Merrill Edge at a glance
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 visually highlighting how much a fund will cost you over time, so you can easily compare one fund against another.
Where Merrill Edge rocks
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.
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.
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 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 others.
Commission-free stock and ETF trades: This is one of the biggest perks that Merrill offers, and 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.
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.
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.
- Merrill has joined the fray with $0 commissions for stock and ETF trades, making its trading fees as cheap as anyone in the industry, while providing many other advantages.
If you’re looking for cheap trades while still enjoying high-quality research, you’ll also want to check out Charles Schwab and Fidelity Investments. And you should give E*Trade a once-over, too, for the same reasons.
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