There are four major dates in the process of a company paying dividends.
Declaration date – This is the date on which the board of directors announces to shareholders and the market as a whole that the company will pay a dividend.
Ex-date or Ex-dividend date – On (or after) this date the security trades without its dividend. If you buy a dividend paying stock one day before the ex-dividend you will still get the dividend, but if you buy on the ex-dividend date, you won’t get the dividend. Conversely, if you want to sell a stock and still receive a dividend that has been declared you need to sell on (or after) the ex-dividend day. The ex-date is the second business day before the date of record.
Date of record – This is the date on which the company looks at its records to see who the shareholders of the company are. An investor must be listed as a holder of record to ensure the right of a dividend payout.
Date of payment (payable date) – This is the date the company mails out the dividend to the holder of record. This date is generally a week or more after the date of record so that the company has sufficient time to ensure that it accurately pays all those who are entitled.