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Emptied out your piggy bank to buy holiday gifts? Or maybe you wish you had just a little extra money to buy yourself something special. Picking up a side hustle may not be feasible for you, and it takes time to earn your first paycheck.
Instead, try looking in these five places for extra money. Whether you have cash waiting for you or just have to complete a few steps to access it, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find a few bucks to put toward your next purchase.
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1. Cash Out Your Credit Card Points
If you have a travel credit card, redeeming credit card points for travel often nets you the most bang for your buck. For example, if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, one point earned from your spending is worth 1 cent when redeemed for cash back but worth 1.5 cents towards travel when booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal or if you’re able to use the Pay Yourself Back feature.
But right now, you may care less about the vacation you might be able to take next summer than you do about having more cash this month, even if it means redeeming your points for a lower value than using them to book a trip.
It gets a little tricky depending on which type of credit card you have, but the thing to remember is that there’s a good chance your rewards card offers a redemption option that can help your current situation.
For example, when you use a credit card that offers a percentage of cash back on every purchase you make, your options to redeem those earnings may include taking them as a statement credit, direct deposit or a mailed check for the amount of cash back you’ve earned.
If you have a rewards card that lets you exchange points for a variety of rewards, ranging from travel to gift cards to cash back, consider the options that offer the greatest benefit for your needs right now. In general, cash back is the most flexible reward of all since you can often use it to buy anything you like, but you can also opt to use it as a statement credit towards your purchases.
Cashing out your rewards is especially useful for cards that have started offering enhanced redemption values on rewards used for grocery or other types of purchases during the pandemic. In the absence of travel or hotel stays, paying back that grocery tab with points could be a good option for you.
2. Check Your Cash Back App Balances
If you use cash back shopping apps like Rakuten, Ibotta, or Dosh, it’s time to check your earnings balance. Apps that reward you for purchasing at certain stores or for buying particular items often have a threshold of $15 or $20 before you can “cash out” your earnings.
If you’ve met the minimum accrual amount, request your money by PayPal or direct deposit and you’ll see it within a few days. If you participate in a program that still mails old-fashioned checks, make sure you’ve cashed your most recent one instead of letting it languish in a to-do pile.
3. Search for Unclaimed Money
Did you know that every state keeps track of unclaimed money that belongs to you? These funds might include refunds, security deposits, or final paychecks that couldn’t be delivered to you for a variety of reasons. That money is held for a period of time before it gets turned over to your state, where it’s then up to you to search for it and claim it.
Our guide to unclaimed money tells you how to search for money in your state. It takes just a couple minutes to submit a claim, and it requires only a few quick forms and proof of identity. Don’t forget to check states where you previously lived, too.
4. Empty Your Peer-to-Peer Payment Account
When’s the last time you checked how much money you had in your Venmo, CashApp or PayPal account? These convenient peer-to-peer payment apps hold onto any money paid to you by friends and family, to make it easier for you to later send some of your cash to someone else. It’s up to you to decide when to transfer your balance to your bank account.
The benefits are two-fold. First, you can use money in your bank account in more places, to make debit purchases or pay bills. The average Venmo transfer in 2018 was $60—that’s some serious cash, if you’ve got it hanging around in your account!
Second, it’s likely safer to hold that money in a bank or credit union account. Peer-to-peer platforms are hot spots for scammers and hackers. Payment platforms claim to offer robust security, and some offer pass-through FDIC coverage for your balance, meaning the platform works with banks to hold onto your funds, so you get the same insurance to protect your money that you would from a regular bank account if that bank fails. But you’ll probably keep better track of those funds in your regular checking or savings account.
5. Check the Balances on Unused Gift Cards
Store credit isn’t as useful as cash, but they could help you fill a gap somewhere else in your budget. For example, if you have a gift card for a grocery, drug or convenience store, you might use that balance ASAP. Doing so could free up funds from your grocery and essentials budget to put toward other bills.
One thing to watch out for with gift cards: If you haven’t used a gift card in over a year, the company issuing the card is permitted to start deducting a fee from the balance, and they can do so monthly. So if you were thinking of hanging onto that gift card for a special occasion, you may want to scrap that plan and embrace a “no time like the present!” mindset. Otherwise, you may end up with less money than you remember receiving.