Cell phone rebates often have a "gotcha"

Don't Waste Your Money

More and more cell phones come with mail in rebates these days. Buy a phone for $200, and get 100 bucks back.

Sounds great: But there's a little secret to these rebates companies would rather you not know.

Rebate now comes on card

We've all seen signs and ads advertising deep discounts on new cell phones "after mail in rebate."  They rarely give a rebate on the spot.

And the rebate now comes on a Visa or MasterCard in most cases.

Susan Arnold found a great such deal. "There was a $100 rebate on the phone, which they sent to me in the form of a rebate card," she said. "They sent it to me on the first of April."

She decided to wait, and  use the card on her upcoming vacation. Bad idea.

What happened when she went to use the card?  "The card was expired," she said. "The card expired in June."

Turns out the card was valid for just 3 months.

Dirty little secret

And that's the dirty little secret of many of these rebate cards: They are valid for just 3 to 6 months, as they don't fall under  gift card laws that would require them to be valid longer.

Good news: After we contacted the provider, a spokeswoman agreed to re-issue Susan's card.

But you can be sure thousands of these expire before they are used.

Remember: Anytime you get a rebate card or gift card, leave it out on the kitchen counter, next to the phone, or somewhere you will see it every day.

Never tuck it away or it may expire before you get to it.

As always, don't waste your money.

Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.

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