Merrill Edge® Review 2019

James Royal is a reporter covering investing and wealth management. Before joining Bankrate, he worked as a writer for NerdWallet and a stock analyst for The Motley Fool. He holds a doctorate in literature from the University of Florida.

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Merrill Edge Logo

Best For

  • Research
  • Free trades
  • Customer support

Merrill Edge offers the wide-ranging service of a full broker but at a discount price, though not as cheap as some investor-friendly rivals. Merrill’s strongest attributes are the in-house research it provides clients as well as its responsive and available customer support. But a big advantage for customers is the ability to secure ongoing free trades, not just as a one-off promotion like at many brokers. That’s via a program with Merrill’s parent company, Bank of America — and it’s worth checking into.

Merrill Edge is a solid pick as your new broker, especially if you like the prospect of free trades. Note that Bank of America is simplifying the name of the broker to only Merrill in the near future.

Merrill Edge at a glance

Star Rating

3.5
  • Affordability: 3 of 5
  • Usability: 3 of 5
  • Tools & Research: 3 of 5
  • Mobile: 5 of 5
  • Scalability: 5 of 5
  • Minimum Balance:
    $0
  • Cost per stock trade:
    $6.95
  • Cost per options trade:
    $6.95+$0.75 per contract
  • Promotion:
    Up to $600 cash
  • Commission-free mutual funds or ETFs:
    None
  • No-transaction-fee mutual funds:
    2000+ NTF mutual funds
  • Securities tradable:
    Stocks, ETFs, options, mutual funds, bonds
  • Customer service:
    Phone 24/7, access to an advisor at >2,000 B of A locations, chat
  • Account fees:
    $49.95 transfer fee
  • Mobile app:
    Merrill Edge offers the “Merrill Edge” mobile app on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store

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 36 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.

If there’s a downside, it’s that you need to trade at least 15 times a quarter or have $50,000 or more in combined assets at Bank of America and Merrill in order to gain access.

Stories: This cool feature shows you the performance of your portfolio (Portfolio Story) or the details of a fund (Fund 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 highlighting visually how much a fund will cost you over time, so you can compare one fund against another more easily.

Where Merrill Edge rocks

Research and education: Merrill does a fine job at providing research on stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds. For fund research, 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.

Merrill also does a fine job providing educational materials to investors, with videos and articles explaining retirement and college investing, personal finance and how to begin investing, among many other topics.

Customer support: 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. The broker’s online chat representatives respond quickly too. In recent checks, replies from Merrill’s chat came back in less than 30 seconds and were helpful in getting answers to questions. 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 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 others.

Commission-free trades: This is one of the biggest perks that Merrill offers, because you can score ongoing free trades if your balance at the broker or Bank of America is $20,000 or more. You’ll need to sign up with Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program, and then you’ll receive up to 10 free stock or ETF trades a month. More than $50,000 will earn you 30 free trades a month, and if you have more than $100,000 in assets, then you’ll score 100 free trades a month. Plus, you’ll get some other bonuses, such as extra credit card rewards.

If you meet that $20,000 threshold or can do so in the near future, you could effectively have free trades on an ongoing basis, and that means no commissions for ETFs, too.  

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. Compare that with the days it typically takes to transfer money from your non-affiliated bank to your 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.

 

Quick comparison of Brokerage options:
Brokerage Overall Rating Avg. Cost Per Trade Usability Rating
Merrill Edge logo
$6.95 3 of 5
Robinhood® Review 2019 logo Read Our Review
$0 4 of 5
Interactive Brokers® Review 2019 logo Read Our Review
$1* 3 of 5
Vanguard® Review 2019 logo Read Our Review
$7* 3 of 5

Where Merrill Edge could improve

Commissions: Merrill’s trading commissions sit at the higher end of the industry, at $6.95 for an online stock or ETF trade. Options trades come in at $6.95 plus $0.75 per contract, again at the high end of the market. If you’re not doing a lot of trading, the extra couple of dollars more per trade (above rivals such as Charles Schwab and Fidelity) is not going to make much of a difference. But, as noted above, Merrill has one of the best offers to score free trades in the industry.  

Commission-free ETFs: Merrill doesn’t offer commission-free ETFs, which probably disappoints many investors. And that is a definite negative to note. However, customers do have the ability to receive free ETF trades via Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program, and these trades are even better than commission-free ETFs offered by other brokers. That’s because you’ll be able to trade any ETF for free, not just the limited subset that’s offered for free at rivals. So if you can score free trades at Merrill, that’s actually a key advantage over rivals.

Bottom line

Merrill makes a fine choice for many reasons, but here are the highlights that may make it right for you:

  • Merrill offers extensive and free research reports and market commentary from its own in-house team of analysts.
  • The customer support you’ll receive – chat, email, phone and even in-bank – responds quickly, and you’ll also have educational support from the wide array of learning modules.
  • While Merrill is not the cheapest broker around, you have the best opportunity to earn ongoing free trades here if you can reach the qualifying amount.

If you’re looking for cheaper trades while still enjoying high-quality research, you’ll also want to check out Charles Schwab and Fidelity Investments. And you should give Ally Invest a once-over, too, since it offers discounted trades at $4.95 per trade. Those who need commission-free ETFs but can’t quite hit Merrill’s minimum for free trades should look at Schwab, Fidelity and Vanguard, where the broker’s own ETFs cost nothing to trade.

If you’re in the market for an online broker, check out our 2019 brokerage reviews.

 

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