If you just won the jackpot on a Mega Millions or a Powerball drawing, the chances are that you’ll be cashing that ticket in as soon as possible. A possible expiration date is probably not on your mind.
But what if you just won a few bucks or found an old scratch ticket underneath your car seat? Can you still redeem unclaimed prize money? How long does it take before a lottery ticket expires? Here’s everything you need to know,
When Do Lottery Tickets Expire?
The life-changing amount of money you can win from playing the lottery is long-lasting (as long as you’re smart about your money). But the winning lottery tickets themselves are not.
Since the participating states individually run the lottery, each state has a unique time frame dictating how long you can redeem a ticket before it is no longer valid. However, the national Powerball lottery sets a 180-day expiration from the draw date for lottery winners to make a prize claim. So take your Powerball tickets in and get paid ASAP.
For the Mega Millions, the ticket expiration dates are between 90 days and an entire year, depending on your jurisdiction. The easiest way to find out is just to check the lottery website of the state you’re playing in.
Regardless, most winners don’t take that long to claim their prize. With that said, there have been many circumstances when winning jackpots have gone unclaimed. A $77 million Powerball jackpot once went unclaimed in Georgia, and a $68 million New York-based Mega Millions ticket.
Scratch-off tickets are similar to the Mega Millions in that they must be postmarked and received by the Lottery Offices or redeemed at a lottery retailer within 90 to 180 days of the announced end date of the game.
How Can You Claim Lottery Prizes?
If you’ve just scratched off a significant prize, or if you’ve just got a ton of lotto tickets sitting in your glove compartment, claiming your reward is a piece of cake. Claiming your prize varies depending on how much money you win.
For Prizes of $599 and Below
If you win a prize on a Mega Millions ticket, scratch-off, or anything that amounts to $599 or less. You can take your ticket to a lottery retailer to get your money. It doesn’t need to be the same place where you originally bought the ticket — it just needs to be any location that sells and redeems lottery tickets.
This is the easiest option, but you can also claim your prize at a Lottery District Office. First, you’ll download a claim form online or pick one up at the Lottery Office. Fill out the form, sign the back of your ticket, and then take the ticket in person to the offices. You can also mail your winning ticket to the district office.
If you choose to mail in your ticket, we recommend using certified mail and saving a copy of everything you submit, just in case something gets lost. The lottery is not responsible for lost, late, or damaged mail.
For Prizes Above $600
If you win anything amounting to $600 or more, congratulations. You’ll need to file a claim form for any prize worth over this amount. Download the form online. There are two different claim forms depending on whether you’re claiming the prize as a group or claiming independently.
The reason you need to file a claim form is because of taxes. While each state differs, most states will charge income tax on lottery winnings over $5,000. The tax withholding rate varies depending on your tax bracket, but you can expect to pay anywhere from 24%-40% back in taxes before you receive the rest of your winnings.
From there, you’ll submit your claim to the Lottery District Office. In some states, there are multiple locations, and it’s much easier to drive to one yourself. You can almost always find these offices in major cities or state capitols for easy access. Going in person is the safest way for you to ensure that your ticket is redeemed and cashed in without damage or problem.
You can also mail your winning ticket and claim form, but we wouldn’t recommend this for large prizes. Again, the lottery is not responsible if your mail gets lost or stolen, so you’re taking a risk by sending it through the mail.
Lump Sum vs. Annuity Payments
At this point, you’ll also choose between a lump sum payment and annuity payments for your winnings for large payouts. You’ll receive the entire aggregate prize (after tax) in one fell swoop with a lump sum. So for a billion-dollar jackpot win, this will probably mean you’ll get a $600 million check for your winnings.
Lump sum payments are great because it means that you can enjoy all of your winnings right away. However, many people get a bit excited and blow through their winnings quickly. This is an example of the lottery curse, which plagues many jackpot winners who lack the financial literacy to find the balance between enjoying their winnings and being smart with them.
The other, safer option is to choose annuity payments. An annuity pays out your prize in installments over 30 years. This eliminates the worry of blowing through all of your money right away and allows you to be smarter with your winnings.
While you might die before seeing all your winnings, going with an annuity also has a tax benefit. The IRS calculates income taxes based on whatever tax bracket you’re in, and if you take a lump sum on a jackpot, you’ll automatically get placed in the highest tax bracket possible. You might not enter a higher tax bracket with an annuity until a few years into your annuity payments.
Can Expired Tickets Be Entered Into Second Chance Drawings?
If you lose on a scratch-off ticket the first time around, it might not be the end of the road. Many states participate in second-chance drawings that allow you to use your losing tickets to enter into raffles to win something, after all, possibly.
Make an account on your state’s lottery website and enter or scan the code on the back of your ticket into the Lottery mobile app. Your codes become draw entries that are entered into applicable drawings each week. You can submit up to 500 second-chance codes per month in most states.
With that said, your tickets must be entered into a second chance drawing within 180 days of the end-of-game date announced by your lottery jurisdiction. So if you’ve got some to-be expired tickets lying around, now’s the time for you to throw them into the second chance drawings to win big.
FAQs About Lottery Tickets
If you’ve got more pressing questions about the intricacies of playing the lottery or claiming your prizes, let’s clear the air with some common questions.
Where Do You Buy Lottery Tickets?
You can buy lottery tickets at any licensed lottery retailer — even if you’re not in the same state where you have a valid state ID. As long as you’re over 18, you can play in any participating state. Lottery retailers often include gas stations, convenience stores, and grocery stores.
When buying draw game tickets, you’ll need to tell the clerk which winning numbers you’d like to select. You can manually tell them or ask for a quick pick, which selects random numbers on your behalf. Your chances are the same either way.
How Can You Spot Lottery Scams?
There are plenty of lottery scams where individuals will try to use fake prizes to get you to pay them a direct amount of money. Likewise, some individuals will tell you that you’ve won a lottery prize to gain access to your personal information.
A less common scam is individuals offering to sell fake or expired tickets for a discounted retail price. As a rule of thumb, never purchase a lottery product from anyone except a licensed lottery retailer.
What Are the Chances of Winning the Lottery?
The lottery is a lot of fun to play, and there are excellent reasons why it’s such a popular pastime in America. Still, your chances of winning the lottery are tiny (one in 302,575,350). In fact, you are 300 times more likely to be struck by lightning.
Still, you have to play to win, and you can increase your odds by purchasing multiple tickets for each drawing. Know that even if you play again on the next drawing, your odds remain the same because each game is independent. But don’t let the odds deter you from possibly securing a life-changing amount of money.
Lottery tickets do expire, and while each state’s laws vary, you can expect your ticket to be redeemable for anywhere from 90 days to 180 days. Of course, if you win big, we wouldn’t expect you to wait long to cash it in.
Depending on how much money you win, you can claim your prize in person at a lottery retailer or at the Lottery District Office.
If the idea of winning is exciting to you, but the idea of losing isn’t, why not play a game where you can’t lose? Yotta offers bank account services that pay out interest in prizes of up to $1 million every day. Users often describe it as a no-lose lottery where you win by saving, spending, and managing your money.
Get started today and learn why over 500,000 users love Yotta for keeping track of their money.