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rebates not receivedUsing rebates can frustrate even the most patient of buyers. While a deal-hunting customer may not encounter any difficulty at the register, collecting the rebate can cause staggering complications. Rather than risk such difficulty, following six simple rules will help you get your money.

This article outlines six rules, along with a framework structured around several online rebate sites, web technologies and strategies, for ensuring that you get rebates in full.

Why Do Companies Offer Rebates?

Rebates aren’t exactly free money – they’re taxed twice. You first get taxed when (and if) you pay sales tax and, again, when you use the rebate money to buy something.

The companies involved make their money on delaying your ability to make an immediate purchase and by attaching the rebate to a credit card. Whenever your card is used, the merchant pays the credit card company money. Ultimately, consumers end up paying higher prices, which “generously” get spread back around to customers.

However, if the company processing your rebate simply fails to pay out – they make even more cash. A combination of laziness and fraud result in 40-60% of rebates not getting claimed. However, by applying a handful of simple rules, 100% of your rebates can be claimed.

rebates not received

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Rule #1: Don’t Use Poorly Reviewed Rebate Companies

Most consumers don’t know that the majority of businesses offering rebates do not provide the actual rebate service. Retailers, instead, outsource their rebate operation to third party companies, specializing in processing rebates.

The reputation of these companies varies greatly – some purportedly never grant payment, even when the customer properly fills out the paperwork. However, in my experience, the more reliable services almost always pay out, even providing second chances to those who improperly filled out their paperwork. Consequently, you will want to find out which service offers the most reliable processing system – the single best way is by Googling the manufacturer of the discounted item, including search key terms, such as “rebate service”.

Additionally, Bakari did a round-up of five websites 5 Complaint Sites For Pissed Off Consumers 5 Complaint Sites For Pissed Off Consumers Read More that specialize in complaints about businesses. For further reading, I suggest checking out the Answer section’s discussion on the topic.

Rule #2: Keep A Record of Your Rebates With Online Cloud Storage

In the event of a catastrophe, keeping a backup of all your paperwork will make the difference between getting your claim rejected or accepted. My preferred method of backing up and digitizing documents uses Dropbox Dropbox - One Of The Must-Have Apps If You Own An iPhone Dropbox - One Of The Must-Have Apps If You Own An iPhone Ever since I went over to the Dark Side earlier this year to get my cookies and buy an iPhone, one app has been completely invaluable to me - Dropbox. In fact, I would go... Read More and a scanning app Scan Documents On Your Phone With CamScanner [Android & iPhone] Scan Documents On Your Phone With CamScanner [Android & iPhone] When it comes to smartphones, many of us want to be able to use them to do all manner of useful home office tasks just to make our lives easier. So it's a phone, a... Read More . If you lack a smartphone or a digital camera, an actual scanner provides an alternative.

The reason I prefer using a smartphone scanner app, with the Dropbox app installed, is for its ease of use. Essentially, install the app on both your PC and mobile device. Dropbox on your phone by default automatically syncs your photos and scans. Therefore, you simply use the scanner app and your documents get backed up to the cloud. However, make sure your app is working properly – if all else fails, just install DropSpace Automatically Sync SD Card Directories To DropBox With DropSpace [Android] Automatically Sync SD Card Directories To DropBox With DropSpace [Android] If you're anything like me, the new year is a time for refreshing and changing things. Something I like to do for my phone is to check if there's now a better way of doing... Read More to automatically back up your pictures.

online rebate sites

Rule #3: Track Its Progress With a Spreadsheet

Even after selecting a reputable rebate processing company, keeping track of your rebates offers the best method of ensuring payment. If a processor fails to pay, you can always call as if they owed you money – because they do! Even if the mistake is on your end, most companies offer second chances. And because you backed up your records, you’ll be able to pinpoint where the mistake occurred, if any.

For itemizing and keeping track of rebates, I prefer using a manifest created by Google Drive’s spreadsheet app Google Spreadsheets Get Easier Editing Options & Enhanced Charts [Updates] Google Spreadsheets Get Easier Editing Options & Enhanced Charts [Updates] Spreading some cheer for spreadsheet users, Google has made the process of editing data easier and quicker. Now you can totally bypass the chart editor and edit more directly by clicking on the part of... Read More . In the interests of saving time, you can use my template for creating your own tracking spreadsheet. And keep in mind that Drive also doubles as an alternative to Dropbox.

online rebate sites

There are also a handful of apps in the Google Play store which are designed specifically for tracking rebates. However, none received high ratings, and I cannot recommend using them.

Rule #4: Don’t Be Afraid To Call

In the event that you don’t receive your rebate within the allocated time period, you should always call the rebate company. For example, I’ve experienced several instances where the company ran late in processing the payment, or simply didn’t intend on sending it – calling always ensured payment.

As common sense dictates, keep your cool and always use your best manners. Even the worst of rebate companies employ regular people, no different from you and I.

Rule #5: Don’t Fall For Their Tricks!

Most of the rebate processors require that you send in the following three items:

  1. The original invoice or packing label (or receipt).
  2. Original UPC code.
  3. Signature.

Unfortunately, manufacturers tend to attach multiple UPC codes to each package and it’s not clear which UPC code is the required one for the rebate. In the past, I’ve solved this issue through brute force. I cut off all the UPC codes on the package – however, the best method is to simply use an online search engine to find out what the manufacturer uses in its rebate program.

Another important tip – use your rebate card as quickly as possible. Like gift cards, after a certain amount of time the card will begin to accrue monthly “service” fee charges. As ridiculous as it sounds, after a few months the balance on your prepaid card will dry up.

Considering that the processor sits on your cash, collecting interest, it’s absolutely criminal that they charge you anything.

rebates not received

Rule #6: Report Fraudulent Rebate Programs

If after the maximum time period elapses and you aren’t given your money (i.e. cheated), then you should contact customer service of both the product’s manufacturer and the retailer. Sometimes they will make up for the rebate processor’s dishonesty. After all, their reputation suffers when they outsource to disreputable rebate processors.

The absolute last resort is to file a complaint, such as with your state’s (or province’s) Attorney General’s office. Some states offer constituents additional protections against delinquent rebate programs. Two other places to file are through the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, over the last decade, rebates come attached to many of the best deals around – which makes them very tantalizing, particularly in a recession. However, if you roll over every time a processor fails to pay, that’s money right out of your pocket.

For those who seek a good deal, failing to collect a rebate is unacceptable. It’s especially unacceptable since getting your money is so easy, if you use six simple tips.

Image Credits: Curious George via MorgueFile.com; Barcode via MorgueFile.com; Liar via MorgueFile.com

  1. Onaje Asheber
    April 2, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    Great Info. To honest, I just set aside many of my rebate forms, But not anymore!

  2. brendan stallard
    April 2, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    MUO,

    Nah.

    The ONLY way to stop these rebate blighters from lying and cheating and screwing you over is to simply never purchase items with rebates attached, unless it is direct and reflected at the check out.

    Otherwise, the aggravation and annoyance is way more than the benefit in cash.

    I did it for a couple of years when I first came to America, then I realised it was an utter con. I no longer participate and am much happier as a result.

    brendan

  3. dragonmouth
    April 2, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    "Why Do Companies Offer Rebates?"
    Companies offer rebates for the same reason the run sales - to increase their sales volume. However, rebates cost them less than % off sales because, for whatever reason, a significant number of rebates are not redeemed whereas they have to give a discount on each and every item on sale.

    "Rebates aren’t exactly free money – they’re taxed twice."
    Same thing can be said of your paycheck. :)

    "The companies involved make their money on delaying your ability to make an immediate purchase and by attaching the rebate to a credit card."
    I try to pay cash for the item and then to get a cash rebate.

    "A combination of laziness and fraud result in 40-60% of rebates not getting claimed."
    That should be "not getting PAID". The processing companies do their damnedest not to pay the rebate. You can claim your rebate until you are blue in the face but the processing company, through fraud or subterfuge, will try very hard not to pay out.

    Staples has a faithful customer in me. Even though their regular prices are more than I am willing to pay, they do offer good rebates and their EasyRebates process is just that, easy, efficient and reliable. In all the years I have dealt with Staples, I have yet to not have a rebate paid by them. In fact, recently I made a mistake while filling out the form online. Staples sent an email informing me that they could not process the rebate, and why. They also gave me a chance to correct my mistake. Once they received the corrected form, they paid the rebate in a short time. If I'm not mistaken, Staples does not use a rebate processing company. They do their own processing.

    • Kannon Yamada
      April 2, 2013 at 5:19 pm

      Hey DM!

      I wasn't aware that Staples does their own rebate processing - but that's a good indicator that the rebate will pay out. If they outsource to a third party processor, your chances diminish. But some third parties are pretty good.

      If you register online (if that's at all permitted), some third party processors will send an e-mail letting you know if a mistake was made. I've made a two errors over the years - both with 4myrebate.com.

      I also really like Staples. The best deals I've gotten in the past year were all from there and they offer the steepest discounts out of all major retailers.

  4. bben
    April 2, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Rebates are a legal scam. The base concept is that you will be enticed to buy something that you would not buy at the regular price but would for a lesser price - the rebate uses that to catch suckers that think they are getting a better deal. Somewhere around 85% of the rebates are never paid out - many are never even applied for, many that are have nearly impossible conditions - like you MUST send the original receipt to get the rebate - meaning you can no longer return the item as the original receipt is required for that too. Then you MUST submit within a very short time window and must follow their wacky rules exactly - and if you have the stuff in the wrong order - it is sent back too late to resubmit, they consistently lose a certain percent of the submissions and you just paid full price for something you thought you were getting at a lesser cost.

    Then if you are one of the lucky 15% - you get a few bucks in 6 months or so

    I will not even consider a rebate when looking at price - I look at the amount I actually pay. if there is a rebate, that amount is not considered as a better deal, just a nuisance when trying to fins the REAL price.

    • dragonmouth
      April 2, 2013 at 1:33 pm

      "Somewhere around 85% of the rebates are never paid out"
      And 85 % of all Internet statistics are made up. /grin/

      "Then you MUST submit within a very short time window and must follow their wacky rules exactly"
      It depends what company you deal with. I agree with you that the majority of rebate offers are less than on the level. However, through experience, I have learned that Staples is reliable in paying their rebates.

      "Then if you are one of the lucky 15% – you get a few bucks in 6 months or so"
      I have yet to be denied a rebate by Staples. I have applied for and gotten rebates on everything from 4GB USB sticks to laptops. Those rebates ranged in value from$1 to $200.

      "I will not even consider a rebate when looking at price"
      One needs to be an educated consumer. One needs to know the price and the value of an item. As you say, just because a sale or a rebate is offered on an item does not mean that it is good value.

  5. Alec
    April 2, 2013 at 1:24 am

    I don't understand the paragraph "The companies involved make their money on delaying your ability to make an immediate purchase and by attaching the rebate to a credit card. Whenever your card is used, the merchant pays the credit card company money." Can someone provide me more details/explaination what is meant here?

    • Kannon Yamada
      April 2, 2013 at 2:08 am

      That sentence could be clearer.

      Credit card companies charge what's called swipe fees to vendors. They get paid two ways - whenever the card is swiped and a total percentage of the transaction.

      Here's an interesting article on what's been going down lately with CC vendors.

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