If you’ve bought a product that came with a manufacturer’s rebate recently, you’ve probably received your rebate in the form of a piece of plastic called a “rebate card“. For example, Verizon Wireless issues a Visa-branded rebate card loaded with the amount of your rebate. A consumer’s group provides tips to help you use your rebate cards to their fullest.
The Consumers Union, the group behind the non profit Consumer Reports, today published the following tips for managing and using prepaid debit rebate cards effectively.
Watch out for rebate card fees:
Like other prepaid cards, rebate cards can come loaded with fees, including fees for activating the card, checking balances, inactivity, going over the limit, or replacing a lost or stolen card. Be sure to read the fine print when you receive a rebate card to become familiar with the fees you might be charged so you can avoid them.
Keep an eye on rebate card expiration dates:
Many consumers have a tendency to hang onto gift cards instead of spending them right away. That could be a big mistake with a rebate card since it might expire quickly. Some rebate cards expire in as little as three months. The best advice is to check the expiration date when you receive a rebate card and spend it before it expires or you accrue other fees.
Know your balance and avoid problems at the check-out:
Rebate cards can sometimes be difficult to use if the funds on the card don’t cover the full amount of the purchase. To avoid this problem, keep track of the balance on your card and ask the merchant to make a “split tender transaction” so you can use the rebate card and some other form of payment to cover the full amount. Unfortunately, not all cashiers know how to process these kinds of transactions, which can make redeeming your rebate card unnecessarily frustrating.
Be aware that your rights may be limited if your card is lost or stolen:
When rebate cards are lost or stolen and used by others to make fraudulent transactions, consumers are not protected by the same regulatory and statutory safeguards that enable debit card users to recover their money. If a consumer contacts a card issuer about a lost or stolen debit card within two business days, the consumer’s liability is limited to up to $50 (or up to $500 if the consumer reports the debit card lost or stolen after two business days). By contrast, rebate cards may only have voluntary protections that could be revised or rescinded at any time for any reason.
Read the full press release from Consumers Union here.