How to Find Unclaimed Money That's Owed to You

by Natasha Gabrielle | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on June 21, 2021

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Two students count out dollar bills.

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You may be owed money. Here's how to check and file an unclaimed property claim.

Believe it or not, a significant amount of unclaimed property never gets claimed by its owners. In many cases, unclaimed property is money.

According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, approximately 1 in 10 people have unclaimed property. And in 2019, states returned over 3 billion dollars to their owners. That's a lot of money!

You may be owed unclaimed property, but how do you go about claiming it? Keep reading to learn more.

What are some examples of unclaimed money?

When a company or organization owes money to someone, they typically mail out a check. But people move all the time, and things get lost in the shuffle. Often, these checks never get cashed, and the money is never claimed. What happens then?

After a certain amount of time, the money is sent to the state. The state will hold on to the funds until the owner claims them. Each state has a claim process in place, and residents can go through the process to collect their money.

Here are just a few examples of unclaimed property or unclaimed money out there:

  1. Unclaimed paychecks
  2. Unclaimed tax refunds
  3. Unclaimed refunds from a utility company or other business
  4. Unclaimed final refunds from a previous checking or savings account
  5. Unclaimed security deposit refunds

Some are small -- it could be a $35 refund or overpayment check. But other unclaimed property is significant and could be $500, $1,000, $5,000, or more!

How to claim unclaimed money

The good news is it's a simple process to check and see if there's money out there that belongs to you. Each state has an unclaimed property database where you can provide some basic details about yourself and search to see if you're owed money.

When using these tools, always make sure that you're on an official state website. They will generally ask your name and zip code or name and address when searching. You don't want to end up providing personal information on a random, unofficial website.

If you find that you're owed money, you will need to file a claim. Each state has a process for this. You may be able to fill out a claim form and mail it out along with a copy of your identification to prove your identity before a check is sent. Other than that, you only need to wait until the check arrives in the mail!

Why you should check

I went through the process recently and found that my husband was owed a few hundred dollars from his former college. It turns out the money was already taken out of his school loans and resulted in an overpayment to his tuition. But he never received or cashed the initial overpayment check. Even though the claims process took a few weeks while waiting for the check to be processed and mailed to us, it was worth it.

It's a good idea to check and see if you're owed money every couple of years. It's a quick and easy process to search, and it could result in unexpected money. A little extra money can make for a significant boost to your savings account.

Millions of dollars go unclaimed! Don't be like the many people who forget to claim their money. If you're looking for other helpful tips and resources related to money matters, check out our personal finance resources.

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