Merrill Edge + Preferred Rewards = Free Trades and Up to $900 Bonus For Moving Assets

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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 of up to $900 for moving “new money” or assets over to them from another brokerage firm. This new bonus is linked to the BofA/Merrill Preferred Rewards program, which is another reason to consider using them as it gets you free stock trades and better credit card rewards. Here’s an overview along with my personal experience as I’ve had an account with them for a few years now.

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.

This specific offer is for accounts opened by April 30, 2019 and offers the following:

  • $150 bonus with $20,000 to $49,999 in new assets
  • $225 bonus with $50,000 to $99,999 in new assets
  • $375 bonus with $100,000 to $199,999 in new assets
  • $900 bonus with $200,000 or more in new assets

For comparison, here is an expired offer that was slightly better but probably the highest I’ve seen. Here is the standard offer that has been around for a while.

This offer includes both IRAs and regular taxable (CMA) accounts:

1 Offer valid for new and existing individual Merrill Edge IRAs or Cash Management Accounts (CMAs) opened by April 30, 2019. 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 owner only SEP IRA. The Merrill Edge 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 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.

Preferred Rewards bonus. The Preferred Rewards program is designed to rewards clients with multiple account and higher assets located at Bank of America banking, Merrill Edge online brokerage, and Merrill Lynch investment accounts. Here is a partial table taken from their comparison chart (click to enlarge):


At the Platinum and Platinum Plus levels, Merrill Edge will give you 30 and 100 free online stock trades every month, respectively. 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.

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 Bank of America Travel Rewards Card. You can also get up to 5.25% cash back (on up to $2,500 per quarter) on your choice of gas, online shopping, dining, or travel with the Bank of America Cash Rewards Card.

Keep in mind that it will take a while for your “3-month average combined balance” to actually reach the required level and officially qualify. (This may be obvious, but if you put in the minimum, it will take 3 months.)

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 would add that I am not an active trader and only make about 10 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, but that’s because I don’t make 100 trades over the course of a few years, let alone a single month.

Bottom line. Merrill Edge is currently offering up to $900 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 nice perks like waived bank fees, free stock trades, and boosted credit card rewards.

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  1. Thanks for sharing about ML. I just did the $1K promo and have their Platinum level. I only have $100 in a Bank of America checking account since their rates are not competitive. So the 2.6% you calculated is based on the 75% boost you get in transferring the cash bonus to your ML brokerage account? I never figured out the percentage. I just know as soon as my cash reward hits $25.00 I get an additional 75% added.

    I have accounts at Vanguard, Fid and Schwab. ML is best for self-directed investors who do not need any help. My experience with their call reps is poor. Most reps lack training and cannot answer basic investing questions. Schwab and Fidelity have a better trained staff.

  2. atish banerjee says

    One caveat: It doesn’t work for people on work visas like H1b. It works only for citizens and green card holders.
    TD Bank provides the same deal but even for people on a work visa.

  3. Jason Boxman says

    This is timely, mostly because I didn’t realize you can transfer your assets without liquidating your positions. I have a Firstrade account right now, but they don’t allow you to select your tax lot treatment. (Either FIFO or LIFO for the life of the account.) I’ll probably transfer to ML when I have enough to qualify for free trades.


  4. The Frugal Millionaire says

    A question, Jonathan, regarding Vanguard Admiral shares transferred…you say we can hold them or sell them, but NOT buy additional mutual fund shares. Are reinvested dividends and gains considered a “buy”? Thanks!

  5. I am considering but will check first how good they are with payable upon death (pod). If I move assets over I want to make sure my family will have access.

  6. I really cant tell from the offer’s website if existing BofA & Merrill Edge customer are eligible if they simply move the required amount of assets over to their existing account. Any advice?

    • Yes, existing clients are eligible but it must be new assets from an external broker. If you scroll down to fine print #1:

      “Offer valid for new and existing individual Merrill Edge IRAs or Cash Management Accounts”

  7. A few updates for everyone since I used this promotion in April and last week collected the bonus:

    1) Vanguard funds did not transfer via ACAT, only my ETFs. Fortunately this was the form in which I held most, but this means I have a small leftover at Vanguard. ACAT worked perfectly otherwise; thank you for teaching me of its existence, Jonathan. Cost basis info came over, just as you said.

    2) I was able to collect the $900 bonus, but it did not come on its own. I waited four months and then sent a message asking about it using “Send & Receive Messages,” subject line “$900 incentive bonus appears to be late.” The bonus was deposited about a week later.

    It’s otherwise been a very good experience. While I did this fully intending to ACAT back to Vanguard once I got the bonus, the credit card bonus is great for us, and the ability to speak to a human at a bank has been nice for a couple of unusual inheritance-related actions. I think ME may actually have earned me as a longtime customer, so this promotion did what it was meant to do. Since I don’t mind using ETFs, this is fine.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience. That’s interesting as I *only* transferred over mutual funds from Vanguard to Merrill Edge when opening my account. They were even Admiral shares.

      I wonder what the issue was. Are your mutual fund and ETFs perhaps held in separate accounts still, as they still have a traditional mutual funds-only account and Vanguard brokerage account?

      • That’s a good guess, but no, it’s in a Brokerage Roth IRA account, I just double checked. I remember doing the account “conversion” or whatever they called it back in ~2014.

        They are admiral shares, but you said that worked for you. Anyway, I can’t explain it, but it happened! About 100 shares got orphaned at Vanguard, making my life just a tad more complicated.

  8. Question regarding this offer:
    Is this bonus credited to the newly opened IRA/Roth IRA account OR would it go into the Cash/Money account. I have a taxable brokerage account there as well.

    If they credit to Roth IRA account it will create tax complications with regards to over contribution.


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