Merrill Edge Review 2020
Merrill Edge is an online brokerage platform of Merrill Lynch, which is owned by Bank of America (BofA).
The platform offers streamlined investing services across a wide range of financial products. With a Merrill Edge account, you’ll have access to a self-guided trading platform and can also get personalized investment advice from a dedicated advisor.
The Merrill Edge platform has recently won numerous awards. In 2019, the company was ranked first in Overall Client Experience from StockBrokers.com and fifth overall among Barron’s Best Online Brokers. Suffice it to say that if you’re considering opening a new online brokerage account, Merrill Edge is worth a look.
What that in mind, if you’re interested in learning more about Merrill Edge—including what trading services are available, the fees you’ll pay, and the pros and cons of being a customer—you’ve come to the right place. This post is going to cover all of that and then some.
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s take a step back and explore how Merrill Edge came to be.
What is Merrill Edge?
Merrill Edge came online in 2010—two years after Bank of America acquired Merrill Lynch.
The idea was for Merrill Edge to offer a competitive, easy-to-use online trading platform for all types of investors. The idea took off rather successfully.
Merrill Edge’s customer base quickly grew to over 2 million by 2015, with the platform managing over $120 billion in client assets.
Next, let’s take a look at the different types of accounts and features that Merrill Edge offers.
Merrill Edge Services and Features
Merrill Edge Self-Directed Account
If you’re comfortable managing your own investments, the Merrill Edge Self-Directed Account might offer the solutions you’re looking for.
Standard trades cost $2.95. However, if you’re a BofA Premier Rewards member, you’ll have access to commission-free online trades on stocks, options, and ETFs. Options contracts cost $0.65.
Even though you’ll be on your own with a self-directed account, you’ll have access to a robust suite of research tools.
Here’s a full list of the investment options you’ll have access to:
Merrill Edge Guided Investing Account
If you’d like a little help planning your investment strategy or prefer to take a more hands-off approach, you may want to sign up for a Merrill Edge Guided Investing Account.
To get started investing, you’ll need to enter some basic details about yourself and your investment goals. You’ll then receive a customized investment plan from Merrill Edge’s team of expert advisors.
As time goes on, this same group of advisors will also automatically rebalance your portfolio as needed. (I’ve heard some people refer to this plan as Merrill Edge’s robo-advising service. But I do not see anything on their website that calls it robo-advising.)
To open a Merrill Edge Guided Investing account, you’ll need at least $5,000. You’ll also pay an asset management fee of 0.45%. However, Bank of America Premier Rewards members can pay as little as 0.30%.
Merrill Edge Guided Investing Account (with an Advisor)
Investors with at least $20,000 in opening deposits can opt for a more personalized level of service with a Merrill Edge Guided Investing Account Plan with an Advisor.
With this plan, you’ll receive one-on-one advice from a professional advisor who will help you develop your investment portfolio based on your goals and preferences.
You’ll also be able to periodically meet with your advisor, who will monitor the performance of your account over time and rebalance your funds as needed. The advisory fee for this account is 0.85%.
Merrill Edge Market Pro
Advanced traders might want to check out the Merrill Edge Market Pro platform, which offers more powerful investment tools and better reporting insights than a traditional account.
To qualify for a Market Pro account, you’ll need to make at least 15 trades per quarter or maintain a balance of at least $50,000 between your Merrill Edge and BofA accounts.
Keep in mind that it costs $6.95 to make trades on the Market Pro platform, but there are no monthly account fees.
Merrill Edge Retirement Planning
Merrill Edge also offers the following types of individual retirement accounts:
If you’re an entrepreneur, you might be interested in Merrill Edge’s Small Business retirement solutions, including:
- SEP IRA
- Simple IRA
- Small Business 401k
- Individual 401k
Let’s face it. It’s not easy to decide which small business plan is the best for your specific situation.
If you’re struggling to decide which option makes the most sense, I recommend giving Merrill Edge a call at 1-855-667-9451 to review your options.
Merrill Edge Pricing
To be blunt, Merrill Edge is not the cheapest online trading platform on the market. If you’re a BofA Premier Rewards member, you’ll enjoy commission-free trades online. But if you’re not, you’ll pay $2.95 for online trades with a standard account and $6.95 with a Market Pro account.
Broker-assisted trades cost $29.95. The good news is that there is no fee to open an account and no minimum balance required to open a standard brokerage account.
Guided Investing Accounts require a minimum deposit of $5,000 and come with a 0.45% asset management fee (Premier Rewards members can pay as little as 0.30%). If you want access to a Guided Investing Account with a dedicated financial advisor, the minimum opening deposit is $20,000, and there’s a 0.85% advisory fee.
Merrill Edge offers so many different products and services that it would be impossible to cover all of their fees in this post. If you’re looking for a more specific price on a particular service, visit their pricing guide here.
Signing Up and Getting Started
To sign up for a Merrill Edge account, click the red Open an Account button on the top right-hand corner of your browser.
Next, you’ll answer a few easy questions about the type of account you want to open.
Once you pick the type of account—for example, an online brokerage account—you’ll need to enter your personal details.
Overall, it’s a pretty easy sign-up process that shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes.
Merrill Edge Promotions, Bonuses, Coupons
At the time of this writing, Merrill Edge is offering up to a $600 sign-up bonus for opening a new account. Here’s how the bonus structure works:
- $600 bonus: If your opening deposit is $200,000 or more. Booyah!
- $250 bonus: If your opening deposit is between $100,000 and $199,999.
- $150 bonus: If your opening deposit is between $50,000 and $99,999.
- $100 bonus: If your opening deposit is between $20,000 and $49.999.
Merrill Edge Security
Merrill Edge and its parent company Bank of America are serious about security and fraud protection. After all, BofA has over 200,000 employees, so you would expect them to have a bulletproof security team.
Some of the security features that Merrill Edge uses include leading-edge encryption technology and two-factor authentication for account access. You can also sign up to receive text alerts in the event of suspicious activity.
What’s more, Merrill Edge offers a Fraud Protection Guarantee, which reimburses you for monetary losses that stem from fraudulent activity.
Customer Service and Support
Merrill Edge offers 24/7 customer support over the phone. Existing customers can dial 1-877-653-4732. New customers should call 1-866-460-1282. You can also send an email to customer support at ContactME@ml.com.
If you prefer to get in-person financial advice, you can schedule a free consultation with a Merrill Edge financial solutions advisor at a Bank of America financial center in your location. To find a branch in your area, check out their branch locator or call 1-888-637-3343.
Pros and Cons of Merrill Edge
- Wide range of services, from self-directed to personalized advising
- Merrill Edge Market Pro offers advanced tools for seasoned traders
- Good for Bank of America customers that qualify for free trades
- 24/7 customer support is always a plus
- No free trades for many customers
- Advising fees of Guided Investing account (i.e., their robo-advising service) are higher than many competitors
Alternatives to Merrill Edge
The main alternatives to Merrill Edge include:
Of those companies, only Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, and Charles Schwab offer in-person financial advice (like Merrill Edge does) through a network of physical branches.
Merrill Edge FAQs
Is Merrill Edge good for beginners?
Yes. Merrill Edge seems like a good investment platform for beginners. There are no minimum balances required to sign up and the company also offers lots of helpful research tools. If you’re the kind of customer who likes talking to agents on the phone, it helps to have 24/7 access to customer support, too.
Is Merrill Edge a good investment?
This is like a trick question. Using Merrill Edge’s trading platform, you’ll have the option to make investments at your own discretion. Some of them might be winners, and some may not.
Investing in the market always carries some risk, so I always recommend doing your homework before investing in any securities. I also don’t recommend investing in anything that you don’t understand. Check this post out if you are looking for the best low-risk investments in 2020.
Is Merrill Lynch the same as Merrill Edge?
Merrill Edge is an online trading platform division within the larger financial investment firm Merrill Lynch. They are both owned by the same company: Bank of America.
Is Merrill Edge free?
Merrill Edge is free to sign up for. There are no minimum monthly balances or transactions required to maintain your account, either. Domestic trades are free for qualified customers and otherwise cost either $2.95 or $6.95. For a full breakdown of their pricing, go here.
So, Is Merrill Lynch Right for Me?
If you’re already a Bank of America customer—and especially if you’re a Premier Rewards Member—it might make sense to open a Merrill Edge account because you’ll get unlimited commission-free trades.
Merrill Edge might also be a good option if you are an experienced trader and are comfortable doing your own research and making your own investments.
What’s more, if you’d prefer the experience of working with a financial advisor in person, you’ll probably appreciate the fact that you can do that with Merrill Edge.
On the other hand, if you don’t have a Bank of America account and want to avoid trading fees or use the lowest cost robo-advising service out there, you may want to look elsewhere.
Investing in financial products is a complicated process. However, if you do your research and get the guidance of those who are more experienced, you’re already one step ahead of the game.
Develop a plan that works for you and stick with it, and you’ll be well on your way to the path that leads to financial freedom.