Merrill Lynch rating

Merrill Lynch

Wellstrade rating


Merrill Lynch (Edge) vs Wells Fargo

Overview of Merrill Edge and WellsTrade

Both Merrill Edge and WellsTrade are owned by major banks - Bank of America and Wells Fargo. But the similarities between the two brokers mostly stop there. Let’s compare these two brokerage firms against each other, and see which one is the better value.


Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Mutual Fund
Annual IRA
Merrill Edge $0 $19.99 $0.65 per contract $0 $0
Wellstrade $0 $35 $5.95 + $0.75 per contract $0* $0*
Ally Invest $0 $9.95 $0.50 per contract $0 $0


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

Research & Education Tools

The Merrill Edge site has a large selection of learning materials that will be of value to both seasoned and beginning traders. These resources include free equity reports, videos, webinars, and articles. There is a wide variety of tools and calculators that can be used for education planning, personal finance, investing, and retirement savings. The broker’s website also hosts information on taxation, foreign markets, commodities, and debt management. Effective screeners are available for stocks, options, fixed-income, and funds.

WellsTrade also has screeners for the securities it offers. However, some these search tools have fewer criteria to search by, compared to Merrill Edge’s screeners. Market commentary from Wells Fargo Advisors, an affiliated security advisor and research firm, is also available on the WellsTrade site free of charge. Information on markets and indices can be accessed in easy-to-read format.

Overall, Merrill Edge has more information and calculators; so WellsTrade loses the first category.

Customer Service

Both brokers provide customer service over the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Neither firm offers on-line chat. They also both lack brick-and-mortar locations for general customer service needs. The Merrill site has more information on its self-help page, including paperless and website settings. Surprisingly, WellsTrade doesn’t offer internal messaging (Merrill does). Merrill Edge also provides a phone number for customers outside the U.S., while WellsTrade does not.

Looks like Merrill has the Edge here.

Trading Technology

Merrill Edge provides an easy-to-navigate website with a good menu system at the top of the page. Search fields make navigation even easier. Charting on the website includes comparisons and technical indicators, although a graph cannot be shown full-screen. A trade bar appears at the bottom of the Merrill site. Conveniently called TradeBar, it can place orders for stocks and ETF’s. There is also an advanced desktop platform for active traders.

WellsTrade customers have neither a desktop platform nor a trade bar. Instead, they have the broker’s website, which isn’t very much. Pages seem slow to load sometimes. Charting is available, and it includes drawing tools and technical indicators. Because there is little information on the WellsTrade site, navigating it isn’t that difficult.

Merrill Edge is the better choice here.

Mobile Trading

Both firms have mobile apps. WellsTrade’s platform can be used on devices running Android, Apple, and Windows 10 Mobile. Market news is available along with account information. There is a mobile check deposit function, along with a watchlist and alerts. There is a charting feature on the platform, but it’s fairly rudimentary. WellsTrade forgot to include video business news.

Merrill Edge traders can buy and sell securities on Apple, Android, and mobile web. Funds transfer, bill pay, and mobile check deposit are included. Charting is better on Merrill’s platform than on its competitor’s. There are business news articles on the Merrill platform, although like WellsTrade, the broker has failed to provide streaming financial news. Unlike WellsTrade, Merrill has built an app for Apple Watch.

Once again, Merrill Edge is the victor.

The Cost of Trading

Buying and selling equities at WellsTrade costs $0. Derivative contracts are $0.75 on top of a base charge of $5.95. Placing a trade with a living, breathing representative costs an additional $25. The broker’s ACAT outgoing fee is a very steep $95. WellsTrade has always had an annual fee, but it has been increased to $30, and the broker now waives it with e-delivery of account documents.

Merrill Edge charges $0 for stock and ETF trades. Options cost an extra 65¢ on top of the base. Representative-assisted trades are an extra $23. A brokerage account comes with no annual fee, and paper statements are $5 each. Merrill’s charge for moving an account is $49.95.

Neither broker requires a minimum deposit to open a securities account. There is no minimum balance requirement, and neither firm has any required activity level.

Looks like Merrill Edge has a better schedule.

Mutual Funds and ETF’s

Merrill Edge’s mutual fund screener returns just 3,909 products that are available for purchase. Only 825 of these come with no load and no transaction fee. An NTF fund sold in less than 3 months after purchase incurs a $39.95 fee. Funds that have a transaction fee cost $19.95. The broker does not offer any ETF’s commission-free.

WellsTrade customers have access to 9,716 mutual funds that are open to new investors. Of these, 2,530 carry neither load nor transaction fee. The firm imposes a $35 charge for transactions of non-NTF funds. Surprisingly, there are no short-term redemption fees that are broker-imposed. Like Merrill, WellsTrade does not offer any exchange-traded funds without commissions.

WellsTrade wins its first category.

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Managed Accounts

Account holders who don’t have the confidence or time to do their own investing can turn over their assets to trained financial specialists at either firm. Merrill Edge offers a portfolio called Guided Investing for on-line customers that costs just 45 basis points per year and requires a $5,000 deposit. It invests in low-cost ETF’s.

Both WellsTrade and Merrill Edge offer in-person services at select Wells Fargo and Bank of America locations. Merrill seems to be the more transparent of the two by publishing its rates on-line: 85 basis points for a diversified portfolio with a $20,000 deposit.

Merrill wins the last category.


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

Wells Fargo: none right now.

Merrill Lynch vs Wells Fargo Brokerage Summary

Wells Fargo brokerage was successful in one category, there was one tie, and Bank of America Merrill Edge won the other five. Merrill is the winner by a landslide. Despite the results, WellsTrade would be a good choice for mutual fund investors.