2023: Merrill Lynch vs TD Ameritrade: compare IRA, commissions, investing fees, trading tools, account differences, pros and cons. Which online broker is better?

Merrill Edge vs. TD Ameritrade Introduction

Merrill Edge is owned by one of the biggest financial institutions in the world: Bank of America. Does that mean the brokerage unit is a better pick than TD Ameritrade? Let’s have a look.

Comparison Table

TD Ameritrade Rating Merrill Edge Review
Rating 4.5-star brokerage firm rating 3.5-star brokerage firm rating
Stocks $0 $0
Mutual Funds $49.99 to buy, $0 to sell $19.99
Initial Funding Requirement $0 $0
Inactivity Fee $0 $0
IRA Annual Fee $0 $0
Full Account Transfer $0 $49.95
Partial Account Transfer $0 $0
Account Closing Fee $0 $0
Trading Experience & Technology brokerage ratings brokerage ratings
Mobile brokerage ratings brokerage ratings
Research Amenities brokerage ratings brokerage ratings
Portfolio & Analysis Reports brokerage ratings brokerage ratings
Customer Service and Education brokerage ratings brokerage ratings
Open an account $0 stock/ETF trades + transfer fee refund. Up to $600 when you open a Merrill Edge account with at least $20K.

Category #1: Customer Service

Merrill Edge has representatives on the phone all hours of the night and day. Besides this domestic service, there is also a phone number for clients who are temporarily outside the U.S. It, too, is staffed 24/7.

Online service is much more limited because the brokerage house does not have online chat or a messaging system. There is a document upload tool, though.

Many Bank of America locations have financial advisors on site, although they strictly work with investment-advisory customers. They do not provide customer support to self-directed accounts.

TD Ameritrade has branch locations across the country. However, the brokerage firm doesn’t have nearly as many locations as Bank of America. But TD Ameritrade offices can provide assistance with any account type.

The TD Ameritrade website also has chat service, and it’s available in both robo and human formats. Moreover, there is internal messaging in both directions. To top it off, the tool has an attachment feature.

Like Merrill Edge, TD Ameritrade offers phone support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The broker has phone numbers for international clients and Chinese speakers.

Winner: TD Ameritrade

Category #2: Investment Choices

Investors at Merrill Edge can choose between managed and self-directed accounts, and they can open one of each if they wish. Somewhat surprisingly, the brokerage house does not have a robo service. Instead, it offers an online program with human management that starts at 0.45%.

Self-directed accounts have access to the following investment vehicles:

- Equities, including OTC stocks
- Fixed income
- Funds (mutual, closed end, and exchange traded)

Self-directed accounts at TD Ameritrade have the same list of assets plus futures contracts and traditional currencies. But TD Ameritrade lacks investment-advisory services, a notable weakness here.

Winner: Debatable

Category #3: Stock Research

Both investment firms in this survey deliver some pretty advanced equity research tools. TD Ameritrade, for example, has a stock screener that can scan both regular and OTC markets. There are tons of other criteria, such as price ratios, technical events, and analyst rankings.

Results can be sorted by the criteria specified in the search or by a host of other factors. Although results don’t include trade buttons, a search can be saved and multiple assets can be added to a watch list simultaneously.

TD Ameritrade or Merrill Edge

Stock profiles on the Ameritrade website have a good amount of details on them. The brokerage firm uses no less than 8 analysts. Reports can be downloaded free of charge. It’s also possible to search reports by keyword. It’s even possible to create custom reports with specific information added or deleted.

The Merrill Edge site doesn’t quite have the same number of report tools. It does have reports from 3 analysts (Morningstar, CFRA, and Bank of America Securities) plus rankings from S&P Global.

Merrill Edge vs Ameritrade

The broker’s screener can look for assets specifically on the OTC marketplace. There are lots of other search parameters, like industry and market cap. Plus, there are pre-defined screens for quick searches.

Stock profiles at Merrill Edge have free technical analysis from Recognia, price metrics, earnings histories, and more.

Winner: TD Ameritrade

Category #4: Mobile Apps

The Merrill Edge app emphasizes simplicity, although there are some good trading tools. For example, the order ticket has a sell short button. It also remembers previously-used ticker symbols. The Merrill app also has a discrete order ticket for mutual funds.

Merrill Edge vs TD Ameritrade

Charts on the Merrill Edge app can be shown vertically or horizontally. The latter obviously creates a better viewing experience. There are several useful tools. These include multiple plot styles (mountain, candlestick, OHLC bars, and line), technical studies, company events, and comparisons. A graph can be saved for later use.

Besides the trading power, the Merrill app also has a lot of personal finance tools, thanks to its partnership with Bank of America. During our investigation, we found a free credit score, mobile check deposit, bill pay, and Zelle transfers.

TD Ameritrade has seen Merrill Edge’s hand and has doubled down. It has two apps. Combined, they deliver a very impressive trading experience. Highlights on these two trading platforms include:

- Direct access to market makers
- Trade tickets with advanced orders like trailing and market on close
- Futures and forex trading
- Horizontal charting with no less than 400 technical indicators
- Drawing tools, including Fibonacci Retracements
- Level 2 quotes

TD Ameritrade or Merrill Lynch

Despite these advantages over Merrill Edge, neither one of the TD apps has an order ticket for mutual funds. There is no credit score offered, either.

Winner: TD Ameritrade overall

Category #5: Website Technology

Merrill Edge continues its emphasis on simplicity with its rather simple website. Charts do come with several tools. These include:

- Comparisons to indexes and securities
- Multiple plot styles, including line, dot, bar, and candlestick
- Large number of technical studies
- Company events, including ratings changes

Merrill Edge or TD Ameritrade

But a graph cannot be blown up full screen, the one major weakness here.

Above a graph is a blue Trade button. The broker’s order ticket has 8 trade types, half of which are trailing orders (available in dollar or percent terms). There are only 2 duration choices, though (Day and GTC), another weakness.

The TD Ameritrade website has a trade ticket with more duration choices, but the widget only has 6 trade types (2 trailing orders have been removed). Nevertheless, we actually like this trade ticket better than Merrill’s because Ameritrade’s sits at the bottom of the screen permanently. It shows a small graph, and a rapid-fire mode is included.

TD Ameritrade vs Merrill Lynch

More advanced order tickets are available on web pages. These tickets include some really advanced order types like contingent orders.

Charts on the TD website can be displayed full screen, another advantage over Merrill.

Winner: TD Ameritrade

Category #6: Additional Software

TD Ameritrade has smartwatch apps for both its mobile apps. These platforms deliver basic pieces of information, like trade confirmations with fill details and small graphs with high and low numbers.

TD Ameritrade vs Merrill Edge

Merrill Edge does not have a smartwatch app but it does have a desktop platform. The software delivers some really nice tools, including advanced charting with many display styles and drawing tools. There are some really good research tools, too, including an economic calendar.

Merrill Lynch vs TD Ameritrade

But Merrill’s desktop software has a rudimentary trade ticket and no direct-access routing. TD Ameritrade fixes this situation with its desktop platform. Trade types include some really advanced order types like OCO (order cancels other).

Winner: TD Ameritrade

Category #7: Margin Borrowing

Cash accounts and margin accounts are available at both investment firms. Both firms also offer margin-enabled IRAs, which means it’s possible to day trade in them.

It’s easy to find margin details on an account at either firm by going to the Balances detail page, which is always available on the website, desktop platform, or mobile app. Details include:

- Special memorandum account
- Available to withdraw using margin
- Firm maintenance excess

Merrill Edge and TD Ameritrade also do a good job of providing margin education on their websites. We found articles, slideshows, and videos on how margin works and how to use it in a securities account.

Where these two firms really differ in this category is in margin rates. Merrill Edge starts at 8.5% and drops to 7.75%. TD Ameritrade customers, by contrast, pay anywhere from 10.25% to 8.25%.

Winner: Merrill Edge

Category #8: Miscellaneous Services

Dividend Reinvesting Plan: Cash dividends from securities can be reinvested as additional shares automatically at either broker-dealer in this competition.

Fractional Share Trading: Not available at either firm (for stocks and ETFs).

Extended Hours Trading: Both firms have pre-market and after-hours trading. Only TD Ameritrade has overnight trading in some ETFs.

Cash Management Tools: Investors at TD Ameritrade and Merrill Edge can add debit cards and checkwriting to brokerage accounts. Merrill Edge customers can also link Bank of America accounts to investment accounts. A single login is all that is required to access all accounts under a single tax ID number.

IRAs: Merrill Edge and TD Ameritrade have large selections of Individual Retirement Accounts. The biggest difference is in the closeout fee: TD Ameritrade doesn’t have one, but Merrill Edge charges $49.95.

Access to IPOs: Initial Public Offerings are available only with a TD Ameritrade account.

Automatic Purchases of Mutual Funds: Both Merrill Edge and TD Ameritrade customers can sign up for recurring investments into mutual funds.

Winner: TD Ameritrade


TD Ameritrade: $0 stock/ETF trades + transfer fee refund.

Merrill Edge: Up to $600 when you open a Merrill Edge account with at least $20K.


Mutual Fund Trading: On the Merrill Edge platform, we found 2,638 mutual funds. TD Ameritrade has 5,875 funds. We would take TD Ameritrade.

Beginners: A managed account with Merrill Edge is a good place to begin.

ETF/Stock Trading: TD Ameritrade has a slight lead for equity research and trading software, although Merrill Edge is also strong.

Long-Term Investors & Retirement Savers: Both firms have lots of retirement tools and calculators on their websites. They also have lots of account types. Only Merrill has a 529, but the broker charges fees for its solo 401k accounts. TD Ameritrade does not. Take your pick.

Small Accounts: Neither brokerage firm has any fees or minimums for self-directed traders. Merrill Edge does have a $1,000 starting requirement for its cheapest managed account.

TD Ameritrade vs Merrill Edge Judgment

Affiliation with a multi-billion dollar banking conglomerate does not necessarily translate into the better investment firm. TD Ameritrade easily triumphs in this survey.

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