Are you missing out on a big-bucks bonus? Here’s how to score some free extra cash.

Imagine waking up to a stack of money on your nightstand worth hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars. If free money sounds like an impossible dream, maybe you just don’t know where to look.

There are plenty of opportunities to score free money, often from sources you never considered. They’re not scams, either, just smart ways to put free money in your pocket.

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1. Employer retirement contribution match

If you’re not taking advantage of your employer’s 401(k) plan match, you’re leaving hundreds, maybe even thousands, of dollars of free money on the table. For example, if you contribute $200 per month to your 401(k), and the employer matches that contribution (up to an annual dollar limit or percentage of your annual salary), that’s an extra $2,400 a year.

Those contributions could also increase to much more as you receive returns on your retirement funds. Not only are you getting free money when you enroll in a 401(k) with an employer match, you’re setting yourself up for a more comfortable retirement.

2. Unclaimed money

If you’ve never searched your state unclaimed property website to find out if the state treasurer is holding money in your name, you could be missing out on free money, ranging from just a few cents to thousands of dollars. When I searched, I found only $20 for myself. But I also found $3,400 for my cousin from a former employer and $80 for an old utility deposit owed to a friend.

To get started, find your state unclaimed property administrator, search for your name – and even names of deceased relatives if you’re an heir – and apply to receive a check for any money owed. This is a free service. Never pay scammers who charge a fee to retrieve unclaimed money from the state.

3. Credit card sign-up bonus

When you have excellent credit, you’re more likely to qualify for a credit card that offers a generous sign-up bonus. There are several cards ready to fork over sign-up bonuses of $150 or more if you charge a certain amount. For instance, this Chase Freedom offer has a $200 sign-up bonus if you charge $500 in the first three months. (Credit card offers subject to change)

Be careful, though. This free money can cost you later with interest charges if you don’t pay off the full balance each month. Also make sure you apply for a card that doesn’t require spending more than you typically spend over the specified period to get the bonus, so you’re really pocketing free money.

4. Bank account opening bonus

Many banks can’t wait to pay you hundreds of dollars just for opening a checking or savings account. To find offers, perform an online search for “bank promotions 2020,” “savings account bonus,” “checking account bonus” or similar search terms.

The bank may require you to open the account with a certain deposit amount or receive direct deposits in the first 90 days, but the bonus is free if you meet requirements. There are many offers out there, and they come and go regularly, so keep an eye out for one that’s right for you.

5. Price matching

You can save hundreds of dollars a year with free money in the form of savings by simply checking the price of items on the store’s website on your phone before paying. Online price matching is one of the best ways to save money.

For example, last year, I bought a $370 desk chair for $199 at Office Max, a $60 headset for $40 at Target and a $60 dry-erase board for $20 at another big-box store, all by checking the price online and asking the store to match it. That’s essentially $231 in “free money” that I didn’t have to spend.

Many retailers honor online price matching, including Office Max/Office Depot, Target, Walmart, Pet Smart, Kohl’s, Best Buy, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, and Staples. Always check a store’s price match policy before you head out to shop to keep that free money in your pocket or purse.

6. Punch cards or apps

You won’t save hundreds of dollars by getting a card punched on ten cups of coffee, sandwiches or pizzas to get the next one free, but it’s equal to free money – in the form of food and drink that adds up over time. If you’re not using a punch card or restaurant rewards app, you’re spending money on something you could get free.

7. Cash back rewards

If you have a rewards credit card, you’re probably racking up points or miles that you can redeem for cash back. Whether you have a flat-rate cash back card or one that earns more points for certain types of purchases, points can add up quickly.

Just make sure you pay the balance on your statement in full each month. Otherwise, the amount you pay in interest could cancel out the “free” in cash back rewards.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

Published by Debt.com, LLC