menu
Open an account today. Get Started
Overall

Merrill Edge offers clients fantastic customer service and a well-rounded package worth being a client for, especially Bank of America clients under the Preferred Rewards program.

Commissions & Fees
Offering of Investments
Platforms & Tools
View More
Best in Class
  • Overall
  • Commissions & Fees
  • Research
  • Customer Service
  • Ease of Use
arrow_drop_down arrow_drop_up

By Blain Reinkensmeyer on February 21st, 2017 | Last updated: March 21st, 2017

Dislikes
  • Advanced order types not supported
  • Only supports up to two-legged option spreads
  • MarketPro platform offers no one-click buy/sell tools for active traders
Special Offer Invest in a new account and get up to $600 Learn More


Merrill Edge Review

For our 2017 Stock Broker Review we assessed, rated, and ranked sixteen different online brokers over a period of six months. In total, we conducted 349 customer service tests, collected 5,277 data points, and produced over 40,000 words of research. Learn more.

Merrill Lynch, a well-respected brand founded in 1914, was acquired by Bank of America in January 2009, and Merrill Edge was formally launched in June 2010. Despite the acquisition, Merrill Edge is not restricted to clients from Bank of America. Instead, any investor can open a Merrill Edge account.

Naturally, there are synergies for those who are already clients of Bank of America. From viewing all accounts together to managing those accounts, transferring funds, updating contact information, universal logins, etc., and qualifying for free monthly trades, Bank of America makes it an easy win for current banking customers.

Commissions & Fees

Merrill Edge is a full-service broker that offers equities and options trading. Regular stock trades are a flat $6.95 per trade with no additional charges for stocks less than $1 per share. Options trades cost $6.95 plus $.75 per contract. Compared to other full-service brokers such as TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, and ETRADE, Merrill Edge offers the lowest rates.

Merrill EdgeTD AmeritradeCharles SchwabFidelity E*TRADE
Stock Trade Fee (flat)$6.95$6.95$4.95$4.95$6.95
Options Base Fee$6.95$6.95$4.95$4.95$6.95
Options Per Contract Fee$0.75$0.75$0.65$0.65$0.75
Mutual Fund Trade Fee$19.95$49.99$76.00$49.95$19.99
Commissions & Fees 4.5 Stars 2.5 Stars 3.5 Stars 3 Stars 2.5 Stars
Overall 4 Stars 4.5 Stars 4.5 Stars 4.5 Stars 4 Stars

Alongside its competitive commissions structure, Merrill Edge also has a unique offering: free trades. Qualifying for free trades each month is possible through the Preferred Rewards program. Clients can receive up to 30 free equity trades per month, with a three-month average combined balance of at least $50,000 (Platinum status) or up to 100 free trades per month with a three-month average combined balance of at least $100,000 (Platinum Honors status). Benefits through the Preferred Rewards program extend beyond free trades as well, with money market savings boosts, credit card bonuses, and more.

Merrill Edge Preferred Rewards

Customer Service

Merrill Edge’s phone and email support was excellent, as our testing proved. Merrill Edge’s phone support was No. 1 in our 2014 Review, #4 in our 2015 Review, #1 again in our 2016 Review, and #2 in our 2017 Review, and for good reason. Every broker rep we spoke to was friendly, knowledgeable, and professional. It is apparent Merrill Edge trains its staff well and understands what it takes to provide consistent, high quality client support.

Clearly, Merrill Edge customer service reps understand what it means to go above and beyond to help customers.

Our email support and live chat support experiences were similar to phone. The broker responded to all of our email and live chat inquiries with clean templates and thorough responses. Response times for email averaged less than one business day, while connection times for live chat averaged less than one minute. Clearly, Merrill Edge customer service reps understand what it means to go above and beyond to help customers. Overall, Merrill Edge finished nearly at the top – No. 2 overall for customer service, showing its dedication to excellence in the art of quality customer care.

Research

Merrill Edge uses both Morningstar and Lippers as its primary research providers. Typically, online brokers use one or the other, so Merrill Edge’s use of both is an extra benefit for clients. Thanks to this dual provider offering, Merrill Edge's ETF and mutual funds research is very strong and extremely thorough. For example, pulling up a quote of SPY reveals not only the infamous Morningstar Style Map but also the Lipper Ratings.

Merrill Edge fund research

For equities research, pulling up a quote for Apple (AAPL) reveals pricing data, quick chart, recent news, Merrill Lynch research, a peer comparison, a Trefis summary, and three research providers: Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Morningstar, and S&P Capital IQ. While three report providers is above average, it is still lower than the leading research brokers, including Charles Schwab, Fidelity, and TD Ameritrade, which offer clients access to six or more research reports.

Merrill Edge stock quote

Despite not having a large selection of report providers available to clients, Merrill Edge still offers clients great coverage of equities that will satisfy most investors. Clients can assess historical earnings, valuations, view a variety of fundamental data including SEC filings, perform technical analysis with Recognia tools, and more. This also includes both ETFs and mutual funds research, an area in which we found Merrill Edge excelled.

Merrill Edge historical earnings

For 2017 standards, the design of the research area feels a bit outdated, especially compared to Fidelity, whose entire research area is methodically laid out. This includes the stock screener tool, whose user interface is poorly designed, especially compared to the brand new ETF and mutual fund screeners released in 2016. Usability aside though, overall, while Merrill Edge trails its larger competitors, the broker still finished with a Best in Class accolade (top five) in our 2017 Review.

Ease-of-Use

Thanks to its ownership by Bank of America, Merrill Edge is a natural win for current customers. As a Bank of America customer myself, I found the account opening process straightforward. Much of my information was prefilled for me, which was a nice touch, and immediately after completing the application, funding the account was a breeze, thanks to the account linking. Now, when I log in to my Bank of America account, I can see all my bank, credit cards, and loan and investment accounts on the same screen. If I want to access Merrill Edge, I simply click and go.

All in all, Merrill Edge makes it easy for clients to perform the tasks they want, when they want, and the broker is an excellent fit for current Bank of America clients.

The Merrill Edge website gets the thumbs up from us. High use pages such as the Accounts Summary page and Holdings page are cleanly laid out, as both were refreshed in 2016. The website also has a site-wide quote bar with real time quotes for easy access to the latest stock prices.

Merrill Edge portfolio holdings

Portfolio performance analysis is another area that was refreshed in 2016, and assessing portfolio diversification is easy. To break down your portfolio, Merrill Edge provides the Morningstar X-Ray Tool as well as a clean asset allocation tool. While the data output is clean and easy to digest, the load time is a bit sluggish.

Merrill Edge portfolio analysis

The weakest usability experiences with the Merrill Edge website come with the research area and stock screener (see comments above under “Research”). The on-site watch list functionality also needs to be refreshed. I recommend using the Desktop Streamer tool instead, although that tool, too, needs to be redesigned.

Pickiness aside, managing your accounts, placing trades, and navigating the website is very straightforward. All in all, Merrill Edge makes it easy for clients to perform the tasks they want, when they want, and the broker is an excellent fit for current Bank of America clients.

Platforms & Tools

Merrill Edge offers a streaming quotes application through its website as well as an active trader platform, Merrill Edge MarketPro, which is a customized version of eSignal’s platform and has a variety of bells and whistles.

The browser-based streaming quotes application is basic but accomplishes its goal of providing clients with a streaming watch list. Cons with the experience include an outdated interface, auto-refreshing (not streaming) quotes, and having to use settings to add new stocks to your watch list.

Merrill Edge streaming quotes

Website streaming quotes aside, Merrill Edge’s offering for active traders is a mixed bag as there are several critical drawbacks with MarketPro. First, there are no one-click buy and sell buttons for speedy order entry, nor a way to bypass the order confirmation window. Second, complex options are not supported. Third, direct market routing or advanced order types, such as conditional orders, are not supported.

Merrill Edge MarketPro

On the positive side, 216 optional columns can be added to any watch list, the platform integrates a variety of quality third-party tools such as Recognia, and the options functionality is strong across the board thanks to a clean interface and the addition of OptionsPlay in 2016.

Charting is also pretty good on MarketPro. Twenty-two different drawing tools are available and the interface is cleanly laid out. The technical indicators (73) available are slightly below the average of just over 100; however, each study is heavily customizable. I took advantage of my six 24-inch monitors to expand charts across the full screens, which was nice, and charting profiles are quick to save. Two items on my wish list would be plotting historical buys and sells directly on the chart as well as showing my alerts as horizontal markers for quick adjusting.

Merrill Edge MarketPro stock chart

Heading into 2016, one critical caveat to note regarding MarketPro was that it ran on Java, a programming language that has lost favor in today’s modern web environment. Google Chrome and Microsoft’s new Edge browser no longer support Java, which means customers who want to access MarketPro have to use Mozilla Firefox, legacy Internet Explorer, or Safari (Mac). Thankfully, Merrill Edge patched this in 2016, and MarketPro is now fully compatible once again.

Adding to the positives, MarketPro even offers high quality executions, thanks to its commitment to not accept payment for order flow.

Adding to the positives, MarketPro even offers high quality executions, thanks to its commitment to not accept payment for order flow (for a deeper dive, see our report on Order Execution).

Unfortunately, though, active traders desire all the great assets MarketPro offers, yet they can’t trade on the fly. Until Merrill Edge can clear its key hurdles, the broker is holding itself back from attracting the Holy Grail of clientele: the active trader. See: Best Brokers for Platforms & Tools.

Mobile Trading

On the mobile front, Merrill Edge supports the Apple iPhone, iPad, and the Apple Watch, alongside Android smartphones. All variables considered, I found the apps to be good thanks to a slew of updates released in 2016.

First, Merrill Edge released a completely new Apple Watch app. It also had several major releases for its smartphone apps during the year. Most important was the addition of Touch ID login alongside streaming real time quotes and watch lists. Also added were extended hours quotes, charts and trades, as well as heatmaps, analyst research reports, and a cleaned up portfolio overview window. Even a customizable dashboard was added.

Merrill Edge mobile stock quote

These sweeping enhancements really improved Merrill Edge’s mobile score in our 2017 Review. It is still not leading the industry as the apps lack depth in key areas such as charting and alerts. That said, Merrill edge placed sixth out of 16 brokers. See: Best Brokers for Mobile Trading.

Other Notes

In January 2017, Merrill Edge launched Guided Investing, its robo-advisor service. For a full breakdown, read our Merrill Edge Guided Investing review.

One area in which Merrill Edge excels that is not covered under our traditional testing is the company’s retirement and investment advisor offerings. Approximately 2,100 of Bank of America’s 4,600 retail locations have a financial services advisor, and Merrill Edge’s website is packed with clean, thorough, and educational content. Through the website’s Guidance and Retirement Center, customers can conduct goal planning for all of life’s many events, use calculators to determine areas for improvement, read educational articles, watch videos, schedule 1-on-1 appointments, and more.

Final Thoughts

Merrill Edge provides investors with several key highlights: excellent customer service, up to 100 commission-free trades each month through its Preferred Rewards program, robust research, and great ease of use for Bank of America clients. The primary drawback revolves around the broker’s lack of active trader capabilities: no trading on the fly, no conditional orders, max two-legged options, and no direct market access.

Overall, Merrill Edge provides clients with a fantastic, well rounded offering. New, casual, and seasoned investors will find the broker to be a very good fit, and Bank of America clients will discover that the broker is an excellent extension of the Bank of America brand.


Blain Reinkensmeyer

Reviewed by Blain Reinkensmeyer Blain heads research at StockBrokers.com and has been involved in the markets since placing his first stock trade back in 2001. He developed StockBrokers.com's annual review format seven years ago which is respected by broker executives as the most thorough in the industry. Currently maintaining funded accounts with more than a dozen different US regulated online brokers, he's executed thousands of trades through his career and enjoys sharing his experiences through his personal blog, StockTrader.com.


Ratings Overall

Best in Class

2017
 5

Overall
  • Overall
  • Commissions & Fees
  • Research
  • Customer Service
  • Ease of Use
  • Investor Education
  • Order Execution
  • Banking
2016
 5

Overall
  • Overall
  • Commissions & Fees
  • Research
  • Customer Service
  • Ease of Use
  • Investor Education
  • Banking
2015
 4

Overall
  • Overall
  • Research
  • Customer Service
  • Ease of Use
  • Investor Education
  • Banking
2014
 3

Overall
  • Overall
  • Commissions & Fees
  • Research
  • Customer Service

Commissions & Fees

Commission Notes

Merrill Edge commissions structure details below:

Stock Trades - $6.95 per trade.

Through the Preferred Rewards program, customers can receive up to 30 $0 equity trades per month with a 3-month average combined balance of atleast $50,000 (Platinum status) or up to 100 free trades per month with a 3-month average combined balance of atleast $100,000 (Platinum Honors status).

There is no additional charge for trading stocks under $1 or OTCBB. Also, broker assisted trades are $29.95.

Options Trades - $6.95 + $.75 per contract.

Mutual Funds - $19.95 per online trade. Any sale within 90 days of original purchase will result in a $39.95 early redemption fee.

International Trading - International Trading is not currently offered.

Other Investments - Merrill Edge does not support futures and forex.





Trade Commissions Breakdown

Stock Trade Fee (flat) $6.95
Stock Trade Fee (per share) N/A
Options Base Fee $6.95
Options Per Contract Fee $0.75
Options Exercise Fee $6.95
Options Assignment Fee $6.95
Mutual Fund Trade Fee $19.95
Broker Assisted Trades Fee $29.95
Minimum Deposit $0.00

Margin Rates

Margin Rate Under $24,999.99 8.88%
Margin Rate $25,000.00 to $49,999.99 7.75%
Margin Rate $50,000.00 to $99,999.99 7.75%
Margin Rate $100,000.00 to $249,999.99 6.38%
Margin Rate $250,000.00 to $499,999.99 6.38%
Margin Rate $500,000.00 to $999,999.99 6.13%
Margin Rate Above $1,000,000.00 5.50%

Miscellaneous Fees

Bond Trade Fee Varies
Treasury Trade Fee Varies
IRA Annual Fee $0.00
IRA Closure Fee $49.95
Returned ACH Fee $30.00
Returned Wire Fee N/A
Stock Certificate Processing Fee $500.00
Stock Certificate Delivery Fee N/A
Paper Statement Fee $5.00
Paper Confirmation Fee $3.00
Domestic Wire Fee $24.95
International Wire Fee $24.95

Account Features

Offering of Investments

Advisor Services help Yes
Bonds (Corporate) help Yes
Bonds (Municipal) help Yes
Bonds (US Treasury) help Yes
CDs help Yes
Clearing Firm help Merrill Lynch and Pierce and Fenner & Smith
Commission Free ETFs help 0
Direct Market Routing - Stocks help No
Direct Market Routing - Options help No
DRIPs help Yes
# of Easy to Borrow Stocks help 3793
Forex Trading help No
Futures Trading help No
Member FINRA help Yes
Member SIPC help Yes
Mutual Funds help Yes
Mutual Funds (No Load) help 2764
Mutual Funds (Load) help 4885
Mutual Funds (NTF) help 2376
Mutual Funds (Total) help 7649
Mutual Funds Phone Trades help Yes
Mutual Funds Web Trades help Yes
No Fee IRAs help Yes
No Inactivity Fees help Yes
No Minimum Deposit help Yes
Options Exercising (Web) help No
Options Exercising (Phone) help Yes
Options Trading help Yes
Complex Options Max Legs help 2
Options Trading (Mini) help Yes
Options Trading (Weekly) help Yes
OTCBB / Pink Sheets help Yes
Stock Trading help Yes

Customer Service

Phone Support help Yes
Email Support help Yes
Live Chat (Current Clients) help Yes
Live Chat (Prospect Clients) help Yes
24/7 Support help Yes

Platforms & Tools

Desktop Platform (Windows) help No
Desktop Platform (Mac) help No
Web Platform help Yes
Active Trading Platform help Merrill Edge Market Pro
Charting - Display Corporate Events help Yes
Charting - View Historical Trades help No
Charting - Indicators / Studies help 73
Charting - Drawing Tools help 22
Charting - Trade Off Chart help Yes
Charting - Notes help Yes
Heat Mapping help No
Ladder Trading help No
Level 2 Quotes - Stocks help Yes
Level 2 Quotes - Options help Yes
Option Chains - Streaming Real-time help Yes
Option Chains - Total Columns help 62
Option Chains - Quick Analysis help Yes
Options Analysis - P&L Charts help Yes
Options Analysis - Probability Analysis Basic help Yes
Option Analysis - Probability Analysis Adv help No
Option Positions - Contract Rolling help No
Stock Alerts Delivery - Email help Yes
Stock Alerts Delivery - Sound help Yes
Stock Alerts Delivery - Text SMS help No
Streaming Time & Sales help Yes
Streaming TV help No
Trade Hot Keys help No
Virtual Trading help No
Watch Lists - Streaming Real-time Quotes help Yes
Watch Lists - Total Fields help 216

Research

Research - ETFs help Yes
Research - Mutual Funds help Yes
Research - Pink Sheets / OTCBB help Yes
Research - Fixed Income help Yes
Misc - Global Markets Overview help Yes
Misc - Portfolio Allocation Breakdown help Yes
Misc - Portfolio Builder help Yes
Equity Research - Earnings Analysis help Yes
Equity Research - Insider Analysis help Yes
Equity Research - Metric Comparisons help Yes
Equity Research - SEC Filings help Yes
Equity Research - Social Sentiment help No
Equity Research - Research Reports help 3
ETF Research - Performance Analysis help Yes
ETF Research - Top 10 Holdings help Yes
ETF Research - Morningstar Style Box help Yes
ETF Research - 3rd Party Ratings help Yes
ETF Research - Research Reports help Yes
Mutual Fund Research - Fees Breakdown help Yes
Mutual Fund Research - Top 10 Holdings help Yes
Mutual Fund Research - Performance Analysis help Yes
Mutual Fund Research - Prospectus help Yes
Mutual Fund Research - 3rd Party Ratings help Yes
Mutual Fund Research - Research Reports help Yes
Screener - Stocks help Yes
Screener - ETFs help Yes
Screener - Mutual Funds help Yes
Screener - Options help Yes
Screener - Bonds help Yes

Education

Has Education - Stocks help Yes
Has Education - ETFs help Yes
Has Education - Options help Yes
Has Education - Mutual Funds help Yes
Has Education - Fixed Income help Yes
Has Education - Retirement help Yes
Investor Dictionary help Yes
Client Webinars help No
Client Webinars (Archived) help No
Live Seminars help Yes
Videos help Yes
Retirement Calculator help Yes
Progress Tracking help No
Interactive Learning - Quizzes help Yes

Mobile Trading

iPhone App help Yes
iPad App help Yes
Apple Watch App help Yes
Android App help Yes
Android Tablet App help No
Mobile Site help Yes
Touch ID help Yes
Account Transfers help Yes
Quotes (Real-time) help Yes
Quotes (Streaming Real-time) help Yes
Watch List (Real-time) help Yes
Watch List (Streaming Real-time) help Yes
Watch List Syncing help Yes
Market Movers (Top Gainers) help Yes
Custom Screening / Scanning help No
Charting - Stock Comparisons help Yes
Charting - Technical Studies help 22
Charting - After Hours help Yes
Stock Alerts - Basic Fields help Yes
Stock Alerts - Advanced Fields help No
Stock Alerts Delivery - Push Notifications help No
Customizable Homescreen help Yes
Streaming TV help No
Trading - Stocks help Yes
Trading - After-Hours help Yes
Trading - Conditional Orders help No
Trading - Mutual Funds help Yes
Trading - Simple Options help Yes
Trading - Complex Options help Yes
Trading - Option Rolling help No

Banking

Member FDIC help Yes
Checking Accounts help Yes
Savings Accounts help Yes
Debit Cards help Yes
Credit Cards help Yes
Mortgage Loans help Yes
Mobile Check Deposit help Yes
Online Bill Pay help Yes
Mobile Bill Pay help Yes
ATM Fee Reimbursement help Yes
No Fee Banking help No
Retail Locations help 2161

Order Execution

Receives Payment for Order Flow (Equities) help No
Receives Payment for Order Flow (Options) help No
Client Liquidity Rebates help No
Financial Information Forum (FIF) Participant help Yes

Compare Merrill Edge

Select one or more of these brokers to compare against Merrill Edge.

All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 2/20/2017 and is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. The StockBrokers.com staff is constantly working with its online broker representatives to obtain the latest pricing data. If you believe any data listed above is inaccurate, please contact us using the link at the bottom of this page. For stock trade rates, advertised pricing is for a standard order size of 500 shares of stock priced at $30 per share. For options orders, an options regulatory fee per contract may apply.




arrow_drop_upBack to top