How do Cash Rebates Work

Read the terms of your rebate offer before submitting your claim.

Read the terms of your rebate offer before submitting your claim.

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.

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 is 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.

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.

Online Cash Rebate

Some retailers process rebate claims for you through their 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. This saves you time and postage, and you won’t have to worry about lost claims. Electronic claims are often processed faster than mail-in rebates, which means you could receive your rebate check faster, usually within four to six weeks.

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. 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 might be able to request a check 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 to be eligible for the discount, such as service contract requirements or a minimum number of items you must buy. Review offer details carefully before you make your purchase or you could be ineligible 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 a rebate check is mailed to you, deposit or cash it soon.

About the Author

With a background in taxation and financial consulting, Alia Nikolakopulos has over a decade of experience resolving tax and finance issues. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent and has been a writer for these topics since 2010. Nikolakopulos is pursuing Bachelor of Science in accounting at the Metropolitan State University of Denver.

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