Merrill Edge Review: Many Options for Many Types of Investors
Charles Schwab Bank
- No minimum initial investment for simple, online investment and trading with Merrill Edge Self-Directed account
- $0 online stock and ETF trades
- Combined Merrill Edge investment and Bank of America deposit account balances can be used to qualify for Preferred Rewards program
- Does not support fractional share trading
- Does not offer forex or futures trading
Merrill Edge Overview
Merrill Edge is the online investment platform affiliated with Bank of America. Although the combination of Bank of America and Merrill Edge provides enhanced services, the combination of a traditional bank with a brokerage firm is the ultimate cross-selling opportunity for the combined entity. In other words, the Merrill Edge platform as a whole is designed to make it as easy as possible for you to open a Bank of America banking relationship and transfer money back and forth between the two sides of the firm. For fans of both Bank of America and Merrill, the convenience this offers is a plus. If you’d rather keep your bank’s nose out of your investment portfolio and vice versa, this could be more problematic for you.
Self-directed investors can use the Merrill Edge online brokerage platform to trade stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds, options contracts and more. As an online broker, commissions and fees are much lower at Merrill Edge than on the full-service side of the firm, but Merrill Edge still provides access to research and financial counselors, if needed.
Here’s a look at some of the features you should consider to help you decide whether Merrill Edge is right for you.
The Merrill Edge Self-Directed account offers $0 online stock and ETF trades. It also offers $0 online option trades, but there is a fee of $0.65 per contract for options. Those fees jump to $29.95 for stock and ETF trades and $29.95 plus $0.65 per contract for options trades if you use a representative to place your trades.
There are no commissions on most mutual funds unless they’re no load, transaction-fee funds, which cost $19.95 per transaction or $29.95 for every broker-assisted transaction.
Joining the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program may be advisable if you plan on seeking guided investing. You can receive a discount of 0.05% or higher on the annual fee as long as you maintain a combined balance of $20,000 or more over three months.
The beauty of the Merrill Edge website is that it can be as simple or as complicated as individual investors desire. If you’re a beginner — or just not that interested in having advanced trading capabilities — you’ll likely be perfectly content with the standard Merrill Edge interface, which is very intuitive and provides user-friendly graphical representations to help you build a portfolio matching your desired risk and return characteristics.
Advanced traders will enjoy the Merrill Edge MarketPro trading platform, which provides interactive charting, technical analysis studies and Nasdaq Level II quotes.
Merrill Edge routes orders through an execution system designed to get you the best possible price for your order. The order processing system is electronic and automatically sends your order to the appropriate execution center based on the characteristics of your order, trading statistics and market data.
Merrill Edge gets high marks for its customer service. In addition to 24/7 live phone service, you can get help via email, online chat or in a Bank of America branch.
You can access your Merrill Edge account on the go at any time with both Android and iOS mobile apps. Features of the apps include interactive charts and so-called “heat maps,” which show the relative outperformance and underperformance of different market areas. You can initiate trades from either app, and you can also get quotes, news and market data. If your phone is enabled for the technology, you can also log in to your app with your fingerprint.
Here’s a look at how Merrill Edge compares to other options you might consider.
Merrill Edge vs. Charles Schwab
Like Merrill Edge, Charles Schwab doesn’t charge commissions on online stock and ETF trades, but it does charge $0.65 for options contracts with no online commission. Charles Schwab edges out Merrill Edge for broker-assisted transactions, charging a $25 service charge when applicable, compared to the $29.95 service charge that typically applies with Merrill Edge. One big difference for newer or small investors is Charles Schwab’s allowance of fractional share trading, which Merrill does not support.
Merrill Edge vs. Fidelity
When comparing two brokerages with no fees on many trades, it’s important to look at the hidden fees. Fidelity’s broker-assisted stock, ETF and option trades are $32.95 compared to Merrill Edge’s $29.95 service charge. The big one is the mutual fund fee, which is at least $19.95 for no load, transaction-fee funds with Merrill Edge and $49.95 or more with Fidelity if you select non-Fidelity transaction-fee funds.
How To Open an Account
Opening a brokerage account with Merrill Edge is a simple process if you choose to apply online. There is no minimum account balance requirement with Merrill Edge Self-Directed — you can fund at a later time. You’ll need to provide your personal information, including your name, address, occupation and date of birth. Have your government-issued photo ID as well as your Social Security number ready to complete the application.
Who Merrill Edge Is Best For
Merrill Edge is best for anyone who wants commission-free trading and great customer service. Bank of America customers are also good candidates because Merrill Edge offers seamless integration with the bank.
Although the platform appears to be extremely intuitive and geared toward beginners, more advanced traders could also find what they need, including plenty of charting and research options.
The Merrill Edge user interface is very customizable. Basic traders can choose from different performance tracking tools to present investment information in the most digestible format. The more advanced MarketPro platform allows traders to create a customized account view that only shows selected information. You can drag or drop windows into your custom view or rearrange the information on the page at any time.
The average customer seeking a complete banking relationship with the benefits of an online brokerage account will find a good home with Merrill Edge, which is without doubt one of the best online brokers. Investors with niche needs or those who have smaller account balances and could benefit from fractional trading might be able to find better options elsewhere.
- Does Merrill Edge have hidden fees?
- Although Merrill Edge offers $0 online stock and ETF trades, there is a fee of $0.65 per contract on options. If you need assistance placing a trade, expect to pay $29.95 for stock and ETF trades and $29.95 plus $0.65 per contract for option trades. As for mutual funds, transaction-fee funds cost $19.95 per transaction or $29.95 when a broker executes the transaction on your behalf.
- How much money do you need to open a Merrill Edge account?
- Merrill Edge does not require an account minimum to open a Merrill Edge Self-Directed account.
- Which is better, Charles Schwab or Merrill Edge?
- Whether Charles Schwab or Merrill Edge is a better option for you will depend on your needs as an investor. Charles Schwab's service charge for representative-assisted transactions is generally $4.95 cheaper than what Merrill Edge typically charges. Plus, Schwab allows for the purchase of fractional shares, making the platform more accessible to smaller traders than they'd find at Merrill Edge.
Cynthia Bowman contributed to the reporting for this article.
Information is accurate as of Oct. 17, 2022.
Editorial Note: This content is not provided by any entity covered in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, ratings or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any entity named in this article.