Where's My Rebate

It's a way for you to save money on a fancy appliance or new cell phone. Rebates are not only a hassle but they are now under heavy scrutiny. You may need to hire Indiana Jones to track down where your mysterious rebate check has gone. It takes a lot of grunt-work to fill out rebate forms and make sure you have everything required to get your savings. Many companies are accused of intentionally making it hard for you to get your rebate back.

We will discuss some of the problems that come with rebates and what potential changes are coming to make rebates easier to collect.

It is hard to find an electronic item or new cell phone that doesn’t have a rebate attached to it. When shopping for an item and you find that it has a great rebate, ask yourself, “Why don’t they just put it on sale for the rebated price?” Because companies are betting that you are not going to take advantage of the rebate or make a mistake when filling out the rebate so they do not have to honor it.

When purchasing an item with a rebate it is important to thoroughly examine all the details so you send all the right information the first time. This way it is not sent back to you and you miss the deadline and don’t get the savings on top of a lot of wasted time.

In defense of many companies, the obstacles that comes with mailing in a rebate are to protect them from fraud. By making you send in tons of proof they can justify the rebate and know that it’s not someone who wants to claim free money for an item that they did not purchase. Unfortunately, it makes it very frustrating for honest consumers who are looking to save money on the items they legitimately purchased.

Rebates can be misleading when it comes to advertising. You may see an ad that reads save $200 and in little print at the bottom of the ad is the asterisk that reads “after mail-in rebate.” There have been cases where companies have advertised the price after the rebate, which can mislead people into coming in to purchase the item only to find out that the price only applies after the rebate.

Ways to avoid this headache is to avoid rebated items all together. Let’s say that you are looking to buy a new digital camera. You find one that you like for $199 and there is a $75 dollar mail-in rebate. Instead of diving right into the purchase and turning in the rebate to get your $75 dollars back in a couple of months, take some extra time to shop around. You may find the same camera or a similar one for the price of the rebate already accounted for. Wait a week or two, if they are offering that big of a discount then they might drop the price of the camera all together and you will still take advantage of the savings faster than if you had to wait for the rebate. You can even use the rebate to help you negotiate prices with a competitor.

With rebate complaints rising every year, some companies are changing their policies to make it easier to claim rebates or are even eliminating them all together. Companies are using online forms to redeem rebates that may help eliminate the extra time that mailed in rebates take. They can also track their rebates online. Instead of a customer service representative trying to find out where your paperwork is, they can just put in a confirmation number and receive an update on your rebate.

If you have not received a rebate or feel like you have had to jump through too many hoops in order to redeem a rebate, you may want to file a complaint. If you have not received a satisfied answer from the company you may want to contact the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) to file a formal complaint.

When looking to purchase an item that has a rebate attached, make sure that you can afford the price listed without the rebate. Don’t pay what you can’t afford because you are counting on the rebate. You may not see the rebate for a couple of months and it is not worth screwing up your budget. Rebates are a way for you to save money and you shouldn’t disregard them completely, just make sure you explore all of your options and be thorough to ensure the best results.

Resources: - Federal Trade Commission - Better Business Bureau, features reports on company efficiency and customer service. - Find and track rebates online for a quicker and easier return. - Lists some rebate complaints that consumers have had.

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It is our policy at Pioneer Credit Counseling not only to help people get out of debt, but also educate in sound budgeting practices.

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