Merrill Edge® review 2021

Bankrate senior reporter James F. Royal, Ph.D. covers investing and wealth management. His work has been cited across major media, including CNBC, the Washington Post, The New York Times and the Associated Press. Royal believes in the power of education to help individuals make smart financial decisions that can positively and significantly improve their lives.

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Merrill Edge Logo

Best For

  • Research
  • One-stop finances
  • Customer support

Merrill Edge is a full-service broker that’s been fitted into an online version – all the benefits without all the costs. Besides commission-free trading on stocks and ETFs, Merrill Edge offers a wealth of research (including in-house reports), responsive 24/7 customer support and plenty of educational resources to help you get started. It’s also a great pick if you’re already a customer of its parent, Bank of America, because you can quickly move funds from one to the other, and maybe score some other perks, such as bonus credit-card rewards. Merrill Edge is a fine pick for a brokerage and it will help individual investors, whether they’re newer or more advanced. 

Merrill Edge at a glance

Star Rating

4.5
  • Cost: 4 of 5
  • Accounts and trading: 4 of 5
  • Research and Education: 5 of 5
  • Mobile: 4 of 5
  • Customer Experience: 5 of 5
  • Minimum Balance:
    $0
  • Cost per stock trade:
    $0
  • Cost per options trade:
    $0.65 per contract
  • Promotion:
    Up to $600 cash
  • Commission-free mutual funds or ETFs:
    All
  • No-transaction-fee mutual funds:
    2,400+ NTF mutual funds
  • Securities tradable:
    Stocks, ETFs, options, mutual funds, bonds
  • Customer service:
    Phone 24/7, access to an adviser at more than 2,000 B of A locations
  • Account fees:
    $49.95 full transfer fee, $49.95 closeout fees on retirement accounts
  • Mobile app:
    Merrill Edge offers the “Merrill Edge” mobile app on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

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.

Stories

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 line-up 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.

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. 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 many others. 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.   

Commission-free stock and ETF trades

Like other major brokers, Merrill Edge offers stock and ETF trades that are commission-free. Options trades are in line with the industry now, at $0.65 per contract. 

Commission-free trading is one of the biggest perks that Merrill offers, and it 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. Be sure to look into the program with the broker or bank. 

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.

Quick comparison of Brokerage options:
Brokerage Overall Rating Avg. Cost Per Trade Accounts and Trading
Merrill Edge logo
$0 4 of 5
Charles Schwab® review 2021 logo Read Our Review
$0 5 of 5
Interactive Brokers® review 2021 logo Read Our Review
$1*, $0 for IBKR Lite 5 of 5
Vanguard® review 2021 logo Read Our Review
$0 3 of 5

Cons: Where Merrill Edge could improve

Clunky website interface

With the introduction of 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.

Fractional shares

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, let you do both on thousands of stocks, and fractional share investing is a small but increasingly popular way for brokers to differentiate themselves. 

Account fees

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. 

Investment selection

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 people, and it’s only going to be a handful of people (likely more advanced traders) who need something more, and 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. 

Bottom line

Merrill Edge does a lot of things right, especially in the area of what could broadly be called customer support: 

  • Investors have access to a huge range of research, including the broker’s own reports on individual stocks, as well as third-party research.
  • A ton of educational content helps guide newer investors, while highly responsive customer support is there at almost any time in email and phone.
  • The integration with Bank of America makes it easy for those who need to consult an adviser in person, want to shift money in their accounts or want extra credit card perks.

Those on the hunt for a wider investment selection can check out Interactive Brokers, while those who need a strong research component should look at Charles Schwab or Fidelity Investments. E-Trade and TD Ameritrade are both solid picks on this score as well, and they have good customer support, too.  

 

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