About Unclaimed Balances
When a Canadian-dollar account, deposit or negotiable instrument held or issued by a federally-regulated bank or trust company has been inactive for 10 years and the owner cannot be contacted, it is considered an “unclaimed balance.”
Once a year on December 31, unclaimed balances are transferred to the Bank of Canada, which acts as custodian on behalf of the owners.
By the numbers:
- At the end of 2018, approximately 2 million unclaimed balances, worth $816 million, were on the Bank's books. Over 93 per cent of unclaimed balances were valued at under $1,000, representing 26 per cent of the total value outstanding.
- In 2018, the Bank paid out $11 million to balance holders.
- The oldest balance dates back to 1900.
Types of balances held
Only the following types of unclaimed balances are held by the Bank of Canada.
- Current/chequing accounts
- Savings accounts
- Positive credit card balances
- Term deposits
- Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs)
- Deposit receipts
- Bank drafts
- Certified cheques
- Money orders
- Official cheques
- Traveller's cheques
Types of balances not held
The following types of unclaimed balances are not held by the Bank of Canada:
- Accounts in U.S. dollars and other non-Canadian currencies
- Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) and Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) accounts
- Life insurance policies
- Credit union or Caisse populaire accounts
- Unclaimed balances at utilities and other companies
- Gold or silver certificates
- Safety deposit boxes
- Stocks (equity shares) and dividends — contact the province’s securities commission; e.g., the Ontario Securities Commission.
Other organizations within your province hold unclaimed property and may be able to help find assets.
- The Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada holds some unclaimed property stemming from bankruptcies.
- The provinces of Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia have searchable unclaimed property registries.
According to the Bank Act, federally-regulated banks and trust companies have a legal obligation to send written notification after two, five and nine years of inactivity. If balance holders do not respond to this communication, the balance is transferred to the Bank of Canada as an “unclaimed balance.”
- The Bank of Canada does not initiate contact with balance holders to notify them of unclaimed balances.
- The Bank only contacts a claimant once it has received a claim request.
- The Bank of Canada holds unclaimed balances of less than $1,000 for 30 years.
- Balances of $1,000 or more are held for 100 years.
- Balances that are unclaimed at the end of the prescribed custody period are transferred to the Receiver General for Canada.
Fees and interest
- The Bank does not charge a fee for processing a claim.
- The Bank of Canada pays interest for the first 10 years of custody on balances that were held in interest-bearing savings accounts before their transfer to the Bank.
- All other deposits and instruments earn no interest.
Finding an Unclaimed Balance
To find an unclaimed balance to which you may be entitled, you can do either of the following:
- Search our Unclaimed Balances Registry, free of charge. The registry displays information on balances greater than $2.00, as submitted to the Bank of Canada by the financial institution or trust company.
- Purchase the full list of unclaimed balances on CD-ROM for Can$85 (price includes applicable tax and shipping). Send your request and payment in the form of a money order or certified cheque payable to the Bank of Canada.
If you are unable to find an unclaimed balance, it may be because your account has not been inactive for more than 10 years or your unclaimed balance has not yet been transferred to the Bank of Canada, as this happens only once a year on December 31. In these cases, you need to contact your financial institution to retrieve your funds.
Certain firms use publicly available information to find balance holders and assist them in making a claim. (Some of these firms may even offer this service for a fee.) The Bank of Canada does not endorse such firms, nor does it have any business relationship with them.
To help individuals find balances that may be owed to them, their details are posted on our website. In this context, the disclosure of personal information is permitted under the Privacy Act, because doing so clearly benefits the individual to whom the information belongs, and public interest clearly outweighs any privacy concerns that could result from the disclosure. Once a balance is claimed and paid, it is removed from the registry and is no longer searchable on the Bank’s website.
Making a Claim
Step-by-step support is available for making the following types of claims:
- Individual Claim — the balance holder is living.
- Estate Claim — the balance holder is now deceased.
- Other Claim — the balance belongs to an organization, not an individual: corporate entities, registered charities, registered non-profit organizations, non-registered associations and non-registered non-profit organizations, partnerships, sole proprietorships or trust accounts.
If a balance belongs to another individual
You can make a claim for a balance that is not in your name if you:
- legally have rights to the balance
- identify your relationship to the claimed balance as owner, heir, or trustee, etc.
- provide documentation to support your entitlement to claim on behalf of someone else
If a claim is for a negotiable instrument
The claimant must be the original purchaser of the instrument unless the original instrument itself can be presented by the payee/beneficiary.
If a claim has more than one owner
If there is more than one claimant, all claimants’ information needs to be provided, including their signatures and other documentation to support their identity and balance entitlement.
- An unclaimed balance held by two or more names joined by “or,” may be claimed in its entirety by any of the balance holders or by the estates of any deceased balance holders, if applicable.
- An unclaimed balance held by two or more names joined by “and,” will be split equally between the living holders and the estates of any deceased balance holders, if applicable.
In either case, when a claim is made on behalf of a deceased balance holder, the claimant must be an authorized representative of the deceased balance holder.
Checking Your Claim’s Status
You can check the status of your claim online by using the Claim ID which can be found in the upper right-hand corner of your claim form or on any correspondence from the Bank of Canada’s Unclaimed Balances office.
If you have supplied us with your email address, you will be notified when the status of your claim has changed.
Due to the high volume of claims we receive, our response time is approximately 6 to 8 months. The time required to fully process a claim depends on its complexity, and the degree to which the claim package has been properly and fully completed by the claimant.
- Unclaimed Balances Services
- Bank of Canada
- 234 Wellington Street
- Ottawa, ON, K1A 0G9