inactive bank account

Having a bank account go dormant may commonly be thought of as a rare occurrence, but it happens to many banking customers.

Some tend to forget about them. Others simply don’t use them on a regular basis. Often, a family member dies and passes down a bank account without the heir knowing it.

Whatever the reason may be for an account to fall dormant, nobody wants to see their money disappear. While the money still technically belongs to the customer, it becomes a hassle to get the money back from the state (where inactive account balances are sent to).

Where Does the Money Go?

Here’s a typical outline of what happens to a dormant bank account:

1. The account is dormant for a specific period of time.

Generally, a time frame of three to five years with no customer-initiated activity sends an account into dormancy. The amount of time that must lapse depends on the state in which the bank account was opened.

2. An attempt is made to contact the account holder.

Before sending the account to the state, the bank must try to notify the account holder. If the customer does not respond within a certain amount of time, the balance on the account will be turned over to the state.

3. The bank turns the account over to the state.

In a process what is called “escheating” an account, banks are required to turn over funds from the inactive account to the state treasury. Once the account is sent to the state, the funds are held as unclaimed property.

To reclaim your money, you will have to contact your state for the instructions on how to get your money back. You’ll need to complete and submit a claim form along with the necessary identification. If you happen to have unclaimed property held by the state, you can begin the retrieval process by visiting www.unclaimed.org.

Avoid Letting Your Accounts Go Dormant

1. Review your bank accounts regularly.

By doing this, you can identify which accounts to close to becoming officially inactive. Shift the funds to another account to make it less of a worry. To make this easier, use money management software.

2. Create account activity with automatic transfers and scheduled payments.

With automated transactions, keeping your account active should not be a problem. You can set up an automatic transfer of a small amount into your savings account or make monthly bill payments from your checking account.

3. Keep your address and contact information updated on your bank accounts.

If you keep your address up-to-date, you’ll be less likely to miss the final notification before an account is turned over to the state. If you allow the state to escheat an account, it could take months or even years to reclaim your funds.

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Ask a Question

  • Mike in Louisville, KY

    My checking account balance of $43.75 with PNC Bank was turned over to the State without notifying me in any way. When I called customer service, they said they did not have to notify me if the amount is less than $100.00. I know this isn’t much money to many folks, but it was my little nesr egg. The State informed me that I would have to wait three months for the money to show up in their system, then I will have to request forms to fill out and return only to wait another three months for processing before a check could be written.

    • Laurence Almand

      So why did you neglect your account for so long? To keep an account from going dormant, all you have to do is add $5.00 or so every 3 months. In most states that’s enough to keep an account active.

      • davidshobe

        If $43.75 is a “nest egg” to him, he probably doesn’t have an additional $20.00/year to add to the account. The poorer you are, the more the banks put the screws to you.

        • Laurence Almand

          If he can put money in the account in the first place, he can certainly keep the account active.

          • droe

            no reason to be a cunt laurence, as if you are not in poverty you apparently are ignorant to the fact that that is not always the case.

            • Laurence Almand

              Stop being vulgar – we are having an intelligent conversation. And yes, if a person can open the account in the first place, he can maintain it. Only $5 every three months will keep the account active.

              • YvP

                I told my sister the same thing. She let her account go dormant (it happens!) and the bank never contacted her. She never even received monthly statements. Now she’s trying to find out what happened.
                Sorry Mike, but many banks charge you a non-usage fee, (at least in NY) so that $43 is probably gone. I wonder if they have to return the entire amount or an amount minus their fees?

                • Laurence Almand

                  Many banks charge what they call a “maintenance fee” on dormant accounts, such as 5% of the balance deducted for “maintenance” – even though they are collecting interest on the money. This way accounts are gradually drained of funds, and then closed, often without the customer’s knowledge. Perhaps that is what happened to your sister’s account.
                  But then, she should have been more responsible and kept tabs on her finances. Also, there are thousands of savings accounts, social security accounts, etc. of deceased persons the heirs are unaware of, because the dead people did not keep proper records.

                  • LaVerne Johnson

                    Why are you so cruel to people? So judgmental! Is it nice being so perfect? You don’t know what these people’s circumstances were before bad things happened to them.

                    • Laurence Almand

                      LaVerne: Not being “cruel” – just practical. And no one’s perfect – certainly not me. The point is that if a person can open an account, they can maintain it properly. Otherwise, close the account.

                    • frankyburns

                      “Maintain it properly? ” You are a real cad. The bank’s job is to maintain the money that people deposit, until the day they go back to get it.

                  • frankyburns

                    So insensitive and irrelevant what you say, “she should have been more responsible” I will say the same to you when you get mugged on the street someday. You should have been more responsible and left your wallet at home.

                • It’s unlikely that the bank would return the money that was charged as fees.

                  • Phew

                    My chase account falls dormant, and I am trying to talk to chase, can you help me out?

                    • What exactly is your situation? Did you lose access to your Chase account? Did Chase turn your account funds over to the state?

                    • Phew

                      There is no activity in my account for a long time, and I don’t live in the state any more, I didn’t know it could have fallen dormant. Emailing Chse for months, but they don’t seem like willing to reactivate my account. It’s a little complicated, can I send you an email or something?

              • frankyburns

                No, you are not being “intelligent” — you keep using words like “active” and “maintain” — this is incorrect. The average person expects that when they put their money in the bank, it will be there fore them when they come back. They don’t think they need to “maintain” prod” “knead” or “activate” it.

          • Nathaniel Smith

            First, why should he have to. That’s his money and he should be able to trust the bank not to steal his money.
            Personally this is only one reason I don’t use banks, I have my own hidden safe and only use cash- no credit cards.

          • Dave

            If you have never been poor you will never understand. There are many people that $43 is a great deal to them. I don’t know the gentlemans situation, but there are many that through no fault of their own are poor, suffer traumatic brain injury, or other situations that leaves them unable to understand how the system works. I grew up very poor myself. The five of us kids began working in fields before age ten in order to buy school clothes and supplies if we needed or wanted them. For us, if we had meat to eat for dinner consisted of fried bologna or wieners fried with BBQ sauce. Real treats at holidays were a canned ham or chicken. My father was the oldest of elen kids in his family. He had to quit school after the 5th grade to work on the farm to help support his siblings and ill mother. He fought in WWII where he learned to read and right. Family was the most important thing to him. Never did we accept any government assistance. We grew up happy and willing to work to help the family. $43 was a lot for us. My father died when I was 16 in 1976 as a result of heart problems due to defects from rheumatic fever as a young child. So please understand that there may be circumstances why his “nest egg” was a lot for him and why he didn’t manage his account the way most of us would. By the way, I worked hard, made the military a career. I enlisted and reached, after ten years as an E-7 and then got a commission without a college degree. But, by taking classes at lunch, night, weekends I earned my degree in Business Management and paid it all myself as I had no GI Bill. Maybe TMI, but by being proud of what I did through hard work, I just wanted to put out that $43 may be a lot for him for many reasons.

          • frankyburns

            Not everyone knows these arbitrary rules. Like, you go to bed at night, and you haven’t been moving for a few hours, so I can come in and take your money, right? That’s my rule. Why didn’t you remain active?

      • frankyburns

        Why do you say “neglect” — He simply put his money in what he thought was a safe place, the bank was even charging him for keeping it, and then WHAMMO, they go and steal it. Nothing but thievery.

  • LIBERTVS

    how to screw the customer;..let me count the ways!

    • Laurence Almand

      If customer’s are careless and don’t pay attention to their finances, this is what they can expect.

      • frankyburns

        I completely disagree. Many people think a bank is a safe place to put their money, and fully expect to find it there when they go back years later.

  • Mia

    I feel sorry for people who have very little money, and wish I could help them. I am fortunate that I am not poor, but I have been poor, so I know how to appreciate that I now have a sizeable nest egg.

  • adnil

    I work in a bank, informed the customer, and she bit my head off. Scroll down some you’ll see what I would’ve like to say to her. I was just trying to be nice and this is what you get!

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