If you have a savings or current account and you have not made any withdrawals or deposits for a set period (typically three years in the case of a savings account and one year for a current account) and the bank or building society has not heard from you during that time, it will write at least once to the most recent address they hold for you to ask if you want to keep the account open (unless mail has previously been returned from that address). It may also make other attempts to trace you.
If your reply is that you want to keep your account open, the bank or building society will continue to treat your account as “live”, sending you statements and other correspondence in the normal way.
If the bank or building society receives no reply after a set period – usually between six weeks and three months – your account may be considered “lost” and the bank or building society will treat your account differently from a “live” account. This is to protect you: it can stop fraud and identity theft – it is not good practice to send out statements, chequebooks and other material to an out-of-date address, where other people could try to access your account or use the correspondence for other fraudulent purposes; it can safeguard your privacy by not allowing confidential information to go to an old address.
If your account is considered “lost” the bank or building society will retain a record of the account.
The funds in the account remain your property. If you make a valid claim the funds in it will be paid to you in full, with interest (if it is an interest bearing account).
On receiving your application to search for a lost account, each bank or building society that you identify will conduct a search in its records to see whether there are any matches with the details you have provided.
When you send an application form to reclaim funds from a lost account you will be contacted should further information be required or advised as quickly as possible – and in any event within three months of receipt of your application – of the outcome of your search.
If a bank or building society agrees that you have a valid claim on an account that it holds it will tell you the balance of the account, the amount of interest which has accrued if it is an interest-bearing account and how to access the funds (including any interest) in the account.
The dormant assets scheme may apply to your account if you have not paid any money in to, or out of, the account for more than 15 years. Under this scheme money in genuinely lost accounts will be made available for use by Big Society Capital and other community causes. This will not affect your right to access the money in the account.
If you are dissatisfied with the way a bank or building society has dealt with your claim you will have the right to appeal through its internal appeal process. If your appeal is unsuccessful you have the right to refer the matter to the Financial Ombudsman Service – https://financial-ombudsman.org.uk/