Using Rebates to Save Money

Rebates can provide substantial savings, but with so many different types of rebates available, it is important to familiarize yourself with each type of rebate savings program in order to navigate through the world or rebates.

Each type of rebate will have its own requirements in order to claim an abundance of rewards, such as submitting a rebate claim form or providing proof of purchase. Instant cash rebates offer customers quick savings, as they are applied upon purchase, while mail-in rebates and online cash rebates are later provided by check or prepaid debit cards. Cash back rebates, also known as cash back rewards, provide a different type of rebate program that offers cash back on your credit card purchases, the amounts depending on the terms of your credit card.

To learn more about the savings that rebate programs have to offer, including the types of rebate programs available, when you can expect to reap the benefits of the rebate program and the additional steps that you may need to take in order to receive a rebate payment, read the sections below.

Rebate Savings 101

Rebates offer incredible savings as they function similarly to manufacturer coupons, permitting rebates to be distributed at multiple retailers both online and at physical locations. While rebates often offer substantial discounts, they will generally have terms that must be met in order to reap these hefty savings. For example, rebates must be claimed within a certain amount of time, generally within a 30 day period.

Once the conditions of a rebate have been satisfied, you can generally expect to receive your rebate savings within 12 weeks. In fact, by law, retailers are required to provide customers with rebate savings within a reasonable amount of time.

Instant Cash Rebates Vs Mail-in Rebates

Two of the most common forms of rebates are instant cash rebates and mail-in rebates, yet both are very different. Instant cash rebates not only offer substantial savings, but they also provide immediate savings as you will receive the rebate at the time of your purchase. Therefore, instant cash rebates act as a large one time discount. If any forms, documents or receipts are needed for the rebate, the retailer will submit those documents for you rather than require you to do so.

Mail-in rebates, which are common, require that you initially pay the full price of the purchase. After purchasing the product, customers must complete a claims form and mail it to the manufacturer. Often times, the form must be accompanied by a copy of the receipt of the purchase. The manufacturer will then process the claim and you can expect to receive a check or a prepaid debit card for the amount of the rebate that was advertised for the product. You will need to contact the manufacturer if you have not received your rebate savings within the 12 week period.

Online Cash Rebates

Online cash rebates pertain to rebate programs that are offered on specific products through an online purchase. Generally, this type of rebate is offered on a manufacturer’s website or through a third party website. Online cash rebates are similar to mail-in rebates where you will be expected to initially pay the full price of your purchase. However, you will not usually be required to complete additional claim forms or provide a proof of purchase. Instead, online cash rebates will generally have you upload a picture of your UPC code or receipt in order to submit an electronic claim. Online cash rebates are often processed faster than their mail-in rebate counterparts, allowing you to reap the benefits of your rebate far sooner. Online cash rebates may be available to you in as little as four to six weeks.

Credit Card Cash-Back Rebates

A variety of credit card providers offer their own rebate programs, commonly referred to cash back reward programs. Cash back rewards are offered through both traditional credit card providers and store cards. By taking advantage of this type of rebate, cash back programs will generally provide credits back onto your credit card, thus decreasing the balance owed. Cash back rewards will typically range from one to five percent on purchases with most cards offering more in rewards for specific types of purchases or for making purchases through specific retailers. For example, the Amazon Prime rewards card offers five percent cash back on purchases made on Amazon.com and one percent back on all other purchases. Unlike other rebate forms, you will generally not be required complete a claims form and rewards are typically deposited within one or two weeks.

Reviewing Each Rebate Offer Carefully

Since most rebate programs have specific conditions that must be met in order to obtain savings, it is important that you review each rebate offer carefully before making a purchase. While most rebate programs will have an expiration date, many will also require that you purchase a certain quantity of items or meet a minimum purchase amount. Additionally, if you receive a prepaid debit card as your rebate payment, be sure to check for expiration dates on the debit cards, themselves, as well as any charge fees for inactivity or usage. If you receive a paper check, it is recommended that you deposit the check soon after receiving it.

It is also worth knowing that the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises customers to perform additional steps when pursuing rebate savings. No matter the type of rebate program that you take advantage of, it is recommended that you:

  • Review the rebate’s instruction form, include all required documentation and submit your rebate claim form before the expiration date.
  • Make copies of all paperwork that you are expected to mail, including your proof of purchase as this is the only record that you will have if any part of the rebate transaction goes wrong.
  • Contact the manufacturer if you do not receive your rebate within the time that has been promised.
  • Report any late or missing rebates to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Better Business Bureau and your state Attorney General.

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