Premium Bonds are popular, tax-free savings vehicles provided by NS&I, but unlike with traditional savings accounts, you don’t actually earn interest on them. Instead, each £1 bond is entered into a monthly draw with the chance of winning thousands of prizes, including the jackpot of £1m, every month. If you're lucky enough to win one of those draws, NS&I will write to you to give you the good news. However, if they don't have your current contact details, you may not realise your good luck.
Premium Bonds can easily be forgotten about and 'lost'. According to its website, NS&I has over 1.5m unclaimed prizes in their possession, equating up to a total of more than £60 million. But if you think that you, or a deceased member of your family, may be the rightful recipients of some of these prizes, there's no need to panic. NS&I will continue to hold the funds for you until they trace you or you come forward – there is no time limit to collect the winnings.
If you can dig out your holder number, finding out if you have won a prize is very simple. Your holder number (also known as a customer number) can be found on any letters from NS&I and your certificate of investment. Once you've found it, you can then enter it into NS&I's online prize checker. This will tell you if you are the recipient of a prize.
If it is your lucky day and you are due a win, you will need to write to NS&I to let them know that you have an unclaimed prize. If your details have changed since you set up your account, provide your old and current details in the letter and sign it. NS&I will then start work on transferring your prize money.
Premium Bond prizes are paid entirely tax-free, but bear in mind that although NS&I sets an annual prize fund interest rate – which is currently 1.40% – there’s no guarantee of achieving that kind of return. The odds of winning for each £1 Bond number currently stand at 24,500 to 1, so if you’d like better odds and still want completely tax-free returns, you may want to consider a cash ISA instead.
If you have lost your holder number altogether, or you are trying to find the bonds of a deceased relative, you will need to contact NS&I to get them to run a tracing service.
You can download a tracing form from NS&I's website. It will ask you to provide your name and address, as well as any names you have previously used and any old addresses. You will also need to provide some idea of when the bonds were issued and how much they may have been worth. If you have any NS&I documents, include them in your form, too.
If you are searching for the bonds of a deceased relative, you will need to provide their name and address and any relevant documents (such as a will or a death certificate).
Make sure you sign the form and then send it to: Tracing Service, National Savings and Investments, Glasgow, G58 1SB.
The tracing service will take around four to six weeks to provide a result, depending on how many details about the bonds you can supply. If an account is found but there is no signature on file (which may be the case if the bond was opened for you during your childhood), NS&I will request a witnessed signature or another form of ID. Once this is provided, the account details will be released to you.
Disclaimer: This information is intended solely to provide guidance and is not financial advice. Moneyfacts will not be liable for any loss arising from your use or reliance on this information. If you are in any doubt, Moneyfacts recommends you obtain independent financial advice.