Although it may seem almost unthinkable to lose track of your cash, it’s a surprisingly common occurrence.
Since everyone can do with discovering their own little ‘pot of gold’, we did some research to discover ways of claiming your forgotten funds.
The good news is: finding assets is easier than you might think!
Let’s take a look
- Introducing Experian assets search
- Types of forgotten assets
- Mis-sold PPI
- Finding money around the house
- Claiming damages
- Checking your credit report
One of the quickest and easiest ways to find out whether you’re entitled to misplaced cash, is to use Experian’s new Unclaimed Assets Register (UAR).
Darren Beach from Experian explains: “A few years ago I returned to the UK after living abroad for a while. I kept my bank account open since I wasn’t sure whether or not I might go back. I didn’t, and I now don’t have any cards or paperwork for the account.
“While there wasn’t much money left in there (just a few pounds) it will remain in the account and is, in theory, an unclaimed asset.
“Now, imagine if all of us had an account like that which had lay dormant for whatever reason – that’s a heck of a lot of money lying around without anyone claiming it.”
Sure enough, figures from Experian suggest that while the total value of unclaimed financial assets in the UK has not been accurately defined, it is estimated to be approximately £15-20 billion. In fact a sum of around £400 million lies unclaimed in various bank and building society accounts.
And it isn’t just forgotten bank accounts – an asset can be separated from its owner for many reasons, from something as simple as a change of address, to illegal activity or the death of a partner. It could also be when people make investments and fail to tell their partners.
There is actually £31 million floating around in around half a million unclaimed premium bond prizes, and a whopping £400 million worth from life assurance and pension schemes that has never been paid out.
The total amount of unclaimed money estimated in NS&I (National Savings and Investments) products is as much as £1 billion.
Hopefully what these impressively large figures will tell you is that there’s a good chance that you have at least some unclaimed money somewhere, and it’s definitely worth a search for assets to find out for sure.
Experian’s Unclaimed Assets Register (UAR) is a fully integrated website that enables users to locate lost or forgotten assets, re-establish contact with financial institutions and reclaim money due. It could also safeguard your families’ assets following death.
Jo Buxton, Insurance General Manager at Experian, told us: “There is approximately £20 billion worth of unclaimed financial assets lodged with UK companies. Improvements to the UAR have made it a faster, more intelligent and user friendly service, enabling these lost assets to be reunited with their rightful owners.
Some examples of unclaimed funds include:
Forgotten bank accounts
There are surprisingly many ways to lose track of your bank accounts. Perhaps you and a spouse opened one to save for a specific purpose, but never used it. Maybe a grandparent or a parent opened one for you as a child, but never handed over the relevant documentation. Or perhaps you moved house and forgot to inform the bank holding one of your less significant accounts.
After various unsuccessful attempts at contacting you, banks typically declare your account dormant. The time-frame for this is normally a year for current accounts and five years for savings accounts.
If you suspect you may have forgotten about an old bank account and would like to reunite with your dormant funds, all you have to do is launch a quick search on mylostaccount.org.
According to an article on Money Saving Expert, one of their forum users actually found an old pension worth £39,000 this way!
Doing a quick search to see if anything of the sort exists can do no harm!
Forgotten pension plans
If you’ve changed jobs a couple of times during your career, chances are pretty good that you might have lost track of one or two pension funds.
Luckily the government offers a pension tracking service that can help you trace any lost funds that may be in your name.
Before contacting the Pension Tracking Service, try to gather as much information as possible to offer them. Here are a few important examples:
- names of previous employers
- names of previous pension services
- dates of employment/belonging to a scheme
- any changes in business name/addresses
The tracking service will be able to tell you the names and contact details of any institutions that may have your money. Getting in touch and claiming it back, is up to you.
Lost stocks or shares
With takeovers, rebranding and mergers being the order of the day in business, losing track of stocks and shares is remarkably easy.
Fortunately, companies keep a record of all shareholders and dividends no matter how many changes they undergo, so if you have an inkling of where you’ve invested, you can contact them directly.
Otherwise, Experian’s UAR is the best route to take.
Between the early 1990s and 2010, selling payment protection policies (PPI) alongside loans, credit cards and mortgages was common practice with banks in the UK. And while it seemed like a sensible addition to any big purchase, many banks and credit card companies extended the products to people who would never have been able to claim.
In other words, if you took out a loan, applied for a credit card or purchased a home in the past 30 years, chances are pretty good that it came standard with mis-sold PPI and you didn’t even know.
Now, following the Plevin court ruling, you may be able to apply for a refund.
The scenario is so common in the UK that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has put together an entire guide to the process and set 29 August 2019 as a deadline for all applications.
Visit the FCA website for details on how you can go about claiming your PPI.
Compared to discovering a substantial sum of money in a lost bank account, stumbling upon a couple of pounds while cleaning the house is kind of lame.
Or is it?
We can all attest to the small joy of fishing a crumpled note out of a coat pocket or locating a small fortune of coins in the couch.
Other possible windfalls you may find at home include
Cheques may be considered pasè these days, but if one flutters out an old birthday card who are you to turn a blind eye?
Since most cheques expire after six months, getting cash may be a bit complicated. Firstly, contact the person/company who signed it and ask if they would consider reissuing. If they do, head to the bank and hold thumbs that they accept it.
If, for some reason, you can’t contact the person/company, you could always just go to the bank anyway and see what they suggest!
Unused Oyster Cards
So, you finally located that Oyster card you thought you’d lost all those months ago… after purchasing a new one. How annoying!
Before you toss the old one away, it may be worth applying for a refund.
Check your balance online and, if it seems like an amount you’d rather have in your pocket, select ‘apply for a product refund’. If all goes well, you will receive a full refund of your deposit, credit and remaining season ticket.
Find out more on the Transport for London website.
Suspect you might be paying too much for your gas or electricity? You might just be! Luckily there are ways and means of reclaiming those mis-spent funds.
Or perhaps your recent travel cancellation left you in debt. You can totally get that money back from the airline or train company.
Read our quick guide to claiming back money from organisations and companies you may not even know are in your debt
One of the first ways to ensure your finances are in order, is to check your credit report. This lists your credit accounts, from cards and loans to your mortgage.
It will show you where the money’s going, and importantly flag up any unusual financial behaviour or unfamiliar accounts which you can check up on.
It’s also a good way to keep track of how you’re coping with your finances, and see whether there are any accounts that you don’t need any more, and can go.
You can see your Experian credit score and credit report for free with a 30-day trial of CreditExpert (for new customers only).