Merrill Edge Review
By Blain Reinkensmeyer
February 18th, 2019
Last Updated: March 15th, 2019
The StockBrokers.com Annual Review (9 years running) sets the official industry benchmarks. Our Head of Research, Blain Reinkensmeyer, is respected by executives as the leading analyst covering online brokers. Learn more.
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 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.
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.
Merrill Edge offers investors an excellent rewards program and a well-rounded package worth being a customer for, especially Bank of America clients.
- Merrill Edge accounts can be linked to any Bank of America account.
- Up to 100 free trades per month through the Preferred Rewards program.
- Great customer support and retirement-planning resources.
- 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.
- Invest in a new account and get up to $600 Learn More
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.
- 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.
- Rare in the industry, Merrill Edge does not accept payment for order flow (PFOF), which results in cost savings for customers placing stock trades.
- For customers who do not qualify for free trades, stock trades are $6.95 and 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.
|Stock Trade Fee (flat)||$6.95|
|Options Base Fee||$6.95|
|Options Per Contract Fee||$0.75|
|Mutual Fund Trade Fee||$19.95|
Platforms & Tools
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.
- 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.
- 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. 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.
|Desktop Platform (Windows)||Yes|
|Watch Lists - Total Fields||285|
|Charting - Drawing Tools||22|
|Charting - Indicators / Studies||95|
|Option Chains - Total Columns||69|
Merrill Edge offers customers excellent research for stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds that will satisfy the pickiest investors.
- 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 Lynch research and market reports can be found throughout the site, including the Research Investment Committee (RIC) Report (Merrill Lynch’s flagship report).
- 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.
|Research - Stocks||Yes|
|Stock Research - Reports||3|
|Research - ETFs||Yes|
|Research - Mutual Funds||Yes|
|Research - Pink Sheets / OTCBB||Yes|
|Research - Fixed Income||Yes|
|Research - Futures||No|
|Research - Forex||No|
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.
- 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 nd (16 brokers)
- View Infographic
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.
- 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.
- 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, making it difficult to read, especially when using any of the 34 optional indicators.
|Apple Watch App||Yes|
|Watch List Syncing||Yes|
|Stock Alerts - Basic Fields||Yes|
|Charting - After Hours||Yes|
Merrill Edge is part of Bank of America. When it comes to banking and brokerage, Merrill Edge takes the crown.
- Full online banking services through Bank of America.
- Preferred Rewards program bonuses for both brokerage and bank (see “Commissions & Fees” above).
- Universal account management.
Offering of Investments
Merrill Edge provides a diverse offering that meets the industry standard while thriving in its offering of online banking.
- 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.
- No commission-free ETFs (although customers can earn free ETF trades through Preferred Rewards).
- Limited capabilities for active trading. For example, direct market routing is not offered, neither are certain advanced order types such as multi-contingent orders.
|OTCBB / Pink Sheets||Yes|
|Complex Options Max Legs||2|
|Mutual Funds (No Load)||2471|
Learning about investing and retirement is a pleasant experience at Merrill Edge, thanks to excellent organization and quality, in-house curated content.
- 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.
- Surprisingly, Merrill Edge does not offer any webinars.
|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|
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.