How to find your lost savings

Esther Shaw

Guest Blogger & Personal Finance Expert

May 4, 2021

The notion of misplacing your hard-earned cash may sound far-fetched, but as we now have relationships with so many financial firms over the course of our lives, it’s easy to lose track.

There’s thought to be billions lying around in lost bank accounts, premium bonds, investments and pension plans.

Right now, with the Coronavirus having wreaked havoc on our finances, and many of us having to get by on reduced incomes, tracking down cash in an account you’d forgotten about could be a real boost.

Here, our guest blogger, Esther Shaw takes a look at how to go about finding out if any of the money lying unclaimed is yours, and explains how to go about getting it back.

Bank and building society accounts

There’s a hefty pile of money sitting dormant in UK bank accounts: some figures suggest there could be as much as £850m.[1]

While there are many reasons why people lose touch with their accounts, one of the most common is a change of address when moving to a new house.

The good news is, if you think you might have lost current accounts or savings accounts with a bank or building society, you can easily check for any cash in your name.

Head to My Lost Account, a free online service which helps you trace lost accounts and savings and guides you through simple steps to reunite you with your money.

It combines the tracing schemes of UK Finance, the Building Societies Association and National Savings & Investments (NS&I).

My Lost Account can be particularly helpful in cases where the bank or building society has since closed or merged.

Note that it can take banks and building societies up to three months to respond to a claim. That said, if you do get reunited with lost funds, it will be worth the wait.

Premium bonds

Over the years, many of us have been given premium bonds as a gift. I was given a handful by my grandparents as a child – quite a few decades ago.

As with bank accounts, it’s easy to lose track of the money held in these bonds. I only recently found my paperwork when carrying out a major declutter during lockdown.

It’s estimated there’s more than £400m[2] in lost NS&I savings accounts and premium bonds.

You can use the My Lost Account service to find any bonds that you’d forgotten about, or that you didn’t realise you held.

Perhaps more importantly, you will be keen to know whether any of your missing premium bonds have won a prize over the years. Once you’ve got your holder’s number, you can check this via NS&I’s prize-checker tool.

Note that older bonds, bought more than 30 years ago may not have a holder’s number, they may just be individually numbered bonds. You can contact NS&I for more information.

According to Money Saving Expert [2], there’s more than £60m in unclaimed prizes, so you just might be in for a windfall.

(Sad to say, I wasn’t one of the lucky ones).

Pensions

The Association of British Insurers estimates there are around 1.6 million pension pots worth £19.4bn[3] that are ‘lost.’

Once again, one of the major reasons for this is people failing to contact their pension provider when they move house. Equally, with many of us moving between jobs multiple times during our working lives, it can be all-too-easy to lose track of workplace pensions when you change employer.

But no matter whether you’ve lost a workplace pension or personal pension, the sooner you trace it, the better.

A great starting point is the free Pension Tracing Service.

For more information, read our blog: How to find a lost pension.

Child Trust Funds

Findings suggest there are currently more than one million Child Trust Funds (CTFs) that need reclaiming[4].

These tax-free Government-funded accounts were launched back in 2005 and made available to all children born in the UK between September 1, 2002 and January 2, 2011.

If you don’t know if your child has one, you can use the Government’s free online tool. For more information on finding lost CTFs, read our blog How to find your lost CTF.

Lottery wins

To check if you have won an unclaimed lottery prize, go to the unclaimed prizes page of the National Lottery website. It's worth noting that unless you make a claim within 180 days of the draw date, the prize and any interest earned on it will go to benefit National Lottery Projects across the UK.

What happens to all the lost cash?

The Government has started to use any cash left untouched for 15 years to support charities and social enterprises if the customer can’t be reached.

After this point, any money that belongs to you will still be available for you to reclaim. You just need to put in the effort to track it down!

How to avoid losing track of your hard-earned cash?

A good way to keep track of all your financial accounts is by making a list of the accounts and policies you have – perhaps with a simple asset register, stored with your will.

Keep all your important paperwork in one place. Remember to tell your spouse or partner and dependents where to find all the relevant information.

And crucially, when you move house, be sure to notify all relevant financial organisations – as well as your employer – of your new address.

[1] The Money Advice Service

[2] Money Saving Expert

[3] Association of British Insurers

[4] This is Money