The bottom line: Merrill Edge stands out for its robust research and free trades, and Bank of America customers will appreciate the thoughtful integration across accounts.
Up to $600
cash credit with qualifying deposit
Pros & Cons
Robust third-party research.
Integrated with Bank of America.
Advanced traders may find fewer securities on offer.
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Merrill Edge appeals to casual traders with a powerful combination of robust research and competitive pricing, including unlimited free trades on stocks and ETFs. Merrill clients also have access to customer support at about 2,500 Bank of America locations.
Merrill Edge is best for:
Bank of America customers.
Merrill Edge at a glance
Stock trading costs
Unlimited free trades on stocks and ETFs.
$0 + 65 cents per contract.
Account fees (annual, transfer, closing, inactivity)
No annual or inactivity fees; $49.95 full outgoing account transfer.
Number of commission-free ETFs
All available ETFs trade commission-free.
Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds
• Stocks. • Bonds. • Mutual funds. • ETFs. • Options.
Online trading platform; plus, Merrill Edge MarketPro, a platform aimed at active traders, is available to all customers.
Advanced features mimic a desktop trading platform.
Research and data
Free and extensive.
Customer support options (including website transparency)
Phone and live chat support 24/7.
$100 to $600 cash bonus for new customers with balances starting at $20,000. (Members of Bank of America's Preferred Rewards program can get up to $900.)
Where Merrill Edge shines
Integration with Bank of America: Merrill Edge is a product of Bank of America’s acquisition of Merrill Lynch, and it’s clear that the parent company has made efforts to create a seamless experience for clients who use both services. You can view your Bank of America accounts and Merrill Edge accounts with a single login, and real-time transfers move money between accounts instantly. The same integrated experience is available on mobile, and you can even view your Merrill Edge investment account balances on Bank of America ATMs.
Free trades: Like many brokers these days, Merrill Edge offers customers commission-free online stock, ETF and options trades. Options trades carry a per-contract fee of $0.65, which is competitive with other brokers.
Preferred Rewards program: Merrill Edge customers with Bank of America accounts may qualify for Merrill's Preferred Rewards program, which offers access to a variety of discounts and promotions, including higher interest rates on savings accounts, reduced rates on auto loans, and discounts on mortgage origination fees.
To qualify, you must have an eligible Bank of America checking account, plus a three-month average combined balance of $20,000 or more in Bank of America deposit accounts and/or qualified Merrill Edge and Merrill Lynch investment accounts.
Research: The company provides research from its own BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research, as well as third-party providers, including Morningstar, CFRA, Trefis and Recognia. Mutual fund reviews and rankings come from Morningstar and Lipper, and the company compiles a list of Merrill Edge Select ETFs and Merrill Edge Select Funds, with the top funds in each category as evaluated by Merrill Lynch investment professionals. Merrill Edge’s website also has a lot of educational resources, including videos, courses, webinars and articles, all searchable by investing experience or topic. Morningstar’s investing classroom is available on the site, too.
With Merrill Edge's “Fund Story" feature, you can research a mutual fund’s holdings (that is, what it's investing in), the sectors it covers, its historical performance, third-party analyst ratings and more. Plus, the fee analyzer illustrates the cost of owning the fund over time. Similarly, Merrill's "Portfolio Story" and “Stock Story” offer detailed information on your own investment portfolio, and individual stocks, respectively, all in an easy-to-follow format.
Trading platforms: Like many brokers, Merrill Edge offers both website trading and an active trader platform, called Merrill Edge MarketPro. The company’s website is clean and intuitive, and offers several screeners so you can quickly sort through stocks, mutual funds, ETFs and bonds. There's also a "quick trade" feature that lets you make stock and ETF trades from just about any page on the website.
The MarketPro platform, available to all Merrill Edge customers, is also robust, with much of what active traders expect: interactive charts, alerts, Level II quotes (which show real-time bid and ask prices for Nasdaq stocks), a customizable dashboard, and streaming data and news.
Where Merrill Edge falls short
Fewer types of securities: While most investors will find Merrill's selection of stocks, bonds, options, ETFs and mutual funds more than adequate, active traders eager to invest in futures or forex will need to go elsewhere.
The bottom line
Now that Merrill Edge offers free trades to all investors, there's a good chance this broker has much of what you’d need — high-quality research, a good investment selection and helpful customer service. The company ranks among the top of the field when it comes to online brokers.
Arielle O'Shea contributed to this review.