In a previous article on registering domains I discussed domain registration & recommended domain registrars. Now I’ll cover how to transfer a domain from one registrar to another.

How to Transfer a Domain

Transferring a domain from one registrar to another is a pretty straightforward process, however you should be prepared for it to take 1-2 weeks. Almost all of this is waiting time, and no, you can’t speed it up.

Important note: when you transfer your domain, you will be required to extend the registration by at least 1 year. Typical fees for domain registration are $10-15/year. If your new registrar is charging fees above that, you should really question why you are moving there. Many registrars include free domain privacy with this fee (you just have to turn it on). If your new registrar charges additional fees, you should really consider some other registrars.

There are some limitations that can restrict when you can transfer your domain, so you should be aware of these:

  • Since most registrar’s renew your domain about 60 days before it expires, you should make sure that you start the transfer process with plenty of lead time. I generally recommend around 100 days before expiration.
  • Domain transfer lock: Normally for 60 days after you transfer for your domain you are prevented from transferring it again.
  • Domain information update lock: Some registrars (not all) will lock your domain from transfer for 60 days after you make a change to your domain registration info (ie: owner’s name, email, etc).
  • During transfer lock: During the transfer process, your domain is normally from any changes for 7 days.

Step 0: Domain Prep

Since there are a lot of spots where your domain can get stuck in various locks, you want to make sure that you hav fully prepped your domain and everything is in order before you start the transfer.

  1. Move your nameservers to a neutral 3rd party. I like using Cloudflare’s free DNS. This allows you to access and modify your DNS records during the 7 day during transfer lock, and it prevents your DNS records from getting lost during transfer (because yes, I’ve seen that happen to plenty of people).
  2. Verify your domain information. Before you move your domain, you should check that your current registration information is up to date. Especially the administrator email address. If you do need to update this information, be sure to check with your current registrar about disabling the 60 day domain information update lock (some companies this just a checkbox, others you have to contact customer service about it).
  3. Check your domain email. If your domain email is tied to the company that your registration is with, then moving your registrar could negatively impact that. If you don’t have domain email, you don’t have to worry about this.
  4. Check your website hosting. If your website hosting is tied to the company that your registration is with, then moving your registrar could negatively impact that. Always best to check in advance.
  5. Other domain services. If you other services tied to your domain and/or domain registration company, check if those will be impacted by moving your domain.

Step 1: Verify Correct Nameservers & Services

The nameservers tell your domain where the content is actually located. This allows visitors to see your website. Once you initiate the actual transfer, you can not change this until the transfer completes. Make sure the nameservers are correct!

If you are transferring hosting and/or email as well as registration, I recommend you transfer hosting and/or email before registration.

Time: About 5 minutes, possibly 2 business days if changes needed (changes normally take a couple hours to propagate, but can take up to 72 hours in rare cases).

Step 2: Unlock Domain

You may or may not need to unlock your domain. Locking a domain prevents both the transfer of a domain and changing of the nameservers. You can contact either the registrar you are transferring from or the one you are transferring to for this information.

Time: 0 days if unlocked, possibly 3 business days if locked.

Step 3: Turn off Domain Privacy

If you have used the domain privacy features of your current registrar you will need to remove them prior to starting the transfer process. Usually when you log in to your account you have a dashboard with domain options. One of them should include privacy — you may need to contact your registrar (or hosting company if you registered through them) for help.

Once you have turned off domain privacy, it may take a day or so to show up in the whois records. The reason you need to have privacy off is that your new registrar will need to email the address listed on the whois information to confirm transfer.

Time: 0 days if off, possibly 3 business days if on.

Step 4: Obtain an EPP Code

The EPP code is a transfer authorization code. It is available from your current registrar. It may be available from your account dashboard, or you may have to contact their customer support. For more info, read bluehost’s article on obtaining an EPP Code from common registrars.

Time: 5 minutes if easily available, possibly 3 business days otherwise.

Step 5: Initiate Transfer on New Registrar

Now that you have everything set up and ready to go, you contact your new registrar. This could be a hosting company which also offers registration or it could be a stand alone registrar. Normally they have an easy online form to fill out. Since you will need to extend your registration of your domain by at least one year, have your credit card ready.

First you will log in to your account with your new registrar (or create an account) and then go to their transfer domain section. You will enter the domain to transfer followed by the EPP code. The new registrar will normally send the domain owner an email (which is why privacy must be off) with a verification code. You will enter the verification code and then normally complete a checkout process.

Frequently during the checkout process you will asked about things like adding domain privacy. If you want it, go ahead and add it, the privacy will not take effect until after the domain transfer is complete.

Time: 5-10 minutes normally.

Step 6: Wait for Transfer

Transfers frequently have 3-10 days of waiting time built in. Your current registrar will most likely send you an email informing you that a transfer has been initiated and there is a waiting period. If you don’t take any action during the waiting period, the transfer will happen at the end of it.

Time: 3-5 days normally, some registrars can take 10 days.

Step 7: Transfer Complete

Your domain has now transferred to your new registrar! Congratulations, you can now manage it from the dashboard of your new registrar. If you ordered an option like domain privacy when you initiated the transfer, it should be applied within a day or two of the transfer completing. If not, contact the new registrar.

If you have moved all of your domains from a previous registrar, you may need to contact them to make sure your account is closed and they do not try to bill you in the future.

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