Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.
Free money. It doesn’t exist right?
Wrong…well, you can get back money you didn’t know you had. That certainly exists. Millions of pounds-worth of it in fact!
An easy way to make money is by looking for old accounts, lost pensions and missing assets. You might be surprised at what’s there for you. Plus, we’ve heard of another place you could get free money – your old telecoms company.
Read on to grab some cash for free!
Well it might not be actual free money: it’s money you’ve already got but you don’t know about. So, you don’t have to earn it or spend to get it. It’s just lying around waiting for you to claim it.
There are billions of pounds-worth of unclaimed financial assets lying around in Britain, according to UAR (Unclaimed Assets Register), an organisation run by credit agency Experian. Some of that money could be yours!
The Government now takes control of genuinely unclaimed funds in dormant bank and savings accounts (those that haven’t been touched for 15 years or more), to fund various social projects, particularly youth projects. That’s great, but if it’s your money, it would be better for you to have it!
Actually, you can get hold of the money even after the Government gets its hands on it – but better to get hold of it before they do!
So, now more than ever, it’s crucial that you look up that account that you haven’t touched since childhood. There may be £50 or so in it, or any savings and bonds that are ticking away, forgotten in the bank somewhere.
Also, it could be that someone named you as a beneficiary of their pension or life insurance policy when they died but you didn’t know about it. There could be money there, waiting for you to grab it, so take a look.
If your family have always banked with the same institutions (and that happens a lot) it’s worth asking your bank to search for any savings accounts or old bank accounts that you might have had in the past.
Lots of banks have already taken the initiative into their own hands. For example, Halifax has given millions to thousands of customers, but there is still money to be claimed.
If you’re not sure about which bank your old account was with or if you’ve got one at all, go to Mylostaccount.org.uk.
This is a free online search service that will rummage through bank records for you. You have to enter your details and it will tell you if you’ve got any old accounts you’d forgotten about.
If this search does locate an account you’ve lost, you won’t get your hands on the cash straight away.
However, it’s worth persisting as, once they are happy about your identity, you can get that free money!
There is no deadline. By law, even though the money in these accounts may have been moved to the Government’s coffers, the money remains the property of the account holders.
However, it is a bit more complicated for you to get it then.
So if you can, it’s better to find it now while it’s still with the bank.
Over £60 million-worth of Premium Bond prizes go unclaimed across the UK, and some of that could be yours. The oldest unclaimed prize was drawn in November 1957 – the year of the very first Premium Bonds prize draw.
Usually, people don’t claim them because they have moved house and NS&I don’t know the new address or the bonds were bought for them when they were children and they didn’t know about them.
There is currently an estimated £400 million in unclaimed pension savings. That’s a load of cash that you could be enjoying! So here are different places you could look up your – potentially – lost pension.
The Unclaimed Assets Register, run by the credit-checking service Experian, will search for all sorts of financial assets that you might have, including life insurance policies and any pensions rights that you may have accrued but forgotten about.
It doesn’t cover forgotten bank or building society accounts so for that you should use Mylostaccount (see above). However, their search comes at a price. The UAR will charge you a fixed fee of £25 per search which includes VAT.
By phone: Ring 0345 6002 537. From outside the UK: +44 (0)191 215 4491. Textphone: 0345 3000 169. Open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm. Find out about call charges.
By post: Write to, The Pension Service 9, Mail Handling Site A, Wolverhampton WV98 1LU
You can also try the Pensions Schemes Register, which can usually trace what happened to the assets and where they are now, as long as you have the original name of the company with which you had the pension.
You can ring them on +44 (0)1273 627 600
If you want to trace insurance policies or investment bonds that have got lost in corporate take-overs or even gone bankrupt (yes, there still might be assets in this case), the Association of British Insurers runs a free search programme on their website as long as you know at least the name of the original insurer that you took the policy out with.
The Association of Investment Trust Companies and the Investment Management Association cover both unit trusts and open-ended investment companies and have their own free registers and helplines to assist you in tracking down your investments.
Just visit their websites and use their search engines to find any funds you might have lost or inherited without realising it.
Sometimes, even if you find that someone has left you a few shares, they may not be worth anything much now. It could be that they’re not even worth selling, as the commission is larger than the value of the bonds and shares.
If this is the case for you, or if you simply feel you don’t really need them, you can give them to ShareGift. ShareGift specialises in collecting your small shareholdings that may cost more to sell than they are worth and pools them until there are enough to sell.
The proceeds of the sale are then added to the funds that ShareGift gives to charities.
If you like to buy lottery tickets (against MoneyMagpie’s advice) and you think you might have won something while you were away, you can check your numbers on their website.
However, remember, tickets expire 180 days after the relevant draw.
You could be missing out on free money from your last telecoms provider. Quite often, people move or leave their old telecoms provider without claiming money owed to them.
The money owed could be for having paid for line rental in advance or for promotional credits that you may have been given during your contract. People often don’t know that they are owed money by their landline, mobile, broadband or pay TV provider.
Of course the different companies have different ways of giving you the money back (if you ask them). You can get money back from up to six years ago, so get in touch with your former telecoms provider and demand that cash!
Have you been paying regularly, each month to your gas and electricity providers? Have you had a look at your statements recently?
It could be that you have a nice, fat surplus because you haven’t used as much power as the providers thought you would.
You are within your rights to ask for some of it to be credited to you. They will want to keep some in case you suddenly use loads this month, but if you’re owed a couple of hundred, say, you should be able to get some of that back. Just ask!
While you’re at it, why not grab hold of some other bits of cash lying about in investments, pensions and just plain coins? Here are some ideas: