A few weeks ago I found an old Abbey passbook that showed a balance of £8 in 2003.
I had completely forgotten about the Action Saver instant access savings account my dad had opened for me in 1996 - when I was nine years old - and wondered how to go about getting the money back.
As it hadn't been that long since I had used the account (nine years) I could have gone into a branch and asked about it.
But I hadn't seen an Abbey branch on a high street in years since the takeover and subsequent rebranding by Santander – which was probably why I forgot about the account!
Merging customers from Alliance & Leicester as well as Abbey has been a well-documented struggle and I wanted to avoid the bother of a muddled computer system failing to locate my account.
Instead my journey to reclaim money from this lost account took me via another route.
The first step
Through helpful advice on lovemoney.com I used a website called mylostaccount.org.uk
. It's a completely free service that traces dormant or lost accounts for you.
The website is powered by the British Banker's Association (BBA), the Building Societies Association (BSA) and National Savings & Investments (NS&I) who have teamed up to bring the service to those on the hunt for lost assets.
The online form you have to fill in encourages you to list everything you know or can remember about the account and your details at the time.
I must admit I was hesitant after reading reports of customers going through hell tracing old accounts through Santander - but I was pleasantly surprised.
A week after I filled out the online form I received an email from mylostaccounts.org.uk confirming Santander was able to trace my account and that the bank would be contacting me in the coming weeks.
I was warned that it could take up to three months to hear anything back. So I wasn't holding out much hope based on Santander's poor reputation for customer service. But just eight days later the bank sent me a letter themselves asking me to come in with proof of identity and the passbook if possible.
As a happy HSBC customer it felt a bit wrong to go into another bank and I was concerned about the service I would receive.
But I was put in my place by incredibly friendly staff who jokingly asked what I had been doing all that time with £8 to burn in the bank.
They were able to quickly locate the account and reactivate it - but at a 1.02% rate I decided it was not worth keeping open.
I got £10.22 back - my pot had grown by £2.22 in nine years. That seems quite mediocre, but it's my own fault for not paying attention to the rate and moving the pot on.
Purpose for the future
Revisiting the past through an old account was a mixed bag of emotions for me.
I felt guilty for my dad who tried to set me up with £150 that I squandered as a silly child on CDs leaving only £8 to grow. He died when I was ten and I know he would have wanted me to be better with money.
But I also felt a renewed sense of purpose to make the most of my savings starting with the £10 I had got back. After all, you can do a lot with £10.
Try it yourself
Overall my experience was pleasant, swift and most important of all - easy.
Granted that's probably because I still had my passbook, a good idea of my address history and the account wasn't that old.
It might prove more difficult if you have got married in that time, a partner has passed away or you have moved frequently. But you can use a variety of things like a letter from the bank, old cheque book, ATM card or a statement to prove it exists.
If you don't have any of these to hand there are still ways to claim back all your neglected assets.
According to the Unclaimed Asset Register (UAR) there is something like £15 billion worth of assets that we've lost trace of.
If you have an inkling of an account you may have forgotten about I would definitely recommend trying to trace it. Finding it and getting your money back is a really satisfying experience no matter how small the pot.
Have you claimed money back from an old account? How was your experience? Let us know in the comment box below.
- 1. PPI
More than 46,000 of 106,000 the complaints received by the FOS in the second half of last year related to payment protection insurance (PPI). And the organisation is expecting to receive a record 165,000 PPI complaints in 2012/2013.</p>
The huge numbers are due to the PPI mis-selling scandal that should now be a thing of the past, but there is no doubt that the insurance, which can add thousands to the cost of a loan, is highly unpopular!</p>
(Pictured: Martin Lewis after the PPI payout ruling)</div>
- 2. Mortgages
Complaints about mortgages jumped by 38% in the last six months of last year, the FOS figures show, compared to an increase of just 5% in investment-related complaints.</p>
Common gripes about mortgages include the exit penalties imposed should you want to sell up or change you mortgage before a fixed or discounted deal comes to an end, and the high arrangement fees charged by many lenders.</p>
- 3. Savings rates
While there is nothing in the data released by the FOS about the number of complaints relating to savings accounts, hard-pressed savers have been struggling with low interest rates for several years now.</p>
You can get up to 3.10% with Santander's easy-access eSaver account, but many older accounts are paying 1.00% or less and even this market-leading offer includes a 12-month bonus of 2.60% - meaning that the rate will plummet to just 0.50% after the first year.</p>
- 4. Borrowing rates
Banks are imposing the highest authorised overdraft interest rates since records began, with today's borrowers paying an average of 19.47%, according to the Bank of England.</p>
A typical Briton with an overdraft of £1,000 is therefore forking out around £200 in interest charges alone. Coupled with meagre returns on savings, it's enough to make your blood boil!</p>
- 5. Penalty charges
<p style="text-align: left;">
While authorised overdrafts may seem expensive, going into the red without permission will cost you even more due to huge penalty fees.</p>
<p style="text-align: left;">
Barclays, for example, charges £8 (up to a maximum of £40 a day) each time that there is not enough money in your account to cover a payment.</p>
- 6. International transfer charges
If you need to send money abroad, the likelihood is that your bank will impose transfer charges - and offer you a poor rate of exchange. Someone transferring a five-figure sum could easily lose out by £500 or more as a result.</p>
The good news, however, is that you can often get a better deal by using a currency specialist such as Moneycorp.</p>
- 7. Waiting on the phone
<span style="text-align: left; ">Automated telephone banking systems, not to mention call centres in far-flung parts of the world, are one of our top gripes - especially as we often encounter them when we are already calling to report a problem.</span></p>
In the words of one disgruntled customer: "What is it about telephone banking that turns me into Victor Meldrew? Well, maybe it's the fourteen security questions, maybe it's the range of products that they try to push or maybe it's because I'm forced to listen to jazz funk at full volume while my phone bill soars.</p>
"Actually though, I think it's because the people I eventually speak to rarely seem able to solve the issue I'm calling about."</div>
- 8. Being treated like a number
The days of a personal relationship with your bank manager are long gone - for the huge majority of us at least.</p>
When ethical Triodos Bank investigated recently why around 9 million Britons would not recommend their banks to a friend or relative, it found that almost a third felt they were not treated as individuals. Another 40%, meanwhile, were simply disappointed with the customer service they received.</p>
- 9. Long queues in branches
<span style="text-align: left; ">When you're in a rush, the last thing you want to do is wait in a long queue at your local branch.</span></p>
Researchers at consumer champion Which? recently found that most people get seen within 12 minutes, but you could have a much longer wait if you go in at a busy time. Frustrating stuff!</p>
- 10. Bankers' bonuses
The Triodos Bank research also indicated that the bonus culture that ensured the bank's high-flying employees received large salaries, even when it was making a loss at the taxpayer's expense, was hugely unpopular with consumers.</p>
About a quarter of those who would not recommend their current banks said this was the main reason why. And with RBS executives sharing a £785 million bonus pool despite the bank, which is 82% publicly owned, making a loss of £2 billion last year, it's not hard to see why.</p>