Merrill Edge versus Fidelity Investments - compare IRA, commissions, investing fees, trading tools, account differences, pros and cons. Which online broker is better?

Merrill Edge vs. Fidelity Introduction

Merrill Edge is owned by one of the largest banks in the world. Does that mean it delivers a better investment experience than Fidelity? This comparison has an answer.

Fidelity Investments Review Merrill Edge Review
Rating Fidelity Investments rating 3.5-star brokerage firm rating
Stocks, ETFs $0 $0
Options (per contract) $0.65 $0.65
Mutual Funds $49.95 $19.95
Initial Funding Requirement $0 $0
Inactivity Fee $0 $0
IRA Annual Fee $0 $0
IRA Termination Fee $50 $49.95
Outgoing Wire Fees (Domestic)$10$24.95
Full Account Transfer Out$0$49.95
Partial Account Transfer Out$0$0


Promotions

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

Fidelity: Open a Fidelity account and get $0 stock trades.

Firstrade: 2 free stocks & $0 fees on all mutual fund, stock, ETF, & option trades.



Category One: Investment Methods

Merrill Edge:

Self-directed traders at Merrill Edge get to buy and sell ETFs, closed-end funds, mutual funds, equities, options, and fixed-income securities. The brokerage firm also has a managed account service that starts at 0.45%.

Fidelity:

Fidelity, too, offers both managed and self-directed accounts. The former account type costs 35 basis points annually. The latter offers the same investment vehicles that self-directed accounts at Merrill have. Fidelity also offers foreign stocks on multiple exchanges, a great service that Merrill Edge doesn’t have.

Winner: Fidelity

Category Two: Websites

To manage both account types, Merrill Edge and Fidelity both have user-friendly websites.

Merrill Edge:

The Merrill Edge site doesn’t have a lot of stuff on it. A trade bar has been removed. The web-based trade ticket has 8 order types, 4 of which are trailing orders. There is an all-or-none feature for 200 shares or more.


Merrill Edge or Fidelity


Charts on the Merrill site have 7 plot styles. Examples include dot and HLC (high, low, close) bars. A graph cannot be displayed the full width of the monitor, which is a little disappointing. But there are 4 company events available, 1 more than normal. The extra is rating changes.

Watchlists and alerts make an appearance on the site, and a search bar in the upper-right corner make navigation much easier.

Fidelity:

The Fidelity site has the same search bar in the same location. Alerts and watchlists will also be found on the website.


Fidelity versus Merrill Edge


Where Fidelity differs from its rival is in charting. A graph can be detached to form its own browsing window. Charts can be displayed the full width of the computer screen. A graph can be saved or exported. There are only 6 plot styles, though.

The order ticket on the Fidelity site has the same order types that Merrill Edge offers. And it has the same all-or-none feature.

A really useful tool on the Fidelity site that we didn’t find on the Merrill Edge site is Full View. This is a dashboard that displays Fidelity and non-Fidelity accounts, calculates a net worth, displays recent transactions, and more. There is no charge to use the platform.

Winner: Fidelity

Category Three: Mobile Apps

Merrill Edge:

The Merrill Edge app functions on both tablets and phones. During our testing of the software on an iPhone, we found several useful tools.


Merrill Edge vs Fidelity


The software’s order ticket is the exact same order ticket on the website. The app has discrete tickets for mutual funds and options.

Charts on the Merrill app have company events, comparisons, 4 display styles, and several technical studies. A graph can be rotated horizontally.

Besides trading tools like option chains and alerts, the Merrill app offers, through its partnership with Bank of America, free FICO scores. We also found mobile check deposit and a spending & budgeting widget.

Fidelity:

Fidelity’s app doesn’t offer a free credit score, but it does have a lot of other great features. There is a search tool for new issue CDs, for example. We also found bill pay, mobile check deposit, and a chat bot.


Fidelity App


The app’s trade ticket is the same one that appears on the broker’s website. Mutual funds and options have discrete tickets that are easy to use.

Charts on the Fidelity app have a lot of the same tools we found on the Merrill app. During our trial run of the platform, we thought Fidelity’s charting program was a little easier to use than Merrill’s.

Two widgets that Fidelity has in this category that Merrill Edge doesn’t have are iMessage and an Apple Watch app. The latter can display a watchlist, market news, and a small graph.

Winner: Fidelity

Category Four: Desktop Platforms

Both brokerage firms added the word “Pro” to their desktop programs—and for good reason.

Merrill Edge:

MarketPro is Merrill’s very advanced desktop program. The high-level software has very good charting, excellent options tools, free technical analysis, alerts, watchlists, and Level II quotes.


Merrill Lynch vs Fidelity


On the downside, there is no direct-access routing on the platform. Merrill Edge also forgot to add video news, and it uses the same order ticket from the website.

Fidelity:

Fidelity’s desktop program Active Trader Pro has multiple order tickets. One is a basket order system that can send several orders at the same time. Another is a conditional order entry system that can submit complex orders like OTO (one triggers other) and OCO (one cancels other).


Fidelity or Merrill Lynch


Like MarketPro, Active Trader Pro has Level II quotes, advanced charting, some pretty good options tools, alerts, watchlists, and so on. But Fidelity remembered to add video news (courtesy of Bloomberg) and direct-access routing.

Winner: Fidelity

Category Five: Margin

Both investment firms in this comparison offer margin trading, including in limited form in retirement accounts. A cash account at either company can easily be converted to a margin account online.

Merrill Edge:

Merrill Edge’s software doesn’t display margin info for specific assets, although it does show an account’s margin basics, like buying power. The brokerage house currently charges between 8.989% and 9.989% for margin loans. Very large accounts can get reduced rates.

To add margin privileges to an existing cash account, hover over the Help & Settings tab at the top of the Merrill Edge site and then click on Forms & Applications. The next page has the online margin application.

Fidelity:

Fidelity customers pay anywhere from 5.525% to 9.825% for margin debits. None of its platforms show margin details on specific securities, although margin balances are of course available.

To convert a cash account to a margin account at Fidelity, hover over the Accounts & Trade tab and select Account Features. On the next page, click on Margin underneath Brokerage & Trading.

Winner: Fidelity

Category Six: Miscellaneous Services

Extended Hours Trading: Both Fidelity and Merrill Edge have pre-market and after-hours trading. Fidelity has slightly longer hours.

Banking Tools: Checks and a debit card can be attached to a brokerage account at Merrill Edge. Fidelity requires a discrete account for these cash management tools, although the account is a brokerage account (without margin).

Individual Retirement Accounts: Both securities firms have a multiple IRA types, although Merrill Edge charges $49.95 to close one.

DRIP Service: Available at both brokerage houses.

Initial Public Offerings: Fidelity offers an IPO subscription center on its website (News & Research -> IPOs). Merrill Edge has no such service.

Periodic Mutual Fund Investing: Recurring purchases of mutual funds can be established at either broker-dealer in this survey.

Fractional Shares: Only Fidelity has it.

Winner: Fidelity

Recommendations

Mutual Fund Trading: Fidelity has more mutual funds, so it gets our endorsement.

Long-Term Investors & Retirement Savers: Fidelity and Merrill Edge are very strong here. We lean towards Fidelity because it has annuities and zero fees on its individual 401k accounts.

Small Accounts: Merrill Edge requires a $1,000 deposit to start its automated program. Fidelity has a $0 minimum. Self-directed traders will find lower trade minimums with Fidelity’s fractional-share service. For IRAs, Fidelity has no closeout fee.

Beginners: We endorse Fidelity for its $0 minimum robo accounts.

ETF/Stock Trading: Fidelity has better stock research.


Alternatives



Fidelity vs Merrill Edge Summary

Despite Merrill Edge’s affiliation with Bank of America, Fidelity is the clear outperformer in this contest.


Updated on 4/19/2022.

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