MSE update: Friday 17 April, 6.11pm: Since publishing this article Coral has got in touch to tell us it does NOT charge a dormancy fee, when it previously told us it did. It has apologised for this error and says it's making it a priority to update its terms and conditions, which also wrongly say an inactivity fee is applicable. We have updated the story below to reflect this.
If you had a flutter on the Grand National last weekend and set up an account with the bookies – whether online, on the phone, in store or via an app – make sure you withdraw your money as soon as possible as you could be charged a monthly inactivity fee.
Gambling isn't money saving and we don't ever advocate risking your cash to do so, but with millions of people putting a bet on the Grand National, we're warning those who did to watch out as they may be charged a monthly fee if there's money left in the account and it's not used within a set amount of time.
Beth Burling is one example of someone who's been stung by this. On being warned by William Hill that she was soon to be charged she got in touch and told us: "I think it's disgusting. How many people open the account purely for the Grand National? And in doing so, they are now going to be charged £3 a month."
Both the fees charged and the timescale for an account to be considered "inactive" vary per bookmaker, but it's usually when the account's been without any activity for 12 months or more.
However all the bookies we spoke to (as listed below) say dormant account fees are only charged if the account is in credit. If your account balance is zero, you won't be charged, although you should consider de-activating your account anyway.
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What do the bookies charge and what do they consider as 'inactive'?
We spoke to five of the major bookmakers and they all, barring Paddy Power, which has yet to respond (we'll update this news story when it does), said the inactive fee applies to accounts no matter how they were opened eg, online, in-store, via an app, or over the phone.
Further, William Hill says it operates a separate telephone and online account, but again, the inactive account fee applies to all accounts: Here's what the five bookies we asked charge:
- Bet Fred: No inactive account fee.
- Coral: No inactive account fee.
- Ladbrokes: £2/month or 5% of the account balance – whichever is greater – if it's been inactive for 12 months.
- Paddy Power: £10/month or 10% of the account balance if the balance is higher than £10, if the account's not used for 18 consecutive months.
- William Hill: £3/month if an account's been inactive for 24 consecutive months.
How do I cancel my account?
If you've an account that's in credit you can cancel for free by following the steps below.
The following bookies have also confirmed there's no minimum amount needed in the account to make a withdrawal and there are no special conditions such as you wagering a bet a certain number of times or any fees charged to take your money out.
- Coral: Contact customer services and any money will be refunded to the bank account you registered with and the account will be closed.
- Ladbrokes: Cancel online, in shop, in writing or by calling customer services. Any funds will be returned to the bank account you registered with and the account will be closed.
- Paddy Power: You can close the account by phone, chat or email. The remaining balance will be transferred to the most recent payment method made and the account will be closed.
- William Hill: You can call, email or live chat with customer services. The funds are returned to the bank account you registered with within 2-5 working days after the request and the account will be closed.
Bet Fred does not charge an inactive account fee but it may force you to place a certain number of bets in order to close your account. So check the terms and conditions first. To close the account, you'll need to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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'Dormant fee designed to be a tool against money laundering'
MoneySavingExpert.com asked Paddy Power, which levies the highest inactive account charge for a comment, but it is yet to respond.
A spokesman for William Hill however, which also charges a levy, says the dormant account policy is "designed to be a tool against money laundering" and adds its regulator, the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association (GBGA), requires it to have regulations to protect accounts from fraud.
The spokesman says: "Our active account holders face no fees or charges whatsoever from William Hill. Should your account remain inactive for 24 consecutive months and have a positive balance, a monthly administration charge will apply for the maintenance of the William Hill account.
"Before we begin deducting this charge from your account balance, we will notify you and assist you should you wish to make use of your account again. The monthly charge will be deducted on the 15th day of the first month after your account becomes inactive, and on the same date on each month thereafter (if it remains inactive)."