TD Ameritrade 300

ETRADE vs Merrill Lynch


2018 Merrill Lynch or ETRADE: compare IRA accounts, online fees, differences, beginner help, stock broker mutual funds rates.



Overview of Merrill Lynch and Etrade


If you’re making plans to open an investment account in the near future, this article is for you. It will compare and contrast the services of Merrill Edge (Merrill Lynch's self-directed brokerage) and E*Trade, and then tell you which type of trader is better served by which brokerage firm.


Categories


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


Commissions and Fees


Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Commission
Mutual Fund
Commission
Options
Commission
Maintenance
Fee
Annual IRA
Fee
Etrade $6.95 $19.95 $6.95 + $0.75 per contract $0 $0
Merrill Edge $6.95 $19.99 $6.95 + $0.75 per contract $0 $0
Ally Invest $4.95 $9.95 $4.95 + $0.65 per contract $0 $0


Trading Software


Self-directed investors have plenty of trading tools at both brokerage houses. Starting off with Merrill Edge, we really liked the broker’s website during our testing. It is easy to navigate but manages to offer a lot of resources. It has recently been redesigned with a tile format. The old version is still available.

At the bottom of the browsing window is a trade bar aptly named TradeBar. It can be minimized or slightly expanded to show trade data. A small pop-up graph can be shown with price history up to a year. Even better, orders (for stocks and ETF’s only) can be submitted directly from the bar.


Merrill Edge Charting


The website itself is a good place to perform research and trading functions. A quote box at the top of the screen displays a drop-down quote window after entering a ticker symbol. Information includes ratings from Morningstar and other analysts, the day’s volume, dividend yield, a small chart, and more. A full-size graph can be found in a charting tab. A graph has technical indicators and comparisons but cannot be shown full screen.

If you need more than the website and trade bar, you can gain access to the company’s desktop platform with 5 trades per month or total assets (including Bank of America accounts) of $50,000 or more. The software offers a fully customizable dashboard, streaming charting, and real-time market analysis.


Etrade vs Merrill Lynch


We found E*Trade’s tools to be equally impressive. Its website is also user-friendly and perfectly acceptable for trading. A chart can be expanded full screen. One feature lacking on the E*Trade site is a trade bar. But the broker makes up for this lapse with a browser platform, which Merrill lacks.

Called OptionsHouse (from the broker that developed it), E*Trade’s browser platform offers profit & loss graphs, market news, good charting, and option chains. The broker-dealer also has a desktop platform called E*Trade Pro. To gain access to it, you must place ten trades every month, sign up for real-time data, and have $1,000 in assets. It appears that E*Trade is closing down this platform because it no longer advertises it.


Mobile Platforms


We found mobile apps for both companies. The platforms both offer mobile check deposit, funds transfer, and bill pay. We also found educational resources on both apps, which is pretty rare in the industry. Options and mutual funds can be traded, and both apps have good charting features.

Differences between the two include streaming financial news, which E*Trade offers (courtesy of Bloomberg), but Merrill Edge does not. We liked the inclusion of a free FICO score on the Merrill app, which E*Trade does not offer.


Exchange-Traded and Mutual Funds


E*Trade customers have access to over 8,400 mutual funds. There are more than 4,200 that have no transaction fee and no load. This is quite a large size among discount brokers. E*Trade also provides an All-Star Fund list, which is a select list of funds chosen by the broker’s investment analysts. The list is provided to E*Trade clients at no cost. The funds on the list are expected to outperform their peers.

We were also impressed with the ETF resources with the brokerage firm. Almost 300 funds are available commission-free, and there’s also an All-Star List for exchange-traded funds. The brokerage house just recently started offering a list of ETF’s that can be traded overnight.

We were disappointed to find a much smaller list of mutual funds at Merrill Edge—just 3,171. Funds with no load and no transaction fee amount to 756. While these are disappointing numbers, the broker does have a good fund screener and good mutual fund research tools. Lipper ratings are available, for example. Although Merrill Edge offers trading in ETF’s, there are none that carry no trading fees.

Merrill Edge offers Select funds (both mutual and exchange-traded) similar to E*Trade’s All-Star List.


Customer Service


Merrill Edge and E*Trade both offer customer support around the clock, day and night. E*Trade has had an online chat function for a long time. We have always received quick and accurate service. The Merrill Edge site recently added a chat function. In a trial of it, it took about 2 minutes during market hours for us to receive an answer to our question.

Both broker-dealers also provide an internal messaging function if you would rather send an e-mail. Merrill’s form has an attachment feature (more than 20 file types), whereas E*Trade’s form lacks this feature.

One advantage that E*Trade has over its rival here is a nationwide network of branches. We counted about 30 of them. Merrill doesn’t offer any brick-and-mortar sites, although some Bank of America locations offer investment advice for an additional fee.

If you would rather skip assistance from either broker, you can find an extensive self-help section on either website.


Recommendation


For retirement savers, we’re going to advocate Merrill Edge over its rival. E*Trade has too many IRA fees, which Merrill has thankfully eliminated.

Beginners will do well at either brokerage firm, as both of them offer 24/7 service and good-quality learning materials.

We suggest E*Trade over Merrill for mutual and exchange-traded fund investors for the reasons discussed above.

If trading technology is important to you, you’ll probably be better off at Merrill Edge. E*Trade no longer advertises its desktop platform, and we don’t know how much longer the software will be supported.

If you think you’ll trade frequently on a mobile device, then we will recommend E*Trade due to free video news.

If you plan to trade futures contracts, then we propose E*Trade because Merrill Edge fails to offer futures.


Etrade vs Merrill Lynch Summary


Merrill Lynch (read Merrill Edge Review) and E*Trade (read E*trade Review) are pretty even in most categories. If you have an E*Trade branch nearby, you may be better off passing on Merrill Edge.



Updated on 11/20/2018.