Four Rules for Rebate Success

ChangeJar It’s shopping season. If you haven’t picked up on that fact, you’re just not paying attention. And retailers are trying to get your business any way they know how. One of the more popular methods: rebates. “Buy this marvelous thingamabob for JUST $50! (After $100 mail-in rebate that will be a pain in the neck to send in and which you may or may not ever receive. Restrictions apply.)

Rebates are such an annoyance that 4 in 10 people end up never receiving theirs, either because they didn’t follow the rules, forgot about it entirely, or just found the process too tedious to complete. Here are 4 ways to avoid rebate regret:

Read the fine print.
I sometimes buy a product with a rebate, take it home and leave the rebate paperwork in the box, figuring I’ll get to it later. When I finally fish it out and peruse the rules, I discover that I’ve missed the deadline or that I’ve accidentally thrown out the serial number that I needed to redeem the offer. Do not pass go: Read the paperwork to find out what you’ll need to do and when you’ll need to do it. (Note: If you’re buying an item online with a rebate, print the rebate form ASAP—it’s often not available after the offer expires.)

Make copies. Rebates are like any other process—things slip through the cracks and get lost. I’ve occasionally had to send in my rebate paperwork twice when the original set mysteriously disappeared. Do yourself a favor and make copies of the rebate form, your receipt, and any serial numbers or proof of purchase items you’re sending in.

Pay attention. Some rebates ask for a copy of the receipt. Others ask for the original. Some ask for a copy of the UPC code. Others ask for the original. Wing it and you’re asking to be rejected for not following the rules.

Keep track. Make a note somewhere (calendar? fridge?) when you send your rebate in. That way when six months pass and you haven’t gotten anything in the mail, you won’t be stuck scratching your head, muttering, “WHEN did I send that thing in, again?” Some retailers offer a phone number or website where you can track your rebate’s progress. Use it.

Most rebates take anywhere from six weeks to three months to process, so it’s not a quick money-back method. But if done correctly, it can certainly save you cash.

Have you had rebate issues? (Or major successes?)