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How to recover money from old, lost accounts

author: Helen Fox

By Helen Fox

According to MoneyHelper, there’s an estimated £568 million languishing in lost bank and savings accounts in the UK.

Could any of that be yours? Find out how you can check if you have long-lost money in old, forgotten accounts with our tips.

What kind of accounts might you lose?

If you think you might have money in an old, forgotten account, chances are it’s one of these:

  • an old bank or building society account
  • National Savings and Investments (NS&I) accounts
  • Premium bonds

Losing track of an account is much more common than you might think. It can happen when banks and building societies merge or rebrand, or if they change how you access your account.

You may also have money in accounts that family members opened on your behalf when you were a child. Perhaps your parents put money in a savings account when you were born, or maybe your grandparents gifted you some premium bonds for a milestone birthday.

When is an account considered lost?

An account is generally considered lost if it’s been inactive for 15 years or more. This means you haven’t paid in or withdrawn any money from the account, and you haven’t been in touch with the company the account is with. If you’ve lost track of an account more recently than 15 years ago, it may not be considered officially “lost”.

If you can’t remember who the account is with, let alone any of the account details, this could make it trickier – but not impossible – to track down.

How to claim lost money

How you go about claiming money that’s in lost savings accounts depends what you remember about the account you’ve lost. These are your options:

Speak to family

If you’re trying to track down accounts that family members may have opened for you when you were younger, speak to your parents or other relatives – if you can – who may remember what happened. There’s a chance they’ll recall some of the details that could help you track your lost account down. If you’re lucky, they may even still have old paperwork with all the account details you need.

Ask the bank or building society

If you lost track of an account less than 15 years ago, or you remember who a lost account was with, ask the provider. That’ll normally be the bank, building society, or NS&I. Even if you don’t have information like the account number, they may be able to help you trace the account using your personal details (such as your name and address).

If they can locate your account, then what happens next depends on the institution. This might include filling in paperwork or sending off documentation to prove your identity. Once this is all sorted, though, you should be given access to your account to start using it again, or move the money and close it down.

Use My Lost Account

If you lost track of an account over 15 years ago, the free My Lost Account service could help you. They can help if you don’t have any of your account details, and even if you don’t remember who the account is with.

My Lost Account helps to reunite you with money that’s held with any major UK bank, 43 UK building societies or with NS&I (including old Post Office savings accounts), in one go. They can even help you if the company your account was originally with no longer exists. This can happen if they close down, rebrand, or merge with another company – like when Abbey National merged with Santander, for example.

All you need to do to trace your lost accounts with My Lost Account is fill in their online form. Then, your details will be securely shared with the institutions you may have an account with. They’ll then check their records and let you know about the outcome and next steps. If they do manage to locate an account, it's likely you'll need to prove your identity and show that you’re legally entitled to the money held in any accounts that are found.

Do you need to pay to find lost accounts?

There are organisations out there that may charge you a fee to trace your lost accounts. But, there’s no need to pay, and you should be wary of anyone asking for money in exchange for finding your lost accounts.

Speaking to your bank or building society will always be free to do if you pop into a branch. Most institutions have freephone phone numbers you can call them on, too. And, if you don't remember who your old account is with, the My Lost Account service is completely free to use, too.

Can I trace lost accounts that don’t belong to me?

It should be possible to trace an account that doesn’t belong to you. If the named account holder is still alive, you will need their written permission to search for their accounts for them, as well as the appropriate legal authority to act on their behalf, for example, holding Power of Attorney for them.

If you are acting on behalf of someone who has passed away, it’s essential that you have the appropriate legal authority to handle their finances. This usually means being the executor of their estate or their next of kin.

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Disclaimer: We make every effort to ensure that content is correct at the time of publication. Please note that information published on this website does not constitute financial advice, and we aren’t responsible for the content of any external sites.

Lady with curly hair in yellow jumper smiling while using a laptop Lady with curly hair in yellow jumper smiling while using a laptop