Wandering through the aisles of a grocery or drugstore, we are assailed by a never-ending supply of new products to try. Companies hoping to cut through the marketing noise will often offer an incentive for new consumers in the form of a rebate. The promise of cash back on a purchase entices customers to try new products (assuming they follow through with the paperwork).

For manufacturers, rebates mean increased sales and information for marketing research. They also allow retailers to display a lower price for an item (price after rebate), but still charge the full amount at purchase. Rebate fulfillment houses make money for each transaction they process.

Consumers must jump through the most hoops to get a rebate: fill out paperwork, send in a receipt, wait for weeks of processing, pay sales tax on the full price of the item, and finally get payment. But with the right understanding of rebates, big rewards await.

The Types

Mail-In-Rebate: The most common. An MIR entitles you to mail in a coupon, a receipt and barcode in order to receive reimbursement. Example: Proctor & Gamble. Spend $30 on any P&G products in a single purchase and receive a $10 gift card when you complete and mail in the rebate form.

Manufacturer Rebates: Many stores work with manufacturers to create rebates. These rebates are valid only by purchasing products at a specific store and submitting a rebate form. Rebate forms and special receipts are sometimes printed by the cash register at time of purchase on a separate receipt or available online for download. Some rebate programs offer several payout options to consumers, including a paper check, a prepaid card that can be spent immediately without a trip to the bank, or even a transfer into a PayPal account. Example: Rite Aid Single Check Rebates, Walgreens Rebates, and Staples Reward Rebates.

Instant Rebates: Many stores offer instant rebates to promote immediate sales. No forms are required and the rebate is awarded at the time of purchase. This is really just a form of old-fashioned discount but excites customers into buying products. Example: Staples printer for $150 after $50 rebate, and Target $5 gift card after spending $15 on select products.

Rebate Changes

Over the last few years the rebate process has changed after customer complaints. Many companies are moving away from requiring cut out proof-of-purchase logos or UPC codes, coupled with a receipt and a rebate form.

The new trend is electronic rebate submission forms on manufacturer websites. The process requires store number, register number and transaction number–all information from your receipt.

Why Rebate?

Rebates are a great way to try new products and get significant savings on everyday items, as well as allow you to stock up for little or no cost. Follow these simple steps for successful reimbursements on your rebates:

  • Find the form. Most rebates require forms for processing. Get them from a cash register printout or on the product's website or displayed next to a product. Your local grocery or drugstore may also have forms-–either in the aisle by the product, on a product shipper or on a board, or tucked away in a box in the office.
  • Read the form. Be clear about what is required in order to receive your rebate. Some manufacturers want the UPC, some want the cash register tape, some want both. Some want you to print, some want a valid birth date (liquor), some are only valid in certain states. You are never required to give an email address for a rebate. Write "none" in that spot or use a spam email.
  • Know the date: Know the last date to purchase and last day to submit the rebate. These are two separate dates. Most rebates allow products to be purchased through the end of the month and give you another two weeks to submit the rebate form. It must be postmarked by the date given, or your rebate is disqualified.
  • Use coupons with caution: Many manufacturers will deny paying full value for a rebate if they see coupons applied to the transaction. A better method is to ring the product separately on its own, so the receipt only shows the qualifying purchase.
  • Be organized. If you are new to rebates or could use the money towards other purchases, organization is key. A free software program on PC World's site, Rebate!Rebate! helps you manage rebates quickly and easily.
  • Submit immediately: Don't let your rebate forms stack up. Complete as soon as you get home from shopping.  You don’t want to lose receipts or toss a product box with a required UPC code!
  • Make copies. Scan your submissions and save them to a dedicated folder on your computer, or make a copy of your rebate documentation and place in file folder until you have been paid. Also cross out your credit card information…..better safe than sorry in my opinion.

By understanding the rebate process and following these steps, you'll be happy to hear "The check's in the mail!"

  This has been a guest post by Deborah from San Diego, CA
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Good Things Come to Those who Rebate