Merrill Edge vs. Vanguard

Each Merrill Edge and Vanguard are full service brokers which have been round for a while. Vanguard, based in 1983, has efficiently constructed a fame serving purchase and maintain buyers with a passive and long run philosophy. It has since turn into synonymous with low-cost funding. A bit newer to the scene is Merrill Edge, which has the same target market. Merrill Edge was launched in 2010, following Financial institution of America’s (BoA) acquisition of Merrill Lynch. Contemplating this, certainly one of Merrill’s benefits is that it’s seamlessly built-in with BoA’s banking expertise. Though each brokers are constructed for newbie and DIY buyers, we’ll take a look at a number of the key variations that can assist you decide which one is the fitting match in your funding wants.

  • Account Minimums: $0
  • Charges: $0 per inventory commerce. Choices trades $0 per leg plus $0.65 per contract
  • Account Minimal: $0
  • Charges: $0/inventory and ETF commerce, $0 plus $1 per contract for choices


Merrill Edge and Vanguard are vastly totally different with regards to the look, really feel, and performance of the 2 platforms. It’s fast and easy to get began with Merrill, particularly when you’re a Financial institution of America buyer. Alternatively, the onboarding course of with Vanguard is reasonably prolonged. It is possible for you to to provoke opening an account on-line, however there’s a wait of a number of days earlier than you’ll be able to login and look at your account. Vanguard has made updates to the platform and it may be custom-made based on your pursuits, however it’s nonetheless removed from the expertise an energetic dealer could be in search of. By way of serving the goal buy-and-hold buyers, it will get the job accomplished with some improved navigation. Total, Merrill Edge is extra modern and makes it simple to seek out instruments and sources. Whereas the web site isn’t customizable, you’ll be able to customise the format and set buying and selling defaults in MarketPro. With regards to usability, Merrill Edge has a major benefit over Vanguard.

Commerce Expertise

Desktop Commerce Expertise

Just like the platform itself, the buying and selling expertise on the Vanguard has been improved however isn’t aimed toward serving the wants of extra energetic merchants. All pages that contain buying and selling make the most of real-time quotes, as do the safety profile and analysis pages. Nonetheless, market and safety data on the web site show delayed quotes. Fairly than quotes being auto-refreshed, they’re up to date as you progress by a commerce move–which can take a number of clicks earlier than inserting a commerce order. Total, the buying and selling expertise is ample for buy-and-hold buyers Vanguard targets, permitting them to slowly put collectively a portfolio. For different sorts of buyers anticipating a responsive and customizable platform, Vanguard’s buying and selling expertise falls predictably brief. 

The buying and selling expertise on Merrill’s platform is a major enchancment over Vanguard as it’s simple and intuitive. MarketPro offers streaming real-time quotes which you could view on a number of units concurrently. You may also stage orders for later entry and enter a number of orders concurrently. MarketPro’s chart buying and selling interface is much less elegant than what you might discover on another buying and selling platforms, nevertheless it nonetheless will get the job accomplished. That is notably true for retail merchants with much less advanced wants. Each Vanguard and Merrill have buying and selling expertise that aligns with the wants of recent buyers, however we predict Merrill has a bonus over Vanguard on this class because it has the capabilities to serve a extra numerous crowd than simply purchase and maintain buyers.

Cell Expertise

With regards to cellular buying and selling, there’s a related hole between the sorts of buyers Vanguard and Merrill need to serve. As with the Vanguard web site, quotes within the app for shares and ETFs present a delayed value till you get to order entry. The Vanguard app does will let you customise your “My Feed” which shows account data, information, blogs, transaction historical past, and efficiency, amongst different data. No different knowledge, such because the day’s change or quantity, is displayed within the cellular view and there may be additionally a whole lack of charting on Vanguard’s cellular app. 

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The Merrill Edge app is extra sturdy and customizable than Vanguard’s, mirroring lots of the instruments on Merrill’s richer desktop platform. One draw back to the Merrill Edge cellular expertise is that you simply can’t customise many options. The cellular app does not help chart buying and selling, however you’ll be able to click on the “Commerce” icon within the chart header, which prefills the order ticket with the image data. So far as similarities, each Vanguard and Merrill edge have restricted capabilities because it pertains to coming into a number of orders concurrently and enabling conditional orders. That mentioned, Merrill Edge’s app is extra sturdy than Vanguard’s, giving Merrill the benefit on this class as properly.

Vary of Choices

Each Vanguard and Merrill Edge have the same vary of choices. Most buyers will discover what they want between the shares, bonds, and funds, however merchants and extra subtle buyers will discover the general collection of each restricted with no futures, cryptocurrencies, and so forth. Neither dealer has a bonus over the opposite on this class.

Order Sorts

Vanguard’s ethos is centered on a long-term investing philosophy, so the dealer’s vary of order sorts are restricted to these greatest fitted to purchase and maintain buyers. The one order sorts you’ll be able to place are market, restrict, and stop-limit orders. Equally, Merrill Edge helps primary order sorts, together with market, restrict, cease restrict, and trailing cease orders throughout all platforms, nevertheless it does not provide the superior conditional orders that energetic merchants need. Each brokers will let you choose tax tons when closing out a place. With regards to order sorts, neither dealer has a transparent edge over the opposite.

Buying and selling Expertise

Vanguard’s order routing know-how is primary, similar to its buying and selling platform. It doesn’t have a sensible order routing know-how, you can’t backtest or automate a buying and selling technique, and also you won’t be able to route your personal orders. The dealer reviews value enchancment on inventory orders of $2.31 for a 100-share order in comparison with the Nationwide Finest Bid and Supply in 2022.

Comparatively, Merrill Edge makes use of the Financial institution of America Merrill Lynch (BofAML) good order router, which fills orders by first searching for value enchancment reasonably than execution velocity. Merrill’s common execution velocity for market orders sized 100-1,999 for S&P 500 shares is .007 seconds. For a similar time interval and order measurement, the dealer promotes 99% of orders being executed at or higher than the quoted value in addition to a mean financial savings of $24.60 per order of 1,000 shares. So placing that by way of Vanguard, it might be barely higher at $2.46 per 100 share order. Each brokers additionally deserve kudos for not accepting cost for order move from market makers. Total, we discovered that Merrill’s platform has a slight edge over Vanguard because it pertains to their buying and selling know-how.


Like many brokers, each Merrill Edge and Vanguard cost no commissions on inventory and ETF trades. Moreover, there are additionally no per leg commissions choices trades. Per-contract commissions are $0.65 at Merrill and $1 at Vanguard. This implies an order for 50 choices contracts is $50 at Vanguard, whereas the identical order is $32.50 at Merrill Edge. This is sensible as Vanguard’s ideally suited buyer has a passive, long-term funding philosophy that isn’t more likely to embody a whole lot of choices buying and selling. Each brokers haven’t any charges for inactivity, account closure, receiving wires, sending checks, or paper statements and commerce confirmations. Whereas Merrill has an account closure charge of $49.95 for retirement accounts, Vanguard doesn’t. Moreover, Vanguard has a $10 wire charge for each home and internationally. Sending a wire utilizing Merrill Edge will value you $24.95.

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Total, each brokers have low value choices, however Vanguard has the clear benefit on this class so long as you’re not a frequent choices dealer.

Account and Analysis Facilities

Though Vanguard is a big dealer, it has extra restricted analysis and account facilities than one would anticipate from a big dealer. It’s because Vanguard was constructed for the buy-and-hold investor. In distinction, Merrill Edge has glorious elementary analysis instruments, together with a powerful assortment of proprietary and third-party analysis and inventory rankings. Whereas each brokers have inventory screeners, Vanguard’s platform is not going to will let you display screen for technical indicators and screens can’t be was a watchlist. Furthermore, Merrill Edge has an choices screener, in addition to a technique builder, whereas Vanguard doesn’t provide an choices particular screening instrument. 

Though Vanguard’s charts are customizable, there is no such thing as a technical evaluation accessible and the customization is proscribed. Merrill Edge’s MarketPro has full charting and customization capabilities with streaming real-time knowledge. Each Merrill’s net and cellular platforms have restricted charting capabilities which are sufficient for informal, long-term buyers to commerce on the go. Total, Merrill Edge has a considerably higher providing than Vanguard because it additionally contains information from a number of sources, a commerce concept generator, sturdy third get together analysis, a DRIP program, and extra. You’ll be able to nonetheless strengthen your monetary toolbox with loads of do-it-yourself sources with Vanguard, however the majority of this dealer’s instruments are centered round retirement planning.

Portfolio Evaluation

Just like its account and analysis facilities, Merrill’s portfolio evaluation capabilities are distinctive. Merrill’s Portfolio Story is a proprietary instrument that reveals a whole breakdown of your portfolio, not solely by sectors and holdings but additionally by efficiency, analyst rankings, and MSCI ESG scores. It is a precious piece of portfolio evaluation know-how and must be particularly useful to new buyers. Vanguard’s Portfolio reviews and evaluation aren’t as sturdy however they’re up to date in actual time on the Vanguard web site. Additionally it is customizable and you’ll have the power to combination holdings from exterior accounts. Each platforms lack commerce journals in addition to the power to calculate the tax influence of a future commerce. Total, nonetheless,  Merrill Edge has a a lot better portfolio evaluation providing than Vanguard.


Each Vanguard and Merrill Edge present academic sources for his or her prospects. The main focus of Vanguard’s content material is on serving to you set monetary targets and create a plan of motion on the best way to attain them. Along with blogs, articles, webcasts, and different academic sources, Vanguard additionally affords life stage planning instruments which are helpful for do-it-yourself and newbie buyers. With Merrill Edge’s investor schooling, you’ll be able to decide an investing expertise degree or a subject—equivalent to investing & markets, shares, ETFs, choices, mutual funds, margin, and others. You may also study varied funding matters by a collection of programs that go from primary to extra subtle methods. Though each Merrill and Vanguard provide a stable schooling, we discovered Merrill to be the higher selection by way of schooling as a consequence of its wider collection of matters and deeper dives into them.

Buyer Service

Vanguard’s customer support is missing when in comparison with Merrill Edge. It doesn’t have 24/7 cellphone help, on-line chat, and you can’t converse with a dwell dealer. Furthermore, you’ll solely have entry to a monetary advisor if you’re a Vanguard Private Providers Advisor consumer. Merrill Edge has 24/7 cellphone help, on-line chat, and the added capacity to get in-person help at most Financial institution of America branches. With regards to customer support, Merrill Edge has a powerful benefit over Vanguard.


Though each brokers have security measures in frequent, Merrill has a bonus over Vanguard on this class due to its further options, together with a comfortable token for login and high-risk commerce authorization that’s accessible by textual content, cellphone, and e mail. On prime of all this, Merrill Edge has an combination loss restrict of $1 billion, whereas Vanguard doesn’t record its combination loss restrict on-line.

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Out there Account Sorts

Merrill Edge and Vanguard each present the generally used account sorts, together with:

  • Particular person and joint brokerage
  • Custodial
  • Belief
  • Property
  • Rollover, Roth, simplified worker pension (SEP), SIMPLE, and conventional particular person retirement accounts (IRA)
  • 529 plan
  • Company

Vanguard has just a few further accounts like a person and small plan 401 (okay) in addition to Uniform Presents to Minors Act (UGMA) and Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) accounts. Except you might be after these particular accounts, nonetheless, both dealer has the account sorts wanted to serve the wants of most buyers.

Ultimate Verdict

You will need to observe once more that neither of Merrill Edge or Vanguard are constructed to serve the must energetic merchants. We advocate Merrill Edge in most conditions due to its benefits in being a extra numerous dealer. For those who’re already a Financial institution of America buyer, selecting Merrill Edge could also be a no brainer as Merrill Edge seamlessly integrates with the banking expertise. Even when you’re not a BoA buyer, many buyers will get pleasure from Merrill’s proprietary and sturdy third-party analysis and portfolio evaluation instruments. In comparison with Vanguard, Merrill Edge’s platform is extra intuitive with regards to the buying and selling expertise and it affords extra account and analysis facilities that may be precious to buyers of all expertise ranges. 

Merrill Edge additionally outperforms Vanguard with regards to safety, buying and selling know-how, schooling, and customer support. All issues thought-about, we discovered Merrill Edge to be the higher total brokerage platform for many buyers. The one exception, nonetheless, is if you’re trying to be a buy-and-hold investor. If that’s the case, Vanguard is usually a extra value environment friendly dealer to do that with, regardless of the shortage of bells and whistles on its platform. The principle cause Vanguard continues to personal the buy-and-hold area of interest is that it focuses solely on what a buy-and-hold investor wants, avoiding any pointless bills that may in the end be handed on to buyers.

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Investopedia is devoted to offering buyers with unbiased, complete evaluations and rankings of on-line brokers. This 12 months, we revamped the evaluate course of by conducting an in depth survey of shoppers which are actively trying to begin buying and selling and investing with an internet dealer. We then mixed this invaluable data with our subject material experience to develop the framework for a quantitative rankings mannequin that’s on the core of how we compiled our record of the very best on-line dealer and buying and selling platform corporations.

This mannequin weighs key components like buying and selling know-how, vary of choices, cellular app usability, analysis facilities, academic content material, portfolio evaluation options, buyer help, prices, account facilities, and total buying and selling expertise based on their significance. Our group of researchers gathered 2425 knowledge factors and weighted 66 standards primarily based on knowledge collected throughout intensive analysis for every of the 25 corporations we reviewed. 

Lots of the brokers we reviewed additionally gave us dwell demonstrations of their platforms and companies, both at their New York Metropolis workplaces or through video conferencing strategies. Dwell brokerage accounts had been additionally obtained for a lot of the platforms we reviewed, which our group of knowledgeable writers and editors used to carry out hands-on testing as a way to lend their qualitative standpoint. 

Learn our full Methodology for reviewing on-line brokers.