My Bank of America Merrill Edge Online Investment Brokerage Account Review 2011

Merrill Edge Review

Merrill Edge is part of Bank of America investment division. Merrill Edge is one of emerging online brokerage site which offers financial service to investors or traders. As part of Merrill Lynch online trading, it also offers a platform to trade online stock for its investors either buy stocks, sell stocks or trade options. Merrill Edge also offers zero commission for qualified investors or traders. If you are not qualified for zero commission trading, you will need to pay only $8.95 per trade. Merrill Edge is able to offer a full range of banking through Bank of America, brokerage, and investment advisory services to their large client base. Other financial services include equity trading or stock trading, mutual fund trading, retirement planning, checking account and 529 college saving planning.


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Intro

During 2008 financial crisis, Bank of America acquired wealth manager Merrill Lynch. The Bank of America's online trading website was soon after branded as Bank of America Online Investing, Powered by Merrill Lynch.

In 2010, all Bank of America investment accounts were moved to a new platform and re-branded as Merrill Edge. The following Merrill Edge review is only reviewing ME trading platform. Merrill Edge is well known due to its zero commission trading and its strong research tools by Merrill Lynch investment division.

Bank of America is a big publicly traded financial institution on the New York Stock Exchange with stock ticker BAC. Bank of America (BofA) currently has a market cap of $144 billion. The company is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina with Brian Moynihan as President and CEO and Charles O. Holliday as Chairman.


Products & Pricing

  • Products: Stocks, fixed income or bonds, mutual funds, options, annuities, managed solution
  • Market Orders: $8.95 per trade
  • Limit Orders: $8.95 per trade
  • ETF Orders: $8.95 per trade
  • Auto Phone Orders: $32.50 per trade
  • Broker-Assisted Orders: $75.00 per trade
  • Mutual Funds: $0.00 for NTF funds with Short Term Redemption fee
  • Options: $8.95/trade + $0.75/contract
  • Fixed Incomes: Price & Yield as quoted.
  • Minimum to Open: $2000 for Cash or Securities
  • Account maintenance fee: $25.00 per quarter
  • Some Other Fees: Wire Transfer Outgoing: $30.00 per transfer.
  • ACAT Out: $95.00.
  • Maximum Margin Rate: Based on proprietary base rate


Inside Merrill Edge Account

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Merrill Edge Login PageAccount Overview  PageTrade PageTransfer Money
Merrill Edge Login Page
Merrill Edge Login Page
Account Overview  Page
Account Overview Page
Trade Page
Trade Page
Transfer Money
Transfer Money

Opening Merrill Edge Account

To open a Merrill Edge account is very easy and straight forward; customer needs to fill the online application through Merrill Edge website (www.MerrillEdge.com). You can open individual, joint, custodial, and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA). They may require you to submit some identification as well. The application only takes about 5-15 minute. If you have a Bank of America online ID, you can use your Online ID and passcode to speed up the application process. The Online ID will verify your identity and will automatically fill your online application with your Bank of America Information. Once you are done, you’ll need to wait for their approval. Then, you can setup how you want to fund your account.

You will need to provide some additional information for any typical brokerage accounts such as:

  • Name, Social Security Number and Date of birth
  • A valid email address
  • Employment information (Company Name & Start Date)
  • General financial information such as annual income and household net worth

If you are a US resident, you will need to submit a copy of green card and passport front page to verify your resident status. You can fax this document after you received the email from Merrill Edge or mail this information. I faxed this information and within 2-3 hours my account is opened.

There are 4 different ways to fund your Merrill Edge account:

  1. Wire Transfer – usually can be done same business day
  2. Transfer an account from other brokers .This will take more than 10 business days
  3. Mailing a check will take 5 business days
  4. Electronic Transfer (ACH transfer) will take up to 3 business days.

Link to your Bank of America Deposit Account

If you have a Bank of America account, you will need to wait for 1-2 business day to get the link for connecting your Merrill Edge account and Bank of America account. The link will show up in your Merrill Edge main page. Once it is completed, you can schedule a transfer from your bank of America account (checking or saving) to your Merrill Edge account. It takes 2 business days for the fund to be available for trading.


Type of Account

There are 2 main category of investment accounts:

  1. Merrill Edge self-directed investing – Independent investor with specific research, tools and resources
  2. Merrill Edge Advisory Center – For Professional advice and advisory service by Merrill Lynch

Type of Investment accounts offered by Merrill Edge:

  • Investment Accounts such as General Brokerage Investment Account (Individual or Joint account) and Custodial account (UGMA / UTMA).
  • Retirement Accounts Solutions such as Roth IRA (Individual Retirement Account), Traditional IRA, 401(k) rollover and Annuities
  • College Planning accounts such as 529 College Savings Plan, Coverdell ESA account, Custodial UGMA/UTMA accounts.

The following stock order types can be placed on Merrill Edge:

  • Market
  • Limit
  • Stop Loss


Zero Commissions online trades (up to 30 free trades / month)

One of the great features of Merrill Edge is its zero commission trades for online equity or ETF. To qualify for this up to 30 commission free equity or ETF trades per month, customer need to meet either one of the following conditions or criteria:

  • Maintain total combined balances of $25,000 or more in your Bank of America deposit accounts (checking, savings, FDIC-insured CDs and FDIC-insured IRAs);
  • Maintain total combined balances of $25,000 or more in cash balances in your Merrill Edge self-directed or Advisory Center accounts with the Bank Deposit Accounts sweep option with your Cash Management Account (CMA) or Retirement Assets Savings Program (RASP) sweep with your IRA.

Note: If you exceed the 30 trades limit during any calendar month, or if you don't qualify for $0 trades, your online equity commission per trade will be based on your eligible online equity commission rate such as standard, preferred, and superior.


Advantages & DisAdvantages

Pros of Merrill Edge

  • Up to 30 free trades / month with $25,000 bank of America deposit account or cash balances in ME
  • Access to Merrill Lynch research reports and various other research reports such as Morningstar and S&P 500
  • Easy access to Bank of America deposit account
  • Offer free checking

Cons of Merrill Edge

  • There are no complex stock order as well as conditional order
  • Limited NTF mutual fund
  • No Forex and Future trades
  • High maintenance fee for low balance account
  • High ACAT fees
  • No Mobile access

Other Customer Complaints from research:

  • Website is not customer friendly and there is no CNBC TV
  • One customer experience unauthorized trade performed by Merrill Edge advisor
  • Lack of customer service
  • Issue with trust conversion
  • Issue with both simultaneously long and short trade


Fees & Commissions Schedule

For Stock Trades, there are three types of commission structure such as Standard, Preferred, and Superior. Investors or traders can buy or sell stocks online for $8.95 per trade (standard), $6.95 per trade (preferred), or $4.95 per trade (Superior). Orders placed through the automated telephone system will cost $32.95 per trade. For representative assisted orders, investor and trader will be charged $75 per trade (Standard) and $50 per trade (Preferred & Superior). You can also qualified for zero commission trades (up to 30 trades / month), please check the above information.

The actual commission has three tiers, depending on the total assets with the broker:

  • Standard: $8.95 per trade for total combined balances in Merrill Lynch investment accounts and Bank of America NA deposit accounts up to $250,000, or execute 0 – 29 trades per quarter (0-119 per year)
  • Preferred: $6.95 per trade for combined balances between $250,000 and $1 million, or execute 30+ trades per quarter (120+ per year)
  • Superior: $4.95 per trade for balance above $1 million, or execute 60+ trades per quarter (240+ per year)

For Option Trades, Merrill Edge charges $8.95 per trade + $0.75 per contract (Standard), $6.95 per trade + $0.75 per contract (Preferred), or $4.95 per trade + $0.75 per contract (Superior). The cost of 1 contract will cost $9.70 commission fee for standard pricing, while 10 contracts of superior pricing will cost $12.45 commission fee.

For mutual funds trades, there are 6,400+ mutual funds available. Merrill Edge also offers 150 No load & No Transaction Fee (NTF) mutual funds. There is no charge if you buy the no load and no transaction fee fund, though there is Short-Term Redemption fee of 0.75% gross proceeds ($50 minimum & $250 maximum) if the fund was held less than 90 days in your Merrill Edge Self Directed account. There is no charge for Intra-family exchange. For load funds, please check for the load charges.

For Forex and Future trades, there is no support for both at the present time.


Merrill Edge SafePass Card

Merrill Edge also provides a SafePass Card for extra level protection when customer wants to purchase Over the counter bulletin board, pink sheet and other high-risk securities online. Customer or client may need to apply for this new PassCard. It’ll be sent within 10 business days. You will need to activate the card once you received this card. Once activated, you can purchase OTC, pink sheet and high risk stocks.

Note: This card has a smart chip with your name and card serial number printed in front of the card. There is black button which you can press to get a new SafePass code

For instance, when I try to purchase Kinross Gold Corp (Ticker: KGC), I’ll need a new security code from my SafePass card. Once I entered this code, I can place a market order or limit order for this stock.


Final Thoughts

Merrill Edge offers a standard web based trading platform. There is no desktop software application for traders. It also provides variety of incredible research tools for its customer to analyze stocks or etf or global market. It also has research report from Merrill Lynch, Morningstar, and S&P 500. Compare to free charts available online, the charts on ME for technical analysis is just average. Commissions and fees are only really great for those with $50,000+ in total assets including $25,000 cash balance. Margin rates are a bit too high and the DRIP program is not user friendly. Also, there is currently no mobile trading platform for iphone or Android phone.

I would only recommend Bank of America Merrill Edge brokerage account for high account balance customer especially with $50,000 account balance or more especially for stock trading. Smaller investor may need to find other brokerages to trade online such as lightspeed, Interactive Brokers, eOption, and more.

Note:

  • ETF = Exchange Traded Funds
  • Mutual Funds = Load Mutual Fund, No Load Mutual Funds, No Transaction Fee Mutual Funds


Disclosure: I have no affiliation with Merrill Edge other than I use it for trading. Please do your own research for additional details. All information is as updated as February 4, 2011. Please trade responsibly.


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20 comments

Carlos 5 years ago

What if I don't have a green card but a valid work permit (H1B) visa?


chan0512 profile image

chan0512 5 years ago from Camarillo, CA Author

Carlos, I believe you can open an account with them. Please check with Merrill Edge Reps for details. They should be able to help you. You can chat online with them, it is very convenience.


Eli 5 years ago

Great ....!!!!

But they do not provide an e-mail address @@##???


chan0512 profile image

chan0512 5 years ago from Camarillo, CA Author

Eli,

You can chat and email them. The phone number is 1-888-637-3343. Also, you can check your brokerage account for details.


Tom11 5 years ago

I had an account with BofA online investing, but last year I was switched to Merrill Edge which I'm very discouraged about because Merrill Edge is a huge downgrade from what BofA was.

To give an example of how sub-standard Merrill Edge is, as it says in the review above, sending a check will take 5 business days. With BofA when I sent a check it was always posted to my account within 2 business days. But with Merrill Edge, I recently sent out a check on a Saturday which should have gotten to their P.O. box on Monday, but the check wasn't posted to my account until Friday evening. To me, for them to take 4 days to process and post a check to my account that is untolerable and that's ripping me off. I called customer service and they didn't give me any understandable reason why it takes so long to process deposits. Is there any justifiable reason for typically taking 4 days to process deposits? My check wasn't put on hold or anything, but it just sat in their P.O. box or processing unit for 4 days before being processed.


chan0512 profile image

chan0512 5 years ago from Camarillo, CA Author

Hi Tom,

Sorry to hear your issue. From my experience, it is very typical for brokerage account to hold your check for 4-5 business days. In fact some even hold for 7-10 business days.

I usually just go to the branch and deposit the money, then I'll do the transfer online from BofA account to my Merrill Edge account. I think it will speed up the process abit.

Hope you like the 30 free trades from Merrill Edge though.

Thanks!


Tom11 5 years ago

My check wasn't put on hold, it just sat in their P.O. box or processing unit for 4 days before being processed.

With the Bank of America brokerage, when I mailed checks they were always posted to my account within 2 business days of when I mailed them.

Besides Merrill Edge, there isn't any other brokerage that takes 4 business days to process mailed deposits after they are received, is there?

That is great having 30 free stock trades a month with Merrill Edge, which is the only reason I have stayed with them. The Bank of America brokerage was so much better though, and Merrill Edge made a lot of unreasonably horrible changes for the worse.

With Merrill Edge, the gain or loss per stock since bought updates only to the previous business day. After selling 'lots' of a stock, the gain or loss for the remaing 'lots' doesn't update until 3 business days afterwards. After trading any stock, the total gain or loss on all of your stocks doesn't update until 3 business days afterwards, those things never update if you keep making a trade at least once every 3 business days. So unless you do a lot of paper work adding everything up manually, you can't know how well your stocks are performing unless you go at 3 business days doing no trading, and even then you're only updated to the previous business day. The holdings page shows how well your stocks are doing that day, but it doesn't show how your stocks have done since you bought them. The BofA brokerage didn't have any of those problems, with BofA almost everything was updated in real time. I could go on and on about how Merrill Edge is a lot worse than BofA in so many ways. At least Merrill Edge kept the feature of 30 free trades a month, but I wonder why they didn't keep all of the other great features that BofA had.


chan0512 profile image

chan0512 5 years ago from Camarillo, CA Author

hm... I feel bad about your experience, I never send any checks yet. So, I will probably will not send any check for funding if it takes 4 days for check processing.

Probably the best way is deposit the check through branch or ATM. Then do transfer from BofA account to Merrill Edge account. I know it is faster. It took 2 days for the transfer to show up in my account.

and Yes, there are still many new features need to update for Merrill Edge. I have heard a lot about BofA brokerage, not sure why they didn't integrate it with Merrill Edge.

And you are right about the gain/loss updates, it doesn't get update immediately. I usually track them manually or through other financial software. It does lack a lot features for active traders, but for long term investor plus swing trader I think it offers great value.


Patricia 4 years ago

I would like to dable into some investing,buying,and trading does that sound right or am I getting ahead of myself ,I am a virgin at this


chan0512 profile image

chan0512 4 years ago from Camarillo, CA Author

Patricia,

It will take a lot of discipline and experience to trade. If you never trade before, I would suggest reading some trading books. Also, you may try mutual fund or ETF. I prefer index mutual funds or index ETFs. They are easier to understand and less risky than stock.


Ritu 4 years ago

Merrill Edge is a nightmare. Bunch of nincompoops working as customer reps. don't open and account with them. I had more than $65k in my account and it took them more than a week to give me my money back


chan0512 profile image

chan0512 4 years ago from Camarillo, CA Author

Ritu,

Sorry to hear your issue. I haven't had any bad experience with them until now.


swea 4 years ago

Hi,

Anyone using ME new platform "market pro"? I called ME some days ago, to find out more details about this platform. Unfortunately for me, I was rejected immediately. I did and tell that I was calling from scandinavia and that I am a Swedish citizen before the manager said no, without U.S. citizenship offered Merrill Edge marketpro and self-directed account.

I tried to explain that I wanted to try out a partnership with Merrill Lynch through my company and start with $ 1 million on this account ... However, it was still impossible. According to the little idiot would not be possible at the London office of Merrill either .... It is strange, acting through the London offices of several other U.S. sell-side players last 4 years!


chan0512 profile image

chan0512 4 years ago from Camarillo, CA Author

Yes, I have used MarketPro. It is Java based platform. Looks like ME is only opened for US based people. You will need a U.S. resident or citizenship. Though, you might want to check with the London offices just to be sure. Sometime, the US office people don't know the details.


monicamelendez profile image

monicamelendez 4 years ago from Salt Lake City

Looks like ME has some good features. I'm going to look into it a little more!


chan0512 profile image

chan0512 4 years ago from Camarillo, CA Author

Monica Melendez

Yes, ME has improved ever since. I haven't had any problem with the brokerage. The free trades are great.


manojm 3 years ago

very poor CS. They do not correct any errors they make. Simply give you runaround. Every time you call you talk to a different person and you have to start from scratch.


chan0512 profile image

chan0512 3 years ago from Camarillo, CA Author

manojm,

Sorry to hear about your issue with ME. If I may know, what is your issue with ME? Maybe you can share your experience with us. Thanks.


NotVeryHappyWithMerillEde 3 years ago

Since BofA took over Merrill Edge, I have been promised the ability to select specific lots of shares to sell. (this was a feature on BofA). 4 years later this is still not available. You have to call into there customer service to adjust a trade if you want to match a sale to a specific buy lot. It is not a technological limitation, but rather I think Merrill Edge just does not want to do it. I would prefer if they just came out and said so, rather than continuing to promise it is coming.


chan0512 profile image

chan0512 3 years ago from Camarillo, CA Author

NotVeryHappyWithMerillEde,

Sorry to hear your issue with ME. I agree there are still some limitation with current ME. But, we some new feature being roll out periodically. I think they are still providing a good value especially the 30 free trades/month.

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