Merrill Edge rating

Merrill Edge Review


Merrill Edge Self Directed Account Pricing and Minimum Deposit


InvestmentsCommissions
Stocks and ETFs $6.95
Stocks and ETFs broker assisted $29.95
Options $6.95 + $0.75 per contract
Mutual funds $19.95
Merrill Edge self-directed mutual funds 0.75% gross proceeds, $50 minimum, $250 maximum
Bonds On a net yield basis

Investments stocks, mutual funds, options, ETFs, bonds, CDs
Merrill Edge minimum deposit to open account $0
FeesMerrill Edge fees
Promotion link Merrill Edge promotions


Overview of Merrill Edge


When Bank of America purchased Merrill Lynch in 2008, the new financial conglomerate needed an on-line discount broker-dealer. So it created Merrill Edge (member of SIPC), which offers commissions as low as $0. In this 2018 Merrill Edge review we’re going to take an in-depth look at this brokerage firm and see how it performs in important categories. When you’re done reading this article, you’ll know where Merrill Edge excels and where it falls short.


Merrill Edge Commissions, Fees and Account Requirements


Merrill Edge Fees Rating

Merrill Edge charges $6.95 for ETF and stock trades. This commission is well above average nowadays in the discount brokerage arena. Nevertheless, the firm does offer a very generous 100% discount to clients with deep pockets. In a nutshell, you need to deposit at least $50,000 with Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, and/or Merrill Edge to get 30 free trades per month. If you can reach at least $100,000, the broker will give you 100 commission-free trades every month. That’s a pretty good deal if you have the assets. Keep in mind that the required funds can be in pretty much any account across the three companies. IRA’s qualify for the minimum.

If you prefer to use a live broker over the phone to place a trade, Merrill Edge has got you covered there, too. However, the commission goes up to $29.95. A cheaper option would be to place your trade via an automated phone service, which costs the standard $6.95.

An investment account with Merrill Edge costs nothing to open, and there is no annual, low-balance, or inactivity charge, either. There is no minimum deposit requirement for a taxable or retirement account, although a 529 plan does have a $25 minimum. Closing an IRA costs $49.95, and transferring any account type via the ACAT service costs the same amount (not addition to any closeout fee). See also Merrill Edge hidden fees.

Borrowing funds in a margin account has a base rate of 7.0% currently. Depending on how much you borrow, this fee will go up or down. Debits under $25,000 currently are priced at 10.375%, which is pretty steep.


Mutual Funds


Merrill Edge Mutual Funds Rating

Merrill Edge has a very good mutual fund section with lots of information. If you need to learn about the basics of funds, the broker’s educational articles will lead you step-by-step. There are also short videos that cover mutual fund basics.


Merrill Edge Review: Mutual Funds


Looking for funds is fairly straightforward as well. There are pre-defined categories posted in the mutual fund section. You can simply click on “International fixed income” or “Domestic equity” to find a list of funds. Alternatively, you can use the broker’s fund screener and specify your own criteria. There are many variables available, including load type, fund objective, and Lipper ratings.

Unfortunately, during our research we only found 3,366 funds that were open to new investors. Of these, just 767 come with zero load and zero transaction fee. Both of these lists are rather small. (Read Top Mutual Funds Brokers article.)

If want some guidance in choosing a mutual fund, there is a list of Merrill Edge Select Funds. These are mutual funds that are screened by the company’s investment advisors for performance characteristics, ratings, manager tenure, expense ratio, and other important variables. The list is reviewed every three months. Only no-load, no-transaction-fee funds can make it on the list.

For obvious reasons, Merrill Edge would be better for beginning investors who are looking for guidance rather than a large selection of funds.


ETF's


Merrill Edge ETFs Rating

Going from mutual to exchange-traded funds, we see a similar picture. There are numerous articles and videos that go over ETF basics for investors who need the education. If you’re ready to start trading, the broker’s website displays funds based on a variety of criteria, such as volume and last trade price.


Merrill Edge ETF Review


There is also a Select ETF list, which is very similar to the assortment of Select mutual funds. The Select ETF’s are chosen by Merrill Lynch financial advisors based on important criteria, such as tracking error, tight bid-ask spreads, and fund size. Merrill believes larger funds are better choices because they have lower costs and more liquidity. The broker’s ETF screener is just as robust as its mutual fund screener.

Every US-listed ETF is available for purchase at Merrill Edge, and as already noted, the cost to trade is $6.95 or $0. Unfortunately, Merrill doesn’t offer a list of ETF’s that are commission-free for all clients, and it loses one star for this lapse. To compare, Firstrade offers 700 (!) commission-free ETFs and TD Ameritrade provides 296.


Customer Service


Merrill Edge Customer Service Rating

Merrill Edge customers can reach out to a customer service agent any time of the day or night. The broker-dealer is also open on the weekends. Lacking on its site is an on-line chat feature, which some traders will prefer. There is no AI chatbot, either, and the company fails to provide a network of branch locations.

Where Merrill does succeed in this category is its very user-friendly website. With this you can send an internal message, find phone numbers, and a snail mail address. You can download tax documents, previous statements, sign up for DRIP service, link accounts, enroll in alerts, and much more. Going to “Help & Support” in the top menu and selecting your choice in the drop-down menu makes everything quick and easy.

While there are some Merrill Edge offices located in some Bank of America locations, these are not customer service centers. They only provide financial counseling to clients who pay for it.


Investment Advice


Merrill Edge Investment Advice Rating

If you don’t trust your own investment ability, you can turn your assets over to a Merrill Edge financial advisor and let the broker make trading decisions in your account. This service does come at a cost. The price is 45 basis points annually, and there is a $5,000 minimum investment amount. This price is high comparing to others that usually charge just 25 basis points. The service is called Guided Investing and it’s not a robo system. Merrill Lynch investment advisors oversee accounts and make trading decisions. The program is completely on-line.

If you want to work in-person with a financial advisor at a Bank of America location, the price increases to 0.85%. There is a $20,000 minimum for this service. It may work well for people who live near a Bank of America location. Nevertheless, the lack of a robo program at Merrill will disappoint some investors.


IRAs


Merrill Edge IRA Rating

Merrill Edge offers several retirement accounts. There are IRA’s, such as Traditional, Roth, SEP, SIMPLE, and Rollover varieties. An IRA at Merrill has no annual fee or other on-going charges. There is a $49.95 fee to close one, however, as already mentioned.


Merrill Edge IRA Review


Besides Individual Retirement Accounts, there is also a solo 401(k) for investors who are self-employed. The broker-dealer has a user-friendly online form that will lead you step-by-step through the application process. Loans can be taken out against Merrill’s 401(k)’s.

There are a few caveats we found with the broker’s individual 401(k) that we didn’t like. For example, there is a one-time setup fee of $100. The solo 401(k) also has a monthly administration fee of $20 to $25 and a recordkeeping charge of $3. The company’s IRA’s have no setup fees, recordkeeping charges, or administration fees. Unless you need to contribute more than $5,500 per year, the brokerage firm’s IRA’s obviously will be more cost effective. Self-employed persons that don’t opt for the 401(k) can open a SEP or SIMPLE IRA.

Merrill’s small business 401(k) was even pricier than the individual 401(k). The set-up fee is $390 and monthly administration costs $90. The small business 401(k) does have the same convenient online form as the solo variety.


Trading Tools


Merrill Edge Trading Tools Rating

Merrill Edge hasn’t neglected the importance of trading software. The broker has a desktop platform called MarketPro. It does carry trading minimums unfortunately. You have to place at least five trades per month on average to use it. Merrill will also give you the software if you have $50,000 in assets within the Bank of America family of companies.

As far as the features of the program, there are several that will appeal to advanced traders. Charting comes with 36 technical studies along with streaming market data. There is also real-time market analysis on the platform. Stock research is available from Merrill Lynch as well.

If you can’t gain access to the platform, you will have no problems trading on the broker’s very nice website. It is user friendly, but still boasts a very sophisticated trade bar. The trade tool is able to place orders for stocks and ETF’s, but unfortunately not options. Available order types include limit and trailing stop. A small pop-up chart can be displayed for any ticker symbol.


Merrill Edge TradeBar


If you don’t want to use the trade bar, orders for securities can be submitted through simple web pages. The same order types are available. Extended-hours trading is only available through web ordering.

What we really liked about the Merrill Edge site during our testing was the small drop-down information box that is displayed after entering a ticker symbol in the Quote box. Here you get a brief summary of the security, including a small chart, dividend yield, the most recent price, and a Morningstar rating. Two buttons appear at the bottom, Research and Trade.


Mobile App


Merrill Edge App Rating

If you’re like most people in the 21st century, you probably use your smartphone or tablet a lot. Merrill Edge has you covered there with an app that functions on both Apple and Android devices. If offers securities trading in stocks, ETF’s, options, and mutual funds. The last category is important because many brokers’ apps don’t allow mutual funds to be traded.


Merrill Edge Mobile App Review


In addition to securities trading, a minimal amount of research can be performed on the app as well. Not as much information is available compared to the website, but stock reports are available on the app.

Besides trading, several important functions are available on the app, including funds transfer, bill pay, and check deposit. Account statements can be downloaded, and mobile alerts can be established. A handy investment glossary is on the app, and articles on budgeting and retirement are available as well.

Charting comes with several graph styles and technical indicators. A chart can be rotated horizontally for better viewing.

One feature we really liked on the Merrill Edge mobile app is the ability to access you FICO score, something that most brokers don’t provide. On the downside, there isn’t any video news, something that many brokers do provide.


Promotion



Cash reward qualifications: assets of $20,000 to $49,999 in cash and/or securities receive $100 bonus; for $50,000-$99,999, receive $150; for $100,000-$199,999, receive $250; for $200,000 or more, receive $600.


Financial Education and Stock Research


Merrill Edge Research Rating

Merrill Edge’s website offers a large amount of educational materials and research tools. If you’re new to investing (see Best Brokers For Beginners article), the broker would be a good choice. A learning center shows topics by category, and they are in article, video, course, and webinar format. They can be sorted by experience level. Beyond general investing, there are also educational pieces for college planning, retirement, and small businesses.


Merrill Edge TradeBar


For stock traders, the broker provides a large amount of information on individual equities. After entering a ticker symbol in the Quote box, the bottom of the pop-up window provides a link to Merrill’s new way of stock research. Clicking on this link produces a step-by step guide that provides important information on the stock, broken down into categories. During our testing, we didn’t find that this new method was much different than the older style of just going to a stock’s profile page and reading through all the information. Here, too, information is divided into categories, and the information actually seems to be more comprehensive.

Merrill Edge doesn’t stop at stocks. The broker’s website has large sections on mutual and exchange-traded funds. Besides information, there are also good screeners.


Options Trading


Merrill Edge Options Rating

Derivative traders have a lot of resources at Merrill Edge. An options strategy builder on the Merrill site displays all strategies available with the broker. Each strategy shows the outlook (bearish, neutral, or bullish), maximum profit and loss, breakeven points, and legs in the strategy.

An options screener looks for derivatives based on a variety of criteria, such as expiration date, last price, Greek values, and fundamentals of an underlying stock. We found over 880,000 options in total during our research.

In addition to the screener, option chains are available for a stock. The chains can be found by going to the equity’s profile page and clicking on the ‘Option Chain’ tab at the top. In-the-money options are color-coded.

Options cost 75 cents on top of the broker’s standard $6.95 commission, which is also the charge for exercises and assignments.


Cash Management


Merrill Edge Cash Management Rating

If you need banking features with your brokerage account, Merrill Edge has you covered. A Visa debit card can be added to an account free of charge, and checks are available at the same price.

There is no charge to use a cash machine, although Merrill Edge does not reimburse fees that are charged by ATM owners. Bank of America’s network of 16,000 ATM’s can be used without incurring any surcharges.

If you use your Merrill Edge debit card overseas, there is a 2% fee for the currency exchange. There is no limit to the number of checks you can write, and checkbook reorders are free.

Merrill Edge does not offer a regular bank account. When you add checks and a debit card to a securities account, it’s still a securities account, just with banking features. This means your cash is not FDIC insured, although funds are protected by SIPC. If you want an FDIC-insured account, you can open one with Bank of America, and it will be automatically linked to your Merrill account, a nice feature.


Comparison


Merrill Edge succeeds in some areas compared to many of its rivals. Its offering of $0 commissions obviously is very enticing if you have the required funds. If you don't, then a low cost Firstrade, who charges just $2.95 per trade, is a great alternative.

The Merrill site is better than Vanguard’s, USAA’s, E*Trade’s, and WellsTrade’s. Many other brokers don’t offer a trade bar at all, or they don’t offer the same quality as Merrill’s. Fidelity is one example of the latter. Merrill’s mobile app is much better than TIAA’s, and its cash management features are better than what Vanguard offers.

On the downside, Merrill Edge really underperforms in the mutual fund category. Most broker-dealers today offer more than 4,000 funds. They also usually have a list of commission-free ETF’s. TD Ameritrade offers 14,000 mutual funds with around 2,600 with no commission.

As far as MarketPro goes, several brokers recently have removed trading requirements to use their trading platforms. Fidelity and Schwab are two examples. TD Ameritrade has always provided Thinkorswim and Trade Architect to all of its customers at no cost.

Merrill’s standard $6.95 commission makes it more expensive than many online discount brokers today, including Fidelity, Schwab, and Firstrade. E*Trade offers a $2 discount to active traders, something that Merrill no longer offers.


Merrill Edge Pros


  • No surcharges on stocks under $1, large orders, or extended-hours trading
  • Good investment research tools from Morningstar, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, S&P Capital IQ, Thomson Reuters, and Recognia
  • Free DRIP (dividend reinvestment; client must call customer support to set it up)
  • Free trades if an account meets certain conditions


Merrill Edge Cons


  • Higher than average commissions for most investors
  • Few mutual funds choices
  • No commission-free ETFs
  • Very high margin rates
  • Advanced trading platform, MarketPro, is available to clients with total combined balance of $50,000+, or making 15 trades per quarter
  • Mutual funds subject to self-directed short-term redemption fee of $39.95 if held less than 90 days


Merrill Edge Review Summary


In our 2018 brokerage review, Merrill Edge investment service received 5 stars in only one category: Research and Education. Nevertheless, it performed satisfactorily in most categories, something that not all brokers are able to do. While the company doesn’t do spectacularly well in the retirement category, it would be a good pick if you have at least $50,000 to invest or deposit.


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Merrill Edge Questions and Answers


What products can clients buy at Merrill Edge?


Merrill Edge clients can purchase the following: stocks, mutual funds, options, ETFs, bonds, and CDs.


How much are Merrill Edge's fees?


List of all the fees Merrill Edge is charging is under this link.


What interest does Merrill Edge pay on cash?


Merrill Edge pays no interest on uninvested cash in brokerage or IRA account unless you invest in money market funds.


What are Merrill Edge margin interest rates?


Current Merrill Edge margin interest rates could be found here.


What is Merrill Edge account minimum?


Merrill Edge does not have minimum requirements to maintain brokerage accounts.


What minimum deposit is required to open Merrill Edge account?


Merrill Edge does not have a minimum deposit requirement to open taxable or IRA account.


Who is Merrill Edge's clearing company?


Merrill Edge clearing houses are Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner, & Smith.


How to close Merrill Edge account?


You could learn how to close or transfer your Merrill Edge account under this link.







Merrill Edge Margin Rates


Debit Balance Margin Rate
above $10,000,000 6.250%
$5,000,000 - $9,999,999 6.500%
$1,000,000 - $4,999,999 7.000%
$500,000 - $999,999 7.625%
$100,000 - $499,999 7.850%
$25,000 - $99,999 9.250%
under $25,000 10.375%



Merrill Edge IRA Fees


Fee Amount
Merrill Edge IRA setup fee $0
Merrill Edge annual IRA fee $0
Merrill Edge IRA termination fee $75
Merrill Edge account maintenance fee $0
Merrill Edge account inactivity fee $0
Merrill Edge outbound full account transfer (ACAT) fee $49.95
Merrill Edge outbound partial account transfer fee $0



Merrill Edge reviewed by Brokerage-Review.com on . Rating: 3