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

By Blain Reinkensmeyer / February 19th, 2018 / Updated: March 14th, 2018

  • Advanced order types not supported
  • Only supports up to two-legged options spreads
  • MarketPro platform offers no one-click buy/sell tools for active traders
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Merrill Edge, launched in 2010, is an extension of Merrill Lynch, the household brand founded in 1914, which is owned by Bank of America. Known for its excellent customer service, Merrill Edge charges $6.95 for stock trades, $6.95 + $.75 for options trades, and is open to all investors, not just Bank of America customers.

Naturally, there are synergies for those who are already Bank of America customers. From viewing all accounts together to managing those accounts, instantly transferring funds between accounts, 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

My wife and I have been Preferred Rewards customers since the program’s inception in 2014. For a combination of banking and brokerage, I have yet to find anything better. It’s fantastic.

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, Charles Schwab, and ETRADE, Merrill Edge is evenly priced.

View All FeesMerrill 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 Stars 3.5 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 3.5 Stars
Overall 4.5 Stars 5 Stars 4.5 Stars 5 Stars 4.5 Stars

Regular commissions aren’t the full story; Merrill Edge also has a unique offering: free trades. Customers can qualify for free trades through the Preferred Rewards program, which offers customers 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

For customers who can meet the minimum threshold, $0 stock trading with Merrill Edge is an easy win. Full disclosure: my wife and I have been Preferred Rewards customers since the program’s inception in 2014. For a combination of banking and brokerage, I have yet to find anything better. It’s fantastic.


While Merrill Edge’s research offering has its drawbacks, there is a lot to like, and the pros far outweigh the cons.

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 customers. 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 for 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 and will satisfy the vast-majority, it is still lower than the leading research brokers, including Charles Schwab, Fidelity, and TD Ameritrade, which offer customers access to six or more research reports.

Merrill Edge stock quote

Despite not having the largest selection of report providers available to customers, Merrill Edge still offers great coverage of equities that will satisfy most investors. Clients can assess historical earnings and valuations, view a variety of fundamental data, including SEC filings, perform technical analysis with Recognia tools, and more.

merrill edge research apple earnings

Stepping away from stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds, I found Merrill Edge to be weak in its offering of fixed-income research. This is especially true compared to industry leaders such as Fidelity and Charles Schwab. Less than 10,000 bonds are available for trade, and while a screener is available alongside quotes for individual CUSIPS, the research is shallow. In short, individual CUSIPs lack depth of book, trade history, and third-party reports. For tools, there is no yield calculator available, nor a ladder builder tool.

When it comes to market research and investment reports, Merrill Edge does a nice job. First, it offers its own quarterly e-newsletter, Merrill Edge Minute, which includes diverse market commentary and educational articles on general personal finance, with an extra emphasis on retirement. Second, a large variety of research from Merrill Lynch is ported directly over the Merrill Edge website, including the Research Investment Committee (RIC) Report (Merrill Lynch’s flagship report), the US Economic Weekly report, and my personal favorite, the CIO Weekly Letter. Finally, third-party reports, such as a weekly commentary from BlackRock are also available.

merrill edge research

If there is one drawback to Merrill Edge’s market research reports, it’s that the sheer number and variety are a bit overwhelming and hard to keep track of. Reports are spread across multiple pages, with different category headers and similar titles, and overall it can be tricky to find exactly what you’re looking for. Organization is where industry research leaders Fidelity and Charles Schwab have a leg up on Merrill Edge.

That’s not to say Merrill Edge doesn’t know how to guide its customers through complex research. In fact, in 2017 Merrill Edge released a brand-new tool, Stock Story, which takes readers through unique, clean, concise, insightful research paths for individual stocks.

Each company’s stock story is broken into four separate chapters: “Who is this company?”, “How are they doing?”, “How has their stock performed?”, and “What do analysts say?” As one can imagine, the full spectrum is covered, including both fundamental and technical research. Where the tool really shines is with its charts, imagery, and visualizations to summarize data. Education is also sprinkled throughout, making it an excellent resource for newer investors.

merrill edge stock stories

For a new product launch, Stock Stories is polished and very insightful. Day after day, I kept coming back to it to run different companies. Stock Stories even incorporates MSCI ESG ratings (Environmental, Social, and Governance), which is a popular search metric among millennials. All in all, Stock Stories is my favorite new tool in 2018.

While Merrill Edge’s research offering has its drawbacks, there is a lot to like, and the pros far outweigh the cons. Merrill Edge once again finished Best in Class (top five) for Research in our 2018 Review.

Merrill EdgeTD AmeritradeFidelity E*TRADECharles Schwab
Equity Research - Reports371248
Equity Research - Metric Comparisons Yes Yes Yes No Yes
ETF Research - Reports Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mutual Fund Research - Reports Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Equity Research - Social No Yes Yes Yes Yes

Customer Service

To score Customer Service, partners with customer experience research group Confero to conduct phone tests from locations throughout the United States. For our 2018 Broker Review, 260 customer service tests were conducted over ten weeks. The data collected is institutional grade and sets the current industry benchmarks.


  • Average Connection Time: <1 minute
  • Average Net Promoter Score: 8.5 / 10
  • Average Professionalism Score: 8.9 / 10
  • Overall Score: 8.81 / 10
  • Ranking: 3rd (13 brokers)
  • View Infographic


Thanks to its ownership by Bank of America, Merrill Edge is a natural win for current customers.

Thanks to its ownership by Bank of America, Merrill Edge is a natural win for current customers. As a Bank of America customer, 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.

bank of america universal accounts

Another area in which Merrill Edge excels – and which is not covered under our traditional testing – is the company’s retirement and investment advisor offerings. Approximately 2,150 of Bank of America’s 4,480 financial centers have a financial services advisor, and Merrill Edge’s website is packed with clean, thorough 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 one-on-one appointments, and more.

Platforms & Tools

Merrill Edge’s offering for active traders is a mixed bag.

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. To access MarketPro, customers must make 15 trades per quarter or have at least $50,000 in total assets.

Merrill EdgeTD AmeritradeFidelity E*TRADECharles Schwab
Desktop Platform (Windows) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Charting - Indicators / Studies7339716611841
Charting - Drawing Tools2222223315
Option Chains - Total Columns6233263034
Watch Lists - Total Fields21651485112108

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 the settings window 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, you can add 216 optional columns 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 inclusion of OptionsPlay. The Options Strategy Builder on the website is another useful options tool.

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 active alerts as horizontal markers for quick adjusting.

Merrill Edge MarketPro stock chart

Adding to the positives, MarketPro and Merrill Edge in general even offer high-quality executions, thanks to their commitment not to accept payment for order flow (for a deeper dive, see our report on Order Execution).

Unfortunately, though, active traders want all the great assets MarketPro offers, but 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.

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 several 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 and once again helped it score well in our most recent 2018 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 fifth out of 13 brokers. See: Best Brokers for Mobile Trading.

Merrill EdgeTD AmeritradeFidelity E*TRADECharles Schwab
Watch List Syncing Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Charting - Technical Studies2239771132
Stock Alerts - Basic Fields Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Customizable Homescreen Yes No Yes Yes No
Touch ID Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Stream Live TV No Yes Yes Yes Yes

Other Notes

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

Final Thoughts

Overall, Merrill Edge provides customers with a fantastic, well-rounded offering.

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 customers with a fantastic, well-rounded offering. New, casual, and seasoned investors will find the broker a very good fit, and Bank of America customers will discover that the broker is an excellent extension of the Bank of America brand.

Thanks to Merrill Edge's comprehensive customer experience in both brokerage and banking, the broker won our 2018 industry award, #1 Overall Client Experience.


For our 2018 Stock Broker Review we assessed, rated, and ranked 13 different online brokers over a period of six months. In total, we conducted 260 customer service tests, collected 3,796 data points, and produced over 40,000 words of research. How we test.

View all Merrill Edge Fees & Features
Blain Reinkensmeyer

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

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Ratings Overall


Offering of Investments
Platforms & Tools
Customer Service

Best in Class


  • Research
  • Customer Service
  • Mobile Trading
  • Ease of Use
  • Education
  • Order Execution
  • Banking

  • Overall
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  • Ease of Use
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  • Order Execution
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  • Customer Service
  • Education
  • Banking

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  • Overall
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All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 02/20/18 and is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. The 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.

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