The UK government recently announced it would be unlocking £330m that has been sitting in dormant accounts for at least 15 years to spend on a number of social initiatives.
While there are no official figures on the number of dormant accounts held in the UK, it has been reported that the average amount of money in each of the identified accounts is less than £100.
If you think you may have money saved somewhere that’s been forgotten, here’s what you can do about it.
What is a dormant account?
An account is declared dormant if it’s been left unused for an extended period of time – usually a year for current accounts and three to five years for savings accounts, but this varies from bank to bank.
If the bank or building society has been unable to contact the account holder or if letters asking if you still want to keep the account open are not actioned or returned to sender, the account is termed dormant.
The money will remain untouched in these accounts for up to 15 years, at which point the government is able to unlock those funds to use.
How can you find out if you have a dormant account?
One of the easiest ways to track down a lost account is by visiting mylostaccount. This is a free service run by UK Finance, Building Societies Association and National Savings and Investments (NS&I).
Complete the online form to search for banks, building societies and NS&I products you or a deceased relative own – but note it could take up to three months to hear back.
Many people also have lost assets, such as pensions, premium bonds and other investments – and these can be tracked down, too. NS&I also have a Tracing Service to help you track down unclaimed or forgotten investments and savings.
Some banks will also help you find an old account in branch – any old bank statements, passbooks or other information relating to the account will help find it more easily.
You can look for assets and accounts held in your name, as well as those of deceased relatives. What happens to the money in them depends on the terms of the person’s will.
- Find out more: How to find lost bank and savings accounts
How to reclaim your money
If you do find an old account with money in it, you have a choice of what to do with it. The chances are the account won’t be offering interest any more.
The best thing to do is either transfer the remaining money to one of your existing accounts, or you could switch it to a new account with better rates.
- Find out more: How to switch your savings account
What happens to unclaimed funds?
If an account has remained dormant for 15 years, the government is free to take that money. Under the Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Act 2008, it must be used for social or environmental purposes.
At this point, the bank or building society will transfer money from the dormant account to Reclaim Fund Ltd (RFL). Should someone seek to claim their money back, get in touch with your bank or building society, who can reimburse you for the funds or reactivate your account. You are still entitled to receive your money once it’s been passed to the RFL.
For this latest accrual of funds, the government will split them between the Big Lottery Fund and Big Society Capital, and used to help disadvantaged young people into work, housing vulnerable people, improving access to financial products for those on lower incomes, and providing support for local charities.