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How to claim old bank account money

By Daniel Workman

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Few Canadians know about Bank of Canada's free online search engine for unclaimed balances.

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At the end of December 2010, the Bank of Canada held 1.3 million unclaimed account balances worth roughly $433 million. About 78,000 of those records were worth $1,000 or more and totalled $294.4 million.

Most of the unclaimed money is from old deposit or savings accounts that federally regulated banks or trust companies had held for 10 years with no owner activity. After 10 years, the dormant money is transferred to the Bank of Canada for safekeeping.

The Bank of Canada maintains custody of the inactive funds for up to:

  • 100 years for amounts of $1,000 or more.
  • 30 years for amounts under $1,000.

Unlike the financial institutions where the money was originally deposited, the Bank of Canada has no obligation to look for consumers to whom the funds belong. Searching and claiming available amounts are entirely your responsibility.

Sample search
Fortunately, the Bank of Canada provides an easy-to-use online search for unclaimed balances.

Using the keyword "Mary," CreditCards.ca quickly found three outstanding records for:

  • $70,975.
  • $23,449.
  • $17,392.

In total, the "Mary" search retrieved 121 individual records worth more than $1,000 each.

Find your money
At the Bank of Canada's unclaimed balances search page, it's best to enter both your first and last name connected with the keyword "AND" as in "Dan AND Marshall." This gives a more focused search than just using your first or last name, which can retrieve hundreds of unsorted records.

But don't be afraid to experiment with different versions of your name, such as "Danny" or "Daniel," wildcard searches like "Marsh*" or even misspellings.

Click on an appropriate search result, and the system displays a record that lists the following key information:

  • Accountholder name.
  • Address on record.
  • Account number.
  • Last account transaction date.
  • Unclaimed balance.
  • Originating bank where money was first deposited.

At the bottom of the record is a hyperlink to the required claim form.

Claim your money
The Payment Authorization Form enables you to claim your funds in three easy steps.

First, fill out and sign the form's contact information.Then, ask the originating bank to:

  • Authenticate your signature against their records.
  • Affix the bank's signature-guarantee stamp to the claim form.

To complete your claim, forward the guaranteed form to the Bank of Canada's Unclaimed Balances Services department in Ottawa.

If the financial institution refuses to guarantee your signature, you must provide other supporting documents, such as copies of the original bank passbook, bank statements and evidence of address. The Bank of Canada will contact you for any additional proof they require.

Timely claim payment
The Bank of Canada generally issues a cheque within 60 days of receiving documentation in good order.

While the Bank doesn't charge for online searches, claim processing or cheque issuing, you may incur fees for legal services necessary to support your claim.

Other claimable funds
In addition to Canadian-dollar deposit and savings accounts, CreditCards.ca found records for negotiable instruments, including a:

  • $4,099 bank draft.
  • $4,000 certified cheque.
  • $2,564 term deposit.

The Bank of Canada's Unclaimed Balances database also has unclaimed deposit receipts, money orders and traveller's cheques. But perhaps the most surprising finding from our investigation was that claimable balances include overpaid credit card accounts.

See related: How to search online for unclaimed money


Published: April 26, 2011