Money saving strategies come in many forms. Rebates, a marketing tool designed to draw you in, are one way you can save money when shopping. Used wisely, with an understanding of the risks, rebates can make acquiring new products more affordable.
How Rebates Work
The most common type of rebate allows you to buy a product and then to mail, or electronically complete, a form to receive reimbursement for a specified amount of money. Less often, merchants offer “instant” rebates. In this case, the rebate amount is deducted at the register in a brick-and-mortar store or subtracted from your shopping cart total online. This approach saves you the trouble of mailing paperwork to the manufacturer.
Improving the Odds of Receiving Your Rebate
Read the rebate terms carefully. Make a note of everything you must submit to qualify. Typically, required items include original receipts, bar codes from the product box, and a completed rebate form. These items must be mailed by a deadline.
Make photocopies of all materials required for submission, including bar codes from product boxes. While you’re at it, save the box the item came in, as further proof of purchase. Brick-and-mortar stores can often provide duplicate receipts, at the register, for use with rebates. Store all photocopies in a safe place, in case you need them later. And, never discard photocopies until you’ve received and cashed your rebate check.
Larger rebate amounts may necessitate sending your materials by certified mail, with a return receipt requested, for proof of mailing and delivery confirmation. For lesser rebate amounts, use a Certificate of Mailing form, available at your post office. The latter won’t prove that your letter was received, just that you mailed it on a certain date. You should do this because you’re required to show that you mailed the materials by a certain date to qualify for the rebate. The more money you have to lose, the more you should be willing to spend for documentation to prove your compliance with the rebate terms.
If you don’t receive your check in the specified time frame, follow up with the manufacturer to prevent your rebate from falling through the cracks. Mistakes are made when processing rebates, so it’s up to you to ensure that yours is processed properly.
Saving Money with Rebates
Always shop around. Use all shopping tools available to you, including the Internet and trips to your local mall. Research prices for the item of interest, as well as similar items. Determine whether the model with the rebate is a better deal than similar, less expensive items, without a rebate.
Asserting Your Rights
Sometimes, even after following the rules, you won’t receive your rebate check. Follow up by phone, and reiterate your conversation via email whenever possible. Offer to send photocopies and proof of mailing, if you’re told that you didn’t qualify. Persistence, and knowledge about consumer rights, is the best way secure the rebate that you counted on to get a good deal.
Lisa Bernstein: As a long-time apartment dweller and seasoned condominium trustee, I have dealt with numerous landlord-tenant, property management, and day-to-day apartment complex issues. My extensive, direct experience has led to invaluable insights into apartment life from both the tenant and management perspectives.