The usefulness of various combinations of MCSCF and CI methods in computing correlated proton transfer potentials is investigated for the systems, HF, H7N, H3O, and H5O. MCSCF calculations can accurately determine proton transfer barriers, provided the correlation is limited to the proton transfer process. The proper correlated space can be obtained more easily if the canonical occupied MOs are first subjected to a localization. Various means are tested of including additional electron correlation into the MCSCF methods. CIS and CISD calculations are performed following MCSCF expansion of the wave function using various different MCSCF reference wave functions. The MCSCF + CISD results are excellent, being fairly independent of choice of virtual Mos, although it is important that the occupied orbitals be balanced between the donor and acceptor. Localizing the occupied MOS prior to the MCSCF part of the calculation again results in a further improvement. These results are compared to CI computations using the canonical orbitals (and which are not preceded by MCSCF preparation of the wave function) and to Møller–Plesset results. © 1992 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.