to the address on the form.
Trusted Contact Person
Another part people wonder about is the Trusted Contact Person. This is someone that you authorize Qtrade to contact if they notice you making unusual financial decisions/investments. It is meant as a safeguard if someone develops a cognitive impairment, mental health issue, or may be getting exploited. It is optional.
There is a scoll-box with an explanation of sharing your information with the companies or ETF providers you hold shares in. You have to read and check the box at the bottom of the scroll frame that you have.
You can object to sharing your information, but that means that if you do want shareholder materials then you will have to pay for delivery. If you share your information, they usually get mailed by the company for free. Personally, I don’t vote at shareholder meetings. Nor do I want the big booklets from reports clogging my mail-box. So, I opt to not receive materials and save some trees. This is what my selection looked like.
This should auto-populate with The Loonie Doctor info if you used the affiliate link from my site. You don’t need to worry about a representative name. If it doesn’t auto-populate and you want to support The Loonie Doctor site, then you can enter in the information below. I get a small referral fee at no cost to you.
Step 5: Review Agreement
There are three agreements to read and agree or disagree with. You have to expand each, read it in the scroll box, and click I agree on the bottom. For the third agreement (information within Qtrade), you do have the option to disagree if you want to. When all three are done, then the continue button at the bottom will light up.
Step 6: Fund Your Account & Link It To Your Bank Account
You can select ways to put money into your account now or skip and do this after your account is set up.
The main options are electronic funds transfer (EFT), transfer accounts, and bill payment. You can do none, link an account (EFT), and/or arrange to transfer funds from another brokerage at this point. The “bill payment” option is something you can after your account is opened. Even though you need to have an open account to use “bill payment”, it is the fastest way to get money into your account and start investing.
The “bill payment” method takes 1-2 days for the account to open plus 1-2 days for the money you then send to be available. There is a 10 day hold period for EFT money to become usable but setting EFT up is great for getting money back to your bank account later. Transferring funds from another brokerage can be quick – or not, depending on the sender.
This is the step where people most often get stuck. So, I made a separate page that goes through the options in detail. With screenshots. I also embedded tools to prepare you, in case the sending brokerage tries to scare you and “save the account” (I have actually heard them call it that).
Step 7: Verify Your Indentity
I have to say, this part is pretty slick when I compare it to what I have had to do to open accounts at different brokerages. Click the “Start ID Verification” button and it takes you to a page where your cell phone number is entered, and then click to send yourself a text. You get a text on your phone with a link (get ready before clicking). Get your cell phone and drivers license ready and move to an area with decent lighting to take pictures without shadows.
When you are ready, click the link from your text. It opens the Qtrade login page on your phone. Login. It then takes you straight to a page with instructions. It will ask you to take a picture of the front and back of your driver’s license and submit. You then get asked to take a selfie and submit. In real time, Qtrade compares your ID and selfie to confirm your identity. That takes a few minutes and then your computer will move you on to the “Sign Application” page.
Step 8: e-Sign Your Documents
This is pretty straight forward. You should take a look at the documents to make sure that the information is accurate. If you just click the Next tab and it will take you straight where you sign. You then click on that line and it does an e-signature for you. One thing I have noticed is that sometimes there is a delay between signing and the “continue” button lighting up. You may just need to wait a few minutes.
Step 9: Opening More Accounts
If you selected multiple account types at the beginning
you may get shunted to complete the application for next account type automatically. This goes much faster. Not only because you are more familiar with the tasks, but also because most of the personal profile auto-fills (except for your beneficiary/successor section which is different for each account). It also doesn’t make you repeat the ID verification. So, you get to skip Step 7 too.
If you did not select multiple accounts at the beginning and want to open more
No problem. Log into your Qtrade dashboard. You will notice that corporate accounts, Formal Trusts, and Informal Trusts are missing from the options. Those require a separate paper-based process that I will make separate pages for.
What happens next? Expected timelines.
Your account will usually open within a couple of business days.
You will get an email from Qtrade saying so. You can also log in at any time and check your application status. If you have filled something out wrong, are missing a form (like for trading authorization for example), or attached a substandard photo – Qtrade will contact you via email. It is not a big deal. You can usually fix the problem and reply to the email with a scan/photo fixing the missing piece.
When you can start trading depends.
If you use electronic funds transfer (EFT) to deposit cash. With EFT, the money will appear in your new account the day after it opens. However, you can’t use it for 10 business days due to the hold period. If you try to use that money to place a trade, the trade will get declined. No penalty for that, you just need to wait and try again later when the holding period is passed. If you have ETFs/funds in the account already, you can use EFT money brought in right away as long as it is less than the account value.
The faster method to put cash in to use it the bill payment method. Once your Qtrade account is open, use the pay bill option from inside your online banking section of whatever bank you use. You would pay to Qtrade Investor and use your Qtrade account number.
If you transferred funds from another institution in cash or kind, it can take a while for the transfer to actually happen. It depends a lot on the sending brokerage and can take a couple of weeks to a month. You may also have some back and forth, if the sending firm tries to “save the account“.
While you are waiting, you can spend some time choosing your asset allocation, considering your asset location strategy, and what stocks, funds, or ETFs you want to use to invest with.