2019 Best Online Brokers Awards

Merrill Edge gives clients with significant relationships a number of free trades, which can include bank accounts and mortgages held at Bank of America. Their proprietary research is top-notch. They have an extensive advisor network as well as two desktop trading platforms and well-designed native mobile apps.

Pros

  • In-depth portfolio analysis tools

  • Well-designed educational offerings

  • Proprietary and third-party research capabilities geared for fundamental investors

Cons

  • Options spreads limited to two legs

  • Costs are higher than average unless client qualifies for Premium

  • May get annoyed by the push towards investing with an advisor

Trading Experience

4.2

Merrill Edge’s website offers a simple-to-use trading platform, while their MarketPro platform includes streaming data and more powerful charting capabilities. Customers who trade frequently or who have balances of more than $1,000,000 in their combined Bank of America and Merrill Lynch accounts are given access to NASDAQ Level II quotes and Market Depth. Merrill plans to expand access to those quotes to all customers later this year. Frequent traders who want streaming real-time data should check out MarketPro. 

Trading Technology

3.4

Merrill Edge does not accept payment for order flow, and execution venues compete to execute their orders. This means you are more likely to get your bid price for a trade. Their smart order routing determines how to route each order based on analyses of real-time pricing information and historical trading data.

Usability

3.8

The site has not changed much in the last year, but the menu system has been streamlined so that tools and features are easier to find. MarketPro has more customization features than the website, and you can set up the layout according to your preferences. 

Mobile and Emerging Tech

4.7

You can add a Merrill Edge widget to the iOS notification center, and log into the app with a fingerprint. Quotes stream across all mobile platforms. Both iOS and Android devices can access Bank of America / Merrill Lynch research reports. You can initiate a trade on your smartwatch, though you have to finish the process on the mobile app or website.

Range of Offerings

2.6

Options traders will only be able to trade 2-legged strategies online. Merrill’s mutual fund list is relatively short with less than 4,000 available, but they can be searched by rating, objective, and other criteria. International equities can be traded by calling a live broker. Merrill also has a robo-advisory service, Merrill Edge Guided Investing. 

News and Research

4.1

Fundamental research shines at Merrill Edge. Bank of America / Merrill Lynch has a huge library of proprietary research and stock rankings. Merrill Edge added a searchable database of the past 6 months' worth of reports for approximately 1,500 equities to the website. You can also read the quarterly Fixed Income Digest if you're a bond investor. You can dive into quantitative research and data on emerging markets. Information on individual equities can be viewed in the Stock Story feature, which pulls in data from dozens of sources and highlights impact investing. Merrill is planning to roll out a Fund Story feature, which will provide in-depth information on mutual funds and ETFs, during 2019.

Portfolio Analysis and Reports

4.8

Merrill Edge’s Portfolio Story feature asks and answers a number of questions about your portfolio, including sector and regional analysis, and gives you a good picture of how your assets are allocated. This feature includes an environmental, social and governance rating for your entire portfolio. You cannot beta weight your portfolio, however. 

Customer Service and Help

3.4

Merrill plans to have a financial consultant available in every Bank of America branch nationwide, so you can walk in if you need in-person assistance. These consultants are primarily focused on life stage planning. 

Education

4.6

You'll find a centralized Investor Education Hub on the website, which lets you choose a path based on your investing experience and interests. The Hub aligns financial education content by sophistication level, topic, product and delivery type (video, tool, tutorial, etc.). The Stock Story and Portfolio Story features also have links to educational content. There is a mobile optimized Guidance and Retirement Center in the native mobile apps, and the education capabilities include retirement planning, college planning, life priorities, financial education and insights from thought leaders.

Costs

0.3

The standard pricing is $6.95 per stock trade, and options trades are $6.95 per leg plus $0.75 per contract. These fees are higher than average. Margin fees are also higher than average, which is why Merrill received a low star rating on costs. However, Preferred Rewards clients with a combined balance of $50,000 in Bank of America and Merrill Lynch accounts qualify for 30 free trades per month, and those with over $100,000 can make 100 free trades monthly. The free trade packages do not apply to options orders.

What You Need to Know

Merrill Edge has some of the best fundamental research available. The platform is integrated on several levels with Bank of America's services. If you have a significant relationship with BofA, it's worth it to open a Merrill Edge account to take advantage of the free equity trades. When you sign up, you will be asked if you want to hire a financial advisor, which the self-directed trader can ignore.

Compare Merrill Edge

With a mobile app that ranks with the best and a great benefit to those who use Bank of America as their bank, Merrill Edge could be a great solution for investing needs. See how they compare against other online brokers we reviewed.

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Merrill Edge Broker Review 2019

Methodology

Investopedia’s mission is to provide investors with unbiased, comprehensive reviews and ratings of online brokers. Our reviews are the result of six months of evaluating all aspects of an online broker’s platform, including the user experience, the quality of trade executions, the products available on their platforms, costs and fees, security, the mobile experience and customer service. We established a rating scale based on our criteria, collecting over 3,000 data points that we weighed into our star scoring system.

In addition, every broker we surveyed was required to fill out a 320-point survey about all aspects of their platform that we used in our testing. Many of the online brokers we evaluated provided us with in-person demonstrations of their platforms at our offices.

Our team of industry experts, led by Theresa W. Carey, conducted our reviews and developed this best-in-industry methodology for ranking online investing platforms for users at all levels. Click here to read our full methodology.