Find Bank Accounts in My Name in Australia

A Savvy guide to how to find and recover lost bank accounts.

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, updated on September 11th, 2023       

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How to find lost bank accounts

Leaving money to gain interest in a savings account and not touching it is a great way to grow your wealth – as long as you don’t forget about it completely!  You may be surprised to learn there are millions of dollars in lost bank accounts in Australia, so forgetting that a bank account exists or losing track of it is more common than you might expect.  Find out how to track down bank accounts with Savvy, as we point you in the right direction to find any lost money belonging to you.

How do I find lost bank accounts in my name?

Finding a lost bank account involves searching various state and federal government databases of lost money and claiming that money as the rightful owner.  This may sound complicated, but it isn’t.  Luckily, the Australian government makes it easy to find bank accounts in your name which may have become lost.  Read through the following steps to reclaim all your lost accounts:

  1. Search ASIC databases

Start by searching the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) database for lost bank accounts.  Just enter your name, the name of a deceased relative or any company or trust to find if there are any records of lost money held in your name.  Try different spellings and variations of your name, such as both with and without your middle name, to see if there are any database results.

  1. Contact state government public trustees

It’s also worth contacting the public trustee not only in the state in which you opened the bank account, but also the state in which your financial institution is registered.  Contact your financial institution to find out which state they are registered in and search for the public trustee’s office in the relevant state.  State government trustees hold money from deceased estates, share dividends, salaries and wages, proceeds of the sale of goods and much more unclaimed money.

  1. Record the OTN for future use

If there’s a match to your name on either the state or federal government’s database, carefully record the original transaction number (OTN).  This is a unique number allocated to the lost bank account and it’ll help your bank and ASIC track down your lost funds.

  1. Contact the bank and ask to claim the lost account

Ultimately, though, it’s the bank or financial institution which assesses whether you are the rightful owner of the lost funds.  Contact the institution and ask for the ‘unclaimed money officer’.  You may be asked to provide proof of your identity or that you’re the rightful owner of your relative’s unclaimed bank account.

  1. Wait for your money to arrive

If the bank is satisfied that you are the rightful owner of the funds, they’ll contact ASIC and request the funds be released to you.  Allow at least 28 days from the time ASIC receives the transfer request for the money to arrive in your nominated bank account. Now that you’ve been reunited with your lost funds, make sure you deposit them somewhere you won’t lose them again!

Where does unclaimed money go in Australia?

Unclaimed bank account money is administered by ASIC, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.  The money is held in the government’s Consolidated Revenue Fund, but it can be claimed at any time by its rightful owner. It’s not only lost bank accounts that ASIC looks after, though, with a whole host of other types of money held until their rightful owner is found.

How long are bank accounts held before they’re considered lost accounts?

Bank accounts are deemed to be lost or inactive if there has been no account activity for a continuous period of seven years.  Inactive bank accounts in Australia weren’t always deemed to be lost after seven years, though.  Between 2013 and 2015, the inactive period was changed by legislation so an account only had to be inactive for three years before it was deemed to be lost.  However, after a strong community backlash, the rules were changed back to seven years from 2016 onwards.

Explained: the process behind opening your bank account

Top tips on the best features to look for on your bank account

Good interest rates

Although they won’t be as high as those of savings accounts, interest on bank accounts can reward your saving with an extra injection of funds.

Low-fee or fee-free accounts

These will be met with certain conditions, such as only coming with online bank accounts and not allowing for interest to be accrued, but paying little or nothing in fees can make a real difference.

Online access

These days, most financial institutions will offer apps or online banking features to their customers, but you should always double check to ensure you’re not missing out.

Branch and/or ATM accessibility

You might want to go for a bank account which not only holds enough physical locations for you to access but also allows you do utilise them freely.

No international transaction fees

This will come in handy particularly if you’re commonly travelling overseas, as some institutions will charge you exorbitant fees if you’re completing transactions abroad.

Lower minimum monthly deposit requirements

If you’re not sure about maintaining a monthly deposit flow with your bank account, look for one which has a lower minimum requirement.

Any other bank account questions?

Is a debit card linked to my bank account better than a credit card?

These two cards serve different purposes. Debit cards are easy to obtain and help you limit your spending to within your financial means by drawing directly from your bank account. Credit cards, on the other hand, are essentially a short-term loan service that allows you to make purchases with your card provider’s funds and pay them back, potentially at a high interest rate. Ultimately, it’ll depend on the context of the purchase and your financial capacity.

Can I use my bank account to write cheques?

Yes – this is called a cheque or checking account and can be included as part of your bank account package with some institutions.

Will an overdraft facility help me withdraw more than I have in my bank account?

No overdraft facilities are able to be attached to your bank account, which allows account holders to apply to access funds up to a pre-determined limit (usually $2,000). From here, the process for approval is very similar to that of a credit card or other loans and if you’re approved, you’ll be able to access your desired funds without any overdrawn fees. In this way, you’re not withdrawing more than you have; you’re making use of approved loan funds. Your bank may allow you to overdraw without going through this process, however, provided the overdrawn amount is small ($200 or less) and your account is brought back to a positive balance within 24 hours.

Is a term deposit different to a bank account?

Yes – a term deposit is a single lump sum of money that you store in an account to accrue interest over a set period of months or years. You won’t be able to touch this money during your term without incurring a fee, and potentially without providing a month’s notice prior to doing so.

Should I choose a bank account with a high introductory interest offer?

If it fits your requirements, yes – but you shouldn’t wholly base your decision around introductory offers. These rates are likely to revert to much lower or non-existent interest after the initial period ends, so you must enter the decision process with eyes to the future.

Can I open my bank account online?

Absolutely – the process for doing so is more or less the same as in person, so check out your financial institution’s website to see how you can apply online today.

Should I take out a kids’ bank account for my child?

Yes – there are plenty of safe ways to store funds for your child and make them accessible for them to spend in responsible ways. Kids’ bank account providers will usually afford parents access and control over their son or daughter’s debit card usage in the form of spending restrictions or the ability to lock their card at will. They will also likely have access to bank statements to review how their child’s money is being spent

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