Avoid back-to-school budget blunders with rebate tips

The back-to-school season brings with it the excitement of a new year, reconnecting with friends and fresh challenges. Unfortunately, it also means a hefty price tag for school supplies. This year, students and parents alike should keep an eye out for back-to-school products offering deep discounts through rebates.

Contrary to past perception, today’s rebates can be extremely easy to redeem. Also, because rebates offer bigger discounts than point-of-sale markdowns, they give families the best cost savings strategy this back-to-school season.

Additionally, a plethora of back-to-school products are offering rebate deals this year. “From pens and paper to computers and smart phones, students and their parents should have no trouble finding great rebates on the products they need for the new school year,” says Juli Spottiswood, president and CEO of rebate provider Parago. “Plus, because rebates have dramatically advanced in efficiency and ease of use, consumers should have a great experience getting them.”

Follow these tips for using rebates to ease the school-season spending rush:

* Submit your rebate information as soon as possible following your purchase. Rebates are easier than ever to submit. They usually require a proof of purchase, receipt and nothing else. Many companies are moving to paperless rebates that are filled out online, via fax or e-mail.

* Seek out rebates that are paid on prepaid cards. These rebates are nice for a few reasons: Prepaid cards are great tools for students as they give them experience with plastic payments, without the risk of overdraft or interest charges like credit cards. Additionally, prepaid rebate cards allow you to spend rebate money immediately, without a trip to the bank to cash a check.

* Choose the reward that makes the most sense for you. Some companies give consumers a choice in how they’d like to receive their rebate payout, including a traditional paper check, prepaid card or even via PayPal.

* Look forward to speedy payment. Gone are the days of waiting months for a rebate payout. Now, many retailers deliver payouts to consumers in as little as two weeks.

* Utilize customer service and online tracking, if needed. Most rebate programs now offer 24/7 customer service allowing consumers to follow their rebate redemption process. These services include online rebate centers that enable customers to find and track their rebate submissions online, as well as a customer service Web chat option if consumers require additional support.

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