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Merrill Edge is a top brokerage that offers lucrative perks such as $0 commissions, quality third party research, and premium customer service. Read our Merrill Edge review to learn more about the benefits offered and determine if this is the right broker for you.
$0 stock and ETF trades
This stock broker is a good fit for: Investors wanting to combine their investing and banking needs under one roof.
No brokerage is perfect for everyone, but every brokerage tailors its offerings to a certain type of customer. Merrill Edge stands out from the pack with several main features:
Merrill Edge, like all of the best stock brokers, now offers commission-free trading for online stock, ETF, and options trades. Note, an options contract fee of $0.65 per contract does apply.
Being able to access your account balance at any Bank of America ATM without paying a debit or ATM fee is a major advantage for those who live near a Bank of America branch. Likewise, free bill pay makes it easy to pay bills straight from your account balance.
Merrill Edge offers a wide array of taxable brokerage, retirement, small business, and children's investment accounts.
The best stock brokers give investors access to a deep bench of investment vehicles. Merrill Edge is no different, and offers investment vehicles, including stocks, ETFs, options, mutual funds, CDs, and bonds.
Many Bank of America financial centers (i.e., branches) have Merrill Edge advisors available during normal banking hours to help you with your account. If being able to speak to someone in person is valuable to you, this can be a major selling point on its own.
Merrill Edge is owned by Bank of America, which has the gold standard for banking loyalty programs. Bank of America Preferred Rewards members can secure rate and fee discounts for most of the banks products, plus bonus credit card rewards. We review further below the Preferred Rewards program in more detail.
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Merrill Edge MarketPro® is a quality trading platform, but it can be beat by other stock brokers.
Merrill Edge's margin rates are competitive with similar full-featured stock brokers, which all are high compared to what other quality brokers offer.
If you want to trade stocks, options, and ETFs on your phone: Robinhood leads the pack with its simplified mobile investing experience. The broker also shines with $0 commissions, including no options contract fees, and access to cryptocurrencies. On the downside, Robinhood doesn't offer the widest array of investment vehicles and account types.
If you want to compare with another full-featured broker: TD Ameritrade receives high marks for its array of offerings, much like Merrill Edge. But where TD Ameritrade shines is with its desktop, online, and mobile trading experiences that consistently receive high marks. It also offers trading for other investment vehicles such as forex and futures.
This discount brokerage has joined the trend of $0 commissions on online stock trades, and no-transaction-fee funds make it an attractive bargain. Base commission prices are detailed in the table below.
|Stocks and ETFs||Options||Mutual funds|
|$0||$0.65 per contract||$0 - $19.95|
Investors who want to invest in mutual funds will find many no-transaction-fee (NTF) choices on par with other large brokerage firms. As for mutual funds, Merrill Edge offers thousands of no-transaction-fee (NTF) mutual funds, though many may carry up-front or back-end loads (fees that are a percentage of the amount invested.) That said, many funds that traditionally carry loads are load-waived on the Merrill Edge platform.
Costs aren't just limited to commissions. We read through Merrill Edge's fee disclosures and found a few notable fees worth discussing in more detail.
Merrill Edge, like many brokers, uses a trading platform that's accessed only by a web browser or its mobile app. Its highly rated mobile apps are available for any customer on an iOS, Android, or Windows device, so virtually any smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device has an app for making trades on the go. Best of all, the mobile app offers all the functionality you would expect of a desktop solution: streaming data, multi-leg (complex) options, and mutual fund trading.
|Margin balance||Interest rate|
|Less than $25,000||8.625%|
|$25,000 to $99,999||7.500%|
|$100,000 and up||Contact Merrill Edge|
This brokerage may not be the best fit for investors who use margin as an integral part of their investment strategy. That's because Merrill Edge margin rates are on the higher end of the discount brokerage industry, even for clients who have large balances ($1 million or more).
Of course, margin rates are irrelevant if you don't plan to use margin to leverage your portfolio. Investors who use a cash account can simply forget that margin exists. Investors who use high amounts of margin for long periods of time to leverage their portfolio will likely want to look elsewhere, however, given the high cost of carrying a debit balance.
One major advantage of using a brokerage that is tied to one of the nation's largest banks is its customer service and support. Clients can get help at thousands of Bank of America financial centers (branches), where there are Merrill Edge advisors on staff to help you with anything related to your account. For convenience, you can also schedule a meeting with a local representative so as to get in and out as fast as possible, without waiting in line.
Merrill Edge also offers help 24/7 over the phone. An online chat service is available from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, and from 7:30 a.m. ET to 6 p.m. ET on Saturdays. (We used its online chat service to ask about its operating hours and received an answer within 30 seconds.)
The Bank of America Preferred Rewards program is a big Merrill Edge investing perk, especially for people who are already Bank of America customers.
Any customer with at least $20,000 in all of their Bank of America accounts and Merrill investment accounts combined is eligible. Preferred Rewards has three tiers, and larger balances mean larger perks. Here's a chart that shows some of the more valuable Preferred Rewards benefits that might interest Merrill Edge brokerage clients:
|Benefit||Gold ($20,000 to $50,000)||Platinum ($50,000 to $100,000)||Platinum Honors ($100,000 or more)|
|Merrill Guided Investing program fee discount||0.05%||0.10%||0.15%|
|Bank of America Advantage Savings Account interest boost||5%||10%||20%|
|Credit Card Rewards Bonus||25%||50%||75%|
|Auto Loan Interest Rate Discount||0.25%||0.35%||0.50%|
|Mortgage Origination Fee Discount||$200||$400||$600|
In short, if you're a Merrill Edge or Bank of America customer, especially one with a relatively large account, you could earn more interest and save money on other financial products.
Discount brokers are offering more research and other tools to help bridge the gap between barebones discount brokerages and traditional full-service brokerage firms. Merrill Edge offers a few noteworthy research capabilities to its clients:
Taking into consideration its pros and cons, we think a Merrill Edge account would be a good fit for you if the following statements apply to you:
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