If you think you might have a bank account, savings account or premium bond somewhere, but have no idea how to go about tracking it down, you are not alone.
Industry estimates suggest that there are currently half a million ‘lost’ bank accounts in the UK worth about £850 million, and millions more in forgotten savings accounts and premium bonds.
The good news is that finding out if you have money stashed away in a lost account is now easier than ever. Here we outline what a ‘lost’ account is, how to trace it and some things that may help along the way.
What is a ‘lost’ account?
Banks and building societies will consider an account to be ‘lost’ or ‘dormant’ if it hasn’t been used in over three years and if you haven’t responded to any messages or letters sent by them over the course of six weeks to three months.
How to trace a lost bank account
If you can remember the name of the bank you had the account with, your first step should be to contact them directly. Most banks will want you to come into their local branch with some photo ID to get the process of tracking down your account rolling.
If your bank isn’t able to help you, or you can’t remember the name of the bank you held your account with, all is not lost. The free-to-use service My Lost Account allows you to submit a single form to find out if you had an account with over 70 organisations, including all major highstreet banks, 43 building societies and National Savings & Investments. My Lost account is only able to find accounts that banks have declared as ‘lost’. So if you have only lost the details for your account, but can remember the name of your bank, it’s better to contact them directly or you could be wasting your time by filling out a My Lost Account form.
To start your search with My Lost Account, you will need to fill out an application form. The fastest way to do this is online, but you can also submit a postal form if you prefer. It’s useful to note that submitting a postal form could mean filling out more applications (applications for banks, building societies and NS&I need to be completed separately) for manual processing, which can take considerably longer than an online application. To complete the form you will need some information to hand, including:
- The name of any banks or building societies you think you may have had an account with
- Your name and current address
- Previous names
- Previous addresses
- Potential name/s on account
- Location of where the account might have been opened
Once you’ve completed this form, My Lost Account will reach out to all banks, building societies and NS&I to try and find your accounts. Once a bank has completed their search, you will receive an email update on your My Lost Account profile. You should get a response from this initial search within three months.
If your search comes back with any accounts in your name, you have some options of what to do next. Either you can reopen your account, or you can reclaim the money (including any interest you have gained) and close the account. It’s worth noting that unless you were enjoying particularly good interest rates on the account, it is usually better to close the account, take the money and transfer it to a current or savings account that you already have.
At this stage, the relevant bank, building society or NS&I will need you to prove who you are, which is usually in the form of the identification that you selected during the application process. Any claim you make with the bank or building society should be resolved within a further three months.
The My Lost Account website will work for lost premium bonds as well as NS&I saving accounts, so if you find some Premium Bonds, it’s also worth checking whether you’ve won any prizes whilst your account has been lost. There’s currently around £66m in Premium Bond prizes lying unclaimed. Prizes often aren’t collected because people have moved home and forgotten to notify NS&I of their contact details. You can find out if you’ve won a prize using NS&I.com’s Prize Checker tool. This enables you to check whether you’ve won in the latest draw, in the last six months, or if you have any unclaimed prizes in any draw.
If a bank can’t agree that your claim is valid, or you aren’t happy with how a bank or building society has dealt with your claim, the best way to file a complaint is through their complaints process. You can ask the bank for details of this. If this isn’t successful, or you’re not satisfied with their response, you can then refer your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service. Find out more about making a complaint in our article How to complain about a financial company.
Some other things to consider
There are a number of other account tracing providers online who will charge you a fee for a similar service, but it’s important to not use these. My Lost Account provides its services free of charge, and all you need to do is fill in one online application form, which it then sends out to an array of major banks and building societies.
The My Lost Account service is only for UK based banks, building societies and savings accounts. If you are looking for an account held in a non-UK based financial institution, you will need to contact them directly.
If you are the executor of someone’s will and are trying to find their accounts, it’s best to contact their bank or building society directly, as the accounts may not be considered ‘lost’ so using the My Lost Account service could be a waste of time.
With so much money sitting in lost accounts in the UK, many banks have signed up to the Dormant Assets Scheme. This scheme allows bank accounts that have been lost for more than 15 years to be transferred to the Reclaim Fund Ltd (RFL), which provides funding to charitable causes. Over the last 13 years, this scheme has given over £600 million to charities across the UK. However, even if any money you hold in a lost account has been transferred to the RFL, you still have a legal right to your money and can claim it back at any time.
Do you think you might have any lost or forgotten savings, or have you managed to track your money down? We’d be interested to hear from you. You can join the money conversation on the Rest Less community or leave a comment below.