Merrill Edge Review
A Bank of America Company, Merrill is the investing arm of one of the largest corporations in the United States.
According to the number of active monthly users between January 2019 to July 2021, Merrill Edge gained more traction between Jan 2021 and July 2021 according to Airnow. 2019 had the lowest active monthly users, with all months falling below 145,000. In 2020, there was a spike in usage between March and June, before bouncing back in March 2021 to more than the all-time high of April 2020, which had active users slightly above 250,000.
Merill Edge offers self directed trading services that are specifically design for individual investors. This offers access to unlimited free trading with research and insights, seamless integration, and personalized online investments. There is even no minimum investment level.
Merill Edge also offers its Guiding Investing, a portfolio account designed to suit individual clients' needs while being balanced and managed by a pro. This guided investment account has a minimum investment of $5,000.
There is also an advisor program to assist those with complex wealth management requirements. For a minimum investment of $20,000 and a larger annual fee, Merrill can build a tailored investment strategy for individual clients.
Finally, there are other options, including Private Wealth Advisor, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management Advisor, and access to a team of Bank of America wealth specialists.
Merrill has a network of physical offices across the USA, so it is well suited to those who prefer to put a face to a company. The customer service team also goes the extra mile, doing whatever it takes to ensure you’re satisfied.
On Merrill Edge Secure Website
Merrill Edge has one of the most sophisticated investment product offerings.
Other brokers offer, one way or another, the same products, but Merrill has the merit of bundling them in such a way that it makes it easier for the beginner, intermediate and experienced trader to choose the best path to invest.
A very simple process to open an online trading account – it takes on average only ten minutes to do it.
Upon documents’ verification, which is the most time consuming, and funding the account, the investor can access the trading platform fairly easy and fast.
Merrill is one of the few online brokerage houses that offers Level II quotes for Nasdaq.
Market depth is highly appreciated in stock trading, and investors value such info accordingly. The fact that it is included in the flagship platform can only be a plus for Merrill.
It strikes you for the first time when looking at the Merrill’s services, the attention it pays to trade and investment education.
Moreover, the investment education part is combined with award-winning research, resulting in a difficult-to-find-somewhere-else combination
From time to time, Merrill offers an incentive to attract new customers.
Usually, it takes the form of a small bonus deposited in your account based on the funds directed to trade with Merrill.
One of the best customer services in the industry.
Merrill's representatives are available 24/7, and there's always an answer at the other end of a phone call. The live chat comes to complement the readiness of Merrill to take care of any inquiries a client might have.
Merrill only accepts U.S. residents and doesn’t do business with international clients.
In a way, it makes sense to focus on the domestic market due to its large size and Merrill’s strong presence in each state.
However, leaving aside international clients means ignoring a big chunk of the potential investors willing to pay a bit more than the average to get access to the U.S. markets by using Merrill.
Some investment products are poorly presented.
For example, mutual funds. Merrill does give you the access to mutual funds trading, but finding out how many are there, and other related info is quite difficult.
Hence, a better presentation in terms of the number, potential screeners, different categories, etc., would go a long way.
It may look like a small thing, but demo trading gives investors the possibility to compare trading platforms, commissions, and the overall offering of two or more brokers.
Merrill doesn’t offer this possibility, meaning a new investor must blindly open an account before testing the offer.
There's a huge list of additional fees and services coming on top of the regular commissioning structure.
It seems to be a fee or a commission for pretty much everything you can imagine, which is not necessarily bad, if it were not hidden somewhere on the website.
To Merrill's defense, such practice seems to be the norm in the industry, so probably they just got inspired from the competition.
How Merrill Edge Self-Directing Trading Works?
Rated as one of the best brokerage houses in terms of client and user experience and famous for giving its clients access to the renowned BofA Global Research, Merrill offers its clients various ways to invest in financial markets.
One would be via self-directing trading.
Designed for the individual investors, Merrill Edge Self-Directed trading services give access to unlimited free trades plus other benefits designed to bring a plus to the customer’s experience – research and insights, personalized online investing, seamless integration between the Merrill investment account and Bank of America bank account, etc.
There’s no minimum investment needed for self-direct trading with Merrill.
Another way to invest with Merrill is via Merrill Guiding Investing arm, which is a portfolio designed to suit each individual client’s needs and balanced and managed by Merrill professionals. Against an annual fee and a minimum investment of $5000, anyone can benefit from guided investing by Merrill.
Furthermore, the Merrill Guided investing with an advisor program addresses those with more complex wealth management needs.
For a larger annual fee and a minimum investment of $20,000, Merrill builds a tailor-made investment strategy suited to each client.
Finally, if any of the above is not enough for the sophisticated investor, other options exist, like investing with a Merrill Lynch Wealth Management Advisor, a Merrill Private Wealth Advisor, or a team of Bank of America Private Wealth specialists.
For such diversified possibilities to trade with Merrill, it comes as no surprise that it’s product offering covers the entire investment range.
|Stocks||Invest in publicly-trading companies across various market sectors|
|ETFs||Benefit from the ETFs diversification advantages for an increased tax-efficiency|
|Mutual funds||Funds for every type of investor – new and experienced|
|Fixed income and bonds||Trade CD’s, Treasuries, corporate bonds, agency bonds, and municipal bonds at competitive rates|
|Options||Better manage risk with options trading|
|Margin trading||Take advantage of market opportunities with competitive margin rates|
|BofAML US 1 List||Stock investment choices recommended by BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research analysts|
|Merrill Edge Select® Funds||Funds screening for self-directed investors|
|Merrill Edge Select® ETFs||Diversified equity exposure that helps investors simplify the process of choosing the right ETFs|
Commissions and Fees
Stocks trading with Merrill costs $0, and the same applies to trading ETFs. However, some other fees may apply in the sense that sales are subject to a transaction fee between 1-3 cents on $1000 of principal.
From this point of view, Merrill is no different than other brokerage houses, hiding other fees at the bottom of the pricing page for the products it advertises as free to trade. Also, there’s a $29.95 charge for representative assisted trades, in case someone needs assistance at some point when placing an order.
Options trading is also advertised as commission-free, but it doesn't include the per-contract fee 0f $0.65. On the bright side, there are no trade or balance minimums when trading options with Merrill. Also important, in case you decide to trade options using the representative assisted solution, the $0.65 fee per-contract applies on top of the $29.95 mentioned earlier.
For fixed-income and bonds, there's no commission for online trading of treasuries (auction and secondary) or new issues, including brokered CDs. However, the representative assisted trade charge of $29.95 applies to trading treasuries.
Other secondary trades, like corporate bonds, government agencies, or municipal bonds, can be traded at Merrill against a $1/bond fee, with minimum and maximum commission is $10 and $250. This commission structure remains valid even if the trader decides to use the representative assisted trade service, in which case the $29.95 charge adds up.
Trading on margin comes at a margin rate of 5.25% as the base lending rate and fluctuates depending on the sum borrowed. For instance, on a loan between $25,000 and $99,999, the margin rate is the base plus 2.25%, giving an effective rate of 7.5%.
In 2020, JPMorgan recorded the highest revenues from investment banking in the world at $8.5 billion . The new record made JPMorgan the largest bank in the world, with a market share of 9.3%. In the same period, Goldman Sachs recorded approximately $7.1 billion, making it the second-largest bank. BofA Securities and Morgan Stanley ranked third and fourth, with a difference of $111 million between them. UBS secured the 10th spot with $1.8 billion in revenue, $6.9 billion behind JPMorgan.
Merrill offers multiple account options to its customers, but it simplifies the decision process in an extremely efficient manner. There are three basic categories one must choose from:
- General investing
- College planning
The first category contains an online brokerage account, a joint brokerage account, or a custodial account.
In the second category Merrill groups the accounts dedicated to retirement – rollover IRA, traditional IRA, Roth IRA, and SEP IRA.
When it comes to retirement savings plans, 55% of American adults save their money using a regular saving account, according to T. Rowe Price. 401(k) plan closely follows by a margin of 54% of the respondents. On the bottom, 1% of those who participated in the survey cited other types of the saving plan. However, this was a small amount compared to the Annuity or life insurance policy which tied at 17% with a taxable investment account.
Finally, the college planning category has two account types – the 529 college savings plan and the custodial account.
Any client interested in Merrill’s services must choose one account from the ones mentioned above. What’s interesting is that the next decision to take is how to client wants to invest. At this stage, Merrill offers three options to each customer:
- Online investing and trading – here you'll get access to the trading platform but also to research insights, and step-by-step guidance to help you all the way
- Merrill guided investing – minimum $5000 investment to have your portfolio professionally managed
- Merrill guided investing with an advisor – $20,000 minimum investment for advice and guidance from an advisor
The Merrill Edge Market Pro is the flagship trading platform and comes with a bundle of features that makes it one of the most-wanted trading platforms in the industry. Merrill equipped its platform with real-time market analysis, award-winning research, as well as powerful trading and analysis tools.
It has a fully customizable dashboard offering a complete view of the accounts and drag-and-drop windows that make it easy to do that. Charting is easy with Merrill Edge Market Pro, and technical traders have access to over thirty technical analysis studies.
An important aspect to consider is that the Merrill Edge Market Pro is accessible from the company's website too, but there's a trick – you must enable pop-ups to allow the platform to launch, otherwise, it won't.
Finally, the Merrill Edge Market Pro is famous for its access to Level II quotes, a feature many traders look for, and few platforms offer.
Merrill has a strong network of local offices in virtually all states, giving it a strong physical presence on each local market.
On top of that, it offers 24/7 assistance over the phone and live chat to discuss any investing-related inquiry.
How to Open Merrill Edge Brokerage Account?
Visit the Merrill Edge homepage and then click on “Get started”.
Next, give your personal information. This takes you to the next page where you can give your employment and financial information.
This takes you to the section “Account details.” Fill in the necessary details and click “Continue.”
Next, review your application and then give your consent to the eCommunications Disclosure and then click “Continue.”
Finally, select the box and click “Submit application.”
Merrill offers more than trading education as it puts a lot of effort and energy in guiding its clients. Its advice goes beyond basic investment strategies and into research too.
It splits its investment education into different levels from beginner to advanced concepts, and its resource center is truly impressive – webinars, videos, articles library, tools, calculators. It also offers guidance for each trading style and way to invest.
In other words, Merrill's education section is one of the most complete in the industry.
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Here are our 3 choices of brokers which can use as a great alternative to Merrill Edge:
Fidelity Investments has millions of customers across the USA and overseas. The company has been around for fifty years and is considered one of the largest brokerage houses in the world. The majority of Fidelity operations are in the USA, and it operates various investor centers and regional offices across the country.
Fidelity investment products range from annuities, mutual funds, and options through to sector investing and managed accounts, catering to advisors, institutions, employers, and individual investors. However, Fidelity also offers its investment services to international clients, but this is only in a limited number of countries, and it is via a separate, dedicated site.
Although it is not the cheapest brokerage house, Fidelity does excel in many areas where other companies lack. So, if you are prepared to pay a premium for outstanding trading education and excellent customer service, Fidelity could be the broker for you.
Tastyworks services are designed for active traders, and the company considers itself a partner for any retail segment investors. It offers technology and education tools that go beyond the regular traditional broker.
Together with Robinhood, Tastyworks challenges the traditional brokerage industry. This combination of new, innovative companies is the reason why many well established brokers slashed their commission.
Tastyworks specializes in futures and is likely to expand its services moving forward. Despite only being around since 2017, the management team has a long history with trading platforms, financial markets, and other brokerage houses.
Tastyworks is a great option for those interested in trading futures and options. There are few brokers that delve this deeply into the futures market, offering access to so many different markets. Tastyworks offers interest rate, grain, foreign currency, equity index, energy, and metal futures, providing a low cost option to access these financial markets.
Firstrade integrates a variety of products from various U.S. markets. From just a single trading account, you can trade stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, and options. You can also invest in other adjacent services.
However, Firstrade is also clear that it strives to offer the lowest possible fees without compromising on quality, execution, protection, or customer service. Compared to others, Firstrade adds value, understanding that for most investors, low fees can have a significant impact on their bottom line.
Firstrade also made a giant leap away from the competition by allowing international investors. Despite the increased costs of dealing with non U.S. residents, Firstrade does a great job of providing access to the U.S. financial markets.
This makes Firstrade an ideal broker for those who are wary of the high commissions charged by many brokerage houses. With one of the lowest fee structures in the U.S, Firstrade continues to offer great execution, regardless of whether you’re a resident or not.
Merrill Edge is Best For..
A regulated broker in the United States, Merrill is best for U.S. residents looking for a complete, turn-key solution to financial markets.
It managed to put together a fabulous education and guidance service, a more-than-impressive trading platform, and great customer service. It's not that easy to find such combination at rival firms, and Merrill knows that – it justifies the higher-than-average fees it charges its customers.
With its vast network of physical offices throughout the United States, Merrill suits those that need to put a face behind a company. Customer service at Merrill goes the extra mile, and the representatives in the territory do whatever it takes for customer satisfaction.
This is a broker that caters to all types of investors (beginner, intermediate, experienced) and develops a product for each. Combined with the trading education offering, itis handy for investors to learn more about the markets and to appreciate the help Merrill provides.