Giving thoughtful gifts to the important people in your life is such a big part of what makes the holiday season so special, but spending loads of money on those gifts can be a huge source of financial strain. Shopping for products that offer cash rebates is a great way to reduce the financial pressure, but it's important to make sure that receiving your rebate payments doesn't become a source of even more anxiety. Cashback and rebate offers always sound enticing, but can turn sour if you aren't able to actually get paid from the offer.
Here are six tips to make sure that once all the wrapping paper is cleaned up, you still have a little something to look forward to for yourself.
1. Do it electronically.
Shy away from mail-in only rebate programs as these create more opportunities for your rebate claim to get lost in the mail or in the shuffle at a fulfillment center somewhere. The best rebate programs are those offering consumers a chance to enter their claim information through an app or an online portal. These programs also tend to offer ways to track your rebate status online, eliminating the need to sit on hold on the phone.
2. Keep copies of everything.
Don't be alarmed if a company asks for you to submit documentation to prove that the sale actually took place -- this just makes sense if they are going to send you money to reward that purchase. Do make sure to retain copies (photocopies or pictures captured with your camera are great) of everything: store receipt/invoice, screen shots and emails of your claim entry confirmation, and any other supporting documents that prove the transactions took place. If the claim submission is an online portal, be sure to bookmark the URL of where you entered your claim.
3. Be aware of key program dates.
Before you buy, make sure you know what dates the rebate program is being offered and don't expect to get paid if you submit your claim late. Many companies actually count on up to 50% of consumers failing to enter their claims and are looking to make as few payouts as possible. These companies are not going to accommodate your late submission, so make sure you enter yours well before the program ends.
4. Read the fine print.
Take the time to understand the terms and conditions of the rebate offer. The salesperson should be able to help you with anything you don't understand, but remember: a rebate program often exists to help the company to quickly sell a lot of a particular product. Make sure you understand how the terms of the rebate program could affect your rebate or even the person receiving the item as a gift.
5. Make sure you have all information correct.
When you are submitting your claim for payment, make sure that you are clear on what information is required for your claim and then make sure you are providing the correct information. For example, if the rebate claim asks for the serial number of an item you purchased, make sure you are providing the serial number and not the model number. Again, keep in mind that many programs are looking for reasons to decline your claim and invalid information could create an invalid claim for you. If you are unsure about any information, get help from your salesperson.
6. Use your real contact information.
Many current cashback and rebate programs are paying out using prepaid cash cards and most of the rest of them will send checks. Providing your real contact information is the best way to make sure that whichever payment mechanism being used is valid for you and that you get your money. Additionally, if the people processing the rebate claim have questions or need more information and they can't reach you because you have provided invalid information, then chances are you will never see your money.
So relax: have fun buying some great gifts for your loved ones this year and be sure to take some quiet time together with them. Enjoy their reactions when they see how thoughtful you've been. And lastly, make sure that you follow the above steps. That way you know that over the coming weeks, you have a few handy little gifts coming your way too.
Ever had a bad experience with a rebate gone wrong? Share it right now at www.rebaterevolution.com.
Fraudsters feigned interest in lonely online romance seekers to rob victims of about $50 million last year.
Phony debt collection agencies have pressured victims into giving up millions of dollars. The Federal Trade Commission recently closed down two California-based companies with call centers in India after they defrauded Americans out of $5 million over the past two years.
Craigslist and eBay are a playground for scammers. Consumers have sent payments to places like Nigeria for items advertised online only to discover they have been scammed. Last year, Romanians pretending to be U.S. citizens put fake ads for pricey items on eBay and Craigslist, defrauding Americans out of more than $100 million.
Canadian police arrested a man who tried to take a $70,000 processing fee from an elderly Californian woman who believed she was going to win a $7.5 million lottery prize in April. More recently, eight Jamaican swindlers accused of duping Americans in lottery scams were also arrested.
Fake charity organizations come out of the woodwork to exploit the generosity of others, especially during times of disaster. Most recently, an organization that claims to help disabled veterans called Disabled Veterans National Foundation (DVNF) took millions of dollars from donors without spending the money on veterans.
Scammers targeting struggling homeowners have offered false services to help with mortgage settlements. Mortgage foreclosure scams have shot up 60 percent in 2012 as new federal programs for mortgages have provided avenues for fraudsters to exploit.
Scam complaints related to travelling surged right before spring break last year. Crooks defrauded grandparents out of money when their grandchildren were travelling abroad. The scammers, who find out about the travel plans from places like social media sites, pretend to be the grandchild asking for wire transfers on the phone. The scams have involved scammers pretending in an email to be a victim's travelling relative who has recently been mugged or has lost their passport.
Although there isn't much data on how often it occurs, food scams can pose a tremendous health risk. The chances of dilution and counterfeiting increase when food is imported from other countries, and some foods like fish and olive oil are particularly prone to adulteration.
Scammers have sold drugs to online consumers and then posed as government agents asking the buyers to pay money to avoid jail time. A Texas woman killed herself after being caught up in one of these drug schemes.
Credit card breaches allow fraudsters to make charges on other peoples' cards after getting a hold of numbers. Global Payments Inc., a third party payment processing service for MasterCard and Visa, made headlines in April for reporting that over a million card numbers had been compromised from their system, according to CNET.
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