Key dates relating to stock dividends are as follows:
1. Declaration Date - date at which company's board of directors approves dividend payment and designates the Payment Date and Record Date.
2. Record Date - the date which determines which stockholders are entitled to receive the dividend payment. You need to own the shares as of the close of the Record Date in order to receive the dividend.
3. Ex-Dividend Date - the date on or after which the stock will be traded without the right to receive the dividend. Because most stock trades in the US settle regular way; that is, three business days after the trade, an individual must purchase the stock three business days before the Record Date to qualify for the dividend. The Ex-Dividend Date is therefore two business days before the Record Date.
4. Payment Date - the date on which the declared dividend is paid to all stockholders owning shares on the record date.