Dormant inactive bank accounts in Australia. What to know.

Roberto Efflandrin

Strange as it may sound, according to the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC), there is approximately $1.5 billion Australian dollars in unclaimed money that has been collected from inactive or dormant accounts, shares or life insurance policies in Australia.¹

You may be thinking who would forget about their own cash, or leave an account inactive long enough for any money to be moved. There are a whole range of reasons and fortunately, unclaimed money can be retrieved by a rightful owner at any time.²

Let’s get to know what a dormant account is and what you can do to keep your accounts active for as long as you need them in Australia.

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What is an inactive or dormant account in Australia?

An account is considered inactive or dormant when there has been no deposits, withdrawals or associated transactions on the account for an extended period of time. The time depends on the type of account and bank.

For example, ANZ will consider an account as inactive after 6 months of no transaction activity.³ You can find out in your bank’s terms of service the timeframe within which your account can become inactive or dormant.

How long can a bank account stay dormant?

An account can remain dormant without any activity for up to 7 years.² After this, it is required by the Australian Government requirement that the bank take action on the account, even if there are funds remaining in the account. For example:

  • If there is less than $500 AUD in the account, Commonwealth bank will hold onto the funds until the customer makes contact⁴
  • If there is more than $500 AUD, the money will be deemed as unclaimed money and sent to the the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC)⁴

Once the funds have been moved out of the account, the bank will close the account.

Reasons why accounts become inactive or dormant in Australia

There are a few reasons as to why an account will become inactive or dormant. Some of these reasons include:

  • The owner of the account has forgotten about the account
  • The account owner has passed away
  • The account owner has moved without updating their address and/or contact details
  • The account owner has moved overseas indefinitely
  • An account is of joint ownership and both parties cannot agree on the status of holding or closing the account
  • There are legal issues associated with the account

The best way to make sure your account does not move into an inactive status is by using the account in line with the respectives bank and timeframes around inactive accounts.

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How to stop an account going dormant

To stop an account from being considered as inactive or dormant, the account holder must facilitate some form of transaction on the account. This means a customer could²:

  • Make a deposit into the account
  • Make a withdrawal from the account either in branch, online transfer or through an ATM withdrawal

Even if an account enters into an inactive or dormant status, it does not mean that account can never be used again. Simply performing a transaction once in a while will reset the time and keep the account active.

What happens to money in inactive/dormant bank accounts in Australia?

If your account remains dormant for under 7 years, nothing will happen to the money in the account. If it surpasses 7 years, that is when the bank will take action on the account as per government requirements.³

Read more: How to transfer money to another bank account

How do you find your unclaimed money?

Within a 7 year period, unclaimed money can be redeemed at any time by making a claim at the bank where the account is held.

The Australian government and ASIC have set up an unclaimed money search system that allows for any individual to search if they have any unclaimed money associated with their name but no longer with their bank after the 7-year period.⁵

The next steps to take to redeem unclaimed money.

How to claim money if you’ve had your money sent to ASIC from a dormant bank account.⁵

  1. Do a search on the ASIC unclaimed money website
  2. Record down the Original Transaction Number (OTN) associated with the the unclaimed money attached with your name
  3. Crosscheck the banking institution the money was collected from
  4. Collect the required documents to prove your claim and reach out to the bank. They are the ones that can request money back on your behalf
  5. Wait for the bank to process your claim

You can visit the government money search website for further information on unclaimed money.

Read more: Taking cash in or out of Australia? Read this.

How long will it take to receive the money back?

If you are successful in proving that the money does in fact belong to you, it can take anywhere from 28 days for the bank to process your claim and send your money back to you.²

FAQs — Related questions about dormant accounts

Here are some of the top related questions about dormant accounts.

How long does a bank account stay open without activity in Australia?

A bank account will remain open for up to 7 years in Australia without any activity. However, an account may be moved into an inactive status before this time by the bank, which can restrict future activity on the account unless the owner of the account makes contact.

Reactivating a dormant bank account?

Reactivating a dormant account varies from bank to bank but the steps required are usually similar.

For example, to reactivate a dormant account at Suncorp Bank, you can transfer funds from the account, complete a transaction using a linked debit card, visit a branch or make an ATM withdrawal.⁶

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You can also order a debit card for spending at home and avoiding foreign transaction fees while abroad.

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If you need to send your money to an overseas account you can do a simple Wise money transfer straight from your bank account, or store it in your multi-currency account until you're ready to convert the AUD.

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  1. ASIC unclaimed money
  2. ASIC money claims
  3. ANZ inactive account
  4. Commonwealth Bank unclaimed money conditions
  5. Moneysmart unclaimed money
  6. Suncorp bank reactivation

Sources checked on: 26 January 2023

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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