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Rebate Survival Guide: The Rebate Process Explained

The best way to ensure that you get your rebate checks, is to understand how the rebate process works. Know your options from start to finish, and you'll be able to handle problems at any step of the way.

Rebate 101

Rebates come in one of two types: manufacturer's or retailer's. The type should be inferable from the rebate claim form. A manufacturer's rebate is issued and paid by the manufacturer of the item, whereas a retailer's rebate is covered by the retail store that sells the item. The distinction matters little, but it's always good to know which party you are dealing with.

The majority of rebates require you to print and complete a claim form and mail it in, though more companies have started using online submission for all or part of the claim process. In the case of mail-in rebates, you are usually required to include a copy of or the original product receipt, and the UPC cut from the packaging. Removing the UPC also prevents you from being able to return the product, much to the retailer's delight.

Fulfillment houses

Though a few retailers/manufacturers process their own rebate claims, most hand the work off to what are called fulfillment houses, companies that specialize in handling rebate claims. These guys are big-time players in the rebate game and handle millions of claims every year. The fulfillment house will be where you are sending the claim to and receiving a check from.

The sheer number of rebates the fulfillment houses process is one reason they cite for the long turnaround time of rebate checks. The fulfillment house is also unable to cut you a check until they receive the funds from the rebate issuer, which adds another layer of delay.

So are rebates worth it?

Are the hassles of rebates worth the money you (hopefully) save in the end? That depends on how important the savings are to you, and how far you're willing to go to secure them. Rebates are not for the faint-of-heart. Knowing how to do them correctly, and avoid common pitfalls, will save you much grief.

Next part: The Top 10 Rebate Pitfalls

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