How to Transfer Stock Certificates

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Although stock certificates can still be transferred physically, most financial transactions are now conducted electronically, including stock transfer. As transfers occur frequently, an automated system now processes the vast majority of transactions. However, stock certificates can still be processed manually for investors who feel more comfortable with a physical certificate in their hands.

  • Contact your financial representative. In order to transfer a stock certificate, you must get the help of the firm holding your shares. If you intend to transfer your stock to another brokerage account, the easiest way is usually to use the Automated Customer Account Transfer Process, or ACATS. Through ACATS, transfers are usually completed in 6 to 10 business days. The main advantage of ACATS is convenience. Instead of having to call the company's transfer agent, or obtain physical stock certificates, all you have to do is provide your firm with written instructions outlining your intentions. Generally speaking, this information will include the destination account number, name of firm, name of account holder, and exact number of shares you wish to transfer. Some firms request a more formal Transfer Information Form (TIF), which requests the same information. As long as you are the valid owner of the stock, the process should begin immediately.

  • Sign the certificates and transfer them yourself. If you hold your own stock certificates, or for any reason do not want to go through the ACATS process, you can make the transfer yourself. Follow the instructions on the back of your stock certificate to make the transfer legal. Generally speaking, you will enter the name of the party you wish to make the transfer to, and you will sign the certificate at the bottom. You may also have to enter the name of the authorized transfer agent of the company in order to effect the change.

  • Monitor the transfer. Make sure that the proper amount of the correct security ends up in the right account. Although the stock transfer process is pretty straightforward, even with explicit instructions, mistakes do occur. Sometimes the name on the receiving account is not an exact match with those in the instructions and the transfer is denied, while other times certificates are simply lost. Although lost certificates are unlikely with the ACATS system, manual transfers can be at risk. A lost or misplaced certificate is generally just an administrative headache rather than a true cause for alarm, but it could delay your transfer and should be monitored.

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