Unused bank accounts contain millionsHalifax and HSBC seek owners of unused accounts

10 September 2008

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Cash for free? 36% say its important

Two of the biggest banks in the UK are today announcing a drive to reunite customers with millions of pounds left in unused accounts.

Halifax is trying to hand back £29.6m to people who have not touched their bank account for 15 years, while HSBC aims to help 17,000 customers reclaim £24m.

The drive is being launched ahead of the introduction of the government's Unclaimed Assets Scheme, the bill for which is currently going through Parliament.

Reclaim fund

Under the scheme, money that has been left in accounts for at least 15 years without any customer-initiated activity will be transferred to the Central Reclaim Fund and be reinvested in community projects, although people will never lose their right to reclaim their cash.

Halifax has so far handed back £17.5m to customers that was languishing in forgotten accounts.

But it said it was still trying to trace the owners of four accounts with more than £100,000 in them, while it also has 25 dormant accounts with balances of more than £50,000.

Unused accounts

Overall though, 70% of unused accounts have balances of less than £50, it said.

The group said London had the highest concentration of dormant accounts, with balances totalling £5.6m sitting in accounts that have not been touched for at least 15 years, followed by the South East at £5.4m and the North West at £3.8m.

In a bid to track down the owners of these accounts the group has registered all dormant accounts with the UK's Unclaimed Assets register, while it has also taken out adverts in the national and local press alerting people to the issue and giving them details on how to reclaim their cash.

Dormant accounts

HSBC is writing to more than 12,000 customers who have not touched their accounts for 15 years, while it is trying to trace a further 5,000 with dormant accounts who are no longer at the address the bank has for them.

The group said seven of the accounts had balances of more than £100,000 in them, while the average balance in a dormant savings account is £1,400.

The group is also planning to contact all customers with accounts that have not been used for more than two years to ensure that mail from the bank is not going to the wrong address.

Lost account site

People who think they may have money in a dormant account with a bank, building society or National Savings and Investments can check at www.mylostaccount.org.uk

There's also a Halifax website for people trying to trace lost accounts.

Carlos Wanderley, general manager of HSBC customer propositions, said: 'We are planning a sustained campaign of correspondence, active tracing, advertising and publicity.

'We will also be conducting research into the primary causes of account dormancy, which we hope will allow us, and the industry, to model accounts that are most likely to become dormant in future.'