For full-service brokers, the client experience goes beyond just trading. Clients of Charles Schwab, ETRADE, Fidelity, Merrill Edge, Scottrade, Capital One Investing, and TD Ameritrade all fall under this category, meaning banking services are also offered.
To determine which broker is the best for banking, we dived in head first and explored all the potential services: checking accounts, savings accounts, debit cards, credit cards, and mortgages. We then looked at specialty offerings such as mobile check deposit, debit card ATM fee reimbursement, and no-fee banking. Lastly, total number of branch offices was factored in, as access to local branch offices is just as important as managing an account online. (Review continued below...)
It should be no surprise that our #1 choice is Merrill Edge, whose parent company is Bank of America. With a FSA (Financial Solutions Advisor) located in some 2,000 locations, Bank of America has, by far, the largest network. In 2014, Bank of America completely revamped its rewards program, launching three Preferred Rewards tiers that offer clients with certain account thresholds a slew of benefits. The first tier, Gold, requires at least $20,000 in combined assets between Bank of America and Merrill Edge, while the top tier, Platinum Plus, requires at least $100,000 in total assets. Benefits include boosts to money-market savings, credit card cash back bonuses, free trades with Merrill Edge, and more. All in all, there isn’t a better marriage of brokerage and banking than Merrill Edge and Bank of America.
Alongside Merrill Edge’s parent company, Bank of America, another well-recognized brand is Capital One Investing, whose parent company is Capital One. Next to Bank of America, Capital One is the only other bank to offer every service type: checking accounts, savings accounts, debit cards, credit cards, and home mortgages. Capital One is best known for its credit cards, and like Bank of America, its clients enjoy the benefits of universal login for easy access to all their accounts.
Together with our ranking, we present highlights from the rest of the full-service brokers. Fidelity has one of the best cash rewards credit cards on the market with its 2% Fidelity Investment Rewards Visa Card (Fidelity cut its ties with American Express in early 2016). Scottrade offers 503 retail locations, followed by Charles Schwab with 300. Of the remaining brokers, Charles Schwab is the only one to offer home mortgages. The list goes on and on.
When it comes to banking and brokers, the great news is that investors have multiple options from which to choose. Full-service brokerages generally do a very good job of catering to the specific needs of their clients and provide a well-rounded offering. This is especially true for clients who already do their banking with Bank of America or Capital One; the move to add investing as an additional service is just a few clicks away.