Most stock splits are pretty straightforward affairs. A company announces a stock split and advises investors of how many additional shares they will receive, the record date of the transaction, and when the new shares will be distributed.

In many ways, the upcoming stock split for NVIDIA (NVDA 4.00%) is no different. In conjunction with its fiscal 2022 first-quarter earnings report (ended May 2, 2021), the chipmaker announced that its board of directors declared a four-for-one stock split, payable in the form of a stock dividend. This move was conditional on NVIDIA stockholders voting to approve to increase the number of authorized shares from 2 billion to 4 billion.

Due to a quirk in this particular case (more on that in a minute), while it appears investors have already missed the opportunity to take advantage of the NVIDIA stock split, that simply isn't the case.

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The devil's in the details

At the company's 2021 annual meeting of stockholders, which was held on June 3, shareholders approved the measure to increase the number of outstanding shares, setting the stage for the stock split to move forward. Each shareholder of record as of June 21 will receive three additional shares of NVIDIA stock for each one they own, which will be distributed after the market close on July 19. The stock will start trading on a split-adjusted basis when the market opens on Tuesday, July 20. 

To give some context to the numbers, here's an example of how it will work, though the final numbers will vary based on the then-current stock price. For each share of NVIDIA stock that an investor holds -- currently worth roughly $760 -- post-split, shareholders would own a total of four shares priced at $190 each.

The odd quirk

What sets NVIDIA's stock split apart from many others is the extraordinary length of time between the record date and the distribution date of the new, split shares. The record date is the date by which investors must own the stock in order to be eligible to receive additional shares created by the stock split, which occurs on the effective date. Typically, there are just a few days between the two.

For example, in the recent 10-for-one stock split initiated by The Trade Desk (TTD -1.80%), shareholders of record as of June 9, 2021 received nine additional shares of stock, which were distributed after the close of trading on June 16, 2021 -- or a period of about a week after the record date. This was very similar to a couple of high-profile stock splits that happened late last year. Apple (AAPL -0.60%) and Tesla (TSLA 0.38%) each split their shares in August, with record dates of Aug. 24 and Aug. 21, respectively, and both stocks began trading split-adjusted on Aug. 31.

In the case of NVIDIA, however, the period between the two is a whopping four weeks long. So what happens to investors who buy between the record date and the effective date? Are they left holding the bag?

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The good news

What's missing from NVIDIA's press release is the ex-dividend date. Because the stock split is being initiated in the form of a stock dividend, the ex-dividend date governs which investors are eligible to receive the newly split shares. In this case, NVIDIA's stock split goes ex-dividend on July 19, according to a spokesperson for brokerage house Charles Schwab

This means that investors can buy NVIDIA shares right up to July 19, and still be eligible to receive the additional shares from the stock split once the shares begin trading on a split-adjusted basis when the market opens July 20.

It's also important to point out that this stock split doesn't do anything to change the underlying value of NVIDIA as a company -- it merely cleaves it into a greater number of ownership segments. There are plenty of reasons to be bullish and invest in NVIDIA, but investors shouldn't buy the stock based solely on the upcoming stock split.