Mozo guides

How to find lost super: A comprehensive guide

Illustrated man standing on a mountaintop cliff looking through a legless telescope at a dollar-sign-emblazoned golden balloon.

Have you ever considered that a few minutes of checking could unlock thousands of dollars in potential investment earnings? Believe it or not, the ATO has unearthed over 7 million lost or unclaimed superannuation accounts, amassing more than $16 billion. That's an average of $2,276 per account, which could blossom into more than $20k over 30 years based on a 7.5% return*.

In this guide, you'll swiftly learn how to identify if you're entitled to lost or unclaimed super—often in just minutes—and we'll guide you through the straightforward steps to reclaim what's yours. While we will touch on the differences between lost and unclaimed super for those keen on the details, our focus is to get you to the action as quickly as possible, ensuring you don't miss out on potential earnings.

Find your lost super: quick steps

Person inspects a trail of coins as he learns how to claim lost super

Discovering forgotten super could significantly boost your retirement savings. Here's how to quickly check if you have any lost or unclaimed super, with brief insights to help you understand each step.

1. Connect with MyGov and the ATO

  • Action: First, link your MyGov account to the Australian Taxation Office. This is your starting point for uncovering any super accounts in your name.
  • Why it matters: This step gives you a comprehensive view of any super accounts associated with your name, including those marked as lost or unclaimed by the ATO.

2. Search the ATO for Lost Super

  • Action: Review any accounts the ATO has marked as "lost." These are accounts that may have outdated details or haven't had activity for a while.
  • Quick insight: An account can become "lost" for reasons like not updating your fund with a new address or name change. The ATO flags these to help reunite you with your super.

3. Search the ATO for Unclaimed Super

  • Action: Look for any super that the ATO classifies as "unclaimed." This includes lost accounts with low balances, deceased estates, eligible retirees, and more.
  • Quick insight: Unclaimed super is lost super that has been transferred to the ATO to protect it from fees and make it easier for you to claim.

4. Deepen Your Search

  • Action: If your super isn't listed with the ATO, extend your search. Contact past employers, review old documents for previous super funds, or call the ATO's lost super hotline for further assistance (13 10 20).
  • Why this helps: Sometimes super isn't captured in the initial search, especially if it predates digital records or involves multiple job changes.

Reclaiming your super

Man jumps to claim his super

Once you've located your lost or unclaimed super, the next steps will help you reclaim and manage it effectively.

Claiming lost super

Claiming lost super is relatively easy, since the original fund still holds it. Here are the steps:

  1. Connect with the fund. Directly contact the fund holding your lost super.
  2. Prepare your information. Have your identification details ready—this smooths the process.
  3. No form required: Simply update your details or consider consolidating this super into your active account for easier management.

Claiming unclaimed Super

Claiming unclaimed super can be a bit more involved, depending on whether or not it’s already ‘listed’ in your ATO account. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. MyGov is your go-to. Log into MyGov and link it to the ATO to see if your unclaimed super is listed.
  2. Listed unclaimed super. If you find unclaimed super listed, you can claim it directly through MyGov. This is often the simplest path to reclaiming your funds.
  3. For unlisted accounts. If your search from above uncovers unclaimed super that is not listed in your ATO account, gather your identification details (full name, date of birth, Tax File Number, previous addresses), information about the super account (fund name, account number), and any relevant contribution dates. Submit this information using the "Searching for Lost and Unclaimed Super" form on the ATO website.
  4. Consolidation or new account transfer is necessary. After claiming your unclaimed super, you must either consolidate it into an existing super account or transfer it to a new super account.

How the ATO defines lost super

By law, lost super refers to situations where super funds have trouble staying in contact with members, leading to accounts being classified as "lost" under certain conditions:

  • Uncontactable member. If a fund can't reach you because your contact details are no longer current and their attempts to contact you fail, you're seen as "uncontactable." You fall into this category if your fund hasn't successfully verified your address as correct in the past two years or has reasons to believe it's now incorrect.
  • Inactive member. Your account is considered "inactive" if there have been no contributions for a stretch of time, typically 12 months. But, if you've indicated to the fund within the last two years that you wish to keep your membership active, you won't be marked as lost, even without new contributions.

What’s the difference between lost super and unclaimed super?

Lost super happens when your fund can't reach you, often because your details are out of date. Accounts with over $6,000 stay ‘lost’ with your fund until you claim them.

If your lost super drops below $6,000 without being claimed for a certain time, it's transferred to the ATO as 'unclaimed'. This move keeps your super safe from dwindling due to fees.

There are also other types of unclaimed super that don’t originate from lost accounts, including super from members who haven't claimed it in retirement, unclaimed super from deceased estates, and other highly specific situations.

How to keep your super from becoming lost

There are ways to ensure you're not classified as lost, like:

  • Confirming your current address with the fund within the last two years.
  • Specifically telling them that you wish to stay a member, regardless of your future anticipated activity level.
  • Being part of a self-managed super fund (SMSF) also means you're not considered lost.

Essentially, staying ‘found’ boils down to keeping in touch with your super fund and updating them on any changes to your contact details or membership intentions. This engagement helps ensure your super is properly accounted for and growing for your future.

To learn more about a variety of super topics and to get a leg up on planning for your retirement, head on over to our super guides hub.

* A historical return of 7.5% has not been uncommon for super funds, especially in the growth category; however, past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance

Finding lost super FAQs

What does ‘consolidating super’ mean?

Consolidating super involves combining two or more super accounts into one, making it easier to manage, reducing duplicate fees, and decreasing the likelihood of losing track of your funds.

After you reclaim any lost or unclaimed super, you’ll need to decide what to do with it.

For unclaimed super, the choice is simple: you’ll have to move it out of the ATO and consolidate it into an active account. On the off-chance you don’t have another active account, you’ll have to open a new account with a new super fund.

With lost super, you can simply decide to leave the funds where they are since the account is now in the active state.

You can also consider consolidating that account into another active account (or vice versa). This can help streamline your financial management and might boost your savings by cutting down on unnecessary fees. However, before taking this step, it’s wise to consider other factors like insurance cover and any  extra contributions your employer might be making. For example, you wouldn't want to move your super from an account with superior benefits to one with fewer advantages.

How does super become lost?

Super can become lost due to a number of reasons. Some of them may include changes to your circumstances, such as:

  • Getting a new job. Maybe you’ve changed jobs and your employer pays the super into a different fund. If you haven’t taken the steps to rollover the fund, you could have lost super.
  • Moving homes. If you’ve forgotten to update your contact details after having a change of address for instance, your superannuation provider may not be able to get in touch with you.
  • Name change. Taking on the last name of your spouse or changing your name means that your account might be under a different name. When this happens, your super fund could have trouble reaching you.

Chances are you’ve experienced one of these life changes. So why not search for lost super? What do you have to lose?

How do I find a deceased person’s lost super?

If you're looking to track down a deceased person’s lost super, a good place to start is by reaching out to the ATO. They can help point you to any super accounts the person had. After figuring out which super funds to contact, you’ll need to get in touch with them, armed with necessary documents like the death certificate, and show your connection or right as a beneficiary to handle or claim the super.

Can I withdraw lost super early?

Withdrawing lost super early, in the form of cash, is possible and tax-free if your account balance is under $200. However, if it’s higher than that and you haven’t reached the super preservation age, you will need to rollover the money into a new super account or consolidate it into an existing account.

There are a few other ways to withdraw super early, for example in certain times of financial hardship - or if it’s part of a first home super saver scheme, but these have very strict criteria. 

Does consolidating super close the original account?

Yes, rolling over the balance of one super account and consolidating with another means that the original account will be closed.

Brad Buzzard
Brad Buzzard
Senior Money Writer

Brad brings over 25 years of experience in writing and consumer research to Mozo, using his RG146 certification for Generic Knowledge and Superannuation Brad has a knack for translating complex policies, to deliver practical guidance on financial matters. Brad has been featured in The Australian, B&T, Mumbrella, and Asia Insurance Review, and his insights have influenced the strategies of some of the world's biggest brands including McDonalds and Proctor & Gamble.