Once the holiday hangover sets in, it’s time to start collecting those promised savings in the form of mail-in rebates. Proceed with caution as rebates can be the post holiday bait-and-switch. They lure consumers to purchase full price retail items by marketing lower prices AFTER the mail-in rebate. The catch is it is estimated between 40-60% of rebates are never redeemed. Your BBB warns it is important to read the fine print when filing for rebates.
In addition to the tedious steps you must take to redeem these savings, this year, according to CreditCards.com, retailers are providing rebates in the form of pre-loaded cards as opposed to paper checks. Therefore, to get the benefit of the new “rebate cards”, a consumer must spend more money. In most cases, the cards can be used at any merchant—much like a debit card—but some retailers are also handing out rebate cards that can only be used at their stores. The cards may also have expiration dates and added fees that could whittle down their value.
Consumer Reports’ survey indicate 70% of consumers have taken advantage of manufacturer rebates but of those, 21% report they were unsuccessful in receiving the promised rebate. Typically, they didn’t receive anything or were turned down on a technicality.
Your BBB offers the following tips to get the low price promised from mail-in rebates:
1. Make sure you have the rebate form either from the store or downloaded and printed if shopping online.
2. Don’t wait. Some rebates have a time window for redemption.
3. Read instructions and the fine print very carefully and follow directions verbatim.
4. Keep the packaging. Rebates often require UPC bar codes or other identifiers found on the packaging to be included with the paperwork so don’t throw away your boxes or cut/tear through the bar codes when opening the gift.
5. Make copies of everything and mail your rebate request via certified mail.
Finally, if your rebate doesn’t arrive on time or not at all, file an online complaint with the FTC www.ftc.gov, notify the Attorney General and send a complaint to www.bbb.org.