(Updated again July 2020: Let’s try this again with a non-expired link! BofA has new promotion for up to $1,000, even higher than the previous offer and worth considering if you have adequate brokerage assets to move over to Merrill Edge. Thanks to comment Ken Nand for the pointer. See updated full review below.)
Merrill Edge is the self-directed brokerage arm formed after Bank of America and Merrill Lynch merged together. They are currently offering an increased
Cash bonus. Brokerage firms love to collect assets. The good news is they don’t require cash that will be earning zero interest, and Edge has no management fees if you stick with DIY. If you are holding shares of stock, ETFs, or mutual funds elsewhere, you can simply perform an “in-kind” ACAT transfer over to Merrill Edge. Your 100 shares of AAPL will remain 100 shares of AAPL, so you don’t even have to worry about price changes, lost dividends, or tax consequences. Any cost basis should transfer over too.
- $50 bonus with $20,000 to $49,999 in new assets
- $250 bonus with $50,000 to $99,999 in new assets
- $500 bonus with $100,000 to $199,999 in new assets
- $1,000 bonus with $200,000 or more in new assets
This offer includes both IRAs and regular taxable (CMA) accounts:
Offer valid for new individual Merrill IRAs or Cash Management Accounts (CMAs). Offer is limited to one CMA and one IRA, with no more than two enrolled accounts per accountholder. Eligible Merrill Edge IRAs limited to Rollover, Traditional, Roth and Sole-Proprietor SEP only. The Merrill IRA or CMA may be a Merrill Edge Self-Directed account, Merrill Edge Advisory Account or Merrill Guided Investing account. You may be eligible for a different or better offer. Please contact us for more information.
Note that last sentence! It’s not just boilerplate. After I did this bonus once with a partial transfer (just enough to satisfy the requirements), a Merrill Edge rep contacted me and offered me a custom bonus to move even more assets over. (The bonus ratios were about the same, but higher limits.) Therefore, if you are considering this and happen to have more than $200,000 to transfer over, you may want to give them a call and see if they can offer even more money.
You can even transfer in Admiral Shares of Vanguard mutual funds that they don’t let you trade there, but you can only hold or sell them. You can’t buy more shares. You can, however, buy more shares of the corresponding Vanguard ETF if you wish. (Alternatively, you should consider having Vanguard convert your Admiral share into ETFs on a one-time basis that will preserve your original cost basis. After you have ETFs, you can move those over to Merrill Edge and trade them as you wish.)
Preferred Rewards bonus. The
At the Platinum and Platinum Plus levels, Merrill Edge used to offer 30 and 100 free online stock trades every month, respectively. However, now everyone gets unlimited $0 trades. Bank of America’s interest rates on cash accounts tend to be quite low, so moving cash over to qualify may result in earning less interest on your cash deposits. Merrill Lynch advisory accounts also usually come with management fees. The sweet spot is if you have brokerage assets like stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs.
Checking accounts. With Gold status ($20k in assets) and above, you’ll get the monthly maintenance fee on up to 4 checking or savings account waived. That means you no longer have to worry about a minimum balance or maintaining direct deposit, depending on your account type. You’ll also get waived ATM fees at non-BofA ATMs at certain levels (12/year at $50k assets, unlimited at $100k). Free cashier’s checks.
Credit cards rewards. With the Preferred Rewards boost, you can get up to 2.6% cash back towards travel on all your purchases on the
My personal experience. In terms of Merrill Edge, I’ve had an account with them for a few years now and my lightning review is that they have a “okay/good” user interface and solidly “good” customer service (i.e. real, informed humans available 24/7 on the phone, not email-only customer service that takes hours to days like Robinhood). I would add that I am not an active trader and only make about 10-15 trades a year. I have been quite satisfied with the account. I can also move money instantly between my Merrill Edge and Bank of America checking accounts, making it easy to sweep out idle cash into an external savings account.
The biggest financial benefit to this BofA/Merrill Edge combo has probably been the 75% boost to their credit card rewards, allowing me to get 2.625% cash back on basically all my daily purchases. The second biggest benefit has probably been this cash bonus, and the third is the occasional waived checking or ATM fee. One negative is that the cash sweep options are not very good, but as of July 2020 the interest difference is quite small.
Bottom line. Merrill Edge is currently offering up to $1,000 if you move over a significant amount of assets to their self-directed brokerage. This can simply be mutual fund or ETFs shares currently being held elsewhere. When you keep enough assets across Bank of America and Merrill Edge, their Preferred Rewards program can offer ongoing perks like waived bank account fees and boosted credit card rewards.
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