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Updated on Monday, February 1, 2021
With low minimum deposits and $0 trade fees on stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), Merrill Edge is a powerful online broker that empowers you to invest for your financial goals. Geared toward novice investors, Merrill Edge’s educational materials and third-party research insights allow you to make informed decisions.
For investors concerned with customer service, Merrill Edge stands out from the competition, offering 24-hour support and even in-person consultations with licensed advisors. In this Merrill Edge review, learn about the investment options available through the broker and how it stacks up to the competition.
|Sign-up bonus||Get up to $600 when you open and fund a new Merrill Edge Self-Directed IRA account|
- What Merrill Edge offers and who it’s for
- Merrill Edge fees and costs
- Merrill Edge investing tools and research
- Merrill Edge user experience
- Merrill Edge investor education
- Merrill Edge security
- Alternatives to Merrill Edge to consider
What Merrill Edge offers and who it’s for
Merrill Edge is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bank of America, which means it can be a smart choice for existing Bank of America customers. You can access your banking information and investing account with a single login, and complete real-time transfers between your Merrill Edge investing accounts and Bank of America checking or savings accounts.
With robust investing resources and research tools, Merrill Edge is a good option for beginner and intermediate investors. As a Merrill Edge customer, you can save for retirement, your child’s college education or future goals by investing in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and ETFs.
As an online broker, Merrill Edge combines the options of a full-service broker with ease of use and convenience.
- Bank of America Preferred Rewards Program: Opening a Merrill Edge brokerage account can help you enjoy extra benefits and earn rewards through the Bank of America Preferred Rewards Program. Depending on your account balance, you can get perks like auto loan discounts, reductions on mortgage origination fees and additional credit card rewards bonuses.
- Extensive third-party research tools: As a Merrill Edge customer, you get access to extensive research tools, including Stock Screener and MarketPro. You also get independent ratings and rankings from Morningstar and CFRA.
- $0 stock and ETF trades: Merrill Edge allows you to trade stocks and ETFs with $0 trade fees, helping you save money when you buy and sell securities.
- In-person support available: You can meet with licensed Merrill Financial Solutions Advisors in person. Many Bank of America locations have advisors on staff that you can meet with to discuss your financial goals.
- Fractional shares not available: Some brokerages offer fractional shares, allowing you to buy slices of stocks instead of entire shares. Unfortunately, Merrill Edge doesn’t offer fractional share investing at this time.
- High margin rates: If you plan on using margin loans as part of your investment strategy, be aware that Merrill Edge’s margin rates are fairly high. As of December 2020, the margin rates for loan amounts of $25,000 to $99,999 is 7.50%, and 8.625% for amounts under $25,000. By contrast, competitors such as Charles Schwab and Fidelity offer rates as low as 6.875% for loan amounts between $50,000 and $99,999.
- Fewer investment options: While Merrill Edge allows you to invest in a range of stocks, bonds, ETFs and mutual funds, it has limited alternative investment options. If you want to invest in FOREX or cryptocurrency, for example, you’ll have to work with another brokerage firm.
Merrill Edge fees and costs
|Option trading fees||$0 trade plus $0.65 per contract|
|Stock trading fees||$0|
Merrill Edge offers lower minimum deposits than some other brokerage firms, $0 stock and ETF trades and low annual fees that are in line with its competitors. Merrill Edge has three different investment account types, and each has its own account minimums and fees, outlined below.
Merrill Edge Self-Directed
The self-directed option is for people who want to manage their investments entirely on their own. You get access to tools and insights to help inform your decisions, but you don’t get the benefit of an advisor’s help.
The self-directed investment option doesn’t have an account minimum, and there is no annual program fee. You also get unlimited $0 stock, ETF and options trades.
Merrill Edge Guided Investing Online
With guided investing online, you get a professionally managed portfolio at a low cost. The minimum investment for this option is $5,000, and there is a 0.45% annual program fee based on the assets held in the account.
Merrill Edge Guided Investing Online With an Advisor
The guided investing with an advisor option allows you to work one-on-one with a licensed advisor to create an investment plan to achieve your goals. The minimum investment for this account type is $20,000, and it has an 0.85% annual program fee based on the assets held in the account.
Merrill Edge investing tools and research
The stock screener platform has over 200 filters you can use to research stocks based on their performance, dividends, analyst opinions and more. The stock screener includes real-time streaming quotes, so you always have the most up-to-date information.
MarketPro is a dynamic and interactive trading platform. You can customize your dashboard, and use its advanced charting capabilities to inform your investment decisions.
Ratings and rankings from Morningstar and CRFA
When you start investing with Merrill Edge, you can take advantage of research and insights from third-party organizations Morningstar and CRFA.
Bank of America US 1 List
As a customer, you get a list of buy-rated stocks recommended by Bank of America Global Research Access.
Merrill Edge user experience
One common criticism of Merrill Edge is that its site and trading interface are slow, clunky and non-intuitive. However, Merrill Edge does have a strong reputation for its overall user experience. In 2020, Kiplinger ranked Merrill Edge as the top brokerage firm for user experience, and was ranked second for research, commission and fees.
Customer support is available via live chat and phone, or you can visit a Bank of America branch in person for assistance. Support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can call 888-637-3343 for help.
You can schedule an in-person consultation with a Merrill Edge Financial Solutions Advisor online.
Merrill Edge investor education
Merrill Edge has an extensive investor education section that contains articles, videos, webinars, calculators and courses on investing topics. To help you navigate through investing education, you can explore materials by your experience level, from “beginner” to “advanced.” The online courses are free, and they cover topics such as investing in ETFs and mutual funds.
Merrill Edge’s educational resources are particularly helpful for new investors, and are a standout benefit.
Merrill Edge security
- Member FDIC and SIPC
- Fraud protection guarantee
Merrill Edge is part of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). That means your investment is protected up to $500,000 — $250,000 for cash — in the event that the broker fails. This protection doesn’t apply to losses from stock market fluctuations; it only gives you coverage if the broker is unable to return your assets.
Merrill has an outstanding reputation, and takes care to protect customer information. As a customer, Merrill Edge will always authenticate your identity before discussing your account, and you have the opportunity to create a security code to access information over the phone.
Merrill Edge monitors your transactions and compares them to established activity profiles to flag fraudulent activity, and will contact you if fraud is suspected.
The Merrill Edge Fraud Protection Guarantee
Merrill Edge offers customers a fraud protection guarantee. The company will reimburse you for monetary losses you experience as a result of unauthorized third-party activity. To qualify for this protection, you must take the following steps:
- Contact Merrill Edge within 60 days of the suspected unauthorized activity.
- Protect your account information, including passwords and access codes.
- Cooperate with an investigation and sign an affidavit.
Alternatives to Merrill Edge to consider
While Merrill Edge is an excellent brokerage, it may not be the best broker for everyone. With its cumbersome trading interface and limited investment options, you may want to consider another online brokerage firm such as Fidelity or TD Ameritrade.
|Average Cost Per Trade||Minimum Deposit||Best for...|
|Merrill Edge||$0 for stocks||$0||Beginner investors|
|Fidelity||$0 for stocks||$0||Retirement investors|
|TD Ameritrade||$0 for stocks||$0||Advanced investors|
Merrill Edge vs. Fidelity
Fidelity is well-known for its mutual funds, with over 250 mutual funds available. More than 100 of its mutual funds were awarded four- and five-star ratings from Morningstar, recognizing their strong performance.
Another standout feature that separates Fidelity from Merrill Edge is that Fidelity allows you to invest in fractional shares. You can purchase slices of stock and ETFs, investing your entire deposit instead of having to wait until you have enough saved to buy a whole share.
Fidelity also has a powerful trading interface that many novice investors will find easier to use than Merrill Edge. With its wide range of mutual funds and ease of use, Fidelity is best for people investing for long-term goals, such as retirement.
Merrill Edge vs. TD Ameritrade
Like Merrill Edge, TD Ameritrade doesn’t allow you to invest in fractional shares. But it does offer other investment options that Merrill Edge doesn’t. With TD Ameritrade, you can invest in FOREX, futures and foreign ADRs, which can help you to diversify your portfolio. You can also invest in cryptocurrency through ErisX, making TD Ameritrade a better option for more-advanced investors.
Fidelity has robust educational materials and two different trading platforms, one for desktop and one for web use, so it’s good for advanced investors who are making higher-volume trades.
Rates and fees mentioned in this article are accurate as of the date of publishing.