What to do if your bank decides you are ‘dormant’

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In an exciting development, my bank has decided that my account is not dormant and I can have access to my money after all. All I had to do was phone them up and answer a few questions that proved I wasn’t dead, that I was me and that I was therefore eligible for the exciting opportunity to have access to my own funds. We are not, sadly, talking about life-changing sums but enough for me not to feel one of the Big Four banks should take it off me.

Obviously, proving I’m not dormant was nerve-racking stuff. I didn’t want to get aggressive on the phone but what would happen if I sounded a bit sleepy when answering? Might the bank conclude that I was clearly heading towards passivity and put me on a watchlist for future deactivation?

Apparently, I had been sent a warning that it was going to be treated as dormant, but perhaps I was hibernating when it came. All I can say for sure is that I saw no such letter or email.

The account was not in my main bank. I opened it some years back because the second bank offered better interest rates. (Note to those under 30: banks used to offer interest on savings accounts.)

Anyway, for whatever reason, I stopped topping it up, but left it in place as a useful pot and only remember it when filling in my tax return. Perhaps if the bank had been a bit less dormant with its interest, I’d have been a bit less sleepy in paying attention.

I knew it was there and that was that. And then a friend mentioned getting a letter saying one of her small accounts was being treated as dormant, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen a statement for rather a long time.

I phoned the bank and sure enough my pot had been frozen and they were counting down the years till it could be handed over to the central fund that takes such money and spends it on worthy causes, none of which are me. Perhaps they were counting on it to fund the bailout of Silicon Valley Bank. The tone of my call handler was that it was frankly rather unsporting of me to interrupt that process for money I was not using.

Anyway, it all ended satis­factorily except that the promised confirmation did not arrive until I chased them again. Perhaps the first one went to the same place as the warning. Or maybe the entire bank is suffering from sleeping sickness. And when it did arrive, it was not a confirmation but a “welcome” pack. I have been welcomed to my “new” account, which is obviously entirely different from the old one they decided to freeze because I wasn’t showing adequate signs of life. I assume this to be the bank’s way of showing that it was my fault for appearing to be dormant rather than theirs for presuming I was.


But apparently it will be redesignated as dormant again in a year if I don’t use it, which I’m not planning to do, which is why I put it in a savings account. News reports suggest this bank takes a highly aggressive approach to freezing. I do know I’m not using it efficiently, but we are not talking about vast sums here and I just want it parked till the day I need it.

“Maybe just put a few pounds in a month?” said the adviser, helpfully. “Or maybe just take a lot out each month?” I countered. But he seemed to think his idea was preferable.

It is just another reason to watch these people. Almost every savings account I have ever had suddenly stops paying the higher rate it once offered. So you have to move everything to an identical new account with another name just to keep up. Now, apparently unsatisfied with holding my money, they expect me to look busy enough to make it worth their while to pay me next-to-nothing for their trouble.

This is probably the spur I needed to close the account and do something more sensible with the money. Or maybe I should just stick it in a mattress. There’s an added risk of robbery of course, but only by those who are supposed to be stealing it.

Follow Robert on Twitter @robertshrimsley and email him at [email protected]

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Source: Financial Times


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149
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