Robin Hood versus TradeStation

TradeStation vs Merrill Edge


TradeStation versus Merrill Edge - which is better in 2021? Compare online fees, trading platforms, stock broker accounts, charts, options, futures rates, and differences.



TradeStation vs. Merrill Edge Rivalry


With zero commissions, TradeStation and Merrill Edge may appear identical. But free trading just scratches the surface. These two brokerage firms are actually quite different. Here’s proof:


Pricing


Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Commission
Mutual Fund
Commission
Options
Commission
Maintenance
Fee
Annual IRA
Fee
Tradestation $0 $14.95 $0.50 per contract $0 $0
Merrill Edge $0 $19.99 $0.65 per contract $0 $0


Services


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


Promotions


TradeStation: Get $0 stock/ETF commissions.

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



Investment Vehicles


Merrill Edge provides trading in the following securities:

  • Stocks (including penny and OTC)
  • Option contracts
  • ETFs
  • Closed-end funds
  • Mutual funds
  • Fixed-income investments

TradeStation has this lineup:

  • Cryptocurrencies (Litecoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, and XRP)
  • Futures
  • Equities (including foreign, penny, and OTC stocks)
  • ETFs
  • Closed-end funds
  • Mutual funds
  • Options (including options on futures)
  • Bonds

We also found an IPO center at TradeStation, but not at Merrill Edge.

The victory in the first category goes to TradeStation.


Mobile Apps


Merrill Edge customers can accomplish many tasks on the company’s mobile app. During our investigation, we found the following tools:


Merrill Edge or Tradestation


  • Order ticket with trailing and stop orders
  • Extended-hours trading
  • Mutual fund and options trading
  • Stock profiles with analyst commentary
  • Horizontal charting with tools
  • Watchlists
  • Heat maps
  • Alerts
  • Market movers
  • And more

Option chains on the Merrill app only offer calls and puts. There are no spreads. There is also no video news on the app. But we did find mobile check deposit, bill pay, Zelle transfers, investment education resources, and a free FICO score.

Over at TradeStation, we found another powerful app. It has the following features:


TradeStation Review: Mobile


  • Option chains with calls/puts and spreads
  • Many advanced orders, including OCO and OSO
  • Direct-access routing
  • Several duration choices
  • Simulated trading
  • Hot lists
  • ACH transfer
  • Trade matrix
  • Horizontal charting with tools
  • Alerts

Missing on the app is mobile check deposit, bill pay, video news, and a free credit score.

On the whole, pretty even here.


Desktop Platforms


Desktop software is available at both brokerage firms. TradeStation does require a $2,000 account balance to get free trades. Merrill has no such requirement.

To access MarketPro at Merrill Edge, you have to log into the broker’s website and download a file every time. We find this to be less convenient than the standard system of saving a program to a computer and launching the software from the desktop. This is the setup TradeStation offers.


Merrill Lynch vs TradeStation


MarketPro does come with some really good tools, including:

  • Recognia
  • Watchlists
  • OptionsPlay
  • Advanced charting with tools
  • Multiple order types
  • Level II quotes

Besides the process of launching the software, another downside of MarketPro is the lack of direct-access routing.

TradeStation’s desktop software does offer direct-access routing. It also has the following highlights:


Merrill Edge vs Tradestation


  • Trade ticket with more order types than MarketPro
  • Professional-level charting
  • Discrete options trading platform
  • Level II data
  • Time & sales info

Additional tools can be purchased through a TradingApps menu.
Another tie.


Other Computer Software


Besides the desktop programs, both broker-dealers offer other software packages for trading and research. Merrill Edge has a website with some pretty good resources. Charting is advanced, but not on the same level as what we found on MarketPro. The website’s order ticket has the same choices as MarketPro’s.

Besides security research and trading, Merrill’s site can be used for many account management functions. We found tools for downloading statements, paying bills, analyzing portfolio return, and signing up for paperless communications.

TradeStation’s website has many trading resources as well. We found:

  • Tax Center
  • Apply for our Fully Paid Lending Program
  • Change Your Username or Password
  • Add/Remove Optional Data Services
  • Easy-to-Borrow List
  • Special Margin Requirements List

And more. Perhaps most importantly is the browser platform. Launched from the website, it offers an advanced order ticket with several order types, including trailing and stop orders. Although it doesn’t have the same number of resources as its desktop cousin, it does manage to provide a demo mode (which is not available on MarketPro) and direct-access routing.

Charting on the browser platform delivers several technical studies, multiple chart styles, extended-hours price action, and a few drawing tools. Besides calls and puts, there are many option spreads installed.

Last, but not least, is a simple platform for trading cryptocurrencies.

TradeStation easily wins here.


Day-Trading Services


Extended Hours: Both brokerage houses provide pre-market and after-hours trading.

Level II Quotes: Level II data is free at Merrill Edge, but not at TradeStation.

Margin: TradeStation’s margin rates vary from 3.5% to 9.5%. At Merrill, traders pay anywhere from 9.00% to 10.125%. Debit balances above $100,000 receive negotiated rates.

Shorting: TradeStation’s desktop software, but not Merrill’s, has a short locate widget.

Routing Fees and Rebates: Maker-taker fees are available at TradeStation, but not Merrill Edge.

We pick TradeStation in this category.


Other Services


Dividend Reinvestment Program: Merrill Edge customers can sign up for a free DRIP system. For some strange reason, TradeStation still doesn’t offer this.

Automatic Mutual Fund Investing: Same story here.

IRAs: Both broker-dealers offer Individual Retirement Accounts. TradeStation has a $35 annual IRA fee, which Merrill Edge does not have.

Merrill wins the last category.


Lastly, Our Recommendations


Beginners: TradeStation is designed for experienced traders. Merrill Edge offers a great deal of learning materials, a user-friendly website (but not desktop platform), and 24/7 customer support. Easy pick.

Long-Term Investors and Retirement Savers: Merrill Edge, but not TradeStation, offers a self-employed 401k plan in addition to its IRA lineup. We also like its selection of target-date mutual funds, and of course its financial planning services are not to be forgotten.

Mutual Fund Traders: Only Merrill Edge has a fund screener and fund profiles with analyst reports and ratings.

Stock/ETF Trading: This issue is harder to analyze. Both firms have good desktop software. But we like Merrill’s web-based screener better than TradeStation’s platform screener. And Merrill’s stock profiles provide trade recommendations.

Small Accounts: Merrill Edge.


Promotions


TradeStation: Get $0 stock/ETF commissions.

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



Merrill Edge vs Tradestation Outcome


Overall, both brokerage firms performed very well. The one area where TradeStation is head and shoulders above Merrill Edge is in cryptocurrency trading. Likewise, Merrill Edge has robo and human advisors, but TradeStation does not.