Reclaim forgotten cash
Find lost cash in old accounts & pensions
Billions of unclaimed financial assets in the UK lie in old bank accounts, pensions, life assurance and investments – yet most are easy to reclaim. So whether the account's yours or belonged to a deceased relative, it's worth spending 10 minutes looking. You could be in line for a windfall – one MSE forum user found an old pension worth £39,000.
What is a lost asset?
There's big money stored away waiting to be reclaimed. It's believed that there's more than £1 billion in old bank and building society accounts alone. There's also lost cash in Premium Bonds, pensions, investments and insurance policies – potentially more than £20 billion in total.
In fact there's so much lost cash, the Government set up a 'Big Society fund' for social and community causes, using cash in accounts that have been dormant for more than 15 years. As of January 2021, it was reported a further £800 million from dormant accounts was to be spent, and in 2020, £150 million was used to help charities dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
However, any cash that is yours should still be available for reclaiming. You just need to do it!
And it really works – MoneySaver Lance reports:
Used the information on your site to search for any old pensions I might have had years ago. Found I had £39,000 pension with Scottish Widows. Thank you.
Read Lance's full story.
How do I know if I’ve got a lost asset?
As it's lost, you won't necessarily know that you have one.
Accounts are declared dormant after banks fail in attempts to track you down at your last known address. Investment providers will continue to administer your investment, but if you don't tell them when you move, you can't monitor how that investment's performing. There are two main triggers for financial service providers:
Returned letters and statements
If the bank, building society or investment provider sends post, and it gets returned marked with an explanation that you don't live at that address anymore, it'll mark this on your account, and try to contact you through any other details it has.
Even if mail is returned, if you're still using 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, current accounts are deemed 'lost' after about 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.
You don't need to 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. Also be wary of giving out your details to anyone claiming to be able to help you trace lost accounts, as it could be a scam.
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.
How to trace lost bank and savings accounts
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 you can now use one site to check a whole bunch of them.
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 or savings accounts. It's estimated the unclaimed cash in these could be £850 million, so it's worth it.
To start reclaiming, simply go to the site, select 'Start 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.
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 Rights guide for other complaints the FOS can help with.
WARNING: If you're contacted out of the blue by someone claiming to be able to help you trace lost accounts or consolidate your pensions for you, be wary as it's likely to be a scam. You do not need to pay a third party to trace your lost assets.
How to find old pensions and investments
It's not just bank accounts, there's more money hidden away in old investments and pensions, with the amount estimated to be at least £19 billion. Use the services below to find yours.
Pensions (employer and personal schemes only)
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. As a first step, look through old paperwork or contact HR at your old employers to see if they can help find details of previous workplace pension schemes you may have been part of.
If that doesn't help, try the simple, free tool from the The Pension Tracing Service. It has details of more than 200,000 different pension schemes, and will help 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.
Catch-all service, but fee to pay
If you've lost a insurance policy, pension, or shareholding, then the Unclaimed Assets Register (run by Experian) can be used to trace it. It does a single search of all companies signed up to the register – 4.5 million records, from around 80 different providers.
If there's a match, you'll be given the provider's contact details so you can investigate further with them.
However, this service is not free. You're charged a fixed fee, currently £25 each time you do a search.
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!
Ensure that a deceased relative's account is actually 'lost' before using the claim routes above. If you know the account details and which bank or provider it is with, then contact them in the first instance to track the account down.
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