Merrill Edge® review 2022
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Merrill Edge: Best for
- Existing Bank of America customers
- Customer support
Merrill Edge is a solid choice for investors looking for an excellent research offering and top-notch customer service — with access to financial advisors at more than 2,000 Bank of America locations — that also comes with no commissions on stocks and ETFs. Newer investors will benefit from its educational resources, while more advanced traders will appreciate the MarketPro trading platform. Customers at Bank of America can transfer money seamlessly between their bank savings or checking accounts and Merrill Edge — and might even see additional credit-card rewards. The broker is a solid choice for both new and experienced investors.
Though Merrill does offer no-transaction fee mutual funds, the number of funds available falls short of other brokers such as Fidelity Investments, Charles Schwab and Vanguard, which each offer more than 3,000 fee-free funds.
Merrill Edge: In the details
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. You’ll also have access to Level II quotes, which shows you the order book for Nasdaq stocks and can provide insight into how a stock is trading along with the type of trader involved.
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 lineup 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, SIMPLE IRA, SEP IRA and solo 401(k), among many others. You can also save for your child’s education through 529 plans or just invest on their behalf through custodial accounts. 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.
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.
Customers with balances of $20,000 or more will see a boost in credit card rewards that can increase their cash back through the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program. Make sure to ask the broker or bank about the program.
Cons: Where Merrill Edge could improve
Clunky website interface
By offering commission-free trading for stocks and ETFs, Merrill really narrowed the gap between itself and rivals. But if there’s one place it could improve, it’s on the basic site navigation and trading interface. It can take too long to move between screens using the tabs, and the order entry is too cumbersome, even if you’re making only a one-off trade. Sometimes you must click in tiny menus to execute a trade, and the process is simply more clunky than it ought to be. Of course, there’s always MarketPro if you need a more dynamic platform.
Merrill Edge allows you to reinvest your dividends into fractional shares of stock, letting you roll that full payout into more equity. That’s a small perk, but it’s a nice one. So it’s too bad that the broker doesn’t also do the same with stock purchases, allowing you to invest a set dollar amount into whatever stock you want.
Some top brokers, including Fidelity, let you do both on thousands of stocks, and fractional share investing is a small but increasingly popular way for brokers to differentiate themselves.
Merrill Edge doesn’t have an inactivity fee, but it will ding you as you go out the door. It charges a $49.95 fee for a full transfer out of your account to another broker, though fortunately doesn’t hit you for a partial transfer. It will also clip you for $49.95 to close out a retirement account, though this fee won’t stack with the transfer-out fee. Standard investing accounts do not have a close-out fee, however.
Let’s be clear: Merrill Edge offers the core investment securities – stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds and options. Those choices will suffice for the vast majority of investors, and it’s only going to be a handful of people (likely more advanced traders) who need something more — only for that group does the broker fall short. So if you want to trade forex, futures or cryptocurrency, you’ll need to look for another broker, perhaps Interactive Brokers, which is well-known for its broad range of potential investments.
In addition, Merrill offers less than 900 no-cost mutual funds, which puts it well below that of other major brokers that offer more than 3,000. A boost to the number of fee-free funds available would be warmly welcomed by investors.