How Do Cash Rebates Work?

Cash rebates work like manufacturer coupons, with a twist. Rebates offer discounts on products you purchase, but some rebates have terms that require you to take a few extra steps to reap the savings. Several types of cash rebates are common, so you’ll have to read the fine print of each offer before you decide to make your purchase.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Cash rebates are issued after you purchase a product at full price. Typically, this requires filling out a form and sending it to the manufacturer along with a receipt.

Instant Cash Rebate

When you buy an item that comes with an instant cash rebate, you get the rebate at the time of purchase. The rebate amount gets subtracted from the original price and you pay the discount amount. There’s no need to fill out claim forms or wait for your rebate check -- it all happens instantly. If there are any forms or documentation required, the seller submits them rather than you.

Online Cash Rebate

Many retailers process rebate claims for you through their own or third party websites. Similar to mail-in cash rebates, you’ll pay full price for your item at the time of purchase and submit your claim later. Stores that offer online rebates usually don’t require you to send additional forms, receipts or UPC codes from your products to submit a claim. You may, however, need to upload a picture of your receipt or UPC code. This saves you time and postage, and you won’t have to worry about lost claims. Electronic claims are often processed more quickly than mail-in rebates, which means you could receive your rebate check faster, usually within four to six weeks.

Mail-In Cash Rebate

Mail-in cash rebates are fairly common. To receive this type of rebate, you’ll pay full price for the item at the time of purchase. You’ll receive a claim form to fill out and mail to the manufacturer of your goods. In most cases, you’ll also need to send a copy of your receipt with the form. After the manufacturer processes your claim, you’ll receive a check or debit card for the rebate amount in the mail.

Mail-in rebates often have a deadline to send your claim form. If you miss the deadline, you might not get your rebate. Keep a copy of your receipt, UPC code and claim form for any mail-in rebate you submit. In many cases, it could take six to eight weeks to receive your rebate. If you haven't received it within eight weeks, use the phone number found on your copy of the rebate form to make an inquiry with the company issuing the rebate.

Credit Card Cash-Back Rebates

Some credit cards offer cash back on purchases you charge to the card. These rebates typically range from 1 percent to 5 percent, depending on the terms of your card. Depending on the terms, these rebates are either credited automatically to your account, decreasing your balance owed, or they collect until you decide what to do with the rebate balance. Depending on your card, you can request a check or prepaid debit card for your rebate or redeem the rebate for gift cards, airline miles and select merchandise.

Terms and Conditions

Many rebates have terms or conditions you must meet. These eligibility requirements may involve service contract requirements or a minimum number of items you must buy. Review offer details carefully before you make your purchase to make sure you're eligible to receive the rebate. You might receive a paper check or prepaid debit card for your rebate payment.

Some debit cards have expiration dates, charge fees or have declining balances for inactivity. If you receive a debit card, read the terms and conditions enclosed and check the expiration date printed on the card so you don’t miss the opportunity to use your rebate. Similar to debit card expiration dates, you might have a limited amount of time to deposit a paper check. If you receive a paper check, deposit or cash it quickly.

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