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.
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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 exchange-traded funds. Merrill is also increasing its presence in Bank of America branches across the country, giving clients access to in-person customer support at about 4,300 locations.
Merrill Edge is best for:
Bank of America customers.
Environmental, social and governance investors.
Merrill Edge at a glance
Stock trading costs
$0 + $0.65 per contract.
Account fees (annual, transfer, closing, inactivity)
No annual, inactivity or transfer/closing fees for brokerage accounts; $49.95 full outgoing account transfer fee for retirement accounts.
Number of commission-free ETFs
All available ETFs trade commission-free.
Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds
• Stocks. • Bonds. • Mutual funds. • ETFs. • Options.
Three trading platforms:
Advanced features mimic a desktop trading platform.
Research and data
Research, ratings and reports from over a dozen providers, including Bank of America, Morningstar and Moody's, and news from 30 sources, including the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and the Associated Press. (Morningstar is a NerdWallet advertising partner.)
Customer support options (including website transparency)
24/7 phone, chat, email, with in-person appointments available during Bank of America branch open hours.
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 the effort to create a seamless experience for clients who use both services. You can view 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.
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 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.
User experience: Merrill Edge has continued to invest in the consumer experience, bringing on two notable new offerings for 2021: "Dynamic Insights" and "Idea Builder" tools. Dynamic Insights is a customizable dashboard that offers analysis of your portfolio, news and research based on your holdings and individualized insight on performance and the market.
Idea Builder offers a new way to find investment opportunities — search for investments by "ideas," rather than individual companies, performance, sector or other traditional criteria. There are dozens of ideas to sort through, but a few include Aging, Big Data, Climate Change and Warren Buffett stocks. From here, you can buy shares in listed companies in a few clicks. This is especially helpful for ESG (environmental, social, governance) investors looking for a simple way to sort and compare socially responsible investment opportunities.
Trading platforms: Like many brokers, Merrill Edge offers 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 foreign currency exchange (forex) will need to go elsewhere.
The bottom line
Regardless of your experience as an investor, there's a good chance this broker has much of what you would need — high-quality research, a good investment selection, helpful customer service and an innovative user experience. The company ranks among the top of the field when it comes to online brokers.
Andrea Coombes contributed to this review.
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