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

Merrill Edge versus Vanguard Matchup

Investors can find good investment services at both Vanguard and Merrill Edge (Bank of America), but there are important differences between the two firms. Let's try to determine which is better - Merrill Edge or Vanguard?

Comparison Table

Merrill Edge Review Vanguard Brokerage Review
Rating 3.5-star brokerage firm rating Vanguard brokerage company rating
Stocks $0 $0
Options (per contract) $0.65 $1.00
Mutual Funds $19.95 $20.00
Initial Funding Requirement $0 $0
Inactivity Fee $0 $0
IRA Annual Fee $20 $0
Full Account Transfer $49.95 $0
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 Up to $600 when you open a Merrill Edge account with at least $20K.

Trading Fees and Account Minimums

Trading stocks and ETFs at Merrill Edge and Vanguard costs $0.

Options at Merrill Edge are $0.65 per contract. Vanguard traders pay $1 per contract.

Using a human broker at Merrill Edge to place a trade incurs a $29.95 charge. Vanguard's commission is $25.

Neither firm has any maintenance or inactivity fees (at Vanguard, clients with under $50,000 in Vanguard assets must sign up for electronic delivery of statements to qualify for the no-fee account). Furthermore, both brokers have no minimum opening deposit requirement.

Vanguard wins this category due to lower equities fees.

Mutual Funds and ETFs

Merrill Edge clients can trade over 4,000 mutual funds. Of these, more than 800 come with no load and no transaction fee. Transaction fee mutual funds are $19.95 to buy, sell, and exchange. NTF funds have a $39.95 short-term trade charge if held less than 90 days.

Vanguard has over 16,000 mutual funds, some of which come with no transaction fee and no load. Transaction-fee funds are $20 in a standard account. The fee is applicable to purchases, sales, and exchanges.

Vanguard easily wins this category.

Research and Education

Merrill Edge has a good selection of educational tools. Traders can find helpful information on retirement planning or take lessons on a variety of investment topics. Numerous videos cover topics such as volatility and global investing. Equity reports are available from Merrill Lynch, S&P Capital IQ, and Morningstar free of charge.

At the Vanguard site, investors will find useful information on retirement, education, and other topics. The broker offers many informational pamphlets in pdf format. The firm has easy-to-use screeners. Stock reports are available from Argus and MarketGrader at no cost.

Merrill Edge wins this category due to the large library of educational videos on its site.

Vanguard vs Merrill Edge

Customer Service

Merrill Edge technical and investment representatives can be reached by phone 24 hours a day. The firm can also be contacted by e-mail and snail mail. Merrill Edge has a phone number for investors traveling internationally. On-line chat is available for investors trying to open an account.

Vanguard has phone service available during the weekday. The broker also gives its clients a phone number when they travel outside the United States. Unfortunately, the firm does not offer any on-line chat service.

Merrill Edge wins this category due to its 24/7 customer service.

Trading Tools

Merrill Edge has a well-designed website. Compared to Vanguard's site, it's easier to navigate. Drop-down menus on the Merrill Edge site provide a variety of information in an easy-to-find format. Investors can place trades within the browser. The site has a useful trade ticket named TradeBar, which provides quick information and easy order entry.

MarketPro is a trading platform from Merrill Edge available to active traders. Clients must have at least 15 trades every three months, or $50,000 in cash balances with Merrill Edge and Bank of America.

At Vanguard, trading occurs within the browser. Easy-to-use trade pages lead customers step-by-step to order execution. Disappointingly, there isn't an advanced platform here.

Vanguard loses this category.

Mobile Platforms

Mobile apps for Android, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch are available at Merrill Edge. The interface is easy to learn. Traders can pay bills, place trades, transfer funds, and make a mobile check deposit. News articles are available on the app, but there is no streaming television news.

Vanguard has apps for Kindle Fire, Android, iPad, and iPhone. The interface is simple and easy to use. Traders can contact customer service, place trades, or deposit a check. Account documents can be accessed on the app in pdf format. Furthermore, any page in the app can be sent to a printer.

Too close to call in this category.

Merrill Edge vs Vanguard

Banking Features

Checks and a Visa debit card are available with a Merrill Edge securities account. The card and checks are free of charge. Bank of America ATM's provide free withdrawals. Customers receive up to $200 in credit for non-Bank of America ATM's annually. Traders can also link a Bank of America checking account to a Merrill Edge account.

Vanguard has a hybrid investing-cash management account for its clients. However, there is a very steep $500,000 account minimum to apply. Checks and the debit card also come with fees.

Merrill Edge wins this category.

Merrill Edge vs Vanguard: Which is Better?

Merrill Edge won four categories, there was one tie, and Vanguard was successful in two categories. Merrill Edge wins. Nevertheless, Vanguard remains an excellent choice for fund investors. Active investors and traders as well as those new to investing should take a look at our Top 10 Stock Brokers.

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