What is a dormant account?
Accounts which haven’t been touched for 15 years or more, despite attempts by the savings provider to get in touch with the owner of the account, are known as ‘dormant’ accounts.
How long does it take for a bank account to go dormant?
It takes roughly 3-15 years of account inactivity for the account to be classified as dormant. The time period can vary depending on the provider, so consider asking your bank what their cut-off line is before trying to reclaim your funds as your account may still be active.
If the bank account hasn’t seen any transactions for an extended period of time, the bank will then attempt to contact you. If the bank can’t reach you for up to 4 month, the account will then become dormant.
Even if the account has been dormant for a number of years, you will still be able to gain access to your money by following a few short steps.
Why could a bank account become dormant?
When there is a complete absence of activity in your account – meaning no withdrawals or deposits were made to your account – it’s usually safe to assume the account has become dormant.
If your statements or any other communication are returned to the bank, it indicates that they can’t get hold of you. They’ll still attempt to contact you in other ways such as by phone, but if this continues for a few months, the account will become dormant.
Where do your savings go if you don’t claim them?
There is a dormant accounts scheme in place named the Dormant Bank and Building Society to donate the money that is left unclaimed to good causes. To date £600 million has been channelled towards vulnerable populations such as those living in poverty, and many who struggle to find employment.
Reclaim Fund however will keep a portion of the funds for account holders who do come forward to claim their savings.
How customers can reclaim their funds
The easiest way would be to get in touch with your provider. You’ll usually be asked to provide as much information as possible about the account, including:
- The account number
- The name of the account holder
- The account balance
- Whether you can provide any statements
The rule being the more information you can provide, the easier it’ll be to verify your identity and reclaim your funds.
An alternative way to tracing old bank accounts [MA6] is through MyLostAccount, a free service set up by the British Banker’s Association to help you trace your lost account and savings. After verifying your profile, you can fill in the search form and your application will be used to filter through lost bank and building society accounts as well as lost National Savings and Investment products.
You’ll receive a letter or email to let you know about the results or whether you’ll need to provide additional information.
Do you have a dormant account in your name?
Often when an account is opened in your name as a child, it can be left untouched and turn become a dormant savings account. It’s a good idea to get in touch with the parent or guardian who set the account up if you’re looking to access the funds.
If you manage to get hold of old statements or paperwork that was signed when opening the account in question, it’ll likely help speed up the process. Once you have the necessary papers, you will be able to access your funds to withdraw or transfer as and when you need to.
It can also be the case that your old account turns dormant during the process of moving houses. If you did not let your bank know about the change of address, any correspondence you ought to be receiving from your bank may not have reached you and so it will be registered as inactive.
This is if along with these letters being returned to the bank provider, your account has also seen no activity in a number of years. An absence of transactions for upwards of 3 years is however enough for the bank to determine your savings account as inactive and therefore dormant.
Name changes, for example, if you get married, can also cause you to lose track of old savings accounts if these were registered to your previous name.
Reclaiming dormant funds of deceased relatives or family members
Much like you’d claim an old dormant account in that belongs to you, if you file a claim from MyLostAccount, you’ll have the option to select the recovery of an account that isn’t registered in your name. You will have to provide proof of identity and your claim to the funds.
If you have an iron-clad will, for example, this will make the process relatively hassle-free. It’s worth noting however that if the amount you’re trying to claim is exceptionally high, there may be more stringent rules specific to the amount you’d have to abide by. This means it might take longer to verify your identity and claim your money.
How long does it take to find an account?
As a general rule, banks and building societies typically take up to three months to locate your savings, whereas NS&I claims that it will usually respond to requests within a month.
The length of time it will take to track down your savings often depends on how much information you have been able to provide. If you have only a few details, the chances are it will take much longer than if you can provide the account number and sort code.
Can a dormant bank account be reactivated?
If the account has only been made inactive but not yet dormant, a simple transaction will reactivate your account. This can be done via an ATM withdrawal or through internet banking.
Inactivity is usually only the case if your account hasn’t been active for a year or two. If it’s been longer than that, you’ll have to activate a dormant account in which case you’ll have to go through the same process you’d use to access your funds – by submitting a form online via MyLostAccounts.
What happens to dormant bank accounts?
A number of limits will be placed on the account to make sure no one is able to access your account.
- ATM use is blocked
- You won’t be issued new cheque books and debit cards
- Some banks block internet banking altogether
How do you stop your bank account from becoming dormant?
By carrying out regular transactions such as withdrawing or depositing money regularly, you’ll be able to prevent the account from being classified as dormant. This includes anything from cheque payments and internet banking to the using ATMs or even phone banking.
Interest payments or penalty deductions are not considered active transactions as these are completely bank-initiated. So while these are technically transactions, they can’t verify that you are actively using your bank account.
It’s a good idea to commit to regular and minimal transactions to avoid the lengthy process of recovering a dormant account.
Why do banks resort to dormancy?
Banks resort to dormancy to prevent any potential of fraudulent activities including identity theft – for example, when you move home your bank statements may be delivered to an outdated address. As a result your privacy may be breached as others may now have sensitive information and gain potential access your funds.
Things you should know about dormant accounts
Here’s a few more things to consider about dormant accounts:
- Any interest you received on your account is still legally yours. This means even if your account was classified as dormant, you should still receive the interest you would’ve received otherwise so it’s best to make sure you’re fully reimbursed
- Savings accounts can remain ‘active’ for a longer period of time, roughly 3-5 years of inactivity opposed to current accounts which can become dormant after only 12 months
- You can also trace back dated Premium bonds and other National Savings and Investments through www.mylostaccount.org.
- Dormant accounts usually pay relatively low rates of interest, as banks and building societies reserve their best rates for the latest issues of their accounts, so you won’t want to leave your savings there any longer than you need to
- If you are searching for unclaimed Premium Bond prizes, you can enter your account number into the online prize-checker search on the NS&I website.
Compare savings accounts with MoneySuperMarket
When it comes to switching savings accounts, there’s a few things to consider. From making sure the account suits your saving habits to finding competitive interest rates, you can never be too informed.
Find out how your current rate compares and head over to our savings account comparison and upgrade your account to benefit from the best that’s out there. You can tailor it to your specific needs by telling us what your starting balance will be as well as the provider you may have your eye on (if there is one). We’ll give you a list of potential savings accounts best suited to your needs, be that easy access, fixed or ISA accounts.