Merrill Edge® review 2023
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Merrill Edge: Best for
- Existing Bank of America customers
- Customer support
Merrill Edge is a strong pick if you’re looking for excellent research, a broad selection of educational resources and the industry standard of no commissions for stock and ETF trades. Those elements pair well with the broker’s advanced MarketPro trading platform, though Merrill only offers the usual investable securities (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs and options). Merrill clients will benefit especially if they already have an account with parent Bank of America since they can transfer money quickly between either entity, as well as benefit from additional credit-card rewards. Despite these positives, Merrill skimps when it comes to no-transaction-fee mutual funds with many fewer than key rivals, perhaps not a dealbreaker but annoying anyway.
If the broadest selection of commission-free mutual funds is important to you and you don’t want to sacrifice other features, check out Interactive Brokers, Charles Schwab and E-Trade, all of which offer thousands of mutual funds without a transaction fee.
Merrill Edge: In the details
Pros: Where Merrill Edge stands out
Research and education
Merrill does a fine job of providing research on stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds. When it comes to funds, Merrill includes research from Morningstar and Lipper, while its own in-house team, Morningstar and CFRA provide 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 or others cover 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. If research and education are important to you, check out TD Ameritrade, too.
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 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 a major 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 advisor to help you along the way. Either way, pricing is cheaper if you’re a Bank of America preferred rewards client.
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 dozens of 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.
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 and be visible on a single dashboard. 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.
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.
Cons: Where Merrill Edge could improve
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 it 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.
Clunky website interface
If there’s one place Merrill 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 Investments and Interactive Brokers, let you do both on thousands of stocks, and fractional share investing is a small but increasingly popular way for brokers to differentiate themselves.
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.
Firstrade4.0 Bankrate Score
Firstrade is a solid brokerage offering that may particularly appeal to options traders because of its commission-free options trades. You’ll also get access to quality research and its mobile app, but mutual fund investors may be disappointed by the small number of no-transaction fee funds available.
TD Ameritrade4.5 Bankrate Score
TD Ameritrade still offers strong platforms and a range of research for its clients, making it a very solid pick for more advanced traders, even as it is about to merge with Charles Schwab. A wide range of tradable securities and plenty of commission-free mutual funds make this broker interesting for both new and advanced traders, as do the competitive commissions.
WellsTrade2.5 Bankrate Score
WellsTrade handles most of the basics well and could be a good fit for existing Wells Fargo customers looking to consolidate accounts in one place. However, active traders should likely look elsewhere for their brokerage needs due to high options costs and a barebones trading platform.
J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing3.0 Bankrate Score
J.P Morgan’s Self-Directed Investing platform is a good fit for existing Chase customers who are looking for a low-cost way to trade stocks, ETFs and mutual funds while getting access to the bank’s easy-to-use mobile app. However, only a few account types are offered and If you’re looking to trade forex, futures or crypto, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Interactive Brokers5.0 Bankrate Score
Interactive Brokers keeps adding new features and improving its offerings year after year, and now has new mobile apps to pair with long-time strengths such as its wide number of tradable securities and access to global markets. Low margin rates, high interest rates on cash balances, and a leading number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds serve to make this broker a top pick.
E*Trade4.5 Bankrate Score
E-Trade is likely to be a suitable broker choice for many investors who will appreciate its low trading costs, high-quality research and education, and 24/7 access to customer service. However, if you’re starting small and looking to trade fractional shares, you’ll need to find a different option.
Ally Invest4.0 Bankrate Score
Ally Invest offers a solid brokerage with many of the features that investors have come to love, especially no-commission trades on stocks and ETFs, but it ups the game with low-cost options trades, too. All-hours customer support and an all-encompassing mobile app will make sure you get business done on your terms, though mutual fund investors may be a bit disappointed.
Fidelity5.0 Bankrate Score
Fidelity Investments is back again with another blowout performance in Bankrate’s reviews. This broker seems to do it all right, from low costs to plenty of research to mutual funds to prompt and courteous customer service. And with so much under the Fidelity roof – banking, credit cards and more – you could capably run your financial life here.
Charles Schwab5.0 Bankrate Score
Charles Schwab is a great all-around broker, whether you’re just getting started investing or are more advanced, and it can bring the heat on almost anything you’re likely to need. Add on strong customer support, a wide investment selection, no-commission mutual funds, and tons of research, and you have the makings of a five-star broker.
Webull4.0 Bankrate Score
Webull offers a lot that investors will like such as commission-free trading, fractional shares and a slick mobile app that allows you to trade on the go or keep tabs on your favorite stocks. But only a few account types are offered and you won’t find the level of research that is available through other brokers.
Robinhood3.5 Bankrate Score
Robinhood has taken its game up a notch or two, pairing its traditional no-cost trading with new IRA accounts (and a special bonus match for clients) as well as improvements in customer service, including 24/7 chat. The mobile app remains an attractive place for options traders but is a no-go for those looking for mutual funds or a wide range of account types.
Vanguard3.0 Bankrate Score
Vanguard’s brokerage offering can handle the basics well and may be a good fit for long-term fund investors. But more active traders will be disappointed by the basic trading platform and high commissions for options trading.
TradeStation3.5 Bankrate Score
TradeStation’s brokerage offering is likely to suit active traders better than it does new investors or those just looking to save for retirement. Customers will get an advanced trading platform with low commissions, but you won’t find fractional shares and the mutual fund offering is limited.
SoFi Active Investing3.0 Bankrate Score
SoFi Active Investing is a low-cost broker that should meet the needs of new investors looking to only trade stocks and ETFs. More experienced investors may be disappointed by the lack of options or mutual fund trading and a limited research offering.
moomoo3.0 Bankrate Score
Moomoo joins a crowded field of discount brokerages with an appeal to individual traders, offering some atypical features, including access to U.S., Hong Kong and Chinese markets. Competitive pricing on stocks, ETFs and options will prove welcome with traders, though others may find the lack of account types, limited available securities and high transfer fees off-putting.
Zacks Trade3.5 Bankrate Score
Zacks Trade is a broker that should appeal to active traders with its advanced trading platform and ample research offering. New investors may be turned off by the high account minimum and fees for mutual fund trades.
Lightspeed3.0 Bankrate Score
Lightspeed is all about active traders who can deliver volume to the broker, and so everything is optimized around making the experience the best for them. That means discounted prices for high-volume trades and multiple high-power trading platforms, but it also means no concern for eliminating the nickel-and-dime costs that other brokers routinely slash.
tastytrade3.5 Bankrate Score
Tastytrade offers some of the lowest commissions around, whether you’re trading stocks, options or even cryptocurrency – and it actually caps your commissions on the latter two. Traders should find a lot to like here, among the commissions, trading platform and the variety of trading securities on offer, though long-term investors may bemoan the lack of mutual funds.