When a CD becomes ‘unclaimed’

It’s a little ironic that while many CD investors are leaving no stone unturned searching for higher CD rates, millions of dollars worth of CD balances are just sitting unclaimed at banks and in state offices, waiting for their owners to show up.

It’s easy for a CD to become unclaimed property. A CD owner can die without specifying a beneficiary or informing their heirs of the asset’s existence. Or a saver can put some money away in a CD for the long term, preferring to let it roll over continuously.

However it happens, once a CD has lain dormant for a certain number of years, most states require banks to turn those assets over to the states. Each state has its own laws governing how unclaimed property is treated, but most likely, the state will take the

balance of the matured CD and hold it until the rightful owner turns up.

To avoid having your CD balance spirited away by the state, where you’ll be required to jump through bureaucratic hoops to get it back, here are some tips:

  • When you move, be sure to update your address with every one of your banks, not just the bank that holds your transactional accounts.
  • Open any and all communications from banks where you hold CDs.
  • Sometimes a CD account can appear to be unclaimed because of bank clerical errors, but banks are required to send you notification before they turn your CD balance over to the state.
  • Keep a list of all your CD accounts and account numbers in a place your family would know to look.

If you think you or a relative may have an unclaimed CD languishing in state coffers, the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators offers links to states’ searchable databases of unclaimed property at http://www.usa.gov/.

Refunds from credit card issuers on the way

Attention Discover, American Express and Capital One credit card customers: Don’t be surprised if you see a credit show up on your monthly statement soon.

The three issuers owe a collective $435 million in refunds to nearly 6 million customers as a result of a government crackdown on deceptive credit card practices by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

And refunds should be arriving soon — if they haven’t come already. Most consumers can expect to receive payments from all three issuers by the end of March.

Customers aren’t required to take any action. Instead, current cardholders will automatically receive a credit on their account, and former customers will receive checks in the mail or have any outstanding balance reduced by the refunded amount.

American Express (AXP, Fortune 500), the CFPB’s most recent target, started doling out refunds in October, an Amex spokeswoman said.

The CFPB ordered the issuer to refund a total of $85 million to about 250,000 customers after finding that American Express subsidiaries imposed higher late fees than they were legally allowed to charge and promised customers non-existent monetary rewards, among other violations.

For example, federal regulators found that customers were sent misleading offers about American Express Centurion Bank’s “Blue Sky” credit card program, in which a $300 bonus was advertised that many customers never received. Customers who didn’t receive this bonus will be refunded the $300.

Other refunds will depend on the individual situation and Amex said its criteria for determining whether a customer qualifies have been reviewed by regulators.

Capital One (COF, Fortune 500) said it will send out refunds during the first quarter. The first of the CFPB’s public enforcement actions, Capital One was ordered in July to refund $150 million to two million customers amid claims that its third-party vendors were pressuring and misleading customers into buying additional products or services when they opened credit cards.

Cardholders who enrolled in Capital One’s payment protection or credit monitoring product between August 2010 and January 2012 and didn’t already get money back should receive a refund, in addition to any related finance charges, over-the-limit fees or interest.

Capital One said refunds vary based on how long a customer had the product, but it expects the average payment to be under $100.

What is the CFPB?

Two months after it announced its crackdown on Capital One, the CFPB ordered Discover Bank to refund $200 million to more than 3.5 million cardholders who purchased credit protection products over the phone from December 2007 to August 2011.

Discover (DFS, Fortune 500) said it expects to begin sending out refunds in the new year and to finish by mid-February.

The CFPB said Discover telemarketers used deceptive language to convince cardholders to pay for products including identity theft protection, credit score tracking, wallet protection, and payment protection. Fees ranged between $2.99 and $9.99 a month for most of the products.

Related: Lawyers get rich off consumer bureau

Refunds will be determined based on the product, when it was purchased and how long it was held. Customers who had any of the products for less than a year will receive the full amount paid, while those who had the products for more than a year will get 90 days worth of fees returned to them.

If you believe you’re owed a refund by any of these issuers but don’t receive one, check with the card issuer first. Then contact the CFPB, an agency spokeswoman said.

Listing of non-profit credit counseling agencies.

There are numerous credit counseling agencies located across the country. Many of them are non-profit agencies that will charge consumers a minimal fee for the services they offer. Some of the agencies may even offer debt reduction and foreclosure programs for free to qualified individuals. Below you will find a listing of several of the agencies as well as information on some of the services they offer, including debt management plans, negotiations, bankruptcy advice, and foreclosure help. Also note that this list of credit counseling agencies is always being added to.

National credit counseling agencies

The major non-profit credit counseling organization are below. Or find a local branch in your state.

GreenPath Debt Solutions – This nationwide agency was started in 1961. They offer a wide variety of solutions to struggling consumers and homeowners. They have programs that will assist consumers with credit card debts, mortgage payments and home loans, medical bills, and bankruptcy filings. The agency can be reached at 1-800-550-1961.

Advantage Credit Counseling Service – This non-profit credit counseling agency offers qualified consumers an effective debt management program. The programs offered by this counseling agency have been shown to assist thousands of people across the nation each and every year with getting out of or reducing their debts. They accomplish this by offering, mostly free of charge, debt management plans, confidential credit counseling, and various education and presentations, such as budgeting skills and advice. The debt management program they administer has been effective in saving consumers millions of dollars over the years by reducing interest rates, getting fees waived, and providing other solutions. They also offer bankruptcy counseling. Dial 866-699-2227.

Vision Credit Education, Inc.This organization has as its mission the goal of enabling people to solve their financial problems and to provide people with the tools that they need to make good financial choices later in life. So they offer short term debt relief programs, and also longer term assistance to help people become self-sufficient over the long term. 1800-379-4720.

Pioneer Credit CounselingThis agency has been in business over 30 years. The credit counseling programs they offer are supported by Christian beliefs. They provide debt reduction and management plans, and counseling to qualified families and individuals across the country. Call them at 866-210-3591.

Money Management International This non-profit credit counseling agency claims to be the largest full service agency in the United States. They provide assistance over both the internet and the phone. Like many of the other non-profit credit counseling organizations they also offer credit card help, bankruptcy advice, education on guidance, both medical and credit card debt management assistance, and several mortgage and foreclosure counseling programs. Phone 866-889-9347.

InCharge Debt SolutionsThis non-profit focuses on both medical and credit card debt. They offer options to help consumers get out of debt. They are also a member of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies, as are most of the other agencies listed here. One of the programs they encourage is debt arbitration. Call them at 1-800-565-8953.

National Federal for Credit CounselingThis organization coordinates many of the regional, state, and nationally based credit counseling agencies. Most counselors across the nation are accredited with this non-profit organization, and are a full fledged member. The programs they administer provide bankruptcy assistance, debt reduction programs, and general information on options that are available to clients. (1-800-388-2227)

Springboard NonprofitThey help people repair their credit, and improve their scores. They also offer debt management plans on a limited basis. But this agency focuses on empowering people to solve their own financial difficulties. (800).431.8456.

Credit Counseling Centers of America – Counselors from this non-profit organization can provide consumers across the nation information on and access to a wide array of consumer and creditor services, free housing counseling, and debt reduction programs for individuals and families that may be undergoing some form of financial distress. Dial 1-800-493-2222

Debt assistance programs offered by credit counseling agencies

While each agency may offer its own services and resources, you will typically find some common themes. For example, most will provide you with one on one access to a dedicated counselor. Each counselor will review your financial situation, and then provide you with the options that are best for you. For example, they may suggest you pursue programs offered by credit card issuers that provide you with credit card help. Most of the non-profit agencies have also created their own debt management plans. At the end of the day you will be provided with various solutions and options. Click here for details on credit card solutions

The above is a listing of some of the credit counseling agencies, many of which offer services free of charge or at a minimal cost to people who enroll in their programs.