An "unclaimed balance" is a Canadian-dollar deposit or negotiable instrument, issued or held by a federally regulated bank or trust company. It can be in the form of a deposit account, bank draft, certified cheque, deposit receipt, money order, GIC, term deposit, credit card balance, or traveller's cheque.
When there has been no owner activity in relation to the balance for a period of 10 years, and the owner cannot be contacted by the institution holding it, the balance is turned over to the Bank of Canada, which acts as custodian on behalf of the owner. Balances are transferred to the Bank of Canada once a year, on 31 December.
The Bank of Canada holds unclaimed balances of less than $1,000 for thirty years, once they have been inactive for ten years at the financial institutions. Balances of $1,000 or more will be held for 100 years once transferred to the Bank of Canada.
If the balance remains unclaimed until the end of the prescribed custody period, the Bank of Canada transfers the funds to the Receiver General for Canada.
At the end of December 2013, approximately 1.4 million unclaimed balances, worth some $532 million, were on the Bank's books.
Over 93% of unclaimed balances were under $1,000.00, representing 29% of the total value outstanding. In 2013, the Bank paid out $14 million to account holders. The oldest balance dates back to 1900.
Due to the passing of Bill C-37 the following rules came into effect 29 March 2007.
The Bank of Canada will now hold unclaimed balances for thirty years, once they have been inactive for ten years at the financial institutions. Therefore, balances will now be held for a total of forty years prior to being prescribed.
Only balances of less than $1,000 will be prescribed after the forty-year period. Previously the limit was less than $500.