Cha-Ching! 5 Ways To Reclaim Your Cash

money-problemsIllustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
Fact: No one’s ever looked at their bank account and wished they had less money. Are you looking at that number and wishing it could be higher? Guess what? In just a few hours, it can be — no shady second job or psychological experiment sign-ups necessary. Here, the five simplest ways to find — and get — cash you may never have realized you had. Consider your fall shopping budget completely taken care of.
1. Look It Up. It sounds like a scam, but missingmoney.com or unclaimed.org are both websites that link directly to government unclaimed property programs. Enter your name in the search bar and a list of any “unclaimed property” (including checks) comes up, followed by instructions for how to reclaim the cash. This is especially valuable for freelancers or people who move frequently — one friend who entered her name found almost $2,000 in miscellaneous checks from the past few years!
2. Read The Fine Print. I had recently moved apartments and was owed a $2,000 deposit by my former landlady. Initially, she said that she needed to use the money for repainting the apartment — but I took the advice of Resa Shore, a financial coach in Napa, CA, and called the brokers I’d worked with to ask for a copy of my lease. Sure enough, nothing in the lease said that my security deposit was to be used for repainting. Armed with this knowledge, I called my landlady back. She reluctantly agreed to give me $1,000. Although I could have pushed harder and threatened small claims court, Shore says that it takes a long time for cases to get reviewed, and it may be better to settle directly, especially if you need (or want) the cash right away.
3. Ask For It. Dropped assignments and outstanding contracts can plague any freelancer, but even 9-to-5ers need to be diligent about money owed to them — especially if they work on commission or file a lot of expense reports. If you know you’ve got cash somewhere between your boss and your bank account, you owe it to yourself to get it, says Shore. “Don’t ever apologize or feel sheepish about asking for what you’re owed.” Her MO for money talks when someone owes you? Stick to the facts and keep your request simple. No "sorry to bother you," no "just wanted to see if maybe this could be paid," and certainly no guilt trips, à la "I’m really cash-strapped because of a recent move, so if you could send me a check, that’d be great!" I tried this no-apologies tactic to follow up on a 2008 assignment for a magazine article that had never run — or been paid. Finally, after a few different e-mails, I got 25% of the initial fee we agreed on...plus another assignment.
4. Tweet About It. Overcharged for a service or have an airline refuse to refund you for a flight it cancelled? While you’re endlessly waiting on hold for customer service, make sure to Tweet how you feel — especially if you have an active Twitter presence. There’s no need to be angry or USE ALL CAPS, but simply stating your dissatisfaction can help you get an actual person to help you faster than navigating your way through a maze of customer-service options. This strategy helped me finally get $400 back from a flight that had gotten cancelled due to bad weather from Hurricane Sandy last October.
5. Play Hardball. When it comes to service charges for your cable, phone, or bank, it’s always okay to remind the service provider that you have lots of other options, says Manisha Thakor, financial expert and CEO of MoneyZen Wealth Management. “They want you as a customer, so it’s in your best interest to question a surcharge or ask that they take a $10 monthly usage fee (in the case of banks) off your bill.” Even though it may feel like just $10, it adds up over time!

More from Work & Money

9:45 a.m. — Starbucks reward, bitches! OBV I get the most expensive thing that I can concoct. A Venti 5 shot soy latte. Yum
Four years ago, my life was exactly where I wanted it: I was working as a senior editor at a major glossy magazine. My first young adult novel had just ...
After months of waiting and countless discussions about what the future holds for our favorite television characters, Shondaland shows are finally back. ...
Refinery29 joined the Clinton Foundation for a tour of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to get a firsthand look at the experiences of the women and girls who live ...
Just after my son’s first birthday, I was on the phone with my mom, grappling over a gut-wrenching decision. I was scheduled to go on a business trip but...
I get so nervous before job interviews — sweaty palms, dry mouth, butterflies in my stomach. It’s really not fun. But once I’m sitting down with the ...
Fifty percent off your purchase here. 1,000 free miles there. When it comes to credit cards, the benefits are easy to see — while the downsides are often ...
You know what's easy? Spending money. It's the best way to get what you want right now. Except...this is not sustainable. Those little luxuries add up ...
As the host of RIOT's Woke Bae, we already know comedian Phoebe Robinson is funny AF while getting serious about major issues like feminism and ...
If the new phrase for the office BFF is the "work wife," then is a good boss or mentor your "work mom" or "work dad"? Part authority figure, part dispenser...
12:45 p.m. — I have a dryer, rare in Shanghai, so my friend runs home to get his laundry and then does a load at my place
Ah, the job interview. Getting one always feels like a win — your résumé passed the test, and you've moved on to the next round. Writing the cover letter...
Working in the service industry is an easy way to get an (often unwanted!) glimpse into other people's personal lives. Whether you waited tables at a ...
Recently, I was reminiscing about my financial education. Or maybe I should put that in quotes: “financial education.” In 10th grade, we created a budget ...