1 Minute Review
Merrill Edge is the discount brokerage wing of Merrill Lynch, who now operates under the umbrella of Bank of America. Bank of America customers get unique perks with Merrill Edge thanks to its fully-integrated system. Customers can jump back and forth between brokerage and banking services instantly and perform tasks like transferring money and paying bills.
Merrill Edge doesn’t provide access to advanced derivatives like futures and forex, but stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, options and fixed income securities can still be traded in a variety of accounts and vehicles. Additionally, Merrill Edge earns high marks for its research and customer service, although the asset class selection and mobile trading features aren’t as dynamic as some competitors.
- Retirement savers
- Bank of America customers
- Beginner traders and new investors
- Free research from reputable sources
- Powerful Merrill Edge MarketPro platform
- Bank of America customers can easily link accounts
- Limited derivatives trading
- No OTC stocks
Why Merrill Edge Over Others?
Merrill Lynch was acquired by Bank of America during the fallout of the financial crisis in 2008. After purchasing the troubled firm, Bank of America split it into 2 entities: Merrill Lynch for high-end wealth management and Merrill Edge for discount DIY brokerage services. Merrill Edge is great for investors who already use banking services through Bank of America.
- Complete integration with Bank of America accounts: Transferring money between bank and brokerage accounts has never been easier. Customers who use Bank of America for checking or saving can instantaneously transfer funds into their Merrill Edge brokerage accounts. Account integration is seamless — clients use 1 login and password to access both banking and brokerage services.
- Wealth of market research: With Bank of America at their back, Merrill Edge has one of the most complete libraries of market research in the DIY brokerage space. Research and education is broken down into 3 sections: Guidance and Retirement, Research and Investor Education. Clients have access to Bank of America Global Research, the number 1 ranked research report on institutional investors. Additionally, 3rd-party reports from Morningstar and CFBA are available.
- Convenient customer service: Merrill Edge gets customer service right with 24/7 availability, low wait times, and a bevy of communication choices. Reach out by phone, chat, or email or simply visit one of the thousands of Bank of America branches in the U.S. for a face-to-face meeting. Merrill makes it easy to connect and clients won’t have to jump through hoops to have their issues resolved.
Merrill Edge Quick Summary
|Asset Classes||Stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, options, bonds|
|Platform||Standard desktop and mobile app platformMarketPro for active traders|
|Mobile App||Merrill Edge Mobile for iOS and Android|
|Account Minimum||$0 for standard brokerage accounts$5,000 for Merrill Edge guided investing$20,000 for Merrill Edge Select portfolios|
|Available Account Types||Taxable (Individual, Joint, Custodial)IRA (traditional, Roth, Rollover, SEP, SIMPLE)401(k) – Small business and self-employed529 Plans|
Merrill Edge Fees, Commissions, Margin Rates and Account Minimums (5 Stars)
Like most of its brokerage brethren, Merrill Edge has reduced equity commissions to 0 and removed account minimums for basic taxable accounts. Managed portfolios and advisor services have minimum capital requirements, but most investors are able to open an account and buy stocks without paying a dime in fees or commissions.
Margin rates are broken into 3 tiers, although loan amounts of $100,000 or more will need to call for a personalized offer.
|Mutual Funds||No-load, no-fee funds are freeTF funds require a $19.95 fee|
|Options||$0.65 per contract|
|Bonds||New issues and treasuries are freeSecondary trades are $1 per bond ($10 min, $250 max)|
|Margin Rates||Less than $25,000 – 9.625%$25,000 to $100,000 – 8.5%Over $100,000 – Call 855-332-5920|
Merrill Edge Usability (4 Stars)
As the discount DIY arm of Merrill Lynch’s investment services, Merrill Edge is aimed at guiding inexperienced investors through the markets step-by-step. Futures and forex trading is unavailable on the platform, so investors must choose from equities, options and fixed income securities. Advanced investors looking for 24/6 futures trading won’t find Merrill Edge’s system appealing, but for those just looking to save for retirement or trade a few stocks, Merrill offers more than enough.
- Variety of ways to absorb education materials: Merrill Edge’s website is nearly all investor education and research materials. Not only are entire sections dedicated to retirement saving, different asset classes, trading styles and account types, but these can be read as an article, viewed as a video or participated in as a webinar. For example, the Morningstar Classroom provides basic slideshows and quizzes to help new investors gain an understanding how stocks, ETFs and options work. Some people learn by watching, others learn by reading — Merrill Edge provides resources for both.
- Straightforward onboarding and trading process: Signing up for Merrill Edge is easy, especially if you already have accounts set up with Bank of America. Simply fill out the application and once approved, you can instantly fund your account with money from your Bank of America checking or savings vehicles. Trading is also a simple process on both the desktop and mobile apps. Simply look up the security you want to trade and enter your order. Merrill Edge allows clients to set up complex multi-leg options trades and participate in pre- and post-market trading.
- Tools and calculators for investment planning: Thinking of starting a retirement fund? Or rolling a 401(k) into a Roth IRA? Merrill Edge has the tools needed to run the numbers and allow potential clients to see their range of options. The personal retirement calculator, for example, allows users to play around with savings and return rates to formulate ideas about their account balances as retirement approaches. The Roth IRA conversion calculator helps clients decide whether it’s better to stay in a 401(k) or roll funds over into a Roth. Sometimes, the hard cold numbers make decisions more black and white. Merrill Edge has 7 different calculators and tools to help clients get exact figures on their potential investments.
Merrill Edge Education (5 Stars)
Merrill Edge does more than just educate its users. It provides an entire curriculum on investing, markets and the economy. The offerings are robust and full of useful information, no matter what your investing experience level is.
- Guidance and retirement: Many of Merrill Edge’s clients aren’t looking for a high-speed day trading operation but practical retirement advice and easy-to-manage investments. The Guidance section helps clients choose the proper investing vehicle, whether it’s a Roth IRA to maximize tax savings or a taxable account if you’ve reached your contribution limits. The Retirement section breaks down the steps to save properly for the Golden Years. In a 4-step process, clients learn what steps to take to get started and how to manage their investments as retirement age approaches — and most importantly, how to preserve your wealth once you retire and start withdrawing money.
- Research: Clients receive in-depth reports from BofAML Global Research, Morningstar, and CFNA from S&P Global. Additionally, market news and screening tools provide insight into selecting securities and gauging sentiment. You’ll get a list of the biggest market movers, updated bond rates and commodities prices, and targeted research divided up by asset classes.
- Investor education: Are you new to investing? No worries, Merrill Edge will hold your hand throughout the initial steps. Are you an experienced investor? Merrill Edge teaches clients about tax-enhancing strategies like adding municipal bonds or building multi-leg options trades. Education topics are broken down by asset class and clients can learn via video, webinar, lecture or written article.
Merrill Edge Customer Support (5 Stars)
Merrill Edge offers 24/7 phone support, along with live chat via a widget that appears on the bottom of its web pages. A FAQ section also provides helpful info about finding your account balances, transferring funds and downloading important tax documents.
|Form on client homepage|
|Chat||Chat widget linked at the bottom of most Merrill Edge web pages|
|In-person Support||Bank of America branches nationwide|
Merrill Edge Offerings (4.5 Stars)
Merrill Edge isn’t exactly the dream broker for advanced traders. While you can still trade all manner of stocks and options, derivatives trading is severely limited. No forex trading is available, neither are any types of futures contracts. However, there’s a variety of equities and fixed income securities to choose from.
Merrill Edge Stocks, ETFs and Mutual Funds
Merrill Edge has stocks, ETFs and mutual funds available commission-free. Over 10,000 securities can be screened using criteria like sector, fees, risk factor, market cap, performance and more. Merrill Edge screeners have over 200 filters to help clients find securities that fit their criteria exactly.
Merrill Edge Options
Merrill Edge has a robust options trading operation thanks to MarketPro. Clients can make basic options trades like buying and selling puts and calls or ramp up to more advanced strategies like straddling, butterfly calls and puts, and the always popular Iron Condor. Options trading is free from commission, but contracts cost $0.65 per piece. Standard, mini and jumbo contract sizes are available (mini contracts allow the purchase of 10 contracts instead of the usual full block of 100).
Merrill Edge Mobile App (4 Stars)
Merrill Edge has a mobile app that’s easy to use and fully integrates with Bank of America accounts. However, there’s no mobile version of the MarketPro trading platform, which leaves advanced traders using simpler software than they’d prefer when on the go.
The Merrill Edge mobile app is sleek with a customizable dashboard and completely interactive charts and heat maps. You can also set watchlists and customizable alerts that pop up when your stocks make any sudden moves. Checks can be deposited via mobile and inserted right into your brokerage account, too. You can even pay your bills! Merrill Edge mobile is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android operating systems.
Merrill Edge Works for First-Time Investors (4.5 Stars)
If you’re looking for an affordable DIY brokerage with minimal complexity but still a few bells and whistles, Merrill Edge is an excellent choice. Asset classes are limited to equities, options and fixed income, but newbies won’t want to venture into the world of high-leveraged derivatives anyway. Merrill Edge has a simple, no-frills platform for its core clients, but advanced traders can still run complex options trade or market analysis with the MarketPro platform.
Bank of America customers have an added perk with fully integrative services. Transferring money between brokerage and checking accounts is a luxury most investors don’t get to enjoy, but clients here can even take care of bills and set up automatic payments. Plus there’s enough retirement planning info to satisfy even the most curious saver. If you bank with Bank of America, consider Merrill Edge next time you’re looking for a new brokerage account.