Merrill Edge Self-Directed Review 2024: 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 Bank of America locations.
Sam Taube
By Sam Taube 
Edited by Pamela de la Fuente

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Our Take

4.2

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line:

Merrill Edge Self-Directed stands out for its robust research and free trades, and Bank of America customers will appreciate the thoughtful integration across accounts.

Merrill Edge® Self-Directed
Merrill Edge® Self-Directed
Fees
$0
per trade
Account minimum
$0
Promotion
None
no promotion available at this time

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Robust third-party research.

  • Integrated with Bank of America.

  • High order execution quality.

Cons

  • Advanced traders may find fewer securities on offer.

  • Low interest rates on uninvested cash.

Compare to Similar Brokers

NerdWallet rating 

4.9

/5
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5.0

/5
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4.9

/5
NerdWallet rating 

4.1

/5

Fees 

$0

per online equity trade

Fees 

$0

per trade

Fees 

$0

per trade

Fees 

$0

per trade

Account minimum 

$0

Account minimum 

$0

Account minimum 

$0

Account minimum 

$0

Promotion 

None

no promotion available at this time

Promotion 

None

no promotion available at this time

Promotion 

Get up to 75 free fractional shares (valued up to $3,000)

when you open and fund an account with Webull.

Promotion 

Get up to $700

when you open and fund a J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing account with qualifying new money.

Learn more

on Charles Schwab's website

Learn more

on Interactive Brokers' website

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on Webull's website

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on J.P. Morgan's website

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Full Review

Where Merrill Edge Self-Directed 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.

Educational resources: In addition to a library of educational articles, courses, 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 Self-Directed 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 Self-Directed is best for:

  • Bank of America customers.

  • High-balance customers.

  • Environmental, social and governance investors.

Merrill Edge Self-Directed 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 partial transfer fees; $49.95 full outgoing account transfer fee.

Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds

819.

Tradable securities

• Stocks. • Bonds. (Treasuries, CDs and bond funds at no additional charge. Corporates and municipal bonds for an additional fee.) • Mutual funds. • ETFs. • Options.

Interest rate on uninvested cash

0.01%.

Trading platform

Three trading platforms:

  • Full site HTML experience.

  • Merrill Edge Mobile App (iOS and Android).

  • Merrill Edge MarketPro.

Some technical issues with the platforms.

Mobile app

Advanced features mimic a desktop trading platform. Some mixed reviews.

Research and data

Research, ratings and reports from a handful of providers, including Bank of America, Morningstar and CFRA.

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 Self-Directed's ratings

Account minimum: 5 out of 5 stars

Merrill Edge has no minimum account requirement.

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: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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

Interest rate on uninvested cash: 1 out of 5 stars

Merrill Edge doesn't offer the lowest cash interest rate of any broker we review — some don't pay any interest at all. But among brokers who do pay interest on uninvested cash, Merrill Edge offers one of the lowest rates — just 0.01% per year, regardless of account balance.

Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds: 2 out of 5 stars

Merrill Edge offers more than 800 no-transaction-fee mutual funds to choose from.

Tradable securities: 3.5 out of 5 stars

While most investors will find Merrill's selection of stocks, 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.)

When it comes to bonds, Merrill offers investors access to Treasuries, CDs and bond funds at no additional cost, as well as corporate and municipal bonds for an additional fee of $1 per bond (capped at a minimum of $10 and a maximum of $250).

Merrill's margin rates are fairly standard among brokers, ranging from the high-13% range to the mid-9% range, depending on account balance.

Trading platform: 3.5 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. All of the platforms give investors access to over-the-counter (OTC) stocks at no additional cost. They also allow extended trading hours — from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time on weekdays.

The platform boasts excellent order execution quality — more than 99% of trades are executed at the National Best Bid and Offer (NBBO) price or better. This may be a consequence of Merrill's decision not to accept payment for order flow (PFOF), a business model in which customer trades are routed to trading firms for execution, potentially resulting in slower and less efficient execution.

🤓Nerdy Tip

The average execution quality of all brokers we review was 97.4% as of August 31, 2023. That means 97.4% of orders were executed at a price that was at or better than the National Best Bid and Offer. Executing at or above the NBBO means you may receive price improvement, or a better share price than you were originally quoted.

However, the platform does not offer initial public offering (IPO) access, and sometimes experiences technical problems — in particular, a buggy sign-up process.

Mobile app: 4 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: 2.5 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 and Lipper. Mutual fund reviews and rankings come from Morningstar and Lipper. Although these are reputable data providers, Merrill doesn't offer free access to as many providers as some other brokers.

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. However, Merrill Edge's website can be somewhat confusing to navigate.

Merrill Edge IRAs

Merrill Edge offers both Roth and traditional IRAs, which are individual retirement savings accounts. IRAs have lucrative tax advantages — including tax deductions on contributions or tax-free distributions in retirement, depending on the type of IRA you choose — and experts recommend using them when saving for retirement. You can have an IRA in addition to another brokerage account, such as one you might use for non-retirement goals or to trade stocks.

Merrill Edge IRA

4.2

NerdWallet rating 
Fees

$0

per trade

Account minimum

$0

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Merrill Edge offers high-quality customer service, robust research and low fees. Customers of parent company Bank of America will love the seamless, thoughtful integration, with a single login to access both accounts.

Pros

  • Robust third-party research.
  • Integrated with Bank of America.
  • High order execution quality.

Cons

  • Advanced traders may find fewer securities on offer.
  • Low interest rates on uninvested cash.
Read full review

Is Merrill Edge Self-Directed 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.

How do we review brokers?

NerdWallet’s comprehensive review process evaluates and ranks the largest U.S. brokers by assets under management, along with emerging industry players. Our aim is to provide an independent assessment of providers to help arm you with information to make sound, informed judgements on which ones will best meet your needs. We adhere to strict guidelines for editorial integrity.

We collect data directly from providers through detailed questionnaires, and conduct first-hand testing and observation through provider demonstrations. The questionnaire answers, combined with demonstrations, interviews of personnel at the providers and our specialists’ hands-on research, fuel our proprietary assessment process that scores each provider’s performance across more than 20 factors. The final output produces star ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars).

For more details about the categories considered when rating brokers and our process, read our full methodology.