How Long Will It Take To Transfer My RRSP or TFSA? Are There Rules?

I was reading through some posts on the Canadian Money Forum one of which was about how to transfer a RRSP, in cash, from one financial institution to another. One of the replies said that financial institutions can work very slowly and may even phone you to try to talk you out of the move. That got me thinking about all of the RRSP and TFSA transfers I’ve done in the past 2 years and how long they took–and whether there are any rules banks have to follow.

What Is the Process for Transferring a RRSP or TFSA to Another Bank, Brokerage or Institution?

The actual process is very similar no matter which two financial institutions you are talking about. In almost all cases, you open the account that will receive the money or assets, then you fill in a T2033 form provided by that receiving institution which either they or you mail to the bank, brokerage, credit union, or other institution that currently has your holdings.

The T2033 is pretty straightforward. On it you list

  • the name and address of the place that will be receiving your assets
  • the name and address of the place that will be sending your assets
  • the account numbers, client numbers, transit numbers or other identifying numbers for the RRSP or TFSA at both institutions
  • your name, address, phone, and sometimes SIN
  • how to move non-cash assets.
    For example:
    transfer stocks and mutual funds as is, or sell them and then move the cash;
    convert any cashable GICs to cash and then move the funds, or move them as GICs, or move them as they mature to cash

There’s nothing very complex about a T2033 although some brokerages seem to make them look pretty ugly.

Are There Any Rules for Transferring Assets from one RRSP or TFSA to Another?

The disgruntled comment on the forum made me wonder if there were any actual rules about how quickly financial institutions have to handle these routine transfers.

Reading a line in In Your Best Interest piqued more of my interest. It said “The former firm must reply [to the requested transfer] within 2 days and deliver all the securities and cash, within ten days.”

So I went out and looked for more information.

While I couldn’t find the exact document I was looking for on the IIROC website, I did find another document on the Government of Canada Financial Consumer Agency of Canada website.

It answers the specific question of how long can an institution take to complete a RRSP transfer request.

It says:
The length of time depends in part on what is held in the RRSP. It could hold cash, stocks, mutual funds, etc. Each of these may require different handling times. So the longest time allowed is the time required to handle the most complicated asset in the request.

For “deposit-type” products, the target time is that within 7-12 business days after receiving a properly completed request , the chartered bank will send the cheque to the receiving institution.

If the “deposit” has to mature first, that extends the time permitted.

Note that the time is for chartered banks. It doesn’t say how long for other institutions.

For “mutual fund-type” products, it says to check Guideline 81-102 of the Investment Funds Institute of Canada.

For” securities-type” products, which presumably includes ETFs and stocks, it says Transfers by chartered banks of registered plans containing securities will be processed according to Regulation 2300 of the Investment Dealers Association.

Clear as mud, right?

I tried to go to the next level and look up Guideline 81-102 but it’s slow going so far. So in the meantime, here are some personal experiences for what they’re worth.

Time for Cash to Move from one RRSP or TFSA to Another at a Different Financial Institution

We had assets scattered all over the place from disorganized contributions made during the early years. Gradually we’ve been rounding them up and corralling them in a few brokerage accounts. It’s led to many transfers and I’ve timed a lot of them. Here are some examples.

These moves all happened in 2012-early 2014. As described in another article, the TFSA transfers from ING Direct to BMO InvestorLine this year show the randomness of some of these events. Both transfers were initiated at the same time in the same way, but there is a 7 business day difference between the results!

Each of these transfers was of cash only. Each was initiated by mailing the T2033 from a public mail box, so some of the required time includes the time for Canada Post to pick up and deliver the T2033 to the first financial institution.

And just in case you’re interested, no one has ever contacted us to try to talk us out of transferring our funds. (I suspect they’re glad to see me go!)

Where the Money Started Where the Money Stopped How Many Business Days It Took
The Canada RSP ING Direct 15
CIBC BMO InvestorLine 16
CIBC CIBC Investor’s Edge 3
ING Direct BMO InvestorLine 18
ING Direct BMO InvestorLine 11
ING Direct CIBC Investor’s Edge 12
ING Direct RBC Direct Investing 14 to leave ING
7 to then reach RBC DI!

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Have you had to transfer funds in a registered account from one place to another? How long did it take? Please share your experiences with a comment.

8 thoughts on “How Long Will It Take To Transfer My RRSP or TFSA? Are There Rules?

  1. I have been experiencing issues with a Fraternal Insurance company transferring deferred annuity RRSP
    As per time frame over 5 weeks as well demanding the client transferring must meet with their agent to sign either a withdrawal form or a surrender form. This also creates a delay.
    I have contacted FSCO and they confirmed they have no compliance authorization regarding time frame regarding T2033 and directed me to Revenue Canada and they state there are no time frames guidelines to follow. In short a dead end.
    I personally question, is with a proper T2033 is full filled how can the transferring company insist on a meeting and required signature. Is that legal?

    • To be honest, I don’t know.

      I’d ask the company who is going to receive your money to check whether you must sign anything more. If they think you must sign anything, I’d ask them to get the document from the first company for you to review in peace and quiet before you sign anything. I don’t see why you should need to meet with anyone to sign something. (And then you could also consult a lawyer if the form seems unusual.) The company you are moving to should want your business enough to work a bit for you to get it.

      It does sound to me like you are getting hassled. I’m sorry to hear they are being such a pain.

      Has anyone else tried to transfer a deferred annuity RRSP? Is there any reason it should be different than a regular RRSP? Please chime in if you have any experience.

  2. I’ve just visited my bank, TD, with a prefilled T2033 to transfer my funds to a pension plan (buy back). The funds are all in a money market instrument. I was told funds could take up to 3 weeks, probably 4 to complete the transfer. Absolutely ridiculous.

    • Yes, it does seem too long. I found any transfers with any institution took at least 2 weeks and usually more. Sorry to hear it’s slow for you too!

  3. Transferring my RIF account from BMO/Nesbitt Burns. Forms filled in 2.5 months ago. One segregated fund from Sunlife still somewhere in limbo. Bonds still not received. $138 in cash…whoopee, was received. Transferred a non-registered account from BMO at same time. Both the BMO EFT and a Russel mutual fund still not received…only assets in the account. Frankly I don’t get it. Former advisor with BMO/Nesbitt burns can’t find out what’s happening, nor can new advisor with Credential! This is totally unacceptable, and it seems there is zip that can be done about it.

    • Wow that is really bad service. We have done a lot of transfers from almost all of the big Canadian banks, plus Tangerine and the Canada Savings Bond RRSP and we never had a delay of more than 4 weeks. I’m sorry you’re having multiple delays and so much stress!

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