How You Are Protected
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 as all customers are covered by Bank of America Securities.
The SIPC investor protection, available to Merrill Edge clients, shields investors from the loss of cash and securities in case the broker goes bust. The limit of the SIPC protection is $500,000, including $250,000 for cash.
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.
|FINRA||Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith Inc|
Merrill Edge does not provide negative balance protection. If the balance on your account goes into negative, you will not be protected.
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College Saving & 529 Plans
Interested in saving for college? Merrill Edge offers two options: 529 plans or custodial accounts .
Merrill’s 529 plans have a $25 minimum initial funding requirement, but you’ll pay $0 in account fees. These plans also let you make federal tax-free withdrawals and offer four different portfolios: age-based diversified portfolios, diversified portfolios, single fund portfolios, and stable principal portfolios.
Custodial accounts technically known as Uniform Gifts to Minors Act/Uniform Transfers to Minors Act let you set aside money for minors, or beneficiaries, until they reach termination age.
Merrill Edge’s custodial accounts are currently free to set up and maintain. Like its self-directed brokerage accounts, these accounts also offer unlimited commission-free trades for stocks, ETFs, and options.
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Is Merrill Lynch A Brokerage Account
The brokerage firm falls under the umbrella of the Merrill Lynch group of companies. Although once its own entity, Merrill Lynch is now under the ownership of Bank of America. Therefore Merrill Edge is an especially natural fit for anyone who maintains accounts at BoA. The brokerage firm has racked up its fair share of accolades in recent years.
Who Merrill Edge Is For
Beginner and intermediate DIY investors will be well-served by Merrill Edge’s technology and range of services. As an online brokerage, Merrill Edge offers a comprehensive platform with adequate technical and fundamental tools suitable for long-term investors and casual traders. As part of Bank of America’s overall financial services universe, Merrill Edge offers perks , a seamless banking/investing experience, a wide variety of educational offerings, and strong in-person support.
Two-leg maximum on options strategies
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More Details About Merrill Edge’s Ratings
Account minimum: 5 out of 5 stars
Merrill Edge has no minimum account requirement. Customers with a combined balance of more than $20,000 in eligible investment and cash accounts can qualify for Merrills rewards program.
Stock trading costs: 5 out of 5 stars
There are no commissions on stock or ETF trades at Merrill Edge.
Options trades: 4 out of 5 stars
Merrill Edge has no commissions on options trades, though you will still have to pay $0.65 per contract, a fairly typical charge among brokerages.
Account fees: 5 out of 5 stars
Merrill Edge gets high marks when it comes to account fees: There are no transfer, annual, inactivity or closing fees for brokerage accounts. If you transfer assets out of a retirement account, however, youll pay a fee of $49.95, but that charge is still lower than at some other brokerages.
Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds: 4 out of 5 stars
Merrill Edge offers over 3,100 no-transaction-fee mutual funds to choose from.
Tradable securities: 3 out of 5 stars
While most investors will find Merrill’s selection of stocks, bonds, options, ETFs and mutual funds more than adequate, active traders eager to invest in futures or forex will need to go elsewhere. Its also worth pointing out that Merrill Edge doesnt offer fractional shares. Such an offering is becoming more commonplace among brokers, as it lets investors with less capital build diverse portfolios. Without fractional shares, this can be harder to do.
Crypto offering: 1 out of 5 stars
What To Watch Out For
As mentioned above, Merrill has historically preferred clients with higher net worth. Individuals with assets of less than $250,000 could be encouraged to enter into one of Merrills automated programs.
Such accounts often have lower fees , but may not be a good fit for those who are seeking the personal touch of their own investment advisor.
Its also important to note that your experience with Merrill Lynch will be largely dependent on the advisor you end up with. Merrill Lynch is one of the largest wealth management firms in the world, with thousands of advisors. Some have been in the business for decades and have a track record of success, while others may just be getting started. So, before opening an account with Merrill, make sure you have an advisor you are comfortable with.
Merrill Lynch has faced a number of disciplinary proceedings from regulators over the past 10 years. The most recent action was in 2014, when the firm entered into an Acceptance, Waiver and Consent agreement with FINRA regarding its supervisory system for purchasing mutual fund shares for clients. It paid a fine of $8 million.
In 2012, Merrill entered into an AWC with FINRA regarding its billing practices. Among the issues mentioned in the agreement were unwarranted fees on some client accounts. Merrill reimbursed all affected clients and paid a fine of $2.8 million.
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Are There Free Trades With Merrill Edge
In October 2019, Merrill Edge fully joined the zero-commission fray to offer cheaper and more accessible investing, to remain competitive. A review of Robinhood the stock app surging in popularity with more than 10 million users shows a ton of free features. To stay relevant, Merrill Edge Preferred Rewards members now have access to unlimited free stock, ETF and trading options.
This great thing about this is that its a continuous promotion and not a pop-up, catch it while you can promotion like most others. Option trades carry a competitive fee per-contract of $.65. Youll also have access to other discounts and programs that the Preferred Rewards Program offers.
Something to note: To be considered for this program you must have an account with Bank of America and at least $20,000 in deposit accounts and/or Merrill investment accounts.
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.
How This Broker Makes Money From You And For You
With fewer brokerages charging commissions these days, it’s less obvious how they stay in business. Here are some of the behind-the-scenes ways Merrill Edge makes money from youand for you.
- Interest on cash: Merrill Edge makes money on the difference between what it pays you and what it can earn on your cash balances. You can opt for a bank deposit account or a money market account for your cash. It’s automatically swept to earn an interest rate at least half of the Federal Funds rate. If you don’t choose, you’ll earn 0.01% on your cash balances.
- Stock loan program: Merrill Edge earns money by loaning the stocks in your account for short sales. It does not share that revenue with you.
- Payment for order flow: Merrill Edge does not accept payment for order flow from third-party market makers.
- Price improvement: Merrill Edge’s smart order router looks for quality trade executions. Customers achieve, on average, price improvement of $0.66 on orders of one to 99 shares, $3.98 on 100 to 499 shares, $11.51 on 499 to 1,999 shares, $19.95 on 2,000 to 4,999 shares, and $24.41 on 5,000 to 9,999 shares. For options, the net price improvement per contract is $0.084.
- Portfolio margining: Merrill Edge does not offer portfolio margining, which can lower how much margin you need based on overall risk. In general, portfolio margining works best for customers who trade derivatives that offset the risk of their equity positions.
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?
- How are my holdings doing?
- What are my gains and losses?
- What could I potentially earn?
- What do the analysts say?
- What’s my investing impact?
The Portfolio Analysis function deep-dives into the diversification, the global regions, and the industries represented in your portfolio. Use 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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The mobile trading platform is available in English on iPhones and Android. We tested it on iOS and noticed that the application in 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 the Merrill Edge mobile trading platform has a higher score than the web trading platform.
The major difference compared to the web trading platform is that you can’t trade bonds on the mobile trading platform. This strikes us as very unusual, but the mobile platform of competitor Chase You Invest has the same limitation.
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Merrill Lynch Wealth Management Client Types And Account Minimums
Merrill Lynch Wealth Management is available to all level of investors, with no minimum account sizes for most types of advisory accounts in Merrills Investment Advisory Program. However, Merrill Lynch typically has catered to high-net-worth clients. According to some reports, Merrill brokers do not get paid for servicing client accounts below $250,000.
Clients below that threshold may be encouraged to join Merrill Edge, Merrills automated online investing platform. Furthermore, while Merrill does not have minimum account sizes, many individual Merrill advisors set their own limits.
Most accounts with Merrill Lynch Wealth Management do not have a minimum requirement. There are exceptions, though — the minimum for the Managed Account Service is $100,000.
While these are the minimum account sizes for Merrill Lynch as a whole, many Merrill advisors do not accept new clients below a certain threshold. Individual Merrill advisors may have minimum account sizes as high as $10 million.
What Is Merrill Edge
Merrill Edges goal is to offer you a simpler, more streamlined way to manage finances.
Merrill Edge is part discount brokerage firm and part subsidiary of Bank of Americas retail banking division. This means that you have the advantage of banking to help you simplify your finances as well as gaining access to Merrill Lynchs award-winning research, investment tools, and call center counsel.
Important note: Current BofA customers can enjoy a number of premium rewards when signing up with the brokerage, including free ATM transactions and auto loan interest rates.
Merrill Edge was launched in 2010 to compete with both Charles Schwab and Fidelity Investments for the younger investors to lean on for advice. By offering investing options, saving features and banking all in one place, Merrill Edge has successfully provided customers with more transparency, and put them back in control of their finances. Customers can enlist a Merrill Edge advisor to help them set a goal or give advice, at any stage.
Naturally, this synergy benefits BofA customers. Reward benefits, instant fund transfers between accounts, the ability to view all accounts at once, and even universal logins are all a win-win for their current customers.
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How We Make Money
Bankrate is an independent, advertising-supported publisher and comparison service. Bankrate is compensated in exchange for featured placement of sponsored products and services, or your clicking on links posted on this website. This compensation may impact how, where and in what order products appear. Bankrate does not include all companies or all available products.
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.
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Here’s What Industry Experts Are Saying
Bank of America received the 2019 Catalyst award for focusing on being a great place to work for women and advancing the economic empowerment of women around the world.6
Merrill had the most financial advisors on Financial Times 2020 Top 401 Retirement Advisers list for the fourth consecutive year–Financial Times, October, 2020 7
Merrill Edge Self-Directed was named the Best Broker for Customer Service in 2020, according to Investopedia.8
Merrill Edge Self-Directed ranked No.1 for User Experience, Kiplingers Personal Finance Best Online Brokers 2020, 2019 9
What Is A 90 Day Violation Merrill Edge
Free Riding Violation If you free ride, your broker must freeze your account for 90 days. If someone is trading rapidly and using all the cash available in the account to buy and sell, that person will likely get a freeriding violation. Freeriding is subject to a mandatory 90-day cash-up-front restriction.
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Merrill Lynch Wealth Managements Cons
- Difficult to determine fees in advance: While there are fee schedules for some programs, there isnt a standardized schedule for all programs, meaning clients must spend the time shopping various financial advisors before they can learn how much theyll pay.
- Not every advisor offers each service: Advisors at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management dont always offer every program or service available to clients. Clients must discuss with each advisor to learn the services provided by the advisor.
- Potential conflicts of interest: The firm has a financial incentive to recommend its own products as well as funds that pay the firm the highest fee. The firm also stands to earn money when clients take out a loan against their account. Since many advisors are also registered as broker-dealers and insurance agents, they can also earn compensation by selling you specific securities and insurance products. This presents potential conflicts of interest, as advisors may be financially incentivized to make certain recommendations.
- Pays for referrals: The firm compensates a handful of third parties to send prospective clients its way. The compensation typically comes out of the advisory fee paid by the client that otherwise would go to the advisor, for as long as the account remains open.
- Long list of disciplinary disclosures: The firm discloses hundreds of disciplinary items, which is not unusual for a very large firm, but still worth noting. See more below.