A self-employed IT consultant who was left without work has avoided getting into debt after reclaiming £45,000 in PPI with the help of MoneySavingExpert.com's free PPI reclaim tool.

Sarah – who asked not to give her full name – says the success was a "godsend", as it saved her from financial difficulties during a period where she didn't have money coming in.

She told us that MSE's free PPI reclaim tool – which uses the complaints firm Resolver's technology – was key to helping her make many of the claims and has urged others to use it, saying she was "surprised about how little effort it took".

PPI stands for Payment Protection Insurance, which is sold alongside loans, cards, overdrafts, mortgages and catalogue accounts. It's designed to cover repayments for a year if you can't, eg, if you become unemployed – and in itself, there's nothing wrong with it.

Yet banks and building societies massively overcharged and systemically mis-sold it, adding it without asking or failing to ensure it was suitable. So far 12 million have reclaimed, but millions more are likely to be due cash.

If you've been mis-sold PPI, the clock is now ticking. With the regulator spending millions to advertise the 29 Aug 2019 reclaim deadline it'll likely jam up the system, so act now to beat the backlog. See our Reclaim PPI for Free guide for full help.

How Sarah reclaimed £45,000

In March this year, Sarah, from Kent, was left in a sticky situation. Self-employed her entire working life, she was unexpectedly left without any employment contracts or job offers, and faced having to take out a business loan to make ends meet.

Sarah had heard about PPI reclaims on TV and reading MoneySavingExpert, but wasn't sure if she'd been affected. To decide whether to claim, she checked her credit report. That told her what loans and cards she had had – she then claimed for PPI mis-selling on those accounts.

Sarah submitted six claims herself writing to banks – a process she admitted she found laborious.

She received two payments back, from the Bank of Scotland, worth more than £9,000 in total. This inspired her to put in 11 more claims, using MSE's free reclaim tool to make the process easier.

Sarah said: "What I found with Resolver was that I did not get inundated with letters. Almost nobody came back with further questions.

"I had almost no paperwork, just my credit file, but all I needed was the loan number or the account number – in no case except one did I have a PPI certificate. People get scared to put in claims, but you actually don't need that much evidence."

Sarah has now been successful with eight PPI claims in all, worth just over £45,000 in total – one claim, from M&S Bank, was worth almost £20,000 alone.

She added: "This was a godsend. I would have had to take out an additional loan without the money. It's allowed me to carry on as normal, and I also have some money left over, which I'll be putting into an ISA and saving for home improvements."

Five of Sarah's total 17 PPI claims have been rejected, and another four are still pending. She's also separately used our free flight delay reclaim tool – also powered by Resolver – to successfully claim £400 for a delayed flight.

Sarah's successful PPI reclaims in full

When Sarah got the money back Date product was taken out Product and firm claimed from (1) Amount reclaimed
May 2017 2004 AA loan (Centrica Personal): Bank of Scotland £2,865
May 2017 2001 AA credit card: Bank Of Scotland £6,380
July 2017 1996 Halifax mortgage (interest only): Halifax £1,637
August 2017 2001 HFC Bank loan: HSBC £4,166
August 2017 2000 HFC Bank loan: HSBC £166
August 2017 1998 M&S Personal Reserve loan: M&S Bank £19,667
August 2017 2000 Tesco Visa: Tesco Bank £4,674
August 2017 1996 Etam (GE Capital Bank), New Day: Santander £5,188
(1) Firm claimed from not necessarily the same company the product was bought from.

What paperwork do you need to reclaim PPI?

In our Reclaim PPI for Free guide we normally tell people that they need to check if they had PPI before reclaiming. To do this:

  • If your insurance has been active at any point in the past six years... it doesn't matter if you can't find any paperwork, as you can request information from lenders going back six years.
  • If your policy ended over six years ago... the 'statute of limitations' means banks don't need to keep records that are over six years old. However, there is no official cut-off time. So if you've still got the paperwork, while your chances of success are a little lower with older loans, many still do successfully reclaim.

In Sarah's case, though, she managed to reclaim PPI without even knowing for sure that she'd had it – except in one case – and without being sure she'd been mis-sold.

Sarah simply applied quoting her account numbers and let the banks do the rest. While she was asked some questions, in only one case did a bank ask her to provide a statement, and in that case she was luckily able to find it.

But while this worked for Sarah, if you can find supporting paperwork or ask for it from lenders, it's likely to boost your chances.

Is this the biggest PPI success we've ever seen?

Surprisingly, this is actually some way off the biggest PPI success we've seen. In 2012, MSE reported how a father from Essex received an astonishing £82,000 for mis-sold PPI.

We're inundated with stories from MoneySavers who've successfully reclaimed thousands – for example, last year a widow told us she'd reclaimed £35,000 owed to her late husband using our reclaim template letter.

To let us know how you've got on, email news@moneysavingexpert.com.