Merrill Edge Review
Merrill Edge are the go-to broker for new investors, with their Preferred Rewards Program, Guided Investing, award winning research and learning opportunities, and first class support team.
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Merrill Edge - Reviews & Ratings
• Account Minimum: $0
• Fees: $2.95
• Best for: Beginners
• Highlight: Award-winning research
Investor Warning: Merrill Edge allows customers to trade options, among other assets. Options carry a high level of risk and are not suitable for all investors. Certain requirements must be met to trade options.
Merrill Edge offer a wide range of services and features at a competitive price. They aim to meet their millennial audiences demand for transparency and responsiveness by providing a first class customer service team and award-winning research.
Merrill Edge are a strong choice if you’re looking for a new broker, especially you’re tempted by the offer of ongoing free trades and prefer not to pay more than you need to.
Overview and Summary
Merrill Edge has some key highlights of 2019 that we’ve rounded up for you.
- Merrill Edge was launched in 2010 to rival Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab Corporation for the younger investors to lean on for advice.
- Merrill entered the market with their trading platform MarketPro, offering features that have some traders hooked.
- In October, Merrill Edge fully joined the zero-commission fray to offer cheaper and more accessible investing including unlimited free stock and ETF trades.
- Merrill Edge offers award-winning research on stocks, mutual funds and ETFs which can all be seen in their Stock Story and Portfolio Story features.
- Merrill Edge offers a cool and easy-to-use app that provides first class research for stocks, ETFs and mutual funds.
What is Merrill Edge?
Merrill Edge’s goal is to offer you a “simpler, more streamlined way to manage finances.”
Merrill Edge is part discount brokerage firm and part subsidiary of Bank of America’s (BofA) retail banking division. This means that you have the advantage of banking to help you simplify your finances as well as gaining access to Merrill Lynch’s award-winning research, investment tools, and call center counsel.
Merrill Edge was launched in 2010 to compete with Charles Schwab Corporation and Fidelity Investments for the younger investors to lean on for advice. By offering investing options, saving features and banking all in one place, Merrill Edge has successfully provided customers with more transparency, and put them back in control of their finances. Customers can enlist a Merrill Edge advisor to help them set a goal or give advice, at any stage.
Naturally, this synergy benefits BofA customers. Reward benefits, instant fund transfers between accounts, the ability to view all accounts at once, and even universal logins are all a win-win for their current customers.
They understand their target customers: Merrill Edge Report, Spring 2019
Merrill Edge has a strong understanding of their millennial customer base, which they show continually by researching and investing time into discovering what makes them tick, such as their Spring 2019 report on Americans.
Here’s some key takeaways from their Spring 2019 report:
“The spring 2019 Merrill Edge Report reveals Americans are feeling simultaneously optimistic and overwhelmed by their finances as they become more mindful of their spending and take steps to improve their financial lives.”
- 59% Managing their financial lives weighs heavily on their mind
- 68% of respondents have delayed or abstained from various life milestones to pay off debt
- 85% of Americans believe how they manage their money would make their parents proud
How Does Merrill Edge Work?
In order to rival competitors including Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab Corporation, Merrill Edge needed to have more and better features. They now offer the services of a full broker, and although they’re not the cheapest, they’re arguably better value for money.
Fidelity’s most impressive feature is their in-house research team and on-hand customer support team. However, Merrill Edge also offers free trades for Preferred Rewards members. This isn’t just a pop-up, use-it-or-lose it offer, like most brokers offers, it’s a continuously running, 3-tiers promotion.
Who Merrill Edge is Best For
Merrill Edge is best for you if you consider yourself one of the following:
- Low minimum
- Trader of penny stocks
- IRA investors
- Smartphone users
- Goal focused investors
Seasoned traders probably won’t like Merrill Edge as much because they’re lacking things that more experienced traders probably think of as important, such as commission free exchange traded funds (ETF’s) and advanced trading platform features.
Merrill Edge Pricing: Will it Break the Bank?
Commissions & Fees
|Options||Mutual Fund Trades||Broker Assisted Trades||Account Fee||Inactivity Fee|
|$6.95 + $0.75 contract||$19.95||$29.95||$0||$0|
If you’re interested in learning more and making sure that you don’t miss out on anything, then you can view the full range of Merrill Edges account and service fees.
Clients who don’t qualify for Preferred Rewards will have to pay a fee of $2.95 for equity trades and $2.95 +.65 per contract, which is high considering more and more competitors are offering free trades to all customers.
Their Saving Grace
That said, new customers are awarded 300 free online exchange-traded fund and stock trades for 3 months. Just ask someone on the customer support team how you can get this.
How To Get Started
Finance can be a complex industry; it’s often seen as obscure, ambiguous, with unexpected twists at every corner. Merrill Edge wants to help make things simpler and more straightforward. Here’s 3 steps to setting up a Merrill Edge account.
1. Transfer From Another institution
To move funds or assets from your current institution. Go to the Portfolio & Accounts section, click Transfers & Withdrawals and then go to Securities & Accounts. There you’ll find instructions to complete your transfer.
2. Link Your Bank of America, N.A. Accounts
If you’re already a Bank of America customer then you can link your checking and savings accounts to see your finances one one screen and transfer funds in real-time.
Once you’ve connected your accounts you can begin transferring funds by clicking on Portfolio & Accounts. Just select Transfers & Withdrawals and then hit that Cash button, baby. You’ll see your balances immediately updated and ready for placing trades.
3. Set-up an Automatic Investment Plan
If you want to look out for your future and contribute a little, regularly, to make a lot, then you can set up an Automatic Investment Plan. The amount and frequency you want to invest is completely up to you.
You can also view their Online Users Guide for more information and helpful investing advice. In it, you’ll find all sorts of useful tips like how to pursue your goals with research and how to manage your trades with Merrill’s online trading features.
Merrill Edge Features You’ll Love
MarketPro: An online trading platform
- Streaming & interactive charting
- Real-time market analysis and access to Merrill Lynch research
- Trading and account access
- Drag-and-drop customizable dashboard
Merrill entered the market with their online trading platform MarketPro, offering features that have some traders hooked. With MarketPro you can build watchlists, set alerts and get streaming quotes and news all day everyday. You’ll have access to BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research and you can view your information in a simplified way.
MarketPro allows you to create and view a customized dashboard of your accounts, seeing just the information that’s important to you. It also lets you switch up the information you see at any stage if something else catches your eye. How? Just drag-and-drop your way to your ideal dashboard.
MarketPro offers interactive charting tools that use streaming market data, where traders can see the latest figures to help them keep up-to-date. And even better, traders have first hand access to 36 technical analysis studies to help identify market trends and keep ahead of the rest.
Lastly, you monitor your portfolio in real time, see the latest balances and position and even place ETF, equity and mutual fund trades. Not bad for an app!
Where MarketPro Could Do Better
MarketPro has two slight drawbacks that customers might not love. First, there isn’t any way to make a quick order entry or swiftly pass the order confirmation window, which can be a bit of a nuisance. Secondly, MarketPro doesn’t support any advanced order types or direct market routing, such as conditional order.
Stories: An Online Experience to Help You Make the Best Decisions
Stories is all about giving customers detailed information in a streamlined and easy way. It offers an online experience to empower users with the information needed to make the best decisions. Merrill Edge’s Portfolio Story, Fund Story and Stock Story were all created to give users a thorough and in depth information in one area.
Merrill Edge’s unique combo of using both Morningstar and Lipper as their primary research providers gives their stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETF) and mutual funds extremely thorough and accurate results.
Bring your portfolio to life with Merrill Edge’s Portfolio Stories. This platform collates all your personal information to show your highlights in a clear, concise and educational language and format, on demand. This format also provides visual highlights of how much a fund will cost you over-time, so you can compare and contrast funds to make the smartest decision.
Merrill Edges fund story was newly released in January 2019. It offers customers a research experience to help easily evaluate ETFs and mutual funds, including costs, holdings and ratings. This feature was created to give investors a strong understanding of their assets and help you make more informed decisions.
Fund Story, Merrill Edge latest release, compliments Stock Story, an award-winning stock research platform, launched in 2017.
Free Trades for Preferred Rewards
In October 2019, Merrill Edge fully joined the zero-commission fray to offer cheaper and more accessible investing, to remain competitive with broker platforms such as Robinhood who offers alot for free. What this means is that customers on their Preferred Rewards loyalty now have access to unlimited free stock, ETF and trading options.
This great thing about this is that it’s a continuous promotion and not a pop-up, catch it while you can promotion like most others. Option trades carry a competitive fee per-contract of $.65. You’ll also have access to other discounts and programs that the Preferred Rewards Program offers.
Educate Yo’self: Merrill Edge’s Global Research & Learning Opportunities
The group are positioned in the top tier in many external surveys and received a lot of recognition for their work recently, including being awarded No.1 Global Research Firm of 2019.
We’ve already spoken about Merrill Edges research briefly, but it really deserves a spotlight of its own. The BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research franchise, (who merged with Merrill Lynch) are positioned in the top tier in many external surveys and received a lot of recognition for their work recently, including being awarded No.1 Global Research firm of 2019, the 2019 Institutional Investor Global Fixed-Income Research survey and Emerging EMEA surveys, among a list of others that you can see here: https://go.bofa.com/awards.
Merrill Lynch provides research on stocks, mutual funds and ETFs, which can be seen in the brokers Stock Story and Portfolio Story features, as outlined above. But the firms fund research is one that shines. Let’s talk a bit more about it.
Merrill Edge uniquely integrates research from both Morningstar and Lipper and along with their in-house research team, who providing reports on market commentary, individual stocks and economic news.
The stock and fund pages feature charts, financial data, prospectus information and even a research report, so long as Merrill are covering the stock. These reports are gold and for many, this information can’t be found elsewhere. To complete their research, they link to SEC filings.
Where the Research Lacks
For all the wonders of Merrill Edges award winning research, their bonds analysis has some work to do to keep up with competitors. They also don’t produce any videos for the ongoing market commentary unlike rivals, Fidelity and Charles Schwab.
We can’t mention Merrill Edge without mentioning the educational material they provide investors of all levels from beginner to advanced. The broker offers videos and webinars, articles, calculators and even courses if you’re looking to spruce up your skill set.
Merrill Edges asset allocator allows you to target your asset allocation and discover how to balance your portfolio, so that it aligns with your investment objectives.
Merrill’s Backbone: Customer Support & Guided Investing
We can’t talk about Merrill Edge without mentioning the brokers support. Merrill offer customers second to none support, across the board. Because they are aimed at fledgling traders, they focus on being available and responsive at all times. Customers not only have access to their 24/7 customer support team, but can make appointments with advisors at more than 2,000 Bank of America locations.
For quick and easy queries you can use the company’s online chat that offers real-time responses from about 30 seconds to 1 minute. They also have an in-house messaging program for current clients specifically.
Merrill Edge’s Guided Investing (MEGI)
Merrill Edge’s Guided Investing (MEGI) is a robo advisor platform for Merrill Edge. Considering it only launched in 2017, it’s pretty much a newcomer in this field.
MEGI offers customers a portfolio that aligns with your goals and built, rebalanced and monitored by their investment team. This service is aimed to help newer investors find their feet and stay on track.
Customers can get use out of the brokers investment strategy, portfolio management, monitor your performance online, industry leading 24/7 service, ways to invest
Simply tell the team about yourself and your goals to be recommended, an investment strategy will then be created with a recommended portfolio of ETFs and mutual funds that align with your needs.
Manage your portfolio
Merrill Edge take what you like about investing and create a portfolio that’s monitored and managed by the team.
Stay on track
Your customized dashboard will help you to easily see your portfolios performance and keep your contributions updated.
Is MEGI Free?
Unfortunately not – You’ll need to have a minimum of $5,000 in your account to get started and the service fee will cost you .45%
What are the potential downsides to MEGI?
Although MEGI can really help investors along, they don’t offer tax-loss harvesting. This feature is gaining a lot of traction with robo advisors which might persuade you to go for another broker when it comes down to taxable accounts.
Where Merrill Edge Fall Short
No Commission-free ETFs
Unless you’re a Preferred Rewards member then you won’t qualify for commission-free trading. This isn’t exactly uncommon among brokers but there has been more of a move towards offering it to all customers.
Trading Platform Restrictions
Although Merrill Edge offers MarketPro, as mentioned above, you need Java and it has restricted access for customers who maintain a balance of at least $20,000 between Bank of America and Merrill Edge accounts or make at least 15 trades per quarter.
Level 2 quotes, showing real-time big and ask prices for Nasdaq stocks are restricted to people who trade at least 30 times per quarter or maintain a balance of $1 million or more combined in both their Bank of America and Merrill lynch accounts.
Merrill Edge Make Things Simple
Signing up is ridiculously easy, especially for current Bank of America customers, and accessing data, using their features and getting advice can all be done is just a few quick steps.
Comparison of Brokerages
Comparison of: E*TRADE, Merrill Edge and Charles Schwab
- Overall rating: E*TRADE: 9/10, Charles Schwab 9.5/10, Merrill Edge 9/10
- Account min: Merrill Edge $0, Charles Schwab: $0, E*TRADE, $0
- Fees: Merrill Edge $2.95, Charles S $0 , E*TRADE Commission free for ETF and stock trades. Options are around $0.50-$0.65 p/contract, depending on trading volume.
- Highlight: Merrill Award-winning research, Charles best online broker for stock traders, E*TRADE Power E*TRADE platform
What Does This All Mean?
Merrill Edge offer a fair industry price among their competitors, and Bank of America customers can easily begin trading from their accounts. Prices are around $6.95 per trade, $.95 + .75 per contract for trading options, and there are no added charges for stocks less than $1.00 per share.
Bank of America’s award winning customer service team are mighty and provide around the clock to provide help.
Customers will get excellent insights into the latest, a customer service team to be admired, up to 100 commission-free trades per month with their Preferred Rewards program and it’s all as easy as pie…kinda.
Overall, if you’re new to trading and looking for some guidance, then you’ll likely enjoy this broker. Similarly, Bank of America customers will be happy to discover that Merrill Edge are a wonderful extension of the bank.