How Do We Review Brokers
NerdWallets comprehensive review process evaluates and ranks the largest U.S. brokers by assets under management, along with emerging industry players, using a multifaceted and iterative approach. Our aim is to provide an independent assessment of providers to help arm you with information to make sound, informed judgements on which ones will best meet your needs.
DATA COLLECTION AND REVIEW PROCESS
We collect data directly from providers, and conduct first-hand testing and observation through provider demonstrations. Our process starts by sending detailed questionnaires to providers to complete. The questionnaires are structured to equally elicit both favorable and unfavorable responses from providers. They are not designed or prepared to produce any predetermined results. The questionnaire answers, combined with product demonstrations, interviews of personnel at the providers and our specialists hands-on research, fuel our proprietary assessment process that scores each providers performance across more than 20 factors. The final output produces star ratings from poor to excellent . Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.
The weighting of each factor is based on our teams assessment of which features are the most important to consumers and which ones impact the consumer experience in the most meaningful way. The factors considered, and how those factors are weighted, change depending upon the category of providers reviewed.
Merrill Edge Trading Fees
Merrill Edge trading fees are low for all asset classes. Merrill Edge has zero commission for stocks, ETFs and bonds. It also has a low margin rate compared to key competitors like TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab. The commission fees for mutual funds and options are competitive compared to both competitors.
Stock fees and ETF fees
Stock and ETF commissions are non-existent at Merrill Edge. Yes, you can trade these products at no extra cost.
Compared to competitors, TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab, it has the same $0 commission per bond trade for US government Treasury bonds. For municipal, corporate, and other government agency bonds the commission is $1 per trade . A representative-assisted online bond transaction costs $30.
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.
In this review, we tested the Online Brokerage Account. The account opening process is different if you are already a client of Bank of America or Merrill. In our test, we did not use either a Bank of America or a Merrill account.
What Investments Does Merrill Edge Offer
With a Merrill Edge account, you have the following investment choices:
- Stocks and ETFs. Invest in publicly traded companies and exchange-traded funds with no commission fees.
- Options. Execute $0 online option trades and pay $0.65 per contract.
- Mutual funds. Explore professionally managed mutual funds, including thousands of no-load options.
- Bonds and CDs. $0 online trades for CDs and $1 per bond with a $10 minimum.
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Who Its Best For
Merrill Edge Guided Investing is great for Bank of America customers because you can link all of your accounts under a single dashboard. Its also easy to transfer funds between your various accounts. And once your collective deposits reach $20,000, you unlock an array of rewards and savings for multiple types of products and services not just investing.
If you love having all of your finances under one roof, you may consider switching your banking and investing to B of A. Some robo-advisors do at least allow you to view different accounts in a single platform, but with Merrill Edge, you can actually manage all of your relevant accounts.
This investment option is also ideal for people who prefer a hands-off approach to investing while still having a personal touch of a real-life advisor when it comes to the oversight of your investment portfolio. Even though you dont get a one-on-one consultation with a financial advisor when you open a regular account, that personal oversight is still there. It really comes down to personal preference: would you rather place your trust in people or a robo-advisor ?
Who Merrill Edge Guided Investing Is For
If youre looking to get into investing, or to have a well-known company manage your investments, youll want to look into Merrill Edge Guided Investing. This service provides automated and professional portfolio management, with investment selection by the Global Wealth and Investment Management Chief Investment Office.
Merrill Edge Guided Investing especially stands out for investors who want the automation of a robo-advisor with the added perk of access to human advisors. This is different from working with a Merrill Edge Financial Solutions Advisor, which provides more one-on-one and personalized advice. However, Merrill Edge Guided Investing still provides some human guidance and portfolio personalization, just at a lower cost.
The platform advertises low-cost portfolio management, although its annual fee of 0.45% falls more in the average-cost range. To invest with Merrill Edge Guided Investing, you must also have at least $5,000 to start. If you want to work with Merrill Edge experts and you can handle the required minimum amounts and fees, this could be the right robo-advisor for you.
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Why Merrill Edge Over Others
Merrill Lynch was acquired by Bank of America during the fallout of the financial crisis in 2008. After purchasing the troubled firm, Bank of America split it into two entities: Merrill Lynch for high-end wealth management and Merrill Edge for discount DIY brokerage services. Merrill Edge is great for investors who already use banking services through Bank of America.
- Complete integration with Bank of America accounts: Transferring money between bank and brokerage accounts has never been easier. Customers who use Bank of America for checking or saving can instantaneously transfer funds into their Merrill Edge brokerage accounts. Account integration is seamless clients use 1 login and password to access both banking and brokerage services.
- Wealth of market research: With Bank of America at their back, Merrill Edge has one of the most complete libraries of market research in the DIY brokerage space. Research and education is broken down into 3 sections: Guidance and Retirement, Research and Investor Education. Clients have access to Bank of America Global Research, the number 1 ranked research report on institutional investors. Additionally, 3rd-party reports from Morningstar and CFBA are available.
Boa Integration And Preferred Rewards Program
Merrill Edge is also a competitive option for Bank of America customers since it lets you integrate your personal Bank of America accounts with your Merrill Edge accounts. You’ll also have access to 4,300 Bank of America financial centers if you need any in-person assistance, and you can get discounts or interest rate boosters if you enroll in the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program.
You’ll mainly need an existing B.O.A. checking account to be eligible to sign up for Merrill Edge’s Preferred Rewards program. The program has three tiers Gold, Platinum, and Platinum Honors that provide certain discounts for different account balances. Learn more about the rewards here.
Is Merrill Lynch Wealth Management Right For You
The Merrill brand has a vast network of thousands of advisors. Thus, clients starting a search for a local advisor may find one of the teams 27,000-plus advisors in their area.
As for the firms specific offerings, clients will find a broad menu of program offerings that allow clients flexibility in how they want to interact with their advisor. For example, clients can choose to hand over control of their account to their advisor, or they can opt to retain the day-to-day decision making. They can stick with a limited number of strategies managed by Merrill professionals, or branch out into other individual stocks and bonds, third-party portfolio managers and even alternative investments.
Potential clients should make a point to discuss fees with their advisor, since they are often negotiable and can vary for similar services from advisor to advisor. Also, clients should be sure to ask how the advisor earns money for the products they recommend, since they may earn compensation for selling certain investments and thus have a potential conflict of interest. Additionally, not every advisor offers each service or investment, making it important for potential clients to find out upfront what an advisor does and does not offer.
Before you make your decision, be sure to research multiple firms to ensure you find the right advisor for you.
Is Merrill Edge Right For You
|Merrill Edge pros
Merrill Edge is a digital brokerage offering online investing, trading, retirement, education savings, and investment research solutions. The brokerage was formed after Bank of America acquired wealth management firm Merrill Lynch in 2009.
The company also offers margin lending, tax planning, step-by-step investing guidance, and investor education resources. Merrill Edge’s investor education center offers financial advice through a Morningstar Investing Classroom, videos and webinars, and tools and calculators.
Merrill Edge was founded in 2010 and is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. The brokerage has hundreds of millions in assets under management, with millions of active clients.
Bottom Line: Merrill Edge has options for every type of investor, but it’s especially convenient for Bank of America account holders thanks to the potential to get discounts and the ability to connect your accounts. The brokerage offers a combination of self-directed and advised investing accounts, three trading platforms, and investment research materials.
|Open an account
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The Benefits Of Merrill Edges Guided Investing
We cant talk about Merrill Edge without mentioning the brokers support. Merrill offers customers support that is second to none. Because it is aimed at fledgling traders, being available and responsive at all times is a priority. Customers not only have access to a 24/7 customer support team but can also make appointments with advisors at more than 2,000 Bank of America locations.
For quick and easy queries you can use the companys online chat that offers real-time responses from about 30 seconds to 1 minute. It also has an in-house messaging program for current clients specifically.
Active Management Not Passive
Merrill doesnt want you to call Guided Investing a robo-advisor. But at some level it still is, even if it uses more of a hybrid approach, especially if you opt for the online program with an advisor. Merrill wants to distinguish its human-driven approach from the computer-driven approach of other robo-advisors, as if the latter approach werent created and managed by humans as well.
The company says that its portfolios are managed by Merrill investment professionals who use a disciplined approach to asset allocation, portfolio construction and investment selection.
But the real difference between Merrills offering and other robos is that Merrill manages the portfolio actively and frankly, its not clear if thats a good thing. Plenty of research has shown that active portfolio management tends to underperform more passive investing approaches.
Merrills chief investment office develops the investing strategies and which ETFs or mutual funds will be used in portfolios and in what allocations. Theyll also make adjustments to the portfolio as the market moves, with the intent of reducing risk and optimizing returns.
An active approach is usually more expensive than passive investing, because it has to build in the costs of the investment pros in managing the portfolio. And Merrill is pricier .
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Merrill Guided Investing Advantages
Merrill Guided Investings unique take on investment management is a big advantage. We like the flexibility provided by having Merrill experts guiding your portfolio allocation to take into account changes in the market at large as well as changes in your personal financial situation.
For users who already have accounts with Bank of America or Merrill, you cant discount the convenience offered by Merrill Guided Investing. Its a strong advantage to know that you can meet all of your financial needs in one financial ecosystem. In addition, the discounts available to some users with higher balances are nice, although they only somewhat reduce the premium youd pay for this robo-advisor.
For the Merrill Guided Investing with advisors option, your portfolios includes external assets when creating an asset allocation and reporting goal progress. This is a plus for holistic investment management, especially when paired with the platforms strong goal progress tracking. All users can add a number to their goal and then access data explaining how you are progressing to that goal and if you run the risk of over- or underfunding it.
There Are Many Ways To Invest With Merrill Explore To Find Whats Right For You
Merrill Edge® Self-Directed
A personalized investing experience that gives you helpful guidance, insights and tools to confidently put your investing ideas into action.
Merrill Guided Investing
Merrill Lynch Wealth Management
Work one-on-one with your dedicated advisor team who will help you build a comprehensive financial strategy designed to help grow and preserve your wealth.
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How Do I Contact Merrill
You can get in touch with Merrill customer service by phone at 888-637-3343. You can also schedule an appointment here to meet with someone at one of its 2,000+ brick-and-mortar financial centers.
Note that large full-service banks and brokers aren’t typically known for providing the most helpful customer service. However, both Merrill Edge and Bank of America currently have A+ ratings on the Better Business Bureau .
Merrill Edge Overall Rating
If youre looking for an affordable DIY brokerage with minimal complexity but still a few bells and whistles, Merrill Edge is an excellent choice. Asset classes are limited to equities, options and fixed income, but newbies wont want to venture into the world of high-leveraged derivatives anyway. Merrill Edge has a simple, no-frills platform for its core clients, but advanced traders can still run complex options trade or market analysis with the MarketPro platform.
Bank of America customers have an added perk with fully integrative services. Transferring money between brokerage and checking accounts is a luxury most investors dont get to enjoy, but clients here can even take care of bills and set up automatic payments. Plus theres enough retirement planning info to satisfy even the most curious saver. If you bank with Bank of America, consider Merrill Edge next time you’re looking for a new brokerage account.
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Is Merrill Guided Investing Trustworthy
Merrill Edge currently holds an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. BBB ratings range from A+ to F, so this rating suggests that Merrill Edge has a strong record of customer engagement.
The bureau considers several factors when rating companies. These include type of business, time in business, customer complaint history, government actions, and licensing issues. Though Merrill Edge’s record is clear of any major scandals and lawsuits, the brokerage has closed more than 2,200 complaints in the last 12 months.
The BBB also advises readers not to assume that its ratings guarantee a certain level of reliability or performance within a company. For this reason, it’s wise to conduct your own research in addition to its findings.
Rickie Houston is a wealth-building reporter at Personal Finance Insider who covers investing, cryptocurrency exchanges, brokerage, and wealth-building products.
Merrill Edge Guided Investing Review Features At A Glance
|Automated investment management robo-advisor platform using active management, a mix of proprietary software and human investment guidance
|Minimum Investment Amount
|Available by phone, live chat, and email , all services are 24/7
|Low cost, index-based mutual and exchange traded funds primarily from the Vanguard and iShares fund families.
|Individual and joint taxable accounts traditional, Roth and rollover IRAs solo 401s and regular 401s SEP and SIMPLE IRAs custodial and 529 accounts.
|Sign on bonus of $100 to $600 when you open a new account with between $20,000 and $200,000+. Qualifying deposits must remain in your account for a minimum of 90 days to receive the sign-on bonus.
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Competition: How Merrill Edge Guided Investing Stacks Up
Immediately, Merrill Edge Guided Investing stands out for its employment of human experts to create diversified and balanced investment portfolios. Most robo-advisors cut out human advisors to lower the price of their services. However, this service provides both at a decent rate.
Another option you may want to look into is Liftoff, the robo-advisor arm of Ritholtz Wealth Management. Like with Merrill Edge, you know your investments will be in good hands with Liftoff due to its association with Ritholtz. Liftoff falls into the same fees bracket as Merrill Edge Guided Investing, with an annual fee of 0.40% and a minimum balance requirement of $5,000. Liftoff does work more like a robo-advisor, however, lacking advisor involvement in your portfolio management. You can reach a Ritholtz advisor over the phone, though, should you have more specific questions.
You may find another alternative in AssetBuilder, which is aimed toward investors with higher amounts to invest. Its minimum balance requirement lands at $50,000. However, the annual fee for working with AssetBuilder is also 0.45%. Plus, a higher account balance will get you a lower annual fee, the lowest of which is 0.20%. So if you can meet the $50,000 minimum, youll still benefit from a lower annual fee.