Total unclaimed prize-bond winnings hit €3.38m at the end of 2022

Almost one-in-five prize bond sales in 2022 were online

Debbie Byrne, Chairperson of the Prize Bond Company

Donal O'Donovan

Irish savers invested €615.7m in prize bonds last year pushing the total outstanding to a record of almost €4.7bn

The savings product launched in 1957 has proved enduringly popular, despite offering no interest at all unless the holder wins in one of the regular prize draws.

Winnings are tax free and can be up to €250,000.

At the end of last year there was a total of €3.38m of accumulated unclaimed prize bond prizes – which must be held indefinitely until claimed.

The Prize Bond Company DAC, a joint venture between State-owned An Post and Kerry-based financial services group Fexco, administers prize bonds on behalf of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA).

Even if the overall investment return is poor relative to other savings, prize bonds are popular with conservative savers because they are government backed and can always be redeemed at face value.

It issued 237,659 prizes last year, but with prize money for the year totalling €16m it makes the bonds an incredibly low-cost borrowing option for the Government.

The total of outstanding prize bonds was equal to just over 2pc of the national debt at the end of last year, when gross general government debt fell to €224.8bn after spiking dramatically higher during the pandemic when funding was drawn down to pay for large-scale Government supports for businesses and households.

Strikingly, given there reputation as ‘granny’s bonds’, almost one-in-five prize bond sales in 2022 were online.

Most bonds are bought in post offices.

Debbie Byrne, chairperson of the Prize Bond Company, said efforts are being made to further enhance the online offering.

“With the introduction of more self-serve online services, customers are now able to see their state savings holdings, including prize bonds, online and to undertake more activity with us using their choice of channel.”

All prize bonds dating back to 1957 enter a weekly cash draw, owners are contacted at the address listed on the bond or can check against a database of winning bonds.