Whether it’s a surprise fiver you’ve found in your pocket, or a bit of loose change you’ve retrieved from the back of the sofa, it’s always nice to come into a little extra money out of the blue. These unexpected finds might mean you can treat yourself to another coffee, but they’re unlikely to make too much difference to your life in the long run. Little do you know, there may in fact be hundreds—or even thousands—of pounds waiting for you in other places you never thought to look.
Thousands of Brits regularly purchase lottery tickets hoping for a huge cash payout, yet many lucky winners never get around to collecting their money. Over £125 million worth of lottery prizes went unclaimed in 2018, and as there is only a 180-day window to claim after the draw, many players may have unwittingly lost out on their chance to become millionaires.
A list of ticket details for unclaimed prizes over £50,000 is regularly published on The National Lottery’s website, so it’s always worth checking to see if there’s a surprise jackpot waiting for you. For smaller victories, examining your ticket is the only way to know whether you’ve won but, of course, it’s so easy to lose or accidentally bin these flimsy bits of paper.
This is why it’s recommended you buy online, giving you a digital record of every ticket you purchase. Playing through an online lottery company also means you’ll be directly notified if you’re successful. For example, Lotto Social sends jackpot text alerts straight to the winner’s phone, and its app lets members check the state of their tickets on the go. Measures like this make it far more likely that you’ll uncover a lottery win before it’s too late to claim.
Old bank accounts and Premium Bonds
It might seem unlikely you could ever forget about money sitting in your bank, but according to MoneySupermarket, the average Brit has £411 trapped in unused accounts—amounting to a nationwide total of £4.2 billion. And even with low interest rates, the value of these “zombie” accounts could have increased over time. Perhaps you’ve forgotten to close your old account when transferring your money to another bank. Though your original bank should let inform you if they suspect this, they may have tried and failed if you also changed your address without telling them. It’s definitely better to be safe than sorry in this case, as money left untouched for 15 years will be sent to charitable causes instead.
Similarly, there are 1.6 million unclaimed prizes from Premium Bonds—savings accounts that replace interest with the chance to win tax-free cash prizes every month. Though this means there’s no guaranteed return, rewards can vary from £25 to £1 million. National Savings & Investment (NS&I) contacts every winner, but new addresses or problems with the post could mean that the message remains unreceived. Luckily, there is no time limit for claiming Premium Bond prizes.
Check by first getting in touch with all the financial institutions you’ve ever had bank accounts with, then contacting the NS&I. You can also use the free MyLostAccount website to do this, as the platform is run by UK Finance, the Building Societies Association and NS&I, thereby covering all major banks and every UK building society.
Losing track of your pensions can be very common if you’ve changed occupation several times throughout your life—you could be on top of it in your current role, but probably won’t be able to say the same for contributions acquired from your first job. According to the Association of British Insurers, over £19.4bn has been lost across 1.6 million pension pots—an average of £13,000 per plan.
To avoid being thousands short by the time you reach retirement, look through your paperwork to find annual statements sent by every pension provider, though you’ll only have all of these if you’ve updated every provider each time you’ve moved house. If you think you may have cut the lines of communication, you can consult the government’s online Pension Tracing Service. This scheme can also be used to find pension details for any close relatives who have passed away, as you could be eligible for those funds as well.
Once you’ve gained control over your pension pots, you might want to consider consolidating them into a single scheme. If you choose to do this, bear in mind that older funds may carry exit penalties, or have benefits which would be unavailable in more modern plans.