Automated Customer Account Transfer Service (ACATS)


Automated Customer Account Transfer Service (ACATS) streamlines the process of transferring securities between brokerage firms. Developed by the National Securities Clearing Corporation (NSCC), ACATS offers numerous benefits, including reduced transfer times and minimized human errors. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into how ACATS works, eligible securities, the difference between ACATS and non-ACATS transfers, and the important concept of ACAT Out Fees.

Understanding automated Customer Account Transfer Service (ACATS)

The Automated Customer Account Transfer Service (ACATS) is a sophisticated system designed to simplify the transfer of securities between different brokerage firms or banks. Developed by the National Securities Clearing Corporation (NSCC), ACATS replaces outdated manual methods with a fully automated and standardized process, resulting in cost savings and a significant reduction in transfer times. This article explores the key aspects of ACATS, its benefits, and how it works.

How ACATS works

The ACATS process begins when a client at a new receiving firm signs the necessary transfer documents. Once received by the receiving firm, these documents are used to initiate a request, including the client’s account number, to the delivering firm. Successful matching of client information between the two firms triggers the ACATS process, which typically takes three to six business days to complete.

This streamlined process ensures that the exact holdings from the delivering firm are transferred to the receiving firm. For example, if a client holds 100 shares of Stock XYZ at the delivering firm, the receiving firm will receive the same quantity at the same purchase price. This eliminates the need for clients to liquidate their positions and repurchase them with the new firm, offering convenience and efficiency.

One notable advantage of ACATS is that clients do not need to inform their previous brokerage firm or advisor in advance. If they decide to switch to a new firm, they can initiate the transfer process without prior notice.

Securities eligible for ACATS

Clients can transfer a wide range of securities through the ACATS system, including publicly traded stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), cash, bonds, and most mutual funds. ACATS also supports the transfer of certificates of deposit (CDs) from banking institutions that are members of the NSCC. Moreover, ACATS is compatible with various types of accounts, such as taxable accounts, individual retirement accounts (IRAs), trusts, and brokerage 401(k)s.

Transfers involving qualified retirement accounts, like IRAs, may require additional time due to validation of the account’s tax status to prevent taxable events.

Securities ineligible for ACATS

While ACATS covers a broad spectrum of securities, certain types are ineligible for transfer. Annuities, held with insurance companies, cannot go through the ACATS system. To transfer the agent of record on an annuity, clients must complete the necessary form and initiate a 1035 exchange.

Other ineligible securities depend on the policies of the receiving brokerage firm or bank. Proprietary investments, non-transferrable mutual funds, and some alternative investments may require liquidation and may not be repurchased through the new broker. Additionally, some firms may not support the transfer of unlisted shares or over-the-counter (OTC) financial products.

The difference between ACATS and non-ACATS transfers

The primary distinction between an ACATS transfer and a manual (non-ACATS) transfer lies in automation and efficiency. ACATS significantly reduces transfer time, completing within 3-6 business days, compared to potentially over a month for non-ACATS transfers. Moreover, the automated system minimizes the risk of human errors, typos, and other mistakes.

Understanding ACAT out fees

Some brokerage firms charge existing customers an ACAT Out Fee when transferring assets out of their account to a new brokerage. These fees can range from modest amounts to as high as $100 or more per transfer. Brokerage firms impose ACAT Out Fees as a deterrent to account closures and asset migration. However, it’s important to note that not all brokerages levy these fees, so clients should check with their respective firms before initiating a transfer.

Frequently asked questions about ACAT out fees

What is an ACAT out fee?

An ACAT Out Fee, short for Automated Customer Account Transfer Out Fee, is a charge imposed by some brokerage firms when a customer transfers assets out of their account to another brokerage or financial institution. This fee is designed to discourage customers from closing their accounts and moving their investments elsewhere. It can vary in amount, with some brokerages charging a flat fee, while others calculate it based on the type and quantity of assets being transferred.

Are ACAT out fees standard across all brokerages?

No, ACAT Out Fees are not standardized, and they can vary significantly from one brokerage to another. Each brokerage sets its own fee structure, which may include different fee amounts for various types of accounts or asset transfers. Some brokerages may even choose not to impose ACAT Out Fees at all, so it’s essential to check with your specific brokerage to understand their fee policy.

How much do ACAT out fees typically cost?

The cost of ACAT Out Fees can vary widely depending on the brokerage and the nature of the transfer. In some cases, it may be a nominal fee of $50 or less, while in others, it could be more substantial, exceeding $100 or even higher for complex transfers. The exact fee structure should be outlined in your brokerage’s account agreement or fee schedule.

Are there any exemptions or waivers for ACAT out fees?

Some brokerages may offer exemptions or waivers for ACAT Out Fees under specific circumstances. For instance, they may waive the fee for clients with a certain account balance or for transfers involving specific types of accounts, such as retirement accounts. Additionally, promotions or special offers might temporarily waive ACAT Out Fees. It’s advisable to check with your brokerage to determine if you qualify for any fee waivers.

When is the ACAT out fee charged?

The timing of ACAT Out Fee charges can vary among brokerages. In some cases, the fee is deducted directly from the customer’s account balance at the time of the transfer. Other brokerages may bill the fee separately or deduct it from the proceeds of the transferred assets. It’s essential to review your brokerage’s policy to understand when and how the ACAT Out Fee will be assessed.

Can I negotiate or contest an ACAT out fee?

While some brokerages may have a set fee structure, others may be open to negotiation, especially if you have a substantial account balance or are considering transferring a significant amount of assets. It’s worth discussing the fee with your brokerage to see if they are willing to adjust it. In cases where you believe the fee has been unfairly assessed, you can also consider contesting it with the brokerage’s customer service or compliance department.

Are ACAT out fees tax-deductible?

ACAT Out Fees are typically not tax-deductible as investment expenses on your federal income tax return. However, tax laws can change, and it’s advisable to consult with a tax professional or accountant for the most up-to-date information on tax deductions related to investment fees.

Do all brokerages charge ACAT out fees?

No, not all brokerages charge ACAT Out Fees. The presence and structure of these fees vary from one brokerage to another. Some brokerages may choose not to impose such fees to attract and retain customers. If you are concerned about ACAT Out Fees, you can explore brokerage options that do not charge or have more favorable fee structures for transfers.

Can ACAT out fees affect my overall investment returns?

ACAT Out Fees can impact your investment returns, especially if they are substantial relative to your account balance or the assets being transferred. It’s essential to consider these fees when evaluating the costs and benefits of transferring assets to a new brokerage. Over time, frequent transfers with high ACAT Out Fees can erode your overall returns.

Where can I find information about ACAT out fees for my specific brokerage?

Information about ACAT Out Fees for your specific brokerage can usually be found in your account agreement, fee schedule, or on the brokerage’s official website. If you have questions or need clarification, you can reach out to your brokerage’s customer service or support team for assistance.

Key takeaways

  • ACATS streamlines the transfer of securities between brokerage firms, reducing time and minimizing errors.
  • Eligible securities for ACATS transfers include stocks, ETFs, cash, bonds, and most mutual funds.
  • Some securities, like annuities, may not be eligible for ACATS transfers.
  • ACATS transfers typically take three to six business days to complete.
  • ACAT Out Fees may be charged by some brokerages for transferring assets out of an account.
View article sources
  1. Robinhood Raises ACAT Fee By 33% – Forbes
  2. ACAT fees – Australian Capital Territory
  3. Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) – HealthyWA