Merrill Lynch Overview
Please note that the following article and rates apply only to Merrill Lynch self-directed investing accounts. This Merrill Lynch review does not apply to any other Merrill Lynch,
Pierce, Fenner & Smith accounts.
Merrill Edge is an on-line self directed discount broker operated by Merrill Lynch, a subsidiary of Bank of America. With competitive fees and excellent research tools, the firm offers a good value to securities traders. Let's take a closer look at this broker and see what it has to offer.
Fees and Account Minimums
Merrill Edge charges $6.95 for stock and ETF trades. This rate definitely makes this firm a mid-range cost broker. Options are an extra $0.75 per contract. Clients with at
least $25,000 in combined cash balances (it has to be uninvested cash) with Bank of America and Merrill Edge receive 30 trades per month free of charge.
Trading stocks, options, ETF's, or mutual funds with a live broker is $29.95.
Margin trading is available and currently debits under $25,000 cost 9.125%. In comparison, OptionsHouse currently charges 8.00% for the same loan.
Brokerage accounts have no minimum opening deposit or minimum balance requirement. IRA's also have no annual account fee or minimum balance requirement. There is a $49.95 fee for closing or transferring a retirement account.
List of all Merrill Lynch fees is located under this link.
Mutual and Exchange-Traded Funds
Merrill Edge offers more than 4,000 mutual funds to trade. More than 800 of these have no load and no transaction fee. Mutual funds that do carry a transaction fee are $19.95 to trade. The fee applies to exchanges, purchases, and sales. For NTF funds, there is a $39.95 short-term trade fee if the fund is held less than 3 months.
Regrettably, Merrill Edge does not have list of commission-free ETF's for its clients to trade. This is a disappointment in an age where some brokers, such as Schwab, have more than 200 ETF's that investors can trade free of charge.
Research and Education
Merrill Edge has an abundance of educational resources on its website. Clients can find information on retirement planning, or take courses on securities topics at three different levels: beginner, intermediate, or advanced. Numerous videos are available covering topics such as asset allocation and bond investing. There are calculators to help investors determine education costs. There are also self-guided investment courses powered by Morningstar.
The website has excellent tools for researching securities. There are effective screeners for stocks, mutual funds, and ETF's. Analyst reports on stocks are available from S&P Capital IQ,
Merrill Lynch, and Morningstar free of charge. Lipper ratings are also displayed for mutual funds. The broker provides technical analysis information at
no cost from Recognia.
Cash Management Features
Checks and a Visa debit card can be added to a Merrill Edge brokerage account. There are no fees for the checks or card. Withdrawals at Bank of America ATM's are always free. Clients are reimbursed up to $200 for non-Bank of America ATM's per year.
Alternatively, a Bank of America checking account can be linked to a Merrill Edge brokerage account. Transfers between the two are quick and easy using either the Bank of America site or the Merrill Edge platform.
Merrill Edge can be contacted via phone, e-mail, and snail mail. Investment and technical representatives are available 24/7. Merrill Edge has a phone number for investors traveling internationally. On-line chat is available for investors trying to open an account.
The broker has a nationwide network of investment advisors, called Financial Solutions Advisors, located at Bank of America branches. These advisors provide one-on-one investment advice.
The broker's website is intuitive and user friendly, and is relatively easy to navigate. Drop-down menus display a wealth of information in an easy-to-understand format.
Trades can be placed within the web browser. Charting is available and includes some technical analysis tools. A help feature displays important educational information on how to place trades.
At the bottom of the browser is a useful trade ticket called TradeBar. It provides quick data and order entry, and can even produce a small chart.
Merrill Edge provides its customers with Portfolio X-Ray®, a service operated by Morningstar. This program scans an account and determines sector weightings and asset allocation. It also displays stock holdings underlying a mutual fund.
A sophisticated trading platform, Merrill Edge MarketPro, is available to active traders. The requirement is 15 trades per quarter, or a minimum of $50,000 in combined
Merrill Edge and Bank of America accounts. In contrast, the best trading platform on the market, Thinkorswim, is available to all
TD Ameritrade customers with no requirements.
Merrill Edge has applications for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Android. The interface is easy to navigate. Users can place trades, sign up for alerts, pay bills, and make a mobile check deposit. The app does provide news articles, although there is no streaming business news. Other brokers, such as Fidelity, provide streaming financial news free of charge.
Merrill Edge offers clients the ability to trade extended hours. The broker also has a
good selection of fixed-income products, including CD's, Treasuries, and secondary bonds, along with a handy screener.
The firm does not offer virtual trading account, access to online investor community,
forex and futures trading.
We will end Merrill Lynch review with recommendations. Merrill Edge is an excellent choice for Bank of America customers and investors who have at least
$25,000 to maintain as a cash position. Everyone else, especially mutual fund investors and stock/ETF traders,
will find better opportunities elsewhere.
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