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What is an ACATS transfer and how does it work?

Easily move your assets from one broker to another.

Maybe you want to switch brokers because another one has lower fees or provides access to investment types that your current broker doesn’t. Whatever the case, you can use the Automated Customer Account Transfer Service (ACATS) to transfer assets like stocks from one broker to another directly.

What is an ACATS transfer?

An ACATS transfer moves assets like stocks or cash from one brokerage account to another without requiring you to sell your assets and buy new ones with your new broker. This is called an “in-kind” transfer. The assets stay as-is and just transfer from one broker to another.

You can generally use an ACATS transfer to move stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds and government securities from one broker to another.(1)

However, not all securities are eligible for transfer using ACATS. For instance, your new broker may not offer certain types of securities like alternative investments. In this case, you’d need to liquidate those assets and transfer the proceeds to your new account to purchase available investments.

How does ACATS transfer work?

An ACATS transfer involves a few steps and can be completely entirely online.

  1. Open a new account. Before you start an ACATS transfer, you should first open an account with your new broker. While you can transfer from a brokerage account to an individual retirement account (IRA) or vice versa, using the same account type as your current one will avoid delays — brokerage account to brokerage account or IRA to IRA.
  2. Request the transfer of assets. Once you’ve opened your new account, initiate an ACATS transfer and fill out a Transfer Initiation Form (TIF) carefully.(2) Provide the requested information exactly as it appears on your old account, as errors can have the form rejected and cause delays. Have a copy of your old account’s most recent statement ready to attach to your TIF if necessary.(3)
  3. Wait for validation. After you submit your TIF, your new broker sends it to your old broker via the ACATS platform. The old firm has one business day to validate or reject the transfer request.(4) If the old broker validates the request, your old account is frozen so the broker can send transferable assets to the new account.

Transferring assets via ACATS lets you easily move assets from one broker to another. The two brokers work together within the ACATS system to complete the process. But it’s important to keep in touch with both.

How long does an ACATS transfer take?

An ACATS transfer generally takes three to five business days to complete. But the process largely depends on the account types, the brokers involved and the securities you want transferred.

When it comes to mutual funds, for example, the receiving broker must submit mutual fund re-registration forms.(5)

If the transfer involves non-eligible securities or institutions not in the ACATS system, the process must be done manually. This route involves similar procedures but could take longer, according to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Who is eligible for ACATS?

Only firms that are members of the National Securities Clearing Corporation (NSCC), which created this transferring platform, can use ACATS. Banks using ACATS must be members of The Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation (DTCC).(6)

How to transfer your brokerage account using ACATS

If you’re ready to switch brokers and move assets through an ACATS, follow these steps:

  • Open an account at a new broker. Make sure you gather the necessary information like your Social Security number, income documentation and government ID number.
  • Initiate an account transfer request. Follow your new broker’s account transfer steps and fill out the form carefully, as errors can delay the process.
  • Choose a partial or full account transfer. Use a partial account transfer to move select assets or a full transfer to move all eligible assets.
  • Allow time for the transfer to complete. An ACATS should take three to five business days to process and post.

ACATS transfer fees

Your outgoing broker will likely charge an ACATS transfer fee that ranges from $50 to $100. This information should be available on your old broker’s website and in its disclosure documents.

However, some receiving brokers may reimburse you for your old broker’s transfer fee. Depending on the broker, they may reimburse a portion or the full transfer fee amount. Check with your new broker ahead of scheduling a transfer for details on any potential reimbursement.

What is the difference between ACH and ACATS?

The Automatic Clearing House (ACH) is a money-transferring platform that typically involves the movement of money across banks, individuals and businesses.

Common ACH transactions include paycheck direct deposits from companies and government benefits programs, as well as bill payments between individuals and businesses.(7)

On the other hand, ACATS focuses on the transfer of assets like stocks and ETFs from one account to another.

Bottom line

An ACATS transfer lets you easily move assets from one broker to another without needing to sell your investments and transfer the proceeds. So, if you’re ready to switch brokers, check out the best brokerage account bonuses.

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