An "unclaimed balance" is a Canadian-dollar account, deposit or negotiable instrument held or issued by a federally regulated bank or trust company. If it’s an account, it can be in the form of a savings account or chequing/current account. If it's a deposit, it can be a credit card balance, term deposit, guaranteed investment certificate (GIC) or depository receipt. And if it’s a negotiable instrument, it can be a bank draft, certified cheque, official cheque, money order or a traveller's cheque.

When there has been no owner activity in relation to the balance for a period of ten 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 30 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 they are transferred to the Bank of Canada.

If the balance remains unclaimed until the end of the prescribed custody period, the Bank of Canada will transfer the funds to the Receiver General for Canada.

At the end of December 2014, approximately 1.5 million unclaimed balances, worth some $577 million, were on the Bank's books.

Over 93 per cent of unclaimed balances were under $1,000, representing 29 per cent of the total value outstanding. In 2014, the Bank paid out $11 million to balance holders. The oldest balance dates back to 1900.

To learn more about the process for recovering an unclaimed balance, please see How to Claim.

To find out if the Bank of Canada is holding an unclaimed balance to which you may be entitled, Search our Unclaimed Balances Registry