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Merrill Edge Review

Merrill Edge offers $0 trades with industry-leading research tools (especially ESG research) and excellent customer service. Better yet, for current Bank of America customers, Merrill Edge's Preferred Rewards program provides the best rewards of any bank broker we tested in 2021.

Top Takeaways for 2021

After spending three months testing 11 of the best online brokers for our 11th Annual Review, here are our top findings on Merrill Edge:

  • With proprietary tools such as Stock Story and Portfolio Story, alongside robust educational resources, Merrill Edge is a winner for Ease of Use, Research, Beginners, IRA Accounts, and Mobile Trading.
  • Merrill Edge is our top pick in 2021 for investors looking to manage banking and brokerage under one roof. Merrill Edge received our industry awards, No. 1 Overall Client Experience and No. 1 Client Dashboard, thanks to offering $0 stock and ETF trades, excellent universal account management, the best multi-account rewards, and outstanding customer service.
  • While Merrill Edge offers a feature-rich trading platform, MarketPro, it didn't impress us enough to make our top picks lists for day trading or options trading.

Overall Summary

FeatureMerrill Edge
Overall 4.5 Stars
Commissions & Fees 4.5 Stars
Platforms & Tools 4 Stars
Research 4.5 Stars
Mobile Trading 4.5 Stars
Offering of Investments 4 Stars
Education 4.5 Stars
Ease of Use 5 Stars

--> View Merrill Edge Features List

Commissions and Fees

Merrill Edge, like other discount brokers, provides customers unlimited free ($0) stock and exchange-traded fund (ETF) trades. Options trades cost just $.65 per contract; however, they are restricted to two legs max.

Preferred Rewards: As a Preferred Rewards customer since 2014, the combination of banking and brokerage is fantastic. To qualify for the base-tier, Gold, customers must maintain a three-month average combined balance of at least $20,000. Benefits through the Preferred Rewards program include money market savings boosts, credit card bonuses, investment discounts, and more.

No penny stocks: Merrill Edge does not allow trading of securities that trade over-the-counter (OTC). This includes stocks priced below $5 per share, have limited or no financial disclosure information available, or have less than a $300 million in market cap. Bottom line, no penny stock trading.

Fractional shares: Merrill Edge does not currently support fractional shares trading.

Preferred Rewards tiers benefits comparison: Gold, Silver, Platinum

Merrill Edge pricing summary:

FeatureMerrill Edge
Minimum Deposit$0.00
Stock Trades$0.00
ETF Trade Fee$0.00
Options (Base Fee)$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.65
Futures (Per Contract)N/A
Mutual Fund Trade Fee$19.95
Broker Assisted Trades Fee$29.95

Platforms and Tools

Rank: 7th

Merrill Edge offers everyday investors access to everything they need (and more) to manage an investment portfolio through the Merrill Edge website. For active traders, Merrill Edge offers its MarketPro desktop trading platform, which is feature-rich but not suitable for day trading.

Dynamic Insights: Launched in 2020, Merrill Edge’s new AI powered account dashboard, called Dynamic Insights, is easily my new favorite client dashboard, and in 2021 won our award for No. 1 Client Dashboard. Dynamic Insights pulls all your data into one spot and uses AI to personalize it, making it the ultimate launching pad for your Merrill Edge account.

After opening Dynamic Insights, you will find a high-level summary of your brokerage and bank accounts. Below that, realized gains and losses, portfolio performance against the market, holdings insights including news events, tax events, movers, and ratings changes, are all included. A high-level market overview for the day is also present. Needless to say, I am eager to see how the tool evolves in the years to come.

MarketPro pros: MarketPro is built for active traders and has a variety of bells and whistles. Highlights include 285 optional columns for watch lists, easy-to-use charting, automated technical analysis through Trading Central (Recognia), and numerous options tools, including the idea generation tool OptionsPlay.

MarketPro cons: MarketPro has two critical drawbacks that will deter day traders. First, there are no one-click buy and sell buttons for speedy order entry, nor is there an option to disable the order confirmation window. Second, direct market routing or advanced order types, such as conditional orders, are not supported. Lastly, while minor, the platform is built on Java, which makes the installation process a bit finicky.

Trading Platform Screenshots

Research

Rank: 5th

Merrill Edge offers customers excellent research for stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds that will satisfy the pickiest of investors. Better yet, our testing found Merrill Edge to have the most robust ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) research of any broker in the industry, earning our No. 1 award in 2021.

Proprietary research tools: Merrill Edge offers several unique research tools found nowhere else. Stock Story (stocks), Fund Story (ETFs, mutual funds), Portfolio Story (all holdings), Portfolio Briefing (interactive video summary), and Idea Builder. All of these modules take you through unique, clean, concise, educational, and insightful research journeys for individual securities (images below) and overall portfolios. Hands down, I am a big fan of all of them.

Other research: Merrill Edge offers excellent third-party research integrations, including Trefis (company valuations), Trading Central (Recognia) for automated technical analysis, and 43 variables from MSCI ESG ratings (Environmental, Social, and Governance), among others.

Advanced research tools: Merrill (previously Merrill Lynch) institutional research and market reports can also be found throughout the site, including the Research Investment Committee (RIC) Report (Merrill's flagship report). Finally, Merrill Edge's dynamic insights tool is an AI-powered solution that delivers research and performance statistics relevant to your specific portfolio holdings.

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. In addition, Fund Story provides ratings on 25,000 funds, which includes 12,000 mutual funds.

Bond research: While Bond research at Merrill Edge trails its close competitors Fidelity and Charles Schwab, I found the fixed income reports from BofA Global Research to be of high quality with in-depth coverage of fundamental analysis for the bond markets.

Research screenshots:

Mobile Trading

Merrill Edge's mobile app is easy to use, great for research and exceeds the industry standard experience. For existing Bank of America customers, the universal account access and functionality makes the app an easy winner.

Good stuff: Apple Face ID and fingerprint login, coupled with a cleanly designed 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. Lastly, all mobile devices are supported, including Apple Watch.

Bad stuff: Charting is comprehensive and includes a variety of customizations. However, the interface itself is outdated and not HTML 5, making it difficult to read, especially when using any of the 34 optional technical indicators, which are only supported in landscape mode.

Mobile app screenshots

Offering of Investments

Rank: 9th

Merrill Edge provides a diverse offering that meets the industry standard while thriving in its offering of online banking. That said, active traders will be left wanting more. All in all, stocks, ETFs, options (max two legs only), mutual funds, and bonds are all offered.

Investment guidance: In addition to self-directed investing, Merrill Edge also offers automated (robo-advisor) portfolio management ($5k minimum investment) alongside fully managed advisory services with an advisor ($20k minimum investment) through its Guided Investing program.

Education

Rank: 3rd

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

Life events education: 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.

Investing basics: Merrill Edge includes the Morningstar Investing Classroom courses, which are thorough, well-written, easy to follow, and include both progress tracking and quizzes. That said, surprisingly, Merrill Edge does not offer educational webinars to its customers on a monthly basis.

Audio: Webinars aside, it is worth mentioning that Merrill does offer audio segments, including the CIO Audiocast series and Merrill Perspective podcast. While both are more market research focused, they do offer educational takeaways.

Learning center screenshots

Banking

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

Final Thoughts

Rank: 6th

Overall, Merrill Edge provides customers with a fantastic, well-rounded offering. Investors will appreciate Merrill Edge's $0 trades, robust research, and reliable customer service. Similarly, Bank of America customers will discover that Merrill Edge is an excellent extension of the Bank of America brand.

About Merrill Edge

Launched in 2010 and headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Merrill Edge is the self-directed trading arm of Bank of America. Merrill Edge was originally created by Merrill Lynch, which became a subsidiary of Bank of America in 2008 (1). Operating one of the largest banks in the United States with over $1.43 trillion in deposits, Bank of America is a household brand name serving over 66 million consumer and small business clients across 35 countries (2).

2021 Review Methodology

For the StockBrokers.com 11th annual best trading platforms review published in January 2021, a total of 2,816 data points were collected over three 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 offered 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: As Head of Research at StockBrokers.com, Blain Reinkensmeyer has 20 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 Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and Fast Company, among others.

All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 01/19/2021 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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