May 11, 2018

Merrill Edge Review: Is It Good?

Read more about Merrill Edge
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If you are looking for excellent customer service, competitive pricing, and robust investment options, you may have found what you are looking for in Merrill Edge.

Overall Score

4.3

Stock Trading

5.0

Options Trading

4.0

Mutual Fund Trading

3.0

Online Platform

4.0

Banking

5.0

Mobile App

5.0

Commissions and Fees

4.0

Ease of Use

4.0

Research

5.0
5-point scale (the higher, the better)

Pros and Cons

  • No account minimums
  • Current Bank of America customers experience seamless account integration
  • Robust research opportunities
  • Platform is not friendly for frequent traders who execute quick trades
  • No commission-free ETFs available
  • Market research reports can be hard for beginners to understand

Bottom Line

Affordable online broker with robust research options for small to mid-size investors

Operating as an online broker, Merrill Edge offers your basic investment opportunities, including stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. They also offer the ability to trade ETFs, options and even open/rollover your retirement accounts. With more than 2,100 branches located throughout the country and the seamless integration of Bank of America accounts with Merrill Edge accounts, it's easy to have around-the-clock access to your investment accounts.

Keep reading to determine if Merrill Edge meets your investment needs.

What Does Merrill Edge Offer?

Merrill Edge is a full-service broker with discount broker prices. Investors have the option of online investing, Merrill Edge Guided Investing, or investing with an advisor.

If you choose online investing, you get your standard discount broker service, where you make a majority of the decisions and execute the trades. Merrill Edge offers competitive pricing that is similar to the prices of the other popular discount brokers, but backs it up with robust customer service and multiple avenues for research.

Merrill Edge Guided Investing gives you the best of both worlds between online trading and professional management of your portfolio. You state your goals online, and Merrill Edge provides you with a recommended strategy to reach those goals. Unlike robo advisors, you'll have "real professionals" monitoring your account and making changes to stay in line with your intended goals.

If you prefer investing with an advisor in person or your trading needs are complex, you have the option to invest with an advisor at one of Bank of America's 2,100 locations. Keep in mind, though, that the commissions and fees are much higher when you work with an advisor in person.

Who Benefits from Merrill Edge?

  • Current Bank of America customers: Bank of America owns Merrill Edge, which makes it a seamless process to invest with Merrill Edge. With prepopulated information, it takes only minutes to complete the application to start investing. You can then fund the account with the click of a few buttons. The money arrives instantly when you transfer the funds from your Bank of America account. You can then manage all of your accounts on one dashboard, including your banking and investment accounts.

  • New traders: Merrill Edge offers a lot of assistance to new traders, providing as much handholding as necessary when first starting. Even if you choose self-directed investing, the level of support and guidance offered makes it easy. The Merrill Edge website offers tools and tutorials for beginners and experts alike.

  • Frequent traders with large balances: If you are a seasoned and high-balance investor, Merrill Edge offers a variety of benefits. You may earn between 30 and 100 commission-free trades per month if you meet the $50,000 or $100,000 combined 3-month balance account minimums. This includes any Bank of America deposit accounts you carry.

What We Like about Merrill Edge

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  • They provide 24/7 customer support. Customer service is important, especially when dealing with self-directed investments. Merrill Edge doesn't disappoint with their 24/7 phone support, as well as online chat and email options.

  • Signing up for an investment account is simple. If you are already a Bank of America customer, you can open an account in a matter of minutes. But even if you aren't, it's easy to sign up. You'll need basic information, such as your Social Security number, employment information, and basic financial information.

  • They offer free in-person consultations. Bank of America has more than 2,100 branches that you can visit for in-person support. Merrill Edge offers complimentary consultations if you have a Bank of America in your area.

  • They offer a large selection of accounts. You can open a large variety of accounts online, including retirement, trust accounts, estate accounts, and online brokerage accounts. You can choose from Roth, Traditional, and Rollover IRAs as well as small business 401(k)s, or invest in stocks, options, bonds, mutual funds, and ETFs.

  • There are no account minimums to open a self-directed account. Merrill Edge doesn't require a specific dollar amount to open an account. Of course, you'll need money to start investing, so it's kind of a moot point, but it's nice to know you don't need $5,000 or more just to open an account.

  • They provide thorough mutual fund research opportunities. Merrill Edge offers robust opportunities for mutual fund research by providing access to both Morningstar and Lippers. Many online brokerages offer the use of one, not both. Merrill Edge combines this research with their own research, giving you a great opportunity for educated investments.

  • They provide thorough research opportunities for retirement planning. Even without the help of a retirement specialist, you can make your own retirement planning decisions through the help of Merrill Edge's Guidance and Retirement Center. You'll find many tools, calculators, and educational opportunities to help guide you in your investment choices.

  • They offer a vast amount of online educational resources. Merrill Edge's website contains a variety of educational opportunities. Whether you prefer to read articles, use tools, watch videos, or take courses, they offer all of these options for investors.

  • They offer thousands of no transaction fee mutual funds. The no transaction fee mutual funds are available through the self-directed investing option.

  • They offer a hands-off investment strategy. If you don't have the time or patience to manage your own investments, you can apply for the Merrill Edge Guided Investing service. You'll need $5,000 to get started and pay a small annual fee, but for many investors, it's worth it.

Reasons You May Want to Look Elsewhere

  • You are an advanced trader with robust trading needs. The advanced trading platform, MarketPro, provides what traders need, including customization opportunities and streaming data. However, it's a web-based, Java-driven program that cannot be accessed anywhere except from your PC.

  • You want to trade futures or forex options. Merrill Edge doesn't offer the ability to trade futures or forex options, which limits your investment options.

  • You want to invest in commission-free ETFs. Unlike many of its competitors, Merrill Edge doesn't offer commission-free ETFs, which can be a big disappointment for new investors.

How Do Their Platform and Tools Stack Up?

Merrill Edge's basic trading platform is user-friendly and robust. As we discussed above, they provide many opportunities for research as well as a variety of tools. You can even take the platform with you using Merrill Edge's mobile app, which we discuss in detail below.

The website itself is clean and easy to navigate. You can use a variety of screeners to help you find the stocks, bonds, or mutual funds you want quickly. If you are a frequent and large trader, you may have access to Merrill Edge's MarketPro.

In order to qualify for the use of MarketPro, you must execute at least 15 trades per quarter or have a combined balance of $50,000 in your Bank of America and Merrill Edge accounts. MarketPro offers streaming quotes and a variety of advanced charting opportunities for the advanced investor. The MarketPro platform doesn't provide the same seamless experience as the basic trading platform, though. Advanced investors often express frustration with the lack of one-button ordering and the need to continually refresh to get immediate updates.

Mobile App

If you are a basic investor using the core platform, you'll see the same platform in Merrill Edge's mobile app. It's available for all Apple and Android devices and provides up-to-the-minute quotes and information. You can even do your retirement planning on their mobile app or brush up on your educational content while you are out and about.

You should note, though, that the MarketPro platform is strictly a desktop program - you cannot access it on their app.

How They Compare

Fidelity: One area Fidelity shines where Merrill Edge doesn't is in its no transaction fee mutual fund and ETF options. Merrill Edge doesn't offer any no-fee ETFs and only offers a fraction of the no-fee mutual funds that Fidelity offers. All other things being equal, they charge similar fees and provide user-friendly platforms.

 

Merrill Edge

Fidelity

 

Benefits and Features

Stock Trading
$6.95 per trade
$4.95 per trade
Options Trading
$6.95 + $.75 per contract
$4.95 per online trade, plus $0.65 per contract
Minimum Deposit
$0
$2,500
Mutual Fund Trading$0 for no load, no-transaction-fee funds ($39.95 short-term redemption fee if the fund is held less than 90 days) $19.95 for no load, transaction-fee funds$0 transaction fee for Fidelity funds
$0 on purchase for NTF (no transaction fee) non-Fidelity funds. ($49.95 on redemption if held less than 60 days)
$49.95 on purchase for non-Fidelity funds; $0 on redemption. (Certain funds may have a $75 transaction fee).
Commission Free ETFs
None
93 including 8 Fidelity Factor ETFs, 11 Fidelity Sector ETFs, 3 Fidelity Bond ETFs, Fidelity ONEQ, and 70 commission-free funds from iShares ETFs
Broker Assisted Trades
$29.95
$32.95 per trade for representative-assisted trades.
Customer Service
24/7
(800) 343-3548
Inactivity Fee
None
$0
Maintenance Fee
$0
$12 per year for each noncore Fidelity fund under $2,000.
$25 per year for SIMPLE IRAs.
$48 per year ($12 per quarter) administrative fee for Fidelity HSA.
Banking
Through Bank of America
Fidelity Cash Management Account includes reimbursed ATM fees, no monthly fee, no minimum balance requirement, FDIC insurance, mobile check deposit, free billpay and free checkwriting.
Mobile App
Yes
Desktop App
Yes
Active Trader Pro (requires you trade 36 times or more in a rolling 12 month period)
Forex Trading
No
 
Futures Trading
No
 
LocationsMore than 2,100 Bank of America locations
More than 180
Online Community
No
 
Seminars
Yes
 
Virtual Trading
No
Stock Trading
Options Trading
Mutual Fund Trading
Online Platform
Banking
Mobile App
Commissions and Fees
Ease of Use
Research

Blank fields may indicate the information is not available, not applicable, or not known to CreditDonkey. Please visit the product website for details.

Merrill Edge: Pricing information from published websites as of 4/16/2018

Fidelity: Pricing information from published website as of 02/28/2017

Vanguard: If you are in the market for strictly an investment broker and not the combination of a broker and bank, Vanguard is a close second to Merrill Edge. They offer a similar commission structure, user-friendly platform, and many no-fee mutual funds and ETFs.

 

Merrill Edge

Vanguard

 

Benefits and Features

Stock Trading
$6.95 per trade
Less than $50,000: $7 per trade for the first 25 trades per year, then $20.
$50k - $500k: All trades $7.
$500k - $1M: All trades $2.
$1M - $5M: First 25 trades per year free, then $2.
$5M+: First 100 trades per year free, then $2
Options Trading
$6.95 + $.75 per contract
Less than $500,000: $7 + $1 per contract.
$500,000+: $2 + $1 per contract
Minimum Deposit
$0
$0
Mutual Fund Trading$0 for no load, no-transaction-fee funds ($39.95 short-term redemption fee if the fund is held less than 90 days) $19.95 for no load, transaction-fee funds$0 for no-transaction-fee funds. For transaction-fee funds: $20 for account balances less than $500,000; $8 for account balances $500,000+
Commission Free ETFs
None
55+
Broker Assisted Trades
$29.95
$25.00
Customer Service
24/7
Monday-Friday 8am -10pm ET
Inactivity Fee
None
$0
Maintenance Fee
$0
$20/year. Waived if account owner signs up for e-delivery service OR have at least $10,000 in Vanguard ETFs and mutual funds
Banking
Through Bank of America
No
Mobile App
Yes
Yes
Desktop App
Yes
Yes
Forex Trading
No
Yes
Futures Trading
No
No
LocationsMore than 2,100 Bank of America locations
No
Online Community
No
No
Seminars
Yes
Yes
Virtual Trading
No
No
Stock Trading
Options Trading
Mutual Fund Trading
Online Platform
Banking
Mobile App
Commissions and Fees
Ease of Use
Research

Merrill Edge: Pricing information from published websites as of 4/16/2018

Vanguard: Pricing information from published websites as of 4/16/2018

E*TRADE: If you are interested in trading futures, E*TRADE will provide you with this ability while charging prices similar to Merrill Edge. E*TRADE also has similar offerings, including web-based and app-based trading. Once again, E*TRADE offers no-fee ETFs while Merrill Edge doesn't.

 

Merrill Edge

E*TRADE

 

Benefits and Features

Stock Trading
$6.95 per trade
$6.95 per trade
$4.95 per trade if you make 30+ trades a quarter
Options Trading
$6.95 + $.75 per contract
$6.95 + $0.75 per contract
$4.95 + $0.50 per contract if you make 30+ trades a quarter
Minimum Deposit
$0
$500 for brokerage accounts
No account minimum for retirement accounts
Mutual Fund Trading$0 for no load, no-transaction-fee funds ($39.95 short-term redemption fee if the fund is held less than 90 days) $19.95 for no load, transaction-fee funds$0 for no-load, no-transaction-fee funds
$19.99 for transaction-fee funds
Commission Free ETFs
None
200+ including ETFs from WisdomTree, Global X Funds, and db-X Deutsche Bank
Penny Stocks 
Broker Assisted Trades
$29.95
$25 + Regular Commission
Customer Service
24/7
(650) 599-0125
Inactivity Fee
None
$0
Maintenance Fee
$0
$0
Banking
Through Bank of America
Checking account offers no minimum balance requirements, free online bill pay, and unlimited debit card and check transactions.
Mobile App
Yes
Desktop App
Yes
E*TRADE Pro (requires you execute at least 30 trades during a calendar quarter or maintain brokerage account balance of at least $250,000)
Forex Trading
No
 
Futures Trading
No
LocationsMore than 2,100 Bank of America locations
30
Online Community
No
ETrade Community lets you exchange trading and investing ideas with other ETrade customers.
Seminars
Yes
Live events and educational seminars at local branches.
Virtual Trading
No
 
Stock Trading
Options Trading
Mutual Fund Trading
Online Platform
Banking
Mobile App
Commissions and Fees
Ease of Use
Research
Online Community
Trading Platform

Blank fields may indicate the information is not available, not applicable, or not known to CreditDonkey. Please visit the product website for details.

Merrill Edge: Pricing information from published websites as of 4/16/2018

E*TRADE: Pricing information from published website as of 03/13/2017

Bottom Line

Merrill Edge provides investors with a variety of benefits. If 24/7 customer service, no account minimums, and avid research are important to you, they fit the bill nicely. If you have complex trading needs or are looking for commission-free ETFs, however, you may want to look elsewhere.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy financial decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

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