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Merrill Edge Review

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Backed by parent company Bank of America, Merrill Edge delivers fantastic research, customer service, universal account support, and customer rewards. Merrill Edge offers 10 commission-free stock or ETF trades each month to investors with balances above $20,000.

Top Takeaways for 2019

After spending six months testing 16 online brokers for our ninth annual stock broker review, here are our top findings on Merrill Edge:

  • Merrill Edge, launched in 2010, is an extension of Merrill Lynch, the household brand founded in 1914, which is owned by Bank of America (BAC).
  • Merrill Edge is our top pick in 2019 for investors looking to managing banking and brokerage under one firm. It finished No. 1 for Banking Services, scoring 99%, and received the industry award, #1 Overall Client Experience.
  • The Preferred Rewards program is outstanding, our favorite in 2019, offering customers up to 100 free stock and ETF trades per month, alongside a slew of other benefits.
  • Retirement education is robust and half of Bank of America’s 4,400 financial centers have a Merrill Edge financial services advisor, making it great for IRA accounts in 2019.
  • In our nationwide testing, we found Merrill Edge's phone service to be reliable, fast, and excellent overall.
  • Thanks to proprietary tools such as Stock Story and Portfolio Story, Merrill Edge is a winner for market research, finishing Best in Class (top 5) in 2019.
  • While Merrill Edge offers a feature-rich trading platform, MarketPro, for active trading, it didn't impress us enough to make out top picks lists for day trading or options trading.

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Overall Summary

FeatureMerrill Edge
Overall 4 Stars
Commissions & Fees 4 Stars
Offering of Investments 3 Stars
Platforms & Tools 4 Stars
Research 4.5 Stars
Education 4.5 Stars
Mobile Trading 4.5 Stars
Customer Service 4.5 Stars
Ease of Use 4.5 Stars

--> View Merrill Edge Features List

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 stock and exchange traded fund (ETF) trades through the Preferred Rewards program:

  • Gold status: Customers qualify for up to 10 free equity trades per month with a three-month average combined balance of at least $20,000.
  • Platinum status: Customers qualify for up to 30 free trades per month with a three-month average combined balance of at least $50,000.
  • Platinum Honors status: Customers qualify for up to 100 free trades per month with a three-month average combined balance of at least $100,000.

Benefits through the Preferred Rewards program extend beyond free trades as well, with money market savings boosts, credit card bonuses, and more.

Regular trades: For customers who do not qualify for free stock and ETF trades, equity 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, Charles Schwab, and ETRADE, Merrill Edge is more expensive. View full miscellaneous schedule of fees.

Order execution: Rare in the industry, Merrill Edge does not accept payment for order flow (PFOF), which results in cost savings for customers placing stock trades.

Merrill Edge Pricing Summary

FeatureMerrill Edge
Minimum Deposit$0.00
Stock Trade Fee (per trade)$6.95
ETF Trade Fee$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

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.

MarketPro pros: 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.

MarketPro cons: 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 active 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.

Trading Platform Screenshots

Research

Rank: 5th (of 16)

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

Proprietary tools: 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.

Fund research: 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.

Other research: 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 also be found throughout the site, including the Research Investment Committee (RIC) Report (Merrill Lynch’s flagship report).

Drawbacks: Bond research at Merrill Edge is lackluster and trails its full-service brokerage competitors. Merrill Edge also 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.

Research screenshots:

Customer Service

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)

Mobile Trading

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.

Good stuff: 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.

Bad stuff: 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.

Mobile app screenshots

Banking

Merrill Edge is part of Bank of America. When it comes to banking and brokerage, Merrill Edge takes the crown thanks to great universal account management and the Preferred Rewards program. Full online banking services are offered through Bank of America, which includes $250,000 in FDIC-insured account protection.

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.

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. Stocks, ETFs, options (max two legs only), mutual funds, and bonds are all offered.

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. 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. That said, surprisingly, Merrill Edge does not offer any webinars.

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.

Bottom Line: 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.

About Merrill Edge

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.

2019 Review Methodology

For the StockBrokers.com ninth annual best online brokers review published in February 2019, a total of 4,544 data points were collected over six months and used to score brokers. This makes StockBrokers.com home to the largest independent database on the web covering the online broker industry.

Participation is required to be included. Each broker completed an in-depth data profile and provided executive time (live in person or over the web) for an annual update meeting. Our rigorous data validation process yields an error rate of less than .001% each year, providing site visitors quality data they can trust. 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 WSJ, 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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