Learn the value of avoiding dormant accounts.
The best things to do with a savings account is to forget about it and let it earn dividends. However, don’t forget about it so long that it becomes dormant. A dormant savings account is one with a low balance that has had no deposits in a while. While exact criteria varies by state, generally accounts with less than $50 that have been inactive for more than two years are considered dormant.
All dormant accounts cost financial institutions money; they’re required to keep records of the account and send statements. Often, those statements are returned due to incorrect addresses and then require additional effort from the institution. These minimal costs add up when involving hundreds of accounts.
To reduce and avoid costs, financial institutions are permitted to close these accounts and transfer the funds to the state treasury department through a process known as escheatment. State treasury departments hold those funds in an unclaimed property fund.
This money isn’t lost, but is difficult to access. To reclaim it, you must complete numerous forms and wait several weeks while your request is processed. It’s much harder than visiting your credit union!
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid dormancy.
1. Keep track of your accounts.
You should always know where all your money is. Apps like Mint let you monitor all your accounts in one place by combining them in one screen. This way, you’ll never risk dormancy by forgetting about an account.
If you prefer a physical approach, keep your account statements in a file folder and create your own ledger, so that you have one place where you can see all your accounts.
2. Automate your savings.
An account can’t go dormant if it’s getting transactions regularly, even if it’s only $5 a month. But who can remember to do that every month, or would want that burden?
To achieve this easily, set up automatic transfers between your primary account and your savings, even for a minimal amount. This form of automatic savings keeps your account active.
3. Clean up and roll over old accounts.
If you create different accounts for different savings goals, you might accumulate a dozen accounts over time, some of which you’ll forget to close when they’ve served their purpose. Each of those accounts is at risk for dormancy!
One way to avoid this is to make a general-purpose savings account and consolidate your funds there once every few months. Use that money for any purpose – anything is better than letting it risk being lost.
Similarly, if you’ve changed jobs, ask a financial planner about rolling over your old retirement account. Whatever you choose to do with your old retirement plan is better than nothing. Act before it’s too late; clean up your dormant accounts today!
Your Turn: In what ways do you use your savings accounts to better manage your finances? Have you ever had to go through a claims process on an abandoned account? What was the experience like? Share with us on our Yammer page!