Old bank accounts, insurance policies and safe deposit boxes: They could be holding money that you’ve forgotten about.
More than $3 billion in unclaimed money gets returned to its rightful owners every year, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA). For one in 10 people, there’s money just sitting out there waiting to be claimed.
In this article, we’ll take a look at several of the most popular ways to find missing money in your name — all for free.
Ways to Find Missing Money for Free in Your Name
When money goes unclaimed, the funds get held by the state until someone comes looking for it. But states will sometimes convert invest the money for the state’s benefit — not yours. Don’t let that happen.
Here are some ways to find missing money for free in your name:
Table of Contents
- Unclaimed Funds Search
- Former Pension Plans
- Old 401(k)s
- Old Bank Accounts
- Internal Revenue Service
- Lost Savings Bonds
1. Unclaimed Funds Search
While you’re on the hunt for missing money, there are a few sites that should be “go-to” stops on your itinerary. All of these options below are free to search.
A good first stop is MissingMoney.com. Just punch in your name to do a database search of unclaimed funds across multiple states. It’s particularly easy if you have a unique last name. With one click of your mouse, you can cover the entire spectrum of what’s available.
However, we should note that not every single state participates on MissingMoney.com.
If you live in a state that doesn’t participate, your next stop should be Unclaimed.org. This website is a clearinghouse for the NAUPA. You can also check out FindMyFunds.com. It links to the official websites of more than 25 states, including some not covered by MissingMoney.com.
Also, if you ever had an FHA home loan, HUD may be sitting on refund money for you. Go to HUD.gov and see if you’re in its refund database.
2. Former Pension Plans
Millions of dollars in pension benefits go unclaimed, usually after companies go out of business or close their plans. When this happens, if the company can’t find you, your pension money goes to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC), a government agency that protects retirement income.
If you think you may be due money from an unclaimed former pension plan, check the PBGC’s unclaimed pensions database. You can see if you’re on the list of people owed benefits and find out what to do next.
3. Old 401(k)s
Part of what PBGC does through its Missing Participants Program is track down employees and connect them with retirement savings they may have forgotten about.
For many years, the PBGC only concerned itself with picking up the pieces and paying out obligations for terminated private pension plans. But a recent change has expanded the PBGC’s scope to include closed 401(k) plans.
Now the PBGC is offering to step in to pay out benefits from terminated 401(k) plans — with interest — when the employees to whom the money is owed can be tracked down.
4. Old Bank Accounts
If you left money in an old account at a bank or other financial institution that closed, you could still get your money back.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) has a list of unclaimed insured deposits at firms that closed down.
You can also use the FDIC’s BankFind tool to figure out what happened to your old bank or to see if there’s a new financial institution you can contact about the money.
5. Internal Revenue Service
Many people are due tax refunds from prior years, but they never file for one reason or another. If that sounds like you, the IRS gives you a three-year grace period to file and claim any money you overpaid in taxes.
In 2019, the IRS reported that $1.4 billion in refunds were still waiting to be claimed by people who had not filed 2015 returns. The average unclaimed check was $879.
You can find current and prior-year tax forms on the IRS website if you didn’t file for a year in which you’re owed a refund. There are no penalties for filing late if the government owes you. It’s your money after all; go and claim it!
6. Lost Savings Bonds
Did you hate it when a relative gave you a savings bond when you were a kid? Maybe for a birthday or other special occasion? Well, if they did and you forgot all about it, then you won’t hate them for it now!
Billions of dollars in matured savings bonds have never been cashed in. In fact, a lot of people don’t even know they have them.
If you have reason to believe you’re entitled to money from a lost savings bond, fill out Fiscal Service Form 1048, Claim for Lost, Stolen, or Destroyed United States Savings Bonds. The form and instructions are available here.
Finding unclaimed money is easier to find than you think — if you know where to look.