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Automated Customer Account Transfer Service (ACATS)


The Automated Customer Account Transfer Service (ACATS) is a system that facilitates the transfer of securities from one trading account to another at a different brokerage firm or bank. The system is managed by the National Securities Clearing Corporation (NSCC), a subsidiary of the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC). This service allows transactions to be completed electronically, reducing the time and cost traditionally associated with manual transfers.


The phonetic pronunciation of the abbreviation ACATS (Automated Customer Account Transfer Service) is: ˈā-kats.

Key Takeaways

  1. Facilitates Transfers: ACATS is a system that streamlines and automates the process of transferring securities from one trading account to another. The system is designed to speed up and simplify the process while reducing the potential for errors.
  2. Wide Acceptance: ACATS is broadly accepted among brokerage firms as the standard method for transferring accounts. This means that, in most cases, investors can use the ACATS system to transfer their holdings between brokerages, enabling more choice and flexibility in their investment strategy.
  3. Includes Various Securities: ACATS can handle transfers of many types of securities, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, options, and other types of investment products. This makes it useful for investors with diverse portfolios.


The Automated Customer Account Transfer Service (ACATS) plays a pivotal role in the business/finance industry as it allows for the electronic transfer of a customer’s brokerage account from one institution to another. This system enhances customer experience by ensuring a smooth, systematic, and efficient transfer process. By minimizing the need for physical documentation and manual processing, ACATS reduces risks associated with human errors and lost paperwork. It also promotes competition among brokerages, as it makes it easy for customers to switch firms when they find a better service, pricing, or investment option elsewhere. Thus, ACATS adds significant value to both the customer and brokerage firms, providing a streamlined, reliable, and convenient transfer mechanism.


The Automated Customer Account Transfer Service (ACATS) is a standardized system primarily used in the financial industry for the efficient and effective facilitation of the transfer of assets in a customer’s account between different brokerage firms. This can include various types of assets such as cash, stocks, bonds, or other types of investments. The main purpose of ACATS is to expedite and streamline the otherwise manual and time-consuming process of relocating customer accounts, thereby ensuring a seamless switch for the customer from their current firm to a new one with minimal disturbance or downtime.

ACATS plays a critical role in giving customers the ability to transition their investment holdings smoothly and securely. When a customer decides to change their brokerage firm, the outgoing firm and the incoming firm coordinate through the ACATS system to transfer the account’s assets. This system provides unparalleled benefits for customers, including the ease of changing brokers, the preservation of their current investment portfolio, and saving time. It also offers a layer of protection for the customer’s assets during the process, without requiring them to liquidate their holdings. It is an essential service in maintaining the flexibility and integrity of the financial market.


Example 1: Charles Schwab – Charles Schwab, a banking and brokerage firm, employs Automated Customer Account Transfer Service (ACATS) to facilitate the transfer of its clients’ assets (like stocks, bonds, and cash) from other investment firms. When a client decides to switch from another firm like E*Trade or Merrill Lynch to Charles Schwab, the client would start the process by making a request to Charles Schwab, who would then use ACATS to ensure a smooth transfer of assets.

Example 2: Fidelity Investments – Fidelity, a multinational financial services corporation, uses ACATS to assist clients who wish to move their accounts from other financial institutions, such as Vanguard or Edward Jones. This process is accomplished electronically through the ACATS system, which provides a fast and secure method of transferring the account’s assets (like mutual funds, individual securities, or whole account portfolios) according to the customer’s instructions.

Example 3: TD Ameritrade – TD Ameritrade, a broker that offers an electronic trading platform for financial assets, also relies on the ACATS for account transfers from other investment firms. If an account holder at a firm like Robinhood or E*Trade decides to switch to TD Ameritrade, the ACATS process can facilitate the transfer of the contents of the entire portfolio (which may include ETFs, stocks, or bonds) in a direct and efficient manner. Customers simply authorize the transfer, and the ACATS system will handle the rest to ensure that the transition is able to be executed with little to no disruption.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the Automated Customer Account Transfer Service (ACATS)?

The Automated Customer Account Transfer Service (ACATS) is a system that facilitates the transfer of securities from one trading account to another at a different brokerage firm or bank.

How does ACATS work?

ACATS works by automating and standardizing the procedure of transferring assets held in a client’s account between custodian firms. This makes it easier and faster for clients to move their assets between firms.

How long does an ACATS transfer take?

The ACATS transfer usually takes between five to eight business days to complete. However, the timing can differ based on the type of securities being transferred and specifics of the sending/receiving firms.

Is there a fee for using ACATS?

Fees for using ACATS are typically determined by the brokerage firm, some offer free transfers while others may charge. It’s important to clarify this with your brokerage firm before initiating the process.

What types of assets can be transferred using ACATS?

A wide range of different types of assets can be transferred using ACATS. This includes stocks, bonds, options, money market funds, and certain types of mutual funds.

What are the limitations of ACATS?

Notably, certain types of assets cannot be transferred using ACATS. These typically include certain mutual funds and assets from small or obscure brokerage firms not supporting ACATS.

What happens with my open trades during an ACATS transfer?

Open trades must usually be closed or settled before an ACATS transfer can take place. It’s best to confirm specifics with your respective brokerage firms.

Are ACATS transfers secure?

Yes, ACATS transfers are completed through a standardized process managed by the National Securities Clearing Corporation (NSCC), which provides a secure platform for this type of transaction.

Related Finance Terms

  • Transfer Agent: An entity that helps in transferring securities from one owner to another through the ACATS.
  • Settlement: The process in which the ownership of a security is transferred from the seller to the buyer. It is facilitated by ACATS in a seamless and efficient way.
  • Clearing House: A financial institution that provides clearing and settlement services for financial transactions, often interfacing with the ACATS for transfers.
  • Broker-Dealer: A person or firm engaged in buying and selling securities on behalf of its clients through the ACATS system.
  • NNI (National Securities Clearing Corporation Number): This is crucial for ACATS as it’s used to identify the firm that keeps the client’s account.

Sources for More Information

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