How To Find Unclaimed Money In Your Name

Photographed by Rachel Cabitt.
If you're like Jan from Grease, you might subscribe to the whole, "See a penny, pick it up, all day long you'll have good luck" system of coming into fortune. If pigeon poop is supposed to be a good omen, why shouldn't grimy pennies, which are actually a form of currency, be some harbinger of future prosperity, too?
At the very least, while you work out that superstition, you can also be a bit more proactive by using a tool that will unearth money for you, like Credit Karma's new Unclaimed Money feature.
Last year, a CNBC report noted that over $40 billion in unclaimed cash is sitting around, waiting to be put back in people's pockets around the country. The money isn't a gift from some generous donor — it's just cash that has been separated from people at some point: left in an old bank account, past paychecks that went forgotten after someone moved, un-cashed checks, rebates, even inheritances that people didn't know about. When Refinery29 staffers started digging around for our unclaimed cash, we found nearly $100K. (And in case you're wondering, celebrities are sitting on a pretty penny of their own unclaimed funds.)
Unclaimed funds are held and disbursed by individual states, and typically you'd have to go to each state's website to search for your money with your first and last name. Now, Credit Karma's Unclaimed Funds tool streamlines the process by combing through state databases for you. Currently, the site will find funds in California, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Texas, but the company plans to gradually roll out the feature nationwide. In the meantime, it will direct you to other state websites if you want to look beyond those seven.

When Refinery29 staffers started digging around for our unclaimed cash, we found nearly $100K.

You don't have to be a Credit Karma member to do your search, but there are some perks for those who are. The site will send push notifications to members if money surfaces in the database, and can also check under different names — and the fact that Credit Karma is a provider of credit report services in the first place makes that job easier.
"When you’re a Credit Karma member, we have your name and address. What’s also on your credit report a lot of times is former names, so if you had a maiden name, an alias, and former addresses, we’re able to proactively look at your credit report, match it with the data for the [seven current] states we proactively monitor, and see if there’s anything that matches that," Hardeman says. "You don’t even have to know about the feature. We would just alert you by calling it forward to you while you’re on the app or on the website."
Finally, you can do a good deed by searching for someone else's name. (Nothing says "Happy Mother's Day" like giving your mom the gift of her own money!) You won't be able to actually access someone else's funds, Hardeman assures. Ultimately, in order to get the money, you have to file a claim and adhere to each state's methods for ensuring that you are who you say you are. But it's still a nice deed to give someone the heads-up.
I searched for my name in all the states in which I've lived, and nothing turned up for me — but I did see something come up for a relative. Looks like I'll be the favorite now.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series