5 Types of Sweepstakes You're Wasting Your Time Entering

Here Are Sweepstakes You'll Want to Avoid

Winning sweepstakes is such a heady feeling that it's tempting to enter every giveaway you can find. After all, the more you enter, the better your chances of winning, right? However, there are some good reasons to think twice before entering everything in sight.

When I first started entering sweepstakes, I entered every contest I was eligible to win. The result? I won a lot of junk, and I wasted time that could be spent entering for prizes I really want. For more information about why I think this strategy is a bad idea, see It Pays to Be Picky Entering Sweepstakes.

Now I'm a lot choosier about the sweepstakes I enter. Here are 5 types of sweepstakes you're wasting time entering.

Sweepstakes that You're Not Eligible to Win

Stop! Here are Sweepstakese You Don't Want to Enter
Stop! These Are Sweepstakes You Don't Want to Enter. Image (c) drbimages / Getty Images

When the prizes are so alluring, it's tempting to try to enter sweepstakes you're not eligible to win. So a sweep is only open to business owners, or diabetics, or people under 13, and you don't qualify - well, maybe the sponsors won't notice, right?

But please, avoid sweepstakes you can't win. Sponsors do due diligence to make sure that their winners followed the rules, and it's heartbreaking to be notified that you've won a fantastic prize, only to have it pulled away when the sponsors realize you are ineligible.

Plus it's bad karma. When it's your turn to enter restricted sweepstakes, do you really want your odds to be lower because others break the rules?

And it's not just your time you're wasting. When sponsors have to spend too much time and effort weeding out ineligible entries, it may discourage them from offering more giveaways.

Sweepstakes with Trips that You Can't Take

If you're about to enter to win a trip, take a moment to stop and check the rules to see if the sponsor has specified when travel has to take place.

Sometimes, the travel dates are very soon after the sweepstakes ends. Other times, the trip has to be taken over major holidays or other dates that might just not be convenient for you.

If you need a lot of lead time to take time off of work, or you can't imagine being away from your family on Thanksgiving, avoid sweepstakes that would require you to travel on those dates.

There are other good reasons why you might not be able to take a trip as well. For example, a long biking tour in Ireland or a hike through the mountains of Peru would not be a good prize for someone who is not physically fit.

If the sweepstakes  is giving away other prizes as well as the trip you can't take, it might be worth entering anyway, and declining the prize if you win the trip.

Sweepstakes Where the Taxes Would Be Too High

High-value prizes are a real charge to win, but remember that you're going to be paying sweepstakes taxes on your prizes - and sometimes, it's just not worth it.

Remember that the rule of thumb is that you'll be paying about 1/3 of the prize value in taxes (your individual tax situation will determine the exact amount. Speak with a tax consultant for a more exact number).

So if you win, say, a $90,000 vacation, you can expect to pay somewhere around $30,000 in taxes next year. Is it worth it to you? Think it over before you enter.

Of course, there are ways of handling taxes, too. For more information, see How to Dispute an ARV on Your Taxes and How to Afford Taxes on Car Prizes.

Sweepstakes Giving Away Prizes You Can't Use

Sure, a win is a win, but entering sweepstakes that offer prizes I didn't really want or need result in a lot of junk around the house and a lot of wasted time on my part.

Sometimes you can sell the prizes, but that's an investment of time and effort, which could be spent trying to win prizes you really do want. It's better to skip the sweepstakes that don't have prizes that you want.

Of course, there's always the chance that you'll win a prize you don't really need (in which case, check out my article, How to Find Homes for Unwanted Prizes), but at least some of the prizes should be really attractive to you if you want to spend your time wisely.

Sweepstakes Where Prize-Related Expenses Would Be Too High

Even when the prizes are free, sometimes they come with related expenses that can add up.

For example, if you win a cruise that includes your stateroom on board and free meals, you'll still have to pay for airfare to port, shore excursions, tips and gratuities, and other expenses out of pocket.

It's a good idea to read the prize descriptions carefully to decide whether there are related expenses that could add up to more than you're comfortable paying.


If you do win a prize that you can't use or don't want, you can turn it down when the sponsor contacts you.

Sometimes you'll win a grand prize when you were really hoping to win one of the many smaller prizes, or your situation changes between the time you enter and the time you receive the prize - and there's nothing wrong with that.

However, taking a few seconds to read the rules and determine whether a sweep is worthwhile to enter saves your time and the sponsors'.

This is both considerate and helps you win more of the prizes you really want. Read Why It Pays to Be Picky to find out more about why it makes good sense to avoid sweepstakes with prizes you don't really want to win.