Maximize your money by shopping smarter this season. Rebates are a great way to stretch your holiday dollars or help your savings account bounce back faster in the new year once your checks arrive. Many retailers offer money-back offers as an incentive to encourage shoppers to buy a product they might otherwise deem too expensive. (But don’t let a rebate be the only reason you buy something. Check out this article on the dangers of impulse purchases.)
Mail-in rebates acquired in-store are the most common. You can often find out about these deals from store ads or displays, or on product packages. But mail-in rebates aren’t the only types of rebates available.
Here are three other places to look for money-back offers that you might not have considered.
Cut out the middleman. Check manufacturers’ websites for deals you might qualify after making a purchase. Appliance and electronic makers often offer some of the best money-back options. A key consideration to make when rebating is whether the payout is worth the effort of filling out, submitting and tracking rebates. A $40 refund on an $80 item is awesome, while spending 30 minutes submitting and 8 weeks waiting on a $2 check might make you feel a little silly.
You can also request rebate forms from online coupon services, which will then send you the forms to fill out.
Sign up for a rewards program
An in-store rewards program is a slow, but much less work-intensive, way to get paid for purchases you make. National retailers such as Walgreens, Staples and Petco offer shoppers enrolled in their free rewards programs points for purchases made, which can later be used as store credit.
Online rebate services
Cashback websites such as eBates and Mr. Rebates are an increasingly popular way to “earn” money while shopping online. A free account on a cashback website will reward you for shopping through their link by refunding a percentage of your purchase price. The individuals payments may be small, but eventually add up.
Rebate the right way
Now that you know how to find rebates, here are a few other things to keep in mind when using them. Reading the fine print and following through exactly as the rules state is essential to rebate success. Save your receipts and meet all deadlines to make sure you receive the reward you’re hoping for.
- Evaluate the value of the discount. Not only do you have decide whether the amount of the rebate is worth the time and effort required to receive it. A quick comparison shop before purchase is a good idea to make sure the rebate is really a reward, and not just a hollow refund on a marked-up item.
- Review each rebate offer thoroughly before you go to the store. Make sure you understand all of the rebate requirements. Contact customer service if you need any clarification. Bring rebate information to the store with you to make sure the item you buy matches the rebate exactly in size, quantity, flavor, etc.
- Attention to detail is key. Stores and manufacturers can afford to offer rebates because they assume (often correctly) that many shoppers will fail to properly fill out forms, or to fill them out at all. Any error you make can result in the rejection of your rebate. So look for anything special you might have to do to meet the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Make copies of all forms you submit. If you have to send the original receipt or UPC labels, make copies of those, too.
Photo courtesy rick.