If you have just opened a trading account with a new discount broker or you have accounts in different places and want to consolidate, you’ll need to transfer your holdings between brokers. In this post, I have put together a detailed checklist on what you have to do to make this process as painless as possible.

Pre-Transfer Steps

  • Transferring accounts between institutions costs money. The transferring institution will charge you a transfer out fee of about $150. If you have his-and-hers RRSPs, his-and-hers TFSAs and a joint investment account, you are looking at a total of $750 in fees. Therefore, the very first thing you should do is call the receiving institution and ask them to cover the cost of transfer. Note down the details of the call: the date and time, who you spoke with and the accounts for which the refund will apply.
  • Scrub your holdings in the transferring brokerage. You should be able to transfer out stocks, exchange-traded funds, most mutual funds, bonds and most GICs. But, the receiving institution may not accept in-house funds available only at the transferring institution (example: TD e-Series Mutual Funds) or may charge you a hefty fee (example: High-Interest Savings Accounts and money market funds from other brokers). Sell these holdings.
  • Make sure you have enough cash available in each account you are going to transfer to cover your transfer out fees.
  • Download records such as monthly statements, trade confirmation slips and tax documents pertaining to your accounts from the transferring broker. This is especially critical if you have signed up for online delivery of documents.
  • If you are relying on your broker to track your adjusted cost base in your taxable cash or margin accounts, download this information as well. In my experience, the book value information may or may not get transferred along with the account.

The Paperwork

  • Complete your transfer paperwork and submit it by fax or mail or in person at the nearest branch of the receiving broker. You’ll need information such as the name and address of the transferring institution (available from your latest monthly account statement), the account number, type of account and whether you want to do a partial or full transfer and whether you want to transfer in-kind or in-cash or a mix of both. Check out this post on MoneySmartsBlog for a good explanation of these terms. I recommend an “in-kind” transfer.
  • Account transfers between discount brokers, in my experience, take between 5 to 10 business days.

Post-Transfer Steps

  • After the transfer-in to your new broker has been completed, you’ll see the securities appear in the account at your receiving broker. Make sure the list of securities and the number of shares are now correct in your new account.
  • If you are transferring from a broker that does not segregate US dollar securities in registered accounts (such as TD Direct Investing) to one that does (such as RBC Direct Investing or BMO InvestorLine), call and journal your US dollar holdings to the USD side of the registered account.
  • Re-enrol in dividend reinvestment plans (DRiPs) you participated in your old broker.
  • Follow up and get the transfer fees refunded for each transferred account at your receiving broker.
  • If dividends and DRiP shares were deposited in your old account at the transferring broker after you initiated the transfer, don’t worry, the cash and/or securities will follow into the receiving account at a later date without any action on your part.

This article has 21 comments

  1. That’s a great list. I read through twice but didn’t think of anything you missed. My wife and I have 9 accounts. The thought of switching isn’t very appealing, but I’ll consult your list if I do make a move.

  2. Thanks Michael. I put together this list after my recent transfer experience. It was five accounts and it was a ton of work. It’s definitely a hassle moving to another broker.

  3. The list is a good one but be very careful that everything follows you, I transferred to td, took 6-9 months and so many calls and wasted hours to get things right. Everything from transfers into the wrong accounts to items left behind. So, again be very very careful and make sure it is worth it to you. I went from full service to self directed (two different brokerages) and it was a complete nightmare.

  4. I am mulling transferring out of TDDI to BMOInvestorline mainly due to lack of US Dollar RRSP at TD, and also to take advantage of their ongoing promotion.

    What’s your rationale in going for a brokerage linked to a big financial institution instead of say Questrade which has a lot going for it, like commission-free purchases of ETFs, iPads for transferring in etc?

    • I have clients who I have referred to QTrade for trading they want to do on their own. They are usually rated at or near the top in surveys. You should look to see if they have what you need.

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  6. Transferring GICs can be a bit tricky. While BMO IL and RBC DI have almost the same offerings, they both differ slightly from CIBC IE. I’d phone the brokerage you are moving to and check whether they can accept them before initiating the transfer: you don’t want to get stuck with a $5000 4-years-left-till-maturity GIC in one brokerage while the rest of your assets have shifted to another brokerage.

    Also, while transferring GICs from brokerage to brokerage is usually not bad, transferring GICs from a BANK to a brokerage may not be possible. We have GICs with CIBC that can NOT be transferred to CIBC Investor’s Edge! Check first.

  7. @anders: I’ve done a handful of transfers between discount brokers and I’ve never encountered a serious issue. I don’t have experience with transferring from a full-service broker but in general, I agree that there is a risk that things may not go as planned.

    @Be’en: Years back I had negative experience with Questrade, so I’m in the once burnt, twice shy camp. Also, I think that it is best to keep your life savings in a well-capitalized entity even if segregation offers a lot of protection even at smaller players.

    @Bet: Thanks for your insight into transferring GICs. Good point to check assets are transferable first before proceeding.

  8. Great list, covers everything I recently experienced transferring from TDDI to BMO IL.
    @Be’en – read the fine print about BMO’s promo. They say they don’t count TFSA in the $100,00 qualifying account “club”. Must be RSP of at least $100,00 to get the $250, then open another cash account of $5000.

    I didn’t fit this criteria, but I was promised by a rep in person that all (3) transfer fees of $153 would be covered, AND in 6 months I would get my $300, since I transferred over $100 000 in RSP, TFSA, and cash. It’s only been a few weeks, so time will tell.

  9. A most helpful post, as are the comments. Thank you.

    Typically, how long goes it take to complete the transfer process?

    During the transfer process, do customers have access to the assets being transferred? If not, what can clients do if they need urgent access?

  10. I see upon rereading CC’s post that it answers my first question. My apologies.

  11. To add a few points,
    1. For TFSA’s timing can be everything. Because of how contribution limits work if you are in the last couple months of the year you can save your transfer out fees by withdrawing the funds yourself. (You can recontribute up to maximum limit currently upto 31k come jan 1st)

    2. The sending institution has 10 business days from when they receive the request to process it. Then funds are either sent via an electronic system, or depending on what they are a cheque is mailed. So be prepared for up to 20days from the date you sign transfer papers.

    3. @atticus while the transfer is in process no you dont have access to the funds

  12. Seems there is a theme of leaving TD direct.I’m thinking about switching from TD to RBC. I’ve transfered my grand parents account from Dundee wealth and have been more than happy with the whole process of transferring and account maintanence. I’ve set up my wife’s account there as well to take advantage of the US$ rrsp. I’m jealous of the organization RBC provides and the clarity their brokers provide. The only thing holding me back is that I have a fair bit in e-series funds and I don’t want to realize the gains which would result from selling. Maybe I should bite the bullet, until then I will keep hope that TD will step up its game.

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  14. I am excited :) Questrade just charged me the $25 partial transfer-out fee so that should mean that I’m getting my transferred assets soon!

  15. @ Ram

    My US listed ETF dividends in BMO IL were paid in $CAD. Do you know if you have to call them to get them into the US $ side? Very annoting, it should be automatic.
    Also, I’m still waiting for the $153 transfer fee rebate for my TFSA, it comes from the BMO branch, not IL. I received my $153 Cash account transfer fee from the branch in March, and IL paid my transfer fee for the RSP in Feb. (Switched brokerages from TDDI in Jan.)

    • Ram Balakrishnan

      @madMike: BMOIL won’t automatically segregate US securities into the USD side, unfortunately. It’s a bummer because Vanguard US ETFs just paid out dividends. See the second point in post-transfer steps. Maybe I should highlight it because it is an important step.

      Our TFSAs are with BMO IL. I got the transfer fee refunds for all our accounts already. Not sure why it is different for you.

    • ” My US listed ETF dividends in BMO IL were paid in $CAD. Do you know if you have to call them to get them into the US $ side? Very annoting, it should be automatic”

      this complaint surfaces from time to time & i have never understood why.

      it seems obvious to me that a discount broker cannot possibly take upon itself – absent any instructions from a client – the right to toss accounts back & forth between CAD & USD sides of an account.

      neither should a full-service broker take such a right upon itself.

      each account & each investor is different, so it is the investor-owner who must decide where each individual security should be held & it is the investor-owner who must give the instruction.

      theoretically speaking, there are certain cases where it might be beneficial for an owner of a USD-paying dividend to nevertheless hold the underlying security in a CAD account.

      so it’s best that owner-investors make these currency decisions, for themselves, at all ttimes. Hence the need to phone in to BMO.

      phoning to confirm currency placement of each security usually occurs only once, at startup of an account that is being transferred in.

      i actually believe it’s a fine thing that BMO is able to fine-tune their platform so meticiulously.

  16. Understood, Humble, that’s obviously the way it is – I have to call. But if my securities are US listed, purchased in $US, isn’t the brokerage doing an automaic currency conversion from CAD to US$, one that was never asked for? That is the original rationale for using such a brokerage (i.e. BMO IL) that has US$ registered accounts.

    I thought I made it clear to the brokerage when I initially transferred, but I guess I was wrong. Now I have to sit and wait on the phone for an agent.
    What seems intuitive to me is the opposite for the brokerage.

    It’s just reminiscent of TDDI’s automatic currency conversion – anything to nickel and dime us.

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