Charles Schwab vs Merrill Lynch

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 2022


Charles Schwab vs Merrill Edge Comparison


Although Charles Schwab advertises more and is better known, Merrill Edge has many of the same tools and services. Could the latter broker actually be the outperformer of the two? 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


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.



Category One: Investment Choices


Merrill Edge customers can open both self-directed and managed accounts. The latter option comes in three varieties:

(1) An online package that costs 0.45% annually with a $1,000 minimum.

(2) An online package that comes with an assigned investment advisor. This one has a $20,000 minimum and costs 0.85% per year.

(3) Full scale, old-school financial management with in-office visits with a human financial advisor.

None of the three options are robo accounts, so Merrill is definitely offering something unique here. The first two only offer trading in low-cost ETFs. The third option is negotiable.

Customers who take the self-directed route pay no annual fees and have no minimums. Available asset classes include stocks, bonds, options, mutual funds, and ETFs. The stock category includes the over-the-counter marketplace.

Schwab offers the same list of tradable assets in self-directed accounts, except it adds futures trading and foreign stocks (more than 10 exchanges around the globe are available). Schwab also has annuities and some insurance products.

Unlike Merrill Edge, Schwab has a robo-advisory service. It is free (thanks in part to a large cash position), although there is a $5,000 minimum deposit requirement. Traditional programs are also available with a variety of fees, minimums, and asset classes. The annual fee is usually less than 1.0%, and the minimum deposit ranges from $25,000 all the way to $1 million.

Winner: Schwab


Category Two: Mobile Apps


For futures trading, Schwab has the StreetSmart Mobile app. It’s not user-friendly, but it can get the job done.


Schwab vs Merrill Edge


For all other tasks, we recommend the broker’s regular app. This one has all the great features, like investor education, streaming CNBC news, podcasts, mobile check deposit, bill pay, and so much more. During our test drive of the software, we found it easy to use. Charting is in horizontal mode, and there are multiple tickets for equities, options, and mutual funds.

Merrill Edge has just one app. It has some of the same features that the Schwab app boasts, a few absences, and a few additions. For example, Merrill’s app has Zelle transfers (not found on the Schwab app), but is missing streaming video news. It has bill pay and mobile check deposit. As on the Schwab app, there are discrete tickets for options and mutual funds.


Merrill Edge vs Schwab


Winner: Schwab


Category Three: Websites


Both brokerage firms continue performing quite well with their website technologies. Schwab’s site is easy to use and has a trade bar at the bottom of the screen. Although charting and order tickets are available on the site, we recommend launching the broker’s browser platform StreetSmart Central. It boasts very advanced charting with lots of tools and discrete trade buttons at the top of a chart. During our investigation, we counted 12 display styles, including some really exotic ones like Renko and Line Break.


Schwab or Merrill Edge


On the browser platform, there is a trade ticket called the All-In-One order form. As the name suggests, it can submit orders for options, stocks, ETFs, futures contracts, and options on futures. There are some really advanced order types integrated into this ticket, including OTO (one triggers other) and contingent on volume.

The Merrill Edge site doesn’t have a browser platform or trade bar. It does, however, have basic charts with some tools, like technical studies and company events. The broker’s order ticket doesn’t quite measure up to Central’s: there are no advanced order types, although we did count 8 standard orders, including limit and trailing stop quote (%).


Merrill Edge or Schwab


Both web trading systems have alerts, watchlists, and some really advanced option tools.

Winner: Schwab


Category Four: Desktop Software


Although Merrill Edge doesn’t have a browser-based trading platform, it does have a very excellent desktop program. Called MarketPro, it really lives up to its name with some very advanced tools. During our probing, we liked the software’s advanced charting tools and free use of Recognia for technical analysis. There are also some very good option tools, including free use of OptionsPlay, a discrete derivative trading platform.


Merrill Lynch or Schwab


Schwab has StreetSmart Edge, a sophisticated platform in its own right. It has some tools that are missing on MarketPro, such as direct-access routing, a simulated trading mode, and live market news, courtesy of CNBC.


Schwab vs Merrill Lynch


Another major difference between the two programs is in usability. StreetSmart Edge was obviously designed to be user-friendly, while MarketPro has a steep learning curve to it.

Winner: Pretty even overall


Category Five: Margin Borrowing


A cash account can be converted to a margin account at either firm. And of course, it’s possible to open a margin account initially. Merrill Edge’s rates are on a short tiered schedule:

Debit Balance Margin Interest Rates
$250,000+ call 855.332.5920
$100,000 - $249,999 9.239%
$25,000 - $99,999 9.989%
under $25,000 9.989%

The first two levels are reduced by 25 basis points for accounts with a relationship group value (household assets) of $100,000 or more. Accounts with more than $250,000 in relationship group value or margin loans above $1m can get even better rates.

Schwab has a somewhat lengthier schedule:

Debit Balance Margin Rate
$0 - $24,999.99 9.825%
$25,000 - $49,999.99 9.325%
$50,000 - $99,999.99 8.375%
$100,000 - $249,999.99 8.325%
$250,000 - $499,999.99 8.075% 7.325%
$1,000,000+ call 877-752-9749

Besides lower rates, Schwab also delivers margin details on an entered ticker symbol. The tool is on the website.

Winner: Schwab


Category Six: Miscellaneous Services


Extended Hours: After-hours and pre-market trading are possible at both brokers. Schwab’s periods are longer by 26 minutes.

DRIP Service: Cash dividends from stocks and funds can be converted into additional shares at either firm. Neither one charges for the service.

Banking Tools: Checkwriting and debit cards can be connected to investment accounts at both Schwab and Merrill Edge. The latter broker offers free withdrawals at Bank of America cash machines, while Schwab offers free withdrawals at virtually every ATM in the world.

Individual Retirement Accounts: Schwab and Merrill Edge have multiple IRA types. The latter broker does have a $49.95 closeout fee. The former does not.

Fractional Shares: Merrill Edge does not yet offer fractional-share trading in stocks or ETFs. Schwab customers can trade the 500 stocks that make up the S&P index in whole dollars.

Initial Public Offerings: Only Schwab customers can participate in upcoming stock offerings. The IPO center can be accessed under the Trade tab on the Schwab website.

Periodic Mutual Fund Investing: Available at both Schwab and Merrill Edge.

Winner: Schwab


Our Recommendations


Long-Term Investors and Retirement Savers: Both firms are pretty competitive here. Merrill Edge does have a solo Roth 401(k), which Schwab doesn’t offer.

Beginners: Schwab’s robo program.

Mutual Fund Traders: Schwab clients can invest in more than 6,000 mutual funds. Merrill Edge has less than 3,000. Easy pick.

Stock and ETF Trading: With a browser platform and limited partial-share trading, we would go with Schwab.

Small Accounts: For portfolio management, it is Merrill Edge. For an IRA, it is Schwab. For taxable self-directed trading, we recommend Schwab for its fractional-share service (it has a $5 minimum per trade).


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.



Merrill Edge vs Schwab: Summary


No, Merrill Edge is not the outperformer in this contest. Schwab is more popular for a reason.

Anyone looking for the top-rated brokerage firm on the market should go with TD Ameritrade or read TD Ameritrade review.


Merrill Edge Website

Merrill Edge


About the Author
Chad Morris is a financial writer with more than 20 years experience as both an English teacher and an avid trader. When he isn’t writing expert content for Brokerage-Review.com, Chad can usually be found managing his portfolio or building a new home computer.
Updated on 4/12/2022.