How to Make Sure That You Get Your Rebate

Failure to Follow Rebate Redemption Instructions Can Result In Rejection

Rejected Stamp
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Have you ever sent in for a rebate and then never received it? If so, you aren't alone. Promotions using rebates have a long trail of dissatisfied customers who never received the check.

Bargain hunters either like rebates or loathe them, depending on how successful they have been in getting rebate checks. Those who like rebates argue that this type of promotion offers shoppers the biggest savings.

Those who dislike rebates complain about having to pay sales tax on the purchase price before the rebate is applied and because the process of getting rebates can sometimes be difficult.

Either way, promotions involving rebates will likely be around for a very long time. Most manufacturers and retailers prefer this method of discounting products, but for reasons other than saving shoppers money.

Why Retailers and Manufactures Like Rebates

Retailers and manufacturers use rebates to promote products at lower prices to increase sales. However, customers do not receive the savings at the time of purchase. Usually, they are required to submit a rebate claim form, either through the mail (referred to as mail-in rebates) or online, wait for the claim to be processed and the rebate check to be sent out. Ideally, this process takes an average of eight to 10 weeks, but it often takes much longer.

Meanwhile, the retailers and manufacturers earn interest on the money that is being held to pay the rebates that are outstanding and during the process time for claims that have been submitted.

 This can add up to a lot of money.

While the rate of shoppers who fail to submit rebate claim forms on qualifying purchases depends on the source you are looking at and how the numbers were crunched, estimates have been as high as 50 to 70 percent. Also, about one-fourth of the customers lose or forget they have a rebate check, although the higher the amount of the check, the less this happens.

In 2002, ARS analyst Gary Peterson told The Wall Street Journal, "Rebates are a good business plan only when consumers fail to claim them." That still holds true today despite the significant advances in other areas of retail sales and promotions.

Fulfillment Houses

Most of the companies that promote rebates rarely manage the rebate claims in-house. Fulfillment houses that specialize in rebate claims are often hired to receive the claims, handle the processing, send out denial letters, and/or send out the rebate checks, and handle some limited communication with consumers.

Fulfillment houses work for the companies that contract them and not for consumers. They follow all of the terms of the rebate. Forms that are not completed properly or a failure to follow the instructions for completing rebate forms will almost always result in a rebate being denied.

Also, fulfillment houses are usually responsible for preparing the rebate checks and mailing them out, but only if the company that hired them has supplied them with the money.

Retailers and manufacturers are notorious for being slow to pay, which results in rebate checks being put on hold.

Mastering Rebates

There are several obstacles that consumers will face when claiming a rebate. How severe those obstacles are will depend on the retailer's or manufacturer's real intentions behind running a rebate promotion.

Companies that have a genuine desire to attract new customers will usually have basic, easy-to-follow instructions on how to submit the rebate claim form. Companies with the intentions of tricking customers into buying products at the full retail price or add-on services that will cost the customer money, will make the instructions on the rebate claim forms difficult to follow..

The trick to mastering rebates is not to let a company off the hook that looks for reasons to deny your rebate. The following steps will help you do it.

Read and Follow the Instructions on the Form

Most rebate forms that are submitted are rejected because of consumer error. The error could be something that seems insignificant, like the color of ink used on the form or putting a staple in the right top corner instead of the left top corner. 

When it comes to rebates, following all the instructions on the rebate form is of major importance. Missing just one step could result in a rebate rejection. This includes the type of proof-of-purchase that needs to be sent in, how the proof-of-purchase is cut and folded, if they want the original receipt or a copy of the receipt, how to attach a receipt or how not to, and on and on and on. So rule number one; If you want to get a rebate check, follow all the instructions as written and pay particular attention to the small print.

Check Dates

There are different dates on rebate claim forms. All of the dates are important. First, look for the dates that reference the time frame that has been allotted for the purchase to qualify for the rebate. It will say something similar to, "Valid on purchases made between July 1 20xx and July 31, 20xx". Verify that the date on your receipt falls within the time frame. 

Next, look for the claim form submission deadline. It will read something like, "Submissions must be postmarked by August 30, 20xx." You will have until that date to not only get your mail-in rebate form in the mail, but also postmarked. If it is August 30, and your drop your rebate form in a mailbox that displays the pickup time as the next day at 6 a.m., the submission will be postmarked August 31 and the rebate will probably be rejected. 

If you manage to receive a rebate check or store card, look for an expiration date. It may read something like, "void after 90 days from the date issued' and if you try to use it past the 90 days, it will be declined. If you deposit a rebate check into your account through an ATM machine, you will likely be charged a bank fee for depositing a voided check..

Read the Terms of the Rebate

The terms of rebates are usually listed in small print on the rebate forms. This area is often overlooked by consumers and it is also the culprit behind a lot of rebates getting the rejection stamp. The terms always include multiple qualifiers that must be met in order to get the rebate. This is also the area that is used a lot by retailers and manufacturers to trip up consumers. Watch out for instructions that are vague or confusing. 

If it is a retailer's rebate, you might be in luck. You can try to get clarification on confusing policies before you submit the rebate form. Many time the employees at the local store will not have the information that you need. It is usually more effective to call or email the customer service department at the corporate office. Keep a record of who you spoke to and ask for an email reviewing what was discussed. If your rebate gets rejected, you may have recourse.

If it is a manufacturer you can follow the same process, but you may not get your questions answered or the answers that you do get might be wrong, but despite that keep a record of who you spoke to and their response.

To avoid the frustrations of trying to make sense of a confusing rebate submission form, read the form before you buy the product. If it is too difficult to make sense of, chances are you won't ever see the rebate check and you will likely be better off not buying the product because of the after-rebate price.

Standard terms on rebate forms include:


  • Valid for online and/or in-store purchases.
  • Valid only for a product purchased for a specific price.
  • Only one rebate form can be submitted per household.
  • Submission form must include a street address. No P.O.boxes.
  • The types of proof-of-purchase required (receipt, email confirmation, UPC code)

Copy Receipts

If the claim form requires the original store receipt as proof-of-purchase and you later decide to return the item, you could run into trouble. Most stores require a receipt when shoppers return merchandise. To avoid this, ask for a gift receipt when you make your purchase.  The receipt looks like a regular receipt, but without the prices. You could also copy the original receipt and keep it for your records.

Keep Copies of What You Submit With the Form

Make copies of ​all the documentation that you send in with the claim form. Companies have been known to ask for people to resubmit, citing a mistake or that the rebate request form was lost. Keeping copies of everything is your safety net.

To-Do Checklist

  • Keep all the receipts for the items you plan on sending in for a rebate check. Companies may make you mail either copies or originals of all receipts.
  • Send in your rebates as quickly as possible. Many companies have a period as short as seven days for consumers to send in their documentation and rebate forms.
  • Save the packaging and the product box. A rebate application may require the UPC code off of the packaging or box.
  • Always sort your mail carefully. Many rebate checks are created to look like junk mail. Don't be fooled.
  • Make copies of every element of your application.
  • Have the right phone numbers in case you need to follow up. You may have to contact the company if the rebate does not arrive as promised.
  • Set up a call record, noting the dates and who you spoke to about the problem, and what their response was to you.
  • Do not give up on getting your rebate check.

What if the Rebate Check Never Comes?

If the rebate never arrives or if it arrives late you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, the state Attorney General and/or the local Better Business Bureau.

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