What’s a Better Deal, Rebates or a Lower Price?

Photo Credit: richardmasoner

I think having a lower price is a better deal, but sometimes rebates offer huge discounts. When we joined Cingular, they had a great rebate deal on a phone that would make it free. It had the features we wanted and who could beat free?

The problem? We didn’t redeem the rebate. So while we got a decent deal, we left some money on the table. We fell into the trap of rebates: we were too lazy to complete the paperwork.

Why do retailers offer rebates?

  1. Most people are too busy (or lazy) to complete the rebate forms.
  2. It’s a wonderful way to get information on the demographics of their customers.

Here are some tips to work through rebates:

Read the rebate conditions. See if you will get actual money back or a coupon for another of their products. It still happens time to time. You also ant to see how much paperwork is due. Is it simply mailing a form out with receipt or does it involve more legwork?

Send the rebate through certified mail or get a delivery confirmation. You don’t want to do the process more than once. This proves that they did receive the paperwork.

How often do you use rebates? Who has the best rebate programs?

Update: This article was included in the Carnival of Money Stories #77 at My Daily Dollars.

5 Responses to What’s a Better Deal, Rebates or a Lower Price?

  1. Although rebates are great (depending on the conditions) they are so much more of a hassle. Sometimes I buy a product with the rebate in mind and end up losing the receipt or just plain forget about that. That is something I need to work on with staying more organized but overall I would much rather have a discount right away as well as everyone. That leaves you with more cash in your pocket now instead of waiting for it later.


  2. The mail in rebates absolutely kill me. I purchased a tivo and it was going to be free after the rebate. It took several weeks researching why they denied my request for a refund and it turned out to be an error by tivo. Had to get the store involved several times and then Tivo actually used a third party as the rebate vendor. Who knew they actually have a company that outsources rebates. Ugh! I look for items that have instant manufacturer rebates now.

  3. I hate the process of mail-in rebates, but I think they’re awesome if/when you finally get the rebate back. My dad is a huge sucker for big mail-in rebates. One time he did all the paperwork, sent it in, got the rebate check, and then forgot to deposit it, so it went to waste. The process is filled with potential traps at each step, and that’s why I prefer lower prices now.

  4. @ Scott: Wow, I didn’t know companies outsourced even that! (I really shouldn’t be surprised…) Sorry that it was such a hassle. Cingular wanted the barcode from the phone box, a receipt, and our information. I prefer lower pices even if it is a bit more than an after rebate price.

    @ BGS: My sister will do the rebates too. She’s pretty meticulous and will actually get some good chunk of money back.

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