Merrill Edge Review 2021: Pros, Cons and How It Compares

Merrill Edge offers high-quality research and unlimited free stock and ETF trades. Plus, Merrill clients have access to customer support at about 4,300 Bank of America locations.
Chris DavisOct 5, 2021

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Our Take

4.5

NerdWallet rating 

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.

Merrill Edge

on Merrill Edge's website

on Merrill Edge's website

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

Up to $600

when you invest in a new Merrill Edge® Self-Directed account.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Robust third-party research.
  • Integrated with Bank of America.

Cons

  • Advanced traders may find fewer securities on offer.

Compare to Similar Brokers

Merrill Edge
SoFi Active Investing
E*TRADE
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Fees

$0

per trade

Fees

$0

per trade

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Account Minimum

$0

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

Up to $600

when you invest in a new Merrill Edge® Self-Directed account.

Promotion

$5 to $1,000

in free stock for users who sign up via mobile app

Promotion

Get $600 or more

when you open and fund an E*TRADE account with code: BONUS21

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Become a NerdWallet member, and we’ll send you tailored articles we think you’ll love.

Full Review

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.

Research and data: Merrill Edge appeals to casual traders with a powerful combination of robust research and competitive pricing.

Educational resources: In addition to a library of educational content, a podcast, videos, webinars, virtual events and free tools and calculators, Merrill Edge has an Idea Builder tool to help newer investors find investments that appeal to them, such as ESG products.

Where Merrill Edge falls short

Investment selection. Advanced traders may find fewer securities on offer.

Fractional shares. Fractional shares let investors buy by the dollar amount, rather than the share amount. This makes it much easier — and more affordable — to diversify, but Merrill Edge doesn’t offer this ability.

Merrill Edge is best for:

  • Bank of America customers.

  • High-balance customers.

  • Environmental, social and governance investors.

Merrill Edge at a glance

Account minimum

$0.

Stock trading costs

$0.

Options trades

$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 no-transaction-fee mutual funds

Over 3,000.

Tradable securities

• Stocks. • Bonds. • Mutual funds. • ETFs. • Options.

Crypto offering

No access to cryptocurrencies or crypto-related products.

Trading platform

Three trading platforms:

  • Full site HTML experience.

  • Merrill Edge Mobile App (iOS and Android).

  • Merrill Edge MarketPro.

Mobile app

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 (includes how easy it is to find key details on the website)

24/7 phone, chat, email, with in-person appointments available during Bank of America branch open hours.

More details about Merrill Edge's ratings

Account minimum: 5 out of 5 stars

Merrill Edge has no minimum account requirement. Customers with a combined balance of more than $20,000 in eligible investment and cash accounts can qualify for Merrill’s rewards program.

Stock trading costs: 5 out of 5 stars

There are no commissions on stock or ETF trades at Merrill Edge.

Options trades: 4 out of 5 stars

Merrill Edge has no commissions on options trades, though you will still have to pay $0.65 per contract, a fairly typical charge among brokerages.

Account fees: 5 out of 5 stars

Merrill Edge gets high marks when it comes to account fees: There are no transfer, annual, inactivity or closing fees for brokerage accounts. If you transfer assets out of a retirement account, however, you’ll pay a fee of $49.95, but that charge is still lower than at some other brokerages.

Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds: 4 out of 5 stars

Merrill Edge offers over 3,100 no-transaction-fee mutual funds to choose from.

Tradable securities: 3 out of 5 stars

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. It’s also worth pointing out that Merrill Edge doesn’t offer fractional shares. Such an offering is becoming more commonplace among brokers, as it lets investors with less capital build diverse portfolios. Without fractional shares, this can be harder to do. (Learn more about fractional shares.)

Crypto offering: 1 out of 5 stars

Merrill Edge does not offer access to cryptocurrencies or products like Bitcoin trusts.

Trading platform: 5 out of 5 stars

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.

Mobile app: 5 out of 5 stars

Merrill Edge’s mobile app is highly rated among iOS users, but receives lower ratings from Android users. The app connects with a Bank of America account, letting customers get a holistic view of their financial situation in a single app.

Research and data: 5 out of 5 stars

The company provides research from its own BofA Global Research, as well as third-party providers, including Morningstar, Center for Financial Research & Analysis, 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 has continued to invest in the consumer experience, with several notable tools that allow customers to analyze their portfolios and find investment opportunities.

Customer support options: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Customer support is a strong suit for Merrill Edge, with 24/7 phone, chat and email support. For those who want in-person customer support, appointments are available at Bank of America branches during the bank’s business hours.

Is Merrill Edge right for you?

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.

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RATING FACTORS

Evaluations vary by provider type, but in each case are based upon the weighted averages of factors that include but are not limited to: advisory and account fees, account minimums and types, investment selection, investment expense ratios, trading costs, access to human financial advisors, educational resources and tools, rebalancing and tax minimization options, and customer support including branch access, user-facing technology and mobile platforms.

Each factor can involve evaluating various sub-factors. For instance, when gauging the investment selections offered by robo-advisors, 80% of the score is based on the potential for diversification (how well-diversified a resulting portfolio of investments could be) combined with the availability of specialty portfolios and level of customization for investors. Expense ratios form an additional 10% of the score, and low or no management fee the remaining 10%.

FACTOR WEIGHTINGS

The weighting of each factor is based on our team’s assessment of which features are the most important to consumers and which ones impact the consumer experience in the most meaningful way. The factors considered, and how those factors are weighted, change depending upon the category of providers reviewed.

INFORMATION UPDATES

Writers and editors conduct our broker reviews on an annual basis but continually make updates throughout the year. We maintain frequent contact with providers and highlight any changes in offerings.

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The combined expertise of our Investing team is infused into our review process to ensure thoughtful evaluations of provider products and services from the customer perspective. Our writers and editors combine to have more than 70 years of deep experience in finance, ranging from a former Wall Street Journal reporter to a former senior financial advisor at Merrill Lynch.

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on Merrill Edge's website

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