I’m often asked if I participate in mail-in rebates. I’m not a huge fan of them simply because I’ve personally been burned by rebates in the past. I’ve grown frustrated with rebates denied for reasons such as “did not purchase qualifying item” when I know I did, or “rebate received after redemption period expired” when I know I mailed it in prior to the cutoff date. In cases like these, shoppers have to diligently follow up with proof that the correct item was purchased, or proof of mailing date, and depending on the rebate’s value, you may wonder whether the hassle is really worth it.
I’ve narrowed down my rebate habits to just a few retailers where I have reliably received my rebates. A regional home improvement chain in my area offers rebates nearly every week, and I’m a sucker for free-after-rebate tools and home items. This store’s rebates are easy to do, as the register automatically prints a rebate receipt for each qualifying item purchased. You do not need to cut UPC bar codes off of the packaging, and you can mail everything in the same envelope. A few weeks later, a rebate check arrives that is valid on future purchases at the same retailer.
I also participate in rebates at a national auto parts chain where I shop. Recently, I purchased new spark plugs for my vehicle. Standard spark plugs were $6 each, but the premium-grade spark plugs sold for a dollar more. However, the premium plugs had a $3 rebate on each plug. How could I resist getting $18 back for the six plugs I was buying? Instead of paying around $36 to change my spark plugs, it cost just $24 after rebate, and I also used better quality plugs. These rebates arrive in the form of gift cards to the auto parts retailer, ensuring I’ll continue purchasing parts for my vehicles there.
No matter through which store or product a rebate is offered, I do make copies of all of my rebate materials prior to mailing them. It may seem like an extra step, but consider what will happen if your rebate is lost in the mail: What will you have on hand to prove that you purchased your rebate items? I used to make physical photocopies of all of my receipts and forms, but lately I have been taking a high-resolution photo of the materials spread out on the table using my smartphone’s camera. This saves paper (and time) as it’s easy to snap a picture before putting everything into an envelope to mail.
My rebate backup practices were put to the test recently when a rebate submission for my favorite home improvement center got lost in the mail – a $275 rebate for numerous items I’d purchased over the previous month. No one wants to lose out on that kind of money. After waiting eight weeks for it to arrive, I contacted the store. They confirmed they had not received my rebate envelope, and I sent my digital images of the rebate forms and receipts. Thankfully, the retailer was able to issue my rebate check a few days after receiving my backup copies.
If you participate in rebates, here’s one more tip: Did you know you can see what pieces of mail are going to be delivered prior to your mail actually arriving? The United States Postal Service offers a free program called Informed Delivery, which is available in many parts of the country. When you sign up, the USPS will email you a daily digest showing an address-side scan of each piece of mail. While it’s fun to get a preview of what’s coming in the mail, I also know ahead of time when a rebate is out for delivery. If you’ve had any issues with missing mail, this service may help you realize if anything is disappearing from your mailbox post-delivery. You can sign up at informeddelivery.usps.com.