Merrill Edge vs Charles Schwab


Compare Charles Schwab versus Merrill Lynch (Bank of America Merrill Edge) - which is better for IRA/Roth accounts, brokerage fees, online stock trading, and mutual funds investing in 2021



Charles Schwab vs Merrill Edge Comparison


Charles Schwab advertises heavily and attracts a lot of customers. Merrill Edge is lesser known, but nevertheless it has many resources that traders may want to consider. Does it rival or even surpass Schwab? Here’s the answer:


Commissions


Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Commission
Mutual Fund
Commission
Options
Commission
Maintenance
Fee
Annual IRA
Fee
Charles Schwab $0 $49.95 $0.65 per contract $0 $0
Merrill Edge $0 $19.99 $0.65 per contract $0 $0
Ally Invest $0 $9.95 $0.50 per contract $0 $0

Customers who have at least $20,000 with Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, and/or Merrill Edge accounts get free stock and ETF trades at Merrill Edge.


Services


Broker Review Cost Investment Products Trading Tools Customer Service Research Overall Rating
Charles Schwab
Merrill Edge
Ally Invest


Promotions


Charles Schwab: Get commission-free online stock trades.

Merrill Edge: Get up to $600 when you open a new Merrill Edge account with at least $20,000.

Ally Invest: Up to $3,000 cash bonus + $0 commission trades.



First Category: Available Securities


Schwab offers a large selection of tradable assets. These include equities, fixed-income securities, ETF’s, mutual funds, closed-end funds, options, IPO’s, futures, penny stocks, and OTC stocks. Schwab customers can even trade on some foreign exchanges.

At Merrill Edge, there are ETF’s, stocks, mutual funds, closed-end funds, options, bonds, OTC equities, and penny stocks. The brokerage firm does require a $25,000 account balance to trade over-the-counter.

Schwab looks better to us in the opening category.


Second Category: Fund Details


Using Merrill Edge’s mutual fund screener, we found 3,150 products that were open to new investors. Of these, there were just 763 funds with neither load nor transaction fee.

Merrill’s screener has a lot of search criteria, such as average bond maturity, manager tenure, 12b-1 fees, and minimum investment. Merrill offers a list of Select® funds, which are mutual funds that are pre-screened by the broker’s investment advisors.

Schwab has OneSource Select List® mutual funds, which are funds selected based on expenses, risk, and potential performance. The broker’s clients can buy and sell a total of 5,708 mutual funds. On this list, we found 3,357 that have zero load and zero transaction fee. The broker’s screener has tons of search variables. These include socially conscious funds, distribution yield, fund strategy, and performance.

Schwab, not Merrill, has the edge here.


Third Category: Learning Materials


On the Schwab site, we found enormous amounts of educational materials. There is information on estate planning, annuities, taxation, and inheritance. For security research, stock and bond screeners are able to look for investments based on a variety of criteria. We found online workshops, live webinars, and in-person seminars. Schwab Live is a video channel that covers market news. Third-party equity reports are available from seven independent analysts, one of which is Schwab.

At Merrill Edge, we found an assortment of educational materials covering issues like retirement, college, planning for life stages, and upcoming market events. There is a very good options screener on the Merrill site that is able to search by Greek values, volatility, stock ratings, and more. A multi-leg strategy builder offers easy-to-use profit/loss diagrams. Stock reports come from two analysts: CFRA and Morningstar.

The victory here goes to Schwab.


Fourth Category: Mobile Apps


Schwab clients can use one of two apps. Combined, they offer bill pay, live streaming of CNBC, podcasts, market updates in audio format, mobile check deposit, options and mutual fund trading, and decent charting. The latter comes with multiple tools, including events, indicators, and comparisons. The platform’s order ticket comes with multiple duration options and order types.


Schwab vs Merrill Edge


Merrill’s app also offers options and mutual fund trading. As with Schwab, we found mobile check deposit and bill pay. Unfortunately, there is no streaming video news on Merrill’s app; but there is a free FICO score, something Schwab doesn’t offer.


Merrill Edge vs Schwab


Charting on the Merrill app offers more display choices (candlestick, OHLC bars, mountain, and line); we also liked the descriptions the app has for each technical indicator.

Pretty even here.


Fifth Category: Websites


Moving from mobile devices to desktops and laptops, we find even better tools. Schwab’s website has a well-located trade bar at the bottom of the window. During our trial of the tool, we were able to get volume, the day’s high and low numbers, percent change, and last trade price. We were disappointed in the bar’s inability to send orders to the exchanges. User-friendly web pages can do it, however.


Schwab or Merrill Edge


Merrill customers don’t get a trade bar. As with Schwab, trades must be placed on web pages. The trade ticket is user-friendly and provides more order types but fewer duration choices. Both brokers offer extended-hours trading.


Merrill Edge or Schwab


Schwab is the only brokerage firm in this contest to have a browser platform. Named StreetSmart Central, it provides futures trading with an advanced order ticket and very good charting.

The victory here is awarded to Schwab.


Sixth Category: Other Services


Both brokerage houses offer a free DRIP service to convert cash dividends into additional shares of stocks and ETF’s. Both companies also offer large selections of Individual Retirement Accounts. Merrill Edge has a $49.95 termination fee for IRA’s, while Schwab customers pay nothing to close a retirement account.

Individual 401(k) plans are also available at both brokerage houses. Merrill Edge charges $100 to establish one. There are also monthly fees for both the account and participants. Schwab charges nothing for its solo 401(k).

Auto deposits can be established for mutual funds at either brokerage firm. There is no charge for either broker’s service.

We’ll take Schwab here.


Our Recommendations


Long-Term Investors and Retirement Savers: We pick Schwab. It has more target-date mutual funds than Merrill Edge. Plus, Schwab’s guidance has a significant emphasis on retirement planning.

Beginners: Schwab again. The company has more branch locations than Merrill Edge has. Plus, Schwab has a human chat service on its website, which Merrill lacks. We also like Schwab’s educational resources better.

Mutual Fund Traders: For reasons already mentioned, we have to go with Schwab.

Stock and ETF Trading: With the same commission schedules on equities, this one comes down to technology. Both broker-dealers offer desktop platforms with some powerful trading tools like advanced charting and Level II quotes. Merrill requires $50,000 in assets (across Bank of America and Merrill accounts) or 15 trades per quarter to use its software. Schwab, on the other hand, requires nothing. Our pick is Schwab.


Promotions


Charles Schwab: Get commission-free online stock trades.

Merrill Edge: Get up to $600 when you open a new Merrill Edge account with at least $20,000.



Merrill Edge vs Charles Schwab: Summary


Despite Merrill Edge’s affiliation with big names like Merrill Lynch and Bank of America, it is no competition for Schwab. Notwithstanding this inevitable conclusion, we do think Merrill Edge would be a good broker for option traders who are also Bank of America customers with at least $20,000 in assets. Anyone looking for $0 commission trades not just on stocks but also on mutual funds and options should also take a look at Firstrade.


Merrill Edge Website

Merrill Edge