11 Ways to Find Hidden Cash

Sure, you might come across a few quarters in your couch, but we know where to uncover more than a little loose change. Start looking for your unclaimed funds—you might be surprised at how much cash is waiting for you to find and claim!

find hidden cash

A few months ago, Rebecca King, 47, saw a late-night infomercial about unclaimed property, so she decided to hunt for her own lost wealth. She began with the website of the treasurer in North Carolina, her home state. In seconds, Rebecca found $200 she could claim as hers—probably from a utility deposit she forgot about when she moved out of her college rental. Excited by her luck, she contacted the unclaimed property office in Michigan, where she once lived. That effort uncovered an unused $25 gift certificate from Tiffany (a wedding gift, Rebecca thinks)—enough to buy one crystal beer glass.

Are you missing a small fortune, too? It's not as crazy as it sounds. When people fail to close out bank accounts, forget to get paid for unused vacation days, neglect to claim tax refunds or otherwise lose touch with their money, the funds pile up in government unclaimed property offices—about $58 billion total, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. But it's not hard to find missing moolah; the NAUPA website, unclaimed.org, is the best place to start. Here are the assets that most commonly slip through our fingers and the smart ways you can get back what's yours.

Find Unclaimed Funds From Your Paycheck

Why it's M.I.A. The last day of your job fell between pay periods. You might have received a check for the final full week but never got what you were owed for the "hangover days" (especially if you relied on a physical check). You also might be owed for unused vacation days.
Reclaim it Contact the department in which you worked (laws dictating how long an employer is obligated to pay and penalties for not doing so vary by state). If it's been a few years or the business is gone, visit unclaimed.org.

Find Unclaimed Funds From a Life insurance Benefit

Why it's M.I.A. A loved one who took out a policy dies without mentioning that you were the beneficiary.
Reclaim It Locate the policy, if possible. Check the person's safe-deposit box or files, and ask former employers if a policy was purchased through work. Also, talk to her financial adviser or insurance agent, and scan a checkbook for payments to an insurance company or tax records for clues (interest listed on a 1099-INT from an annuity, say, could have been money generated by a life-insurance policy). If you still can't find it, search unclaimed.org.

Find Unclaimed Funds From a Savings Bond

Why it's M.I.A. This popular baby gift takes years to mature so, over time, it's easy for the recipient to misplace it or forget about it altogether. Every year, more than 15,000 bonds and 25,000 bond interest payments are returned to the federal Treasury Department as undeliverable.
Reclaim it The Bureau of Public Debt makes it easier to unearth such funds: Search for "treasury hunt" at treasurydirect.gov. But the agency does not have a record of every kind of bond (or those issued before 1974). For those, you need to fill out Form 1048, available through the website.

Find Unclaimed Funds From a Bank Account Balance

Why it's M.I.A. You left behind a savings account in a move, lost track of a certificate of deposit while waiting for it to mature or had money in a failed bank.
Reclaim It If the bank is still operating, there's generally no deadline for recouping your funds. Visit unclaimed.org, where you can find links to state and territory unclaimed property offices. Or check out missingmoney.com. It's free for users, and currently 39 states and the District of Columbia participate. Also worth a look is the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) unclaimed-funds site: www2.fdic.gov/funds. If a bank is closed by a regulatory agency, the FDIC is responsible for repaying customers any insured funds, up to $250,000 per depositor. You have about a decade to stake your claim.

NEXT: 7 more ways to find unclaimed funds from utility deposits, class-action lawsuits, and more