Mail-in rebates can save you plenty of money, and can even generate a small income, but the process requires both time and attention. To save the most money in the least amount of time, keep these tips in mind:
1. Learn Where to Find Rebates
Check out daily deal websites like FatWallet.com, and sign up for email updates to receive a variety of discounts, many of which involve mail-in rebates. Just be sure to limit your purchases to items you truly need – a mail-in rebate only saves you money if you use it on an item you would have bought anyway.
2. Follow Instructions
Companies look for any possible reason to reject your rebate. Therefore, follow instructions completely and thoroughly: If the instructions say to circle the price paid on your receipt, then do so. If instructed to include the original sales receipt, don’t send in a copy. Also, most mail-in rebates require that you submit the UPC code for the item. Tape this to a full sheet of paper to minimize the chance that the company loses it.
3. Be Organized
Create a document that lists all pending mail-in rebates, and update it as you receive the rebates. Include the product name, company, rebate type, and amount. Also, list a follow-up telephone number or website, as well as the date the rebate is supposed to be mailed out. Don’t forget to make copies of everything you submit, and create a home filing system for these documents in case you need to re-request an unfulfilled rebate.
4. Follow Up
The fine print on many mail-in rebates states to only contact the company if you haven’t received your rebate after the estimated time-frame. Others suggest that you call a few weeks after you submit. Know when you should follow up, and be sure to contact the appropriate company for any rebate you have not yet received.
5. Don’t Take No for an Answer
If you call a company regarding the status of your rebate and are told it has been rejected, don’t immediately accept this. Many companies start rebate programs with the intent of rejecting as many as possible. If your first call to a customer service representative doesn’t solve the problem, call back and try again. If you receive the same answer, ask to speak to a supervisor. Be sure to have the copy of your rebate in-hand and let the person you’re talking to know that.
6. Sell Items at a Profit
Once you become comfortable with the rebate process, take it one step further. Realize that when you get something for free or at a significant discount, you can usually sell it for a profit online. Open an account on eBay or Amazon, and put these items up for sale. Ship the products quickly, and package all items securely to cut down on returns. Some of the products I’ve had the best luck reselling include computer software and Bluetooth headsets.
If you ever have to call a company about a delinquent or unfulfilled rebate, be respectful and polite – raising your voice with the representative will get you nowhere. If you can’t resolve the issue of a rejected rebate, ask if there is a way it can be resubmitted. Often, you can send in your copies and the company will honor the rebate.
I use mail-in rebates all the time to save on items I use daily, and I’ve profited quite a bit by reselling other products online. By being organized and systematic in my approach, mail-in rebates have become virtually headache-free.
What other tips do you have to be successful with mail-in rebates?
David Bakke is a contributor for Money Crashers Personal Finance, where he writes about smart shopping and couponing tips to save money on everyday purchases.