Image source: Getty Images.

The world of online investing isn't always easy to navigate, and that's why The Motley Fool has put together a few how-to articles to get your started. This particular guide will walk you through all of the steps to open up an individual Merrill Edge brokerage account. If you're interested in competing offers from other brokers, then head on over to our broker comparison page.

Now let's get started!

What you'll need

  • Your Social Security number and date of birth
  • Your mailing address and email address
  • Your employment information (company name, address, start date)
  • General financial information (such as annual income and household net worth)

Merrill Edge charges $6.95 per trade for its individual brokerage account, regardless of your account balance or how often you trade, and there are no minimum balance requirements. You can find out more about the company's pricing and fees here

You'll notice that there's a chat option on the right-hand side of every page, as well as a 24/7 phone support number and chat link at the top of the page. Just click on the link or call the number if you have any trouble filling out the online application.

Image source: Author screenshot from Merrill Edge site.

Step 1: Select the account type 

To get started on the application, go to this page and click the "open now" button in the "Online Brokerage Account" section. This will bring up a pop-up window with a list of three types of accounts: Individual Cash Management Account, Joint Cash Management Account, and Custodial Cash Management Account. For this how-to, select the Individual Cash Management option. 

If you're already a Merrill Lynch or Bank of America customer, you can use your current login to auto-populate some of the fields in the Merrill Edge application. For this how-to, we'll go through all of the steps as if you're not a current customer. 

So just select "I'm a new client" and then click the "begin application" button. 

Step 2: Enter your personal information

The personal information section asks whether your primary residence is in the U.S., whether you're a U.S. citizen, and your name, address, Social Security number, and other basic personal information (like date of birth, number of dependents, etc.). You'll also enter other contact information here.

Just fill in this information and then click the "continue" button to move on to the next step.

Image source: Author screenshot from Merrill Edge site.

Step 3: Employment and financial information

In this section Merrill Edge will ask you if you or your spouse, or another member of your household, is employed by Merrill Lynch, Bank of America and its affiliates, a broker dealer, a self-regulatory organization, or another financial institution listed.

Then you'll be asked if you, an immediate family member, or closely related associate ever served in any political position in a national, state, or provincial government. You also need to disclose whether you're a director or 10% shareholder of a public company, or someone who has the ability to control corporate action or policy at a public company. You'll likely answer no to all of these questions.

Image source: Author screenshot of Merrill Edge site. 

You'll also be asked for your employment status, and you'll have to give details about your employer (if applicable). You'll answer questions about your annual income, primary source of income, household net worth, primary source of net worth, and investable assets. If you're unsure what any of these categories mean, just click on the blue question mark next to the question box. Lastly, you'll be asked one simple question about your trading experience level. 

Once you've answer all of these, just click the "continue" button.

Image source: Author screenshot of Merrill Edge site. 

Step 4: Enter account details

In the account details section you'll have the option to apply for margin trading. This feature is typically reserved for more experienced traders -- and is a riskier way to invest -- so we'll leave this box unchecked for now. You can read more about buying on margin here

You can also sign up for a deferred debit card through the company in this section, or add checkwriting to your account. For this how-to we won't sign up for either.

Once you click the continue button at the bottom of the page, you'll be taken to another section where you'll create your login ID and password for the account. Do that and then click "continue."

Image source: Author screenshot of Merrill Edge site. 

Step 5: Review and submit

This section will give you the opportunity to review all of the information you've entered into the application. Once you've checked it all over, click the "Continue to agreements" button. This will take you to a page where you'll review the terms and conditions (read it all!). There will be several pages of agreements for you to review in this section, including tax information and terms and conditions.

Once you've read through them all, you'll be asked a few personal questions to verify your identity. Just answer those and then click the "submit application" button. 

Image source: Author screenshot of Merrill Edge site.

Once you submit the application, you'll be taken to a page that shows your account number and a message saying that your account has been approved. Congratulations -- you've set up your Merrill Edge account! On this page, you can click on the "access your account" link to start poking around in the account and to fund it.

Keep in mind that you can always check out special broker offers here if you're looking for a different broker. And if you want tips on how to get started investing, check out these articles: