How to Transfer a Brokerage Account

Contributor, Benzinga

In an ideal world, everyone would choose the perfect investing or retirement account for themselves on their first attempt – and wouldn’t need to look up a brokerage account transfers. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the reality of the situation, especially if you’re fed up with your brokerage’s high fees, unresponsive customer service, or broken platform.

Luckily, online brokerage accounts have made it easier than ever before to transfer your assets to a new firm. Read on to learn the steps you’ll need to take to transfer an account from broker to broker. 

Step 1: Understand the Fees

Most brokers will charge you a few fees when you jump ship—the most common of which are a transfer fee to complete your transaction and a closure fee to finalize the removal of your account from their platform.

These fees vary significantly depending on the broker, but you can typically expect to be billed anywhere from $25 to $100 when transferring your assets. Some fees from some of the biggest brokers are listed in the table below:

The idea of blowing $100 to close your account got you down? Don’t fret quite yet—many brokers also offer reimbursement offers for new customers. Because they want your business, it’s common to have your new broker offer to cover the transfer and closing costs from your old firm. Remember to ask if your new broker is offering any specials—nine times out of 10, you can avoid paying any fees at all.

Step 2: Complete a Transfer Initiation Form (TIF)

The next step in the process of closing your account is to complete a transfer initiation form, generally just referred to as a TIF. Your TIF will come from your new firm (called the “receiving firm”) and your new broker can guide you in the process.

The specific information required by your TIF will depend upon the receiving firm’s standards, but generally includes:

  • Your name
  • Address
  • Social Security Number, and
  • Details of all the assets you need to transfer

Double-check all of your information, as most brokerage firms will immediately reject any transfer request that has incorrect personal or account information. Your new brokerage firm will then use your TIF to communicate with your old firm and begin the transfer.  

Most brokerage firms have digitalized the TIF process. Check out the video below for an example:

Step 3: Validate your Request if Necessary

Some brokers will require you to validate your transfer before they will begin the process of moving your assets. This is typically done to ensure that the correct assets are transferred (in the event of a partial transfer) and to prevent fraud.

Your current brokerage may contact you to confirm that you do, in fact, want to transfer your assets. Be sure to validate your transfer in a timely manner to ensure that your assets are moved as quickly as possible if you are delivering firm requests it.

Step 4: Wait Patiently

After you’ve validated your request, your delivering firm and your receiving firm will work together to move your assets. All you have to do at this point is play the waiting game.

Although the asset transfer process is largely done online, you can still expect your assets to take about a week to appear in your new account. Keep in mind that transfers from entities that aren’t brokers (like credit unions or banks) can take more time to transfer and may be subject to additional fees. Your receiving firm can keep you updated on where your assets are—don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Step 5: Ensure Your Assets Have Made it to Your New Account

After your transfer is complete, make sure that all of your assets have made it to your new account. Keep a copy of your TIF and cross-check it with your new account.

If everything has made it, your process is complete! If not, contact your new broker immediately—there may be a delay in your transfer or there may have been an error on your TIF.

Brokerage Account Comparison

Not sure where you want to transfer your account to? Browse some options that we recommend.

get started securely through Interactive Broker’s website
get started securely through Webull’s website
Best For
Intermediate Traders and Investors
1 Minute Review

Webull, founded in 2017, is a mobile app-based brokerage that features commission-free stock and exchange-traded fund (ETF) trading. It’s regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Webull offers active traders technical indicators, economic calendars, ratings from research agencies, margin trading and short-selling. Webull’s trading platform is designed for intermediate and experienced traders, although beginning traders can also benefit.

Webull is widely considered one of the best Robinhood alternatives.

Best For
  • Active traders
  • Intermediate traders
  • Advanced traders
  • No account maintenance fees or software platform fees
  • No charges to open and maintain an account
  • Intuitive trading platform with technical and fundamental analysis tools
  • Does not support trading in mutual funds, bonds or OTC stocks
get started securely through Robinhood’s website
Best For
1 Minute Review

Robinhood is a broker designed for traders who want a simple and easy-to-use platform. It takes out all the bells and whistles that can be confusing to the modern day trader, serving as the perfect place for beginners to learn the markets. The interface is intuitive and easy to master, streamlined to ensure you don’t get distracted as you build a portfolio. Though advanced traders might like more thorough analysis tools, Robinhood gives you everything you need to start trading and learn the ropes.

Best For
  • Beginner traders
  • Mobile traders
  • Streamlined, easy-to-understand interface
  • Mobile app with full capabilities
  • Can buy and sell cryptocurrency
  • Fewer analysis tools than most
  • Only taxable, non-retirement accounts are available
get started securely through TD Ameritrade’s website
Best For
Options Trading
1 Minute Review

This publicly listed discount broker, which is in existence for over four decades, is service-intensive, offering intuitive and powerful investment tools. Especially, with equity investing, a flat fee is charged, with the firm claiming that it charges no trade minimum, no data fees, and no platform fees. Though it is pricier than many other discount brokers, what tilts the scales in its favor is its well-rounded service offerings and the quality and value it offers its clients.

Best For
  • Novice investors
  • Retirement savers
  • Day traders
  • World-class trading platforms
  • Detailed research reports and Education Center
  • Assets ranging from stocks and ETFs to derivatives like futures and options
  • Thinkorswim can be overwhelming to inexperienced traders
  • Derivatives trading more costly than some competitors
  • Expensive margin rates
get started securely through Cobra Trading’s website
Best For
Short Selling over $25K
1 Minute Review

Cobra Trading is a direct access broker focused on access to short opportunities and order execution. Cobra has multiple short locate sources, giving traders access to the best short opportunities in the market. Cobra Trading also specializes in offering comprehensive, responsive customer service throughout the trading day. We recommend Cobra Trading to high-volume traders and short sellers.

Best For
  • Short Sellers
  • Day Traders and Scalpers
  • Traders who are tired of using a “Big Broker”
  • Affordable commissions
  • The DAS Platform
  • Excellent customer service
  • No trading under 25K
  • Not a self-clearing firm
get started securely through Moomoo’s website
Best For
Active Traders
1 Minute Review

Moomoo is a commission-free mobile trading app available on Apple, Google and Windows devices. A subsidiary of Futu Holdings Ltd., it’s backed by venture capital affiliates of Matrix, Sequoia, and Tencent (NASDAQ: FUTU). Securities offered by Futu Inc., regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Moomoo is another great alternative for Robinhood. This is an outstanding trading platform if you want to dive deep into smart trading. It offers impressive trading tools and opportunities for both new and advanced traders, including advanced charting, pre and post-market trading, international trading, research and analysis tools, and most popular of all, free Level 2 quotes.

Get started right away by downloading Moomoo to your phone, tablet or another mobile device.

Best For
  • Cost-conscious traders
  • Active and Advanced traders
  • Over 8,000 different stocks that can be sold short
  • Access trading and quotes in pre-market (4 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. ET) and post-market hours (4 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET)
  • No minimum deposit to open an account.
  • No chat support
get started securely through Charles Schwab’s website
Best For
Fund Investing
1 Minute Review

Charles Schwab is a solid choice for traders of all skill levels. It offers full access to the U.S. equity and options markets as well as 30 international markets. Traders can create a diverse portfolio with $0 commissions and no account minimums. Schwab’s margin trading is expensive but Schwab makes up for it with affordable futures and options trades, along with a comprehensive mobile offering.

Best For
  • 3 trading platforms perfectly in sync makes matching your platform to your skill level a snap
  • Excellent futures trading education for new traders
  • $0 account minimum means anyone can start trading
  • Wide range of available assets to trade, including futures and 30 global markets
  • SmartStreet Edge platform is powerful enough for advanced traders, yet easy enough for new traders to utilize
  • Unique educational resources (like infographics and podcasts) make learning fun
  • Margin rates are more expensive than competitors
  • More limitations on available margin than competitors
  • Expensive mutual funds

Other Things you Should Know

Keep these items in mind throught the transfer process.

1. You will lose access to your assets while the transfer is taking place

While your transfer is taking place, you will most likely lose control of your assets. Many brokers also “freeze” your assets during a transfer, meaning that you cannot buy, sell, or trade any of your assets until the transfer is complete.

This typically isn’t an issue, as transfers don’t usually take much longer than a week, but it’s something to remain aware of.

2. Your new broker can probably handle the transfer for you

If you are transferring an entire account between two brokers, your new broker may be able to streamline the process for you by asking you to sign an authorization form granting him or her temporary control over your assets.

Though this option is usually limited to the transfer of cash, bonds, and stocks of domestic corporations, it can greatly expedite the transfer process—and take some of the stress off your shoulders. Ask your receiving broker if this is a possibility for your asset mix.

3. Transferring a joint account requires extra steps

Keep in mind that the steps listed above only apply to assets that you solely own. Joint accounts will need verification from both parties in order to be transferred and may take additional time to complete.

Final Thoughts on Tranferring Accounts

Transferring your assets can be a pain—sometimes, it can feel like it’s easier to just stick with your current broker rather than go through the hassle of switching to a new account. However, the time you spend will hopefully pay off in the long run.

A broker that works with your lifestyle needs will give you more control over your financial well-being. This is why it’s important to carefully read up on all of your brokerage options before you make a commitment—a little planning now can save you a ton of headaches in the future.