Your Money: On the trail of that old cash stash

You don't need to be Carol Vorderman to track down the whereabouts of long-forgotten savings accounts

WHEN AN elderly relative dies, family members are often left with the task of sorting out a tangle of half-forgotten savings accounts. The bank or building society whose name appears on the passbook may have long disappeared through merger or takeover. Even where the institution holding the money is clear, the account's brand name may no longer exist. The money in the account should still be safe, but may prove difficult to trace.

Cases like this are among those investigated by ITV's Find a Fortune series, as presenter Carol Vorderman and her team track down viewers' lost savings, legacies or pension policies. But you do not need all the resources of a television programme to be your own financial detective.

Halifax rationalised its own accounts at the end of 1995, in a process that switched many customers to new accounts with a different brand name and - in some cases - a new personal account number too. Alison Kellington, a Halifax spokeswoman, says: "When we got rid of all our obsolete accounts, we mailed all the people involved to tell them what we were doing. But it was an automatic transfer, because they were very much like-for-like accounts. If people find old passbooks, the best advice is to go to your local branch, and they'll be able to help you track them."

Where the bank whose name appears on the passbook has disappeared altogether, the process is not quite so simple. Bristol & West, for example, now holds money deposited by savers with the old Cheshunt Building Society, which Bristol & West took over in 1991. How are people who find an old Cheshunt passbook to know it is Bristol & West where they should pursue their claim?

Paul Vinnicombe, Bristol & West's savings product manager, says: "A lot of passbooks will have an address in them for the original branch and so on, and often there will be a link through. If you wrote to Cheshunt's head office, it would come to us."

Another route worth trying is your library, which may have a copy of the Bankers' Almanac, a book that lists name changes and liquidations. Where it is a vanished building society you want to find, the Building Societies Association may be able to help.

Even where problems with a dormant account are the customer's own fault, the situation can still be salvaged. "We have lots of accounts where people move and don't tell us," says Ms Kellington. "But those accounts still remain active."

Once you have placed money in a bank or building society account, that money and any interest it earns remains your property no matter how long the account is left dormant. Ms Kellington says colleagues tell of cases where Halifax accounts have been left untouched for as long as 40 years before the holder or one of his heirs has reclaimed the cash.

Sometimes, the problem is not that old accounts have been forgotten, but that money has been left languishing there when it could be earning a far better return somewhere else. Banks and other savings institutions tend to concentrate their competitive muscle on making sure accounts which can pull in new customers pay as high a rate as possible, leaving dormant accounts to drop far behind.

Here, finding out even what rate of return money in the original account is now earning could require some detective work. Bristol & West alone has more than 30 accounts which are closed to new investors, although still holding savers' money. All these accounts are now treated as if the money were in a Bristol & West Select current account, which pays interest at a paltry 0.1 per cent gross on even the largest balances. The bank's Postal Easy Access Plus account, its most popular product for new savers, pays a far more attractive 5.8 per cent gross.

Mr Vinnicombe says: "Most of the old accounts have a relatively small amount of money in them now, because people with large balances moved out some time ago."

For a free copy of the British Bankers Association's leaflet on dormant accounts and a standard claim form which can be used in any bank, call 0171-216 8801. For the Building Societies Association public information service: 0171-437 0655

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

    Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

    £90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

    Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

    £96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

    Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

    £32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee