Is the Check in the Mail? How to Never Miss a Rebate

Is the Check in the Mail? How to Never Miss a Rebate

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Is it worth your time and trouble to apply for a rebate? Do you really want to take time from your busy day to fill out forms, cut out UPC codes and round up receipts, knowing full well that six or eight weeks from now, you might still be waiting for your mail carrier to bring you a small check? Or, even worse, that you might be notified that you didn’t submit the information properly and, therefore, you won’t be receiving a check at all?

Don’t despair: If you read the fine print and follow the rules, you should have no trouble validating your decision to purchase an item because the manufacturer offered a rebate that made that television, computer or box of copy paper a wise financial decision.

Reasons for Rebates

Manufacturers offer rebates on a wide range of items for several reasons.

  • There’s a good chance the manufacturer won’t have to pay the rebate because most people don’t bother to take advantage of them. Only about half of rebate offers are actually redeemed, and the percentage is much smaller for items that don’t cost that much to begin with. Most consumers won’t spend the time it takes to apply for a rebate of $5 or less.
  • They’re trying to generate interest in a product that just isn’t selling that well.
  • They want to drop the cost of a product without selling it to the retailer at a lower price.
  • They are well aware that people can write off the full price of an item as a business expense, then keep the rebate. For example, a business owner might take $1,000 out of his business account to buy a computer, then use the $200 rebate check for personal expenses.

Read the Fine Print

Before you decide to buy an item just because the manufacturer offers a rebate, check to make certain you are eligible to get money back. You can probably find out everything you need to know by carefully reading the fine print, even if you have to use a magnifying glass to see all of it. Here are some reasons that might disqualify you from earning a rebate.

  • The rebate has already expired. With some rebates you must apply by a certain date, while with others, you have to make your purchase during a specific time period.
  • You qualify for the rebate only if you make your purchase from a specific retailer.
  • You don’t have all the items necessary to apply for the rebate. For example, some manufacturers require a receipt and the bar code from the box, and some demand originals rather than copies. If you are serious about getting your rebate, read the rules carefully and abide by them.

Some Simple Rules

If you apply for rebates on a regular basis, you should abide by a few simple rules that will help make the process easier and more efficient.

  • Always keep your receipts. Scoring a rebate is almost impossible without one.
  • Keep the packaging until you are certain you have all the items necessary to apply for your rebate. Some manufacturers require UPC symbols, a logo imprinted on the box or even a box top.
  • Read the directions carefully before applying for rebates. If you don’t understand how to apply, take a look at the manufacturer’s website to see if there is a phone number you can call to ask questions about rebates.
  • Make copies of everything you send to the manufacturer. The U.S. Postal Service isn’t perfect, so you might consider sending your rebate information by certified mail.
  • Some rebate checks must be cashed within a specific time period, so you should cash or deposit your check as quickly as possible.
  • Write down the date you expect to receive your rebate. If it doesn’t arrive on time, check with the manufacturer, by phone, by email or on the company’s website.
  • As a last resort, if you don’t receive your rebate check, contact the Federal Trade Commission, the Better Business Bureau or the Attorney General’s office in your state.

Manufacturers have solid business reasons to offer rebates, so you shouldn’t look at them as offers that are too good to be true. If you follow the rules and regulations, you should be able to take advantage of the opportunity to save money on a wide range of products you were going to buy anyway.

Norman Fong is Co-Founder of BuyVia, an online and iOS App smart shopping service that lists reputable products from top online stores, at the best price available. By downloading the BuyVia iOS App to their iPhone or iPad, consumers can be alerted to the best deals on the most popular products, anywhere and anytime.

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