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Merrill Edge Review

The StockBrokers.com annual review (9 years running) takes six months to complete and produces over 30,000 words of research each year. Here's how we test.

Merrill Edge, launched in 2010, is an extension of Merrill Lynch, the household brand founded in 1914, which is owned by Bank of America (publicly traded: BAC). Known for its reliable 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. Follow Merrill Edge on Twitter.

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.

Review Summary

Rank: 6th (of 16)

Backed by parent company Bank of America, Merrill Edge offers investors competitive pricing thanks to an excellent customer rewards program. Merrill Edge offers 10 commission-free stock or ETF trades each month to customers with combined account balances of at least $20,000.

Benefits

  • Merrill Edge accounts can be linked to any Bank of America account.
  • Up to 100 free stock and ETF trades per month through the Preferred Rewards program.
  • Great customer support and retirement-planning resources.

Considerations

  • 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.

Special Offer:

  • Invest in a new account and get up to $600 Learn More

Commissions & Fees

Rank: 6th (of 16)

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.

Benefits

  • Customers can qualify for free stock and exchange traded fund (ETF) trades through the Preferred Rewards program, which offers customers up to 10 free equity trades per month with a three-month average combined balance of at least $20,000 (Gold status), up to 30 free 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.
  • Rare in the industry, Merrill Edge does not accept payment for order flow (PFOF), which results in cost savings for customers placing stock trades.

Considerations

  • For customers who do not qualify for free trades, stock trades are $6.95 and options trades cost $6.95 plus $.75 per contract. Merrill Edge also offers no commission-free ETFs. Compared to other full-service brokers such as TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, Charles Schwab, and ETRADE, Merrill Edge is evenly priced. View full miscellaneous schedule of fees.

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Further Reading

Online Trading Fees

FeatureMerrill Edge
Minimum Deposit$0.00
Stock Trade Fee (per trade)$6.95
Options Base Fee$6.95
Options Per Contract Fee$0.75
Mutual Fund Trade Fee$19.95
Broker Assisted Trades Fee$29.95
Commission-Free ETFs0
Commissions & Fees 4 Stars

Margin Fees

FeatureMerrill Edge
Margin Rate Under $24,999.9910.625%
Margin Rate $25,000.00 to $49,999.999.5%
Margin Rate $50,000.00 to $99,999.999.5%
Margin Rate $50,000.00 to $99,999.999.5%
Margin Rate $100,000.00 to $249,999.998.125%
Margin Rate $250,000.00 to $499,999.998.125%
Margin Rate $500,000.00 to $999,999.997.875%
Margin Rate Above $1,000,000.007.25%

Misc Account Fees

FeatureMerrill Edge
IRA Annual Fee$0.00
IRA Closure Fee$49.95
Returned ACH Fee$30.00
Returned Wire FeeN/A
Stock Certificate Processing Fee$500.00
Stock Certificate Delivery FeeN/A
Paper Statement Fee$5.00
Paper Confirmation Fee$3.00
Domestic Wire Fee$24.95
International Wire Fee$24.95

Platforms & Tools

Rank: 7th (of 16)

Merrill Edge offers a streaming quotes tool through its website as well as an active trader platform, Merrill Edge MarketPro, which unfortunately is not available to all customers. That said, everyday investors have access to everything they need to manage their portfolios.

Benefits

  • The browser-based Streaming Quotes tool is basic but accomplishes its goal of providing investors with a streaming watch list. The regular website watch list tool includes a superior design; however, quotes are static and require a click to refresh.
  • Merrill Edge MarketPro is built for active traders and has a variety of bells and whistles. Highlights include 216 optional columns for watch lists, easy-to-use charting, automated technical analysis through Recognia, and numerous options tools, including the idea generation tool OptionsPlay.

Considerations

  • Cons of the Streaming Quotes tool include an extensively outdated interface, having to use the settings window to add new stocks to your watch list, and the fact that the watch list does not sync with the website or mobile app.
  • To access MarketPro, customers must make 15 trades per quarter or have at least $50,000 in total assets.
  • MarketPro has two critical drawbacks that will deter day traders (warning: day trading is risky). First, there are no one-click buy and sell buttons for speedy order entry or a way to bypass the order confirmation window. Second, direct market routing or advanced order types, such as conditional orders, are not supported.

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Further Reading

Trading Tools

FeatureMerrill Edge
Web Platform Yes
Desktop Platform (Windows) Yes
Watch Lists - Total Fields285
Charting - Drawing Tools22
Charting - Indicators / Studies95
Option Chains - Total Columns69
Streaming TV No
Paper Trading No
Platforms & Tools 4 Stars
View all 59 data points

Research

Rank: 5th (of 16)

Merrill Edge offers customers excellent research for stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds that will satisfy the pickiest investors.

Benefits

  • Merrill Edge is unique in that it uses both Morningstar and Lipper as its primary research providers. Thanks to this dual provider offering, Merrill Edge's ETF and mutual funds research is extremely thorough.
  • Merrill Edge offers several unique research tools found nowhere else. Stock Story (stocks), Fund Story (ETFs, mutual funds), and Portfolio Story (all holdings) take readers through unique, clean, concise, educational, and insightful research for individual securities (images below) and portfolio positions. Stock Story won our award for our favorite new tool in 2017 and Portfolio Story won the same award for its launch in 2018.
  • Excellent third-party research integrations, including Trefis (company valuations), Recognia (automated technical analysis), and MSCI ESG ratings (Enviornmental, Social, and Governance), among others.
  • Merrill research and market reports can be found throughout the site, including the Research Investment Committee (RIC) Report (Merrill Lynch’s flagship report).

Considerations

  • Bond research at Merrill Edge is lackluster and trails its full-service brokerage competitors.
  • Merrill Edge does not produce in-house video as an additional source for ongoing market commentary, unlike several of its competitors, including TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, and Charles Schwab.

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Market Research

FeatureMerrill Edge
Research - Stocks Yes
Stock Research - Reports3
Research - ETFs Yes
Research - Mutual Funds Yes
Research - Pink Sheets / OTCBB Yes
Research - Fixed Income Yes
Research - Futures No
Research - Forex No
Research 4.5 Stars
View all 60 data points

Customer Service

Rank: 5th (of 16)

To score Customer Service, StockBrokers.com partners with customer experience research group Confero to conduct phone tests from locations throughout the United States. For our 2019 Broker Review, 300 customer service tests were conducted over ten weeks.

Results

  • Average Connection Time: <1 minute
  • Average Net Promoter Score: 8.0 / 10
  • Average Professionalism Score: 9.0 / 10
  • Overall Score: 8.64 / 10
  • Ranking: 5 th (16 brokers)
  • View Infographic

Mobile Trading

Rank: 6th (of 16)

Merrill Edge’s mobile offering isn’t quite award winning; however, it is easy to use, great for research, and exceeds the industry standard experience.

Benefits

  • Apple Face ID login coupled with a customizable dashboard makes it very easy to jump in and check in on your portfolio.
  • Research is excellent for stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds, thanks to the inclusion of Stock Story and Fund Story.
  • Full mobile devices support, including Apple Watch.

Considerations

  • Charting is comprehensive and includes a variety of customizations (tip: you have to turn your phone horizontally to enable advanced charting mode); however, the interface itself is outdated and not HTML 5 (our favorite third-party charting provider is Chart IQ), making it difficult to read, especially when using any of the 34 optional technical indicators.

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Further Reading:

Mobile Apps

FeatureMerrill Edge
iPhone App Yes
Android App Yes
Apple Watch App Yes
Watch List Syncing Yes
Stock Alerts - Basic Fields Yes
Charting - After Hours Yes
Mobile Trading 4.5 Stars
View all 52 data points

Banking

Rank: 1st (of 16)

Merrill Edge is part of Bank of America. When it comes to banking and brokerage, Merrill Edge takes the crown.

Benefits

Considerations

  • None.

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Further Reading

Banking Services

FeatureMerrill Edge
Retail Locations4400
Member FDIC Yes
Checking Accounts Yes
Savings Accounts Yes
Credit Cards Yes
Debit Cards Yes
Mortgage Loans Yes
No Fee Banking No
Banking 5 Stars
View all 12 data points

Offering of Investments

Rank: 10th (of 16)

Merrill Edge provides a diverse offering that meets the industry standard while thriving in its offering of online banking.

Benefits

  • Stocks, ETFs, options (max two legs only), mutual funds, and bonds are all offered.
  • Full banking offering, thanks to parent company Bank of America. As a customer myself, when I log in to my Bank of America account, I can see all my bank, credit cards, loan, and investment accounts on the same screen. If I want to access Merrill Edge, I simply click and go. It’s great.
  • Approximately half of Bank of America’s 4,400 financial centers have a financial services advisor.

Considerations

  • No commission-free ETFs (although customers can earn free ETF trades through Preferred Rewards).
  • Limited capabilities for day trading. For example, direct market routing is not offered, neither are certain advanced order types such as multi-contingent orders.

Further Reading

Investment Options

FeatureMerrill Edge
Stock Trading Yes
OTCBB / Pink Sheets Yes
Options Trading Yes
Complex Options Max Legs2
Options Exercising (Web) No
Options Exercising (Phone) Yes
Bonds (US Treasury) Yes
Bonds (Corporate) Yes
Bonds (Municipal) Yes
Futures Trading No
Forex Trading No
Mutual Funds (No Load)2471
Mutual Funds (Total)3709
DRIPs Yes
Advisor Services Yes
Offering of Investments 3 Stars

Education

Rank: 5th (of 16)

Learning about investing and retirement is a pleasant experience at Merrill Edge, thanks to excellent organization and quality, in-house curated content.

Benefits

  • Diverse selection of articles and videos. Can easily filter by type, topic, or skill level.
  • Through Merrill Edge’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.
  • Merrill Edge includes the Morningstar Investing Classroom courses, which are easy to follow and include quizzes.

Considerations

  • Surprisingly, Merrill Edge does not offer any webinars.

Further Reading:

Investor Education

FeatureMerrill Edge
Has Education - Stocks Yes
Has Education - ETFs Yes
Has Education - Options Yes
Has Education - Mutual Funds Yes
Has Education - Fixed Income Yes
Has Education - Retirement Yes
Paper Trading No
Videos Yes
Webinars (Monthly Avg)0
Webinars (Archived) No
Live Seminars Yes
Progress Tracking No
Interactive Learning - Quizzes Yes
Investor Magazine Yes
Education 4.5 Stars
View all 19 data points

Final Thoughts

Rank: 6th (of 16)

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 once again won our industry award, #1 Overall Client Experience.

Methodology: For the StockBrokers.com ninth annual review published in February 2019, a total of 4,544 data points were collected over six months and used to score brokers. Each broker completed an in-depth data profile and provided executive time (live in person or over the web) for an annual update meeting. Learn more about how we test.


Blain Reinkensmeyer

About the author: Blain Reinkensmeyer As Head of Research at StockBrokers.com, Blain Reinkensmeyer has 18 years of trading experience with over 1,000 trades placed during that time. Referenced as a leading expert on the US online brokerage industry, Blain has been quoted in The New York Times, Forbes, and the Chicago Tribune, among others.

All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 02/18/2019 and is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. 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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