Summary

Recommended for investors and traders who looking for low fees, quick account opening, and simple platforms

Merrill Edge is US-based discount broker founded in 2010 by Bank of America (BofA). BofA had acquired Merrill Lynch during the financial crisis, and it launching Merrill Edge was a way to combine its online investing arm and Merrill Lynch's investment knowledge. Merrill Edge offers US stocks, ETF, options, and bonds. It is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Merrill Edge is considered safe because the parent company has a long track record and a good reputation, has a banking background, discloses its financials, and is regulated by top-tier regulators. 

Overall Rating
4.8
Fees
4.4
Account opening
5.0
Deposit and withdrawal
2.2
Trading platform
4.0
Markets and products
2.3
Research
4.0
Customer service
4.5
Education
3.5

Merrill Edge pros and cons

Merrill Edge offers low trading fees, including commission-free stock and ETF trades. Merrill Edge also offers options, bonds, and mutual funds with the ability to pay for investment representative advice and to trade on margin. Opening an account is easy and fully digitized. The account is instantly available. There is high credibility due to its parent company, Bank of America, that has a banking license and is listed on a stock exchange.

Merrill Edge is only available for US residents and likewise offers only US-based products. Merrill Edge does not offer demo trading in its educational capabilities. There are no options to use digital wallets or credit cards to fund accounts.

Pros Cons
Low trading fees Limited to US clients and products
Easy and seamless account opening No demo trading
Strong parent company Limited options to deposit/withdraw from accounts
Merrill Edge main features and highlights
🗺️ Country of regulation US
💰 Trading fees class Low
💰 Inactivity fee charged No
💰 Withdrawal fee amount $0
💰 Minimum deposit $0
🕖 Time to open an account 1 day
🎮 Demo account provided No
🛍️ Products offered Stock, ETF, Fund, Bond, Options
Nicole Conrad

Nicole Conrad

Intern

Author of this review

Nicole is an intern content contributor for Brokerchooser. She comes to Brokerchooser with experience and certification in Accounting, and she currently is pursuing graduate studies in Economic Policy. Nicole writes broker reviews to provide transparency for customers: highlighting brokers’ exceptional services and holding them accountable for questionable practices.

Everything you find on BrokerChooser is based on reliable data and unbiased information. We combine our 10+ years finance experience with readers feedback. Read more about our methodology

Merrill Edge review
Fees

4.4
Merrill Edge has low trading fees and low non-trading fees, including commission-free stock and ETF trades. On the other hand, financing/margin rates are quite high.
Pros Cons
Low trading fees High financing rate
Low non-trading fees
Low stock and ETF fees
Merrill Edge fees snapshot
Assets Fee level Fee terms
US stock Low Commission-free stock and ETF trading
EURUSD - Not available
Mutual fund High $19.95 per transaction, there are also ~ free funds
Inactivity fee Low No Inactivity fee

How we ranked fees

We ranked Merrill Edge's fee levels as low, average or high based on how they compare to those of all reviewed brokers.

To get things rolling, let's go over some lingo related to broker fees. What you need to keep an eye on are trading fees, and non-trading fees.

In the sections below, you will find the most relevant fees of Merrill Edge for each asset class. For example, in the case of stock investing the most important fees are commissions.

We also compared Merrill Edge's fees with those of two similar brokers we selected, TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab. This selection is based on objective factors such as products offered, client profile, fee structure, etc. See a more detailed rundown of Merrill Edge alternatives.

To have a clear overview of Merrill Edge, let's start with the trading fees.

Merrill Edge trading fees

Merrill Edge trading fees are low for all asset classes. Merrill Edge has zero commission fees when it comes to stocks, ETF, and bonds. It also has a low margin rate compared to competitors TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab. The mutual fund and the option commission fees are competitive compared to both competitors as well. 

Stock fees and ETF fees

Merrill Edge has generally low stock and ETF commissions compared to other brokers we tested.

Merrill Edge stock and ETF commission of a $2,000 trade
  Merrill Edge TD Ameritrade Charles Schwab
US stock $0.0 $0.0 $0.0

It costs $30 in order to initiate a representative-assisted online trade.

If you prefer stock trading on margin or short sale, you should check Merrill Edge financing rates.

A financing rate, or margin rate, is charged when you trade on margin or short a stock. This basically means that you borrow money or stocks from your broker to trade. For this borrowed money/stock you have to pay an interest. This is the financing rate. It can be a significant proportion of your trading costs.  

Merrill Edge has high financing rates. On the other hand, these rates are lower than its closest competitors.

Merrill Edge annual financing rates for stocks, ETF and options
  Merrill Edge TD Ameritrade Charles Schwab
USD margin rate 8.6% 10.3% 9.3%

The financing rates above are also applied for the options trading.

Fund fees

Merrill Edge's mutual fund fees are low compared to its two competitors at $20 per transaction (buy, sell, or exchange).

Merrill Edge commission for a $2,000 fund purchase
  Merrill Edge TD Ameritrade Charles Schwab
Mutual fund $20.0 $50.0 $24.8

The good news is that there are 839 free funds with waived transaction fees. However, for some of these, a short term redemption fee of $40 applies if the fund is held less than 90 days. Please see their fund prospectus for more details. If you would like more hands-on guidance with investing in mutual funds, a representative-assisted online transaction costs $30.

Bond fees

Merrill Edge has generally low bond fees.

Merrill Edge commission of a $10,000 government bond trade
  Merrill Edge TD Ameritrade Charles Schwab
US Treasury bond $0.0 $0.0 $0.0

Compared to competitors, TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab, it has the same $0 commission per bond trade for US government Treasury bonds.  It is $1 per trade, $10 minimum and $250 maximum, for municipal, corporate, and other government agency bonds.  A representative-assisted online bond transaction costs $30.

Options fees

Merrill Edge options fees are the same as its competitors at $0.65 per contract. Sales of options are subject to an additional transaction fee between $0.01 and $0.03 per $1,000 of principal. A representative-assisted online options trade costs $30 per transaction.

Merrill Edge stock index options commission of 10 contracts
  Merrill Edge TD Ameritrade Charles Schwab
US stock index options $6.5 $6.5 $6.5

Non-trading fees

Merrill Edge has low non-trading fees.

There is no inactivity fee and no account opening fee. Merrill Edge does not have a minimum initial investment for most accounts besides the 529 NextGen Direct account.

Merrill Edge non-trading fees
  Merrill Edge TD Ameritrade Charles Schwab
Account fee No No No
Inactivity fee No No No
Deposit fee $0 $0 $0
Withdrawal fee $0 $0 $0

Merrill Edge review
Account opening

5.0
Account opening at Merrill Edge is seamless and fully digital, it took us less than one day to have an open account, however, only US clients are accepted.
Pros Cons
Fast None
Fully digital
No minimum deposit

Can you open an account?

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What is the minimum deposit at Merrill Edge?

The required Merrill Edge minimum deposit is $0  for all accounts except for 529 NextGen Direct account, which requires a $25 deposit. This is ideal if you plan to invest in smaller amounts. 

Account types
Account Type Short Description
Online Brokerage Account General investing account with a single individual, no min deposit
Joint Brokerage Account General investing account with two individuals, no min deposit
Custodial Account General investing account for beneficiary, no min deposit
Rollover/Traditional/ Roth IRA Type of retirement savings account with tax benefits, no min deposit
529 College Savings Plan College investment account, minimum deposit of $25
College Planning Custodial Account College investment account for benficiary, no min deposit

In this review, we have tested the Online Brokerage Account. The account opening process is different if you are already a client of Bank of America or Merrill Lynch. In our test, we did not use either a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch account.

How to open your account

We really liked the fully digital, fast and user-friendly account-opening process. It took less than one day for us to open an account without an already existing bank account. This simplicity and speed are unusual for US brokers, for instance, the account opening at Interactive Brokers is very complicated.  However, it is similar to competitor firm Chase You Invest that is also connected to a banking company and has an easy account-opening process.

So how does the process look like? At first, you have to go through a 5-step registration process, which takes roughly 20 minutes. During this registration, most of the questions are related to personal information and data, while others ask about whether you would like to apply separately to trade on margin, apply for a debit card, or apply for check writing priviledges. 

During this process, you have to verify your identity and residency by answering the following:

  • Whether you are a US resident
  • US Phone number
  • Social Security Number
  • Address, Marital Status, Date of Birth
  • Net worth and primary source of household income

 

Merrill Edge review - Account opening

Merrill Edge review
Deposit and withdrawal

2.2
Merrill Edge has an easy-to-use deposit and withdrawal system with a bank account connection. Unfortunately, credit/debit cards cannot be used to fund the account, and there is only USD as a base currency.
Pros Cons
Free withdrawal Credit/Debit card not available
No deposit fee Only one account base currency
User-friendly Slow withdrawal - over 3 days

Account base currencies

At Merrill Edge, you can choose from USD base currency. This is common for brokers that operate only in the US, see below for competitors that also only have one base currency.

Base currencies at Merrill Edge vs similar brokers
  Merrill Edge TD Ameritrade Charles Schwab
Number of base currencies 1 1 1

Why does this matter? For two reasons. If you fund your trading account in the same currency as your bank account or you trade assets in the same currency as your trading account base currency, you don't have to pay a conversion fee.

A convenient way to save on currency conversion fees is by opening a multi-currency bank account at a digital bank. Revolut or Transferwise both offer bank accounts in several currencies with great currency exchange rates as well as free or cheap international bank transfers. Opening an account only takes a few minutes on your phone.

Compare digital banks

Deposit fees and options

Merrill Edge charges no deposit fees. Besides bank transfer, you can also use check payments.

Merrill Edge deposit options
  Merrill Edge TD Ameritrade Charles Schwab
Bank transfer Yes Yes Yes
Credit/Debit card No No No
Electronic wallets No No No

A bank transfer can take several business days and you can only deposit money from accounts in your name.

Merrill Edge review - Deposit and withdrawal - Deposit

Merrill Edge withdrawal fees and options

Merrill Edge charges no withdrawal fees. You can use the same options for withdrawal as for deposit.

Merrill Edge withdrawal fees and options
  Merrill Edge TD Ameritrade Charles Schwab
Bank Transfer Yes Yes Yes
Credit/Debit card No No No
Electronic wallets No No No
Withdrawal fee $0 $0 $0

How long does it take to withdraw money from Merrill Edge? We tested the bank transfer withdrawal and it took more than 3 business days. This is a lengthy process compared to other brokers.

Again, you can only withdraw money to accounts in your name.

How do you withdraw money from Merrill Edge?

  • Log into the account
  • Go to the "Accounts", then select "Transfer Money & Securities"
  • Decide whether you would like to withdraw cash or securities (Securities could take longer than 8 days to transfer)
  • Select the withdrawal method you want to use
  • For the cash banking connection withdrawal:
  • Select your Merrill Edge account as "Transfer from"
  • Select the account you want to withdraw the money to as "Transfer to"
  • Add the amount you wish to withdraw, set the frequency
  • Initiate the withdrawal

Online Bill Payment

You can also set up digital bill-payments with your Merrill Edge account.

Compare to other brokers

Merrill Edge review
Web trading platform

4.3
Merrill Edge has a user-friendly and simple trading platform, with options for secure login and for setting price alerts. However, it offers only limited customizability and the search function is not so advanced.
Pros Cons
User-friendly Limited customizability (for charts, workspace)
Clear fee report
Two-step (safer) login
Merrill Edge platforms to choose from
Trading platform Score Available
Web 4.3 / 5 stars Yes
Mobile 4.8 / 5 stars Yes
Desktop - No

The web trading platform is available in English.

Look and feel

The Merrill Edge web trading platform is user-friendly and has a sleek design. However, the platform is not very customizable.

Merrill Edge review - Web trading platform

Login and security

Merrill Edge provides a safer two-step login, but it must be initiated by the user if they would like extra security.  There are security questions in order to protect the account. Overall, we consider this login safe.

Search functions

The search functions are OK. You can search by typing both a company's name or asset's ticker.

However, the search results are not fully relevant. For example, when we searched for Apple, it didn't appear immediately.

Merrill Edge review - Web trading platform - Search

Placing orders

You can use the following order types:

  • Market
  • Limit
  • Stop
  • Stop Limit
  • Trailing Stop

To get a better understanding of these terms, read this overview of order types.

There are also order time limits you can use:

  • Day
  • Good til canceled
Merrill Edge review - Web trading platform - Order panel

Alerts and notifications

You can set alerts and notifications. You can set an alert by going to 'Accounts' and then selecting Alerts.  

There are 4 types of alerts:

  • Investment Alerts
  • Account Alerts
  • Security Alerts
  • Market Alerts

We feel a little automation goes a long way and that it is useful to have different types of alerts to help users stay informed.

Portfolio and fee reports

Merrill Edge has clear portfolio and fee reports.  There is a section called 'Portfolio Story' which has the following reports to help understand portfolio performance:

  • How's my portfolio doing?
  • What's in my portfolio?
  • How are my holdings doing?
  • What are my gains and losses?
  • What could I potentially earn?
  • What do the analysts say?
  • Whats my investing impact?

There is also Portfolio Analysis and that deep dives into the diversification, the global regions, and the industries represented in your portfolio and Portfolio Briefing for estimates of potential earnings based on past portfolio results. 

There is a detailed fee report based on your account that can be accessed through Help & Settings and then by clicking Fees & Commissions.

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Merrill Edge review
Mobile trading platform

4.8
Merrill Edge mobile app is available for iPhone or Android devices. It is easy to use and provides a safe and easy login. On the other hand, search functions can be improved.
Pros Cons
User-friendly Poor search function
Two-step (safer) login
Touch/Face ID login

The mobile trading platform is available in English for US residents with iPhones or Android. We tested the mobile application on iOS. The application on Apple's app store has good reviews in general. The web and mobile trading platforms are really similar to each other, but we weight simplicity and easy-handling as more important for mobile trading platforms. That is why Merrill Edge mobile trading platform has a higher score than the web trading platform.  

However, the major difference compared to the web trading platform is that you can't trade with bonds through the mobile trading platform. It was very strange to us, but competitor Chase You Invest has the same feature on its mobile platform.

Look and feel

The Merrill Edge mobile trading platform is well-designed and simple to use. It offers a consistent feel with the Merrill Edge website trading platform.

Merrill Edge review - Mobile trading platform

Login and security

Merrill Edge provides a safe login.

You can log in using biometric authentication, with a fingerprint or a face ID. It's a convenient feature for logging into the platform and is considered safe.

Search functions

The search functions are OK. You have to know the ticker symbol or the name of the company or asset in order to access it.  Other ways to search are limited, but due to the necessity for having a simple mobile application, this seems okay. 

Merrill Edge review - Mobile trading platform - Search

Placing orders

You can use the same order types on mobile as on web trading platform:

  • Market
  • Limit
  • Stop
  • Stop Limit
  • Trailing Stop

There are also order time limits you can use: Day and Good until cancelled (GTC).

Merrill Edge review - Mobile trading platform - Order panel

Alerts and notifications

You can set alerts and notifications on the Merrill Edge mobile platform under the Menu section. 

The types of alerts include:

  • Investment Alerts
  • Account Alerts
  • Market Alerts
  • Security Alerts

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Merrill Edge review
Desktop trading platform

Merrill Edge has a desktop trading platform, called Merrill Edge Market Pro. This platform is designed for active traders. To be able to use it, you need to make at least 15 trades per quarter or hold a $50,000 balance on your account. Due to these additional requirements, we didn't test this platform.

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Merrill Edge review
Markets and products

2.3
Merrill Edge has a limited product portfolio offering stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and bonds. Unfortunately, the product portfolio covers only the US market. It offers a lower diversity of products in general compared to its competition.
Merrill Edge asset classes
  Merrill Edge TD Ameritrade Charles Schwab
Stock Yes Yes Yes
ETF Yes Yes Yes
Forex No Yes No
Fund Yes Yes Yes
Bond Yes Yes Yes
Options Yes Yes Yes
Futures No Yes Yes
CFD No No No
Crypto No No No

For a US stockbroker, Merrill Edge offers a typical range of asset classes, however, it lags behind the competition in the number of products offered in each category.

Stocks and ETFs

Merrill Edge gives you access to an average number of stock markets and ETFs.

Merrill Edge stock and ETF selection
  Merrill Edge TD Ameritrade Charles Schwab
Stock markets (#) 4 5 4
ETFs (#) 1,400 2,300 2,300

You can trade stocks from NYSE (Arca), AMEX (NYSE MKT), NASDAQ, and OTC markets. You can also trade with low-priced stocks or “penny stocks”.

Funds

Merrill Edge offers 3,100 mutual funds by 100 different providers.  The number of providers is quite low compared to the competition.

Merrill Edge mutual fund selection
  Merrill Edge TD Ameritrade Charles Schwab
Fund providers (#) 100 740 600

Bonds

Merrill Edge offers only ~8,300 bonds. Compared to TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab, Merrill Edge's bond choices are significantly smaller

Merrill Edge bond selection
  Merrill Edge TD Ameritrade Charles Schwab
Bonds (#) 8,300 40,000 60,000

Options

Usually, we benchmark brokers by comparing how many markets a broker cover. It's not transparent which options exchanges are covered.

Based on assets we found, it's sure that the biggest exchanges, like CBOE or CME, are available.

Merrill Edge review
Research

4.0
Merrill Edge has diverse and user-friendly research tools. You can find trading ideas, fundamental data, screeners, news feeds, and so on. On the flip side, more sophisticated charting tools and analytical are missing on the web trading platform.
Pros Cons
Trading ideas Limited interactive charting
Data on asset fundamentals No/limited set of analytic tools
Quality news flow

We tested research tools provided through on Merrill Edge's web trading platform as they're available for all customers without any requirements.

Most research tools are avaible in the 'Research' section of the navigation bar where there is access to recent Market information, Screeners, Charting Tools ("Insights" section), and other resources.

Trading ideas

Merrill Edge provides trading ideas in the Research section under each asset class. We believe it is comprehensive and includes interesting features.

For example, we liked the funds' rating score by Morningstar and CFRA by S&P Global, third-party providers. This rating varies from 1 to 5 stars and describes how well a fund performs compared with similar funds.

Merrill Edge review - Research - Recommendations

Fundamental data

Merrill Edge offers solid fundamental data on each of the instruments. It includes ratings and reports on each from Morningstar and CFRA by S&P Global, which include recommendations on whether to Buy, Sell, or Hold. There are also connections to relevant news articles from reliable sources, information on options, historical earnings and valuation numbers, and a platform to further chart data using Recognia Technical Insight.

Merrill Edge also offers a global database provided by Bank of America's Global Research Library with reports by industry, performance, global markets, and more. This is located under the BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research link under Insights.

Merrill Edge review - Research - Fundamental data

Charting

Merrill Edge has OK charting tools. You can use 14 technical indicators, which is very low. If you would like to use sophisticated charting tools, you should apply for Merrill Edge MarketPro.

On the other hand, there is a pattern recognition tool provided in the 'Technical Insight that can help you identify trends, which are useful.

Merrill Edge review - Research - Charting

News feed

Merrill Edge has a newsfeed provided by FactSet, which includes tailored news for each industry, market, or asset type.

The visuals are okay, with icons for industry and important headlines laid out in an easy-to-read fashion. The sources are reliable. Overall, we feel that more pictures or visual elements would be appreciated.

Other research tools you will enjoy

Merrill Edge offers comprehensive Market information, including graphics and visualizations for each market indicator in their Market Calendar tab. There is a short summary on each indicator and a link to a pop-up with the full analysis provided by Econoday, Inc. 

Merrill Edge offers a high-quality screener tool. The numerous filters embedded into the screener help you to filter the assets based on their sector, market capitalization, performance, volume, etc.

Merrill Edge review - Research - Screener

More research info

Merrill Edge review
Customer service

4.5
You can contact Merrill Edge through phone support, the chat box, mail, or by visiting a Bank of America branch to speak with a advising representative. The is also a document upload online mailbox, but no email address for general inquiries.
Pros Cons
Phone support No email support
Live chat

You can contact Merrill Edge via:

  • live chat
  • telephone

Merrill Edge has a fast live chat. The relevancy of the answers was satisfactory.

Merrill Edge's phone support was fast and we got relevant answers.

We liked the 24/7 availability. The only thing we were missing is email support.

Merrill Edge review - Customer Service

Contact customer service

Merrill Edge review
Education

3.5
Merrill Edge has many beginner investment introductory materials and opportunities to access Merrill Lynch and Bank of America materials as well. However, it lacks a demo account.
Pros Cons
Trading platform tutorial No demo account
Educational videos

Merrill Edge has educational materials under the Guidance & Retirement tab in Investor Education and general pages on how to use Merrill Edge in the Help & Settings tab under Quick Start Guide, which provides quick links to important pages in the web platform.

At Merrill Edge you can learn in the following ways:

  • General educational videos
  • Webinars
  • Quality educational articles

There are materials grouped by investing experience (Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced), topic, and format (Articles, Webinars & Videos, Calculators, and Courses). 

The educational courses in the Merrill Edge Investing Classroom are provided by Morningstar, and organized by asset class, then by general portfolio topics like "Core vs. Noncore Investments". 

Overall, the materials provided are high quality and comprehensive, easy to understand, and well-tailored to each user.

 

Merrill Edge review - Education

Visit education page

Merrill Edge review
Safety

Merrill Edge is regulated by top-tier US regulators as SEC and FINRA. You are also protected by a high investor protection amount, $500,000 with a $250,000 limit for cash. On the flip side, negative balance protection is not provided.
Pros Cons
Majority of clients belong to a top-tier financial authority No negative balance protection
High level of investor protection
Banking background

Is Merrill Edge regulated?

Yes, it is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in the United States. 

Is Merrill Edge safe?

To be certain, we highly advise that you check two facts:

  • how you are protected if something goes wrong
  • what the background of the broker is

How you are protected

Merrill Edge investor protection
Country of clients Protection amount Regulator Legal entity
USA $500,000 ($250,000 cash limit) FINRA Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith Inc

This is important for you because the investor protection amount and the regulator differ from entity to entity.  With Merrill Edge this is not an issue though as all customers are covered by Bank of America Securities.

The SIPC investor protection protects against the loss of cash and securities in case the broker goes bust. The limit of SIPC protection is $500,000 from which cash is limited to $250,000.

Not all investments are protected by SIPC. In general, SIPC covers notes, stocks, bonds, mutual fund and other investment company shares, and other registered securities. It does not cover instruments such as unregistered investment contracts, unregistered limited partnerships, fixed annuity contracts, currency, and interests in gold, silver, or other commodity futures contracts or commodity options.

Merrill Edge does not provide negative balance protection. If the balance on your account goes into negative, you will not be protected.

Background

Merrill Edge was established in 2010. The parent company of Merrill Edge, Bank of America, was established in 1988. The longer track record a broker has, the more proof we have that it has successfully survived previous financial crises.

The fact that the parent company has a banking license means that Merrill Edge is also subject to tougher regulations than brokers. What's more, Bank of America is also listed on the stock exchange, which is a big plus for safety as it releases financial statements regularly and transparently.

Having a parent company with a banking background, being listed on a stock exchange, and regulated by top-tier regulators are all great signs for Merrill Edge's safety.

Find your safe broker

Merrill Edge review
Bottom line

Overall, Merrill Edge is a solid, easy to use the trading platform created by Bank of America, one of the US's largest banks.

We rated Merrill Edge highly due to its low fees, easy process of account-opening, and safety

Some of the drawbacks include limited product offerings, research capabilities, and deposited/withdrawal options.

As the trading and non-trading fees are generally low, research tools are great and the account opening is seamless, feel free to try it.

 

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