How to Find (and Claim) Your Lost and Missing Money
Five steps to find all the money out there with your name on it—that you never knew you were missing. From refunds to reimbursements to lost wages to settlements, all that unclaimed cash can add up.
Trying to find lost money? Digging through your couch cushions is a thing of the past. In the digital age, you have to look in new places to claim money you've left on the table, whether it's money you had and lost or simply money you're not making that you could be.
From refunds to reimbursements to lost wages to even monetary settlements—all that unclaimed cash can really add up. Take these five steps to find money with your name on it, wherever it may be.
Search for unclaimed funds.
The federal government's unclaimed money website makes it easy to find money that you're owed. This might include tax refunds, life insurance, retirement benefits, unpaid wages, and more. The most common place to find a little loose change is your state's unclaimed property office.
How does your money end up in the hands of the state? Well, banks, insurance companies, medical offices, even credit card companies may have tried to refund you for an overpayment, but if you moved or closed a bank account, they might not know how to get that money to you. To search multiple states at the same time, try running your name through Missingmoney.com. And, even if you have foreign property or have lived abroad, the Bureau of the Fiscal Service has your back. Don't forget to check for spouses and dependent kids, or anyone for whom you are an executor of estate.
Did you know that many insurance companies will pay you back for over-the-counter items such as ibuprofen, prenatal vitamins, and Band-Aids? Some even cover massages and acupuncture. Read the fine print and call the claims office to clarify. Health insurance payouts can be extremely counterintuitive; don't assume that just because they don't cover eye exams they won't cover eye glasses cleaner. Some do!
In many cases, you have to buy the goods upfront and submit the receipt for a claim. Take cell phone photos of your paper receipt or get bills emailed to make online reimbursement requests even easier. If you're eligible for a Flex Spending Account, consider how you might also reap tax benefits for health and childcare expenses. "Pay now, save later" health plans can generate lots of refunds each year.
Lower the cost of debt.
If you have debt, you've probably already heard that it is in your best interest to lower your interest. How? First, ask your existing lender if they'd lower your rates. If you're lucky, they might agree to a drop with just a review of your credit score. If they're not so easy to convince, try other lenders that offer a better deal. Use BankRate and SoFi to compare the best options to refinance your mortgage, restructure a personal loan, or transfer a balance to a zero percent interest credit card. These are great options if you make these money moves wisely.
There are closing costs associated with refinancing a home loan, and there's usually a fee to transfer a balance. So, do your homework to confirm that the fees are worth the savings and the trouble. Also, make sure that you can pay off any loans before introductory rates expire. Last, if student loan debt is weighing you down, don't give up hope. Check the Federal Student Aid site to see if your loan qualifies for forgiveness, cancellation, or discharge.
Take advantage of old (or young) age.
Sure, in many circles it's considered impolite to ask someone's age—all the more reason to volunteer it when there's money on the line. For parents, keep an eye out for kid discounts; Amtrak offers 50 percent fares for kids ages 2 to 12. On the train as well as most airlines, kids under 2 can travel for free with a lap seat. If your kids are older, remind them that there are student discounts for nearly everything under the sun, from flights to museum admission.
But those youth discounts can pale in comparison to the slashed rates offered to people over 50 or 60 or 65. An AARP membership offers cut-rate deals, and did you know that the Senior List and Senior Living also share savings on food, retail, entertainment, and more? The only catch is that many stores and vendors won't offer these deals upfront; you'll have to tell them that you qualify. Keep photo IDs with birth dates handy, so you can keep more of your hard-earned cash in your own pocket.
Have you ever asked whether your employer has an overtime policy? If you haven't, you may be missing out. Many United States employees are protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires employers to pay workers 150 percent of their hourly wage whenever work extends beyond a 40-hour work week. Some employers even offer up to 200 percent for weekends and holidays. Most employees are too scared to demand what they're owed, but you've got to ask: How much is this silence costing you?
Few of us can really afford to lose that 50 to 100 percent markup. Consider if you work a few extra hours on a Tuesday night. Most bosses will say, "no worries, just log in a few extra hours late on Wednesday." But you probably have meetings and other demands that might get in the way. Often what seems to be fair trade is just your loss. So check with the Human Resources team to see if instead of the one-for-one hourly swap, you can get cash in hand. Sometimes, supervisors even prefer payment, because it lowers the risk that you'll take compensatory time off during peak seasons.
Don't talk yourself out of claiming hard-earned employee benefits. Remember that if you don't know your worth, no one else will either.