More than £15 billion pounds of unclaimed financial assets in the UK lie in old bank accounts, pensions, life assurance and investments Ė yet most are easy to reclaim.
So whether the account's yours or an inheritance from a deceased relative or family member, it's worth spending 10 minutes looking - you could unexpectedly find £1,000s, or even more!
In this guide
What is a lost asset?
There's big money stored away waiting to be reclaimed; some believe up to £400 million in old bank accounts and building society accounts alone. There's also lost cash in Premium Bonds, pensions, investments and insurance policies - more than £15 billion in total.
In fact there's so much lost cash, the Government has started to use it, setting up a 'Big Society' fund for social and community causes using cash in accounts that have been dormant for more than 15 years.
However, any cash that is yours should still be available for reclaiming; you just need to do it!
And it really works - MoneySaver Murphymycat reports:
"I used The Pension Service to track down an old company pension, worked there 18 years ago and only paid in for a few years, so wasn't expecting too much. I heard in about 4 weeks and there was a pension for £21,000.
"To anyone who's not sure, just go for it - you never know"
How do I know if Iíve got one?
You won't necessarily. Accounts are declared dormant after banks fail in attempts to track you down at your last known address. There are two main triggers to set off the bank seeking to contact you:
Returned letters and statements
If the bank or building society send post, and it gets returned to them marked with an explanation that you don't live at that address anymore, they'll mark this on your account, and try to contact you through any other details they have.
Even if mail is returned, if transactions are still taking place in the account it's likely to remain open. However long periods of inactivity often cause accounts to be marked as dormant. The amount of time varies depending on the bank and the product; in general though current accounts are deemed 'lost' after abou 12 months of no use, while savings accounts can be left for three to five years before the bank takes action.
This means that unless you have an inkling that you had an account with a provider, it's unlikely you'll find out about any dormant accounts. However, if there's any chance cash of yours is sitting unused in a bank's coffers, have a search as there's nothing to lose. Better still, once you find a lost account, the interest rate is likely to be rubbish, so ditch it and switch to a Top Savings Account.
Don't pay to reclaim
There's absolutely no need to pay anyone to do this. A growing market of companies offer to track down your old assets for a fee. Ignore them! It can easily be done yourself without forking out the cash. Depending on the type of product your assets are in - current accounts, savings, pensions, or various investments - a selection of organisations provide facilities to help search for unclaimed assets, many of which can be done quickly and at no cost online.
Find old bank accounts and savings
Tracing old accounts and reclaiming your money from them used to involve filling in a different form depending on what type of account you were trying to locate; a bit of a repetitive strain. The good news is there's now one site to check a whole bunch of them.
Bank accounts, savings and Premium Bonds.
The British Bankers Association, the Building Societies Association and National Savings & Investments (NS&I) have a joint venture, My Lost Account, which replaces their separate account tracing tools.
Use this to find lost current accounts, savings accounts or Premium Bonds. It's estimated the unclaimed cash in these could be nearly £1 billion, so it's worth it.
To start reclaiming, simply go to the site, select 'search' and you can fill in the details about the account you are looking for.
After that it's a waiting game; banks and building societies say they'll respond within three months of the claim, while NS&I, which provides Premium Bonds and a few other savings products, says it'll get back to you in one month.
If a bank/ building society can't agree on the validity of your claim you have the right to appeal internally through the bank and then, if still unsuccessful, to refer your complaint to the independent arbiter, the Financial Ombudsman Service. Also, see the Financial Fightback guide for other complaints the FOS can help with.
Have you reclaimed cash using My Lost Account?
Please report your Reclaiming Lost Assets Success Stories
Pension and investment products
It's not just bank accounts, in fact there's more money hidden away in old investments. There's no single website to visit, but it's still easy to do.
Occupational and Personal Pensions
Always try to keep in touch with your pension schemes as it may affect your ability to claim pension benefits when you retire if you lose contact. With details of over 200,000 pensions schemes The Pension Tracing Service helps you find an up-to-date contact address for the scheme you're looking for.
Remember if a close relative has died without taking their pension, you may be eligible for that pension fund cash too.
For help in tracing unit trusts you can contact the Investment Management Association, either by phone or email.
The Association of Investment Companies will take you through the process of searching for lost investment trusts if you call it on 020 7282 5555.
Life insurance policies.
If you've lost a life policy The Unclaimed Assets Register (run by Experian) can be used to trace it by completing the online search form. The register's database will be searched and, if you agree, the relevant institutions will be given your current address for further contact.
Warning: This service is not free. You're charged a fixed fee, currently £25.
Have you reclaimed cash from investments/pensions/life insurance?
Please report your Reclaiming Lost Assets Success Stories
Can I reclaim assets of deceased relatives?
Yes. When using any of these searches you'll be asked whether the claim is for an account of yours, and if not, the name of the account holder is requested. At the point when the information is passed on to the account/investment provider, it will then contact you to confirm your identity, and work through ensuring the cash gets to the right person.
The process varies from case to case, but providing there was a Will and there aren't any huge family rifts over who is entitled to the cash, it should go smoothly. Bigger reclaims are likely to take longer to sort out, but obviously the reward is higher too!