Merrill Edge Review - Is It The Best Choice for Online Investing?

Merrill Edge Review

Merrill Edge is a discount brokerage that allows beginner and experienced investors to trade stocks, bonds, ETFs, and mutual funds. They also have competitive pricing and even offer free monthly trades. This Merrill Edge review will cover the advantages and disadvantages of investing with Merrill Edge.

With award-winning research and customer service, Merrill Edge has received the praise of many investing and personal finance publications. Plus, they have even been recognized for affordability as they do not charge annual account fees or require a minimum account balance.

Although Bank of America customers can benefit the most from investing with Merrill Edge, anybody can join whether you are a DIY investor or need a managed account.


Brief Overview

Bank of America acquired Merrill Lynch in 2009. Since then, they have been known as Merrill Edge. Today, Merrill Edge customers can invest online or visit one of the 2,000 Bank of America branches for in-person advice as well.

Merrill Edge is feature-rich regarding investment offerings and trading services. You can trade just about anything, including penny stocks.

They also offer managed investing accounts for those seeking a cost-effective balance between self-guided investing and advisor oversight. Besides that, they offer advisor-led accounts if you want a financial advisor to make most of your investment decisions.

Advanced traders can also invest with Merrill Edge, but, their research platform isn’t as thorough as other brokerages.

And, while their stock and ETF commissions are competitive at $6.95 per trade, Merrill Edge isn’t the cheapest option for frequent investors that don’t bank with Bank of America because they won’t qualify for free trades.


Who Should Consider It

You might like Merrill Edge if you fit one of the following backgrounds:

Bank of America customers &
High-Balance Customers

With Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program, you can receive up to 100 free trades each month when you have at least $100,000 in assets with Bank of America or Merrill Edge.

You can also get 30 free trades if you have at least $25,000 in assets with Bank of America or $25,000 in cash assets with a self-directed Merrill Edge account.

To qualify for Preferred Rewards, you need to:

  • have an active Bank of America checking account
  • at least $20,000 in combined assets with Bank of America and Merrill Edge for three months.

Bank of America customers might also choose Merrill Edge if they want to keep all their money in the same place. You can view their “B of A” and Merrill Edge account balances on the same website.


Beginner Investors

For investors that barely know the difference between a stock and a mutual fund, you have access to award-winning customer service and financial advisors.

Plus, they also have extensive research and educational materials.


Penny Stock Traders

Unlike other brokerages, Merrill doesn’t charge a surcharge on penny stocks that trade for less than $1 a share. This is one benefit of their flat-rate pricing.


Likes & Dislikes

Likes

Dislikes

  • $0 Trades with Bank of America Preferred Rewards program
  • Competitive $6.95 flat-rate stock and ETF commissions
  • No surcharge for Penny Stocks
  • 2,000+ commission-free mutual funds
  • Access to award-winning research and customer service
  • In-depth educational materials for beginners
  • Zero minimum account balance requirement or annual account fees
  • No commission-free ETFs
  • Access to MarketPro advanced trader platform limited to traders with high account balances
  • MarketPro platform is only web-based and doesn’t have as many features as other brokerage platforms

Investment Offerings

Cost-conscious investors might not care for Merrill Edge, but, their commissions are still very competitive. And, Bank of America members that qualify for the Preferred Rewards program can literally never pay a trade fee again.

Merrill Edge allows you to trade everything you would expect from a discount brokerage:

  • Stocks
  • Options
  • Bonds
  • Mutual Funds
  • ETFs
  • Penny Stocks
  • Fixed Income

Merrill also has managed portfolios if you still want the freedom to choose your investments yet want a Merrill Edge professional to rebalance the asset allocation each year.

For most casual and frequent traders, you will be able to trade everything you want at Merrill Edge. There are also plenty of managed portfolios for those that want more guidance or a “hands-free” experience.

Professional traders that want forex and other unconventional investments will need to use a different brokerage, but, the limited functionality of their advanced trader program is also a deterrent.


Fees

Merrill Edge has competitive flat-rate pricing for account and trade fees.

  • Stocks and ETFs: $6.95 per trade *0 for Preferred Rewards members
  • Mutual Funds: $0 for 2,000+ funds and $19.95 for transaction fee funds
  • Options: $6.95 per trade and $0.75 per contract
  • There isn’t a minimum account balance requirement and Merrill Edge doesn’t charge any annual account fees.

Preferred Rewards members will enjoy making $0 trades every month on all stocks and ETFs.

Merrill’s $6.95 trade fee isn’t the cheapest, but, it’s still on par with the other big brokerages. The excellent research tools and access to advisors can offset the slightly higher fees for beginner investors.

Also, ETF traders will be slightly disappointed as there are no commission-free ETFs unless they qualify for the Preferred Rewards program.


Platform

Usability

For casual investors, the regular Merrill Edge platform is more than sufficient and easy to use to research potential investments, track portfolio performance, or plan for future expenses like retirement or college.

Merrill has invested in some platform upgrades to improve the overall performance over the past few years.

Advanced traders that want to access the MarketPro professional platform might have a different experience.

Currently, the platform access is restricted to customers that maintain a balance of at least $50,000 at Merrill Edge, Merrill Lynch, or Bank of America. You can also gain access if you make at least 15 trades per quarter. And, your computer must have Java.

If you can use the MarketPro platform, you receive access to their top-notch BofA/Merrill Lynch Global Research tools. And, you can also use customizable charts and get in-depth research information.

Most people won’t have an issue using the Merrill Edge platform. The only issue might be for advanced traders that might not meet the initial qualification requirements for MarketPro.


Design

The Merrill Edge platform is well designed and easy to navigate. Whether you want to research an investment, execute a trade, or read educational information, you should be able to find what you are looking for with ease.

Experienced traders with access to the MarketPro website will also find the design of the platform easy to navigate.

But, they will miss certain trading features like one-click trading or customization of graphs and charts that make other advanced platforms more desirable to use.

Merrill Edge is best for beginner and casual investors that don’t need all the tools a professional investor would require. The MarketPro platform is also easy to navigate but limited when it comes to speed trading or the most advanced forms of research.


Customization Options

The Merrill Edge and MarketPro platforms are both fully customizable. Because the MarketPro platform is web-based, it’s still not going to be as functional as a desktop version.

But, it’s still pretty good as you can stream quotes real-time and perform 36 technical analyses with interactive charting and research.

You can remain with the default blue and white background. Or, you can switch to a black background. And you can also drag and drop windows and tiles where you please.

Advanced traders that need a desktop trading platform will want to stay away. If you can manage with a web-based platform, you will be able to fully customize your charts and research. For some, the platform still might look out-of-date if they want to use the latest and greatest.


Mobile

Merrill Edge has a mobile app for the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Android devices. It is comparable to many of the other leading mobile apps.

You can easily execute trades and access research stock quotes with a variety of charts and research opinions. It’s also possible to pay bills and make mobile deposits.

Beginner and experienced investors will enjoy the built-in investment term glossary as well. You won’t be able to livestream financial news as some other apps allow. Merrill Edge has also recently introduced the heat maps and a customizable dashboard to enhance your mobile experience too.

You can research, trade, and complete a host of other banking activities with the Merrill Edge app. It’s not the best brokerage app, but it’s still pretty good.


Unique Features

Probably the most unique feature to Merrill Edge is their BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research platform. It has been ranked #1 by Institutional Investor as the top global research firm for six consecutive years.

MarketPro and non-MarketPro investors will also enjoy the thorough charting and research options that are very interactive. The fully customized dashboards also make it easy choose the information you want to see first.

For those that do most of their investing on the go will enjoy their mobile app because it is a combination of investing with charts and trading, but you can also mobile bank with bill pay and check deposits.


Trading

Trading with the MarketPro platform is fairly easy and similar to the Merrill Edge platform.

One primary drawback is that there isn’t a “one click” option, so you need to verify each action you want to execute. Otherwise, it has a similar appearance to other professional trading platforms.

Process

An easy way to initiate a trade is by clicking on the “Trade Window” that is at the bottom of every screen. Or you can make it a separate window too.

To start a trade, simply enter the symbol and the desired action, quantity of shares, and order type into the field boxes. The Trade Window supports regular and extended hour trades, single and multi-leg options, and mutual funds buys and sells.

After entering the information into the trade window, you will be taken to a verification screen. If the information is correct, you can click the button to complete it and the trade will be executed. This redundant step is one complaint of many active traders that are looking for a platform to trade quickly.

A second way to order stocks is with using your watchlist. By clicking the “snap quote” icon next to a stock symbol, MarketPro will immediately take you to the trade screen to enter the information.

If you need to modify orders, you can view all your orders by clicking on the “All Accounts” button in the drop-down menu. On this screen, you can view all your pending orders. To modify or cancel an order, you simply right-click the order to make the necessary changes.

Except for the lack of one click trading, it is still pretty easy to initiate or modify a trade anywhere within the MarketPro system.


Order Filling

Market orders will fill as soon as you click the “Submit” button on the trade preview screen. There have been some complaints that submitted orders will not show on the order screen after being submitted.

The bigger complaints to affect day traders will be, once again, the lack of one-click trading that can cause you to miss an ideal price point. A second drawback is that MarketPro doesn’t support direct market routing or advanced order types.

While you can do the normal order types such as market, fill or kill, limit, stop, or stop limit, professionals might have to use another platform for the more advanced orders. Those who value speed the most, might be better off somewhere else where trades are executed faster, like at SpeedTrader


Charting

Merrill Edge has good charting options for all their platforms ranging from their mobile app to MarketPro.

Using MarketPro, you have access to over 70 different technical studies. Most platforms with similar trading costs offer upwards of 100, but, all of Merrill’s charts are customizable and have a clean appearance. You can also change the colors of the symbols and chartable expressions too.

Some of the different tests include the Gann Fann, Fibonacci Fan or Retracement, and the Speed Resistance Arc. Even with the mobile app, you have access to interactive charts beyond the typical historical quotes.

Overall, professional day traders will probably want to use another platform such as TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim that offers more features for a comparable price. For less frequent traders that need a more complex interface than the traditional Merrill Edge offerings, will be more than happy with the available charting options.


Research

Research is the area where Merrill Edge shines. Their award-winning BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research is a definite strength. You also get access to plenty of third-party reports from Morningstar, S&P Capital, and other leading research groups.

They also have many easy-to-use tools and screeners to help sift through potential investments based on the opinions of their in-house analysts. And, Merrill will also provide market commentary as well.


Educational Materials

Beginner investors can also learn plenty about investing from Merrill Edge’s educational materials. Even advanced investors watch videos to gain a better understanding of topics like options or international investments.

Another neat learning option is the Morningstar classrooms that teach investing lessons for stocks, bonds, funds, and ETFs from the 100-level to the 500-level.

Merrill Edge also has articles and webinars that cover a variety of investing topics as well. And, their mobile app also has a very detailed glossary for quick reference.

Any Merrill Edge user can benefit from the educational materials. They can also be helpful if you don’t have the time to meet with a Merrill advisor and still want to learn the information to make educated investing decisions.


Support

Merrill Edge has received rewards from several leading personal finance organizations for having excellent customer service. You can contact Merrill 24/7 with live chat or a phone call. They even offer general investment support if you have a managed portfolio.

They have also received great reports on their e-mail support with average response times within one business day. And, no matter how you contact Merrill Edge for help their support team has routinely been noted for being knowledgeable and courteous. When responding by chat or e-mail, they also provide clean and professional templates as well.

While nobody ever plans on using customer service on a regular basis, Merrill Edge has gone to great lengths to be available every minute of the year and process your needs as quickly as possible.


Merrill Edge Review Final Verdict

Merrill Edge can be an excellent choice for Bank of America customers because they can qualify for free trades. Even advanced investors might be able to compromise on the relatively limited MarketPro platform to trade for free.

Beginner and casual investors will also like Merrill Edge for the rich research and education tools and the $6.95 trade fee is still very reasonable. Although, it would be nice if Merrill Edge could add fee-free ETFs as many other brokerages have done in recent years.

Active traders and professional traders will most likely be the group that likes Merrill Edge the least. This is because of the limited functionality of the MarketPro platform. It’s still a good platform for many investors, but, there are better options available to execute trades quicker.

Andrew
 

My name is Andrew and I run Slick Bucks to help folks learn to manage money cleverly, and how that clever management can make you wealthier.

Real Time Analytics