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 No time limit on claiming your premium bonds win


January 2018

Premium Bonds win

Who doesn’t want to win £1 million! No wonder the Premium Bonds is still one of Britain’s top financial institutions, attracting over 25 million customers who have invested around £147 billion.

Things have changed a lot in our lifetime since the bonds were officially introduced in the 1956 budget by Harold McMillan. The aim was to help control inflation and encourage people to save after the devastation and disruption of the Second World War.

But there was opposition against the gambling aspect right from the start. Shadow Chancellor Harold Wilson called the scheme a squalid raffle and a national demoralisation. Church leaders were also concerned the Britain would become a nation of gamblers.

But despite the dire warnings the idea was a success from the start. On the very first day, over £5 million worth of Premium Bonds were bought, a huge amount in those days. Each bond had a separate number and had to be held for six months before they would be entered into the prize draw.

The key was there was no risk...the bonds were issued by the UK’s government National Savings and Investment agency with 100% security on all deposits ensuring people could get all their money back. Although inflation would of course gradually erode their value over time, nevertheless generally the British public loved the idea from the start. The very first bond was bought by the Lord Mayor of London at a big ceremony in front of the Royal Exchange in London; and the second bond was bought by the Mayor of Lytham St Anne’s where the offices of the Premium Bonds were based.

original premium bonds

At that time the most you were allowed to invest was £500 and the maximum prize was £1,000. But many people just bought one or two bonds and still had the excitement of checking their numbers after every draw. Each winner was hailed as a celebrity and there was a great deal of media excitement about it all, equal to the winner of the then popular “pools” for football scores.

The winning numbers were drawn by specially developed electronic random number indication equipment, and so it wasn’t long before this was nicknamed as Ernie and entered the British vocabulary. “Had any luck with Ernie this month” was understood by nearly everyone.

Today the maximum investment is £50,000 and the top prize is £1 million...there are two top prizes issued every month.

The Premium Bond organisers are quick to point out that every single £1 Bond has an equal chance of winning, which of course it has, but there are some interesting statistics around. If you hold just one Premium Bond, your odds of winning the top prize have been estimated at 1 in 3.56 million while if you hold 50,000 bonds, then the odds come down to 1 in 712,784. If you invest £10,000 in Bonds, your odds to win say a prize of equal amount is around 1 in 254,566. But of course odds don’t really mean a great deal because you might be the lucky one whose number comes up against all the odds!!

Some invest and then forget to check or claim. The Premium Bonds say that around 800,000people who have invested over £44 million have not claimed their winnings. Some accounts date back fifty years…and there is no time limit on claiming. While you give your address as the time of purchase, most people move over the years so Premium Bonds are unable to track them. The oldest unclaimed ticket dates from November 1957, when a man in South Yorkshire won £25. The largest outstanding sum owed is £100,000 owed to a woman in Greater Manchester who had her number drawn in 2010.

If you have any old Premium Bonds anywhere, you can now check your numbers on line at

Lots of information is also available on the official website.


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