What are penny policies and how can I track one down?

It’s estimated that there could be millions of pounds worth of unclaimed penny policy benefits. Could you be one of the beneficiaries? Here’s how to find out.

It’s estimated that there could be millions of pounds worth of unclaimed penny policy benefits. Could you be one of the beneficiaries? Here’s how to find out.

Kara Gammell
Finances expert
4
minute read
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Posted 19 NOVEMBER 2019 Last Updated 18 MAY 2022

What are penny policies?

Penny policies were life insurance, savings and endowment policies. These were sold door-to-door between the 1920s and the 1960s – although some were still being sold as late as the 1990s.

As the name suggests, premiums cost just a few pennies and could be used to cover funeral costs, or for savings or endowments that paid out on maturity.

The premiums for the policies, also known as industrial branch policies, were collected in person and records were kept on paper.

Since these policies cost relatively little and were taken out long ago, it’s likely that many people have forgotten they have them.

Could I have unclaimed penny policies?

It’s possible you took out a policy several decades ago and forgot about it. Or your parents or grandparents may have taken out a policy for you, which you might not know about.

How can I find lost insurance policies?

If you have a sneaking suspicion that you or a family member have taken out a policy several decades ago and forgotten about it, there’s plenty you can do to track it down.

  • If you know which company issued the policy, contact them directly.
  • If you don’t know who issued the policy, check your financial documents and see if you can find any relevant information. Penny policy records were often kept in a small receipt booklet, which recorded weekly payments, so keep a look out for these.
  • Experian has an Unclaimed Assets Register, which can help you track down unclaimed penny policies in your name, for a fee. It’s a one-stop shop that traces multiple products, including pensions, shares, savings and life policies. 
  • You can also contact the Association of British Insurers, which has contact details for life insurance providers. 
  • The Association of Financial Mutuals can give you contact details for mutual insurance providers and friendly societies. You can then get in touch to see if you have an account with any of them.

Which insurance providers issued penny policies?

A number of providers issued penny policies. But many of these no longer exist under their original names. These include:

  • The Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society, which is now called LV=. The company launched a campaign in 2018 to reconnect with penny policy holders – find out more at LV Reconnect.
  • United Friendly, Refuge Assurance and Royal Liver have all rebranded to become Royal London. If you think you might have a policy from one of these providers, contact Royal London.
  • Prudential is now responsible for several companies that issued penny policies. It has a web page dedicated to getting in touch about an unclaimed policy.
  • Britannic Assurance, Pearl Assurance and Swiss Life are now owned by Phoenix Life. All three firms issued industrial branch policies. If you think you have one lying unclaimed, check their website for details of how to trace it.  

How much are penny policies worth? 

How much penny policies are worth depends on various factors, including the type of policy, when it matures and how long premiums were paid for.

For example, if the policy was paid into for less than 20 years, you may not get more than the original surrender value – the cash amount offered to the policyholder should they cancel the policy.

Interest payments can also depend on how long the policy was paid into and the age of the policyholder.

Even if you think the amount involved may be fairly insignificant, it’s still worth checking out – you might be pleasantly surprised.

How do I cash in a penny policy?

If you want to cash in a penny policy, contact the insurance provider the policy is with and give them any details you can. They can tell you if the policy is still valid and how much it’s worth. You may need to provide a copy of the policy and possibly a death certificate if it’s in the name of a relative who has died.

Frequently asked questions

What information will I need to provide if I’ve lost my policy?

Before you contact an insurance provider to ask if they have your old policy, it helps to have some information to hand. As well as wanting to know your full name, date of birth and old address, they might want to know your National Insurance number. They may also ask for your policy number or the payment method used. And you might be asked to provide some form of ID, like a driving licence or passport.

What will I get for my penny policy?

This depends on lots of factors, including how well the investments performed and whether you received any bonuses. It’s also likely you’ll have to pay various admin charges, which may make a dent in any pay-out you receive.

What else can I do to find an unclaimed policy?

If you’re searching for a lost penny policy, there are three main ways to do it: 

  • Contact the insurance provider directly
  • Call the Association of British Insurers to track down the provider
  • Contact a tracing service, such as the Unclaimed Assets Register. 

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