Investing > Vanguard vs. Merrill Edge

Vanguard vs. Merrill Edge

Vanguard and Merrill Edge are two well-established brokerages. Here, we compare the two on virtually every aspect imaginable.

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Updated January 03, 2024

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Both brokerages try to go after high net worth clientele, and they aren’t as savvy when it comes to commission fees and margin trading.

Merrill Edge has come a long way in recent years, catering to many beginner investors and traders. Merrill Edge also has cut its commissions and fees to help with the new wave of self-directed investors.

Vanguard has a history of offering the best retirement strategies and mutual funds to long-term investors.

So, what happens when you compare it to retirement planning on Merrill Edge? ⚖

With a high rate of return, Vanguard has been known to offer the best prices on index funds. It thrives on long-term relationships with its investors. However, Merrill Edge offers the MarketPro active trader platform to assist day traders in high-velocity trading.

Both brokerages offer something different while charging similar rates.




Account minimum



Minimum initial deposit



Best for

Long-term, passive traders



Vanguard Portfolio watch to assess your portfolio

Award-winning research








Account minimum



Minimum initial deposit




Best for

Long-term, passive traders



Vanguard Portfolio watch to assess your portfolio

Award-winning research




Overview of Vanguard and Merrill Edge


  • Vanguard has a decent website and mobile app with some tools for passive and long-term investors.
  • The brokerage’s best tools are for retirement planning and goal-setting. You can set up several accounts to save for your goals.
  • With access to over 16,000 mutual funds, you won’t pay a whole lot thanks to Vanguard’s low-cost fund investments.
  • Vanguard has an easy-to-use trade experience, but it lacks in research tools that are fundamental for DIY online and mobile investors.

Merrill Edge

  • With many proprietary tools and portfolio insights through “Stories,” investors get a lot of value from their investment accounts.
  • Merrill Edge customers can integrate all of their Bank of America accounts with their retirement and investment accounts to get an all-in-one look at their finances.
  • You can use multiple research, screener, analysis, and charting tools, some of which can be accessed in the mobile app and Apple Watch.
  • MarketPro offers 216 columns to customize in the dashboard, and you can test all kinds of strategies with OptionsPlay.
  • You won’t pay any commission fees on stocks, ETFs, and options.

Trading Experience: Vanguard vs. Merrill Edge

For the DIY investor, Merrill Edge understands how difficult it can be to understand different strategies, market orders, and asset classes. The website and mobile app take a step-by-step approach to help customers find the right way to invest.

Beginners and DIY investors can trade in stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and options. However, you will not find forex trading nor futures brokerage services available with Merrill Edge. The trading platform is a little bit more intuitive than Vanguard, and there are some more tips and education sources if needed.

Merrill Edge clients have access to one of the top brokers for retirement accounts, though Vanguard isn’t far behind. Merrill Edge offers Roth, traditional IRA, SIMPLE, SEP, and Rollover IRAs. However, Vanguard offers over 16,000 mutual funds in comparison to Merrill Edge’s 4,000.

One thing that Merrill Edge does differently is active trading. While Vanguard has no active trading interface, Merrill Edge offers MarketPro. This is an active trader platform that has more sophisticated features than the website or mobile banking app. If you’re looking for one of the best platforms for day trading, MarketPro could pique your interest.

MarketPro offers a number of helpful analytical tools to enhance your investing strategy.

You can use MarketPro to set up a market analysis, conduct global research, access interactive charts, pattern recognition, and more. There’s also a fully customizable dashboard.

With more than 70 studies available, custom alerts, portfolio monitoring, and custom watch lists, you get more tools with Merrill Edge to manage your portfolio even if you are a passive investor.

In comparison, Vanguard really does not like short-term trading, and brokers pretty much discourage using their platform for any time of high-velocity investments. They don’t provide streaming quotes or custom charting tools.

Everything is pretty basic and related to retirement planning. For example, you cannot even choose the order flow for equity orders.

Investors should choose Vanguard if:

  •  ☑️ They want access to over 16,000 mutual funds
  •  ☑️ They don’t plan to do any active or short-term day trading
  •  ☑️ Want more hands-on retirement investment help

If you want to combine retirement and active trading accounts, Merrill Edge might be more your style:

  •  ☑️ Set up different accounts for retirement investments and active investments
  •  ☑️ Access all active trading features through MarketPro, including market analysis, custom charts, research tools, and pattern recognition software
  •  ☑️ Integrate your Bank of America accounts with Merrill Edge
  •  ☑️ You want easy-to-use investment tools on desktop, web, and mobile

Mobile Platform and New Technology 📱

Investors can access all kinds of tools through Merrill Edge’s mobile app for iOS and Android. There’s also an app for the Apple Watch.

The app allows you to stream quotes across all platforms, and you can access all of your accounts, which works best if you are a Bank of America customer. There are also tons of Merrill Lynch and Bank of American research reports available.

You can place orders on your phone or smartwatch, though you will not be able to complete the trade without going to your smartphone or website if you start on your watch. Merrill Edge also allows you to log in to your device with just a fingerprint.

The different platforms that can access Merrill Edge's trading software - desktop, laptop, tablet, and mobile devices.
Merrill Edge offers trading on virtually every device imaginable.

You can view all of your accounts separately with the mobile apps, and you can customize your home screen. It’s easy to log in and check your portfolio with Merrill Edge’s app. There are also research tools available in the app for stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds through Stock Story tools or Fund Story tools.

However, you will have to turn your phone horizontally to see charts correctly, although you can customize these on your phone using 36 different technical studies. The interface is a bit outdated and makes the charts harder to read.

Vanguard has not really caught up yet to Merrill Edge’s mobile app. While you can check out your portfolio and get basic analysis tools, you cannot customize anything within the app. It’s mostly for checking on your portfolio and making simple trades.

For mobile users, Vanguard offers:

  •  ☑️ Basic mobile trading app with portfolio overview, simple trading platform, and mobile check deposit
  •  ☑️ No streaming quotes or real-time data

Merrill Edge’s mobile app is way more advanced and offers:

  •  ☑️ Compatibility with iOS, Android, and Apple Watch
  •  ☑️ Complete most trade orders on iOS and Android, though Apple Watch users have to finish orders within the app or website
  •  ☑️ Multiple research tools and customizable options include chart analysis with over 36 different technical studies
  •  ☑️ Set up portfolio analysis and alerts, stock quotes, watchlists, and more

📱 Are you looking to trade from your phone? You can find some of the top stock trading apps for trading on the go.

Education, Research, News, and Stock Trends Compared 👨‍🏫

Vanguard does not have nearly the amount of research and technical analysis tools as Merrill Edge, but it still has a decent retirement learning center with screener tools. Overall, Merrill Edge offers proprietary tools that cannot be duplicated anywhere else in another brokerage, which makes it superior to Vanguard in terms of education, research, and screener tools.

Merrill Edge added multiple research tools, screeners, and educational offerings to its website and mobile apps within the past two years. The brokerage offers amazing research tools for stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs that satisfy even the pickiest, savvy investors.

Many of the research tools are proprietary to Merrill Edge, which means that you won’t find them anywhere else.

For example, Stock Story, Fund Story, and Portfolio Story show all of your unique positions with insightful tips and research to help you improve. These tools were launched in 2017 and 2018, and they continue to offer considerable value for all investors, whether you are like passive or active trading.

😕 Do you still find mutual funds confusing? This in-depth guide will help you understand mutual funds better.

There are multiple ways to research mutual funds, including Morningstar and Lipper. The research pages are very thorough and offer everything you need to make smart decisions regarding your orders.

There are some other third-party research tools included, such as Trefis for company evaluations and Recognia for technical analysis. MSCI ESG ratings for environmental, social, and governance signals are available as well.

There are 216 customizable columns for the dashboard in MarketPro, which is just one of its many talents. Charts are simple to build and use an automated technical analysis date from Recognia for the savvy chart wizards among us. There are also several tools for testing strategies, such as OptionsPlay which can teach you how to start options trading.

One of the cons to Merrill Edge’s MarketPro is that you have to make at least 15 trades per quarter or maintain a $50,000 balance in total assets. There are also some problems for active traders, such as the lack of a one-click buy and sell button for faster order entries.

The trader's view of Merilll Edge MarketPro.
The Merrill Edge MarketPro provides Real-Time Market Data and News from various third-party sources not affiliated with Merrill.

There are also no ways to bypass the order confirmation window. Direct market routing and advanced order types like conditional orders are not allowed.

Merrill Edge also has more educational support, including on-demand webinars and topics arranged by investment level. You can find beginner to advanced courses that cover stocks, options, and personal finance. There are also research reports that you can download and read through for each quarter.

In terms of research, Vanguard is lacking when it comes to tools and modern analysis. Their offerings include:

  •  ☑️ Retirement calculators and long-term investment goal planning
  •  ☑️ Stock screeners and ETF screeners
  •  ☑️ Basic charting tools
  •  ☑️ No streaming quotes or real-time data

Merrill Edge is the clear winner if you want to research and analyze your portfolio, assessing risk and areas for improvement. This brokerage offers:

  •  ☑️ Proprietary tools that tell the story of your stocks, funds, and options
  •  ☑️ Get insightful and helpful tips to improve your portfolio based on these story tools
  •  ☑️ Access custom charting and more advanced analysis through MarketPro

Mutual Funds and Retirement 💰

While Vanguard is commonly known as one of the best brokers for IRA, Merrill Edge come pretty close in this department. Skip down to our FAQs section below for detailed answer to this question.

Are Merrill Edge and Vanguard Safe? 🛡

Merrill Edge uses standard encryption for all accounts and also has SafePass for secure logins. If your login attempt isn’t recognized, you will have to pass the challenge to get into the account.

Vanguard offers similar security with YubiKey for two-factor authentication that detects your hardware. If a different device tries to log into your account, you’ll face a security challenge before being able to log in.

Both Merrill Edge and Vanguard are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). You are also provided with the SIPC investor protection which shields investors from the loss of cash and securities in case the broker goes bust. The limit of the SIPC protection is $500,000, including $250,000 for cash.

Customer Support ☎

Merrill Edge offers a number of ways to contact their 24/7 customer support. You can contact by phone during business hours, Monday through Friday, or you can stop by one of their Bank of America locations to get in-person help. Most customers connected to a representative in less than a minute and received helpful customer service.

Vanguard is similar to Merrill Edge in their offerings. They operate customer service with phone support during normal business hours. While there are no online options for customer support, representatives are quick and smart on the phone, offering helpful advice and solving issues with the broker-client quickly.

🤖 Are you interested in automated investing instead? See our top robo-advisors report.

Vanguard vs. Merrill Edge: Fees 💳

Like many online brokers, Merrill Edge did away with commissions on online stocks, ETFs, and options. Options still have a per contract cost of $0.65, which is pretty competitive with other brokers currently. There are no required account minimums, and you get unlimited free trades on stocks and ETFs.

Merrill Edge does not charge any account or annual fees, but you will be charged a $49.95 account transfer fee if you decide to leave Merrill Edge. There are some requirements to use advanced tools under Merrill Edge’s MarketPro.

MarketPro traders must maintain a balance of $50,000 or more unless they make at least 15 trades per quarter.

As far as mutual funds, traders will be charged $19.95 for all funds that do not fall under no-transaction-fee funds. Broker-assisted trades cost $29.95.

When you put fee’s down on the paper Vanguard seems to be the clear winner here.

Many investors subscribe to the idea that “free” isn’t always everything. However, we say Merrill Edge is one of the best commission-free brokers you can find.

Most of the Vanguard funds are no-transaction-fees, which gives them one of the lowest costs for those investing in funds. However, broker-assisted trades can go up to $50 per trade.

Fees are lowered depending on the account balance. If you maintain a low balance under $50,000, you’ll be charged the most. For balances over $500,000 and up, you may lower your commission fees down to $2.

Vanguard vs. Merrill Edge Verdict 🏁

Vanguard and Merrill Edge both offer retirement goals and planning, but one is significantly better at research tools and mobile apps.

Merrill Edge offers newer tools and technical analysis, and you can access most of these tools and the trading platform on your iOS, Android, or Apple Watch. There are also more incentives to trade with Merrill Edge if you want zero commission fees and more risk analysis, as well as charts and technical studies.

Even though Merrill Edge has a ton of software and tools, they cannot compare to Vanguard when it comes to retirement benefits and long-term investing. Vanguard has the most mutual funds and offers no-transaction-fee investments. In comparison, you’ll pay more for funds through Merrill Edge, and you won’t have the same breadth of options.

Therefore, if you are a DIY investor who wants to be more active with your investments and set up several accounts, the overall benefits of Merrill Edge outweigh Vanguard’s retirement tools.

You can easily integrate your Bank of America accounts as well through the platform, and Merrill Edge makes it easy to see how well your accounts are performing through the Story tools. It’s the best way to get quick insights into your portfolio’s performance.

Vanguard vs. Merrill Edge: FAQs

  • Which is Better for Retirement: Merrill Edge or Vanguard?

    Merrill Edge customers can open several different retirement accounts. These include traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, SIMPLE, SEP, and Rollover IRAs.

    There are also 401(k) and annuities. While there are no on-going account fees, you will pay a $49.95 fee for closing out your retirement account.

    However, Vanguard offers the same retirement accounts, but there are more mutual funds to select from. In fact, Vanguard has 16,000 mutual funds in comparison to Merrill Edge’s 4,000.

    Of the 4,000, only 900 have no transaction fees. Vanguard also has no-transaction-fee funds, but fees are around $35 for all others.

    Overall, Vanguard is better to retire due to its low-cost mutual funds and hands-on retirement planning. Vanguard also has shown its expense ratios to fall below 1.0% with many of its funds below 0.20%, but Merrill Edge does not manage any mutual or ETFs.

  • Do I Need a Bank of America Account to Have a Merrill Edge Account?

    No, you can open a Merrill Edge account outside of Bank of America.

  • What is Merrill Edge’s Preferred Rewards Program?

    If you do have a Bank of America account and a Merrill Edge account linked, then you may qualify for Merrill’s Preferred Rewards Program.

    This offers different promotions and discounts, including better interest rates on savings accounts, reduced rates on automotive loans, and more discounts on mortgage origination fees.

    However, you have to meet certain qualifications. These include owning an eligible Bank of America account with a 3-month average balance of $20,000 or more.

Comparison Corner

Find out how Vanguard and Merrill Edge stack up against other competition.

All reviews, research, news and assessments of any kind on The Tokenist are compiled using a strict editorial review process by our editorial team. Neither our writers nor our editors receive direct compensation of any kind to publish information on Our company, Tokenist Media LLC, is community supported and may receive a small commission when you purchase products or services through links on our website. Click here for a full list of our partners and an in-depth explanation on how we get paid.