Your Money: On the trail of that old cash stash - Life and Style - The Independent

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

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skies as 007 for first time
Sport
footballThe latest scores and news from Dortmund vs Arsenal and Liverpool vs Ludogorets
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
Life and Style
techCriminals now targeting e-readers
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Life and Style
fashion
Travel
news This video may make you think twice about ever taking the Tube again
Life and Style
A spider is seen in its web on September 16, 2014 in Hohen Meissner, Germany.
tech The 'Spider in Da House' app has been developed by scientists to tackle arachnophobia
Life and Style
fashionIncredibly, it hasn't been branded 'Will.eye.am'
News
A plane flies close to the eruption of the Icelandic volcano
newsAnd yes, it's quite something
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

    Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

    Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

    £26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

    Retail Business Analyst

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

    Senior C++ Developer

    £400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week