What to Do with Old Lottery Tickets?

Let us say you found old lottery tickets while you were cleaning out your kitchen or going through that stack of papers that have been needing to be organized for months. An old lottery ticket seems useless, right? Is there anything to do with it besides throwing it away?

So, what should you do with old lottery tickets? Here are a few ideas:

  • Check your tickets to see if you have won a secondary prize.
  • Another option is to enter your state’s Second Chance Lotto programs, where you can use your losing ticket to earn prizes or points.
  • Your tickets can also inspire you to be creative and make crafts.

Enough people throw out old lottery tickets that every year nearly 2 billion dollars in lottery winnings don’t get claimed. If you are ready to find out what you should do with your ticket besides tossing it in the garbage, read on.

Check to See if the Ticket Is a Winner

Check to See if the Ticket Is a Winner

Before you throw that lottery ticket away, first make sure it is not a winner. This might seem obvious, but since most of those 2 billion dollars are from people who don’t claim small winnings, there is a likelihood that your ticket has some value.

After all, things come up, and we all forget to check the winning numbers after they are revealed, saying we will do it the next morning. Then life happens, and months later, we discover the lotto tickets or scratch-offs we were going to check “the next day.”

Checking the lotto numbers is not difficult these days. Every state has its lottery app — the web address is most likely on the ticket somewhere, or you can easily find your state’s online. The Balance Everyday site has links to all the states on this handy page.

Use Lottery Apps

Use Lottery Apps

Along with state apps, you can find plenty of apps online that cover state lotto as well as Powerball and Mega Millions.

  • My Lottos has free apps for Powerball and Mega Millions, as well as an app called Lotto Results for state numbers.
  • Lottolotto is another app that reports winning numbers. An interesting feature of this app is the ability to take pictures of your ticket to get results.

While you are looking at lotto apps, you can check out several apps that help you with the selection of numbers.

  • One such app is Lotto Wizard — use it if you are looking for an app that analyzes past lottery numbers to find those patterns that are most popular.
  • For Android users, Lottery Formula does the same thing — give you recommendations based on previous winning numbers.

You can even use apps to check lottery winnings, but most do not have data for every lotto contest. That is why you need to compare its data with what is available from your state. You might decide that having a shortcut or the app for your state’s lotto site works better for you, especially if you mainly play scratch-offs.

Don’t Forget to Check for the Smaller Prizes

Check for the Smaller Prices Many people check for the numbers for the big payout, and when that doesn’t match, toss the ticket. But just because your primary numbers did not match does not mean you are not a “secondary” winner.

Most of the 2 billion unclaimed winnings mentioned earlier are in smaller amounts. Use your state’s lottery site or the app you downloaded and check all the possibilities for your ticket.

Check the Expiration Date

Check the Expiration Date Lotto tickets do expire. However, the date of expiration depends on your state. Some states have a six-month expiration date on tickets, while others go up to a year. Powerball and Mega Million tickets expire after 180 days. Again, check the websites of the states where you play.

Expiration dates are based on the day of the lottery. However, for scratch-off tickets, the expiration date is based on when that game officially ends.

Double Check Your Numbers

Double Check Double-check the numbers—maybe you won a smaller prize (or perhaps even a larger one!).
Most of those 2 billion dollars’ worth of unclaimed prizes are for small amounts.

However, sometimes a more substantial amount remains unclaimed. For example, in 2019, someone lost out on $14.6 million. The year before, a ticket worth nearly 1.5 billion dollars went unclaimed in South Carolina.

And what happens with that unclaimed money? That depends on where you live. Some states reinvest the money into another lottery. If a Powerball winning goes unclaimed, the money goes back to the states.

If you are playing scratch-offs, most states will give your ticket a second chance.

Second Chance Lotto

Second Chance Almost every state that offers a lottery (and at last count 44 do) has Second Chance lotteries. In these second chances, your losing scratch-off card can be entered into contests for drawings. Prizes and amounts vary state by state.

Your state will ask you to create an account and then use the cards in a variety of ways.

  • Some states, such as Ohio, have you earn “points” on your lotto cards that you can use to win prizes or buy things from their catalog.
  • In Minnesota, you create an account and then play games that have “officially” ended—meaning they can’t be sold yet, but not all prizes have been awarded.

To get more specific details about the second chance programs, you will have to register. States use these to get rid of prizes. They also use a second chance to keep you looped into the lottery system.

Keep Them for Tax Purposes

Keep Them for Tax Purposes

No, you cannot claim a deduction on your taxes because you lost at the lotto. Deductions for losses are related to income and loss in business. Whether you buy lotto tickets or not is your business, but it is not a business.

Unless you win big, here, big is defined as anything over $600. Uncle Sam asks that you claim winnings over that amount. The IRS has even created a form for gambling winnings — Form W-2 G, Certain Gambling Winnings.

At that point, you can claim your losing tickets against your winnings. The IRS might want to see some documentation of how much you play, so keeping track of spending would be good if you think you might win enough to claim the losses.

Of course, this might not be a good idea. You might wind up being depressed by how much you have spent without winning.

Besides, if you win big, you will have a much bigger worry than deducting the amount of money you spent on losing tickets—your tax bill.

Use Them to Make Crafts

Use Them to Make Crafts

Why not? After you discover you haven’t won anything, or that the ticket has expired, and the second chance drawings haven’t netted you anything, then it’s time to put them to good use.

  • Origami. You do not need Origami paper to make a jumping frog or paper crane. If your card is not a square, you will need to do that first. Then use one of the hundreds of origami websites for patterns. You can find some easy ones to get you started here.
  • Create Art. Why not do something like creating a collage. If you want some inspiration to see what’s possible, then check out these works by Adam Eckstrom and Lauren Was. They used lottery tickets to build a pretend “Dream Home” from $70,000 worth of used scratch-offs.

If you don’t have that many tickets lying around, you can aim small. Check out the craft ideas on craft discussion boards like this one. Recycled Crafts has directions for making a Christmas tree from lottery tickets. Or waste away an afternoon checking out ideas on Pinterest.

  • Sell Them. People will buy anything. A search for losing lottery tickets on eBay will bring up more items for sale than you would think. If you have several hundred dollars of losing tickets lying around, look into that. Or maybe it is time to start collecting them.
  • Bookmarks. If all that sounds like too much work, there’s always bookmarks.

Bottom Line

Lotto cards can have second lives. Before you decide the cards are worthless, do some research. If you have carefully checked the numbers, make sure the card hasn’t passed an expiration date, and played a second chance game and still not won, then your lottery card can be used in creative ways.

Whatever you do, do not throw it into the trash. Please recycle. (Note: not all lottery tickets can be recycled, see our helpful guide here)