Free Money

Who wouldn't want to find free money this month!

I shared my tips with BT Toronto (click here for the segment) for getting the most of free money sources you're probably not using: gift cards, rewards, and unclaimed money from the Bank of Canada. According to Square, data from the hundreds of thousands of businesses using its services in Canada shows that 45 per cent of gift cards have not been used. That’s $17.5 million worth of unredeemed gift cards. If the figure included all payment systems in Canada the number would be far higher. At the end of 2021, the Bank of Canada held approximately 2.5 million unclaimed balances worth $1.06 billion. In 2021 $15.2 million was paid out to balance holders. Kelley shows you how to tap into these resources and make the most of your new found money.

Gift cards

  • It’s estimated that consumers waste billions of dollars on unused gift cards
  • There’s two main types – store cards and pre-paid credit debit cards
  • Each prepaid cash card has its own sets of rules and fees unique to them. Some offer a grace period, often of 12 months, before such charges kick in. Charges can include a monthly maintenance fee, a fee to check a card balance or even to make purchases.
  • While prepaid cash cards allow for more freedom to spend, they have those fees and administration charges that can drain the card balance.
  • This issuing company will charge a fee that will ultimately over time deplete the balance until it reaches zero – and that card is essentially not worth anything anymore.

Reward points

  • Most often, you’ll get the most bang for your buck by using your credit card reward points for travel
  • Some you’re constrained by their travel options but some, allow you to book ANY travel and then redeem your points for a payment on your account
  • If you’re not going to travel, you can use points for:
    • Merchandise
    • Movies
    • Gift cards
    • Pay your credit card balance
    • Donate to charity
    • Use to pay your kids tuition
  • For store rewards points, use them often. It’s fun to save them up, but because people often use weak passwords and user names for these, they’re more vulnerable to fraudsters breaking in and using your points.  Or, the points expire.  Check your details.

Unclaimed money

Once a year between November and 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 2021, approximately 2.5 million unclaimed balances, worth $1.06 billion, were on the Bank's books. Over 93 percent of unclaimed balances were valued at under $1,000, representing 26 percent of the total value outstanding.
  • In 2021, the Bank paid out $15.2 million to balance holders.
  • The oldest balance dates back to 1913.
  • Unclaimed Balances - Bank of Canada
  • Unclaimed Balances Portal (