Cash Back Tips & Tricks: What is a Rebate?

Woman Holding Spare Change Jar

What is a rebate? Typically speaking, a rebate is a chance to get money back on a recent purchase, usually run as part of a promotion or sale for specific items. These reimbursements can sometimes be substantial, and make it more financially feasible to buy items you’ve been dreaming about.

It’s likely that you’ve at least heard the term before. Perhaps you were wandering around a brick and mortar store and saw an item listed as “20% Cash Back Mail-in Rebate”. It’s possible you even bought something with a rebate offer attached but never got around to sending the form to the address listed. If you did, you’re not alone. In 2013, Consumer Affairs reported that $500 million worth of rebates are never actually claimed. That’s a lot of money!

Many people miss out on rebates by not reading the fine print and skipping certain steps like not saving the appropriate receipts or proof of purchase. Reading through the instructions with a keen eye will give you an edge when you go to send in your rebate, guaranteeing you have everything you need to cash in on a great offer. Although rebates may not be as common as they once were, eagle-eyed shoppers can still find them if they know where to look. Which begs the question: what is the best way to take advantage of such a good occasion? Here are a few more tips and strategies to help you navigate cash return offers.

Remember to Send in Your Rebates!

There are a few simple ways to make sure you get the most money back. Chief among them is to turn everything in on time. The Wall Street Journal reports that 40% of rebates are never sent or are sent incorrectly, which leaves a golden opportunity for you. The truth of the matter is that most rebates go unclaimed, whether they need to be mailed in or submitted digitally. It can be tricky to find time to run to the post office, but that one trip can get you money back.

They often require a customer to mail a form along with proof of purchase before a deadline. This is usually about 30 days after you buy it, but every rebate is different. Another big thing that can result in missed opportunities is not checking mail-by dates. Rebates often need to be postmarked within a narrow window of time, so verifying those first can really help you seize the day and save on time.

Online Rebates

Rebates aren’t just available via the mail. Options like Rakuten, Coupon Cabin, and ibotta allow you to get money back for shopping at your favorite stores without the hassle of finding a stamp, filling out forms, or paper materials. You’ll be able to access a wealth of retailers with these cash back websites. After signing up with Rakuten, for instance, you can also use a Chrome extension to tell you exactly what percentage you can get back. At the end of the quarter, they either mail you a check or deposit it right into your PayPal account—all for just shopping at your favorite stores!

A Rebate Doesn’t Just Come From the Store

It’s easy to think of rebates as something offered exclusively by the retailer, but that’s not always the case. A rebate can come from the manufacturer or even a local energy company for purchasing more energy-efficient improvements for your home. If you’re looking to upgrade your appliances, windows, insulation, or other big home improvement investment, check out your local power company’s web page or look for federal and state options that could help you save hundreds or even thousands of dollars.