Merrill Edge at a glance
Top features you’ll love
MarketPro trading platform
Merrill enters the fray with its flagship trading platform MarketPro, offering many of the features that active traders have come to expect from a platform. On MarketPro, you can set trade alerts, create watchlists and monitor your portfolio in real-time. And the MarketPro trade interface is much simpler and easier to use than the broker’s basic trade platform, which can be awkward and even confusing.
With MarketPro, you’ll be able to chart 104 different technical analysis studies, and its interactive charting tools use streaming data to populate the visualizations. The fully customizable dashboard allows you to drag and drop your way to the layout that syncs best with your trading style.
This cool feature shows you the performance of your portfolio (Portfolio Story). The story format gives you the highlights in an easy-to-digest language and format, and it’s like watching a short, made-for-you video on demand. The story format also does a good job of visually highlighting how much a fund will cost you over time, so you can easily compare one fund against another.
Pros: Where Merrill Edge stands out
Research and education
Merrill does a fine job at providing research on stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds. When it comes to funds, Merrill integrates research from Morningstar and Lipper, while its own in-house team provides reports on individual stocks, market commentary and other economic news. Each stock or fund page is fully featured, with financial data, charts, prospectus information (for funds) and a research report (if Merrill covers the stock). For many investors, an analyst’s report can provide information that can’t be found anywhere else. Links to SEC filings round out the offering. It really is a great line-up of research.
Merrill also does a fine job providing educational materials to investors, with videos and articles explaining retirement, college planning, personal finance and how to begin investing, among many other topics. And as mentioned above, the “Stories” feature helps give you perspective on your account.
Merrill is a great choice here, because of the responsiveness. You’ll have access to customer support on the phone 24 hours a day throughout the week, and you can get in-person assistance at more than 2,000 Bank of America locations after scheduling an appointment. You’ll also be able to contact support via the broker’s in-house messaging program once you’re a client.
Available account types
If the account type exists, there’s a good chance that Merrill offers it, and that’s not always the case for online brokers. Of course, Merrill offers individual and joint accounts, traditional and Roth IRAs, but it also provides a number of less-common account types, too. These include trust, guardianship, SIMPLE IRA, SEP IRA and solo 401(k), among many others. You’ll be hard-pressed to find an account type that Merrill doesn’t offer.
The broker also offers managed portfolios if you want someone to do the investing for you. Pricing begins at 0.45 percent of assets, or $45 per year for every $10,000 you have invested, if you go with the online-only portfolio. That management fee rises to 0.85 percent if you want a human adviser to help you along the way.
Commission-free stock and ETF trades
Like other major brokers, Merrill Edge offers stock and ETF trades that are commission-free. Options trades are in line with the industry now, at $0.65 per contract.
Commission-free trading is one of the biggest perks that Merrill offers, and it now comes without the $20,000 minimum balance that the broker used to require to score free trades. Still, if you have that kind of balance or more, you’ll get some bonuses, such as extra credit card rewards that really boost your cash back through Bank of America's Preferred Rewards program. Be sure to look into the program with the broker or bank.
Integration with Bank of America
Even if you don’t sign up with Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program, your account with Merrill will be linked with your Bank of America account. That’s great when you want to transfer money from one to the other, because it happens instantly. It’s hard to overstate the ease with which you can move money between accounts. It’s done in seconds, and you know immediately the money is there.
Compare that with the days it typically takes to transfer money from your bank to your non-affiliated broker. So if you want to buy a stock immediately, you must wait for the funds to clear. On top of this, it’s also useful to simply have all your accounts with one organization, making your financial life just a bit easier.
Merrill Edge does a lot of things right, especially in the area of what could broadly be called customer support:
- Investors have access to a huge range of research, including the broker’s own reports on individual stocks, as well as third-party research.
- A ton of educational content helps guide newer investors, while highly responsive customer support is there at almost any time in email and phone.
- The integration with Bank of America makes it easy for those who need to consult an adviser in person, want to shift money in their accounts or want extra credit card perks.
Those on the hunt for a wider investment selection can check out Interactive Brokers, while those who need a strong research component should look at Charles Schwab or Fidelity Investments. E-Trade and TD Ameritrade are both solid picks on this score as well, and they have good customer support, too.
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