What Is a Mail in Rebate?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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A mail in rebate is a product rebate which must be redeemed by mail, in contrast with instant rebates, which are redeemed at the time of purchase. Products which come with a mail in rebate are usually clearly labeled to indicate this, alerting consumers to the fact that they can receive cash back on their purchases if they are willing to go through the process of submitting a rebate by mail. These rebates may also be offered more generally by a store for purchases of a particular brand of product, or purchases over a certain amount.

For consumers, one of the advantages of a mail in rebate is that it can sometimes be higher than a store rebate. Although a mail in rebate can be a bit of a nuisance to deal with, some people also like the idea of receiving a monetary reward several weeks or months after purchase. Companies like these rebates because they make it look like a product is cheaper, and many consumers fail to follow through on the rebate process, allowing the company to retain high profits while appearing to provide discounts to customers. By contrast, an in-store rebate for a product will be applied with every sale, so the company cannot afford to offer a steep discount.


When handling a rebate, consumers should take a few steps to ensure that they get their rebate. It is a good idea to copy the receipt and rebate form after filling it out, and to retain them until the rebate has arrived, as proof that the form was filled out and submitted. Most of the forms indicate that the rebate will arrive in a set period of time, and the time window for the rebate's arrival should be noted on a calendar as a reminder.

If a rebate fails to arrive in a timely fashion, consumers should not hesitate to call the company to find out what is going on. This is where retaining the receipt and rebate form can be extremely useful, as consumers can provide solid proof that they purchased the product and sent the form in, following the directions to receive the rebate.

Consumers should also be aware that a mail in rebate does not necessarily result in a cash or check payment. Some companies mail back gift cards or coupons for other products in lieu of a cash rebate. The terms of the rebate are usually clearly listed on the product packaging, so for people who want a cash rebate specifically, the terms should be read closely.


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Post 3

I like sending in free mail in rebates. I bought a new type of air freshener not long ago, and it came with a rebate that would totally refund the purchase price.

It only cost $5, but I couldn't resist. Any time that I get offered something for free, I take advantage of it.

Seven weeks later, I got my $5 back in the form of a check. I felt so absolutely frugal!

Post 2

@seag47 – Wow, that would be upsetting! I know that many companies usually send out preloaded credit cards as rebates, but they are almost always usable anywhere that you choose.

What gets me is how long it takes for a rebate to get back to me! I usually call the company after six weeks to check on my mail in rebate status, because that seems like a reasonable amount of time to wait.

Lots of rebates don't actually reach you until eight weeks after you have sent them out, though. I think it takes about a week for them to get processed once the company receives them, and then, it takes several days for it to travel to your mailbox.

Post 1

I was pretty disappointed when I sent in a mail in rebate expecting to get cash and wound up with a gift card to the company. I had just bought a cell phone, and the rebate was for $50, so I was looking forward to receiving the money.

Six weeks after mailing it in, I got a gift card in the mail that could only be used to buy that company's products. I wouldn't have had a problem receiving a generic card that could have been used anywhere, but the fact that my purchases were limited to that business made me angry.

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