Fidelity and Merrill Edge are two leading brokers, each one with an extensive history and reputation for customer service. Unsurprisingly, these positive reputations and track records can make it difficult to pick between the two companies.
However, there are some subtle differences between Fidelity and Merrill Edge that might make one broker superior depending on your needs. This is especially true for the managed investing and ESG options each broker offers.
This Fidelity vs. Merrill Edge breakdown is covering these differences, the unique selling points, and how to pick the right broker.
Overview of Fideltiy vs. Merrill Edge
|Premarket & Extended Trading Hours||Yes||Yes|
|Commissions||$0 for stocks and ETFs; $0.65 for options contracts; $32.95 for broker-assisted trades||$0 for stocks and ETFs; $0.65 for options contracts; $29.95 for broker-assisted trades|
|Best For||Beginner investors and small robo-advisor portfolios||Bank of America customers and ESG investing|
Founded in 1946, Fidelity is one of the older brokerages operating in America. It's also one of the largest, and it has a reputation for customer service and its research and educational offerings. And since it's so comprehensive, it's a popular choice for beginner investors and more seasoned individuals alike.
With Fidelity, you can trade a range of securities, including stocks and ETFs without paying commissions. Fixed-income investments like bonds are also available, as are fractional shares and options. The main asset class Fidelity is missing is cryptocurrency, although it has plans to allow Bitcoin 401k investing in the future.
Fidelity also gives you choices for how you want to invest. There's the DIY route like other brokers offer. But you can also use its robo-advisor service Fidelity Go to build a portfolio that matches your goals and risk tolerance.
Fidelity's Unique Features
As a major broker, Fidelity has many of the features you'd expect, like commission-free stock and ETF trading. But it also has some features that you don't get with every broker or Merrill Edge.
- Fractional Shares: You can trade fractional shares, which is useful if you're investing a small amount of money.
- Beginner-Friendly Robo-Advisor: Fidelity Go doesn't charge advisory fees on accounts under $10,000. In contrast, many leading robo-advisors charge 0.25% regardless of how small balances are. However, Fidelity Go becomes slightly more expensive and charges $3 per month for accounts between $10,000 and $49,999 and 0.35% for accounts of $50,000 or more.
- Excellent Educational Resources: One advantage of Fidelity is that it has a wealth of educational resources under its News & Research section. This includes guides for new investors, market news, and customizable stock watch lists.
- ActiveTrader Pro: Fidelity's ActiveTrader Pro option provides real-time market data and more charting and technical analysis tools to serve experienced traders. It also provides more order types and lets you place multi-leg option orders.
- Sustainable Investing: If you care about SRI or ESG investing, Fidelity has you covered. It offers a range of its own SRI funds like a sustainability fund, women's leadership fund, and climate action fund.
- Mutual Fund Options: Fidelity is one of the best brokers for mutual funds since it supports over 10,000 mutual funds. It also has thousands of no-transaction fee (NTF) mutual funds you can invest in.
- Wealth Management: You can work one-on-one with a Fidelity financial advisor through its wealth management service if you have at least $250,000 to manage. This service charges 0.50% to 1.50% annually in advisory fees. You can also use Fidelity Personalized Planning & Advice, its hybrid robo-advisor service that also includes one-on-one coaching, if you invest at least $25,000. This hybrid service charges 0.50% in annual management fees.
About Merrill Edge
Merrill Edge is another leading broker with a very long history. Merrill Lynch was originally founded in 1914 but was eventually acquired by Bank of America in 2008. Today, Merrill Edge is the discount broker under Bank of America, and it's known for its ESG investing options and educational resources.
If you're a Bank of America customer, sticking with Merrill Edge is a great choice to keep your accounts under one roof. But Merrill Edge also offers commission-free stock and ETF trades like Fidelity. In fact, it offers almost all of the same securities with the exception of fractional shares. And it even has its own robo-advisor and hybrid robo-advisor similar to Fidelity.
Merrill Edge's Unique Features
Merrill Edge and Fidelity aren't very different in terms of the securities you can invest in or supported account types. After all, these are both leading brokers with comprehensive platforms.
That said, Merrill Edge has some notable features that might make it better than Fidelity depending on your needs.
- Guided Investing Options: As mentioned, you can use Merrill Edge's Guided Investing robo-advisor if you have at least $1,000 to invest. Fees start at 0.45% annually, and you can invest in a range of portfolios, including SRI ones, that match your goals. But there's also the “online with an advisor” option if you invest at least $20,000 and want human advice as well. Annual fees for this program start at 0.85%, which is higher than Fidelity.
- Excellent ESG Investing Choices: You can use Merrill Edge's Idea Builder tool to find stocks and investments that are ESG-friendly. Your portfolio even gets an overall ESG score, and Merrill Edge's robo-advisor supports ESG investing as well.
- MarketPro Trading: This is Merrill Edge's equivalent to Fidelity ActiveTrader Pro. It provides more technical indicators, live market data, advanced order types, and lets you customize your trading dashboard.
- In-Depth Research: One perk of being a Merrill Edge customer is that you have access to Bank of America global research reports, stock picks, and a wealth of third-party research from companies like Morningstar and Lipper.
- Preferred Rewards Program: Bank of America's Preferred Rewards program provides perks like Guided Investing discounts and better credit card bonuses if you have an open Bank of America checking account. There's also certain balance requirements to unlock different reward tiers, but this program is another way Merrill Edge customers can benefit from the parent company.
- Sign-Up Bonus: Merrill Edge has one of the best broker promotions right now, and you can get up to $600 for funding a new account. New Fidelity customers can also snag a cash bonus, but only up to $100.
How Are They the Same?
There's a lot of overlap between Fidelity and Merrill Edge in terms of investment selection. Stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, bonds, brokered CDs, and options are all on the table. And both brokers have robo-advisors and hybrid solutions you can use. Plus, you can also work with a Fidelity Advisor or Merrill Edge advisor if you prefer that over robo and hybrid solutions.
Neither broker really supports cryptocurrency, but both have strong ESG and SRI offerings. Advanced traders also get support through each platform's advanced trading dashboards. Margin trading is available as wel, although both platforms have higher margin rates than competitors like Interactive Brokers.
How Are They Different?
The main difference between Fidelity and Merrill Edge is that Fidelity is a bit more well-rounded for beginner investors while Merrill Edge is better for existing Bank of America customers or ESG investors.
With Fidelity, you get fractional shares unlike Merrill Edge. This is useful if you're investing small amounts of money but still want to trade the Amazons and Teslas of the world. It also has a more affordable robo-advisor, and the fact you don't pay fees for accounts under $10,000 is a massive selling point. Plus, its hybrid robo-advisor charges lower fees than Merrill's hybrid option.
In contrast, Merrill Edge has more ESG-related investing features, including an overall ESG portfolio score. And the fact Bank of America customers benefit from the rewards program and in-depth research are selling points.
Fidelity vs. Merrill Edge – Pricing
Both Fidelity and Merrill Edge offer commission-free stock and ETF trading. Options also cost $0.65 per contract with both brokers. Fidelity takes the edge for NTF mutual funds, although broker-assisted trades are slightly more expensive than with Merrill Edge.
The main differences in pricing are between the robo-advisor and hybrid advisory services each broker offers. With Fidelity, you pay 0.50% for its hybrid robo-advisor service, but Merrill Edge charges 0.85% annually. Fidelity GO also has lower fees for accounts under $10,000, whereas Merrill Edge charges a flat 0.45% for its robo-advisor.
That said, leading robo-advisors like Betterment or Wealthfront charge 0.25% annually, beating both Fidelity and Merrill Edge (unless you're investing under $10,000). But all-in-all, Fidelity has slightly better pricing than Merrill Edge does.
Fidelity vs. Merrill Edge – Customer Service
Both Fidelity and Merrill Edge offer 24/7 phone customer support. And since neither company is an online-only broker, you can schedule to meet with a Fidelity or Merrill Edge advisor at various locations across the country. Overall, it's a tie for customer service.
How Safe Are They?
Both Fidelity and Merrill Edge are safe, trusted brokers with decades of experience. Cash also gets FDIC-insurance, and you can enable features like two-factor authentication to improve account security.
Other Alternatives to Consider
If you're looking for managed investing services, leading robo-advisors like Betterment and Wealthfront are more affordable than both Fidelity and Merrill Edge. Vanguard Digital Advisor is also more affordable at 0.20% annually, and Vanguard also has a Personal Advisor service you can use if you're investing at least $50,000. This lets you work with a human advisor, and you only pay 0.30% annually, which is more affordable than both Fidelity and Merrill Edge.
As for the DIY brokerage side of things, Fidelity and Merrill Edge are quite solid. As mentioned, platforms like Interactive Brokers are better for options trading and trading on margin. And for a broker with crypto support, we suggest eToro.
Both Fidelity and Merrill Edge are still top-tier brokers for plenty of reasons. But you should always compare several options to ensure you're picking the broker that suits your needs best.
Fidelity vs. Merrill Edge: Which Option Is Best?
If you want a beginner-friendly broker that offers fractional shares and excellent mutual fund selection, Fidelity is for you. It's also an excellent choice for new investors looking for a fee-free robo-advisor since Fidelity Go doesn't charge fees on portfolios under $10,000. The hybrid robo-advisor service where you work with an advisor is also more affordable than Merrill Edge.
In contrast, Merrill Edge is superior to Fidelity if you're an existing Bank of America customer. You get to house all your finances under one main company, and you can also benefit from Bank of America's Preferred Rewards Program. Merrill Edge is also better than Fidelity in terms of ESG investing for the range of screeners and research it offers on this category.
Ultimately, both Fidelity and Merrill Edge have long histories and great reputations. Customer service is top-notch, and you can't go wrong with either broker. Just decide which assets and features are most important to you and then make your decision.