With all of the demands on your time, you could lose track of an old bank account. While that might sound outlandish, it can happen to the best of us.
In California alone, there is $9 billion worth of unclaimed property—this includes lost bank accounts, “uncashed checks, insurance policy money, stocks, safe deposit boxes, and other unclaimed cash.”
Sometimes it’s your own account that you’ve forgotten about. Other times it can be an account you inherited after the death of a loved one. Whatever the reason, once you realize you’ve misplaced a bank account, you’ll likely want to track it down.
Finding Old Bank Accounts
If you’ve lost track of money that belongs to you, don’t panic. Here are a few potential ideas for how to find lost money in bank accounts. It might take a little leg work, but finding the unclaimed money due to you can be worth it.
If you’ve accessed the account within the past year, you might be able to recover the account directly from the bank. Exactly how to recover a lost bank account number will likely vary based on the financial institution. Your account information can be found on checks and often on old account statements.
If it’s been longer than a year, you might have to dig a little deeper to recover a lost bank account. The best place to start in a quest for unclaimed property is through your state of residence’s unclaimed property division, usually run through the state treasury department.
Each state will have its own rules and regulations for how individuals should go about proving ownership of the unclaimed money. Most of the time the process starts with filling out an online form. Generally, states will require substantial evidence that the money rightfully belongs to you.
The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators operates MissingMoney.com, which is a multi-state directory that allows you to search by name for missing or unclaimed money. You could also search for missing money from a lost bank account on Unclaimed.org , which directs you to your state’s unclaimed property office.
If you belonged to a credit union in the past, it may be worth checking the unclaimed deposits listing run by the National Credit Union Administration.
Depending on the circumstances, you may need to provide proof of your address from decades past. If you’re claiming money on behalf of a deceased relative, you may need more than just a death certificate—sometimes a full probate court order is required. You could check with the local government to confirm the regulations in your state.
Be on the Lookout for Fraud
As you’re searching for lost bank accounts, you may find organizations that offer to find unclaimed money, generally for a fee somewhere between 10% and 20% of the amount recovered. AARP recommends avoiding any services that require payment upfront.
Be wary of any emails or letters you receive offering to return unclaimed property to you for a fee—these are generally scams.
If you encounter an organization or individual who claims to be a part of the government and offers to send you unclaimed money for a fee, these are also generally a scam. Government agencies will not contact individuals about unclaimed money nor will they charge a fee.
If you’re in need of assistance as you search for lost bank accounts, you could consider consulting your financial planner.
Some financial planners offer services to clients to help them look for unclaimed money that may be owed to them. Depending on the financial planner, these services may not even have an additional fee.
Other Sources of Unclaimed Money
Unclaimed money isn’t limited to lost bank accounts. There are a variety of reasons you could be missing money due to you—perhaps you switched jobs and lost track of a pension plan or 401(k). Maybe you forgot to update your address and missed a payment or tax refund.
Pension and Retirement Plans
If you previously worked for a company that offered a pension plan, you can search the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s unclaimed pension database .
For lost or missing retirement plan funds, you could check the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits , which is operated by PenChecks Trust, one of the largest providers of retirement plan distribution services.
If you suspect you are owed a missing tax return, you could use the online resource Where’s My Refund? , which is operated by the IRS. To use the tool, you’ll need to know your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, your filing status, and the exact amount of the refund.
The IRS recommends calling regarding a missing tax refund only when it has been more than 21 days since you e-filed or six weeks since you mailed in your tax return.
If you’re missing a tax return, know you are working on a deadline. You have just three years to claim a missing tax refund before the money becomes the permanent property of the U.S. government.
Rolling the Money Into Another Account
Once you’ve successfully tracked down your lost bank account or other unclaimed money, you might consider choosing a new bank or want to compare the different types of deposit accounts available to you.
Finding the right account for you is a personal choice. One option you could consider is a cash management account like SoFi Money®. SoFi Money offers easy money management and saving all in one.
With SoFi Money®, you’ll have instant access to your accounts anywhere you go. The account allows you to easily track your spending and savings so you can see your cash flow at any given moment.
And if you’re working toward a few savings goals simultaneously, you could set up individual financial vaults for each goal. Plus, there are absolutely no account fees (subject to change) associated with SoFi Money®.
As a SoFi member, you’ll also have access to other member benefits, like career counseling and the opportunity to speak one-on-one with a financial advisor who can help you create a personalized financial plan.
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