Ultimate Guide to Entering and Winning Mail-In Sweepstakes

1
What Are Mail-In Sweepstakes?

Woman Filing Out Mail-In Sweepstakes Entries
Want to Enter Snail-Mail Sweepstakes? Here's How. JGI/Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Mail-in sweepstakes are giveaways which accept entries by postal mail. Some of these giveaways have several entry methods, such as online entry forms and social media entries, while others only accept snail mail entries. Others have mail-in components to their giveaways, such as an option to send away for free codes by mail instead of getting them by making a purchase.

For many years, most sweepstakes received their entries by mail. When the internet started gaining popularity, many companies turned to online sweepstakes for their promotions. This has created an opportunity for people who enter by mail.

Advantages of Mail-In Sweepstakes

  • The odds of winning are often higher since fewer people enter by mail.
  • Mail-in sweepstakes entry forms can be filled out while watching television, riding in a bus, train, or car, waiting in a doctor's office, or whenever you have some spare time, even if your computer is not close at hand.
  • If you lose your internet connection or your computer breaks down, you can keep entering mail-in sweepstakes.
  • Some people find that filling out entry forms and decorating sweepstakes envelopes is simply more fun.
  • Sending away for free entries by mail can save you money over purchasing products to enter.

Disadvantages of Entering Sweepstakes by Mail

  • Costs of stamps, postcards, and other supplies can add up quickly, making it more expensive to enter.
  • Although the odds of winning might be higher, the cost may limit the number of sweepstakes you can enter.
  • Mail-in sweepstakes entries may be lost or damaged on their way to the sponsor, meaning that your entry may never be completed.
  • Mail-in sweepstakes are more time-consuming to enter and filling out forms, addressing envelopes, and licking stamps can take a toll.
  • Most time-saving devices, like photocopies of entry forms, are prohibited in mail-in sweepstakes.

If you decide to enter by mail, it's a good idea to set a budget for supplies before you start and to keep track of how much you spent versus the value of the prizes you win by mail. This will help you decide whether you need to change your strategy. It will also be helpful if you decide you want to try to deduct your expenses on your taxes.

2
How to Enter Mail-In Sweepstakes (Plus Common Mistakes to Avoid)

Woman writing postcards
Take Your Time Entering Mail-In Sweepstakes to Avoid Disqualification. Westend61 / Getty Images

Entering sweepstakes by mail is easy in theory, but it requires good attention to detail. To enter snail mail sweeps, first read the rules carefully. Don't skip this step! Rushing and assuming you know what the sponsor wants is a good way to get your entry disqualified.

You'll want to check what kind of entry the sponsor wants: postcard, index card, paper cut to a certain size. You'll want to be sure to follow these directions exactly, even if they don't seem to make sense (such as saying that a postcard needs to be mailed inside an envelope).

Once you have the entry form nailed down, double-check what you need to put on it. You'll want to put the sponsor's address exactly as its written, even including capitalization.

Next, make sure that you include all of the identifying information they ask for: name, phone number, address, email address, date of birth, and special codes or keywords are examples of the information that sponsors often require. It's a good idea to write your information sideways on postcards so that the post office doesn't get the addresses mixed up. It's a waste of time and money to have your entry delivered to you instead of to the sponsor.

The sponsor may have other requirements that you need to check as well. You may need to hand-write your entries instead of printing labels. You might need to have a return address on your envelope. Be diligent about following the rules to the letter, and you'll improve your odds of winning.

3
Mail-In Sweepstakes Supplies You'll You Need to Get Started

Envelopes, Notepads And Colorful Pens On Table
All You Need to Enter Mail-In Sweepstakes Is a Few Supplies. Shaunia Mckenzie / EyeEm / Getty Images

If you want to try your hand at winning mail-in sweepstakes, it's a good idea to put together a kit with all of the supplies that you need in one place. This will help you enter more quickly, without having to search your house for misplaced items. The top 10 items that you will want to have in your sweeping kit include:

Envelopes

Many mail-in sweepstakes require entrants to send their forms in envelopes. The most commonly-requested size is the #10 envelope, also known as a business-sized envelope. It's a good idea to have a large supply on hand before you get started.

Postcards

Another common entry method for mail-in sweepstakes is to write your information on a postcard and mail it in. A good supply of postcards will ensure that you are never left short-handed when you come across a great sweep.

3x5 Index Cards

Many mail-in sweepstakes ask you to write out your entry information on an index card and placing the card in an envelope before mailing it in. To save time, you can write out index cards with your name, address, and other entry information in advance.

Along with your index cards, you might want to also keep a stack of paper cut to measure 3x5 inches. While many sweeps ask for 3x5 cards, others ask for entry on 3x5 paper, and they may disqualify you if you use the wrong type of stationary.

Scissors

Scissors are very handy to have in your sweepstakes kit. You will need them to cut UPC codes from boxes, to decorate your envelopes, and to cut paper to the proper size for entry forms.

Stamps

Every mail-in entry that you send is going to require a stamp. It's a good idea to get a roll of self-adhesive stamps, which will save you time and a sticky tongue. Forever stamps can help protect you from rising postage costs.

Ballpoint Pens

It's a good idea to fill out your entry forms and address your envelopes with ballpoint pens since they are less likely to smudge and smear. If your entry is not legible, it will probably be disqualified.

It's also a good idea to use blue ink, to ensure that you won't be mistakenly disqualified if a sponsor thinks you've printed out your entry when they specified that you had to write out your entries by hand.Keep a few nice pens in your sweepstakes kit so that you don't have to go searching around for them every time.

Envelope Decorating Supplies

Many people like to decorate their envelopes, for the fun of it and in the hopes that it will improve the chances to win (scroll down for more tips about how to do this). Permanent markers in bright colors and cheerful stickers will brighten up your sweepstakes entries, and you'll have more fun with your entries.

A Ruler

A ruler is handy for checking that you have the right size for your entry form. It can also help you cut straight lines if you need to trim an entry form.

Return Address Labels

Although most sweepstakes require that you fill out your entry information by hand, you can use labels for your return address. And you don't want to leave the return address blank since some companies will disqualify entries that don't have them. Not having to fill out your address on every envelope will save you a good bit of time. 

Small Sponges

Keep a couple of small sponges on hand and moisten them slightly to make sealing envelopes easier. You can save money by not needing the self-adhesive envelopes, and avoid painful paper cuts on your tongue.

A Sturdy Container

A sturdy plastic box with a lid or another portable container helps you to keep all of your supplies in one place. Prevent clutter and make finding your sweepstakes kit a breeze.           

4
How to Save Money on Snail-Mail Sweepstakes Supplies

Saving Money
Want to Cut Your Snail Mail Sweepstakes Costs? Here's How. zorani / Getty Images

Stamps, envelopes, postcards, decorations... mail-in sweepstakes entries can really start to add up once you total the costs! But if you don't send out those entries, you won't bring in the big prizes, either. Here are some great ways to save money while still keeping your chances of winning high.

Don't Overspend on Postage

Some sweepstakes ask entrants to send in postcards, whereas others require an entry form in an envelope. Make sure you don't stick the same stamp on both types of entries. Postcards are less expensive to mail, so make sure that you use exact postage. Those cents you save could give you extra chances to win.

Concentrate on Postcard Entries

Postcard entries cost a little bit less than entering with an index card and an envelope, both because of the cheaper postage and because a postcard usually costs less than an envelope and an index card. Prioritizing postcard sweepstakes saves you a few cents per entry, which can add up if you enter a lot of sweepstakes.

Search for Discounted Postage

Believe it or not, you don't have to pay full price for stamps. For example, if you search on eBay, you can often find postcards stamped below the current rate at a price well below face value. If you invest in them, you only need to buy a few cents worth of stamps to add to the value and be able to use them for your snail mail entries.

Check Tourist Attractions for Free Postcards

Many hotels and tourist attractions offer free postcards to their visitors. Keep your eye out while you're visiting these destinations for free sweepstakes supplies.

Make Your Own Postcards

To save even more money on mail-in sweepstakes, make the postcards yourself. You can make postcards from cardboard boxes (especially boxes of the sponsor's product!), the front of greeting cards, photographs, collages cut out of magazines, etc. Simply take heavy paper that is decorated on one side and blank on the other, cut it to the proper postcard size (the U.S. Post Office allows postcards as small as 3.5 x 5 inches and as large as 4.25 x 6 inches without requiring extra postage), draw a line down the middle of the blank side, and address it like any other postcard.

Look for Free Envelopes

Keep an eye out for ways to recycle envelopes that come with bills, birthday or holiday cards, mail-in offers, etc. You can use cheap address labels to cover any writing that is already on the envelope. If you travel, take the envelopes that the hotel leaves on the writing desk home for your entries. Don't overlook your local Freecycle group. You might be able to turn that free envelope into a prize-winning sweepstakes entry.

Take Advantage of Samples and Freebies

Stationary or office supply stores might be able to offer you sample envelopes that you can use for your entries. Greeting card stores often have extra envelopes that they can give to you. Another possibility is to put an ad in your local classifieds saying that you are willing to buy discounted envelopes from companies that are going out of business. You can also check freebies sites to see if anyone is giving away pens, envelopes, or other mail-in sweepstakes supplies. Simply asking around can often net you free sweepstakes supplies.

Buy in Bulk

If you do have to buy your sweepstakes supplies, buy in the largest quantities that you can. You can greatly reduce the cost of envelopes and index cards this way. Stores like Costco and Sam's Club are great places to look for bulk discounts.

Cover Up Mistakes

If you make a mistake addressing an envelope or a postcard, don't throw it away. Simply cover the first attempt with White-Out or a large address label and try again.                      

5
How and Why to Decorate Sweepstakes Envelopes

Catherine Lane/Getty Images

Can decorating envelopes you use for mail-in sweepstakes improve your chances of winning? Many sweepers think so. After all, if you look down into a mail-bag filled with boring white envelopes and see a single, exceptionally cheery entry, wouldn't you be more likely to pick that one? Even when the drawings are made blind, envelopes that have unusual weight or texture might have an edge over plain ones.

These techniques are especially helpful in local sweepstakes, where the winners are more likely to be drawn by hand.

Ideas for Decorating Sweepstakes Envelopes

  1. Use brightly colored envelopes. You can buy envelopes in a variety of bright colors which stand out instantly from standard white envelopes.
  2. Draw designs on the outside with glitter, puff pens, crayons, or even finger-paint. The brighter and more vivid the designs, the better.
  3. Stickers add weight and texture as well as color to an envelope. Stickers that are related to the sponsor, the sweepstakes theme, or the sponsor's products are an especially nice addition.
  4. Cut out images from magazines or product boxes and decoupage them to your envelopes. A cheap alternative to stickers, this is also a good way to include the sponsor's products or logo on your envelope.
  5. Take photographs of yourself or a family member holding or using the sponsor's products. Cut out the photo and glue it to the back of the envelope. 

    Tips:

    1. Always read the rules carefully before using a decorated envelope. Some specify that you must use a plain white envelope.
    2. Make sure that your designs do not obscure the address or return address.
    3. Keep a border at the bottom of the envelope free of design, to avoid interfering with the post office's bar codes. The border should be at least an inch high.
    4. If you have an unusual idea for a design, check the post office website to ensure that it doesn't break any regulations that would keep your entry from being delivered.
    5. Whether decorating your envelopes can really give your entry that winning edge is up for debate, but it is surely fun to do. Bright, cheerful envelopes can lift your spirits and help keep you motivated.

    6
    Where to Find Mail-In Sweepstakes

    Senior man with newspaper using laptop
    Want to Enter Sweepstakes by Mail? Here's How to Find Them. Sam Edwards / Getty Images

    OK, so now that you're all ready to go, how do you find sweepstakes to enter by mail? Here are a few different methods:

    Online Sweepstakes Sites

    Some trustworthy online sweepstakes sites have sections where they list mail-in sweepstakes, including:

    Mail-In Sweepstakes Newsletters

    Some sweepstakes newsletters are dedicated to helping their subscribers find snail mail sweepstakes. Here are reviews of two of the most popular in the United States:

    Reading Sweepstakes Rules

    There are many good reasons to read sweepstakes rules, and finding alternate entry methods is one of them. The sweepstakes rules will tell you if and how you can enter by mail. Some giveaways even offer unlimited entry by mail, although you can only enter a few times online.