You know those ads that promote free products after rebate? You might ignore them thinking it’s too cumbersome or too good to be true. The truth is that retailers have generally made rebates easier and it is possible to have success with mail-in rebates by following six simple steps.
1. Get Correct Forms and Receipts. Before making your way to the register make sure you understand the requirements to receive the product rebate. Then, don’t leave the checkout area without having the right form and receipt.
Typically these print out automatically at the register but not always. I double-check with the cashier to make sure. Don’t feel pressured by a line.
2. Complete Forms Immediately. Most rebates have a limited shelf life meaning the offer expires in a set number of days. In my experience, the common submission period is no later than 30 days after purchase.
In addition to the official form, many companies require a proof of purchase. It could be the receipt, UPC code, or any other part of the packaging. Additionally, some offers require proof that you are upgrading an existing product. I’ve had to submit the user manual cover or CD for software products.
3. Make Copies. I can’t stress this enough. Make copies of all the documentation being mailed before sealing the envelope. Keep the original product packaging in case you misunderstood any requirements and need it later.
4. Mail before the Deadline. This may seem like a no-brainer but believe me it’s not. I broke this rule and lost out on $120 worth of rebates once. The end result is that you end up paying the pre-rebate price for something you might not have ever purchased at that price point.
5. Track Rebates. Most companies will email you updates on the rebate status. You shouldn’t count on them though to make sure you get paid.
After mailing organize the copies in a pending rebate folder. Then create a task on your calendar to check on the rebate at the end of the period noted on the form. This processing time-frame may be anywhere from 6-12 weeks. If you don’t get the rebate, then start the follow-up process with customer service.
6. Spend the Rebate. This last step should be the easiest, right? Unfortunately, many companies have moved away from sending checks. I received payment by a different method for each of the last three rebates submitted. The companies’ motivation is to reduce redemption which is the worst outcome after going through the time and effort to get the rebate.
The first rebate I received was a check. We all know what to do with those. The next one was a Visa card with the rebate amount loaded. This can be hard to spend if an odd amount. If possible, request a check and it will take another 6-8 weeks to process.
The last rebate payment was via a Staples gift card. I haven’t used it yet but am tracking the amount so I am sure to spend it.
You can stretch your money by taking advantage of good deals with rebate offers. What is your experience with mail-in rebates?