Compare Merrill Edge vs M1 Finance: IRA, commissions, investing fees, trading tools, account pros and cons. Which online broker is better?

Overview of Merrill Edge and M1 Finance

Merrill Edge and M1 Finance are different brokers with very different approaches to investment management. Before you choose one, make sure you know the following details:

Broker Cost

Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Commission
Mutual Fund
Commission
Options
Commission
Maintenance
Fee
Annual IRA
Fee
M1 Finance $0 na na $0 $0
Merrill Edge $2.95 $19.99 $2.95 + $0.65 per contract $0 $0

Services

Broker Review Cost Investment Products Trading Tools Customer Service Research Overall Rating
M1 Finance
Merrill Edge

Promotions

M1 Finance: Invest for FREE - pay no broker commissions or fees.

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


Range of Tradable Assets

At Merrill Edge, traders can buy and sell ETF’s, stocks, options, closed-end funds, bonds, and mutual funds. OTC and penny stocks are on tap, too.

At M1 Finance, only stocks and ETF’s are available. Stocks include penny but not over-the-counter securities.

Merrill Edge looks like the better deal in the opening category.

Investment Management

M1 Finance offers investing in Pies, which are collections of stocks and ETF’s. Although it’s possible to create your own Pie, M1 has pre-built Pies based on various themes, such as retirement, hedge funds, and income. The company’s software program rebalances them every 3 months. There is a $100 minimum account balance. Amazingly, there is no charge for investing in Pies.

At Merrill, an online human advisory service costs 45 to 30 basis points per year with a $5,000 minimum balance. A more in-depth program with in-person sessions costs 0.85% or 0.70% and requires $20,000 to get started.

Overall, it’s too close to call here.

Website Trading

Merrill Edge offers a website with several trading features. The first is charting with technical studies, comparisons, multiple display styles, and company events. There are no drawing tools or horizontal mode.


Merrill Edge Review


The website’s trade ticket provides 2 time-in-force choices and several trade types, including trailing in both percent and dollar terms. Streaming quotes can be launched into a separate window to display real-time data on current holdings. Other highlights include alerts and a watch list.

Since M1 Finance doesn’t specialize in self-directed trading, its website doesn’t provide many trading tools. For example, there are no charting tools on the M1 site. The broker-dealer submits orders at a specific time each trading day, which means there’s no order ticket either for customers to use. Investors deposit funds into a Pie, and the broker is responsible for submitting the order. It is possible to create a watch list.


M1 vs Merrill Edge


Merrill Edge easily wins here.

Mobile Apps

Merrill Edge customers can pay bills, set up alerts, deposit a paper check, and create a watch list on the company’s mobile app. A free FICO score is also available.


Merrill Edge App Review


As for actual trading, there is an order ticket that can place trades for option contracts, mutual funds, and stocks. Charting on the platform delivers several technical studies, display options, and company events.

The M1 Finance app has the same interface as its website cousin. Unfortunately, we didn’t find bill pay, mobile check deposit, or a FICO score. Pies can be created, and funds deposited into them; but that’s about it.


Merrill Edge vs M1


We’ll take Merrill here.

Other Tools

Merrill Edge customers can use a platform on Apple Watch. It has a watch list, information on the day’s indexes and most active stocks, and small graphs. A desktop platform is available to active traders. It delivers very advanced charting and option tools.

M1 Finance offers nothing in this category and suffers another loss.

Education and Research

At Merrill Edge, there are many videos and articles that outline investment topics. We found resources on education accounts and automatic investing. Merrill also sends out an electronic newsletter quarterly. Screeners incorporate many criteria, and stocks have ratings from Morningstar and Lipper. Third-party reports are available in pdf format.

The M1 Finance website also hosts screeners (for stocks and ETF’s). But they don’t provide as many criteria as Merrill’s screeners. News articles are posted on the company’s site; but there is no educational section. Security profile pages at M1 have only brief information.

M1 loses again.

Other Services

Both Merrill Edge and M1 Finance offer dividend reinvesting at no charge. Both brokers also offer IRA’s (Merrill offers more types and charges less for them). Both companies provide automatic investing services.

Merrill has a slight advantage here.

Promotions

M1 Finance: Invest for FREE - pay no broker commissions or fees.

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


Our Recommendations

If you’re new to the world of investing, either brokerage firm in this survey could be a good selection. M1 Finance takes most of the burden of investing decisions on itself, while Merrill offers lots of learning materials.

If you plan to trade stocks and ETF’s, we recommend Merrill because it has much better tools. But if you would rather invest with the free recommendations of a broker, M1 Finance’s pre-built Pies would be a good choice.

If you think you’ll take a long-term view, M1 Finance’s Pies would also be a good pick. If you plan to open an IRA or other retirement account, go with Merrill.

M1 Finance vs Merrill Edge Summary

Merrill Edge is the overwhelming winner of this study. M1 Finance failed to shine, even in the realm of portfolio management. We can, however, recommend M1 for budget-conscious traders who want the lowest possible commissions.



Firstrade

Continue Reading