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Merrill Edge Review & Rating USA 2021

Is Merrill Edge Scam or Legit?

Merrill Edge is a New York based online discount broker that’s backed and parented by Bank of America. Current Bank of America customers can enjoy a number of premium rewards when signing up with the brokerage, including free ATM transactions and auto loan interest rates.

In this Merrill Edge review USA, we’ll take an in-depth look at the broker and test it out ourselves to provide you with our Merrill Edge opinions and whether or not we’d recommend the platform, and to what type of customer. We’ll also take a look at how to create a Merrill Edge open account and rate the process on speed, efficiency, and security.

As well as this Merrill Edge review, you can also check out our reviews of  brokerages aimed largely at newcomers such as our Robinhood review and Stash review.

Merrill Edge Pro and Con
  • Excellent customer service
  • Keeps banking and trading under one roof
  • Top-rated platform for beginners and intermediate traders
  • Premium rewards for Bank of America customers
  • $600 new account offer
  • Excellent 3rd party research abilities
  • Options spreads online are limited to just two legs
  • Cannot trade in futures contracts or cryptocurrencies
  • Limited options for advanced traders

Offers for New Customers

With the current Merrill Edge open account offer, new investors have the chance to claim a bonus of up to $600 or $900. To claim this bonus, all you have to do is sign up to Merrill Edge then make the following 2 qualifying requirements:

  1. Make qualifying investments in your new account within 45 days
  2. Maintain your qualifying balance for 90 days

Once your balance has been held for 90 days, you’ll receive your bonus within 2 weeks. Normal customers can claim a Merrill Edge open account bonus of up to $600, but it gets better for current Bank of America Preferred Rewards Members, who can claim a bonus of up to $900.

You can check out how the Merrill Edge Open Account Bonus works below:

  • Qualifying Assets: $10,000 Cash Bonus (regular): $100 Cash Bonus (preferred rewards): $150
  • Qualifying Assets: $50,000 Cash Bonus (regular): $150 Cash Bonus (preferred rewards): $225
  • Qualifying Assets: $100,000 Cash Bonus (regular): $250 Cash Bonus (preferred rewards): $375
  • Qualifying Assets: $200,000+ Cash Bonus (regular): $600 Cash Bonus (preferred rewards): $900

Usability, Look & Feel

In this part of our Merrill Edge USA review, we’ll take a look at the look, feel, and usability of their website. Overall, the Merrill Edge website is clever, efficient, and well laid out; there are 6 tabs at the top of the screen with the top right, with the “Open Account” tab being highlighted in red. Getting things started with Merrill Edge is easy and relatively hassle-free, however, in your personal online account, things aren’t easily customizable, which may put off more advanced traders.

Design-wise and aesthetically, Merrill Edge looks a bit dated and definitely doesn’t have the “wow factor” that we look for. The color scheme is your classic All American red, white and blue with a tinge of light grey for good measure. The white is the dominating flag color here and generally, the website feels as though it were designed with a strong sense of patriotism.

Ultimately, the Merrill Edge website does almost everything a beginner to intermediate trader could ask, however it lacks the modern look and feel of some other brokerages’ websites, as discussed in our TastyWorks review, and SogoTrade review.

Merrill Edge Open Accounts

When it comes to creating your Merrill Edge open account, you have 3 types of online brokerage accounts to choose from, each of which have different capabilities, are aimed at different levels of traders and have different Merrill Edge open account processes. In this section of our Merrill Edge review, we’ll break down each type of account, explaining how they work, who they’re for, and how to open them.

  • Merrill Edge Self-Directed

The Merrill Edge Self-Directed account gets you unlimited $0 online stock, ETF and options trades. This is an ideal account for beginner or novice traders as you get an easy to follow step-by-step guide to help you through your early trading experiences.

Account minimum: $0

Merrill Edge Open Account Process: To open  a Self`-Directed account, you’ll need to complete the sign-up process which requires the following information:

  • Social Security number and date of birth
  • A valid mail and email addresses
  •  Employment information (including company name, address, and start date)
  • General financial information (such as annual income and household net worth)

You can complete this process online, via phone or by going to your local Bank of America branch (if you’re already a bank of America Customer).

  • Merrill Guided Investing

With this account, you’re joining an investment advisory program that’s guided by Merrill Edge’s investment professionals. The guides and strategies are created and catered just for you as an individual with your goals in mind. For this account, you pay an annual 0.45% annual program fee.

Account minimum: $5,000

Merrill Edge Open Account Process: As well as completing the sign-up process required for the Self-Directed account, you’ll also be required to answer a series of questions to let Merrill Edge know more about your investment plans and goals so that their expert professionals can create a strategy that’s right for you.

  • Merrill Guided Investing with an advisor

This account type is the next level up from the simple Guided Investing account and therefore has a higher annual fee of 0.85%. The benefits are the same as guided investing only you get a dedicated personal advisor.

Account minimum: $10,000

Merrill Edge Open Account Process: The same as with the Guided Investing but you also get to choose and meet with your personal advisor either in person or over the phone.

If you’re looking for another option then you’re in luck, take a look at the Robinhood open account process to see how it compares. We’ve also compiled all the latest on the Vanguard Open Account, a great option for the smaller investment portfolio.

Trading Platforms

Merrill Edge offers a simple web-based platform, a mobile version, and their MarketPro trading platform, which is aimed at active traders but was recently made available to all Merrill Edge open account holders, regardless of investment size or account trading activity. By way of a comparison for newcomer  traders, we’d suggest looking over our Vanguard review, noted for having lots of helpful investor tools.

Web platform

The web-based platform with Merrill Edge USA has all of the bells and whistles that beginner to intermediate traders could expect; you can manage your portfolio, easily conduct trades in EFTs, Options & Mutual Funds and the order form is as straightforward as can be. What impressed as most in this section of our Merrill Edge review, is that the order form is specifically designed to prevent you from making any big mistakes, another reason the platform is great for beginners. The charts are also easy to follow and are informative. We mentioned earlier in our Merrill Edge review that the website isn’t easily customizable, however you can personalize it in some ways, including filtering your news feed so that only relevant information comes your way. In terms of design, the website trading platform follows the same color scheme as the rest of the website; it’s a bit bland and dated, but at least inoffensive on the eye.

Mobile platform

Most of the features that you’ll find on the web-based platform have been transferred over to the small screen mobile app fairly well, however, as is always the case, there are a few things missing and a few things that aren’t replicated as well as they are on the bigger screen platform. Pricing data lags behind real-time with the mobile app and quotes do not stream at all, so you have to update price data by dragging down the page and releasing it – a funny little quirk that probably needs to be fixed. Overall, the mobile platform just about does its job but we wouldn’t recommend using it as your primary trading platform.

MarketPro

Merrill Edge’s active trader offering is decent enough and has most things that active traders would expect, including a customizable dashboard, interactive chats, and a great number of options tools. In terms of look, feel and layout, Merrill Edge USA has gone for the black background here – the go-to background color for platforms aimed at more serious traders. Overall, we’d say there are better platforms out there for active traders, and as a result, you might want to take a look at our Sofi Invest review.

Payments

There are four ways to deposit funds into your Merrill Edge open account; Cash transfer, wire transfer, check or by transferring funds and/or securities from an existing account. In this section of our Merrill Edge review, we’ll take a look at each payment method in a bit more detail. All payments must be made in USD we noted during our Merrill Edge review.

  • Cash Transfer

If your transfer funds from your Bank of America or Merrill Edge account, the transaction will happen instantly. If you transfer from an account with another bank the transaction can take up to 3 days to clear.

  • Wire transfer

Funds electronically wired from another bank or financial institution are processed the same day.

  • Check

Deposits made with a bank or cashier’s check will take 3-5 days to clear.

  • Transfer from another brokerage account

With Merrill Edge USA, you can transfer funds and/or securities from another brokerage account. As you can quite probably imagine this is a more complicated and lengthy process than other payment methods and takes a minimum of 8 days to complete.

Customer Service

First up, our Merrill Edge review found they do have all of the channels that you would expect from an online broker that’s parented by the Bank of America; a phone line, live online chat, and email support. There are also FAQs to help you out, however, they are solely related to trading based queries and do little to provide any information on other potential problems. Their phone line is toll-free and available 24/7, however, should you wish to speak with a live broker there is a surcharge for any trades placed with them. The phone line starts off automated and is a bit tedious, however when the time comes for you to get put through to an actual human advisor, the connection times are pretty quick.

In addition to the customer service channels mentioned above, Bank of America customers can also receive in-person Merrill Edge advice via walk-in appointments at your local Bank of America branch. You can also get customer service from Merrill Edge USA on Twitter, however, the account is run by Bank of America personnel, rather than dedicated Merrill Edge staff.

Regulation & Deposit Insurance

In terms of regulation, Merrill Edge is an active member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). What this means is that Merrill Edge USA is obliged to be open and transparent and engage in actively educating their investors, which they do through a number of educational tools. In addition to being a FINRA regulated platform, Merrill Edge has won multiple awards from various industry reviewers and scrutinizers, including customer intelligence company J.D Power and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine.

This ultimately means that Merrill Edge is as safe as any other online brokerage in America, perhaps even more so than any other. We are duty-bound in this Merrill Edge review, however, to make you aware that nothing is every 100% safe in the world of financial trading.

Deposit Protection

Merrill Edge USA is a registered broker-dealer in the US and is therefore registered as a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). Merrill Edge’s parent company, Bank of America, is a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). What this means is that deposits and account funds are protected up to a certain amount should Merrill Edge or Bank of America encounter any form of severe financial difficulty. Your funds are protected up to the value of $500,000 ($250,000 cash) through SIPC and up to $250,000 through FDIC.

If you’re looking to compare, we were impressed with the track record and credentials found in our USAA Investments review, a long standing broker with a military provenance.

Additional Offers

Earlier on in this Merrill Edge review, we spoke about their new customer offer, and while Merrill Edge doesn’t have any other cash offers that we could find, they do have a lot more to offer their customers in the form of education and assistance.

Strictly speaking, Merrill Edge USA doesn’t offer a demo account, however, they offer a plethora of help via their extensive resource center and investment education program. With the Merrill Edge resource center, you can access a number of webinars and video tutorials as well as a library of useful articles and investment guides. They also have extremely well laid out guides articles for three levels of investor; Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.

When it comes to help materials, Merril Edge USA have pages dedicated to helping those who are investing at different stages in their lives, as well as preparation guides for major life events. As is required of them being a FINRA regulated broker, Merrill Edge provides budgeting and debt management aids, personal finance assistance, and a page warning potential new investors about the risks involved with online trading.

Merrill Edge Bonds

Merrill Edge Bonds

Merrill Edge gives you a simple way to invest in bonds, helping you to build a balanced portfolio. The online broker has a range of financial solutions advisors who can advise as to the bonds that can reduce your portfolio volatility. You will also get assistance in pursuing your short-term and long-term investment goals through bonds trading. Merrill Edge features advanced screening tools that can search for bonds according to ratings, maturity dates and potential yields. The screening tools can also be customized to search for your own investment criteria.

Bonds Trading Costs

Merrill Edge has a bond fee structure that’s simple and straightforward. For online bond trades, you’ll be charged $1 per bond with a $10 minimum and $250 maximum fee. If you trade bonds with assistance from a Merrill Edge representative, there will be a $29.95 added charge. There will be no unexpected charges added later on. This means that you’ll get no nasty surprises when you buy and sell bonds through Merrill Edge.

Bonds Markets & Trading Places

The bonds on offer at Merrill Edge include the likes of corporate bonds, treasury bonds, municipal bonds and CDs. These CDs are offered by the Bank of America. Such fixed income investments will give you a low risk way to build your portfolio. When it comes to evaluating the total cost of trading a bond, you can use the excellent Merrill Edge Bond Calculator.

Product Summary & Conclusion

Merrill Edge will take all of the mystery out of bonds trading. The brand’s software gives you the perfect way to research bonds according to rating, type, industry, issuer, issue date, settlement date, minimum order, yield and much more. The fees for bond trading at Merrill Edge are clear, transparent and in line with most online brokers. All of which makes Merrill Edge an excellent choice for your bond trading.

Merrill Edge Stocks

Merrill Edge Stocks

Merrill Edge is an ideal place for new and experienced investors to trade in stocks. Merrill Edge has an impressive free stock trading education platform that’s designed to help beginner, intermediate and advanced traders. Their range of powerful investing tools are extremely user friendly, so they won’t perplex beginners, but have the capabilities that advanced traders will require. Perhaps the best reason to trade in stocks with Merrill Edge however, is their BofA US 1 List, which is a list of buy rated stocks compiled by analysts at BofA Global Research. You cannot trade penny stocks with Merrill Edge, which we’d recommend avoiding anyway.

Stocks Trading Costs

In keeping with their USP, all Merrill Edge clients get unlimited $0 online stock trades with no balance or trade minimums, however there are other fees that may be applied. The $0 refers to the fact that there is no commission charge taken on stock trades, but the actual sales of stock are subject to a transaction fee between $0.01 and $0.02 per $1000 of principal.

Product Summary & Conclusion

Overall, trading stocks with Merrill Edge isn’t a bad option for traders of all levels, so long as you’re aware that the $0 doesn’t mean that no fees are charged at all.

Merrill Edge Options

Merrill Edge Options Trading

Options are contracts that give a trader or party the right to buy or sell a specified number of stock shares at a specified price within a certain period of time. If the right to exercise the option is not met within the time frame specified. Stock options are used either to reduce or increase risk. From a seller’s point of view, options are usually used to reduce risk and act as a kind of insurance, as they can arrange a contract that allows them to sell their stock at the price the bought it for even if the value decreases – however if the value increases they will still have to sell at the arranged price, thus denting their profits.

Options Trading with Merrill Edge

Options trading definitely isn’t Merrill Edge’s forte, but it’s not a bad place to trade in options for the casual or infrequent investor – we should point out that options trading definitely isn’t a beginner sport in the trading world.

Merrill Edge USA only offer a maximum of two legs in a multi legged trade deal, which is a bit restrictive for the more experienced and active options trader. With Merrill Edge, standard, mini and jumbo options are all available to trade.

Merrill Edge USA has an Options Strategy Builder to help you pick out the best stocks and come up with the best trading ideas. While they do cater to active traders here, we should point out that those who use more complex options strategies won’t be too impressed here and might want to look elsewhere.

You can personalize your account to create customizable alerts to keep yourself updated on price, volume, and rating changes. On top of this, you can continually educate yourself with Merrill’s options education. When it comes to finding the right options to buy or sell, you can have an at-a-glance look at other successful stock profiles and use the options chains to find calls and puts to trade as fast as possible.

In terms of research, all of the material is produced and provided in house by the BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research team. You can find a lot of basic options trading info on Merrill Edge’s website without even being a member, however, you’ll need to become an account holder to use their options screener and strategy builder.

Merrill Edge Options Fees

As is the case with everything you can trade with Merrill Edge, the per trade charge on options is a big fat $0. The options fees themselves come in at $0.65 per contract, which sits closer to the higher options fees we’ve seen out there, but isn’t the highest. To give you an idea, the options fees we’ve found with other US discount brokerages out there tend to sit between $0.50 and $0.75. You do also have the option to make representative assisted trades at the cost of $29.95 plus the $0.65 per contract charge.

Merrill Edge Options Summary & Conclusion

To round up this section of our Merrill Edge review, options trading with this broker isn’t half bad but it’s far from being the highlight of their offerings. Casual or infrequent options traders will find everything they need here. Expert traders who use more complex strategies might want to seek out a more options focussed platform to fit their needs.

Merrill Edge Funds

Merrill Edge Funds

Merrill Edge has a decent prospectus of professionally managed funds, including thousands of A-list, well known mutual funds. When it comes to finding the right funds for you to invest in with Merrill Edge you can use their screening tools and study their professional independent research. Perhaps the best way to find the right investment funds for you with Merrill Edge, especially for beginner, intermediate and more hands off traders, is to search using Merrill Edge Select Funds. These are selected funds that have been picked out by Merrill Edge’s own professional investors who screen the funds based on cost, risk and performance.

Trading Costs

There’s no blanket one size-fits-all fee when it comes to mutual funds, as the fees charged depend on the types of funds. WIth Merrill Edge, Load waived funds and NTF funds have $0 transaction fees, however NTFs do have a short term fee of $39.95 for funds held less than 90 days. TF funds cost $19.95 per online transaction and $29.95 for a representative assisted transaction. Load fund fees vary and all prices can be found in Merrill Edge’s fund prospectus.

Product Summary & Conclusion

Merrill Edge offers an exciting range of funds to suit different types of investor. That twinned with the $0 commission rate makes them a very attractive option for funds trading in the US.

Merrill Edge ETF

Merrill Edge ETFs

Like stocks, ETFs (Exchange-traded funds) are traded on an exchange, which gives you similar access to your capital. ETFs are a good choice for both new and experienced investors and can be great for building up a portfolio. As is the case with all forms of trading, however, ETFs can be risky so research and education is vital before you start trading for the first time. In this section of our Merrill Edge review, we’ll take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of ETF on their platform.

ETF Trading with Merrill Edge

Merrill Edge literally has thousands of ETFs for traders to choose from, including a great number of Morningstar 5 star rated ETFs, which you can be sure are low risk. When it comes to finding the right ETF(s) for you, you can input your own search criteria into the Merrill Edge platform and their screening tools should produce results to suit your requirements and liking. If you want to simplify your search and find some ready-made lists, you can check out the Merrill Edge Select® ETFs, where groups of ETFs are categorized by investment professionals.

Merrill Edge also provides advanced charting tools and at-a-glance ETF profile views, as well as trading news and regular research reports from Morningstar. You also never have to miss out on ETF investment opportunities with Merrill Edge as they offer after-hours trading to all of their account holders.

For beginner traders, Merrill Edge has an extremely detailed, but easy to follow ETF trading guide for those interested in getting started. You can learn the fundamentals of ETFs with the online lessons that start off with ETFs 101 and end in ETFs 114. Once you’ve learned about ETFs and gotten to grips with them, you can follow Merrill Edge’s beginner guide on how to choose an ETF.

Merrill Edge ETF Fees

Merrill Edge offers all of its customers $0 unlimited ETF without trade or balance minimums. Don’t get us wrong here, this is definitely a positive. However, as always, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. The $0 means that there’s no commission fee charged whatsoever here, but ETF sales are subject to transaction fees of $0.01 and $0.03 per transaction. There are also legal costs tied to owning ETFs that are outside Merrill Edge’s control. You also have the option of a representative assisted trade at the cost of $29.95 per trade.

Merrill Edge ETFs Summary & Conclusion

Overall, if you’re a novice or intermediate trader, then Merrill Edge has almost everything you need when it comes to getting started or progressing on your ETF trading journey. If you’re a complete beginner we definitely recommend taking the time to make full use of the educational tools and materials on offer here, as it will substantially increase your chances of turning a profit when trading. By recommending Merrill Edge for beginner and intermediate ETF trading, we’re not saying that they have nothing to offer more advanced or active traders. They most certainly do have everything that the active trader needs here, however they fail to go the extra mile that some other brokerages go to for their active trader clients, whereas their beginner offerings are of an excellent standard.

Overall Conclusion of Our Merrill Edge Review

For better or worse, the main highlight of our Merrill Edge review is the fact that they are owned by and integrated with Bank of America. Bank of America is more than just a parent company to Merrill Edge as the accounts from both companies are completely intertwined – which is a good thing. If you’re already a Bank of America client and are serious about getting into trading or simply switching brokers then we’d recommend going for Merrill Edge. If you hold an account with both Merrill Edge and Bank of America you can view both accounts under one roof with a single login, move money instantly between both accounts and join the Preferred Rewards Scheme.

If you’re not already a Bank of America customer, Merrill Edge certainly still has some perks, such as the $0 commission on stock, ETF, and options trades. Our Merrill Edge review highlights that the research and educational tools are also excellent for beginner and intermediate traders. Active traders will find this platform sufficient but not overly amazing, and expert options traders will probably want to look elsewhere. For active traders rather than newcomers we’d point you towards our Tastyworks review. For those with a smaller portfolio we found many positives in our latest Vanguard review.

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