Merrill Edge Review
Merrill Edge is Bank of America/Merrill Lynch’s retail online brokerage platform. Launched in 2010, it focuses on investors with between $100,000 and $250,000 in investable assets and has grown to two million users. It also has a network of 2,500 advisers in branch offices and call centers around the world. Merrill Edge charges an affordable $6.95 per stock trade, with no additional commission for buying penny stocks, which makes it a great platform if that's one of your interests. It does, however, restrict the amount of penny stocks you can hold in a single portfolio.
Besides being a discount broker, Merrill Edge offers a variety of useful online tools and research resources. In 2012, it released an interesting tool called Face Retirement, a product informed by behavioral economics that will "age progress" a photo you submit of yourself. The aim of the tool is to convince people to save for retirement earlier because research has shown that younger people who are able to picture themselves in later life tend to save more.
The main advantages of Merrill Edge are its low-cost trades, access to bonds and other fixed-income investments, sophisticated options trading tools, and extensive in-depth research and analytics.
In this walkthrough, we'll look at Merrill Edge’s broad suite of features and functionality.
Homepage - Merrill Edge is a discount online brokerage platform aimed at the company's less affluent clients, with investable assets between $100,000 and $250,000. The site is packed with useful tools, research, and analytics, and provides low-cost transactions and access to more than 2,500 advisers.
Portfolio & Account Management
Accounts Summary – Login - When you log in to Merrill Edge, you’ll first see your Accounts Summary. This page gives you a snapshot of your account balances and portfolio holdings, as well as links to various parts of the site. The Activity Center box on the right side of the page lets you quickly view commonly used features such as statements, news, account activity, and more. Running across the top of each web page is the menu bar.
Accounts – Balances - Click on Balances under the Accounts tab for a detailed overview of your account balances, including how much buying power you have at your disposal to invest. You can even see how much cash you have available for buying a particular asset class type, such as 3x leveraged ETFs or options.
Accounts – Activity - You can view your account activity, including your trading history and account transfers, as well as transactions in linked accounts and products. For example, if you have a Bank of America checking account you’d be able to see that here. Merrill Edge customers get a debit card that is funded by their account to be used for everyday purchases. You can click on the Visa Debit Card tab to see your purchase history.
Accounts – Statements & Documents - Merrill keeps all of your documents and statements in one handy location: Accounts/Statements & Documents. There are tabs here for each kind of document you may need, such as account statements, trade confirmations, tax documents, and shareholder communications.
Accounts – Transfers & Withdrawals - Ready to fund your account? You can transfer money in and out in a number of ways. Send cash via a linked account or wire for same-day service. You can also mail a check or roll over retirement accounts with the click of a mouse.
Accounts – Account Holdings - View your portfolio positions & cash balances in the Account Holdings page. Here you can see how each individual position has done since you first bought it along with the day’s change in value. You can also segment your holdings by taxable lots to manage realized and unrealized gains & losses for tax purposes.
Accounts – Portfolio Analysis - If you want to get under the hood of your portfolio and see what you’re actually invested in – by asset class, sector, and geographic region – click the Portfolio Analysis link under the Accounts menu. This will break down your holdings, including those held inside ETFs or mutual funds that you may not be able to see as easily.
Accounts – My Financial Picture - As a full-service financial services firm, Merrill makes it easy for you to track all of your finances in one place. The My Financial Picture service, found under the Accounts menu, lets you link all of your financial accounts and products – even external accounts not held at Merrill Lynch/Bank of America – and then view them in a combined dashboard that is essentially your own personal balance sheet. You can get a complete view of your net worth: investment, bank, credit card, loan, mortgage, and retirement accounts, as well as track your spending and expenses.
Trade – Stocks/ETFs - Ready to do some trading? Click on the Trade option on the top menu bar and choose Stocks/ETFs to get to an order entry ticket. Enter or look up the ticker symbol of the stock or ETF you’d like to buy, and indicate the number of shares. You can use the Share Calculator option to determine just how many shares you can afford to buy. Select the order type and duration, then click the Preview Order button when you’re ready.
Trade – Stocks/ETFs – Preview Order - Before your trade goes to the market, you’ll be able to make sure you entered everything correctly and haven’t changed your mind. Below the order details you’ll also see the estimated costs of the trade, including commissions. Click on Submit Order if all looks fine. Otherwise you can change or cancel the order.
Trade – Quick Quote - To get information or a quote for a stock or other asset, use the quick quote box on the top right of every page. This will load up a pop-out quote with price info, a chart, and more. For more in-depth details, click on the blue Research button.
Trade – Options - If your account is approved to trade options, you can use calls and puts to enhance your returns or hedge against losses to the downside. Get further approval to access options strategies such as spreads and straddles. The options order ticket is fairly straightforward: choose your underlying ticker symbol, select which options expiration, strike price, and type from the drop down menus, choose the type of order your like and click <em>Preview Order</em> when done. As you enter the underlying symbol and the particular option you want to trade, a quote box will appear with current prices and market liquidity.
Trade – Mutual Funds - Merrill Edge lets you trade your choice of thousands of mutual funds including Merrill’s own Edge Select family of funds. Enter or search for the ticker for the fund you’re interested in, indicate the dollar amount, and you’re ready to go.
Trade – Mutual Funds – Automatic Investment Plans - If you like the convenience of automatic investment plans – which purchase additional shares for your portfolio on a regular basis – click on the Automatic Investment Plans tab. This lets you buy Merrill Edge Select mutual funds automatically at the frequency of your choosing, with zero transaction cost.
Trade – Fixed Income - One nice feature about Merrill Edge is that it makes buying bonds easy for individual investors. Look up the corporate bond that you’re interested in by symbol or by using the Fixed Income Screener tool – or enter the CUSIP number if you have it. Then just fill in the rest of the order entry ticket.
Trade – Fixed Income – Fixed Income Calculator - To determine how much income your bonds are likely to generate for you, click on the Fixed Income Calculator link at the bottom of the order entry ticket. This handy tool shows what you can expect to earn if you hold your bonds to maturity.
Trade – Order Status - Did you enter a trade but can't tell if it’s been executed yet? Go over to the Order Status page to view your open and filled orders. You can cancel or modify open orders or view trade details for those that have gone through.
News & Market Insights
Research – U.S. Markets - As one of the largest brokerage firms in the U.S., Merrill generates an abundance of research and analytics. Click on the Research link on the menu bar to bring up a summary of market news, daily movers, sector performance, and analysts’ ratings. The default view is for U.S. stock markets, but there are also tabs available for other regions or asset classes.
Research – Foreign Markets - If your investing interests extend past U.S. borders, click on the Foreign Markets tab for news and analysis from regions including Asia Pacific, Europe, and Latin America.
Research – Commodities - If you’re interested in what’s moving commodities markets, click on the Commodities tab to look at recent events that affect energy, metals, and agricultural prices.
Research – Sector Overview - The Sectors & Industries tab on the Research page will give you a better handle on which industry sectors are hot at the moment and which are not. Use the heat map to get an idea of relative performance or drill down to a particular sector for a deeper analysis of what's moving that part of the economy.
Research – Market Events - Use the Market Events tab to bring up a calendar of general and company-specific events, such as corporate announcements, that might affect your investments. You’ll also see a snapshot of major economic indicators, how they’ve performed, and what analysts expect in the future.
Research – Bonds - If you're a bond investor, here's where you'll find the latest news and analysis for the fixed-income markets. Click the Debt Markets tab for the latest headlines and relevant data.
Research – News - Looking for more news and headlines? Click on the News tab or find it under the Research menu to get up-to-the-minute headlines and top stories. Search and filter your news by general topic, specific company, and more. Click on any headline to read the full article.
Stock Trading & Investing
Stocks - Overview - To access company-specific research, click on Stocks under the Investment Research heading in the Research menu, or click the Research button from the quick quote window. That will take you first to a detailed quote for the stock you’re interested in. The overview provides a useful synopsis of news, analysis, research, trends, and more.
Stocks – Charts - The Charts tab is just what it sounds like. This is where you can view price charts and overlay technical indicators, see trend lines, and compare assets. You can save your favorite chart settings and load them for later use.
Stocks – News - For company-specific news, click the News tab. Browse headlines and click on any of them to read the full story.
Stocks – Options Chain - If you want a quote for options prices for a particular stock, click on the Options Chain tab. Browse by expiration date and hover over any particular call or put to take a closer look at its price. Click on a link to bring up additional research on that individual option (see the later section on Options Research).
Stocks – Ratings & Reports - Want to know what the experts are saying about your favorite stock? The Ratings & Reports tab will show you a summary of analysts’ ratings and price estimates, including those from Bank of America/Merrill Lynch’s in-house team. You can also download these reports as PDF files to save and read more closely.
Stocks – Earnings - You’ll find earnings info – both historical and forward expectations – under the Earnings tab. You’ll also see a rundown of basic fundamental indicators and ratios, as well as a comparison to industry-group peers.
Stocks – Fundamentals - For a deep dive into a company’s financial strength and earnings potential, check out the Fundamentals tab. Ratios, indicators, and other metrics are available at a glance – or toggle over to Balance Sheet, Income Statement, Cash Flow, and SEC Filings for additional details.
Stocks – Technical Analysis - If you’re into technical analysis, this is your area. Merrill teamed up with Recognia, a third-party research firm, to provide technical analysis tools that can help you validate investment strategies, find exit and entry points, and create custom watch lists. Click on the Technical Analysi<em>s</em> tab to get started.
Options – Overview - Merrill’s options research and analytics is quite impressive. You'll find it under Research / Investment Research: Options. The Overview tab offers a summary of the most active options for the day plus Featured Research Reports, written by a team of in-house options specialists, that you can download. For access to many more options markets reports, click on the Research tab.
Options – Screener - If you're interested in trading options, the Options Screener tab can help you narrow your choices based on the criteria you select. You can filter by attributes of the stock or by characteristics of an option.
Options – Screener Results - Click on the View Results button when you’re done to see which options best fit the bill.
Options – Strategy Builder - One really helpful tool is the Options Strategy Builder<em>.</em> It will help you choose an options strategy based on your opinion of how a stock will perform in the future. With the right strategy, you can make money if you think the stock will go up or down – or not move at all. Click on a particular strategy to populate a list of potential trades.
Options – Profit & Loss - When you’ve found the strategy you want, click on the small chart icon to get an idea of your potential profit and loss, and then click Trade to make it happen.
Options – Education - New to options? Does the very word "derivatives" give you anxiety? Unsure how calls and puts can enhance your portfolio returns or limit losses? The Education tab in the options research section is the place to go. You can learn more about what options are, how they work, and whether they make sense for you.
ETFs – Overview - When you click on the ticker symbol of an ETF you’ll be taken to a detailed quote and overview, including key stats, top holdings, performance, and fund rating from Morningstar, CFRA, and Lipper.
ETFs – Performance - Shopping for an ETF or wondering how one you currently own stacks up? This is where you can compare a particular ETF's performance relative to its benchmark and to mutual funds that follow the same investing strategy.
ETFs – Holdings - If you want to peek inside an ETF and see what specific assets it owns, click on the Holdings tab. You’ll also get a breakdown by asset class, industry sector, and geographic region.
ETFs – Merrill Edge Select ETFs - Need help in picking an exchange-traded fund? Head over to ETFs under the Research menu to find the Merrill Edge Select ETFs tab. These ETFs have been chosen through a screening process developed by the Investment Management & Guidance Group of Merrill Lynch. Browse by asset class category and then choose the ones that look best for you. Hover over any ticker for a brief quote or click on it for a more detailed look. You can also select up to five ETFs to compare with one another.
ETFs – ETF Screener - If you'd rather do your own screening, you can use the ETF Screener tool to sort through the thousands of exchange-traded funds that are available.
ETFs – Education - New to the world of ETFs? Click on the Education tab in the ETF research section to learn the basics and see how they can work for you.
Mutual Fund Investing
Mutual Funds – Overview - If you’re a mutual fund investor, you can click on a fund ticker anywhere on the site for an overview of a particular fund. That includes a price quote, top fund holdings, and an overview of the fund’s quality and ratings from Morningstar and Lipper.
Mutual Funds – Performance - Click on the Performance tab to see how well a fund has done in the past and compare it against its benchmark and its peers.
Mutual Funds – Risk - The Risk tab will provide you with info on how volatile the price swings of the fund have been and whether the risk it takes is in line with its peers.
Mutual Funds – Holdings - To see which individual assets a mutual fund holds, and in what amount, use the Holdings tab. You’ll also get a broader breakdown of the holdings by asset class, sector, and geographic region.
Mutual Funds – Expenses - Fees and expenses are an especially big deal in mutual funds, and the Expenses tab will give you an idea of what you’ll be paying, both upfront and over time. You can compare these fees to those on other funds to make sure you’re getting a good deal.
Mutual Funds – Merrill Edge Select Funds - The Merrill Edge Select Funds screening process helps identify what it considers high-quality mutual funds in various investment categories. You can select funds by asset class and compare up to five of them at a time.
Mutual Funds – Mutual Funds Screener - The Mutual Funds Screener is another tool you can use to find funds that match your investing goals. Just enter your criteria and you’ll get a list of possibilities. Click on any ticker for more info and an analysis of that particular fund.
Mutual Funds – Education - If you're just getting started in fund investing, head over to the Education tab under Mutual Fund Research to bone up on the basics.
Investing in Bonds
Fixed Income – Overview - For the scoop on a particular bond, click on its CUSIP number or ticker symbol. That will bring up a quote overview, complete with issuer details, bond characteristics, and credit ratings.
Fixed Income – Fixed Income Screener - Whether you're shopping for corporate, government, or municipal bonds, the Fixed Income Screener can help you find issues that meet your criteria, compare them, and trade them.
Portfolio Analysis – Portfolio X-Ray - The Portfolio X-Ray tool, found under the Research menu, is a useful way to analyze your investment portfolio. If you hold stocks, bonds, ETFs, or mutual funds, the X-Ray will break them down into their component parts and let you know your exposures. The Asset Allocation tab will give you a different view of the same information.
Research & Insights – BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research - The BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research link, under the Research menu, is your portal to the company's abundant in-house reports and research. Search by company or topic to narrow the results or use the Research Filters tab to drill down to exactly what you’re looking for.
Perspectives - For more basic views and insights into the markets, or investing more generally, check out the Perspectives page in the Research menu. Get investing tips, hone your retirement-savings strategy, learn to organize your finances, and more by reading the articles you’ll find here.
Alerts - If you're concerned about what your investments might do while you're not looking, such as a certain stock taking a nosedive, go to Alerts (found in the Research menu). By setting up an alert, you can get emails or text messages when something noteworthy happens.
Watchlists - Create a watch list to track price performance for investments you own or don’t own yet but want to keep an eye on. Set up alerts directly from the Watchlist and easily add tickers to your list from most quote screens on the site.
Streaming Quotes - If you’re more comfortable with a trader’s dashboard type of a layout, check out the Streaming Quotes tool found in the Research menu. This window has a customizable layout with quotes, headlines, and more in a simple, streamlined design.
Investor Education - Whether you're new to investing or a seasoned trader, the Investor Education center, found under the Research menu, has resources appropriate to your skill level. You can read tutorials, take on-line courses, or watch instructional videos.
Products – Merrill Edge Guided Investing - If you don’t have the time to actively monitor your portfolio and make trades, Guided Investing could be for you. With this service, you fill out an online survey, after which your portfolio is managed and rebalanced by a team of Merrill Lynch portfolio managers. The minimum investment is $5,000 and the fee is 0.45% of assets per year. To learn more, see Guided Investing under the Products menu.
Products – Merrill Edge Select Portfolios - If you’re a hands-off type who prefers an old-school financial adviser, Merrill Edge Select Portfolios is an offline portfolio manager that will handle your investments. The minimum investment is $20,000, and you can sign up by calling the number listed or just walking into a branch location. You can learn more under the Products menu.
Products – Merrill Edge MarketPRO - For the more sophisticated trader, Merrill offers a standalone piece of professional trading software called MarketPRO. This powerful platform is customizable and streamlined for the active trader. If you trade at least 15 times per quarter or maintain total combined balances of $50,000 or more in your Bank of America banking and Merrill Edge investment accounts, you're eligible. You can learn more under the Products menu.
Profile & Settings - Have you moved? Changed email servers? Need to change your password? You can easily do any of that and more from the Profile & Settings menu, which is found at the very top of each page on the site.
Help – Overview - If you need assistance with something, try the Help & Support option along the menu bar. The overview provides links to frequently used tasks as well as ways to contact customer support. The Help & Support menu also has useful links to update and edit your account or profile settings, change your password, link accounts, go paperless, and more.
Help – Forms - Looking for a particular form? You'll find it stored in the Forms & Applications page under the Help & Support menu.
Help – Contact Us - The Contact Us page has the phone numbers you need to get personal assistance. You can also email or open a live chat if you prefer. If you're truly old school, there's also a postal mailing address.