If you have a bank account that has seen no activity in the last ten years, it may be in the possession of the Bank of Canada (BoC). This also applies to other Canadian dollar financial instruments issued by a regulated bank or trust company, including term deposits, GICs, bank drafts, money orders, etc. On December 31st of every year, these decade-long inactive accounts are turned over to the Bank of Canada if the bank or trust company is unable to contact the account holder. Once transferred to the BoC, they will be held in trust for 30 years if the balance is less than $1000, and 100 years if it is above that amount. If no claim is made on these unclaimed balances at the end of the allotted time frames, the money will be transferred to the Receiver General for Canada (government account for the receipt of public funds).

The Bank of Canada is not required to get in touch with the deposit owner, but the bank that issued the original financial instrument must have sent written notification after two years of inactivity, then again at five and ten years. Once transferred from the issuing bank after ten years of inactivity, interest will be paid (by BoC) on funds that were held in an interest-bearing savings account only, for a period of ten years.

As of December, 2016 there are around 1.8 million of these unclaimed balances worth over $670 million. While it may sound incredible that so many people could forget about their money, it is not an uncommon occurrence. People are always on the move – over 300,000 of them move to a different province every year. This figure would pale in comparison to the number of moves within a city or province. Somewhere in these millions of moves are those that forget to make all the necessary change of address notifications, leave behind a seldom used ‘secret account’ at another bank, or are the victim of an unnoticed bank error. We also have an ageing population that may be forgetting about old bank accounts, or have passed away and the family is unaware of the unclaimed balance.

Anyone can check the Bank of Canada’s Unclaimed Balances Registry to see if they are holding funds from forgotten accounts belonging to you or your friends and family (living and deceased). There is no cost to check for unclaimed balances or for submitting a claim. You will have to supply personal and legal documentation to prove that the account is yours and/or you have a legal right to it, which may carry a cost.

For more information on how to recover an unclaimed balance read: How to Claim