Merrill Edge Review [2024]: How to Invest with $0 Trading Fees?

Merrill Edge offers guided and self-directed investing with $0 trades on stocks, ETFs, and options.
Updated April 22, 2024
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Stock trading hasn’t always been as accessible and affordable as it is today. Platforms such as Merrill Edge from Bank of America enable you to cut investment costs thanks to its $0 trading fees. However, you might not find every asset class you want to buy since it doesn’t offer cryptocurrencies or futures.

With many other platforms offering the same no-fee structure and more asset classes, does Merrill Edge stand out? This Merrill Edge review looks at the features it offers, the fees it does and doesn’t charge, and how it may help you invest your money in a manner that fits your needs and lifestyle.

In this Merrill Edge review

What is Merrill Edge?

Merrill Edge is an investment platform that Bank of America launched in 2010. The platform is accessible through desktop as well as Android and iOS mobile apps. It offers the following account management options:

  • Guided investing: With Merrill Edge’s guided option, the platform creates a portfolio for you based on your risk tolerance and your investing goals.
  • Advisor-led investing: Merrill Edge offers this option if you want to work directly with an advisor. You can set up a call or meeting with a financial advisor, and they may help you understand investing and decide your goals.
  • Self-directed: The self-directed option is for more experienced investors that know how to trade their own assets, such as stocks or bonds. Merril Edge simply provides access to the assets, and you may pick and choose the ones you’d like in your portfolio.

Merrill Edge supports several account types that you could open, including:

  • Individual, joint, and custodial investment accounts: Taxable investment accounts may be opened individually or with a partner or spouse. Additionally, you may open a custodial account, which would be for a child under the age of 18.
  • Traditional IRA: A retirement account option that lets you contribute pre-tax money. When you start withdrawing money during retirement, you’d be taxed at the tax rate that applies to you at that time.
  • Roth IRA: A retirement account option that lets you contribute post-tax money. Since you've already paid taxes on your contributions, this allows you to withdraw money tax-free during retirement.
  • Inherited IRA: If you’ve inherited an IRA from a loved one, Merrill Edge could help you roll it over and would manage it on your behalf.
  • SEP IRA: These accounts let you contribute money on behalf of your employee if you have a small business. This is also an option for self-employed workers.
  • Simple IRA: Another option for self-employed people and small business owners. You may contribute to this account type if your business has fewer than 100 people.

Merrill Edge offers educational resources to help you understand your investment choices as well as investing tools and calculators.

With Merrill Edge, you may invest in the following financial assets:

  • Stocks: Stocks represent a piece of ownership in a company. Any publicly traded company has stocks available to purchase.
  • Bonds: Bonds are a financial asset that pays you a fixed interest rate. Merrill Edge offers several types of bonds, such as government bonds in the form of Treasury bonds and notes.
  • Exchange-traded funds (ETFs): ETFs are funds that group assets, such as stocks and bonds, together. These funds are traded on stock exchanges, and purchasing them gives the buyer a way to invest in the underlying assets.
  • Mutual funds: Mutual funds are similar to ETFs in that they are a group of assets rolled into one fund. The main difference between mutual funds and ETFs is that mutual funds trade once daily, while ETFs trade throughout the day.
  • Options: Options are contracts that allow you to buy or sell an asset at an agreed-upon price at a certain time. For example, if you expect an asset price to go up, buying an options contract that lets you buy it for a lower price at a future date may yield financial gain. Options trading often requires advanced investment knowledge due to its risky nature and should only be used by experienced investors.
  • Margin trading: Margin trading allows you to borrow money from your broker and use it to invest. The idea is that if you invest in well-performing assets, taking out a loan through a margin account may accelerate your financial gains. Margin trading may also expand your losses and is considered a risky investment, so it should only be used by investment professionals.

That being said, there are some investment options Merrill Edge is missing. For example, the platform doesn’t offer cryptocurrencies, a form of digital currency, or futures, a type of contract to trade an item at a set price at a particular future date.

How does Merrill Edge work?

Merrill Edge offers multiple ways to invest, depending on how hands-on you’d like to be. All brokerage accounts offered by Merrill Edge are insured by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC).

Merrill Edge’s self-directed trading

Active traders who prefer managing their investments and assets on their own may enjoy what Merrill Edge's self‑directed account offers.

Merrill Edge’s self-directed cash management account has $0 trading fees on stocks, ETFs, and options trades. While charging no fees for stocks and ETF trades is becoming more common among investing platforms, $0 fees on options trades is a plus since it isn’t offered as often.

You also won’t have an annual fee to worry about, and Merrill Edge doesn’t charge you fees to begin using your account and start investing. The fees Merrill Edge does charge include:

  • $1 per bond for corporate and municipal bonds
  • $19.95 transaction fee for each mutual fund trade
  • $29.95 for each broker-assisted trade on options, stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and bonds

Self-directed accounts have no minimum investment required. If you’re looking to try investing money on your own for the first time and only want to put in a small amount, you may use a Merrill Edge self-directed account.

Merrill Edge provides research and market insights so you can do your homework before making any financial moves.

Merrill Edge Select Funds is a tool that may help you sort through the mutual funds available and see the best options for you based on risk, fees, and performance.

Merrill Edge’s guided trading

Not every investor wants to be solely responsible for choosing their investments. Understanding every investment choice may require intensive work and research.

Merrill guided investing allows you to answer basic questions about your finances and your money goals, and Merrill Edge would create a portfolio and choose asset allocation based on how much risk you’re willing to take on.

There are some caveats to this option, though. For example, you’ll need at least $1,000 to get started, and you’ll pay an annual fee of 0.45% to Merrill Edge to manage your investments.

Socially responsible investors (SRI) would also be pleased to know that Merrill Edge offers guided investment options that help you put your money into companies that work for the social good.

SRI portfolios might be based on environmental and social causes. These portfolios also actively exclude companies that don’t have equitable standards in their workplace or who have contributed to causes that negatively affect marginalized communities or the environment.

You’d find the same research-heavy philosophy when investing in these companies. For example, Merrill Edge offers a feature called Stock Story that tells you how the company has performed in the past and gives you info about its social impact.

Getting rewards with Merrill Edge

Bank of America offers Merrill Edge customers its Preferred Rewards program. The program has four tiers that provide rewards on several banking products.

These rewards would help you reduce the annual fees of a Merrill Edge guided trading account, earn more rewards on eligible Bank of America credit cards, and even earn discounts on your mortgage fees or rates. To qualify, you would need at least a combined $20,000 average daily balance in your Merrill Edge and Bank of America accounts.

The rewards tiers provide bigger discounts and rewards the higher your balance is:

Gold Platinum Platinum Honors Diamond
Balance needed $20,000 - $49,999 $50,000 - $99,999 $100,000 - $999,999 $1 million - just under $10 million
Annual discount on guided trading fees 0.05% 0.10% 0.15% 0.15%
Credit card rewards 25% rewards bonus on eligible Bank of America credit cards 50% rewards bonus on eligible Bank of America credit cards 75% rewards bonus on eligible Bank of America credit cards 75% rewards bonus on eligible Bank of America credit cards

How much can you earn with Merrill Edge?

How much money you may earn from your investments with Merrill Edge isn’t a set number. It depends on the type of investments, the length of time you’ve been investing, and the contributions you make to your investment accounts.

However, Merrill Edge makes it easy to track your earnings from your investments with its investment tracking tools. The tool provides the following information:

  • Cumulative performance: This allows you to evaluate your portfolio’s performance across various periods. You could also compare these time chunks to the broader market to see how your portfolio stacks up.
  • Quarterly returns: This gives you a quarterly report of how your profit and returns are faring.
  • Cash flow: This allows you to see how your investment contributions have affected your portfolio if you make regular contributions.
  • Rate of return: This provides you with information about your investment returns over monthly, yearly, or quarterly periods.

Who can earn money with Merrill Edge?

Merrill Edge might be right for some investors, but not all. You might find the platform useful if you’re a beginner or intermediate investor, a Bank of America customer, a socially responsible investor, or an investor who likes to manage their own portfolio.

Beginner and intermediate investors

First-time investors and people with moderate investing experience might enjoy using Merrill Edge.

The trading platform’s investing options offer ways for DIY and hands-off investors to invest their money. Plus, with the research materials available on the platform, beginners could learn quite a bit about investing and markets.

Bank of America account holders

It’s clear that Merrill Edge was built with Bank of America members in mind. That’s not entirely surprising since the bank owns Merrill Edge.

Seamless integration between Bank of America banking accounts and investment accounts allows you to manage your money in one location. You also have access to instant transfers between your banking and investment accounts.

Socially responsible investors

Through their SRI options, Merrill Edge offers ways for socially conscious investors to align their social and investing goals. You could design your own portfolio using Merrill Edge’s Idea Builder, which pulls investing ideas from top economic minds.

Plus, you may find each stock's environmental, social, and governance (ESG) rating, which tells you how a company has performed environmentally, socially, and within its own organization. This can make it easier to pick stocks that align with your values.

Merrill’s guided investing option asks you about your SRI preferences if you don't want to create your own portfolio. From there, they can build a portfolio with the causes you care about in mind.

DIY investors

Hands-on investors may find Merrill Edge useful for several reasons. It has $0 trading fees and no account minimum. It also provides research tools to help investors make educated decisions. That’s why Merrill Edge may give you a head start if you’re looking to start picking your own investment strategy and assets.

Set-it-and-forget-it investors

Not all investors want to choose every stock and monitor market changes. If you're more of a set-it-and-forget-it type of person, Merrill Edge's managed portfolios might be a good fit.

Managed portfolios allow you to answer questions about your investing goals and risk tolerance during the sign-up process. Your answers enable Merrill Edge to begin creating a portfolio that fits your investment needs.

You may check back in on your account dashboard to keep an eye on your investments and how they are performing. Keep in mind that you need at least $1,000 to get started, and there is a 0.45% annual fee for managed portfolios.

How to open an account with Merrill Edge

Opening an investment account with Merrill Edge takes just a few minutes. Let’s look at the sign-up process for a Merrill Edge self‑directed account.

  1. After you select the account type you’re looking to open, Merrill Edge tells you what information you’ll need. If you already have a Bank of America account, it will pre-fill the application for you.

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  1. If it doesn’t pre-fill your application, you need to enter personal details like your address, birth date, and Social Security number.

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  1. From there, you move on to your employment status and financial information. You’ll be asked about your annual income, net worth, and any trading experience you have.

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  1. You may then order a debit card and opt into (or out of) margin trading.

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  1. Lastly, create a username and password, review your application, and submit it.

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What is the difference between Merrill Lynch and Merrill Edge?

Merrill Lynch and Merrill Edge are both subsidiaries of Bank of America corporation. Merrill Lynch is an investment platform that provides advisors who work one-on-one with clients to understand their investment needs, but this service often comes at a cost. Merrill Edge is also an investment platform, but it offers investors a way to manage their own investments or to have managed portfolios at a more affordable cost.

Does Merrill Edge have hidden fees?

While Merrill Edge isn’t entirely fee-free, depending on the investment products you choose, the company is straightforward about the fees it charges. For example, the platform charges a $1 fee per corporate or municipal bond trade, a $19.95 fee for mutual fund trades, and a $29.95 fee for each broker-assisted trade if you have a self-directed trading account. Guided trading accounts come with a 0.45% annual management fee.

What is the minimum to open a Merrill Edge account?

If you open a Merrill Edge Self‑Directed account, there would be no minimum to start investing. If you choose a managed trading account, you would need to have at least $1,000 deposited into the managed account.

Other investment platforms to consider

If Merrill doesn’t have quite what you’re looking for, you may find a good fit in one of the best investment apps or best brokerage accounts.

If you’re looking for customized portfolio recommendations while having socially responsible investment options, Betterment may have what you’re looking for. It offers automated investing with portfolios based on technology, climate change, social causes, and more. You may also invest in cryptocurrencies through Betterment. You might have to pay a 0.25% or a 0.40% annual fee, depending on your chosen plan.

Read our Betterment review.

For beginners, Stash offers investors automatic investing in fractional shares of stocks and ETFs, which allows you to buy a portion of stock without needing to own the entire stock. Stash plans begin at $3 per month and provide you with investment advice to help grow your investments.

Read our Stash review.


Public Benefits

  • Get $3-$300 in free stock when your account is approved*
  • Invest in 1000s of stocks and ETFs with fractional shares—no account minimums
  • Follow friends in a social feed and learn from a diverse community of investors
  • * Free stock offer valid for U.S. residents 18+. Subject to account approval.
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Author Details

Christopher Murray Christopher Murray is a seasoned personal finance writer with a passion for empowering individuals to achieve financial independence while embracing sustainable practices. Over the last few years, he has focused on various facets of personal finance—specifically saving, budgeting, investing (with an emphasis on alternative investments), credit building, and sustainability.