Merrill Edge® Self-Directed
Best for: Hands-off retirement savers
Merrill Edge is a solid choice for those whose primary goal is to save for retirement, as the broker has copious resources on retirement and wealth planning. It’s also a great fit for Bank of America customers, as the bank owns Merrill and the investment side is well integrated with the bank.
The seamless experience between viewing an IRA alongside other Bank of America products (like home loans, savings accounts, and CDs) can be appealing for IRA investors seeking a simple, unified perspective on their finances. But in comparison with other IRA providers, Merrill Edge’s fees are higher for its robo-advising service (0.45% annually, plus a $1,000 account minimum), plus its selection of mutual funds is also weak in comparison to other brokers.
- Robust retirement planning tools and resources
- Wealth management branches for in-person consultation
- Fee-free mutual fund trading
- Selection of mutual funds is small
- Robo-advising service has a $1,000 account minimum and 0.45% fee
- Minimum account balance of $20,000 for online advisor services
Best for: Mutual fund investors
Investors who love mutual funds should look no further than Ally Invest. Not only does the broker offer the largest selection for IRA accounts (over 12,000), but it has eliminated its $9.95 transaction fee for all mutual funds. That’s right. You can now trade all of Ally Invest’s mutual funds transaction-fee free.
Speaking of fees, Ally Invest doesn’t charge commission fees for stocks, ETFs, and options. The broker will also waive the fee on its robo-advising service as long as you hold at least 30% of your portfolio in cash. Otherwise, the annual robo-advisor fee is 0.30% for IRA accounts, which is still low compared with other brokers.
Ally is a full-service bank as well, so it could be a smart choice for investors who want to keep their IRA and accounts at the same institution.
- Huge selection of mutual funds
- No transaction commissions or transaction fees for stocks, ETFs, options, and mutual funds
- Full-service bank
- Limited tools and research for active traders
- Need to keep 30% of portfolio in cash to waive 0.30% robo-advisor fee
Best for: Retirement planners
Charles Schwab offers everything you’d expect from an IRA provider, plus in-person guidance at one of its 340 branch offices. Its platform caters well to retirement planning with plenty of resources and guides on how to prepare your finances for the golden years.
In addition to retirement planning help, Charles Schwab’s IRA accounts also allow you to buy plenty of no-commission mutual funds, many of which have $0 minimums to get started. It’s also perfect for investors who want their IRA at the same institute as other banking products, like checking accounts and credit cards.
- No minimum investments for mutual funds
- Excellent customer service and in-person consultation
- No fees on robo-advising service
- Lack of advanced educational materials and trading tools
- High minimum of $5,000 for robo-advising
Best for: Fund investors who want low fees
As the inventor behind the index fund, it’s no surprise Vanguard’s IRA accounts are excellent choices for fund investors. Vanguard offers thousands of no-transaction-fee mutual funds, including its own low-cost index funds (which are rarely on fee-free lists elsewhere). It also has one of the lowest robo-advisor fees on this list (0.20% to 0.25% annually), though the minimum investment is set comparatively high at $3,000.
One potential drawback to Vanguard is that many of its mutual funds have a minimum investment of $3,000. That can make the broker less ideal for beginning investors who don’t have a lot of capital. The broker also doesn’t have many robust trading tools or charts, which could disappoint active traders.
- Large selection of unique funds
- Robo-advisor fee waived for the first 90 days
- High minimum investments for mutual funds
- $25 account fee if you want paper statements ($0 for e-delivery of statements)