Finding some free money is always a good way to put a smile on your face. Seriously, even finding a dollar can bring a bit of cheer to your day.
But you may be missing out on hundreds or thousands of unclaimed money that is rightfully yours. The challenge is, no one is going to tell you this money is out there.
Instead, you have to know where to find it online and seek it out yourself. Previously, finding unclaimed money was a bit difficult but the internet has made it easier for anyone to quickly find some information.
Doubt you have money that is yours out there? Well according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, approximately 1 in 10 people do!
What is Unclaimed Money?
Unclaimed money refers to financial accounts that have been inactive or accounts you have not accessed for over a year. Since these assets are rightfully yours, the unclaimed property laws require any financial institution to give you the unclaimed assets at some point in time.
As I stated in the intro, these companies are generally not in a rush to reach out to you or tell you that you have unclaimed money waiting for you.
That means, you have to go online and follow-up to find what might be rightfully yours.
And it’s easy to forget about certain accounts or not realize something was coming your way. Something as simple as a wrong address might have been used, so a sum of money was then sent back.
There are literally billions of dollars in unclaimed property that are currently held by state governments and treasuries within the United States. So you very well may have some cash sitting there waiting for you to claim!
Types of Unclaimed Money
Personally, I had never thought about looking to see if there was unclaimed money in my name just sitting out there.
I mean, no one really tells us these things right? Nor are any of these financial institutions finding your immediately to hand over money — even if it is yours.
But your unclaimed money can be from various accounts or items.
I had over $300 from an old health savings account I did not use at my job before getting laid off in 2014.
I totally forgot about this account nor did I ever hear from the health savings account company. Last year, I did my search for any unclaimed money and got a check within two months.
Here are a few common examples of unclaimed money:
- Old savings or checking accounts
- Certificate of deposits (CDs)
- Trust funds
- Checks that were never cashed
- Tax refunds that were never cashed
- Retirement plans
- Failed pension plans
- Unclaimed life insurance policies
- Other accounts you might be a beneficiary on
- Abandoned health savings accounts
How to Find Unclaimed Money for Free
The law does require in a certain time frame that these institutions holding your money must attempt to transfer the unclaimed property back to you.
But it can be years before that happens and if you have moved often, it will be difficult for them to find you.
Instead the best thing you can do is be proactive and reach out to these numerous websites to check if there is cash waiting for you.
Here are some of the best places to find unclaimed money.
The best place you’ll probably want to start with is the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA).
The website is unclaimed.org and makes it easier for you to get started finding money that might be owed to you for free.
Since each state has a different process and treasury website, the NAUPA website has an awesome interactive map that links directly to the website you need to go to based on where you live (or have lived).
Remember, you’ll want to check on any state that you might have lived in as you could have multiple unclaimed properties.
- While every state is different, most states when clicked will take you to the State Treasury site. Some have their own unclaimed property site.
- Look for the “Unclaimed Property” section on the homepage or in the menu if it is the State Treasury.
- Fill out the short form. Most will just ask the basics like your first and last name, zip code, city, etc.
- When you hit search, if there is any unclaimed property in your name a record will show up.
- From there, you’ll have some paperwork to fill out to verify that is yours, send it out, and then you play the waiting game.
After you do all that, you should receive a claim number. You can then use this number on the State Treasury site to see the status of your unclaimed money.
It took just over two months for me to receive my check. While it’s not exactly a fast process, you still get some extra money back.
Another popular option is MissingMoney.com, which is the only multi-state unclaimed property site that is also endorsed by NAUPA.
It’s not the prettiest looking website, but you know you can trust it with the endorsement by NAUPA.
The one challenge with this website is not every state participates in the services.
For example, when I searched my info, it mentioned that Pennsylvania does not participate currently. This is why I do recommend starting with unclaimed.org first.
But if your state or a state you have lived in is on their list, definitely do a search. It’s also free to use and it will help you find bank accounts, uncashed checks, CDs, escrow accounts, insurances, and more.
If something shows in your name, you can then claim the property and fill out the requested details. Once you submit the info you’ll then receive instructions on next steps from the state where you made the claim.
Bonus: Credit Karma
When I was on my Credit Karma account, I found out that they also offer an easy and free way to search for unclaimed money too.
While the above two options are perfectly safe and will help you find what you might be looking for, you can also use Credit Karma if you have an account. You can get started finding unclaimed money for free here with your Credit Karma account.
Also, remember to check back on any of these sites above, as the states listed will regularly update the assets they have.
So even if you don’t have something right now, you might in a few months.
Additional Ways to Find Unclaimed Money for Free
Ideally, the top three will be the only options you need to check for unclaimed property. However, those sites might not show every possible claim.
Personally, I do think it’s worth spending a few minutes double checking multiple sites.
After all it’s your money and an easy way to recover a couple hundred or thousands of dollars that can benefit your personal finances.
Here are a few others you might want to check.
Unclaimed Money at Old Banks
You might have had an old bank account that was closed down. Not exactly a common situation, but it does happen.
And if that bank was insured and a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), you have money waiting for you currently.
The FDIC covers up to $250,000 per person, per institution and per account category. And the accounts within the bank that are insured will include checking and savings accounts, money market accounts, and even certificates of deposit (CDs).
If you might have unclaimed money from a past bank that closed, you can go to the unclaimed fund banking website. You will need your account info from that bank and then just follow the instructions on the page.
If you belonged to a credit union and the bank was dissolved, you also may have unclaimed money as well.
If your credit union account was insured then the National Credit Union Administration will handle helping you get your unclaimed property. You’ll want to go to their Unclaimed Deposits site to get started.
The Internal Revenue Service
Surprisingly, many people still get tax refund checks instead of opting for direct deposit. But, everyone’s preference is different.
However, every year many refund checks are returned to the IRS because they were undeliverable. Typically because someone moved or the address was marked wrong on the check.
If this is a scenario you face, you’ll want to move relatively quickly on tracking down the refund you are owed as after a few years, any refunds not claimed becomes property of the U.S. Treasury.
The best way to start tracking this down and figure out more about your tax refund is to use their website on the “Where’s My Refund?” page.
Find a Trusteed Pension Plan
You’ll be able to find refunds on their way, unclaimed, and any other questions about your tax return or refund.
If you worked for a company whose pension plan failed, don’t assume all is lost. It might be that the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), which insures pension benefits, owes you some money; it may not be the full amount due, but it’d be something.
Start digging for your long-lost treasure at the Find a Trusted Pension Plan section of the PBGC site.
Employer Retirement Plans
If you switch jobs or are laid off but have a 401k retirement plan, typically the best thing to do is rollover into a new plan or your own IRA.
I’ve rolled over two employer plans in my working career since 2010, which was fairly easy to do.
But as you are switching jobs or trying to find a new one, typically your 401k might be the last thing on your mind. And after a few weeks, it’s easy to forget about your account.
However, over time it might be compounding and growing, but you’ll want to have that in your new plan or your own rollover IRA.
A great free resource to use here is the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits, which helps you locate forgotten employer benefits like a 401k.
All you’ll need is to set up a free account and the social security number to locate funds. They do not require any other personal information, to help keep your information as safe as possible.
Avoiding Unclaimed Money Scams
When it comes to your money and personal information, you always want to be careful of scams or fraud.
Using any of the above websites will ensure your data is safe and that you will get access to any unclaimed money that is rightfully yours.
These should always be free to use and claiming your property should also be free, unless there is a small handling fee involved in some instances.
Additionally, there are legal businesses that offer to find unclaimed money for a fee. It could be a small percentage of whatever your returned claim might be. But, there are also scams in this field too who may want money upfront, which is not something you should be required to do.
While there are legit businesses to help, you do not need to go through them in order to find your money. The above sites make it easy and requires a few minutes of your time.
What is the best website to find unclaimed money?
The best website to start to find unclaimed money is unclaimed.org. The site is back by NAUPA and links to every state’s treasury site in order to easily search and find items in your name. It also provides insights and tips to help you along the way as well.Have you ever found unclaimed property before? Are there other sites people should check to see if there is cash waiting for them? Let me know in the comments below!