Why has my account become 'dormant'?
An account can become dormant in one of the following instances:
- If your bank receives undelivered mail that it tried to send you.
- If you don't get in touch to inform them of a change of address they'll make the account dormant to prevent identity fraud.
- If there has been no activity on the account - no withdrawals or deposits - for a set period of time.
- This is typically three years for saving accounts and one year for current accounts.
Once your account has been marked as 'dormant', your bank will stop contacting you and no further action will be taken. It is up to you to track down this account if you want to reopen it or claim the funds back.
How do I find lost or dormant bank and savings accounts?
The easiest way to re-trace lost or dormant bank and savings accounts is to use the mylostaccount.org.uk service, run by the British Bankers' Association, Building Societies Association and National Savings and Investments (NS&I).
You can search banks, building societies and all NS&I products free of charge by completing one online form. Searches with banks and building societies will be completed within three months, and within one month for NS&I.
The form will ask for information such as your current contact details, date of birth and any previous addresses and names.
You will need to provide as much information as you can about the lost account, such as:
- The branch you opened it at
- When you opened it
- When you last used it
- An approximate balance
- Type of account
- Sort code and account number
Paper mylostaccount forms are also available in bank and building society branches.
If the provider finds an account that matches your information, it will contact you to explain how you can access the unclaimed funds, including any interest, in the account. You will need to provide proof of identity in order to access the money.
If you know which provider your lost account is with you can also contact it directly.
How do I trace lost investments?
The Unclaimed Assets Register will trace any lost investments in one go. It’s a database of investments, pensions and life insurance policies held with 76 major providers, including share registrars, administered by Experian. But you'll have to pay a fixed fee of £25 for the service.
This doesn't cover all financial institutions, so if you don't get a match, or you don't want to pay the fee, there are other options.
If you think you have company shares, but have lost your share certificate, you can check by applying to one of the three main company registrars – Capita Registrars, Computershare and Equiniti.
They’ll search their records and, for a fee, will supply a replacement certificate. If you've lost track of shares bought via a nominee account you would need to contact the broker.
Monimine is a relatively new tracing service that says it will check multiple asset types free of charge (it charges financial companies instead, relative to the volume of customers they have), although it doesn't cover all financial institutions and Which? has not had any feedback from users of the service.
For other investment products, the Investment Association may be able to help.
How do I find lost pensions?
For personal pension savings, call the Pensions Advisory Service, providing them with as much information as possible about the scheme, your dates of employment and copies of any certificates you still have.
Our full suite of guides can tell you everything you need to know about pensions and retirement
How do I trace lost premium bonds?
Tracing Service, NS&I, Glasgow, G58 1SB.
You'll be asked similar questions to the mylostaccount form, including your name, address, date of birth and previous names and addresses. You should try to provide as much information as possible about your premium bonds, such as the name of the person who bought them and approximate value.
You can also trace other NS&I products - such as savings certificates, accounts and Isas - in this way.
Find out more in our guide to premium bonds
How do I reclaim assets when someone dies?
Luckily, the process for tracing and reclaiming lost accounts when a relative dies is much the same as finding one of your own.
When using mylostaccount or providers' own tracing services, you'll be asked whether the claim is for one of your accounts, and if not you'll need to provide the name of the account holder.
You'll then be contacted to confirm your identity, and to sort out how to get the money to the right person.
If there is a will the process can be pretty straightforward; bigger claims tend to take longer to sort out.
You can also use the Death Notification Service to inform participating banks and building societies of someone's death by completing just one notification form.
What happens to money in dormant accounts?
Providers will hold onto money in dormant accounts for several years - and should hand it over straightaway if the accounts are traced.
After 15 years, under the government’s Unclaimed Assets Scheme, money in dormant bank accounts is given to charitable causes.
However, you will still be able to reclaim your money after this point by following the procedure explained above.
Premium bonds work slightly differently; as long as you haven't cashed in the bonds they'll still be valid and will still be entered into the prize draws each month.
How do I complain about an account tracing service?
If the bank can't find the account, and you're sure it exists, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).
The FOS will ask banks and building societies to demonstrate that they've done a full investigation into the account you're tracing. If the provider can't do this, the FOS will likely view your case favourably.
You'll usually need to provide the FOS with the original passbook, details of any names and addresses that have changed since the account was taken out.
You'll also need details of any major transactions (such as buying a house) since the last recorded entry on the account and an explanation of how the passbook came to light and why the customer had not been in contact with the bank before this time.
If the FOS find strong evidence that the account and balance still exist, it will usually tell the bank to reinstate the account with interest from the time of the last recorded transaction, pay interest on the new balance at a rate of 8% from the point that you first asked for the money to date.
You'll also get paid compensation if it thinks you've had to deal with any stress or inconvenience while sorting out the claim.
Find out more: how to make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service