Mistakes to avoid when transferring your ISA

The Freetrade transfers team share their top tips for a smooth ISA transfer.
Mistakes to avoid when transferring your ISA
Updated
February 18, 2022

Table of contents

“Can you tell them to come and pick up their things between 3pm and 5pm? I’ll leave it all in a box by the bins.”

A breakup might not be the first thing you liken an ISA transfer to but every now and again, there can be more similarities than you think.

The good news is there are lessons we can take from rough breakups to make sure our ISA transfers go a lot more smoothly.

We’ve spoken to Freetrade’s transfers team to understand the most common sticking points when it comes to ISA transfers and how to avoid them. So, as you start prepping a few lines for that ISA breakup chat (“It’s not you, it’s your fees”) here are a few things to keep in mind.


ISA transfers: put yourself first

Before we get stuck in, remember this article is not personal investment advice and you should make your own investment decisions or seek independent financial advice.

Any tax treatment depends on your individual circumstances and may be subject to change in the future. Before transferring an ISA you should check you will not lose valuable guarantees or be charged excessive transfer penalties.


Why transfer your ISA in the first place?

Everyone has their own reasons for transferring their ISA. 

Some of the most common reasons for ISA transfers are: 

  • Lower fees at another ISA provider
  • More investment choice elsewhere
  • Another ISA platform is easier to use and has an all-round better product  
  • Customer service is more responsive and how you want it (in-app chat, phone etc.)
  • You want to keep all your ISAs (old and new) under one roof 
  • You want one platform for all your investment accounts (SIPP, stocks and shares ISA, GIA etc.)

Whatever your reason, it’s important to make sure an ISA transfer is right for you before making the move. 


Freetrade’s eight ISA transfer tips

1. Is it time to say goodbye? 

The grass may look greener but the important thing to check is that you won’t be considerably worse off by transferring. 

Check if your current ISA provider will charge you for transferring away from them. Also, check you can transfer your investments rather than selling them first (as long as that’s your preference). 

While lower fees may be your reason for transferring, double checking the difference in ongoing costs once more can’t hurt. Take a look at trading fees, ongoing account charges and any service fees that might be lurking behind those attractive upfront costs.

It may actually be the case that your perfect ISA match was under your nose the whole time (as sickeningly Hollywood as that might be). 

Take a step back and factor in all the costs and, most importantly, if you’re getting good value.


💡 How to find the best stocks and shares ISA.


2. Can they take it?

There are two routes to an ISA transfer. Some people prefer to transfer their ISA and stay invested (‘in specie’ if we’re being fancy about it) but you can also choose to sell your investments first and transfer the cash.

In the first instance, your investments are transferred from one provider to another as is. They aren’t sold and bought again on the other side.

If you’d like to transfer your ISA and stay invested, before starting the transfer it’s important to check whether your future ISA provider can hold your investments.

This doesn’t need to be an in-law style interrogation. But checking upfront should prevent any nasty surprises later (i.e. finding out that you can’t transfer a certain investment without selling it first).

3. Give your real number

We’ve all given the wrong phone number as a decoy once (or twice).

But when it comes to ISA transfers the less coy the better.

This starts by making sure you’ve given the right account reference number for your ISA to your future ISA provider. It might seem simplistic to mention but a little error like this can really hold things up, especially as different companies will need to speak to each other. Making them go in circles due to a slip up with your pen can draw the whole process out.

If you’re unsure, check with your current ISA provider before filling it in. 


4. It’s not time for a new identity

Making sure your details are correct with your present and future ISA provider is vital.

Check your name, date of birth, national insurance number and contact details are up to date with both providers.

Most transfers are done electronically and for a transfer to get the green light, details need to match. Exactly.

This means if there’s even a hyphen in the wrong place or missing, your transfer might get a left swipe (temporarily) and need investigating before going ahead.

The first step, make sure all of your details are up to date with both providers.


5. Know your value

ISA transfers always start with you specifying whether you’d like to transfer all or some of your ISA.

You won’t always have the choice though. HMRC ISA rules say that any ISA contributions for the current tax year have to be transferred in full. Whereas with ISA contributions from previous tax years, you have the choice to transfer the whole ISA or just part of it.

When it comes to partial transfers, being able to specify the value of what you’ll be transferring and what it includes acts as a useful marker during the transfer.

The transfer process always involves your current provider sending across a valuation of what’s being transferred to your future ISA provider. And while a mismatch between what you’d like transferred and what your provider says you are transferring is rare (markets move and providers understand small fluctuations will happen), a transfer value estimation helps them double check everything is as expected. 


6. Don’t leave the bill 

Walking out of a restaurant and leaving your ex with the bill might be the last hurrah when it comes to your breakup. But unfortunately, it’s unlikely to have the same effect with an ISA transfer.

Unpaid account fees are one of the most common reasons transfers get held up and, even worse, if your contact details are out of date on one side of the transaction, things are going to slow down.

Some providers will charge you for leaving their platform, so while you might be up to date in terms of account fees, a closing bill could be a nasty surprise.

Checking if you’ll be charged by your provider is an important step. You might find that selling your investments first and then transferring your ISA as cash is a cheaper way out.

Dividends also fall into this category. Sometimes, you’ll get a dividend after you’ve transferred and it’ll be paid to your previous account. This isn’t usually a problem, as providers should sweep the account and send you the cash. However, make sure you check this is part of their process before kicking things off. 

Thankfully, it’s likely to be a lot less awkward than texting your ex asking for that Deliveroo order you mistakenly sent to your old address.


7. Make sure you’re ready to move on

Once you’ve started the ISA transfer process, it’s best to try and limit your trading activity while it goes through.

Most providers will continue to let you buy or sell while your ISA is set for transfer but it’s important to understand this will slow the process down.

Settlement times for different investments vary. Then there’s the fact that if your portfolio has changed your current provider will likely have to restart the transfer process.

If you think you might want to trade over the next few weeks, it’s best to wait until this is complete before you start the transfer. 


8. Sit back and relax

Once your ISA transfer is underway, the only thing you have to look out for is a message from your future provider, telling you it’s complete.

Keep the standard transfer time frames in mind though.

Cash transfers can take from two to four weeks to complete. They might take longer if you’ve asked your current provider to sell your shares to cash first.

Stock transfers take a little longer, usually around four to six weeks. 


Transfer your ISA to Freetrade

It’s simple and free to transfer your ISA to Freetrade.

If you decide to move, your stocks and shares ISA will cost £3 per month and you’ll be able to invest in over 6,000 stocks commission-free via the Freetrade app. Other charges apply.

You can transfer:

  • A stocks and shares ISA
  • A cash ISA
  • An innovative finance ISA

You can’t transfer:

  • A junior ISA (JISA)
  • A lifetime ISA (LISA)

Before making your decision, read our page on transferring stocks and shares ISAs, which explains the options available and gives you the important information you need to know.


Make your money work a little bit harder with a tax-efficient investment account like our stocks and shares ISA. Get to grips with what a stocks and shares ISA is before you open an ISA account or transfer your existing ISA to Freetrade. 


Important information

This should not be read as personal investment advice and individual investors should make their own decisions or seek independent advice.

Eligibility to invest into an ISA and the value of tax savings both depend on personal circumstances and all tax rules may change. This article is based on current rules. 

Before transferring an ISA you should ensure you will not lose valuable guarantees or incur excessive transfer penalties. ISAs can be transferred as cash which means you will be out of the market for a period.

When you invest, your capital is at risk. The value of your portfolio can go down as well as up and you may get back less than you invest. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.


Important information on SIPPs

SIPPs are a pension product designed for people who want to make their own investment decisions. You can normally only access the money from age 55 (set to rise to 57 from 6 April 2028).

This article is based on current rules, which can change, and tax relief depends on your personal circumstances. When you invest, your capital is at risk.

The value of your portfolio can go down as well as up and you may get back less than you invest.

Before transferring a pension you should ensure you will not lose valuable guarantees or incur excessive transfer penalties. Pensions are usually transferred as cash so you will be out of the market for a period.

Freetrade does not currently offer drawdown products for our SIPP.

Important information

This should not be read as personal investment advice and individual investors should make their own decisions or seek independent advice.

When you invest, your capital is at risk. The value of your portfolio, and any income you receive, can go down as well as up and you may get back less than you invest. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.

Eligibility to invest into an ISA and the value of tax savings both depend on personal circumstances and all tax rules may change.

Freetrade is a trading name of Freetrade Limited, which is a member firm of the London Stock Exchange and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England and Wales (no. 09797821).

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