Rewarding Rebates

Rewarding Rebates

Upon hearing the word “rebate,” forms and paperwork come to mind. However, you can save time and potential hassles by completing your rebate over the Internet. “Online rebates are consumer-friendly,” says Ellen Tolley Davis, director of media relations for the National Retail Federation. They reduce the hassles of mail-in rebates such as locating serial numbers and product codes, filling out paperwork, and lessen the uncertainty about your rebate’s status.

Staples, the country’s leading retailer of office products, implemented an online rebate program last November. “Eighty percent of our rebates are submitted online,” says Jim Sherlock, Staples’ director of sales and merchandising. More than 5.4 million submissions have been submitted through Staples’ online program thus far. Customers only need two pieces of information: the rebate offer number and the Easy Rebates ID number, both of which are found on the receipt. James Bowen, a college student, has used Staples’ rebate program three times. “I thought it was simple and self-explanatory,” he notes. Rebates are mailed approximately 19 days from the date submitted.

Other retailers with online rebate programs include Rite Aid Corp., a drugstore chain, and Costco Wholesale Corp. and BJ’s Wholesale Club Inc. Rite Aid offers rebates on items such as beauty, food, general merchandise, and vitamins. Its program was launched in October 2000, and currently 264,000 online and mail-in rebates are submitted each month. “Online is more popular than mail-in, with up to 66% of customers submitting online,” says Rite Aid spokeswoman Julie Vastyan. “There is an almost 20% increase in new visitors since last year.” Online customers receive their rebate in two to three weeks versus four to six weeks for mail-ins. “There are 190 rebate offers per month with an average savings dollar value of $746,” Vastyan continues. Registration is required to submit a rebate, but not to view the offers.

Costco and BJ’s list rebate-eligible items by store location, allowing users to pre-shop for items of interest. The list includes the rebate amount, limit, and expiration date. Appliances and electronics, such as DVD players, telephones, and computer software, are popular rebate products. Keep in mind that items are not guaranteed to be in stock.

Office Depot and CompUSA allow customers to print rebate forms, which must be submitted via mail. Their sites feature lists of rebate-eligible items by manufacturer and product. All of the aforementioned retailers allow you to track your rebate online.

Despite the current success of online rebate programs, only a small number of retailers have gone paperless. Economically, rebates are an enticing marketing tool for retailers and manufacturers. Still, online rebates are a quick and easy way for you to save more cash on your favorite products.

Submitting your rebate online

  • Make sure your product qualifies for a rebate and that the rebate hasn’t expired.
  • Remember that you might be giving up your right to return the item by submitting the rebate.
  • If you purchased multiple rebate-eligible items, send a rebate form for each item.
  • Print out a copy of the e-mail confirmation in case the rebate submission gets lost.
  • Find out how