Do you have unclaimed money sitting in an account somewhere? It might be just waiting for you to retrieve it— here’s how.
It’s hard to keep track of the different accounts you’ll open throughout your life. Throughout the space of even one year you may have new insurance policies, super accounts, bank accounts and investments. This could mean that you leave accounts with funds still in them. Over a number of years this can add up, meaning you’re missing out on money which could be working for you.
Read on to find out more about how you can find and take back unclaimed money.
How to locate unclaimed money
- Perform a search. An easy way to search for unclaimed money in the custody of ASIC is to use their simple unclaimed money search tool.
- Search on different government sites. You can visit other types of websites—the ATO, your state government, the Fair Work Ombudsman—to track down any unclaimed money that is owed to you.
How to submit a claim
If you performed a search using the unclaimed money search tool and discovered some funds that you think belong to you, you should immediately submit a claim form. The procedure you’ll use for making the claim depends on where your money is—it could be in bank accounts, life insurance policies or company shares.
You’ll have to be patient and wait 28 days for ASIC to complete processing your claim.
Regulations concerning unclaimed money were last changed in December 2012. The following changes came into effect:
- It’s now possible for some money to be declared unclaimed after three years rather than the previous seven years
- After 1 July 2013, you will be paid interest on all claimed funds (computed from 1 July 2013)
Visit the ASIC website if you need any additional information on these changes.
Has ASIC contacted you?
ASIC's Unclaimed Monies Unit frequently contacts individuals and organisations whose names appear in its records by posting out letters. If you get such a letter, you can use ASIC’s Unclaimed Money Search Tool to confirm whether your claim is valid or not.
Don't waste any cash on people or private money search companies asking you to give them some payment before they can perform an unclaimed money search for you. ASIC’s Unclaimed Money Search Tool is free to use and you can easily perform the search by yourself.
How do you prevent your funds from becoming unclaimed?
To prevent losing track of funds and having them being added to the government’s unclaimed basket, do the following:
- Do not leave your bank account or super fund dormant for a long time. You should deposit or withdraw some small cash (even 10 cents is good) from your account once every two to three years.
- Constantly update your financial institution with any changes to your address, name or other contact details.
If money in bank accounts, insurance payouts, pensions or shares becomes unclaimed, the funds are paid to ASIC. However, the funds do not remain in the custody of ASIC; they are moved to the Commonwealth of Australia Consolidated Revenue Fund where the legitimate owner can ask for them at any time. Your ability to claim this cash is not constrained by any time limits.
You can use other methods to ‘find’ cash:
- Make a budget. Budgeting will help you add extra cash to your wallet.
- Minimise your credit card debt with a balance transfer. A balance transfer can help reduce the interest you pay on credit card debt, so you might want to compare cards today.
- Switch your mortgage. You might be able to save a lot by switching your mortgage payments.
- Be sociable and spread the word. Inform your family and friends about the search tool. Maybe they can benefit from cash just waiting for them to pick it up.
You should never neglect to keep an eye on your super. It’s possible that you may have lost track of some of your previous super accounts if you’ve ever changed your name, address or place of work. If you have multiple super accounts, fees and other payments could be making your overall super investment dwindle.
Here are some strategies you can use to keep an eye on and manage your super well.
Check the status of your super using online services
You can create an account on the ATO website and use the SuperSeeker service to do the following:
- Check all the super accounts to which you have had money in over the last two financial years (active super accounts).
- Locate your lost and unclaimed super. There are billions of dollars of lost super just waiting to be claimed.
- Find any super money the ATO holds on your behalf. If the state, your super fund, or your employer is unable to keep your super, it’s transferred to the ATO.
- Move your super to your desired super account.
Registering by creating an online account is an essential safety precaution to protect the personal information displayed. It also ensures that you are the only one able to access the account and make transactions. To open an account, you’ll need to provide some personal information and details from some of your personal documents to prove your identity.
You can find out whether you have any entitlements or lost super being held by the ATO on your behalf by performing a quick online search or by calling the ATO directly. You will need to provide the following information:
- Your name
- Date of birth
- Tax file number
If you want to check the status of your other super accounts or consolidate your lost super with another super account, you will have to use ATO online services.
Lodge a form
You can download a Searching for Lost Super form from the ATO website and use it to check the status of your super. After you’ve filled out and returned the form, the ATO will advise whether you are owed any lost super or any super it has in its reserves.
Funds in the custody of state governments
Locate funds from deceased estates, dividends and other sources
State governments usually keep unclaimed funds from different sources. You can use the following essential contacts to search for deceased estates, dividends and other cash.
Search for deceased estates
You will have to get in touch with the public trustee in the state where the unclaimed funds are found. The following contacts will be of assistance:
- ACT — Public Trustee for the ACT
- NSW — NSW Trustee and Guardian
- Northern Territory — Northern Territory Office of the Public Trustee
- Queensland — Public Trustee of Queensland
- South Australia — Public Trustee South Australia
- Tasmania — Public Trustee Tasmania
- Victoria — State Trustees Victoria
- Western Australia — Public Trustee Western Australia
Search for dividends and other cash
Here’s a list of government agencies that you can contact to claim your dividends and other types of cash. Remember that different kinds of funds are held by different state government agencies.
- ACT — Public Trustee for the ACT
- NSW — NSW Office of State Revenue
- Northern Territory — Northern Territory Treasury
- Queensland — Public Trustee of Queensland
- South Australia — SA Department of Treasury and Finance
- Tasmania — Tasmanian Department of Treasury and Finance
- Victoria — State Revenue Office Victoria
- Western Australia — WA Department of Treasury
Frequently asked questions
Where does SuperSeeker search?
SuperSeeker instantly searches the database of accounts reported to the ATO by superannuation funds, along with its own records of unclaimed super it may be holding on your behalf.
Is it possible to access ATO online services using mobile devices?
At present, the ATO website does not support the use of mobile devices such as iPads, tablets and smart phones. You can access its online services using a mobile phone or a tablet, but you may not make the most of your visit to the site because content may not be displayed properly and you may not be able to access some sections of the site. It’s advisable that you use a desktop or laptop computer that meets the minimum requirements to access the ATO’s online services.
What super money does the ATO hold?
The ATO holds super money on your behalf if a fund, employer or the government has transferred it to the ATO. If the ATO cannot locate an account to move the cash to, it will safely keep it until the rightful owner lodges a claim.
What if SuperSeeker finds more than one account?
If SuperSeeker discovers that you have more than one account, it’s recommended that you merge your accounts under one name or get in touch with the super funds for more information. If you combine your accounts you will lower your fees and other account-maintenance charges.
If the ATO is holding money under your name, you can give directions for it to be distributed to a super fund or a retirement savings account. You can also be allowed to withdraw the money in certain situations.
To claim the money, click the links to the transfer and withdrawal forms in SuperSeeker.
If your account is listed on the Lost Members Register (LMR), you do not need to move your lost super to a different account.
What things should you keep in mind before transferring your super?
Consolidating all your super into one account will enable you to reduce fees and other account-maintenance charges. It will also be much easier to keep an eye on your super.
Nonetheless, a number of essential issues should be considered before moving your super:
- Differences in charges can make a huge difference to what you will get when you retire. For instance, your final benefit will be much lower if there’s a 1.5% increase in fees.
- Does the account require you to pay administrative fees, exit fees or withdrawal fees?
- The account you want to transfer your funds to may require you to pay entry or deposit fees
- Some accounts may insure you against death, sickness or accidental injury. Compare the benefits offered by different accounts.
- The account you want to move your money to may not allow transfers of ATO-held or super fund-held cash—confirm this prior to commencing the transfer
- If you’re not certain on what to do, contact an independent adviser or get in touch with your super fund.
Why does my account fail to give a balance?
SuperSeeker shows information reported to the ATO by your super fund. At times super funds fail to report an account balance.
Why is there a difference between my balance and my last statement?
Your account balance is not reported in real time. Confirm the report date next to the balance. Sometimes your super fund may have given a member statement after reporting to the ATO.
Why can’t I see my other super accounts?
All accounts are reported to the ATO every year based on holdings as of June 30. If you recently opened an account or your account has not yet received a contribution, the super fund would not have reported it to the ATO. Information is available only for those accounts that have received contributions.
What will my account balance indicate if I am a member of a defined benefit super scheme?
If you are a member of a defined benefit super scheme, the balance of your account as reported to the ATO may not be the same in every scheme. Check your member statement for more information on this. If you are in a Commonwealth public service defined benefit scheme—including CSS and PSS—your account balance will show the preserved benefit; that is, accrued contributions and payments as at 30 June.
Why do two accounts appear under the same super fund?
You will only see results of active accounts if you perform a search using SuperSeeker. Active accounts are those which have received contributions within the last two financial years. The ATO relies on your super fund to give it information on active accounts and display the latest records. If two records for the same fund have a different client or account number, even if the ATO displays them as different accounts, your account has not been divided.
The ‘show balance’ function will give you a report date and an account balance next to it. Note that the balance of the respective record corresponds to a different year for the same account. The balance figure is the balance amount at the time the super money was reported to the ATO. You will only get a real-time balance if you get in touch with the fund directly.
Why does my fund have a different name?
SuperSeeker shows the legal name of the trustee of your super fund according to the Australian business number (ABN) of the corporation that reports to it.
What if I want details of my TFN?
Details of your TFN are available in the following places:
- Your income tax notice of assessment
- Correspondence between you and the ATO
- Your payment summary
- From your tax agent
If you still don’t know your TFN, contact the ATO directly:
- Call them between 8.00am and 6.00pm, Monday to Friday
- Visit an ATO branch (you may need to call to make an appointment)