The date by which an investor must hold shares of a company’s stock in order to receive a dividend or capital gains distribution. If someone purchases the company’s stock after the record date, he or she isn’t eligible to receive the dividend or capital gains distribution. The company determines what the record date will be. An investor becomes a shareholder of record on the date the stock is purchased, not on the settlement date, which is usually three days later. Record dates also are used to determine which shareholders can vote on initiatives put forth at the annual or special shareholder meetings, such as merger proposals.