How to Track and Maximize Rebates on Holiday Purchases
Is there anything better than a bargain? Splurging can be fun and all, but scoring an amazing product at a fantastic price? Well, that sounds even better. For some holiday shoppers, holding out for a competitive price is worth it. According to one survey by RetailMeNot , Americans are willing to wait 57 days, on average, in order to find a good deal on a product.
So, if you’re on the hunt for a discount this season, the promise of getting money back on a purchase can be enticing. Retailers and manufacturers looking to make a sale may offer some sort of rebate in order to sweeten the deal.
Some are upfront discounts, others are more conditional like buy-one-get-one sales, while others may require a bit of work on the customer’s behalf. For some, the promise of 15% off a luxury purchase could be alluring enough to go through the process of submitting a mail-in rebate.
But success can sometimes be difficult to achieve when it comes to mail-in rebates. If you’re new to the whole idea, you may be googling “How to do a mail in rebate?” While the process may vary slightly depending on the manufacturer, here are a few guidelines that could help you navigate the mail-in rebate process this holiday season.
How Do Mail-in Rebates Work?
When the idea is broken down, the idea of mail-in rebates doesn’t seem overly complicated. After purchasing a product, the consumer fills out the specified paperwork and submits it via mail for a refund.
Depending on the promotion, the rebate may be for a portion or for the full price of the product. Rebates can be found for a variety of products but they are frequently offered on things like household items, electronics, food, and pet products.
When submitting a mail-in rebate, read all the paperwork carefully. Start with the product qualifications, which can be quite precise. Typically things like the brand and size will be clearly stated. Some mail-in rebates will have even more details on qualifying products, sometimes things like flavor or fragrance might be restricted.
Next on the mail-in rebate to-do list is actually filling out the forms. Be diligent, since the specific information required for each mail-in rebate will vary. Some may require copies or original receipts, so it could help to organize a system for saving them. Another good plan is to fill out the rebate forms soon after making the purchase.
Some rebates may even require that the UPC barcode (or a copy) be included with the forms. Take a look at any calendar restrictions too. Some rebates are only valid during certain dates, or can only be submitted within a certain window after the product has been purchased.
Double check all of the forms and make sure all the required documentation is included in the envelope before mailing it in. Errors or missing information might be used as an easy excuse for the seller to decline the rebate forms.
It may be helpful to make copies of the documents and forms submitted so there is an archive of information in case there are any issues.
How Long Does a Mail in Rebate Take?
After filling out the forms and mailing them in, the waiting game begins. The time it takes for rebates to come in can vary. For example, Macy’s suggests allowing six to eight weeks for rebates to arrive in the mail, but depending on the rebate, the actual time frame may be longer.
Finding and Tracking Mail-in Rebates
Since it can take a while for rebates to arrive, it could be helpful to track the outstanding rebates. An easy list or spreadsheet could do the trick. There are a few templates available online, but the documentation can easily be tailored to individual preferences.
You might want to include relevant details like the product, manufacturer, date the rebate was submitted, and the anticipated arrival of the rebate. It could be useful to include contact information in the event there are any issues and you need to make any follow up phone calls or emails.
As you see rebates you are interested in, you could also add them to this list—perhaps on a separate tab of the spreadsheet. To find rebates, take a look at the store shelves while you shop. Some products may have tags or stickers marking them for rebates.
Stores like Kohl’s and Macy’s have online databases listing the rebates available for products in their respective stores. If you’re interested in upgrading to some energy efficient appliances you could take a look at the ENERGY STAR® Rebate Finder to see if there are any rebates available in your area.
Online Alternatives: Cashback Websites
If mailing in rebates isn’t for you, there are online alternatives that could allow you to earn money back on (some of) the purchases you make. For example, sites like Rakuten (formerly Ebates), Mr. Rebates , and Swagbucks all offer cash-back to eligible shoppers who make purchases through their sites.
Some cashback sites require you to visit their site and click through to the online store in order to earn rewards. Rakuten offers a browser extension that will post a quick notification letting you know when you are shopping on a site that offers cashback through Rakuten.
To confirm you’re really getting the best cashback deal available, you can take a look at sites like Cashback Monitor , which aggregate cashback opportunities across most platforms.
Note that while you won’t have to mail any paperwork, there is generally a lag time when it comes to actually receiving cashback. For example, Rakuten distributes cashback payments every three months to those who have earned more than $5.
Upromise , a cashback site created to help people save for college, offers to transfer money to 529 accounts or checking or savings accounts, but usually with a minimum transfer amount.
Make the Most of Your Money This Holiday
Going through the mail-in rebate process can be time consuming—especially when you have a full list of other errands this season. But when the check arrives, it’s exciting.
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