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        Updated: April 16, 2024

        A Complete Guide to Pension Transfers

        Want to know how pension transfers work? This guide explains everything you need to understand about the process and where to get independent expert advice.

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        If you’re looking at what options you have with your retirement savings, you might be exploring the possibility of a pension transfer. However, before you make any moves, it’s important to have a complete understanding of the process.

        This guide covers everything you need to know about how to transfer a pension. We’ll explain all the rules that apply and the various options you have. You’ll also learn about calculating pension transfer values, the costs involved in moving, and where to get expert support to help.

        Keep reading for a complete explanation of UK pension transfers, or click on a link below to jump straight to a section…

        What is a pension transfer?

        This involves moving or consolidating your pension somewhere else. It’s common for people to move from one scheme to another for a variety of reasons. The main motivations for carrying out a pension transfer include:

        • Getting the best deal
        • Keeping all your retirement funds in one place
        • Accessing more flexible retirement options

        How the transfer process works

        The exact process will depend on your current pension type and structure, but here’s a brief outline explaining how a transfer works:

        • Ensure you’re clear on whether you have a defined benefit (DB) or defined contribution (DC) pension because it will affect the transfer.
        • Request a pension valuation of your benefits and a ‘statement of entitlement’ from your existing scheme administrator (or the trustees of the pension provider).
        • Notify your existing provider of your intention to transfer funds to a different pension.
        • Make sure that the scheme where you wish to move will accept a transfer.
        • Give your pension provider your personal information and details of the new scheme.
        • Before making a transfer, your existing pension provider has a duty of care to make sure your transfer meets regulatory requirements. This usually involves checking whether the new scheme is on the Pension Regulator’s pre-approved list and finding out basic details about the move.
        • Your provider will decide whether to accept your transfer request.
        • If everything checks out, a transfer of your funds to your new provider will begin.

        It’s well worth having some expert guidance throughout this process because it can be complex – especially if you have multiple pensions or retirement funds with a complicated structure.

        Speak to an expert today

        Rules, regulations, and options

        Pensions are tightly regulated in the UK. So, there are numerous rules that apply, which could limit your transfer options. However, you can still have a decent amount of flexibility with support from an expert advisor who can help you navigate all the regulations. Below are some of the main pension transfer rules to be aware of.

        Within the UK

        In most cases, you can transfer or consolidate your pensions in the UK as long as you follow the proper procedure and everything checks out with your new scheme. Defined benefit pensions can be slightly more challenging and only possible with certain schemes. Pensions for teachers, police, and NHS staff are not transferable.

        Transfer to someone else

        You cannot transfer your pension to another person. Yet, upon death, your pension benefits may be payable to someone else. And in a divorce, it’s possible for your ex-partner to receive some (or all) of your pension via a Pension Sharing Order (PSO).

        Moving abroad

        If you plan on moving to another country, you may be able to transfer your pension pot to an overseas scheme if it’s a ‘qualifying recognised overseas pension scheme’ (QROPS). If you want to transfer a UK pension to the USA, this can be tricky because the US government doesn’t recognise QROPS transfers or meet HMRC’s requirements.

        If the scheme isn’t a QROPS, your provider might reject your transfer, or you may have to pay at least 40% tax on the transfer. There are instances when you pay no tax to transfer, but for some international pension transfers within the European Economic Area (EEA) or outside of it, a 25% tax can sometimes apply.

        Transfer a SIPP

        SIPP transfer rules mean that if you want to move your SIPP (self-invested personal pension) to another provider, it’s definitely possible. SIPPs, by nature, are self-managed. Transfers can be relatively straightforward, allowing you to organise a transfer yourself.

        However, it can still be worthwhile seeking some expert transfer advice. Especially if you have any complex SIPP investments (for example, commercial property) held within the tax wrapper.

        How to transfer your pension

        If you do want to move or consolidate your pensions, you’ll have plenty of choices. Here are some universally helpful steps to follow if you want to make sure you get the result you’re looking for when moving your retirement pot.

        Speak with a pensions expert

        Before you make any decisions, it’s well worth speaking to an independent pensions advisor. Ideally, one who specialises in pension transfers. Sitting down with an expert advisor means that they can review your pensions and retirement goals, and then present you with all the best options for transferring or consolidating your pots.

        Decide where you want to move

        The pension landscape is heavily regulated, and it can be hard to navigate. After reviewing your plans and providing you with transfer options tailored to your retirement needs, you can decide where you’d like to move. Your pension advisor will be able to clearly show you the pros and cons of each provider and find one that suits your needs.


        Apply and carry out a pension transfer

        After making a decision, the next step is to get your pension officially valued and then initiate a transfer. A skilled pensions advisor will be able to walk you through this entire process and keep you updated with progress. You’ll also be able to get back in touch with your advisor for some tax-efficient guidance once you want to start taking income.

        If you’d like a free pension review and a chat with a transfer specialist, just make an enquiry. We’ll introduce you to an independent pensions advisor for free.

        Calculating your pension transfer value

        A key part of the transfer process involves calculating what your pension (and any linked benefits) are worth before you can proceed with moving it somewhere else. Whether you have a defined benefit or defined contribution pension will be a significant factor.

        Defined contribution (DC)

        You’ll get an up-to-date fund transfer value in your statement of entitlement. But, this amount can fluctuate (based on the underlying investments) and it isn’t guaranteed for a specific period of time.

        Defined benefit (DB)

        Calculating your pension transfer value for a DB pension isn’t entirely straightforward and aims to come up with a ‘best estimate’. The Pension Regulator lays out the framework for working out your pension’s ‘cash equivalent transfer value’ (CETV).

        Pros and cons of transferring pensions

        There are both benefits and drawbacks to carrying out a pension transfer. What’s right for you will depend on your personal finances and retirement goals. Here’s a brief summary of the major motivations and downsides to consider:


        • Better deals – moving schemes can mean finding lower fees with another provider.
        • Easier to manage – transferring all your pensions to one place means one set of paperwork and a single scheme administrator.
        • Investment choice – a different pension scheme might provide a wider choice of investment options.
        • Account features – carrying out a transfer to a new pension provider allows accessing options like flexible retirement income (drawdown), controlling everything online, or tools to provide insights and help manage your retirement savings.
        • Financial flexibility – each pension scheme can come with individual rules and restrictions. Some providers are more flexible with what they can offer and how you take income when you retire.
        • Moving overseas – if you’re moving to another country, you might want to transfer your pension abroad.
        • Scheme closure – if your current pension fund is due to close, you may need to complete a transfer of your pot.


        • Complex – without the help of an expert, organising a pension transfer can be complicated and confusing.
        • Additional costs – although transferring pensions could mean cheaper fees that save you money in the long run, there may be some upfront charges.
        • Your pension type – the exact process can depend on whether you’ve got a defined benefit pension, a defined contribution pension, or a combination of both.
        • International restrictions – there are some countries you can’t move your pension to or will get heavily penalised with tax for doing so.
        • Losing out – if not managed properly, transferring out of a defined benefit (or final salary) scheme puts you at risk of being worse off.

        Costs and fees

        The exact costs and fees when transferring your pension will often be based on the size of your pension pots and the complexity of your transfer arrangement. Although, some providers will charge a flat fee for transfers.

        Whether you pay a fixed fee or a percentage based on the pension transfer value – keep in mind that you could potentially recoup these costs. This is achieved by moving to a cheaper provider, switching to a scheme with better investment opportunities, or keeping your pensions somewhere allowing greater flexibility for taking tax-efficient income.

        Get matched with a pension transfer specialist

        Being able to move or consolidate your pensions can provide you with many more options and enhanced flexibility when it comes to your retirement plans. However, transferring is best done with the support of a specialist pension transfer advisor.

        We offer a free, advisor-matching service. This means we’ll carry out a quick check of your retirement needs, and then pair you up with an independent pension expert.

        Just call 0808 189 0463 or make an enquiry. We’ll arrange a free, no obligation chat between you and a pension transfer specialist today.

        Speak to an expert today


        Not always. In some instances, you can move without advice. Although, it’s usually not recommended to move or transfer a pension without seeking some independent advice. But, if you have ‘safeguarded benefits’ like a guaranteed annuity rate and the value is over £30,000, you’ll need to get regulated advice.

        The exact time fluctuates and depends on your type of pension, your provider, and the underlying assets or investments you hold. The quickest time a transfer should take is 2-4 weeks. On the longer end of the spectrum, it could take 3-6 months. Transfers completed via the Origo platform tend to proceed more quickly than ones that don’t make use of this.

        Sometimes. It will depend on the pension provider you’re trying to move to and what type of pension you have. Certain schemes do offer online transfers, but this isn’t a universal attribute shared across all pension providers. Some pension providers will require paperwork completed and sent to them in the post before they will process your application. This could affect how fast your pension transfer takes place so it is important to be aware of what requirements your pension provider has for transferring your pension.

        Yes, if your pension provider offers you access to Uncrystallised Funds Pension Lump Sum (UFPLS) but not until you reach normal minimum retirement age (this is currently 55 but this is increasing to 57 on 6th April 2028). This is technically not considered a transfer, rather a withdrawal and as a result of this, there are tax implications to consider. It’s often best to structure your pension withdrawals in the most efficient way for tax purposes, otherwise, you could end up with a large tax bill to pay.

        Yes, this can be possible. However, a crystallised pension can only be transferred as it is. For example, if you’ve got a flexi-access drawdown pension, you cannot transfer and change to a capped drawdown pension elsewhere. You will still maintain all the options you have available to you as part of a normal flexi-access drawdown arrangement.

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        We can help! We know everyone's circumstances are different, that's why we work with brokers who are experts in pensions. Ask us a question and we'll get the best expert to help.

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        Tony Stevens

        Tony Stevens

        Finance Expert

        About the author

        Tony has worked in a vastly diverse array of areas in the pensions industry for over 20 years. Tony regularly writes for trade press, usually on topical and pensions pieces as well as acting as a judge at prestigious national events.

        Tony is also a highly qualified Independent Financial Adviser in his own right. His mantra has always been “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst”, and believes that the biggest impact that an adviser can have on a client’s life journey is to take them on a journey from generally having little or no real idea of what their retirement will look like, to giving them the understanding of what their retirement looks like now, then helping them navigate a path to what they want their retirement to be.

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