Merrill Edge® Review 2018

About our Review Process

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Bottom line in a sentence

If you're an active trader with $50,000 in the bank, Merrill Edge's synergy with Bank of America makes it one of the most cost-effective brokers.

Merrill Edge at a glance

Star Rating

3.5
  • Affordablity: 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
  • Commission-free mutual funds or ETFs:
    Fees waived on thousands of select mutual funds, but no cost-free ETFs available
  • Customer service:
    24-hour phone support and live internet chat; in-person support offered at many Bank of America branches
  • Inactivity fee:
    There is no annual inactivity fee.
  • Mobile app:
    Merrill Edge offers a mobile app available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
  • Annual fees:
    Along with regular commissions, there is a $24.95 wire transfer fee and a $49.95 full account transfer fee. There is no annual maintenance fee.
  • How long to withdraw:
    Once a sale has settled (2-3 business days), the account holder can request a withdrawal. Funds are usually received within 3-5 business days.
  • SIPC insured:
    Yes, the SIPC covers Merrill Edge accounts up to $500,000 in equity, which includes $250,000 for cash.
  • Best for:
    Active investors with well-funded Bank of America accounts

What Merrill Edge is

Merrill Edge is an online broker that traces its roots to some of the oldest and most powerful names on Wall Street. In 2008, Bank of America spent $50 billion to acquire Merrill Lynch, what was then the largest retail stock broker in America.

Bank of America has done some tinkering since that marriage, including rebranding the brokerage arm as Merrill Edge in 2010. But in many ways, Merrill Edge feels like a broker that has simply been bolted on as part of a big retail bank -- and as such, falls short for the typical individual investor in 2018. Merrill Edge offers basic features for investors, but nothing that really stands out from its competitors.

The big exception, however, is if you're a customer at its parent Bank of America and can unlock a bunch of perks including free trades each month and priority customer service. For these elite users, Merrill Edge has a lot to offer.

What Merrill Edge offers

Merrill Edge's interface is clearly designed to offer a wide umbrella of financial services and education, beyond simply functionality to buy and sell stocks.

In general, there is a welcoming approach with robust financial education of all types. This includes extensive investor resources to the intuitive design of navigation menus, as well as goal-based "how-to" guides like how to save for a home or improve your credit score. Common tasks are spelled out explicitly -- for example, "I want to convert to a Roth IRA" -- to help users demystify the investing process.

Quick comparison of Brokerage options:
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Some of these specific features worth noting include:

  • Average tools: Merrill Edge has a clear ceiling when it comes to more sophisticated strategies. Researching investment options can be a bit challenging, particularly if you're not digging into a company you're familiar with or looking for new recommendations. The on-platform stock screening tools do the job, giving a moderate array of metrics and time frames to provide an extra level of analysis, but they aren’t designed in an easy-to-read format.
    Image of the stock screener inside the merrill edge dashboard
    "The stock screener isn't very visually appealing, and requires a lot of manual entry and investing know-how to truly be useful."
  • Expert research: One place where Merrill Edge shines is the proprietary investment analysis on the platform in long-form white papers available for viewing and download as PDFs. The professional traders at Merrill Lynch post their findings and forecasts on select stocks, including explicit "buy" ratings and price targets. You'll also get third-party research reports from firms like CFRA and Morningstar.
  • Excellent mobile integration: Merrill Edge offers a superior mobile experience – and one that is seamlessly integrated with Bank of America online banking features. Users can easily place trades and monitor investments, but also make credit card payments or look at checking account transactions without leaving the app. Aside from the in-depth PDFs of investment research, which simply weren't designed for extensive reading on mobile devices, nearly every other research tool is ported over and reformatted for easy use on a small screen.
    Screenshot of the mobile version of a stock story.
    "While there aren’t a lot of sophisticated tools on the platform, that means Merrill Edge doesn't have to worry about losing functionality or depth on a mobile device. In many ways,the smartphone experience with this broker is better than a desktop one."

What Merrill Edge lacks

Merrill Edge simply lacks subtlety. The platform is run by its parent Bank of America with clear goals to up-sell small-time customers across its financial products, and to save the best experience for its wealthy customers who generate the most business.

If you qualify for it, the MarketPro software fills in many of the gaps the broker lacks on its standard research and analysis. And free transactions can save active traders thousands annually in fees. But these perks are available only if you meet the $50,000 threshold on your balances – and then your balance has to say there reliably amid the ebb and flow of the stock market.

Compared with the engaging design and deep analysis other brokers offer their regular customers, Merrill Edge clearly falls short.

Merrill Edge is best for...

If you don't have at least $50,000 to invest or simply don’t want to do business at Bank of America instead of your local institution, you'll likely benefit from using a different broker. But if you're already a customer with significant savings or don't mind moving over your cash to unlock premium perks, then this broker is definitely worth a look.

This is particularly true if you're a fan of mobile banking products, as the Merrill Edge app truly is first-class.

If you're a reasonably active trader with a big balance, the savings and synergy with Bank of America quickly become a feature instead of a drawback.