How long can a bank account remain inactive?

Inactive or dormant accounts represent a considerable sum for French banks. However, the Eckert law of 2016 imposes a more precise procedure on banks so that the holders or beneficiaries can recover the assets. So, how long can a bank account remain inactive, that is to say without movement on the part of its holder or legal representative? Discover the deadlines in force as well as the obligations of the banks and the procedures for recovering your money.

How long can a bank account remain inactive? Definition and deadlines

To qualify as inactive, a bank account must meet the following conditions:

  • it must not have recorded any movement on your part for twelve consecutive months (withdrawal by bank card, for example). This condition does not apply to frozen accounts (by court order, for example);
  • on the other hand, the account holder or his legal representative must not have contacted the bank during the last twelve months;
  • he must also not have carried out transactions on another account opened in his name in the same bank.

To know, the twelve-month period is extended to five years for savings books, term accounts and securities accounts. This period begins at the end of the term of the contract for a term deposit.

Finally, when the banking institution is informed of the holder’s death, their bank accounts are declared inactive at the end of the same period (12 months or 5 years depending on the type of account), if no beneficiary has asserted their rights to assets and deposits.

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Inactive or dormant account: bank bonds

Banks must respect several obligations that you will find in the time limit of the Eckert law of 2016. Here are the main ones:

  • ensure that the holders are alive by cross-checking their customer file with the national register for the identification of natural persons (RNIPP) each year. This is an INSEE file that lists data from civil status registers;
  • inform cardholders of the status of their account. In the event of inactivity, the banks must inform the holders or their legal representatives, or their beneficiaries, using all the means at their disposal;
  • limit inactive account fees. There is a regulatory cap set depending on the type of account. Thus, the management fees for a current account cannot exceed the sum of 30 euros per year;
  • transfer the management of inactive accounts to the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations (CDD) 10 years after the client’s last transaction or last event (period reduced to 20 years for housing savings plans). In the event of the holder’s death, the period is 3 years;
  • demonstrate transparency by making the results of their efforts public. The banks publish an annual report specifying the number of inactive bank accounts held, the amount of outstandings and assets whose management has been transferred to the CDC.

Note: in the event of the proven death of the holder, the banks have no obligation to search for the heirs.

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What happens in the event of a transfer to Caisse des Dépôts?

After a certain period, the management of inactive accounts is transferred to the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations (CDD). This then leads to the closure of the account in the bank. This notifies the holder in the six months preceding the transfer. The establishment then sends a registered letter or uses another means made available to it. As for the Caisse des Dépôts, it publishes the identity of the holders of the transferred bank accounts, in compliance with the Data Protection Act.

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On the other hand, the transfer can only be made in cash and in euros. As for financial securities, they are liquidated under current conditions, even if these prove to be unfavourable.

If the cardholder, his legal representatives or his heirs subsequently come forward to recover the sums, the request must be made to the CDC. The fund keeps the accounts for 20 years (or 27 years in the event of the holder’s death) before transferring the sums to the State. This is the thirty-year prescription. After 30 years of inactivity, sums deposited in unclaimed accounts are considered acquired by the State.

How to recover money from an inactive account?

To recover the money from a forgotten account that has already been transferred to the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations, the holder or his beneficiary must go to the establishment’s official website. On the site, he must complete a search form indicating the identity of the account holder, his date of birth, his nationality and his possible date of death.

In case of correspondence, the site proposes the creation of a personal space to justify its request. You will then have to send proof of identity and address. Once the validation has been carried out by the CDC, the sums are transferred by transfer to the beneficiary’s account. Note that for more complex searches, the processing time can be around 90 days.

Precautions to take to avoid having an inactive account

Before having to carry out this procedure, it is therefore advisable to take a few precautions to avoid a dormant account. Among them, never neglect to report a change of address to your bank.

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If your telephone number changes, also notify the financial institution so that it can easily reach you if necessary. This may seem trivial but in certain circumstances, it is a very important step. If you only rarely use the accounts held, never forget to send your new contact details after moving.

Finally, if you receive a letter from a bank warning you that you have an inactive account with them, get your money back without delay. Then, leave the establishment by closing your account by sending it a registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt.

Also Read: How Long Does the Bank Keep Account Statements?

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