Sick of Rebate Credit Cards? Read This to Get Cash

By Elizabeth Lang. Last updated 21 October 2010. 9 comments
Photo: SqueakyMarmot

Have you noticed the increasing trend of rebates being sent on credit cards? I recently received a $6 rebate on a plastic card. There are many reasons why this is annoying — it is inconvenient to use, quickly expires, is subject to fees ($2/month after 6 months), and is a waste of plastic.

I know the rebaters are hoping that I buy something that's $5.80 and forget about the other 20 cents (or just find the card entirely too inconvenient and throw it out all together). For these and other reasons I abhor these types of rebate cards. (And rebate "checks" that you have to use like a coupon at a store are only slightly less annoying.)

Here are two ways to get the full value out of your rebate cards:

The Less-Convenient Way

To get the full amount of money from rebate credit cards, I typically go to a big box retailer where my bill totals more than the amount on the card.  Then I ask the retailer to process the card for the full amount and pay the rest of the bill with another credit card. This way I don't end up with $.20 on my card.

But what if your rebate card is for $96.79? It's rare that I have purchases totaling this much. And frankly, I'd rather have the cash, wouldn't you?

The Best Way 

Many rebate cards do allow you to cash out.  You just have to read the fine print.

For instance, on a recent rebate card I received, there was a website listed where I could "manage my rebate." The letter I received with my card didn't say anything about what I could do on the site, but I visited it anyway.  It was hosted by Citi Card, and I could choose to "Register" or "Proceed Without Registering." I chose not to register.

All I had to do was enter my card number, the security code on the card, and my zip code, and I was able to get cash.

The site offered several options for cashing out my card, including an electronic transfer that would take 2-3 days to transfer the full amount of the card to my account. Unfortunately, this option required me to register.  But I was able to cash it out by check (sent within 6-10 days) without registering.

Of course, this means I have to wait another few days to get a check and go to the ATM to make a deposit. But even with the extra work, I'd rather have the cash in my account than try to manage annoying rebate credit cards.

Next time you get a rebate card, look to see if you can cash it out.

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Guest's picture
Chris M

I usually spend the entire amount of the rebate card to buy virtual gift cards on Amazon. I can then use these at anytime against future purchases from Amazon, since there are no fees and no expirations dates.

Guest's picture

Most of the rebate cards I have seen will let you cash them out as long as the full amount is still on it. (ex: Verizon Wireless) Once you've used it to purchase anything, you're out of luck according to the terms on their card.

I actually happened to get luck and spent the exact amount on my card. I think I had $3.30 left on my card, and got something at Burger King that cost exactly $3.30. Lucky day!

Guest's picture
Guest

I am sure everyone knows but just in case:

One can donate any left-over change/amount on those cards to almost any charity.

Guest's picture

I don't have a problem using these cards, since I can use them without a fuss at my local Meijer store. I have not been able to do it at Walmart, yet, but I am figuring it out. I enter in the rebate card as a gift card and then the amount left on the card is deducted. I then use another form of tender to pay for the rest of the transaction.

I appreciate your other ideas, though!

Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

In California if you have any gift card under $10 you can redeem it for cash. I'm not sure if the same applies to rebate cards, though.

Guest's picture
Guest

TOTALLY agree - I hate this new trend. My biggest fear with these cards is that I'll forget I have them and waste the rebate (which is probably also part of the company's strategy). So I have to make a point of finding a way to use it, and this is really annoying to me because my life is complicated enough without these jokers creating more hoops for me to jump through.

The last few times I've gotten one of these cards I applied the card to a utility bill (Qwest, Verizon, etc). This allows me to use the entire balance immediately (no worry about leaving any amount on the card), and I enjoy having a reduced or no bill the next month or two.

I didn't know about the cash option - that's a great tip I'll look for the next time I get one of these rebate cards. The commenter's idea about giving remaining amounts to charity is also a good idea.

Guest's picture
Jennifer

Honestly, you can use them at any grocery store or big box store as split tender. Run it as a credit card and then pay the difference. Works especially well at Wal-Mart. Beware of ATM fees when you are cashing out though; sometimes they'll charge you $1.50 per withdrawal.

Guest's picture
Guest

I just buy a gift card at my grocery store (e.g. Safeway) for the amount of the rebate. Since I know I will be buying groceries there in the future, it works well, gives me a card that will not expire or charge me fees, and allows me to purchase the exact of amount of the rebate so I don't lose anything.

Guest's picture
Candi

ARGH! My Verizon rebate card is a pain in the *!*%. There's a phone number that I can supposedly text, and they will send my balance by return text. Well, it worked once. After that, it's up to me to write my new balance on the card with my Sharpie.