9 Ways You've Been Missing Out on Free Money

Don't be a sucker.

(Image credit: DESIGN BY MIA FEITEL)

More money more problems, but sometimes those are the types of problems I want to have. Which is why I've figured out a whole bunch of ways to find/get/keep/hack extra cash that, frankly, you're probably just passing by. Here, I would like to give them to you.

1. Not Looking for Unclaimed Checks in Your State

You may read that and be like "nope, not me" but I guarantee it can be—it was for me!—and my friends were astonished when I found their names in searches (sums ranging anywhere from $12 for an unfulfilled magazine subscription to hundreds for warranties). It takes all of about 5 minutes, and each state has different policies on nabbing your unclaimed checks, so make sure you do your legwork. (AKA read the directions.) Pro tip: Be sure to check out any state you have *ever* lived in, including during your college years. Just search "unclaimed funds" and the state, and you'll be taken to the state's website for that free $$$.

"My friends were astonished when I found their names in searches (sums ranging anywhere from $12 for an unfulfilled magazine subscription to hundreds for warranties)."

2. Not Shopping Through Third-Party Rebate/Points Websites

Look, I'm not advocating shopping online when you don't have money, but if you're already buying and/or need the basics, make sure you have your sales count, like, three times over. Here's how: Sign up for MyPoints.comSwagbucks.com, or Ebates.com. MyPoints and Swagbucks work by the point system, which you can use to redeem for gift cards. Ebates accumulates "dollars" per purchase which you can then cash out when you reach a certain amount. MyPoints often offers bonus sign-up gift cards (meaning if you spend a certain amount within the first month of signing up, you'll get a $5 or $10 gift card), so it's worth trying out no matter if you online shop a lot or not.

So how does it work? Essentially, before shopping, you head to one of the sites above first, search and click the retailer link from their page, and then shop. Your points or dollars are credited to your account a couple of weeks to a month or so later, and you can accumulate them to buy more gift cards or get bigger cash outs. That's it. Easy.

3. Using Regular Search

Why use a regular internet search when you can grab points for searching for that recipe or the episode when Rory and Jess finally get together? Swagbucks lets you install a toolbar (or just make their search page your homepage) and you'll get rewarded with points for using their search instead of a competitor's. Translation: More gift cards, more dollar dollar bills, y'all.

4. Not Using Promo Codes

Literally just search the store you're buying from + "promo code" before purchasing. Takes all of two seconds, can save serious $$$.


(Image credit: GETTY)

5. Forgetting About Old (or Even Closed) Bank Accounts

If you switched bank accounts, or even closed certain accounts, make sure you're not leaving any money or interest you're entitled to by checking the FDIC website.

6. Not Auto-Paying Student Loans

Many student loan providers give a better APR if you sign up for their auto-pay program. So if you can, do it.

7. Not Signing Up for Loyalty Cards

Make that toothpaste and milk run worth something. Loyalty cards might sound like a pain to sign up for when you're ready to swipe that credit card and get out of there/back to your Netflix, but taking the couple of minutes to sign up is totally worth it—especially when you literally get money deducted from your bill before you even swipe (thanks, Walgreens).

8. Letting Unused Gift Cards Pile Up

If you're not going to use them, why let them sit in the junk drawer/your wallet and waste away? Head to Cardpool.com, get the best return, and mail 'em off. And yes—they can be used/don't need to be a normal number.

9. Not Trying to Sell Something Before You Toss It

You can sell pretty much anything these days online–your old bluetooth speaker, your Kindle, your used handbags. Try USell.comPoshmark, and even Craigslist. Most online programs also have prepaid labels—score.

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Samantha Leal
Senior Editor

Samantha Leal is the Deputy Editor at Well+Good, where she spends most of her day thinking of new ideas across platforms, bringing on new writers, overseeing the day-to-day of the website, and working with the awesome team to produce the best stories and packages. Before W+G, she was the Senior Web Editor for Marie Claire and the Deputy Editor for Latina.com, with bylines all over the internet. Graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University with a minor in African history, she’s written everything from travel guides to political op-eds to wine explainers (currently enrolled in the WSET program) to celebrity profiles. Find her online pretty much everywhere @samanthajoleal.