Tips to Make Sure You Get Your Rebates

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

We have all seen the deals promising ridiculously cheap products – after mail-in rebate. Are these deals for real? Yes. Most of the hottest deals you will find involve some type of a rebate. I personally have ordered hundreds of dollars worth of stuff in the last few months that ended up being free after a manufacturer rebate.

The world of rebate deals isn’t always easy, though. The reason companies offer these deals is they are counting on a large percentage of consumers to either not bother with the rebate or not follow the directions exactly and disqualify themselves. Some estimates put the percentage at about 50% for rebates worth $100 or more, even higher for lower value rebates. Some manufacturers will also reject rebates for a phony reason or just not send a check, hoping you either forgot about the rebate or didn’t make copies of your submission to prove them wrong.

I posted this on SlickDeals a while back, but I thought it would be a fitting post for my new blog since I do a lot of rebates and will probably make quite a few posts about rebate deals and issues. Besides the obvious “follow the directions” advice, here are my tips on how to manage your rebates. In 6+ years I have yet to lose a single one.

1. When I order something that has a rebate from an online retailer, I print the print and complete the rebate form immediately, as well as the online receipt. These are filed in a folder in my desk until I receive the product. For in-store purchases, I fill out the rebate forms as soon as I get home.
2. Make a copy of all of the rebate forms, UPCs, receipts, etc., and save as a PDF file named with the date, product, and amount. I have a folder on my USB drive where I keep all of these, and a subfolder marked “received” where I move the files once the rebate has been received.
3. I keep an Excel file where I track both my online orders and outstanding rebates. On the rebate log, I list the date of purchase, date mailed, product, retailer, amount, expected date (computed as formula adding 10 weeks to the date of mailing), and date received. On each line I also insert a link to the PDF file I created with copies of the forms for quick reference.
4. As most of my rebates are for smaller amounts (less than $50), I usually just send them first class mail. I do try to be careful to pick out submissions that are over the 1oz. limit for a single first class stamp and weight and stamp those separately. I use the automated post office kiosk for these which prints the date the stamp was generated, although you could use stamps.com or similar as well.
5. As rebates are received, I enter them in the spreadsheet as received and move the PDF files into the received folder.
6. About once a month I will review the listing for overdue rebates and followup as appropriate. Often one phone call to the fulfillment house is all that is needed to validate the rebate. I log the number called, the name of the rep and badge number, date of call, and summary of the discussion (i.e., rebate validated, resubmit, etc.) in the comments section of the spreadsheet. If a resubmission is needed, I copy all materials resubmitted and note the date of the resubmission.
7. If the rebate still has not been received 45 days after followup, or if the call to the fulfillment center yielded no result, I follow up with an email or letter to both the manufacturer and retailer briefly explaining the situation and demanding payment of the rebate within 15 days. The letter notes the date originally submitted, the date by which the rebate should have been received based on the rebate guidelines, and that failure to send the rebate within 15 days of the letter will result in formal complaints to the BBB and attorney generals offices in both my state and their home state.
8. If still no response, follow through with BBB and AG complaints.

I have never had to go beyond step 8, and rarely beyond step 7. You can get some pretty interesting results by sending followup to both the manufacturer and retailer. I had a couple of DLink rebates a couple of years ago that DLink refused to pay because the promotional requirements they had were different than those from Office Depot’s register generated form. I followed up with both, and Office Depot decided to compensate me with a $50 gift card (the original rebate was only for $40) since DLink wasn’t willing to pay the rebate and then at the last minute DLink decided it would be better to go ahead and pay me off and validated my rebate. Another option is just to take your documentation back to the store you bought it from if it is a B&M and plead your case to the manager. It is a lot harder to say no to someone right in front of you and often the manager will just pay you the rebate out of the drawer.

Probably the toughest rebate I ever had was ironically only for $5. My wife bought some cooking pan from a department store that was on clearance and happened to have a manufacturers rebate on the box. Apparently this box was quite old because the rebate was not paid and when I followed up the original manufacturer had been acquired by someone else about two years prior. Initially they wouldn’t budge so I went ahead and filed complaints against both the original company and the acquiring company, and eventually I got a $5 check from their corporate AP department. Was it more trouble than it was worth, yes, but at least I kept my record in tact.


March 21, 2007 - Posted by | Customer Service, Rebates


  1. […] Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a good list of rebate tips to help you make sure you get what you deserve. […]

    Pingback by It’s all Good. » Money in the Mail | May 18, 2007

  2. […] Tips to Make Sure You Get Your Rebates – I share my system for keeping up with all the mail in rebates I take advantage of. With these things, organization is key to success. […]

    Pingback by Milestone - 10,000 hits! A look back « Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind | September 20, 2007

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