The sale of prize bonds increased by 37% last year, according to the Prize Bond Company, which administers prize bonds on behalf of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) for retail investment customers.

Today it published its 2020 annual report which shows that prize bonds rose to €735.7 million, up from €537 million in 2019.

The value of the prize bond fund at the end of last year reached €4.1 billion, the highest since the scheme was first established in 1957.

That figure was up 12.2% from €3.7 billion in 2019.

The report reveals that the number of cash prizes won by customers increased by 13% last year to 280,333 from 248,140 the previous year.

The value of prizes awarded also increased, by 9.1% to reach €19.2 million, compared to €17.6 million in 2019.

Currently, more than 4,000 prizes are issued weekly and a €250,000 prize draw takes place four times a year, in March, June, September and December.

The Prize Bond Company said the value of prize bonds "cashed in" by customers during the year fell by 5.2% to €283.1 million compared to 298.7 million in 2019, as customers continued to hold their investments.

Following website enhancements, aimed at making new and repeat purchases easier for customers, some 16.7% of all prize bond sales in 2020 were generated online compared with 11.3% in 2019.

The Post Office remains the primary point of sale, with over 55% of prize bonds purchased via the network in 2020.

"With gross sales of €735.7 million for the year, customers are not only investing in prize bonds, but also holding their investments as evidenced by the decline in the value of bonds cashed in, down 5.2% on the previous year," said Brian Fay, Chairman of the Prize Bond Company.

"The chance to win prizes weekly remains a defining feature of the prize bonds product and part of its enduring popularity," he added.

At the end of 2020, unclaimed prizes or prizes not claimed after 6 months and which have accumulated since prize bonds was established in 1957 amounted to €2.95 million.

The Prize Bond Company said that unclaimed prizes are held indefinitely until claimed by a bond holder.

It said every prize winner is contacted at the address last registered with the Prize Bond Company.